KEEP RUNNING STRONG INTO THE NEW YEAR

There are only a few days left in 2020. The finish line to the year is in clear sight. Reflecting upon the year ending, I am transported back in time half-a-century to the story behind the posted hazy photo. It was taken in 1970, my senior year of high school (Sanford Central High School). I was competing in the Southeastern 3A Conference Track Championships in Laurinburg, NC. I was attempting to win my third straight conference mile title. Standing in my way to a third gold medal was a runner from Raeford High School who, though he had never beaten me, always gave me a tough race every time I competed against him. I remember standing on the starting line beside him that warm spring day and looking at me and with fire in his eyes, he confidently said to me, “Today I am going to beat you.” I remember saying back to him with equal confidence, “All I can say to you is, ‘Good luck’!”

As the four-lap race unfolded, I was beginning to wonder if his prediction was going to come true. He stayed on my shoulder, never giving an inch and even briefly took the lead halfway through the race. We were both determined to beat the other. I could not shake him until the very end. Fortunately, I was able to outkick him in the last 150 yards for the win in a time of 4:31.3, my determined opponent only a long-stride behind in 4:32.4. As the photo reveals, the grimace on my face as I crossed the finish line is evidence he had taken me to the limit. While I was spent as I finished the race, I had gutted it out for the victory.

As 2020 comes to an end, it has extended us, taken us to the limit, but we are about to cross the finish line of this unprecedented year. The year may have dogged and pushed you to the limit, extended you to the edge of your endurance, and at times the grimace on your face looked as if you were going to suffer defeat, but you have made it. And as we gaze upon the starting line of 2021, it may declare to us, “I am going to defeat you.” But knowing you are gonna finish the tough race of 2020, look 2021 square in the eyes and confidently say, “All I can say to you is, ‘Good Luck’!”  With only a few yards left in 2020, may the Lord give you the strength to run the approaching race of 2021 with confidence and guts!  Keep running strong into the New Year.  In Christ “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37)!

To all, God’s best in the New Year.

Blessings,

Dr.  Dan

THE NECESSITY OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH

Many years ago I was serving on an Ordination Committee which was interviewing a candidate seeking ordination into the Gospel ministry. The meeting was convening near Christmastime, which gave natural rise to pose to the young man the question, “Do you believe in the Virgin Birth of Christ?”  The young man went on a rambling discourse of why the Virgin Birth was not necessary for Christ to be the Son of God!! All urgings by those on the committee for him to reevaluate his erroneous position were in vain, and he became resistant to what he called “an unnecessary doctrine.”     When it came time to discuss and vote whether or not to recommend the young man for ordination, the majority of committee objected to proceeding forward.  Why? For  if Christ was not born of a Virgin then one’s theology and doctrine of Christ is skewed from the outset.

Sadly, there are those within Christendom who, like the man who sought ordination, see the Virgin Birth as nonessential to the faith and irrelevant in understanding who Jesus was/is.  While the Church for the most part has been guilty of only focusing on the Virgin Birth at Christmas, it is the foundation on which other central doctrines of the Christian faith are built. To reject the Virgin Birth is to dismiss the truthfulness of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the sinlessness of His life, His being qualified to die for our sins, and a host of other related Christian truths related to Christ and the Christian faith.

Why is the Virgin Birth essential? Before we can answer that question let us define what is meant by the Virgin Birth. When the angel announced to Mary that she would bear the Christ Child, she responded, “How can this be seeing I have never known a man?” While she and Joseph were engaged, they had never had sexual relations. The angel told Mary that the birth of Jesus would not come about by the ordinary method of human generation, but by a totally unique action of God and the Holy Spirit. What was impossible with man was possible with God. Jesus was divinely conceived in the womb of Mary without the seed of a man. Mary conceived Jesus as result of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit who overshadowed her (Matthew 1:20-21). The historical record clearly reveals that Joseph was not the earthly father, and matter of fact he wanted “to put her away” (Matthew 1:18-19). Told in a dream by an angel that the child in Mary’s womb was the long-promised Messiah, Joseph remained loyal to Mary and only had relations with her after Jesus was born.

So, the Biblical record is clear that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her womb by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

Having defined the Virgin Birth, why is it essential, important and necessary in our understanding as to who Jesus is and what He came to do? The Virgin Birth is a necessary Biblical doctrine for several reasons.

First, the Virgin Birth reveals the truth and accuracy of Old Testament prophesies. In Genesis 3:15 the Lord identified the coming Messiah, who would be born of woman, and who would deal a destructive blow to Satan, as “her seed.” The Scripture is clear to say “her seed” and not the seed of a male. The promised Messiah was not to have an earthly father, he was to be divinely conceived. He would have to be divinely conceived in order to bring a destructive blow to Satan.

In Isaiah 7:14, the Poetic Prophet prophesied that one of the signs in  identifying the coming Messiah was that he would be born of a virgin. Some critics are quick to point out that the Hebrew word is “almah” which means “young maiden” and can mean other than a virgin. While that is true, the word “almah” is used seven times in the OT to refer to an unmarried woman who is sexually pure. As well, in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of Hebrew OT, the Jews translated the Hebrew word “almah” into the Greek “parthenon” which clearly means virgin. So, the Jews themselves understood the prophecy in Isiah 7:14 referred to a virgin birth.

That Jesus was born of a Virgin verifies the truth, accuracy and inspiration of the OT prophecies.

Second, the Virgin Birth affirms the deity of Christ, that He is the God-Man. The NT teaches that man’s sin and guilt before a holy God is so great, that a Savior must come from outside of man’s efforts and works; the Savior being both human and divine. Since humanity cannot produce such a Redeemer, the heavenly Father in the Virgin Birth provided a Savior who was wholly God and Man.

