Monday, January 03, 2011

Epiphany-- and a Bloodbath in Bethlehem

"Epiphany" was celebrated in many churches yesterday while pastors referenced the story of the Magi and told how they came to recognize and worship the King---Jesus.

The Magi were seekers of truth among other things, most likely coming from what we know as Iraq and Iran. Because the Jewish people had been dispersed throughout the Middle East, first by the Assyrians and later by the Babylonians, they had created enclaves throughout the area, resulting in many becoming familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and the promise of a coming Messiah.

The Magi referenced Micah 5:2 when they began asking about, "He who has been born King of the Jews" recorded in Matthew 2:1 thru 12.

It was the title "King" that bothered Herod the king and caused him to contact the Magi, soliciting their help in finding this newborn "King," explaining that he, too, wanted to worship Him.

This, of course, was coming from a man who was known to be a serial killer, having murdered Antipater, his oldest son and heir to the throne, his wife Mariam, two other sons, then hunting down and killing relatives of the previous royal family---the Hasmoneans, descendants of the Maccabees.

As you know, the wise men did not report back to Herod after their encounter with the" King".

Herod, having been shunned by the Magi, became enraged with anger and ordered all male children in Bethlehem, 2 years and younger, to be killed.

A massacre of the innocents. A bloodbath in Bethlehem. An attempt to kill the Truth.

Two very different responses. The king wanted to kill Him. The Magi worshipped Him.

From His conception to His birth, to His death and His resurrection, Jesus and His teachings have polarized people.

He is not a moderate.

His birth struck fear in the hearts of the shepherds.

His birth ignited anger in Herod.

He experienced acceptance and worship from the Magi---the truth seekers.

Throughout His life and ministry, He divided people. In fact we read in John 7:43, "So there was division among the people because of Him."

Jesus Himself said He would create division, even within families (Luke 12:49-53 and Matthew 16).

"Do you think," He said, "I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division" (v.51).

Fear. Anger. Reaction. Misunderstanding. Attacks. Attempts to kill and silence Him.

Or, acceptance and worship. Obedience to His teaching.

He is Truth. The Scriptures are inspired truth, without error. The Truth can divide us or unite us, but will always set us free when accepted.

I believe this divisiveness is critical in our times, both in our culture and even in the Christian church.

A couple of examples:

A. "Inclusiveness"


A keyword in today's society is "inclusiveness". We are told that we should accept "alternative lifestyles," accept behavior that has been previously deemed unacceptable by Scripture. Those who are considered unwilling to do so may be required to receive "sensitivity training." The watchword is "tolerance.".Some Christian churches have made a god of tolerance and so-called diversity in their attempt to be seeker friendly, contextual and "emerging." Yet we find these same people can be quite intolerant of any viewpoint that does not tolerate every kind of behavior. Any deviation from this standard of tolerance is considered intolerable, and there are efforts in our country to make it illegal to dissent on these issues. We are on the threshold of certain biblical teachings (i.e., Romans chapter 1, etc.) becoming considered hate speech.

A social and cultural bloodbath of sorts for those who do not conform.

Jesus was never tolerant of evil. He defined evil and sin. He reached out to the sinner in love, but he hated sin. When a woman was found in adultery, Jesus did not say, "Your lifestyle is fine." He said, "Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:11).

Scripture teaches that those who practice certain lifestyles and behaviors will not inherit the kingdom of God and will incur God's wrath (Ephesians 5:5-7; Colossians 3:5-6; Galatians 5:19; see Romans 1:18-32; Revelation 21:8).

Tolerance and acceptance of every conceivable kind of behavior is not only taught but demanded in today's culture. However, Jesus drew a sharp line of division. He said that some behavior is sinful and should not be tolerated. He said that some things are good and some things are evil, and the evil cannot be tolerated or accepted.

B. Moral Relativity

Closely related to this teaching of tolerance is the concept of moral relativity. We are told there are no moral absolutes.

The Bible is very clear. There is good and there is evil, and the two must never be confused. "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." (Isaiah 5:20) Jesus drew very sharp lines between what was good and what was evil, what was moral and what was immoral. He spoke of those who, "loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19)

C. Universal Religion

There are those, today, who advocate for a universal religion that all can accept. They assert that "all religions are essentially the same" and that ending religious disagreements will promote world peace.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is a strong advocate for this so-called dialog.

Oprah, President Obama, and others have said publicly they are Christians but do not believe Jesus is the "only" way to God, yet Jesus Himself says He is. (John 14:6)

They try to combine features of Eastern religions (such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism), of New Age thinking, and much else, with some of Jesus' ethical teachings, into an amalgam that they hope will be acceptable to all. Seeker friendly.

Scripture does not support this effort.

