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Earthquakes and Your Worldview

January 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Yes, your world view affects how you look at everything.

I submit the following article, about earthquakes and the New Madrid fault as a small sampling about how our pre-existing ideas and assumptions affect the conclusions we come to.  The article  cites research from scientists at Northwestern University, data from GPS satellites that movement along the New Madrid fault is extremely slow, a maximum of 0.2 millimeters; by contrast, the movement along the Haiti quake was about 7 millimeters per year, at least 35 times faster.  But some are skeptical of the obvious conclusion, and here is the interesting part:

Given the slow pace of geologic changes, Langston questions how a fault zone that produced such powerful quakes only two centuries ago could undergo such a dramatic transformation so quickly.
“It just doesn’t work that way,” he said. “It takes hundreds of thousands of years for the Earth to do something — either start up or shut off.”

Hmm.

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Recent Bible Reading Observations

January 26, 2010 Leave a comment

With my genre Bible reading plan, it seems I am never very far away — in numbers of days — from various passages I come across in devotionals or other mention.

Last Friday I read Job 1 (List 4), and was doubly blessed that same day to read the Spurgeon daily devotional — for Job 1:9.  Today I read Luke 2 (List 1), and the Spurgeon devotional again matched up, Luke 2:18.

The readings are always different, and yet on some days a clear “theme” or topic especially comes through, multiple times through the chapters I read.  One day in mid-January, several passages dealt with the parent-child and master-servant relationships:

  • Mark 7:10-12 — For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’  But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)  then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother.”
  • Ephesians 6:1-3  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),  “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
  • Proverbs 19:26 — He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and reproach.
  • Ephesians 6:5-8 — Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
  • Proverbs 17:2  — A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.

Today’s readings had more than the usual mention of women, widows, and prophetesses:  Anna (Luke 2; list 1), Ruth (list 6), and Hulda (list 7).  Interestingly, two of these were widows (Anna and Ruth), and two were prophetesses (Anna and Hulda).  My list 3 (1 Timothy 5-6) also included mention of widows:

1 Timothy 5:5 — She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day

The Mosaic covenant also had special mention today:

  • Deuteronomy 29 (list 2), where Moses renews the covenant with the people just before they go into Canaan
  • 2 Chronicles 34 (list 7), where Josiah, having heard the words of the Book of the Law, gathers the people together and renews that covenant

Bible Prophecy and Common Errors

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

After spending several months perusing the popular Christian blogs and message boards, especially those of the pre-trib rapture prophecy focus, I have learned that amongst all the good biblical teaching, a lot of error (and the tolerance of error) also exists “among the masses” (i.e., lay people — including those who write prophecy articles but are not among the class of serious Bible preachers and teachers).

I am not here referring to damnable heresies, matters related to salvation, or false teachings such as the emergent church or the prosperity gospel.  Yet these are errors of interpretation related to Bible Prophecy, basic flaws in exegetical reasoning.  Following are some of the more common ones I’ve come across:

1)  Nation of Israel in 1948 = the Fig Tree —  this notion has persisted for years, since at least the 1970s when Hal Lindsey and others posited that a generation is 40 years, and so to look for the return of Christ by 1988.  Then the length of a generation was extended, and now the same Bible teachers have concluded that a generation is really a human lifetime of 70 years, based on a reference made in one of the Psalms regarding man’s years of life.  1948 + 70 = 2018, and subtracting 7 years for the tribulation means that the rapture must occur in 2011.

Here I agree with reputable teachers, including S. Lewis Johnson and John MacArthur, as well as some prophecy teachers including Thomas Ice, that the passage in Matthew 24 is not talking about the secular nation of Israel born in 1948.  The parallel passage in Luke 21, after all, says “the fig tree and all the trees.”  Yet some Christians are so set on desiring the rapture now, so sick of living in this world now, that when I try to point out the obvious exegetical problems here they dismiss it without any consideration.  Obviously they are more set on what they desire, rather than on truly understanding what God has said so as to align their views with God’s purposes.