The Bible is clear Jesus was both God and Man. John writes, “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God… 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). Paul writes, “For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

The Virgin Birth was necessary to bring about the unique nature of Jesus. In His conception, humanity and deity were fused together by the Holy Spirit and Jesus came forth as the God-Man. He was not half man and half God, Jesus was 100% man and 100% God. We see Him as man when He grew weary, when He slept, when He wept, when He experienced pain, when He was thirsty and hungry. We see Him as God when He walked on water, when He cast out demons, when He spoke and the storms obeyed Him, when He fed the 5,000, when He healed the sick, and when He raised the dead.

Christ could not be the God-Man if He had not been born of a Virgin, if there had not been a miraculous fusing together by the Holy Spirit of both humanity and deity. If Jesus had been born of natural parentage, a biological father, and the biological mother, then his deity would be undermined.

Third, the Virgin Birth affirms the sinlessness of Jesus. Without the Virgin Birth one cannot account for Christ’s sinlessness, His perfect life. The Virgin Birth was necessary for Jesus to be pure from sin. All who are born into this world are born with a sinful nature.  Our sinful nature is derived  from our father, he got it from his father, and so forth and so on all the way back to Adam. If Jesus had had an earthly father, he would have inherited a sinful nature and He would have been no different from you and I. Because Jesus’ father was God the Father, not the seed of man, but the seed of a woman, there was no sin flowing in His veins. He was victorious over sin and Satan His whole earthly life (Luke 4, Hebrews 4:15).

Because Jesus was sinless, He was accepted as the spotless Sacrifice for our sins. God would only accept a Lamb without blemish (Num 19:2; Deut 17:1), if Christ ever committed one sin, He would have been disqualified from being “the Lamb of God that came to take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). If Christ was not sinless, He could not have been the perfect Substitute for humanity. As the sinless God-Man, Christ took the hand of holy God and the hand of sinful man in order that the wall of alienation be removed whereby restored fellowship can be experienced. If Christ had not been born of a Virgin that would not have been possible.

Fourth, the Virgin Birth assures us of the supernatural. Skeptics reject the Virgin Birth as being impossible and contrary to natural reason. To accept the Virgin Birth is to affirm the supernatural, to affirm the miraculous. For us to have a supernatural Savior we need a supernatural intervention by God to bring it to pass. The Virgin Birth was God’s trumpet that He has done something extraordinary, He has done something that man cannot fully explain, that He has done something that could only take place as the result of a miracle. As the angel told Mary, “With God nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:35-45). In the Virgin Birth God broke through the chain of human generation and brought into the world a supernatural Savior.

The God whose supernatural presence came upon Mary, continues to work supernaturally in the lives of those whose hearts have been awakened to the saving power of Jesus Christ. Because Christ was supernaturally conceived, He has the power to supernaturally save and forgive the sins of all who will sincerely come to Him in contrition and repentance. Salvation can only come to humanity through the supernatural power from a supernatural Savior who was conceived supernaturally. The miracle of the Virgin Birth assures us that the miracle of individuals experiencing the New Birth is possible.

As we find ourselves in the midst of the Christmas Season, there is no detail in the Christmas story more important than the Virgin Birth. If there is no Virgin Birth, if the conception and birth of Christ didn’t unfold as the Scripture records, then Christmas has lost its meaning and humanity has no Savior. Donald Macleod eloquently writes, “The virgin birth is posted on guard at the door of the mystery of Christmas, and none of us must think of hurrying past it. It stands on the threshold of the New Testament, blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find it offensive there is no point in proceeding further”  (Macleod, The Person of Christ, InterVarsity Press, 1998, 37).

If one denies that Jesus is the God-Man, then the lights of Christmas grow dark and man has nothing to celebrate. But there is Good News, the miracle of the Virgin Birth assures us the lights of Christmas shine brightly and they shine upon the cross of Christ where humanity can find supernatural grace to pardon all our sins.

O, what a Savior!!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

ALLEGIANCE TO CHRIST OR COUNTRY?

I have been a patriotic USA citizen all my life. I am unashamedly and unapologetically patriotic. I still get a lump in my throat and my eyes become moist when I stand for the National Anthem. I am one of those “deplorables” who thinks it is disrespectful to express contempt for the flag, and to not stand for the Anthem is dishonorable to all those who have sacrificed to see Old Glory fly. I must admit in my nearly 69 years, like many in the South, there has been at times a blending of Christian commit and love for country as almost being synonymous. American Christianity has been guilty of blurring the lines between Christianity and patriotism. The time has arrived that in regard to a Christian’s  allegiance between Christ and country, a clear distinction and choice must be made between the two.

With the announcement of a Biden-Harris administration soon to arise on a new horizon, the verse that has repeatedly come to mind is found in Acts 5. When the disciples were told by the Jewish authorities to stop speaking about Jesus, they replied, “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). It is my earnest prayer that Biden-Harris will not implement all they have vowed to do once in office.  However, just in case those promises materialize into reality, Christians must decide now which will be their number one allegiance, Christ or country?  As much as I love this country, if policies are enacted that go against the Word of God my first allegiance will be to obey Christ and the Word. That may be the one positive outcome of a Biden-Harris administration for the Church, is that it will result in the Christian Church elevating supreme allegiance to Christ over country…even in the face of penalty from the state.

Now it is my fervent prayer that the radical policies and Executive Orders that each have promised will not be enacted. However, if they are, the time to decide how as a Christian one will respond is not when those policies are implemented.  Our decision must be made before one is face to face with issues that challenge one’s faith.  Our first priority is not to please the kings of this world, but to please the King of kings and Lord of Lords. Like Daniel, Christians must be obedient  even if there consequences for defying laws that clearly oppose the Word of God.

Biden has pledged to sign legislation within the first 100 days  implementing the Equality Act which elevates LGBTQ rights over people of faith. What does this mean? The Equality Act will end the tax exemptions of Christian schools, churches, adoption agencies, food kitchens, homeless shelters, hospitals and any of its charitable services if they fail to conform to the LGBTQ “rights.”  Churches will no longer be able to hire someone based on their affinity with Christian beliefs, but you must hire someone even if their lives and beliefs are contradictory to the church’s beliefs.  The Equality Act will eliminate women’s rights, as all institutions, which includes churches, will have to allow “gender fluid” boys and men access to women’s restrooms and locker rooms.  Architects of the Equality Act want absolutely no religious rights or conscience protections left intact. Alliance Defending Freedom’s Sarah Kramer summed up the effects of the Act on people of faith by stating it plainly,  “Essentially, the Equality Act gives people of faith an ultimatum: Change your faith-based practices or face government punishment.”  Will the Church of Christ obey the law or unflinchingly obey God and defy such morally deviant orders regardless of the consequences?

