Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scripture Interpretation is Key

Anytime that we talk about prophetic events we must realize that Scripture interpretation is key. For example, if I take the Bible as being literal, meaning that I believe what it says word for word, then I will probably arrive at a premillennial position. If, on the other hand, I take Bible prophesy as being mostly allegorical, then I will probably arrive at an amillennial position. Understanding the vast difference between the premillennial position and the amillennial position would cause me to see that an incorrect interpretation method could change the entire meaning of Scripture. Is that something that we want to be careless about?  Do we want to incorrectly interpret Scripture and possible lead a person to a false doctrine? I would have to say that no-one would want to make that mistake. Therefore, we need to make sure that we interpret Scripture as it is to be interpreted.

The main reason that I hold to a literal, grammatical, and historical approach to Scripture is that when the Scripture was given, it meant something to the people who received it. Why would it mean anything different today? Some people would say that times are different or that situations change requiring a different approach to the text. The Bible says otherwise. It says that there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says:

9 That which has been is what will be,
      That which is done is what will be done,
      And there is nothing new under the sun.
       (Ecclesiastes 1:9, New King James Version)

The Bible also says that God is the same today and forever.

6 “ For I am the LORD, I do not change;
      Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
       (Malachi 3:6, New King James Version)

If things don't change, then why would there need to be a change in what the Scripture says? The answer to that question is that there would not need to be a change. With that in mind, I find it very important to begin our study with what it meant to the people who first heard it or read it.

Something else to think about concerning the allegorical approach to interpretation is that it does not allow for the testing of Scripture against itself. If we interpret Scripture allegorical, then we take the authority out of the Scripture. The allegorical method allows for a "spiritual" and often irreconcilable interpretation. In other words, the interpretation cannot be tested against other Scripture. You may ask, why would anyone interpret Scripture in this method? It could be that they desire a particular interpretation or that they are trying to interpret Scripture by what they see in life today. For example, if a person says that Israel doesn't exist as a nation (like earlier in the 20th century), then a literal approach to Scripture is undesirable because it doesn't match with what we know and Israel has no existence in the future. But now, knowing that Israel is once again a nation then that argument will not hold water. 

I say this in the beginning of the blog to define what approach I take to prophesy. It sets the foundation to the result of the interpretation. If you desire to study God's Word, you MUST nail down your approach to Scripture. A literal, grammatical, and historical approach will provide you with an accurate and complete picture of God Word and plan for mankind. 

I hope that you find this information helpful.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Sacrifices of Black Friday

Where did we get the name Black Friday? We know that most people refer to the day as one that retailers hope to bring their year into a profit situation (known as into the black). If you do a search on the web you find other pieces of information concerning this day. For instance, says "the term Black Friday was first used to describe Sept. 24, 1869, when several financiers had tried to corner the gold market and the market crashed, and a depression ensued. Another panic in the financial markets in 1873 also began on a Friday". Wikipedia says that it "is the Friday close to the day of Thanksgiving in the United States, which is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season". Later in the Wikipedia site it says "the term "Black Friday" originated in Philadelphia in reference to the heavy traffic on that day". So, who really knows what it means!

If you know me very well, you will know that I am skeptical of many Internet sources and I hold zero credibility in Wikipedia claims of itself as "an online free-content encyclopedia that anyone can edit". I would take that to mean that anyone can call themselves an expert in anything and edit the content to suit their needs. Therefore, I do not count their sources as authoratative. I hope that you see why I don't believe they are a reliable source of information.

Now, let's get back to my "Black Friday" observations. Many stores offer "door buster" deals that would entice anyone to go without food and sleep to challenge total strangers in an attempt to obtain a product the store only has a small quantity of. For example, laptops seem to be a major fighting point this year. Wal-Mart and Best Buy both advertised a model that was unbelievably priced (less than $200). Internet sources said that both retailers would not have enough stock to satisfy the demand (go figure). So what happens? People "camp out" from Thanksgiving (or earlier) so they may have a chance of getting the deal of a lifetime. When the hour comes, it becomes a free for all to obtain the item they sacrificed sleep and food over. When in reality the retailer offering greatest door buster guarantees the consumer will shop at their store first. How does it feel to be manipulated? 