Finally, I must concur with the perspective stated over 100 years ago by Sir Robert Anderson in “The Prince to Come”:

But having thus clearly fixed these principal landmarks to guide us in the study, we cannot too strongly deprecate the attempt to fill up the interval with greater precision than Scripture warrants. There are definite events to be fulfilled, but no one may dogmatize respecting the time or manner of their fulfillment. No Christian who estimates aright the appalling weight of suffering and sin which each day that passes adds to the awful sum of this world’s sorrow and guilt, can fail to long that the end may indeed be near; but let him not forget the great principle that “the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation,” (2 Peter 3:15) nor yet the language of the Psalm, “A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” (Psalm 90:4) There is much in Scripture which seems to justify the hope that the consummation will not be long delayed; but, on the other hand, there is not a little to suggest the thought that before these final scenes shall be enacted, civilization will have returned to its old home in the east, and, perchance, a restored Babylon shall have become the center of human progress and of apostate religion.
(emphasis added)

2)  Connected with the above date-setting attempt is the notion of an imminent, major collapse of the U.S.  After all, since America clearly is not a player in the End Times scenario, and yet the Tribulation must occur from 2011 – 2018, something dramatic must occur to completely wipe out America.  Various ideas have been proposed, such as a major terrorist attack, even an EMP attack, but the especially favored view is simply that the Rapture itself will take out so many American Christians, that the country will immediately fall into decline due to the absence of the believers.

I agree that America is under God’s judgement, in the Romans 1 sense as described by John MacArthur (When God Abandons a Nation), and we are seeing rapid decline.  I also agree that by the time of the Great Tribulation, America will be insignificant, on the level of other “banana republics” — and if things continue along the present course, in just 20 or 30 years that could very well occur:  but not in the next two years, and certainly not due to the sudden loss of population after the Rapture.  Here again I must consider the implications of scriptures that strongly associate a rebuilt Babylon (as a major commercial center) with the Second Coming judgments, and admit that God’s timescale may not be as soon as I would prefer.

3)  Ezekiel’s war (Ezekiel 38-39) as an event separate from Armageddon, likely coming either before the Great Tribulation or at its midpoint.  A variation of this includes two wars, Ezekiel’s war and a separate “Psalm 83” war.  Here is a point of admitted dispute, a place to especially recognize that “nobody is right on every point,” because we can’t see the detailed sequencing in the Bible.  Until the 20th century, apparently Ezekiel’s war was understood as referring to Armageddon.  More recent Bible teachers see it as a separate event, either during or before the Great Tribulation, and underlying it (so I’ve observed) again is the 1948 date.  The end-times scenario describes a pagan system and a pagan anti-Christ that all unbelievers will worship; since Muslims are also monotheistic and would not bow down to some other, non-Muslim being, Islam must be destroyed first, and thus the Gog-Magog war is a mechanism to destroy Islam quickly, to bring in the European anti-Christ in the next few years.

I’m still studying this matter, though inclined to agree with those who say Ezekiel 38 and 39 is a reference to the battle of Armageddon, and not a separate, earlier event.  Ezekiel 38:17 is a strong indicator, where the Lord says “Are you not the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel? At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them.”  Joel Richardson at the Joel’s Trumpet blog points out many exegetical reasons, including Ezekiel 38:17, to support this view.  His answer to the dilemma of Muslims versus pagans is that the antiChrist is Islamic, and he makes much of Muslim “Mahdi” eschatology.  I’ve also read of many problems with the details concerning his ideas, so won’t go too far with that.

However, another possibility is simply that Islam will yet be defeated at some future point — not connected with any specific Bible prophecies — and so this too must occur before the end comes.  This does not seem very likely right now, with Islam apparently growing yet stronger in the 21st century.  At this point indeed we can have fun speculating about all the different possibilities, but recognize that God is truly in control and that He will bring it all to pass, whenever and however that will occur.  As Sir Robert Anderson also pointed out, the Bible prophecies are written vaguely enough to prevent anyone from deliberately attempting to fulfill them — yet specific enough that when the actual fulfillment does come to pass, it is clearly recognizable to all.