In regard to religious liberty, it is no secret Harris has in the past been an outspoken opponent of religious liberty. Her contention is that it is ok to believe what you want to believe; however, the free exercise of religion is a right created by manmade statutes – not God – and is a “personal” thing that should be kept in an “inner sanctum.”  In other words, you are free to believe what want, you just aren’t free to practice it, as government mandates are more authoritative. Harris uses the term “freedom to worship,” but the First Amendment guarantees the “free exercise” of religion in public life, which is much more expansive than mere “worship.”    When more censorship and controls are enacted upon the Church, when preaching the moral precepts of the Bible are labeled as hate speech and subject to fines and/or imprisonment, will Christians acquiesce to such anti-constitutional and anti-biblical mandates or will we obey Christ rather than man regardless of the consequences imposed by the state?

When LGBTQ curriculum is expanded for the purpose of indoctrination of schoolchildren, and the nationwide push to legalize pedophilia and other deviant behavior becomes a reality, what will the Church do? Will the Church be accepting of  such perversion or will there be unwavering obedience to Christ and refusal to cooperate with governmental mandates?

Biden has stated the he supports legislation making nationally taxpayer-funded on-demand abortion mandatory throughout the entire gestational cycle.  Harris is also a radical  pro-abortionist,  believing every institution or business, regardless of its religious faith, should be forced to  pay for contraceptives in their health care coverage.   Biden has stated, “If I am elected, I will restore the Obama-Biden policy that existed before the Hobby Lobby ruling: providing an exemption for houses of worship and an accommodation for nonprofit organizations with religious missions,”   Such policies totally disregard conscience protection. What will the Christian do, put allegiance to country first and  embrace mandates that uphold a culture of death or hold supreme allegiance to Christ and the Word of God know penalties are forth coming?

While I fervently pray the Lord will change their hearts and they will not follow through with such destructive promises, these are just some of the issues the Church will more than likely be facing and needs to prepare for coming to pass. As a Christian our loyalty must first be to Jesus Christ and His Word. Now is the time to decide where you will stand. Now is the time to decide, will our love for Jesus Christ trump our love for country? When faced with a choice, will we obey the Lord who gave His life for us or knuckle under to governmental pressure? Will our allegiance be unwaveringly to Christ even if it means taking an opposing position held by authorities that are contrary to God’s Word?

I pray each Christian will vow with Joshua, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

DIVINE JUDGMENT ANCHORED IN HOLY-LOVE

When is the last time you heard a sermon on divine judgment?  It is probably been awhile, yet the Bible speaks of it and it should not be ignored.  What is God’s purpose in executing judgement? God’s purpose in judgment is redemptive. While in judgment sin is punished, in His holy love judgment seeks to eradicate sin and establish holiness. God’s judgment is holiness’ response to sin. Holiness is repulsed at sin and must deal with it and destroy it. Judgment is God’s holiness in opposition to sin.  God’s love redeems in the midst of judgment to establish his holiness.  Divine judgment is anchored in holy-love. His love is so great He at the cross dealt with sin in his Son. At the cross we see judgment upon sin and the redemptive love of God from sin. The judgment of God is an aspect of His love. God’s judgment and love are not opposed to one another, for there can exist no true love without judgment on sin. As Leon Morris says, the judgment of God is “a strong and settled opposition to all that is evil arising out of God’s very nature…. God is not passive in the face of sin. God is implacably and vigorously opposed to every evil.”

His action to judge demonstrates His redemptive love at work to deliver us from sin which seeks to destroy and damn us. In judgment God, like a surgeon ridding the body of a destroying cancer, surgically removes the cancer of sin to bring about the health of His holiness. Love that doesn’t demonstrate hatred for what seeks to destroy and that which is an enemy of all that is right and holy, is not love but only sentimentality. God’s judgment upon sin is not capricious or unpredictable, but is provoked by the evilness of sin. God’s judgment is not to be viewed like the vindictiveness of man, but God’s judgment is vindicative of His holy nature. Divine judgment needs to be seen more than retribution, but the establishing and the securing of eternal righteousness and holiness. Judgment is more than the consequences of sin in  a moral universe, more than an impersonal process of cause and effect, but it is God actively being involved in his creation to restore His holiness in a creation that has been cursed by sin.   The judgment of God strikes a blow to moral relativism by revealing that right and wrong are true and the expanse of divine holiness is the goal of creation.

Failure to hate evil implies a deficiency in understanding God’s love. The love and judgment of God is fully understood only in the light of the cross. In the Christ of the Cross God vindicated His holiness through holy-judgment, assuring humanity His holy-love can be trusted. Liberalism dismisses divine judgment and speaks only of God’s love. P.T. Forsyth insightfully writes, “If we spoke less about God’s love and more about His holiness, more about His judgment, we should say much more when we did speak of His love” (Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, 1909, 73).  There is dualism in holiness and love. Emil Brunner states it well, “The objective aspect of the Atonement…consists in the combination of inflexible righteousness, with its penalties, and transcendent love. The love of God breaks through the wrath of God”  (Brunner, The Mediator, 1967, 520). The only complete satisfaction that can be made to a holy God from the sinful side is the sinner’s restored obedience, his return to holiness. Jesus completed that satisfaction in our stead!

The love of God will always be seen as weak and anemic, unless we hold it up in the light of God’s hatred toward sin and love of holiness. There is no love of God that is not holy and no holiness of God that is not loving. To reject the divine love of the Creator as found in Jesus Christ, who in the cross dealt with sin making it possible for man to be redeemed, is to turn one’s back on the only hope for redemption and to seal one’s own fate of incurring  divine judgment.