The sad element to this picture is that people will make great sacrifices to get an item that only offers a temporal fulfillment. We as an American people are never satisfied. We have to have the latest and greatest. We will do whatever it takes to get whatever we want. But in the end, the satisfaction will never last. The great apostle Paul was content in whatever situation he was in.

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

(Philippians 4:11-13, New King James Version)

The contentment that Paul experienced only comes from knowing Jesus Christ personally. Knowing that He will provide and knowing that through Him we have assurance of eternal life. It provides the greatest happiness and satisfaction that mankind can know. Knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior will allow you to walk out of the store empty handed with a smile on your face.

Remembering His sacrifice for me,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Days are Short

I would like to say that I believe that the days are numbered and we are getting close to the return of Jesus to call His bride (the church) home. One of the most concerning observations in North America is the fact that eschatology (the study of end times) is almost non-existent in our churches today. Yes there are churches that teach about the second coming but they seem to be few and far between.

My observation of Scriptures using a literal, grammatical, and historical approach leads me to a pretribulation and a premillennical approach to the subject. I understand that this can be a controversial area of interpretation, however, I stand firm on my approach to the subject.

I hope that you find this information helpful and feel free to post. I don't claim to have all of the answers but I find that the study of the end of times is very rewarding and very interesting. I hope that you also find this information helpful.

Happy Thanksgiving

There is always something to be thankful for. Today, let us set aside all of our cares and concerns and focus on the things we do have such as family, friends, and hope in Christ Jesus our Lord. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (New King James Version)]

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

In Christ,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why is there never enough?

Have you ever landed a new job making more money than you previously were making? With the additional income over time, did you conclude that you were really no better off financially than you were originally? Have you ever heard the expression, "make more, spend more"? Sometimes when people are in an economic crisis the problem is not how much money they are making but rather how they spend what they have.

It is interesting to view how we as Christians utilize the resources God has given us. For example, do you wish you had more time in the day to get everything done? Do you find yourself anxious, stressed, and unable to control the hours in your day? God has given us a 24 hour day and He does not force us to use it a certain way. What I find interesting is that we will take the 24 hours and use it to satisfy our desires, not His. Sometimes we become so stressed that we cry out to God to help us; not realizing that we are being disobedient with the time and resources He has given us.

If you read the prophet Haggai you will find it parallels economic distress to mankind’s disobedience to God. In these verses we see Haggai instructed the people to evaluate their economic situation and to understand that their selfish priorities resulted in their condition. In chapter 1 we see that Haggai challenged the people to evaluate their situation: They had worked hard with little result (1:5–6, 9–10) because God was not a priority in their lives (1:9). God used the drought as a way of getting their attention (1:11).

The Jewish people should have understood that they needed to place their faith and obedience in God as the first priority in life. It was in their teachings that disclosed the results of selfishness and disobedience. In Leviticus 26:18-20 it says:

And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit. [The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Le 26:18-20]

The result of not obeying God will result in punishment which can include economic distress. We also see additional Scripture supporting this fact in Deuteronomy 28:38-40 which says:

“You shall carry much seed out to the field but gather little in, for the locust shall consume it. You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil; for your olives shall drop off." [Ibid. Dt 28:38-40]

Their efforts were not producing the results they had anticipated. Therefore, we can see that there is a connection between obedience to God and fruitfulness. When we are obedient to God our needs will be taken care of. When we are disobedient, God will let us see our need for him and to understand that we are not in control. We cannot, by our own power, completely and sufficiently supply all of our needs.

Does this mean that if we are in God’s will we will be wealthy? If we are in God’s Will our desires will match His desires. Our needs will be met, however, it does not mean that we will have an excessive abundance. Consider James 2:5 which says “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” [Ibid. Jas 2:5]

If being obedient and faithful would place us in a position of material wealth then James 2:5 has some explaining to do. However, when we are in obedience to God then our joy and wealth is found in His provision. It is a state that the Apostle Paul described as being completely satisfied. Remember, Jesus said the following:

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." [Ibid. Mt 6:31-34]

Think about this; when we say we do not have enough time in a day to do everything we want, then do we need to re-evaluate our priorities? The answer to that question is absolutely! We need to assure that God is first in our lives. We need to make sure that we are in His will. When this happens, we will find rest in Him.