Finally, a few words from Sir Robert Anderson, regarding the restoration of the Jews to Palestine, as an example of how we can know the general facts but cannot foresee the details of Biblical prophecy:

The decline of the Moslem power is one of the most patent of public facts; and if the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire be still delayed, it is due entirely to the jealousies of European nations, whose rival interests seem to render an amicable distribution of its territories impossible. But the crisis cannot be deferred indefinitely; and when it arrives, the question of greatest moment, next to the fate of Constantinople, will be, What is to become of Palestine? Its annexation by any one European state is in the highest degree improbable. The interests of several of the first-rate Powers forbid it. The way will thus be kept open to the Jews, whenever their inclinations or their destinies lead them back to the land of their fathers.

Not only would no hostile influence hinder their return, but the probabilities of the case (and it is with probabilities that we are here concerned) are in favor of the colonization of Palestine by that people to whom historically it belongs. There is some reason to believe that a movement of this kind has already begun; and if, whether by the Levant becoming a highway to India, or from some other cause, any measure of prosperity should return to those shores that were once the commercial center of the world, the Jews would migrate thither in thousands from every land.

True it is that to colonize a country is one thing, while to create a nation is another. But the testimony of Scripture is explicit that Judah’s national independence is not to be regained by diplomacy or the sword. Jerusalem is to remain under Gentile supremacy until the day when Daniel’s visions shall be realized. In the language of Scripture, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”  But long ere then the Cross must supplant the Crescent in Judea, else it is incredible that the Mosque of Omar should give place to the Jewish Temple on the Hill of Zion.

If the operation of causes such as those above indicated, conjointly with the decay of the Moslem power, should lead to the formation of a protected Jewish state in Palestine, possibly with a military occupation of Jerusalem by or on behalf of some European Power or Powers, nothing more need be supposed than a religious revival among the Jews, to prepare the way for the fulfillment of the prophecies.

References for additional information:
Ezekiel 38, 39 The Battle of Gog and Magog

Is the Parable of the Fig Tree about the generation that saw the rebirth of Israel?

Reading The Bible

January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Some Great Words from C.H. Spurgeon:

Perhaps there is no book more neglected in these days than the Bible. I do verily believe there are more mouldy Bibles in this world than there are of any sort of neglected books. We have stillborn books in abundance; we have innumerable books which never see any circulation except the circulation of the butter shop, but we have no book that is so much bought, and then so speedily laid aside, and so little used, as the Bible. If we buy a newspaper, it is generally handed from one person to another, or we take care to peruse it pretty well; indeed some go so far as to read advertisements and all. If a person purchases a novel, it is well known how he will sit and read it all the way through, till the midnight candle is burnt out; the book must be finished in one day, because it is so admirable and interesting; but the Bible, of course, in the estimation of many, is not an interesting book; and the subjects it treats of are not of any very great importance. So most men think; they think it is a very good book to carry out on a Sunday, but never meant to be used as a book of pleasure, or a book to which one could turn with delight. Such is the opinion of many; but no opinion can be more apart from the truth; for what book can treat of truths one-half so important as those that concern the soul. What book can so well deserve my attention as that which is written by the greatest of all authors, God himself? If I must read a valuable book with attention, how much more ought I to give my mind to the study of that book which is invaluable, and which contains truth without the slightest admixture of error? And if books upon my health, or books which only concern the doings of my fellow creatures occupy some of my time, and deservedly so, how much more time should I spend in reading that which concerns my everlasting destiny; which reveals to me worlds hitherto unknown; which tells me how I may escape from hell and fly to heaven?

But I must remark, that even among Christian people, the Bible is one of the least read books that they have in their house. What with our innumerable magazines, our religious newspapers, and our perpetual controversies about the Bible, it is too seldom that people read the Bible. There certainly is not that reading of it that there used to be. Our predecessors, the ancient Puritans, would scarcely read any book but that; and if a book was not concerning the Bible, they did not care about reading it at all. Perhaps therein they may have been too strait and narrow, and may somewhat have cramped their minds; but I would rather have a little truth, and have a mind filled with that, though that mind should only be as large as a nutshell, than have the most gigantic intellect, and have that crammed with error. It is not the greatness of our intellect, it is the rightness of it, that makes us men in this world, and right men before God. I beseech you, therefore, you who are members of Christian churches, if you have but little time, do not expend it in reading ephemeral books, but take your Bible and read it constantly; and I promise you one thing, that if you are already Christians, the more you read the Bible the more you will love it. You may find it hard, perhaps, at present, to read a short passage and meditate upon it all day; but as you proceed you will see such depths unfathomable, such heights beyond your ken; and you will discover such unutterable sweetness in this precious honey-comb dropping with drops of honey, that you will say, “I must have more of it,” and your spirit will always cry, “Give, give;” nor will it be content until you can have God’s statutes upon your mind daily, to be your songs in the house of your pilgrimage.

From Sermon #88, “The Plea of Faith,” June 22, 1856

Bible Reading: Update

January 18, 2010 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I mentioned upcoming changes to my Bible Reading plan.  Now that I’ve implemented most of these changes, I see that what works on paper doesn’t always work as well in the actual reading.

The three chapter grouping for Wisdom books is more difficult to get through, at least while reading Proverbs.  Having several lists to read through, I’ve found that reading only 1 or 2 chapters does help move the reading along at a quicker pace.  Certainly, reading 2 chapters instead of one takes extra concentration, but it is do-able.  At the three chapter point, though, my attention wanders — especially so, perhaps, when reading Proverbs, in which each verse is an independent thought unrelated to the verses around it.  So, despite my best intentions in that plan, I’ve made a slight rearrangement that should work much better:

List 4:  Job and Proverbs — 1 chapter a day — 73 days
List 5:  Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon — 2 chapters a day — 85 days

I’m now finishing a reading through Proverbs, reduced to two chapters a day for the next few days.  Then I’ll start over with these two lists.  This same modification can be updated to the proposed “Bible in 90 days” plan, for a total of seven lists instead of six.

Here is my current modified Horner Bible Reading Plan (see detailed list here):

List 1:  Gospels  — usually 1 chapter a day, double up on shorter chapters — 71 days
List 2:  Pentateuch — usually 2 chapters, only 1 for longer chapters — 115 days
List 3:  New Testament Epistles (Romans through Jude) — 2 chapters per day — 60 days
List 4:  Job and Proverbs — 1 chapter a day — 73 days
List 5:  Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon — 2 chapters a day — 85 days
List 6:  OT History (Joshua through Esther) — 2 chapters a day — 124 days
List 7:  OT Prophets (Isaiah through Malachi) — 2 chapters a day — 125 days
List 8:  Acts and Revelation — 1 chapter a day — 50 days

My new ESV Large Print Bible

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

I now have a new hardcover Bible, an ESV large print, ordered from Amazon after Christmas.

After reading the ESV translation on the computer (in my Bible software “The Word”), it is nice to now have the ESV in a portable format.  My previous Bibles, bought in my early Christian years around 1990, are NIV text:  a hardcover NIV Topical Study Bible, and the NIV Study Bible.  Both of these books are adequate, but I now have greater appreciation for the ESV text and footnotes; and sometimes those study notes can get in the way of reading the text.  Last year when I first tried reading my Horner Bible Reading lists using my NIV Topical Study Bible (because of its larger print size), I grew weary of some of the “notes” (I think in the prophets section) that associated the OT prophecies with fulfillment in the Church Age.

At this point, my MacArthur Bible Commentary has all the study notes I need.  I’m not so interested in other study bibles, but just wanted a “basic bible” without other people’s commentary on it.  At first I considered standard print ESV Bibles, but I’ve noticed that I prefer expanding the text on the computer screen, and that when I read my NIV Study Bible I need my glasses to read the smaller print.  I found a webpage that lists all the ESV editions published, along with their font sizes.  The large print is a 12.75 point size, which actually is smaller than the standard “large print” definition of 14 point — but very readable, similar to standard non-Bible books.  As I learned, standard type for Bibles is around 7 or 7.5 points.  No wonder I have problems reading that, as compared to common fiction and non-fiction books published nowadays.

Many others have said far more about the details of translation, favoring ESV over others, or favoring some other version, and I don’t wish to belabor the point here.  As one who had only been familiar with NIV, the ESV took some getting used to.  For instance, where the NIV would say “firstborn” the ESV says something about that which comes first out of the womb.  However, two specific items in the ESV translation especially prompted the switch from NIV.  The footnotes in Job 40 and 41 — texts describing animals very much like the modern understanding of dinosaurs — are at least honest.  Whereas the NIV footnotes actually suggests animals (such as the crocodile), the ESV simply says “a large animal, exact identity unknown.”  The second item is the correct translation of Galatians 6:16 — “and upon the Israel of God.”  As many others are no doubt aware, the NIV translation alone renders that “even.”  I first learned of this while listening to Jim McClarty’s Eschatology series (the Greek is the same basic word “kai” which means “and”) and since then from others, regarding the Israel and Church distinction.  Church replacement advocates will cite the NIV of Galatians 6:16 as a type of proof for a case where Israel could also refer to the church.  Just this morning in my S. Lewis Johnson message (about Baalam’s first prophecy), he mentioned the very unsatisfactory NIV translation of Galatians 6:16, noting that he had written up a paper about the matter, and planned to send them his paper in the hopes of changing that in the NIV:

So at any rate, I hope that we will live to see the day in which that particular rendering is transformed.  The NIV likes to let people know and Ken Barker is now the man who is in charge of their work.  They like to let others know that if you see some rendering of the NIV that is wrong, you should write them and give them reasons for it.  And ultimately I am going to send them a copy of my paper and hope that maybe he will come to his senses and change that particular rendering.

I wonder if he ever did.  That was in 1985, and the NIV still says what it said then.

Bible Reading: Judges and 2 Chronicles

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m now reading from 8 different lists of Bible books:  Gospels (currently Mark 5), Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 9-10), Epistles (Ephesians 1-2), Wisdom (Proverbs 11-13), History (two lists: Judges and 2 Chronicles), Prophets (Isaiah 33-34), and Revelation 16.

In the current readings, one thing that strongly sticks out is the similarities between the times of the Judges and 2 Chronicles.  Both were less than honorable times in Israel’s history, the one before and the other after the great monarchy age.  The tendency to do whatever they wanted, their apostasy and idolatry, is plain throughout both books.  Another obvious similarity:  good rulers and the associated benefits to the people, followed by wicked rulers (in the Kings) or no clear rulers (in the Judges) and the resulting apostasy and evil consequences.  Both books describe great military exploits under godly rulers, and great failures when the people stray and/or have wicked rulers.  In Judges 9 (day 299), Gideon’s son Abimelech gets himself into enough power among his mother’s family, and then slays his 70 brothers.  In 2 Chroncles 21 (reading day 300), good king Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, establishes his power and then kills all his brothers.  Both men later receive their just recompense for their wicked deeds.

My various bible readings have prompted further interest in bible study.  Of course, the studies (in the form of sermon series from good preachers such as S. Lewis Johnson) continue far after I’ve completed reading the book, at least until the next time through that particular list. Yet the study material is never too far away from where I am in the lists.  I’m now reading in Deuteronomy, but the “From Exodus to Canaan” series is now discussing Baalam’s prophecies in Numbers — not too far back in the readings.  I’m also listening to Johnson’s study through Acts, now up to Acts 12 — and soon enough I’ll be reading through Acts again.

I’m now considering a study through Judges, and after looking at a few possibilities, have settled on one from Believers Chapel (the church where S. Lewis Johnson preached), a series done by Dan Duncan.  He did 25 messages through the first 16 chapters of Judges.  I only wish he had completed the book, but if he did they do not have the recordings on the web site.  I’ve listened to the first one, an excellent introduction.