Thomas F. Torrance has eloquently written, “God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.” (T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 1994.  94)

One can only be eternally justified by faith in a God who justifies Himself as so holy that He must set up His holiness in human history at any price, and that  price was allowing judgment to fall upon His own beloved and eternal Son.

Oh, what a Savior.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

GRACE: FREED FROM SIN NOT FREED TO SIN

Sadly, many in circles of Christendom have embraced behavior and practices which the Bible clearly condemns. Some have the mistaken notion that Christ in his matchless grace came to save us in our sins, not deliver us from our sins. Christ didn’t   come so that we could continue in the same destructive lifestyles, but to deliver us that we would walk in newness of life. The Savior’s words to the woman caught in the act of adultery to who He had extended forgiveness was, “Go and sin no more”  (John 8:11).  Grace didn’t free her to continue in  her sin, but grace freed her from her sin. The Church has lost its witness and has become weak because it has in many instances become a “sanctuary city” for sins which the Bible warns those who persist in such lifestyles  “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

In Corinth we find a church that was abusing grace. Paul in writing to the chaotic church at Corinth pens these inspired words, Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the LORD Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor. 9-11).

The Apostle is rather clear in his denouncing certain behavioral lifestyles which characterizes a person’s life which disqualifies them from entrance into the Kingdom of God. Let’s look at the lifestyles which Paul mentions in verses nine and ten which will find one standing outside the doorway to the Kingdom of God.

Fornicators – The Greek word is πορνοι (pornoi), which is a general term for all kinds of sexual vices and behavior. Paul puts it at the head of a shameful list of sins. Sexual practices and perversion was rampant in the city of Corinth and abounds in our culture of today, as well.

Idolaters – The Greek word is ειδωλολατραι (eidololatrai) which means an image worshipper. Corinth was flood with idol worship. Idolatry and immorality are usually Siamese twins, they exist side by side.  An idol doesn’t have to be a marble statue, but anything that takes the place of God in our life is an idol. Men today worship the idol of sports, money, jobs, status, power, etc. Anytime the God of heaven is replaced with an idol one is susceptible to the chronic danger of a life devoid of the Creator God and is subject to living without restraints which leads to immorality.

Adulterers – The Greek word is μοιχοι (moichoi) which is a primary word for one unfaithful and literally means a male paramour; figuratively it refers to an apostate. The word is only used four times in the NT and is used in the context of unfaithfulness to a spouse or unfaithfulness to God.

Effeminate – The Greek word is μαλακοι (malakos), which literally means those who are soft and effeminate, those who have lost their manhood.  James Macknight writes that this word is translated from a Greek word meaning “catamite,” the technical word for “a boy used in a sexual relationship between an adult man and a preadolescent or adolescent boy. Catamites were the passive partners in sodomy” (Macknight, Apostolical Epistles and Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), 88).

Abusers of themselves with Mankind – The Greek word is most interesting, it is (arsenokoitai – are-sen-o-koy-tai) which became a generic term for all homosexual practice. Arsenokoitai is a compound word: arseno is the word for “a male,” and koitai is the word for “mat” or “bed.” Put the two halves together, and the word means “a male bed”—that is, a person who makes use of a “male-only bed” or a “bed for males.” The word is only used twice in the NT, the other in I Timothy 1:10 and clearly refers to two people of the same sex having sexual relations. New Testament scholar and former dean at Catholic University of America, Raymond F. Collins, in his book Sexual Ethics and the New Testament: Belief and Behavior (2000), writes that Paul probably coined the word arsenokoitai and etymologically means “bedding down with a man,” as it is not found in any other Greek literature before Paul uses of the term. According to note 70 (p. 99) the Liddell-Scott Greek lexicon indicates that this coined word of Paul’s seems to be a Greek translation of the Hebrew used in rabbinic texts based on Lev 18:22,  “lying with a man as with a woman.”

Roman and Greek culture was given over to homosexuality, which helped led to their demise. All cultures that have given themselves over to such an unrestrained lifestyle find themselves in the closing stages leading to the eventual collapse of its civilization.   Regarding those engaged in the active lifestyle of such behavior, it should be remembered that the Apostle of Jesus Christ condemned such persons in judgment that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God. And what is to be thought of churches which not only condone this sin, but in widely publicized cases have ordained to the ministry those who live in such a lifestyle? This writer agrees with James Burton Coffman who writes, “It is the judgment of this writer that churches exhibiting such a total disregard of the New Testament have, in so doing, forfeited all identity with Christianity.” (For a treat of the prevalence of such a lifestyle, see William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), 60.)

Thieves – The Greek word is κλεπται (Kleptai), from where we get our word kleptomaniac. It refers to one who is continually taking from other what is not rightly theirs.

Covetous – The Greek word is πλεονεκται (pleonektai) and it describes “the spirit which is always reaching after more and grabbing that to which it has no right.” It is aggressive getting. It describes one whose aim is to get in order to spend, so that it can live in more luxury and greater pleasure; and it cares not over whom it take advantage so long as it gets what it wants.

Drunkards –  The Greek word is  μεθυσοι (methusoi) which means uncontrolled drinking. Normally the Greeks were sober people, for their drink was three parts of wine mixed with two of water. However, in luxury-loving Corinth uncontrolled drunkenness abounded.

Revilers – The Greek word is  λοιδοροι (loidoroi) meaning abusive, railer, reproach; used of injuring another’s reputation by denigrating, abusive insults, a rude or unscrupulous person, a person who uses foul or abusive language.

Extortionists – The Greek word is αρπαγες (harpax) which meant grasping; it is used for a certain kind of wolf and also for the grappling irons by which ships were boarded in naval battles. It is the spirit which grasps that to which it has no right with a kind of savage ferocity.

