Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas is NOT a pagan holiday

I'm more and more convinced that rejecting Christmas as a pagan holiday simply because it replaced a pagan holiday is very wrong. As I said on my other blog about this a few days ago, it is Christ overcoming the world when this happens, quite the opposite of paganism being honored. The paganism is no longer there, Christ has conquered it. There is no one who celebrates Saturnalia on Christmas any more, or if there are some they are out on the fringe and have nothing to do with Christmas anyway.

Likewise, there is no one who celebrates Ishtar on Easter either. Perhaps it should be Passover instead but that's a controversy I'm not going to get into. Easter is now the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Until the owlish ones got all het up about the meaning of the term "Easter" most of us had no idea about its pagan origins and we were better off when we didn't. It's the Lord's resurrection now, that's how people experience it, that's what's in people's minds and hearts and I have to think God knows it and therefore accepts it.

Some Christians also deal with the pagan holiday of Halloween by substituting harvest concepts. Perhaps we should make it an all-out Day of the Harvest of Souls anticipating the Lord's return. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do with a pagan holiday that we can't participate in.

It's a superstition to make so much out of the bare historical fact when what matters to God is what is ACTUALLY going on in people's minds and hearts -- THAT is what is ACTUALLY being celebrated. The ancient meaning of the date is now meaningless. Nobody would even remember it if it weren't for those who are trying to stumble us over it. It's just another day and if we celebrate Christ on that day then it is Christ's day, not some pagan god's.

I happened to hear R C Sproul talking on this subject over the radio recently. I couldn't find the actual talk online but I did find this brief essay by him on the same subject:
BlogArticles
Is the Celebration of Christmas a Pagan Ritual?
from R.C. Sproul

That question comes up every year at Christmastime. In the first place, there’s no direct biblical commandment to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. There’s nothing in the Bible that would even indicate that Jesus was born on December 25. In fact, there’s much in the New Testament narratives that would indicate that it didn’t occur during that time of year. It just so happens that on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to mystery religions; the pagans celebrated their festival on December 25. The Christians didn’t want to participate in that, and so they said, “While everybody else is celebrating this pagan thing, we’re going to have our own celebration. We’re going to celebrate the thing that’s most important in our lives, the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. So this is going to be a time of joyous festivities, of celebration and worship of our God and King.”

I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his birthday every year.
However, if the consciences of some tell them for the sake of Christ not to celebrate Christmas it seems to me that should be respected, according to scripture:
Romans 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
At the same time they ought to respect those who do celebrate Christmas for the sake of Christ since in our minds there is nothing pagan about it at all, and stop trying to prove that we're really celebrating something pagan. We're not and the accusation only distresses people who are also members of the body of Christ.

Jesus owns every day on the calendar and should be celebrated on every day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Messiah, words and some of the music.

M E R R Y
C H R I S T M A S!


Handel, MESSIAH:

BEHOLD, THE LAMB OF GOD

HE SHALL FEED HIS FLOCK

WORTHY IS THE LAMB & AMEN

The lyrics to Messiah, all straight from the Bible:

*PART I*

OVERTURE

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Tenor) Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God; speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness:-Prepare ye the way of the Lord: make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

AIR (Tenor)
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight and the rough places plain.

CHORUS And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Bass)
Thus saith the Lord of Hosts:-Yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come. The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.

AIR (Bass) But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner's fire.

CHORUS
And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

RECITATIVE.
(Alto) Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name immanuel, God with us.

AIR (Alto) and CHORUS O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain: O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold you God! Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Bass)
For Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall rise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee, and the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

AIR (Bass) The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

CHORUS
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

PASTORAL SYMPHONY

RECITATIVE. (Soprano) There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Soprano) And lo! the angel of the Lord cam upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.

RECITATIVE.
(Soprano) And the angel said unto the, Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Soprano) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying:-

CHORUS
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, goodwill towards men.

AIR. (Soprano)
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, thy King cometh unto thee! He is the righteous Saviour, and He shall speak peace unto the heathen.

RECITATIVE. (Alto)
Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.

AIR (Alto)
He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: and He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

AIR (Alto)
Come unto Him, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

CHORUS
His yoke is easy and His burthen is light.


*PART II*

CHORUS
Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.

AIR (Alto)
He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting.

CHORUS
Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows! He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him. And with His stripes we are healed.

CHORUS
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied -Tenor)
Thy rebuke hath broken His heart; He is full of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on Him, but there was no man, neither found He any to comfort Him.

AIR. (Tenor)
Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow.

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Soprano)
He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of Thy people was He stricken.

AIR (Soprano)
But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell; nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.

CHORUS
Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.

RECITATIVE. (Tenor)
Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee?

CHORUS
Let all the angels of God worship Him.

AIR. (Bass)
Thou art gone up on high; Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, yea, even for Thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.

CHORUS
The Lord gave the word, great was the company of the preachers.

AIR. (Soprano)
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.

CHORUS
Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.

AIR (Bass)
Why do the nations so furiously rage together, and who do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His Anointed.

CHORUS
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.

RECITATIVE (Tenor)
He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision.

AIR (Tenor)
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

CHORUS
Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Hallelujah!


*Part III*

AIR
(Soprano)
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though worms destroy this body yet, in my flesh shall I see God. For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep.

CHORUS
Since by man came death,

CHORUS
By man came also the resurrection of the dead.

CHORUS
For as in Adam all die,

CHORUS
Even so in Christ shall all be made alive

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Bass)
Behold, I tell you a mystery; We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

AIR. (Bass)
The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on
immortality.

RECITATIVE (Alto)
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written; Death is swallowed up in victory!

DUET (Alto and Tenor)
O death, where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

CHORUS
But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

AIR (Soprano)
If God be for us, who can be against us? who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.

CHORUS
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.
__ Amen.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Communications from the Lord far more believable than experiences of heaven

Scott Johnson told these stories in his report for December 16: one about a listener of his who had just lost her daughter, and the others about the deaths of his own parents.

The audio stories.

The PDF to the stories.

The link to the listener's You Tube song .

These three stories all involve coincidences and symbolic events that are far more convincing to me as communications coming from the Lord than any of the visits to heaven I commented on in recent blog posts here. These are events of a sort that many Christians have experienced many times, often in connection with the death of a loved one, or in general when reassurance is needed -- or just as a reminder of His presence or a token of His love. It's one way the Lord Jesus communicates to us. It's very touching when He does it, reminding you that you are His, that your loved ones are His.

And HE is the communicator in all these instances, in fact He is the message itself, whereas in the "heaven" stories it's almost as if He's an afterthought or just part of the furniture. He's there in the scene, some bogus version of Him anyway, but He's not the whole point of Heaven as in reality He would be.

In these cases reported by Scott Johnson they pretty clearly came from Him for the purpose of reassuring the survivors that the person who died is safely home with Him. No visits to Heaven, although there was one event sort of like a vision seen by two people, but otherwise just touching coincidences that add up to meaningful communication for those who belong to Him.

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I think I'll just add one of my own experiences of this sort of coincidence although it's nothing compared to the stories told above, and didn't involve anybody's death. On my fiftieth birthday -- a LONG time ago now -- a friend left a bouquet of flowers on my doorstep. The bouquet contained specific flowers that had special meaning to me as representing my family and me, along with a palm leaf which of course represents the Lord Jesus Himself. An odd bouquet, not exactly standard: Tiger lilies, carnations, tiny white daisies and the palm leaf. I immediately knew it was from Him because of what each of those flowers signified to me, about which my friend hadn't the slightest clue -- she'd simply picked up the bouquet in the floral department at the market.