Jesus declared that the one whom he called Father is "the only true God," (John 17:3) and that no man comes to God except through Jesus (John 14:6; see also Acts 4:12). God repeatedly told his people that he is the only true God. "I am the first and I am the last. Apart from me there is no God." (Isaiah 44:6) "I am God and there is no other." (Isaiah 46:9; see also Isaiah 45:18, 21) Paul wrote, "There is only one God." (Romans 3:30) "There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live, and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." (1 Corinthians 8:6; see also James 4:12)

New Age teaching asserts that all paths lead, ultimately, to the same mountaintop. Jesus said that there are two paths, or roads. One is broad and leads to eternal destruction. Many travel by it. The other is narrow and leads to eternal life. Few find it (Matthew 7:13-14). We need to choose which road we will follow. We need to "make every effort" to follow the narrow road (Luke 13:24).

The one true God is not Allah, or Buddha, or any of the Hindu gods, or the "gods" of the New Age movement, or "the goddess" of the feminist movement, or some impersonal force or consciousness. It is the God of Scripture whom we must acknowledge, worship and serve if we are to claim the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He requires our exclusive worship.

The Magi knew it. So must we.

Paul expressed the same concern. Speaking of the whole range of "gods" whom the non-Christians worshiped in his day - Greek and Roman gods, Egyptian and Persian gods, and the gods of various "mystery" religions - he wrote, "The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons." (1 Corinthians 10:20-21)

God's position on the matter is clearly articulated by the prophet Jeremiah:

"'Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,' declares the Lord. 'My people have committed two sins. They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.'" (Jeremiah 2:11-13).

Our nation was founded on biblical principles. Our Founders believed that, without personal morality based on a strong Christian religion and an embrace of biblical teachings, democracy could not survive.

America is attempting to "change her gods."

This new year of 2011 must be a year of Vigilance and Discernment and Prayer for those who have "found Him." A year of "epiphany" for those who have not.

And a year of action for all who believe in eternal Judeo-Christian principles and values and the One who gave them--- who believe America is a nation of God ordained destiny---an exceptional nation, a city on a hill.

Thank you for supporting us in this advocacy and action.

___________
Gary Randall
President
Faith and Freedom

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9 comments:

  1. Thank you Gary. A powerful message to begin a new year.

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  2. I am going to forward this to my list. I encourage everyone to do the same.

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  3. The problem is not "moral relativity," but "selective moral relativity." On paper, it sounds good: What the Bible teaches us is unchanging and always wrong. However, this completely ignores our history. None of us -- including you -- buys into an unchanging interpretation of the Bible.

    For example, one of the greatest sins against humanity -- slavery -- was not always seen as such. The Bible never condemns slavery and instead instructs us on how to punish our slaves:

    "When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property." (Exodus 21:20-21)

    And it instructs slaves on how to obey their masters:

    "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ." (Ephesians 6:5)

    "Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them." (1 Timothy 6:1-2)

    (Also read Exodus 21:2-6, Leviticus 25:44-46, Exodus 21:7-11, Luke 12:47-48)

    If slavery is a moral crime or a sin, why so many instructions for slaves and masters? Is it unreasonable to assume from all this that God supports slavery? With a literal interpretation, it is not unreasonable! In fact, that was our belief for most of our history. However, today, when it comes to these verses, we engage in “moral selectivity.” We sweep them away by saying that these verses are a reflection of the times more than God's will.

    To choose the tiny handful of verses on homosexuality and to give them an enormous weight of permanence, yet to sweep many others under the carpet, like those above regarding slavery, is to engage not only in “selective moral relativity,” but also hypocrisy.

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  4. You need to read Exodus 21:2-6 again, what's being talked about here is a servant who is trying to provide for his family or themselves because of a lack of work or other hardship. Notice also, that after 6 years they are free to go.
    This is a contractual arrangement, not forced labor.

    Read Exodus 21:16, "Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death" This is the slavery that is condemned, which is what was practiced in our country and most of the rest of the world.

    I make no excuses for those who did so,they will pay the price!
    Don't try to justify yourself by trying to pick apart God's Word. People have been trying for 3000 years and still the truth remains. God says what He means and means what He says!

    What you are engaging in is reading out of context or not doing your homework. Selective reading at that.

    I take God's Word quite literally and I am by His Grace quite able to defend it!

    God Bless you Gary for standing for the truth. Let us not give up contending for the faith once delivered to the saints!

    Craig in Lacey

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  5. Thank you, Craig. WELL SAID.

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  6. Craig, you did not directly address my quotes above, with the exception of one of them. And you introduce a new one. At best you've shown the Bible to be self-contradictory. I'm not convinced, and neither were your Christian ancestors, who justified slavery through the Bible.