What a shameful list of destructive behaviors Paul says excludes one from entering the Kingdom of God. Yet the Good News is that one doesn’t have to be trapped in the persistent grip of such lifestyles, for Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:11. “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the LORD Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  Paul acknowledges that many in Corinth had been delivered from such lifestyles. No matter the destructive behaviors, lifestyles, attitudes that are in one’s life, Paul proclaims that the Good News of God’s grace in Christ one can be cleansed and forgiven from their sins and set on a new path which will find the unfolding of God’s intended purpose for which one was  created.

We live in a day when sin is dismissed as an antiquated word and any behavior regardless of its destructive consequences personally or socially, is deemed as acceptable. The fallacy of such thinking is visible in the chaos and collapsing of our society and the destructive consequences that we see in the lives of individuals. Paul is clear that one need not remain bound in behavior that will exclude them from the Kingdom of God, but there is deliverance in Jesus Christ. And it is Paul’s insistence that as Christians, if we name His name, that we are to not persist in such behaviors  but forsake destructive lifestyles, realizing we are not our own and  are called to glorify the One who has transformed our lives.

Let us not embrace or follow lifestyles which society or apostate churches endorses yet which the Bible condemns, but let us forsake those lifestyles which are destructive to our individual lives and detract from bringing honor and glory to the One who gave His life to redeem us from our sin.  “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:20). Amen.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PAUL AND HIS USE OF GREEK PHILOSOPHY: CHRIST TRANSCENDS THE WISDOM OF MAN

Paul was a remarkable man. A Jew by birth, he was a relentless persecutor of Christians until he had a personal encounter with the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). He was instructed by the Lord that he would be an Apostle to the Gentiles. What a vessel the Lord had chosen to carry the Good News of Christ’s redemptive power to most of the known world of that day. Paul was a man of vast knowledge who received his education at the school of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), one of the most noted rabbis in history. The education he received was in his ancestral law, yet he also had broad exposure to classical literature, philosophy and ethics. He spoke Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin. Paul could go toe to toe with the most brilliant minds he encountered.

Paul’s knowledge of Greek philosophy and literature is clearly seen in Acts 17:16-34 when he encountered Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens. As Paul engages them in a conversation in an attempt to introduce them to the resurrected Christ, he uses quotes from their own philosophers as a way to connect with them and as springboard to point them to Christ. Paul in his tactfulness quoted shadows of truths found in their own philosophers to “declare” that in Christ is found more than shadows of truth but the full Light of God’s Truth (Acts 17:23).

Paul no doubt had the Athenian’s  attention as this Jew quoted and alluded to philosophers with whom they were familiar. He begins by saying, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). Paul is drawing from Seneca, the prominent Roman Stoic philosopher, who wrote, “Temples are not to be built to God of stones piled on high…the whole world is the temple of the immortal gods.”

In verse 25 Paul continues, “Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” Once again Paul alludes to Seneca who stated: “God wants not ministers. How so? He himself ministereth breath to the human race.”

In verse 26-28a Paul says, “26And 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; 27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28For in him we live, and move, and have our being,” Again, the Apostle shows his knowledge of the writings of Seneca who wrote, “We are members of a vast body. Nature made us kin, when she produced us from the same things and to the same ends” and “God is at hand everywhere and to all men.”  and again, “God is near thee; he is with thee; he is within.”

In verse 28b Paul says to the Athenians that he is quoting from “certain of your own poets” when he says, “For we are also his offspring.”  The poet to which Paul was referring was Aratus who lived in the third century BC, who wrote that “all are the offspring of God.”

In verse 29 Paul declares, “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” Paul once again alludes to the Stoic philosopher Seneca who stated: “Thou shalt not form him of silver and gold: a true likeness of God cannot be molded of this material.”

Grabbing the attention of the Athenians with his knowledge of Greek philosophy and literature, Paul calls on them to repent for God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus whom He has ordained and by raising Him from the dead has given to man the assurance that He is the ultimate truth (Acts 17:30-31).

Paul in his proclamation to the Athenians used his knowledge of Greek philosophy and literature as a way to connect with his hearers and grab their attention. While Paul acknowledged there were shadows of truths found in human philosophy, the full Light of Truth was found in Jesus Christ who reveals to us the Divine and in whom is found the fullness of God (John 1:16; Col. 2:9). The Greeks sought after wisdom (I Cor. 1:22), but Paul sought to point them to the truth that true Wisdom is found only in Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:30).

From Athens Paul traveled to Corinth where he clearly states that the philosophical wisdom of man compared to the wisdom of God is foolishness and will never bring forth the answers to life which man is searching (I Cor 2:1-7). Only the Christ of the cross, which transcends the wisdom of man, is sufficient to redeem a lost humanity and supply man with the answers to life’s age-old questions. While Paul over twenty times in his epistles alludes to shadows of truths found in Greek philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Epimenides, Menander,  and Seneca, he did so as a way to affirm there are certain universal truths that connect all humanity, but the brightness of full truth and wisdom is only found in the revelation of the Light of Jesus Christ who “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

As a reader over the last fifty years of many philosophical meanderings of man, this writer finds it glaringly notable that philosophers down through the ages have not yet attained answers to man’s reoccurring  major questions: “Is there a God and can he be known?” “How can a man be right with God?” “How can one find forgiveness of their sins?”   “Is there an answer to the evil that abounds?” “How can man’s behavior be changed?” “If a man die shall he live again?” These questions and many more, philosophers have grappled with down through the ages, yet their philosophical systems are all inadequate in finding answers to these important questions.

Paul informs us that the Wisdom for which man searches is found in Christ who answers man’s most burning questions. The difference between Christianity and philosophy is that the latter is human thinking and wisdom, while Christianity is the revelation and wisdom of God.  Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). He is the fulness of God who clothed himself in human flesh to reveal the Divine to humanity (John 1:1-3, 14). He is the One who can forgive all our sins (I John 1:7-10). He is the One who can make a thief honest, the impure pure, the drunkard sober, the addict clean, the prideful humble, the weak strong, the hater one who loves. Found in Christ is the One the searching heart longs to discover.