When I was a child my father told me that tiger lily was his favorite flower. I suppose he made up a favorite flower to humor me but I drew pictures of tiger lilies on birthday cards I made for him for years from then on. I'd never seen a tiger lily so I had to find pictures in books, and in fact I don't think I ever saw a real one until I was grown -- I almost want to say until that bouquet but I'm not sure of that. The carnation happened to be my favorite flower at the time of my 50th birthday, as I'd gotten into the habit of buying one or a few at the market to put on the table just for myself. The rest of the story is that I had woven tiny daisies into my daughter's hair for a dance performance when she was six, and they've represented her to me ever since. There's no meaning beyond the flowers representing me and my family, three generations, and nobody would have known any of this except me. And with the palm leaf it was like all of us being gathered under His wing. My father died without Him as far as I know -- that was years before I became a believer -- but I still took the tiger lily as symbolic of my whole family with him as its head, and all in the Lord's hands according to His will. It was like He was right there with me as I thought about the meaning of the flowers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More on the unbiblical nature of experiences of "Heaven"

I read through some of the reviews of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven at Amazon and one in particular, a 3-star review by D. Graeber gave enough specifics to strengthen the opinion I expressed two posts below. Few of the reviews give any of the description of heaven at all and some complain that very little was actually said about heaven. But this review details enough of what was said to be able to judge it by scripture, and by scripture it fails:

3.0 out of 5 stars
Title is misleading, December 4, 2010
By D. Graeber "pshdsa" -

This review is from: The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World (Hardcover)

The Title makes you think that inside this book is a first person account of heaven and all that is inside. The book is by the boy's Dad about his son. The boy is very reluctant to talk about his experiences in heaven and makes it a big secret that he cannot share. Still, enough leaks out despite this reluctance that raises a few eyebrows. Now given the tragedy of the accident and the awful suffering the boy had to endure, there is a natural desire to believe everything the boy says about his trip to heaven to talk to God.

Still, truth should endure scrutiny.

Alex claims God looks like a person, only bigger. He says some angels are only two feet high. He says you have to make your spirit transparent to see and talk with angels. He says that the new heaven is already created and is in another place right now. He says there is a hole in the outer part of heaven that leads down to hell. He says the devil has three heads and looks decrepit.

All of these claims are extra-biblical. That in itself is reason for alarm.
God is a spirit and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen nor can see, and is our shield and exceedingly great reward. Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man.

I know that seeing Jesus is a mind blowing experience that surpasses everything. He eclipses angels, archangels, cherubim, everything. Nothing compares to Him. He is the full and complete answer to everything we face in life or will face. His glory surpasses any light we can think or see now. This is entirely missing in this book. Instead, way too much preoccupation with angels, and Alex. What are angels if you have seen the glory of Jesus? I sure don't see this reaction in this book. That is impossible if you have seen the Lord.

Right on, D. Graeber. That does it for me.

The devil has no scruples. He is only too happy to use a small child to promote his program of deceit, even the horrendous story of the suffering of that child and his family. All to manipulate the compassion of readers and make it harder for anyone to think critically about the story.

I can only wonder what's wrong with the supposedly Christian publishers of these books that they haven't the discernment to know they are sending out a counterfeit message, and with the majority of the commenters at Amazon that they accept it so uncritically.

WHERE IS THE BEREAN SPIRIT THAT CHECKS THE SCRIPTURES?

Many think the book will lead people to Christ. What Christ might that be, pray tell? Oh yes, perhaps a few might actually make their way to the true Christ from such a false start, stranger things have happened, but that would only be because of God's mercy, not because of anything in the story itself.

I got to Christ from first believing some Hindu gurus about the nature of God. Had quite a winding road to go from there, although God took me down that road pretty rapidly considering how many different beliefs I had to get through before I reached my destination -- but that's not exactly the normal way people come to Christ and encountering a deception supported by supposed Christians doesn't bode well.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Leftist Revisionist History of the First Thanksgiving and the role of the Indian Squanto corrected by original sources

They have the nerve to call it THE REAL STORY of Thanksgiving.
The story began in 1614 when a band of English explorers sailed home to England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped. By the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay they found only one living Patuxet Indian, a man named Squanto who had survived slavery in England and knew their language. He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation. At the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags.
Most of us haven't studied enough history to be able to answer this smear job, but I found this page of information which touches on so many aspects of the history of early English and European investigations of America, USING ORIGINAL SOURCES, it makes the cherrypicked lies of the first link only too clear.

The true story is a mixture of good and bad human motivations and relations, as most true stories of human interactions are. Scroll down about 3/4 of the page to "1615" where the relevant information begins that contradicts the revisionist lies.

According to this source I found, it was in 1615 that an English ship took TWENTY Indians to sell as slaves in Spain. Is that a "ship full of Patuxet Indians" as the first link claims? I'm a bit confused by the information at the second link but it appears that the Indian Squanto was among them but went to England rather than Spain, learned English and returned four years later, in time to help the Pilgrims when they arrived.

The first link also asserts without evidence or qualification that it was the slave ship that caused the death of the Patuxit Indians of smallpox, but the second link has better source information and makes it clear that the cause of their death was not known, though it was a "plague" that wiped them out. A "great sickness" also wiped out most of the Pilgrims in their first year. But the need of revisionists is always to blame the "white man" for some reason for everything.

The first link also says the Pilgrims found only one living Patuxet Indian, Squanto, who had "survived slavery," (had he even been made a slave?) but the Pilgrims didn't "find" him at all. Samoset, another Indian who knew some English, made first contact with the Pilgrims and then brought Squanto to them.

Here is a separate page on Squanto linked from the first that says he was not captured to be a slave but was trained to be a guide and interpreter for English sea captains. Later apparently he was captured and sold to Spain as a slave but lived among monks and eventually returned to England. The details are pretty complicated but his life as a slave appears to have been very short lived at most. But he did return to his native land in 1619, finding his own people wiped out by "the plague," and was a great help to the Pilgrims when they arrived -- as much for his own benefit as out of kindness to the Pilgrims, but why not, that's the story of humanity after all.

This same page on Squanto says that the "plague" that killed so many Indians was never clearly identified, though apparently Europeans were immune to it.
[NOTE: Before the Great Plague of 1616-17 had finally run its course, it killed between one-third to perhaps as much as eighty per cent of the Indians of southern New England, located between Narragansett Bay and the Penobscot River. The disease has never been identified. "The savages died like rotten sheep, and their bodies before and after death were exceedingly yellow." Europeans were apparently immune to the plague's ravages, and not all tribes in the area were affected by the Great Plague, as the Massachusetts tribe to the north of the Patuxets seems to have escaped unscathed.]
The story of Squanto ends:
In November 1623, while on a trading expedition to the Massachusetts Indians, Squanto came down with Indian fever. Squanto died suddenly, "attended with bleeding much at the nose." Before his death, Squanto talked with Governor Bradford and asked him "to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen's God in heaven, and bequeathed sundry of his things to sundry of his English friends as remembrances of his love, of whom they had a great loss."

Bradford's appreciation of Squanto was expressed in his history, Of Plimoth Plantation, when he says: ". . .Squanto continued with them (the Pilgrims) and was their interpreter and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation. He directed them how to set their corn, where to take fish, and to procure other commodities, and was also their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit, and never left them till he died."
Now I'm going to copy out a very long passage about the period after they connected with Squanto, including the first Thanksgiving and the breakdown of friendly relations with the Indians.

CONTINUING PEACEFUL RELATIONS

During the next few months, the Native Americans and the colonists worked together to till and plant the first successful crops. The first feast of Thanksgiving, in October of 1621, was a harvest festival filled with fellowship, good food and games. The Indians and the colonists shared the fruits of their labor: venison, duck, turkey, corn and pumpkin.

We are told any misgivings between the two races faded from memory and the peaceful relations between the Pilgrims and their Indian friends continued. In his A Letter Sent from New England in December, 1621, Edward Winslow reported: "Wee have found the Indians very faithfull in their Covenant of Peace with us; very living and readie to pleasure us: we often goe to them, and they come to us; some of us have bin fiftie myles by Land in the Country with them; the occasions and Relations . . . Yea it hath pleased God so to possess the Indians with a feare of us, and love unto us, that not onely the greatest King amongst them call Massasoyt, but also all the Princes peoples round about us, have either made sute unto us, or beene glad of any occasion to make peace with us, so that seaven of them at once have sent their messengers to us to that end . . . So that there is now great peace amongst the Indians themselves, which was formerly, neither would have bin but for us; and we for our parts walke as peaceably and safely in the wood, as in the hie ways in England, we entertain them familiarly in our houses, and they as friendly bestowing their Venison on us."