In Christ,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In a Matter of Seconds

It is truly amazing how quickly things can happen in life. Just this afternoon I was driving down the road and a car in front of the car in front of me came to an immediate stop for no apparent reason. The car in front of me crossed it up in the middle of the road and I locked my brakes up trying to stop. There was a 3500 series truck behind me who was traveling too close and was forced to swerve into the next lane. The cars in his lane were forced to find new road (or grass in this case) to avoid hitting him. The true miracle in this incident was that not one car hit another. It was absolutely amazing.

Needless to say, my heart was racing and I felt feelings of both anger and concern. I was angry at the fact that someone stopped in the middle of the road for no apparent reason. I became concerned as to why this may have happened. Did someone suffer a heart attack? What happened to cause this?

As I tried to gather my emotions I was reminded that life is but a vapor. James 4:13-17 says the following:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jas 4:13-17.]

It is very easy to get caught up in the "look at me" attitude and present the confident plans of what will happen next year. But the Bible tells us to blast the boasting and spend your time living for the eternal. Life could have been taken in an instant this afternoon and all of it would have been out of my control. This leads me to ask a couple of questions.

  1. Have you prepared for eternity? Eternity will be spent in one of two places. It will be spent in either Heaven or in Hell. Spending eternity in Heaven is not granted because you have been a good person or you have done more good than bad. Eternity in heaven is the result of a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the result of being born again by the Holy Spirit through your faith in Jesus Christ. Without this, eternity will result in a place called hell.
  2. How are you living life? Are you living life like today could be your last. It has been said that Paul only had two dates in mind; today and "that day" (the day he would stand before Christ). Therefore, he would live every day in light of "that day".
I challenge you to live every day like it is your last. Make sure your relationships are in good condition. Make sure your family knows that you love them. Make sure that you have prepared for eternity. Make sure that you are living in the Will of God for the Glory of God. For you may never know what may change your circumstances in a matter of seconds.

In Christ,
Doug Johnson

Monday, November 9, 2009

Turn Signals

I believe East Tennessee is one of the worst places in the world for people not to use their turn signals. Every morning I arrive at an intersection that 99% of the traffic turns right onto the road in which I am leaving. The amount of cars turning is almost constant and only about 20% are signaling their intentions. This makes it difficult to exit in fear of pulling out into oncoming traffic. When you are driving signal your intention. Don't be selfish!

Why do people not use their turn signals? I believe it is an interesting picture of the lives of many Christians. When you are driving down the road, and you want to make a right turn and you don’t turn on your signal. You are selfish. You are self centered. You are self seeking. Basically, it is saying I don’t care what your needs are, all I care about is where I am going and how long it takes me to get there. I don’t care if you have to wait all day long to get out of that neighborhood; I am still doing my thing.

Does that sound selfish to you? Let's look at it a different way. Let's say that you are sitting in your car and attempting to turn out of your neighborhood and there are 100 cars coming and all of them are turning right into your neighborhood; but none of them had their turn signals on. How would that make you feel? Would you get angry? Would you become discouraged? Sitting there 20 minutes attempting to leave your neighborhood would that be depressing? How about if you had to be somewhere soon?

Turn signals, it has the potential to tell others who you care about. James deals with the subject of favoritism in chapter 2 verses 1-13:

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by othe law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. [The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Jas 2:1-13]

James is talking to Christians and the first thing he is telling them is not to show favoritism. We need to be courteous to everyone. If your turn signal is flashing you are being courteous to the person behind you. You are telling them that you are getting ready to slow down and turn. You don’t want them running into the back of your car do you? Nor do they want to run into the back of you. Signaling your turn also tells the person on the intersecting street that you are turning and may offer a time for them to be able to exit their street. It is just courteous to everyone.