While some see philosophy as a natural complement to theological reflection, Paul assures us that shadows of truth may be found in the philosophical wisdom of man, but the full Light of God’s revelation and wisdom can only be found in Jesus Christ who is Truth. It is impossible for human logic to find the truths found in Christianity. Let us not be satisfied with the shadows of truths of human wisdom, but embrace the revelation and wisdom of God found in Christ in whom is found answers, hope and strength in the face of everyday living and who “hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (II Timothy 1:10).

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

AFTER FIFTY YEARS… WHY I AM A CHRISTIAN

October has arrived.  It was in October, half-a-century ago,  that  I made the most important decision of my life. Fifty years ago, on the evening of October 5, 1970, I trusted Christ as my Savior.  As a freshman attending Campbell University, on that life-changing autumn evening, my life was altered forever. Attending a crusade being held on the college campus, as the words of the evangelist penetrated my heart, I realized I had sinned against a holy God, but our Creator God became the Redeemer of humanity in Jesus Christ. He who knew no sin became sin for me that I might become the righteousness of God in Him. Embracing Him as my Savior, I began embarking upon a journey that I could have never imagined. Ah, amazing grace!!

Over the last half-a-century I have been asked on many occasions, “Why are you a Christian?” I will answer that question with a story from the days of the Roman Empire.

There was once a wealthy Roman senator who had become most influential in the political arena. He desired that his only son follow him into politics, but his son was not interested in governmental affairs. His son was more interested in living a life without restraint and indulging in behavior that brought heartache and shame to his well-known father.

In time the young man left home with his partying companions to live a life of reckless abandonment. For a while he kept in touch with his father, but as time passed their relationship become more and more strained and all contact was discontinued. That broke the father’s heart, but what could he do.

He continued to faithfully serve as a Roman Senator, but he realized as time passed he would not see his wayward son again. As the wealthy senator grew older he decided to change his will, which had stated everything was to go to his only son. Presuming his son was dead, he rewrote the will and left his vast wealth to his trusty servant who had been with him most of his life. However, he made one stipulation in the will, that if his son ever returned he was allowed to choose one thing from his estate.

Not long after revising his will the Senator passed away. A most influential man, word of his passing spread throughout the Roman Empire. Word of his passing eventually made it to the ears of his son. Heartbroken at hearing of his father’s death, he realized how he had wasted his life and had broken his father’s heart. Repentant, he made his way back home. Upon arriving he was told of his father’s change of the will. He was informed his father’s vast wealth was to go to the faithful servant, but he was allowed to choose one thing from his father’s fortune.

His heart raced as he thought to himself, “What shall I choose?” He pondered and he pondered. Then suddenly, like a flash of light, it came to him what should be his choice. Twirling around and pointing at the faithful servant, the son exclaimed, “I WILL TAKE HIM!” For the young man realized that wrapped up in the faithful servant was all that his father possessed and to possess the servant was to possess all that belonged to his father.

That story is the answer to “why I am a Christian.” Fifty years ago my heart cried out, “I will take HIM.”  For I realized that wrapped up in the Faithful Servant, Jesus Christ, is all the Heavenly Father possesses and to possess Christ is to possess all that belongs to the Father!

For in Christ, the Suffering and Faithful Servant, I discover all my heart longs for. In Him I have found forgiveness for all my sins. He, as my Substitute, paid the sin debt I could never pay and His perfect provision on the cross paid in full the debt owed by all humanity. In Him I have found fulfillment and satisfaction. He gives a peace, purpose and satisfaction this world can’t give, a peace that passes all understanding. In Him I find a Friend that sticks by my side no matter what I go through in life. He never leaves me nor forsakes me. In Him I find a strong tower that I can run to in life’s darkest and toughest hour. In Him I find faith for standing when I don’t understand. Faith means I don’t have to have all the answers, but I hold the hand of the One  who is the Answer when I don’t understand. He is the Rock that holds me up in a world of sinking sand. In Him I have a future hope that is sure. This old life will one day cease, but He has promised, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me shall never die.”

And in the Faithful Servant is found so much more. All that the Father has for us to experience is wrapped up in Him.  As Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). All that the heart longs for is found in Christ. He waits for you to exclaim, “I will take HIM.”

My dear friend, He waits your response. I am so thankful that I responded fifty years ago to His invitation. The most important words I ever spoke were on that life changing night half-a-century ago when I emphatically said, “I will take HIM.”

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

THE TOLL OF THE PANDEMIC ON CHURCH LEADERSHIP

When COVID-19 intruded into our lives back in March, who would have dreamed it would have dragged on this long.  Alas, there seems to be no end in sight in the foreseeable future of a return to normalcy.  While there is no question the pandemic has taken a physical and economic toll in people’s lives , it has without question taken a psychological toll. Christians have not been exempted from the negative effects of COVID-19, as it has taken a spiritual toll on the life of many Christians.  During this pandemic Christians have been subjected to the same emotions as that of non-Christians: fear, isolation, helplessness, hopelessness, irritability, frustration, anger, stress, panic and grief. Anxiety has gripped the hearts of many Christians as the result of their routine being interrupted, fear of being exposed to the virus, cut off from family and friends, economic woes, and a sense of helplessness of the inability to do anything about the situation.

As churches have grappled with decisions as how to best gradually reopen the church doors, these  negative emotions have in more than a few instances affected the way some members interact with church leadership.   As this process of regathering has unfolded, this writer, who is currently serving as a Baptist Associational  Director of Missions, has  observed that on the part of some professing Christians the negative emotions that have been bottled up inside since March, have boiled over into  directed attacks on church leadership. Complaints vary from “the pastor is not making good decisions in reopening the doors,” “the pastor has not made consistent connection with the members over the last few months,” “the pastor has no vision to get us back to normal,” “the pastor is not dealing with the pandemic like Slippery Rock Baptist Church down the road,” “church is just not the same,” and the list  goes on and on. All the hostility and irritability that has been kept inside, is spilling over onto church leadership. The pandemic has forced people, and the church, to adapt to a “new normal” and this has caused many church members to feel helpless and frustrated. The pastor/church leadership becoming the ones where people dump their frustration. The loss of one’s normal activities and a sense of losing control of ones life,  has caused some Christian’s to lash out at the pastor in exasperation.