TRADE WITH THE PILGRIMS

The Pilgrims had a deep and sincere friendship for the natives that endured for over fifty years. Nine thousand years of coping with the wilderness had ceased with the arrival of a more advanced culture. Rugged cutting steel blades, farming tools, trim clothing, warm blankets, glass and metal containers and ornaments that no stone or shell work could duplicate-all these were available for trade. The Indians had all the makings of a good trade-plenty of pelts and a surplus of land. Outside their planting fields and villages lay vast tracts of unused countryside. John Josselyn, a non-puritan who visited America for a second time in 1663, reported, "Their merchandise are their beads [wampum], which are their better money. Of these there are two sorts: blue beads and white beads. The first is their gold, the last their silver. These they work out of certain shells so cunning… They drill them and string them, and make many curious works with them to adorn the persons of their sagamors and principal men and young women, as belts, girdles, tablets, borders for their women's hair, bracelets, necklaces, and links to hang in their ears."

THE GATHERING STORM CLOUDS OF DISTRUST

The peace born of mutual support and trust eventually eroded. Another plague-the small pox epidemic of 1633-34-swept away thousands of Algonquins and made more land available. Only between fifteen to eighteen thousand Native People still survived in all of New England. Meanwhile, the expanding colonial towns were bulging with the new arrivals, eager to start claiming and clearing their own piece of America.

LAND DISPUTES

Land transfer was not a simple matter. The colonial laws guarded the rights of the natives. Only through qualified agents could purchases be made. Interpreters must be present, as well as several witnesses for both parties. The Indian owner or his family must be present for the formal signing, for unlike communal tribal lands of the western Indians, much of the land was owned by individual tribesmen. Finally, the sachem must also add his mark if he were in agreement. If all this puzzled the land-rich warrior, he may have been aware of his rights under English law. And when all was said and done, he generally retained his right to hunt and fish on the property. To the twentieth century mind, trade goods seems a small price to pay for a slice of real estate. But values must be interpreted as to time and place, and the Algonquin was certain he had the best of the bargain. In 1675, a full-scale war erupted between the increasing number of colonists and the Indians. Now known as King Phillip's War, after the name of the Massasoit's son, who was then chief, the clash lasted eleven years and caused great destruction on both sides.

The Wampanoag were defeated, and peaceful relations between the two groups were forever shattered.

The peaceful relations between the Pilgrims and Indians had lasted 54 years, during the lifetimes of the Massasoit and the original members of Plymouth Colony. [my emphasis]

Part V. First Pilgrim Thanksgiving

The background for the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving is found in Bradford's History. In the fall of 1621, their first fall in the New World, "They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwelling against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength, and had all things in good plenty; for as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All summer there was no want. And now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first, but afterward decreased by degrees. And besides water fowl, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, and now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.--And thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their out-goings and in-comings..."

In their first ten months at Plymouth, just passed, they had erected seven dwellings, a Common Meeting house and three small store houses for food, clothing and other supplies.

In spite of their numbers having been cut in half by sickness and death, they found reasons for thankfulness. They had gained their foot-hold on the edge of an inhospitable continent. They were well recovered in health and strength. They were making the best of a hard life in the wilderness. They had proved that they could sustain themselves in the new, free land. They were assured of the success of their purpose of establishing freedom. They had made firm friends with the Indians, who had been so kind to them.

The original account of the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving is in a letter from Edward Winslow in Plymouth, dated Dec. 21st, 1621 to George Morton in England. It was printed in Mourt's Relation, London, 1662. Winslow relates the following: "We set last spring some twenty acres of Indian corn, and sowed some six acres of barley and peas. According to the manner of the Indians we manured our ground with herrings (alewives) which we have in great abundance and take with great ease at our doors. Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase in Indian corn. Our barley did indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering. We feared they were too late sown. They came up very well and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together, after we had gathered in the fruits of our labors. They four in one day killed as many fowl as with little help besides, served the Company for almost a week, at which time, amongst our recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their great king the Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted. They went out and killed five deer, which they brought in to the Plantation, and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. Although it not always be so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty. -- We have found the Indians very faithful in their Covenant of Peace with us; very loving and ready to pleasure us. Some of us have been fifty miles into the country by land with them. -- There is now great peace amongst us; and we, for our parts, walk as peaceably and safely in the woods here as in the highways in England. - I never in my life remember a more seasonable year than we have enjoyed. -- If we have but once kine, horses and sheep, I make no question but men might live as contented here, as in any part of the world. -- The country wanteth only industrious men to employ, for it would grieve your hearts to see so many miles together with goodly rivers uninhabited, and withall to consider those parts of the world wherein you live to be seven greatly burdened with abundance of people."

For three days the Pilgrims and their Indian guests gorged themselves on venison, roast duck, goose and turkey, clams and other shell-fish, succulent eels, corn bread, hasty pudding, leeks and water-cress and other "sallet herbes," with wild plums and dried berries as dessert, all washed down with wine made of the wild grape. The affair was more like an out-door barbeque for the entire population, than a family reunion dinner.

This feasting involved the preparation of unusually large quantities of food, some of it unfamiliar. Only four of their married women had survived, and only five teenage girls, three of those being the sole survivors of their families. They must have been extremely industrious and efficient, and they must have worn themselves ragged, trying to fill a hundred and forty demanding stomachs for three days. Sufficient tribute has never been paid to them for making these festivities a success, under such trying conditions. Indeed, even the success of the Colony rested largely in their most capable and devoted hands.

The gathering was enlivened by contests of skill and strength: running, jumping, wrestling. Also, there were games of various kinds. The Indians were probably amazed to learn that the white men could play games not unlike their own. The Indians performed their dances and struck up their singing. Standish put his little army of fourteen men through their military review. Then followed feats of marksmanship, muskets performing against bows and arrows. The Massasoit and his braves headed home at last with a warmth of feeling for his white friends which survived even the harsh tests to which it was soon subjected.

Thus they elaborately celebrated the prospect of abundance until their next harvest.

Part VI. STARVATION TIME & FIVE KERNELS OF CORN

The first Pilgrim Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621 was a bountiful feast, but the inventory taken afterwards in preparation for winter proved the Pilgrims had grossly overestimated their harvest. The only way they could possibly get through the winter was to cut in half the already weekly rations of food. To make matters even worse, the ship Fortune arrived shortly thereafter with 35 new settlers. Only three were women. They came empty-handed and poorly clothed; ill-equipped for the approaching winter. Bradford wrote, "They were lusty young men, and many of them wild enough, who little considered whither or about what they went.-But there was not so much as biscuit or cake or any other victuals for them, neither had they bedding, but some sorry things they had in their cabins; not a pot nor pan to dress any meat in; nor over many clothes.-The Plantation was glad enough of this strength, but could have wished that many of them had been of better condition, and all of them better furnished with provisions."

Thus after a month the Fortune returned to England. The Fortune itself had to be supplied from the scant stores of the Colony for her return voyage.

Grim starvation now threatened their annihilation. The Pilgrim colonists could only tighten their belts. Many times the colonists supplied unexpected arrivals and distressed mariners, sometimes in large numbers, from their slender store.

The houses were very small, barely large enough for the families who, despite cold, hunger and sickness had built them. The new arrivals busied themselves by making additions to the seven houses where they were quartered.

From the first, the colonists had been repeatedly promised provisions from England, but the much needed relief never came.

The colonists struggled through the winter, but by May 1622 their food supply was completely gone and the harvest was four months away. According to Edward Winslow's account, the wildlife and fish were in short supply because the number of fowl decreased during the warm months and lacking the proper fishing gear they were prevented from taking advantage of the abundance of cod in the area.. Winslow stated, "And indeed, had we not been in a place where divers sorts of shell fish may be taken with the hand, we must have perished."