When we are in our schools or we are at our jobs we also need to be courteous to others. We need to not just be courteous to those who we want to be around. Just because a person wears a lot of jewelry or has the best of clothes does not mean that they are the best of people. However, for some reason we treat others in that manner.

James gives an example of those coming into a synagogue. To the one who is rich and wearing nice clothes they are given the nice place to sit. Maybe it is the comfy place to sit. Maybe it is up front where they can hear. Maybe it is next to royal authority. Then James introduces the individual to a person who is wearing filthy clothes and obviously has no money. Do we give him the nice place to sit too? No we ask him to stand "over there" or we give them a seat of a servant.

Unfortunately our daily actions accomplish the same thing. Sometimes we ignore those who don’t have much and buddy up to those who seem to have it all. If we pay close attention we will see that James provides some interesting insight to that problem.

James says "listen up" to what I am about to say. He refutes any gospel that says that those with God's blessing will be financially rewarded. James questions "has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him". If the wealth gospel (being preached by so many today) was true then the faithful would not be poor.

James goes on to say that we have dishonored the poor man. We have served him injustice. We have led him to sorrow. We have made him discouraged. We have opened the door for him to be depressed. To claim to have dishonored someone is a serious claim. People like to feel as if they have worth. When we go the route of dishonoring someone then we take away that sense of value.

James says that we need to care about everyone. Let's go back to the turn signal issue again. 100 cars turning into the road that you are on and very few signal. It is no wonder that so many people respond with anger. When there is no feeling of worth, people deal with the issue in surprising ways. Using your turn signals tells others that you care about them. How you treat them tells them how much value you believe that they have.

James mentions the Royal Law. The “royal law” was given in Leviticus 19:18 and affirmed by Christ (Matt. 22:39): Love your neighbor as yourself. The law is royal or regal (basilikon, from basileus, “king”) because it is decreed by the King of kings, is fit for a king, and is considered the king of laws." [John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 2:824-825.]

James says that breaking this law is sin. If I treat one better than another because of favoritism, I have sinned. That is a big statement. He further says they will be judged in the law of liberty. Obeying God's Will brings freedom or liberty. Disobeying God's Will brings bondage or slavery. Disobeying will ultimately bring judgment.

So, how do we treat others? We are to be courteous, we are to care, and we are to consistently love them, just as Christ loves us.

By they way, the Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-8-143(a) states:

Every driver who intends to start, stop or turn, or partly turn from a direct line, shall first see that such movement can be made in safety, and whenever the operation of any other vehicle may be affected by such movement, shall give a signal required in this section, plainly visible to the driver of such other vehicle of the intention to make such movement.

I hope that every time you use your turn signal you remember our discussion of favoritism.

In Christ,
Doug Johnson

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What ever happened to context?

I received an email recently that made strong statements about how Christians are misinformed concerning their relation to government. It is always amazing to me how people twist Scripture to validate their own motives or desires. Instead of posting the entire email I have included a link to an archive copy.

As I read through the email I find it somewhat disturbing because Mr. Baldwin is attempting to present a case for political rebellion by taking Scripture out of context. Please don't get me wrong, I feel that we need radical reform in our government; but I will not twist Scripture to present a political agenda. I fear God too much to distort His precious Word.

Please allow me to comment on his remarks. First it appears that Mr. Baldwin only holds to a position that many who teach submission to government by Romans 13 are in error. He quotes Romans 13:1-7 from the King James text and then comments on governmental unlimited authority. We must keep in mind that government was established by God for the purpose of order and to uphold God's laws. Here is a Biblical list of God's governmental standard:

1. Are appointed by God. Ro 13:1.
2. Are ministers of God. Ro 13:4,6.
3. Purpose of their appointment. Ro 13:4; 1Pe 2:14.
4. Their office to be respected. Ac 23:5.
5. Are not a terror to the good, but to the evil. Ro 13:3.
6. To be wisely selected and appointed. Ex 18:21; Ezr 7:25.
7. To be prayed for. 1Ti 2:1,2.
8. Should
     a. Seek wisdom from God. 1Ki 3:9.
     b. Rule in the fear of God. 2Sa 23:3; 2Ch 19:7.
     c. Know the law of God. Ezr 7:25.
     d. Be faithful to the Sovereign. Da 6:4.
     e. Enforce the laws. Ezr 7:26.
     f. Judge wisely. 1Ki 3:16-28.
     g. Hate covetousness. Ex 18:21.
     h. Not take bribes. Ex 23:8; De 16:19.
     i. Defend the poor. Job 29:12,16.
     j. Judge for God, not for man. 2Ch 19:6.
     k. Judge righteously. De 1:16; 16:18; 25:1.
     l. Be impartial. Ex 23:6; De 1:17.
     m. Be diligent in ruling. Ro 12:8.
     n. Subjection to their authority enjoined. Mt 23:2,3; Ro 13:1; 1Pe 2:13,14.
     [R.A. Torrey, The New Topical Text Book : A Scriptural Text Book for the Use of Ministers, Teachers, and All Christian Workers (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos research Systems, Inc., 1995, c1897).]

This list gives the Christian the standard of God's establishment of government. From this list we can determine if any government is within the boundaries of its God-ordained position. I would have to say that not too many (if any) establishments of government would fit the above bill. Does that mean that we should overthrow them? Should we attempt to create a condition of anarchy? By no means! Christianity and anarchy cannot coexist. There is no Biblical mandate for those types of actions.

Next, Mr. Baldwin presents examples of the old monarchal custom of Jus Primae Noctis, a father's authority in his home, an employer's authority on the job, and a pastor's authority in the church. Never forget God has established three institutions: the home (Gen. 2:18–25), government (Gen. 9:1–17), and the church (Acts 2). Guidelines for each of these institutions are presented in Scripture and are not identical. A pastor, a business manager, a father/husband cannot be considered within the same guidelines God has set out for government. I agree that people cannot be abusive, and business owners cannot take advantage of their employees but what does that have to do with government. If we remove the government body or promote anti-government means then there will be a tragically greater opportunity for abuse and neglect and corporate fraud. People will have the notion "if it doesn't affect me, then I don't care".

Next, Mr. Baldwin takes verse 3 slightly out of context. Mr. Baldwin says that a government body "must" not be a terror to good works. The text says "rulers are not a terror to good works". This is not a command motivating response when government actions are contrary. If that were the case, 1st and 2nd Peter would have been written differently because he was under the persecution of Nero for his works. Peter said if you are punished for doing good, then it brings glory to God.

Further, most of the Old Testament questions Mr. Baldwin poses are different in respect to what he is trying to accomplish. Most of the rebellion posed in his questions are in reaction to a government command to disobey or turn against God's command. That is the only case Scripture gives for rebellion to government authority. If man's law tells one to disobey God's law then God's law must be followed. In most of the examples that he listed that is what happened. They stood for what they believed and either God delivered them or they became martyrs.

Mr. Baldwin further states (completely out of Scriptural context):

Plus, Paul makes it clear that our submission to civil authority must be predicated on more than fear of governmental retaliation. Notice, he said, "Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." Meaning, our obedience to civil authority is more than just "because they said so." It is also a matter of conscience. This means we must think and reason for ourselves regarding the justness and rightness of our government's laws. Obedience is not automatic or robotic. It is a result of both rational deliberation and moral approbation.

Paul is saying that Christians should do our good works because of our conscious. We don't do the things that we must out of fear of government wrath. We do it because we love the Lord and our conscious demands it. This passage is NOT saying that we must reason whether or not government is doing the right thing. It is directly talking about our actions in society. We should do the right things because of who we are not because of government punishment.

I agree that we must demand that all who we elect into office must maintain the standards that we so dearly love. Yes, there may be a day that we are commanded by government to go against God's laws and then we MUST stand and say no. In the meantime, we must work to put honest Christian people in places of government who hold God's laws at the highest of standards.

For further reasearch on the topic of Romans 13, I believe Warren Wiersbe's "The Bible Exposition Commentary" sums Paul's verses quite well. ["An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire 'BE' Series"--Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), Ro 13:1.]

It is time for political change in all levels of government. However, we must be careful not to rally behind a twisted context of Scripture in the process.

In Christ,