There are many reasons for this expressed frustration toward church leadership. For many the pastor “represents” God, and while their anger and confusion is directed at the pastor, their anger in reality is directed toward God who the Christian feels is able to fix the problem but has not.  The pastor just happens to be the easy target for such anger to be directed. But regardless of the reasons, such directed anger is unfair to the pastor, who himself is frustrated and is searching for answers as how-to best wade through the mire of the pandemic. Such unfair treatment of pastors is causing many to struggle with increased stress, battles with  bouts of depression, and even considering leaving the pastorate.

As Christians we must realize that while we are subject to negative emotions like anyone else, we must not let those emotions take a foothold in our lives. We have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us that allows us to have victory….even in the midst of a pandemic. Whether life will ever go back to “normal” or not, as Christians we must realize greater is He that lives within us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). There are some Biblical ways to have victory and not be a pot of boiling water spilling over with negative and destructive emotions. Life is often about adjusting positively to the circumstance, and through this pandemic this is even more important.

First, social distancing doesn’t mean total isolation. With the technology of today we can still stay socially engaged with one another, we can still hear the voices of those we love and care about, we can still see the faces of friends and loved ones. We must mutually encourage and support one another through the technological means available. While this may not be ideal, there is something about hearing another person’s voice and seeing their face that puts a spark of hope in our spirit.

Second, we must not neglect the reading of the Bible. Read the Psalms. Found in the Psalms are all the raw emotions that we encounter. The Psalmist was never timid about carrying his negative emotions and questions to the Lord, but he always discovered the answer was not found within himself but outside of himself in the Lord. One who meditates on the Plasms will find their attitude and emotions being readjusted.

Third, don’t neglect prayer and praise. We should daily count our blessings. It is hard to count one’s blessings and gripe at the same time. A mind focused on what one has  instead of what one doesn’t have is a mind that becomes content and thankful.

Fourth, don’t forget that even through this pandemic God has a glorious plan that goes beyond our comprehension, which He is unfolding in the world, in our nation, in our church life, and our individual lives.  In this time of COVID-19, the glory of God will be revealed in HIS time!

Fifth, don’t forget private and cooperate worship. If one is uncertain about returning to church at this time don’t forget to privately worship the Lord and join in through live streaming. While things are not back to “normal,” if one does feel comfortable attending services with other Christians, it has a strengthening effect on the spirit. While cooperate worship at this point may not be where one would like it, be patient with the pastor and church leadership. One may not be happy where it is at the present, but one can be assured the  leadership is not either. We are all in uncharted waters together.

These days have no doubt been full of challenges, and there will be challenges yet to come, but we need not let negative emotions destroy our inner peace and spill over into attacks on church leadership who are struggling, as well. Instead of preying on church leadership, let us be sure to pray for them.

Blessings

Dr. Dan

CAN AMERICA SURVIVE WITHOUT RIGHTEOUSNESS

Recently I  read a secular article addressing the decline of America’s greatness. The author seemed to have no answers to the plunging descent of America from the lofty pinnacle it once held on the world scene. Not only did the author have no answers, he wasn’t sure what were the underlying causes for America’s rip in the fabric of her once seemingly invincible super-cape. To discover the answer to America’s descent one must look for an answer that transcends secular reasoning. There can be no lasting greatness without spiritual and moral righteousness. Patrick Henry  correctly stated, “Righteousness alone can exalt America as a nation.”

Flowing from the pen of the Wisdom writer we find words which history has proven over and over to be true, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34). Can a nation, can a people who make up a nation, forget and violate the righteous moral principles of God and expect to stay a blessed nation? Will God violate His own holy nature and bless that which His nature opposes? Can America expect to continue to remain great when we have willingly and blatantly chosen to defy His moral truths? Some would say it matters not how we live, all will be fine. Others will say we cannot abandon the biblically moral foundation upon which this nation was built without suffering dire consequences. It was the conclusion of a 19th century French statesman, Alexis deTocqueville, that when America ceases to be righteous and morally good she will cease to be great.

In the 1830’s de Tocqueville came to America seeking an answer to her success and blessings. His often-quoted conclusion needs to be revisited, “I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public-school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

de Tocqueville saw that America’s greatness lay in a people who believed and adhered to living morally accountable and responsible that flowed from a fountainhead of Judeo-Christian influence. He concluded that when such living ceased, the nation’s greatness would also cease. His assessment has proven prophetic.

When any nation makes the decision to separate itself from moral values and principles, as this nation is so obviously doing, it will always bring upon the landscape consequences that come with such moral abandonment. Some seem to think that society can divorce itself from any moral parameters and religious standards and just accept any kind of behavior with no ill consequences. The question is posed, “What is wrong with everyone just living as they please regardless of it how affects others?” Such thinking that becomes adopted by a society eventually leads to moral, societal, cultural, political, and spiritual collapse and anarchy. The Psalmist sums it up by telling us that when a nation forgets God it is turned into a place of chaos, a place of hell (Ps. 9:17).

I challenge anyone to give an example from history of a society that has abandoned moral order and replaced it with the philosophy “each person doing that which is right in their own eyes” that did not eventually collapse as the result of chocking on its own sin. When a society departs from the foundational truths of traditional family values, sanctity of life, hard work, compassion, integrity, honesty, love, self-restraint, moral decency, sobriety, individual responsibility and the individual liberty to pursue life, liberty, and happiness as God given, then you will find a society that is in decline and headed for the dust heap of history.

Now be honest, can this nation survive if we continue to remove the foundational truths on which this nation was built? Can a nation survive that refuses to acknowledge and honor the Creator from all blessings flow, has redefined the institution of marriage, redefined what constitutes a person’s gender, adopts moral perversion  as normal, embraces debauchery, moral relativism, excessive materialism, applauds abortion, an entitlement mentality, and seeks to replace a Christocentric view of life with a godless, humanistic view of life. History teaches us the answer is an unequivocal NO.