In desperation, Winslow was sent 150 miles up the Maine coast to buy, beg or borrow whatever provisions the English ships there could spare. All who were asked gave what they could and not one would accept payment of any kind.

By the time Winslow returned, the settlers were literally starving. The provisions were a godsend but there were many mouths to feed; when rationed out, each person received only 1/4 lb. of bread a day.

[The "Five Kernels of Corn" material is based largely on the work of Susan E. Roser of the Canadian Mayflower Society.]

1622 SUMMER HARVEST FAILS

The long awaited harvest of 1622 was a dismal failure. The Pilgrims had not yet perfected the art of growing corn. They had been busy building the fort and their lack of food that summer had left them too weak and weary to tend the fields properly. It seemed they now faced the prospect of another year with little food.

Yet another ship arrived at Plymouth, the Discovery, this one from Virginia on its way home to England. It had a cargo of what the settlers needed - knives, beads and assorted trinkets which could be traded with the Indians. Seeing how badly they needed the goods, the captain cheated them miserably, but they considered the ship's arrival a blessing - they could now trade with the Indians for food.

Corn was not known to Europeans until it was discovered in America. It is not too much to say that without the indigenous Indian corn, the Pilgrims could not have survived. None of the great variety of English garden seeds they had brought with them and planted ever produced a good harvest. Their food supply became precarious. Occasionally a deer, wild turkey, partridge or quail was bagged, if the hunters were fortunate; fish when fishermens' luck permitted, lobster, alms and eels, if and when they could be found. Wild berries, grapes, groundnuts, strawberries and such could be plucked in their season. Besides not having sufficient grain to make bread, they were also without butter, cheese and milk because they had no cattle.

By early 1623 the shallop had been rudely fitted out as a fishing vessel. It was constantly at sea, coming ashore only long enough to unload a catch and change crews. For months at a time the Pilgrims' diet consisted of fish, clams, groundnuts and whatever deer or water fowl could be hunted. Bradford wrote of this time, saying, "By the time our corn is planted, our victuals are spent, not knowing at night where to have a bite in the morning, and have neither bread nor corn for 3 or 4 months together; yet bear our wants with cheerfulness, and rest on Providence."

It was at this time, awaiting the harvest of 1623 they lived four or five days at a time on a few grains of corn.

Again their hopes rested on a good fall harvest. A six-week drought began in June and the crops turned brown and were slowly withering away. They turned to the only hope they had - intervention by God, and appointed a solemn day of humiliation and prayer. They assembled one July morning under a hot, clear sky and for nine hours prayed. Their prayers were answered by the next morning, and for the next two weeks they were greeted, in the words of Winslow with "such softe, sweet and moderate showers . . . As it was hard to say whether our withered corne or drooping affections were most quickened and revived." [my emphasis]

It turned out to be a double blessing from above. That same month arrived the ships Anne and Little James with 60 new settlers which came loaded with provisions.

The harvest in the fall of 1623 proved to be the best yet. It also promised a new beginning for the Pilgrim colonists, and they never starved again.

THE FIRST DEMOCRATIC COLONY HAD BEEN ESTABLISHED SUCCESSFULLY IN THE NEW WORLD
There are many side pages linked from the above at the site that have more good information.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Counterfeit "heaven" stories deceive even Christians

They believe they really went to heaven, you believe they really went to heaven, but have you made any effort to compare what they said with scripture or are you uncritically trusting in your own emotional reaction?

Out-of-body experiences and experiences of "heaven" are fairly common these days -- seems we hear of one every few years at least. Now there's the story of Colton, a boy who had such an experience during a life-or-death surgery at the age of four, met family members he'd never known, including a sister his mother had miscarried although he'd known nothing about that, and saw "God" and "Jesus." He's now seven and talking about it to the press.

The most distressing thing about these reports, it seems to me, is that sometimes Christians believe them. There are usually plenty of signs that the experiences are bogus but what happens is that people become dazzled by the mere idea of being out-of-body or transported to another dimension.

Part of the experience may be the kind of out-of-body experience in which the person, lying unconscious on an operating table, finds himself above the scene looking down on it, can see himself unconscious, can see other people in the area and hear what they are saying. Afterward those other people report that the unconscious person's observations were correct, and what happens then is that others believe the story and think such details make the whole thing valid.

So then if during that same episode there is also an experience of going to "heaven," that is also believed. In this boy's case there are the apparently validating elements of his having talked to someone who claimed to be his sister that his mother had miscarried, and a great grandfather he had never met. Afterward his parents confirmed both stories. It turned out that the boy recognized a picture of the great grandfather when he was young though not when he was old, the idea being that "in heaven" everyone is young, and in the case of the sister his mother's miscarriage was confirmed by his parents.

I have the bad habit of spending time studying something, such as this phenomenon of visits to "heaven," only to leave it behind for something else so that when it reappears it catches me off guard and I'm surprised that anyone still takes it seriously. Years ago I was a member of a charismatic "parachurch" organization and heard the "testimony" of other members which usually include supernatural elements and in one case involved an experience of "heaven." I accepted these stories, including the one of heaven, but found over time that I had an increasing unease about much of what was being said, which finally came to such a pitch that I prayed for clarity and was then able to see the errors in them.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Clues to deception come to light when you pray
The credulity with which these stories are so easily accepted does have the effect of suppressing criticism, in spite of the fact that scripture counsels us to "test the spirits" and not be gullible. I was finally led to pray over my doubts and began to recognize deceptions that convinced me finally to leave the organization -- and the charismatic movement in general. The questions I was having were all about the supernatural experiences, including the experience of "heaven."

It had occurred as so many of them do, when she was very sick. She was taken out of her body and supposedly shown the throne room of heaven. She gave teachings to the group based on her experience, and the main tip-off to its counterfeit nature was her teaching on the "steps to the throne of grace." I hadn't questioned it when I heard it but when I prayed about it I saw that it contradicts the call in scripture to "come boldly to the throne of grace," instead of having to laboriously meet the requirements of a series of "steps" to get there.
Heb 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Then other elements of the story also showed themselves to be counterfeit, although unfortunately I don't have any notes handy to remind me of them so I can't be very specific about them. As I recall, however, the Holy Spirit in this person's vision was reduced to an empty image rather than a Person, in the form of a corner of a great train that was part of the garment of God that "filled the throne room" -- a piece would break off and fall in the shape of a dove down to earth. I think imagery may be an important deceptive element in these experiences as it can mislead people into accepting a falsification of major doctrine, in this case the Trinity, by charming them with fascinating irrelevancies. That is, the common idea that "seeing is believing" is a perfect set-up for deception. There was also a part of this person's vision that involved pigs, which I think ought also to have been a tip-off but unfortunately that part is less clear in my memory than the reduction of the Holy Spirit to a piece of cloth.

These things are most likely demonic
Since everyone in the group accepted this story without criticism, including me until I prayed about it, I appreciate how easily even Christians are deceived by such demonic shenanigans. And that is without doubt what they are. I don't doubt that people have such experiences, and that they are REAL experiences, experiences of another dimension of spiritual reality, not hallucinations and not inventions of the human psyche, but I have learned to expect that they will turn out to be the work of demons.

In some cases there may be fraud involved, but there is no need to assume this as so many unbelievers do. For instance, Fox News has been ridiculed for accepting Colton's story so uncritically, and rightly so but for the wrong reasons. They are sure it must be fraud. Well, it COULD be, but there is no reason to assume that it is. On the surface it sounds more like other experiences along the same lines that have the marks of demonic manipulation. And there are the usual "test" elements, his meeting people he knew nothing about otherwise.

There is nothing beyond the powers of demons to convey such knowledge to a little boy, and nothing beyond their motives to deceive either. They can easily impersonate people. That's how the spirits of "dead people" appear in "haunted houses." They are demonic impersonations of the people who once lived there (people who were most likely actually possessed by the demons who now impersonate them). In Colton's case they also included in their deception false images of "God" -- visualized as so "big" he can hold the Earth in his hands, and of "Jesus" "whose smile lights up the heavens" and has "sea blue" eyes. What disgusting poppycock, but CHRISTIANS believe this pap? Colton himself doesn't even seem to believe it as he just rattles off the empty phrases by rote. Perhaps he actually experienced them and is simply tired of repeating it -- or maybe as some suggest it's a sign that it was made up and imposed on him. I don't know. His father is supposedly a pastor. A deceived pastor obviously. But whatever the source, the images of God and Jesus are ridiculously phony.

It's similar to what psychics practice
This is typical of the work of psychics too. Again, much of that may also be fraudulent but to the extent that there is reality to some of it the source of that reality is demonic activity. That is, psychics really can have knowledge of things that their clients know nothing about, OR can know things that ONLY the client knows, because demons convey the knowledge to them. I've wondered if sometimes there may also be a merely human psychic power that for some reason is developed in certain individuals and not others, but I think the most common cause is demonic intervention. This seems to have been the case with the "witch of Endor" who had a familiar spirit (a demon) who supplied the knowledge or perhaps even faked the appearance of a dead person to deceive her clients, just as all mediums have, but in the case of King Saul was pre-empted by the appearance of the REAL prophet Samuel, to her amazement and fear.

Some think a child is too innocent to be deceived by demons but this is a big mistake. Children are members of the fallen human race, after all, and may also inherit a special vulnerability to demonic activity through their fallen ancestors as well. They are in fact the perfect set-up for demonic deception because people do sentimentalize them as innocent. Satan and his demons have no scruples. They are out to deceive and kill and they have no tender feelings for humanity. There are many stories out there of people who had frightening experiences as children, of demonic beings that would visit them at night, shake their beds and do other frightening things. Demons do not leave children alone.

Sometimes special talents are imparted, even to children
There is another story about a four-year-old's visit to heaven, the story of Akiane Kramarik now a teenager, whose unusual talents as a painter and a poet she ascribes to that visit. Her experience and amazing talents convinced her own atheistic family of the reality of "God" and she has dedicated herself to bringing her message of "God" to the world.

Can demons impart such talents? Well, Akiane says she sometimes simply receives her poetry fully written as it were. This is the same way the channelers of the religious doctrines, A Course in Miracles, the Seth Books, Urantia, and the teachings of Rael, also received their messages. As for the painting, I once talked to a woman deeply involved in Hindu / New Age practices who was also an artist and created similarly impressive realistic images, in her case sculptures, a talent she also attributed to "God."

But the main problem with Akiane's art is that her message is New Age although people mistake it for Christian because it includes images of "Jesus." This is a romanticized "Jesus," just as Colton's "Jesus" is, a Jesus without the cross, a Jesus who didn't die for sin but just mushily "loves" everyone. She even believes and promotes the New Age lie about Jesus' supposed "lost years" in which they claim he went to India and was taught Hinduism. The truth is that Jesus grew up as a Jew, studying Torah in the Temple, learning carpentry from His earthly adoptive father Joseph. It is ridiculous to put Him in India instead, but that's what the demons who inspire New Age phony religion have done. ANYTHING TO DECEIVE, even deceive the very elect who aren't paying attention or who aren't well taught by their pastors.

Take it to the Bible with prayer
A place to start to recognize such deception may be the few Biblical reports of experiences of heaven and supernatural realities. Start with Paul's experience of visiting the "third heaven." He said it was unlawful to describe it -- there is a reverence for holy things in that attitude we simply do not find in any of the recent claims to have seen heaven. Then there is John who was taken up to the throne room of God, as he reports in Revelation chapter 4. He also saw the Lord Jesus in chapter 1, who gave him the messages to the seven churches before he was called up to heaven. Even encounters with true angels of God inspire awe and the impulse to worship from mere mortals because of their dazzling beauty and power, as both John and the prophets of the Old Testament attest. Encounters with the true God inspire even deeper awe, and a profound sense of personal sin and fear of judgment. Take a look at Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel and more. There is NOTHING of this sort of feeling in the recent spate of out-of-body experiences. Instead we get the most casual of descriptions and a sort of breathless excitement over their mere supernatural unusualness. Or we get the nonsense of Shirley MacLaine who was taught through her encounters with otherworldly beings that SHE is "god." Oh brother. NonChristians who reject the Bible may fall for this demonic deception, but Christians should not. And yet some do.

"Christian" sources are guilty of promoting these lies
Here's an article on the popularity of books on these things which indicates how far Christians may be deceived by them and not warned by people who should warn them:


Interest continues to grow in afterlife books Written by Eric Tiansay
Tuesday, 19 October 2010 10:02 AM EDT

New offerings on heaven and hell titles target people 'fascinated' with eternal subjects


Publishers continue to release and market titles on the afterlife as interest on the topic show no signs of dying.
Sounds like they are willing to feed this continuing "interest" just because there is a market for it, quite apart from whether the books have any real value in a Christian life. Of course they must have rationalized the topic as having such value, although it's a pretty thin rationalization when examined in the light of scripture.

This month, Thomas Nelson releases Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Nebraska pastor Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent. In the book, Burpo recounts the near-death experience of his 4-year-old son, Colton, who began surprising his parents with detailed accounts of Jesus, places described in the Scriptures and departed relatives, including meeting his sister in heaven—a girl lost in a miscarriage before he was born.
Got to comment here that Christians are called to faith in what scripture teaches us, and that includes knowing that Heaven is "for real" without having to have it experienced by anyone. Scripture gives us the story of Thomas who refused to believe what he was told by those who had seen the risen Christ and would only believe when he himself actually saw Him. Jesus graciously granted him that experience but when He did He also admonished him that it was more blessed to have believed the reports. That is an admonishment to all of us, to believe the testimony of God's word, including that story. Jesus also told a story about a rich man who died and went to Hell and begged to be allowed to come back long enough to warn his family of its reality, but Jesus answers him that if they hadn't believed Moses neither would they believe even someone who came back from the dead. Faith means having ears to hear, not seeing. And a pastor, Colton's father, ought himself to have recognized that immediately. Was he carried away by its being his own son who had the experience?

The book follows the July release by Tyndale House Publishers of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven—co-authored by Kevin Malarkey.
What a GREAT name for the author of such a story! The story is very sad, however, and it's doubly sad that the malarkey in it is being exploited.

The book details the story of Malarkey's 6-year-old son, Alex, whose skull was detached from his spinal column in a car accident. While comatose, the boy says that he experienced God's voice, otherworldly music and heaven's gates.

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven reached the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction best-seller list, with more than 97,000 copies in print after three printings already, Tyndale officials said.

Meanwhile, Bethany House Publishers/Baker Publishing Group released in May Ken Gire's Flight to Heaven, an account of Capt. Dale Black's near-death experience in a plane crash at age 19. Bethany House then followed that with the August release of Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife by James Garlow and Keith Wall—a collection of stories of the afterlife inspired by the pair's 2009 Bethany House release, Heaven and the Afterlife.

Elsewhere, Strang Book Group's Charisma House 2006 title, 23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Wiese, recently passed the 1 million mark in sales.
I have to admit that I'm more likely to believe an experience of Hell than of Heaven, just because it seems less likely to gloss over the danger faced by those who are not saved by Christ, but since I don't know what the book says I can't be sure its impact is what I imagine it to be, and the same rule applies anyway -- we are to believe God's word and not believe anyone's experience over that.

Matt Baugher, vice president and publisher of nonfiction for Thomas Nelson, told Christian Retailing that there are "surface similarities" between the two new books about two boys experiencing heaven, but they are "actually quite different."

"The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven is more about a traumatic experience in the life of a family and trauma, which continues to this day because of Alex's ongoing physical struggles," Baugher said. "It's also more a book written for people who are already committed Christians. Heaven is for Real was written for a wide audience, and for those who are curious and yet unsure."
Are these really Christians who are saying such things? How can they be so gullible? Whatever happened to the authority of scripture and the admonition to walk by faith and not by sight?

He declined to say the number of the first printing for the book, but "it is significant." "We expect strong sales, and the buzz is already developing," Baugher said. "We expect the pass-along rate on this title to be very high."

Heaven is for Real features a tie-in with Her Life, Her Art, Her Poetry—a 2006 Nelson book by Akiane Kramarik, a child prodigy who at age 8 had painted a picture of Christ. In Heaven is For Real, Burpo's son, Colton, detailed accounts of Jesus matches the portrait of Christ painted by Akiane.
Sigh. You don't think demons get together and compare notes? If they don't, at least they take orders from up the chain, and their superiors are going to concoct such similarities to deceive the gullible.

"To have another child who had actually been to heaven verify the accuracy of the portrait was astounding," Baugher said. "This connection sealed the deal for us as a company. Since we had published (Akiane's) book, we not only knew the family, but were partners in sharing their story. Akiane is now 16, and (along) with her parents, Mark and Foreli, (want) to help us with the continuing conversation about Christ."
OK, now I'm suspecting this isn't really even a Christian publishing company (I guess now I have to research it). This degree of gullibility is too much.

Meanwhile, a Spanish edition is in the works for The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, and a documentary DVD was released by Tyndale House in conjunction with the book.
Going to have a LOT to answer to God for there, Tyndale House, and all the rest of you, in misleading Christians, and worse, most likely misleading others away from Christ when you should be leading them TO Him.

"It's probably an overstatement to say that books about kids dying and going to heaven have become a trend," Tyndale Associate Publisher Janis Long Harris told Christian Retailing. "But it's clear that people are fascinated with and find comfort in the topic of heaven. We've certainly seen that here at Tyndale."
You should be pointing them to scripture for that comfort instead of leading them down the primrose path to this bogus "heaven" of mere experience and demonic plots.

Harris cited Randy Alcorn's Heaven, which has been through 17 printings, totalling more than 675,000 copies, since it was released in October 2004,

Joel Kneedler, a literary agent for Alive Communications, told Christian Retailing that he pitched Heaven is for Real to Nelson because he thought "it needed to be told." He added that both the book and The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven "are remarkable and deserve to be told."

"I do not see a specific trend," he said. "Books about heaven have a way of comforting Christians and increasing our faith. It's natural to wonder about heaven, what it will be like, who we will meet. … I think Don Piper's book opened a door in the trade book market for books on heaven."

Following its release in 2004 by Revell/Baker Publishing Group, Piper's 90 Minutes in Heaven was a mainstay for three years on the New York Times Paperback Nonfiction best-seller list. It has more than 4.5 million copies in print in softcover, Spanish, hardcover, audio and large-print editions.
Here is a gospel-centered review of Piper's book, and here is the crux of that review:

But what true, lasting assurance can we find in the dubious experiences of another mere human? Our assurance is to be in God and His promises through Scripture, not in man.

I do believe Don Piper is a sincere man and one who loves God. He seems to sincerely believe that he experienced heaven and has been called by God to share his experience with others. But I do not believe that he did see heaven. I cannot say what his experience was, whether it was purely psychological or whether it was even some type of demonic deception. What I do know is that the Scriptures are wholly sufficient for believers. We do not need to see or experience heaven in this life. Nor should we desire Don Piper’s heaven.

I see no reason to believe that God wants us to know more about heaven than He has revealed to us in His Word.
Exactly!

Christian Retailing concludes:

"God always has a message for us, but it seems right now it's about the hope we have in Him—the hope of heaven," Baugher said. "We've come to understand that many people have these near-death experiences, but not all get to see as much as Colton did. "
Again, how sad it is that Christians are so willing to abandon faith for sight -- which always sets us up for deception.

And why should we trust publishers either? Something comes to mind about the love of money ...

But since it is so hard to get anyone to listen to any of this who is enamored of these stories, I also have to comment on how sad it is that there are so many Christians who think Christians aren't supposed to judge one another on Christian doctrine, or judge whether someone is a Christian or not. Where is that in scripture? We are told we will judge angels, so much the more we are to judge true and false Christian doctrine. Christians accept others as Christians who are not Christians and show it in many ways, even in the grossest of false doctrine. This is SO sad. All one can do is pray that God will give light. But such basic gullibility also explains why there is no discernment about bogus visions of "heaven" as well.

Perhaps the worst thing about all this is the PRIDE these gullibles show who react indignantly against anyone who tries to set them straight. All they can do then is keep digging themselves further into deception and getting further from recognizing the truth. OK, best I not accuse people of pride or other attitudes that can't be proven. Maybe it isn't always pride, but just naivete. The problem is it's such a stubborn naivete that won't yield.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Violations of personal dignity in the name of Security

UPDATE, Nov. 21: Seems Tyner's refusal to tolerate the new security measures has sparked a general outcry from the public. Finally! About time!

Here's today's Yahoo article on the subject, TSA has met the enemy and they are us .

Cute title. However, the coverage is limited to objections to the full body scanner and pat-down Tyner complained about, although earlier objections are touched on. What isn't touched on at all, avoided like the plague they obviously consider it to be, is the biggest cause of public distress of all: Political Correctness -- the refusal to focus attention on those most likely to be terrorists while subjecting ALL citizens to invasion of privacy and worse. Charles Krauthammer got to the point in a recent column on the subject, Don't Touch My Junk.

THIS is the fundamental outrage. As long as they keep ignoring that basic problem they can't deal with security issues at all.

I'm sick to death of White Guilt which is what the fear of racial profiling is all about. It's time to take back America and restore some common sense.

======================================================
Nov. 17:

It's astonishing that they can justify X-ray machines that undress a person before the eyes of strangers, and pat-downs that subject innocent citizens to indignities formerly reserved for criminals, simply to board an airplane. Here's the website of John Tyner, whose objections to the scanner and then to a pat-down brought this to public notice in the last few days.

This outrageous mistreatment of ordinary citizens has been escalating ever since 9/11. Many actually accept it for the sake of security, as if the trade-off is justified, but this whole scenario comes from warped priorities. First they reject "racial profiling" in the name of a spurious equality although the odds of preventing crime are improved by recognizing the most likely suspects. Certain visible clues ought to determine who gets singled out for suspicion. This doesn't have to become a racist nightmare if authorities are taught good investigative sense and basic humanity.

Following from that restriction on common sense now everyone is subjected to the violations -- and possible health risks as well -- of these infernal machines, enforced by physical indignities if a person refuses to be subjected to the machine. What's to keep perverts from applying for this job by the way? Not much from what I've heard, and in fact they are already lining up for the job. SO much easier now, legal too, to spy on the girls (or boys) in the john AND even get a free feel if they protest. Is that such a far-fetched idea? I don't know, it seems to me like a possibility. Besides this possibility, apparently the new methods don't really protect us from anyone who really is a terrorist anyway.

If personal freedom and basic human dignity aren't your highest priority then all kinds of enormities against individuals in this formerly freedom-founded land start getting taken for granted.

So how SHOULD we deal with the security problem? Start with profiling the most likely suspects, whether that means racial profiling or not. Keep the investigative agencies busy at their job of recognizing who is a criminal and who isn't. Use the old metal detectors. Sure, some weapons may escape detection that way. Also, put armed security on every flight. Actually, it wouldn't hurt to let more responsible citizens carry guns in general. Crime goes down wherever it is known that ordinary citizens keep guns in their houses. Let them pass through the checkpoints based on proper permits. Some will fake it but the more ordinary citizens are given this responsibility and the more it is known that citizens may be carrying weapons the more security there will be.

My suggestions may not be the best but the point is there have to be better ways than demoralizing the entire nation by the kind of mistreatment of innocent citizens the new security methods inflict.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A rumination on fasting, health, the Fall, evolutionism, and the head covering

Listening to Scott Johnson again. I really do get a lot out of most of his talks, although there are others that don't engage me much if at all. When he gets into his health concerns, for instance -- he is a doctor of some sort (chiropractor), dealing with alternative medicine and nutrition mostly -- he usually loses me. I have friends who follow alternative health advice and in at least one case I think it's done her a lot of good, but she has serious health problems to motivate her, while there's just no way I could get myself to learn all that without a similar dire need -- plus a faith in it that I just don't have. And I can't afford the products that are necessary to doing it right either. I just have to trust the Lord to take care of me on what is not a terrible diet but not the best either. So I usually skip that part of Johnson's talks.

In his talk for October 24 he has a section on fasting in the fourth part which I really wanted to hear because I need a good kick in that direction. I used to fast once in a while and got a lot out of it, but in the last few years I can't seem to get it coordinated with prayer times, partly because my sleep time is all over the place, plus I get distracted because of my irregular work schedule, and I just seem to have less tolerance for going without food. Anyway, I want to get back to it, and his talk really is quite good on it.

The point of fasting is spiritual and that's his emphasis, but he also gets into the health factors involved in fasting, how it's good for this or that organ, for detoxifying the system, and how you should take this or that supplement for various reasons connected with it. So that part I more or less tune out (except to note that it does appear that fasting alone, apart from all the nutritional concerns, is beneficial in itself, and that can be a motivating factor), but the spiritual advice is quite good.

But are we really what we were originally meant to be?
I do want to comment on a point of view that is very common among Christians and maybe especially among those who get into alternative health methods. That is the idea that we are physically perfect, as God made us to be, so we must assume that all the organs that don't appear to have a clearly defined function really do have one, it's just that we don't know enough about them. Such as the appendix and the gall bladder. Those who think along such lines must insist that they are exactly as God intended, so therefore we really can't do without them.

However, the evidence is that we do pretty well without them, at least not in any observable sense any worse, and that they have a tendency to disease that makes us better off without them in many cases. In my own case I had my gall bladder out over thirty years ago after a bout of extreme sharp pain from a gallstone that turned out to be a ball of cholesterol about the size and shape of a small bird's egg, and I was told about the same time that my appendix had shriveled up on its own and couldn't pose a threat. Now I'm not going to argue with Scott Johnson over his claim that he has remedies for the condition that led to losing my gall bladder, he may very well have, and I might have been better off had I had access to them, but it's been many years and apart from the occasional bout of digestive disturbances which I was told to expect from reduced ability to digest fats I don't miss my gall bladder at all.

To say this is to commit almost a sort of blasphemy in the minds of some, but in reality it's consistent with Biblical revelation whereas the idea of our physical perfection is not.

Yes, we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" according to scripture and that's true no matter what, but our wonderful machinery is ALSO losing efficiency over time and that is equally biblical. That is, we live in a fallen world according to the Bible, a world in which EVERYTHING is running down over time and would eventually run out altogether except that the Lord will intervene before that. We live in a world in which not only is our environment hostile to us in ways it wasn't before the Fall, but in which our own bodies are deficient in ways they weren't before the Fall, and increasingly so with every passing generation as sin and death are cumulative. The Fall brought death into the world, death and disease of every kind. The continuation of sin accumulates disease.

The idea of evolution is a huge deception on this very point as it requires increase where in fact there is ongoing decrease. I've argued this as well as I'm able on the Fantasy of Evolution blog. Evolutionists simply insist it's not so, they insist that mutations are the mechanism that drives evolution ever onward and upward, but the evidence is that mutations are overall destructive in spite of the very rare case of something they can point to that appears to be a positive effect -- though in reality it turns out to be a negative that happens to have a positive side effect (such as sickle cell which protects against malaria). We do get new "species" but this is nothing more than the natural shuffling of genetic possibilities that creates breeds and varieties, and in the process of this shuffling genetic material is LOST (lost to the "evolving" part of the population that is, not to the total population), and MUST be lost for a new variety to emerge, whereas if evolution were true there would have to be an increase in genetic potential, and there simply isn't. If it weren't for death this shuffling would only lead to wonderful creative variations, but because of death eventually it leads to extinction. But again, I've argued this on the evolution blog so enough said here.

Jesus' death for us reversed all this but the reversal isn't going to become a full reality until He returns. His presence in the world through the Holy Spirit in His people does also mean that we are blessed with methods of healing that would otherwise not be available to us, even occasional miraculous healings, but the world as a whole is still running down. It is perfectly consistent with the Fall that some of our organs have lost their full functioning to the extent that we don't even miss them if they are taken out. That has to be because we are living at an inferior level of health overall of course, because those organs must originally have had functions. Therefore they must have lost them over the centuries for the vast majority of the human population. They must have originally contributed to the efficiency of our bodies in ways we can barely imagine now, for instance in ways that supported the amazing longevity of the first generations of humanity right after the Fall. Any remedies that either mainstream medicine or alternative medicine come up with can't correct our deteriorating condition, though they may improve function to some extent and be valuable for that reason -- remedies that help stave off the worst effects of the Fall. But the usual idea that we are the way God made us and it's only bad products in our environment that are the problem is just wrong.

Speaking of products in the environment, in one of Chuck Missler's talks I heard recently, he was saying something along the same lines I'm arguing here, and he claimed that grains of wheat found in ancient Egyptian pyramids turned out to be sproutable, and when the resultant wheat was studied it was found to have "amino acids we've never even heard of." I have no trouble believing that, as the understanding that everything on this planet is degenerating would of course also include everything we eat as well as our own bodies. (But I do wonder, if such a super wheat has been found to exist, why it isn't being widely cultivated -- he neglected to explain that).

The Woman's Head Covering
Scott Johnson also brought up another issue I have to comment on, because it's one of my pet topics -- the woman's head covering of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. He was talking about prayer and mentioned that men should uncover their heads for prayer, referencing this same passage where that is also taught, but went on to say that while women ARE required to cover their heads, women's natural hair is that covering, so they don't have to do anything to be presentable for prayer.

I gather that some of Johnson's Christian theology derives from fundamental Baptist teaching, and that branch of the church is probably the main source of the idea that the head covering Paul was advocating is the woman's hair. It's sprinkled through so many other denominations by now, however, that it's hard to be sure of its origin. The Reformed branches of the church reject the head covering in a different way, by claiming Paul was only talking about dressing according to cultural standards of femininity, the head covering being merely the cultural standard of his time and place. So by both reasonings, patently false reasonings it seems to me, women are not required to cover our heads in church.

I have to say that people who conclude that the woman's head covering is her hair must have a big problem with reading -- or they just don't think about the passage at all and take somebody else's word for it. Certainly the passage is a bit difficult to understand, but to believe Paul would spend fifteen verses arguing in favor of a woman's needing to have long hair for proper prayer, in a culture in which long hair was already the norm and short hair considered to be a shameful condition -- which is clearly spelled out in the passage -- just makes one wonder if they have actually read the passage, or given it any real thought.

As in most of this letter to the Corinthians Paul was writing to resolve a CONTROVERSY in the church, something they were disputing about, and long hair was NOT A CONTROVERSY -- that's why he could use it as an example in verse 15 that he would expect them to recognize.

But covering the head -- with a length of cloth -- WAS CONTROVERSIAL, probably partly because there was a mix of cultures in the Corinthian church, some women -- Jewish women for sure -- always having their heads covered, and others -- Greeks and Romans and maybe even some northern Europeans, either not covering their heads or doing so but according to a different standard than Paul was advocating.

Culturally, covering or not covering was not about differentiating the sexes! It had various meanings, mostly concerning the idea of feminine modesty with the Jewish women and any Arab women who might have been present, but even men in Jewish culture covered their heads when shamed (see Haman in the Book of Esther for one example), and of course the Jewish priests wore a headdress, and Arab men always covered their heads. For cultures that did not consistently cover it did not have anything to do with defining femininity OR modesty. Both men and women covered their heads in the presence of their pagan deities in some cultures for instance, implying something more about humility than modesty as related to sex.

But ALL OF THE WOMEN IN ALL OF THE CULTURES HAD LONG HAIR!. The only time women did NOT have long hair was when in mourning, or when their hair was cut off as a form of punishment, as for adultery. It's plain ridiculous to think Paul needed to construct such a lengthy refined argument in order to tell women to do what they normally did anyway and not do what they already considered to be a humiliation or a deprivation!

Paul was teaching SOMETHING COMPLETELY NEW, something apart from the inconsistent practices of culture, something specifically related to the revelation of the Savior Messiah -- that men should be UNCOVERED in His presence, but women covered.

And as with all scripture, no matter how little is said on this subject it's important because it's God's word, which means that getting it wrong is going to have negative consequences. If the reason women are to cover our heads is to allow the glory of Christ embodied in the head of the man to shine without competition from the glory of man, which is woman (verse 7), then women's mistaken display of their long hair as if it were the covering is in reality exactly what Paul is teaching against. And the angels are watching, he says in verse 10, so they are being offended as Christ's glory is being affronted. By mistake, yes, but that doesn't change the fact.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Darkness Deepens

I read the news today, oh boy. That's about all of the Beatles song that fits the current situation, though. Headline about how Christian soldiers who oppose homosexuality on Biblical grounds are called "bigots" by an American general, and he even threw in "racist" for good measure though there wasn't anything in the story about any racist attitudes. Another headline about feminists calling Christians "sexist." Saw a video about the aggressive socialism at the leftist rally in Washington. "Tax the rich." Oh boy. What a great idea. Bring the nation crashing down to Third World status. I guess that's what they want and maybe they'll get it the way things are going with this administration. And much more news along these lines of course. It's just going on day by day in this direction, escalating really. There's still some opposition, perhaps enough to keep the destructive voices in check for a while.

I wonder. I'm still trying to convince myself one way or another on my End Times Monitor blog whether the Pre-tribulation Rapture is the right interpretation of scripture or not. MOST of scripture supports the idea, it seems to me, but there are still some knotty points I haven't resolved. Most who believe in it believe that when the Church is taken away there will be no more restraint on evil through our Holy Spirit inspired witness, and therefore evil will just take off and run rampant.

As with all difficult theological issues there's plenty of extraneous muddle about the Rapture to wade through as well. The fact that many on the pre-trib side spend time conjuring with the daily news in relation to their belief that the times are upon us, and their opponents waste time focusing on that, makes it hard to keep the focus on the scriptural questions. We are to keep watch of course so I guess I can't fault them too much even when they go off in wrong directions, but I believe the times ARE upon us anyway, without having to know if a particular event in the Middle East is a harbinger of the Antichrist. I think we aren't going to know until he appears and then we WILL know and will have no doubts. But MAYBE the Rapture will occur before he is revealed. That's one idea some find in the scripture and it fits scripture best anyway as we are there exhorted to look for HIS appearing, not the Antichrist's. (Except, well, there is that verse that says the Antichrist must appear before the Second Coming of Christ.)

Then the opponents of the pre-tribbers accuse them of reading into scripture their own self-centered desire to escape tribulation, but up until recently I've expected to go through that tribulation if I'm here during it so that certainly isn't my motive. I'm simply coming to see it in scripture. I do have to admit I'd LOVE to be raptured out of this mess soon because I'm SOOOOO tired, but that's not the explanation for my finding it in scripture and it just adds to the muddle when that is made so much of by opponents.

Anyway, the news is bad and is getting worse by the hour it seems.

But as all this bad news was piling up on me I discovered a tune going through my mind and when I focused on it I recognized it as the hymn Abide with Me, which is SO appropriate for facing hard times. Not a hymn I hear much, just came out of the blue as if in answer to the moment. Thank You Lord. As I read the lyrics I see it's more about facing death than just hard times but that theme is there too:

Listen to Abide With Me
Sung by Hayley Westenra at some kind of sporting event in England??!! Wow, what a Christian civilization we USED to be, and it still clings to us even after we've given it all up.

Anyway:

Lyrics: Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847
Music: W.H. Monk, 1823-1889

Lyrics:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears not bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Christians sadly continue to be deceived about Glenn Beck

An article at the Christian magazine, WORLD naively accepting of Glenn Beck.
But it was obvious to me that Beck wasn’t into the extra money or fame. It was obvious to me that he was a new creation in Christ. I know he’s Mormon and all that. I also remember reading a book by Professor Harvey Conn decades ago that said that you have to be very careful when judging a person’s salvation—some people with lousy theology have their hearts right with God, and some people with impeccable theology are cold toward God.

Glenn Beck isn’t cold toward God. He is red hot. He is “a brand plucked from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2). He knows what pit he was in—and he knows exactly who took him out of it. If I were his station manager I would be biting my fingernails every day, because the man just doesn’t hold back about Jesus, and I can say without hesitation that I have not heard the essentials of the gospel more clearly and boldly in any church than on his program.

I have heard all the criticisms, and I can find sympathy for them—about the Mormonism, about the dangers of religious syncretism, etc. But regarding the Mormon thing, I think we should regard Beck as an Apollos and pray for a Priscilla and Aquila in his life, to steer him better (Acts 18). I just don’t see how anyone can listen to the man for a solid week and not be as blessed as I am by his courage, his utter lack of fear of man, and his sharp and personal testimony of Christ’s transforming power.
Oh this hurts, this hurts. WORLD is a Christian magazine, there ought to be more discernment here. Beck doesn't hold back on Jesus, but his Jesus is not the Christian Jesus. He "knows" who took him out of the pit and it was Jesus, but his Jesus is not the Christian Jesus.

Beck CAN preach the gospel so that it sounds Christian, he's amazing that way, although I've known another Mormon who can talk gospel almost as well and make you think they believe what any Christian believes. If you know anything about Mormonism, though, that puts you in the position of waiting bug-eyed for the other shoe to drop. Eventually it does and the very strange and twisted Mormon version of the gospel is revealed.

At his rally on August 28th he revealed some of those Mormon beliefs that show his version of the gospel is not the Christian version. He believes American Indians are Jews, because he believes the tall tale of the Book of Mormon about some Jews coming across the ocean to the Americas back in 600 BC -- or 3000 BC or whatever -- and becoming the progenitors of the native Americans, who were then encountered by the Pilgrims when they arrived however many centuries or millennia later.

Beck's God is not the one true God. It's painful to think so many Christians are apparently so easily deceived or willing to rationalize it away and stand with a heretic for the sake of politics.

That same issue has another comment on Beck, by Marvin Olasky, the magazine's founder, Beckoning Christians, which gives good reasons why Christians should not align with him, while oddly, it seems to me, not exactly warning Christians against it:
...Let's watch the Beck movement and pray that it does not become a cult of personality.

...Bottom line: Glenn Beck is not the problem. His entertaining lectures are a slap in the face to poisonous political correctness. He's not the antidote, either. Christians should take refuge in the Lord and not in a beckoning embrace. But this country is better off with Glenn Beck than without him.
The COUNTRY is better off with Glenn Beck than without him!!! Well, maybe, maybe not. This IS the thought that keeps Christians from pulling away from him, however. The guy does a great job with all the political issues we care about most. It's like having a tooth pulled out with a wrench to have to draw back from his cause. Finally someone comes along with the guts and the message we've been craving and he's a heretic and Christians CANNOT ALIGN WITH A HERETIC. Ouch. Owwwwwwwch.

But is making Beck into a little god the problem here? The "cult of personality" danger Olasky sees in this? I suppose it could become that, but that misses the primary point that Beck is doing everything in his power to make Mormonism look like Christianity and deceiving Christians who love his politics, and THAT's the danger right now.

Again, Beck's gospel is not the Christian gospel no matter how much he can make it sound like it, and maybe even believe it himself, at least to some extent. Again, if he stuck to politics ONLY we could join with him. But he doesn't. Clearly lately he's on a mission to religionize his message.

That's what makes him dangerous.

Mormonism would NOT be good for this country if it ever got a political foothold and if it did, Christians would rue the day because Mormons have an agenda of their own, which I touched on briefly a few posts back. I should do more research into this and post on it again soon, but my impression is that Mormonism in political power wouldn't be much more desirable than Islam in political power, and they DO seek that kind of political power.

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P.S. Here's a good discussion of the problem with the WORLD article by Justin Taylor at Gospel Coalition, AndrĂ©e Seu’s Tragic Mistake on the Gospel of Glenn Beck.