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  7. You refer to my Christian ancestors. As with all people they were fallible and wrong on slavery. They tried to find justification in the Bible, when no justification can be found,
    only a condemnation of there behavior. See Exodus 21:16.

    Our behavior here on earth has eternal consequences. EVERYONES.
    Those who profess faith in Christ, but live like the devil will not escape, neither will those who refuse to hear God's voice and repent of their sins. We have all been warned. We are without excuse.

    I noticed you did'nt reference my Christian ancestors who opposed slavery. The movement to end slavery started and flourished in the churches. Many more Christians opposed it than tried to justify it, Both here and in Europe. If you're going to point out the bad seeds, recognize the good ones as well.

    Which leads me to the point. All humans are sinners, despite our best intentions and no matter how hard we try not to.
    How great and merciful God must be to put up with us. Not only that, but he made a way for us to be reconciled to Himself.

    God loves you brother! I know because when I was out there in the world running amuck, finding nothing but heartache and despair, welcoming death. He reached into my life and healed me
    and set me on a firm foundation, which is Jesus Christ. I didn't and still don't feel worthy to receive his forgiveness.
    My sins were many and I still struggle with some things, but God's grace is bigger than both of us.

    I think He's been working on your heart brother, please don't turn your back on him.

    Craig in Lacey

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  8. Craig... you have still not answered the question: Why does the Bible instruct us that we can beat slaves (only not until death) and that slaves should obey their masters if, as you claim, slavery is a Biblical sin?

    I'm glad you found verses that seem to support short-term slavery (up to 6 years when times are tough!) and punishment for "kidnapped" slaves (not all slaves are or were kidnapped). But you are still avoiding the question.

    Yes, there were Christians who opposed slavery hundreds of years ago, but there numbers were very few until we became enlightened. Today there are also Christians who support full equality for gay people. One day we will look back at them as those who were first enlightened.

    Our view of God's will changes.

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  9. Exodus 21:7-11
    Servant, not slave! She may also be redeemed by her father. The master can't sell her to foreigners as he has broken faith with her. If he got her for his son she must be granted full rights as a daughter(hardly slavery). If the son subsequently marries another woman he can NOT deprive the first one of her rights. Slaves don't have rights, so clearly this not slavery.

    Exodus 21:20-21
    It saya IF you beat, not you WILL beat. WILL is a command. Also there is no mention of the offense, was he stealing or lazy or careless with his master's property? Again he is under contract, he's supposed to be upholding his end of it. Punishment was swift and often harsh as life was very hard.

    We have gotten so soft in our society that we punish our kids and only disipline our criminals.

    Lev. 25:44-46
    The Israelites were allowed to buy slaves from the nations around them, but not to make slaves of their countrymen. This has to do with how God views his people. They belong to Him and no one else.

    One thing I have noticed in my research is that these slaves were to be treated humanely. Hardly what we think of when slavery is mentioned. Again Exodus 21:16 is still in effect, they must be willing to go, not forced. An important distinction.

    You are right, not all slaves were or are kidnapped. The ones that came to the New World most certainly were. That behavior is condemned. There are children right now being sold for prostitution and as soldiers, clearly against their will and that is condemned. So much for the AGE Of REASON!

    Luke 12:47-48

    This has nothing to do with slavery. It's about watchfulness for the Lord's return. Context is King.

    Eph 6:5-9

    This is about being a good witness for Christ by your conduct, notice Verse 8,9. Regardless of our station in life we are to respect those in authority and they are commanded to respect those under them, because there is no favoritism with God.

    1Tim 6:1-2

    Remember the world of the 1st century,Nero had accused the Christians of setting fire to Rome. The Jews accused them of devil worship. Can you imagine what would have happened if they had caused a slave revolt? The lions would have been very fat indeed! This is the same teaching as in Ephesians 6, only here they mention if a master is a believer they should show more respect as he is a brother in Christ.

    I have one more for you to consider, read the Letter to Philemon. Onesimus, a slave had run away, for which the penalty under Roman law was death. The Apostle Paul asked Philemon to take him back as a brother, which he did .

    I hope this Enlightens you! The reason my Christian ancestors were enlightened was because of the Bible, not in spite of it,
    and there were many more than you think!

    As to the so called Christians who think God's will changes, it's the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He ALWAYS opposes sin. They deceive themselves and you!

    While I'm on the Age of Reason, let me see... mmmm..., when did that start? Was it Darwin? Or Marx? Lenin? Stalin? Hltler? Mao? Pol Pot? Columbine? 9/11? Gacy? Bundy? The guy who killed 4 police officers in a coffee shop? Obviously reason is not enough, because if you think you can get away with it or just don't care, what's to stop you?

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise knowledge and understanding.

    It is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of an angry God!

    Craig in Lacey

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