To the alert observer this once great nation is plummeting from her pedestal of greatness, and is falling faster than a sky diver without a parachute. Why? The answer is simple: she is ceasing to be righteous. As a nation we have sadly allowed, and even supported, men and women, groups and movements who promote destructive agendas which are morally corrupt and decadent to become the national compass, and as a result we are headed in a destructive direction and spiraling downward. Unless there is a return to what is spiritually and morally right and good this downward trend will continue.  There can be no lasting greatness without righteousness.

Is it too late to return America to the place of the once greatness as de Tocqueville wrote about? I don’t know if it late or not, but the outlook seems bleak. But I do know this, unless there is a return to what is right and good on an individual level there will never be a return to righteousness on a national level. Our moral measuring stick of what is right and wrong, what is good and righteous, is found within the Sacred Volume known as the Bible. There we find a holy God giving us eternally moral and ethical principles and standards that will not only bring order to our lives but bring order to our chaotic society.

There must be a return to what made this nation great, or the greatness that once was a lighthouse and awed the rest of the world will be lost forever. Let the words of de Tocqueville echo in our ears, “When America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” Let us remember it is not our goodness that gives birth to greatness, but the righteousness of God and the goodness of our Lord as He reflects His Light of Truth through us in a dark world (Matthew 5:14-16). Only as His light uncompromisingly and lovingly shining through us begins to permeate society, does the greatness of America have any hope of being restored.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

THE CHRISTIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM!

Seems every group and movement today wants to embrace and attach to themselves a special song they consider to be their national anthem, which is an identifying song that distinguishes the group or movement from others. Well,  I would like to nominate a hymn for the Christian “national anthem.”  But let me give a little background information before revealing the hymn I nominate!

One of my heroes of the Christian faith is Martin Luther (1483-1546). Born in 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony, located in modern-day Germany, Luther was studying to be a lawyer, when in the summer of 1505  he was caught in a horrific thunderstorm and was struck by lightning.  Lying on the rain-soaked ground, he  feared for his life and vowed if God would spare him, he would become a monk. Only two weeks after his brush with death he entered St. Augustine’s Monastery and in 1507 was ordained to the priesthood.  He devoted himself to fasting, laborious hours in prayer, taking pilgrimages, and frequent confession of his sins. Instead of finding peace, he found himself experiencing deep spiritual despair.

His despair drove him to the Word of God and he soon begin to question many of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1515, while studying the Book of Romans, his eyes were opened to the truth that the only righteousness which will gain one acceptance before a holy God is not found in one’s good works, but by faith and trust in the grace of Jesus Christ and the sufficiency of His death on the cross. Luther taught, as well, that the Bible was the only source of divine revelation and truth. His rejection of the church’s teachings and practices landed him in hot water with the “higher ups” of the church.  On October 31, 1517, he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. Luther  was called upon to recant his writings and teachings at the Diet of Worms in April 1521.  He said he would not recant unless scripture proved him wrong and he emphatically stated, “My soul is captive to the Word of God. Here I stand. I can do no other, so help me God.” As a result, he was excommunicated by the pope and condemned as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor. From Luther’s protest of the Roman Church, Protestantism and the Protestant Reformation was born and flourished.

Luther’s convictions and firm stand resulted in him personally experiencing struggles, trials, heartache and dark times in his life. From 1517 to 1527, Luther’s focus on the abuses of the Roman Church brought threats to his life from multiple sources. His reputation was always under attack, his family never felt safe, and his Reformation teachings were constantly being discredited. In August 1527 a friend who espoused Luther’s teachings was martyred. In the fall of 1527, the Black Plague broke out in Wittenberg, and instead of leaving, Luther stayed to minister to the dying. In December 1527, Luther’s daughter, Elizabeth, was born sick. Luther and his wife prayed for her survival but in May 1528, she died. It was about this time Luther wrote to a colleague, “We are all in good health except for Luther himself, who is physically well, but outwardly the whole world and inwardly the devil and all his angels are making him suffer.”  He later wrote that he was undergoing trials in his life that were the worst he had ever experienced.

Luther was going through a very dark period in his life, where his constant companions were persecution, pain, sorrow, uncertainty and death. Luther was mentally and spiritually exhausted, under the load of suffering, yet he took comfort from reading the Psalms. Scholars tell us it was during this dark period of his life, between the years of 1527-1529, that the German Reformer penned his most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Luther based his hymn on Psalm 46, which undoubtedly reflects the reality that God’s people can confidently rest in His protection in the midst of uncertain and chaotic times.  Written during a dark period of his life, Luther intended the hymn to be one of comfort.    Luther’s hymn is one of comfort and hope in the midst of trial, temptation, and fires of testing.

The four stanzas of “A Mighty Fortress of is Our God” read (Read them slowly and let them sink in. Click here to hear it sung by Steve Green):

1.  A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

2.  Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

4.  That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

This is a great hymn of comfort in the midst of pandemics, trial, suffering, sorrow and chaos. This hymn reminds us how Martin Luther, and all Christians,  in the midst of the uncertainties and struggles of life, have a Mighty Fortress in the Lord.  The hymn eventually became the anthem for German protestants. The hymn was sung throughout Germany, often against the objection of the priests. It was sung in the streets when Reformers were being tried. It was sung by poor Protestants emigrants on their way into exile. It was sung by martyrs as they were dying. The hymn is sewn into the very fabric of the history of Protestantism.

The hymn is a celebration and affirmation of the omnipotence and omnipresence of God. The hymn affirms the truth that our Lord has power over all earthly and spiritual forces. The hymn confirms the sure hope we have in God through Jesus Christ. The hymn asserts that long after kingdoms of earth have vanished, the Kingdom of God is forever.

What a hymn it is!  In the uncertain days in which we live, what a hymn of assurance and affirmation of our trust in our Sovereign Lord. And since every group and movement is securing a song to be their national anthem, I nominate “A Might Fortress is Our God.” For our God is indeed Mighty and our Fortress!!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan