Weekend at Bernie’s theology

I saw this great metaphor over at Lone Star Times about how those who don’t believe the essentials of the Christian faith have taken over many churches and propped them up to suit their motives.

In the not-so-classic movie “Weekend at Bernie’s,” two friends prop up a dead guy to make him appear alive so they can throw parties at his house. In the same way, liberal theologians don’t believe in the essentials of the faith (Jesus is God, He is the only way to eternal life, the Bible is authoritative and accurate, etc.), so they think they have a dead church on their hands.

They prop it up, though, because they like the money, the influence, the buildings and the status that comes with their leadership roles. But they are really frauds. They either lied at their ordination vows or changed their minds later. Either way, if they were honest they would stop accepting payment from their members for teaching the opposite of the beliefs the church was founded upon.

Their teachings are like salt water, leaving you thinking that you are having your spiritual thirst quenched but all the while killing you.

For a better analysis, read this by Charles Spurgeon. He wrote it in 1870 but the message is still fresh and applicable.

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Ruth 3-4

This reading is Ruth 3-4.

My apologies for the delay in posting. I couldn’t access the Internet yesterday. I’m going to aim at posting 3 times per week – roughly Monday / Wednesday / Friday.

Today we wrap up Ruth. She appears to have given up on the prospect of marrying again until Boaz came on the scene.

When Ruth approaches Boaz in the middle of the night in chapter 3 verses 7-9, it seems rather odd. Some have questioned whether what she did was immoral. However, it appears to be a way of proposing to Boaz that he fulfill the role of “kinsman-redeemer.” This was a custom where relatives had the option to “redeem” widows and take care of them.

There was a closer kinsman-redeemer who had the first option to marry Ruth. He seemed interested in Ruth’s property until he found out that Ruth came with it.

The story has a truly happy ending when Ruth and Boaz marry. The local people laud Ruth by saying that as a daughter-in-law she is better than seven sons (a great compliment in that culture).

The book closes with a brief genealogy, noting that Ruth is King David’s great-grandmother. Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, descended from David. So this seemingly simple story shows how God used an unusual series of events to teach many lessons and to show how the union of Ruth and Boaz eventually led to the birth of the Messiah.

The next reading is Jude. It is only one page, but it has a lot of interesting messages. Take a few minutes to read it and then pat yourself on the back for reading a whole book of the Bible in one sitting!

Death bed conversions Q&A

question-mark.gifQ. Can someone convert to Christianity on their deathbed and still be forgiven and go to Heaven?
A. Yes. See the story of the criminal on the cross as well as many other stories of people who converted late in life or on their death bed, such as the father-in-law of Lee Strobel (author of The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith). Just before a life-ending stroke, he accepted Jesus as his Savior.

I heard a true story about an American Indian who converted 2 weeks before his death. The man was a life long bigot who hated African Americans. Yet an African American minister heard that this man was dying and went to visit him in the hospital, even though they didn’t know each other. When the man’s daughter went to visit him, she found the minister there with her father, who was on his knees praying to accept Jesus! Only an awesome God could wipe away a lifetime of sin and hatred by having the minister – who had presumably suffered from the prejudices of others – be the one to lead the man to Christ.

Q. Is the death bed conversion strategy a good idea?
A. No. That type of faith probably isn’t the true faith that will save you. And you might die suddenly. Consider Hebrews 3:15: As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts . . .” Eternity is a mighty long time, so you don’t want to take chances with your final destination.

Finally, by waiting you are missing out on the joy in life that starts now when you trust in Jesus. He can transform you starting today.

Q. Is it fair that someone can convert on their deathbed after leading a sinful life and still go to heaven?
A. No, it isn’t fair. But probably not for the reasons you are thinking. Grace is never fair. That is why it is called grace. It is a gift you don’t deserve. God can give the gift whenever and to whomever He wants to. None of us deserve Heaven.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When was the New Testament written?

bible.jpgThere are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about how and when the Bible was formed. Some liberal historians try to date the Gospels and other New Testament writings as far from the death of Jesus as possible because it supports their hypothesis that they were largely made up. Of course, if the Gospels really were dated 70 AD or after, there is no reason they couldn’t still be the inspired Word of God. Yet a late dating obviously plays into the hands of heretics who strive to discredit the authority of Scripture.

But the facts point to all or nearly all of the New Testament books being written within 40 years of Jesus’ resurrection. Consider the following:

  1. Jesus died and rose again around 33 A.D.
  2. The Apostle Paul was killed in 64 AD. This is a well attested historical fact. All his writings obviously occurred before then, and 1 Corinthians and Romans were written well before then. Paul testified that Jesus rose from the dead, among other things, and he did so within 20-30 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  3. The book of Acts, written by Luke, ends with Paul was in prison in 62 AD. Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke before he wrote Acts, so it was presumably written in the late 50’s.
  4. Most scholars agree that Luke was not the first Gospel. Therefore, the earliest Gospel must have been written no later than the mid to late 50’s. If Matthew and Luke used the ‘Q’ document (a lost early church writing) as a source, then of course ‘Q’ would have been written even closer to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  5. If the Gospels were all written after 70 A.D., why wasn’t the destruction of Jerusalem mentioned anywhere (especially in Matthew)? This was one of the most dramatic events in history, and was predicted by Jesus.
  6. Since these accounts were written within 20-30 years of Jesus death and resurrection, it is highly unlikely that they would have been myths. There would have been too many people alive to dispute the findings. And keep in mind that many thousands of people died believing these words to be true. Martyrs will die for a lie if they think it is true, but I don’t know of anyone who knowingly dies for a lie. If Jesus didn’t really have a bodily resurrection, why would the disciples live unnecessarily hard lives and die horrible deaths for something they knew to be a lie?

Also see Debunking the DaVinci Code

Hat tip to Stand to Reason for much of the above. Click here to learn lots more about the origins of the Bible.

Ruth 1-2

This reading is Ruth 1-2.

There are many things at work in this seemingly simple story, so I’ll just pick out a few to comment on.

Naomi was obviously quite bitter about losing her husband and sons. In hindsight we can see how splendidly things worked out for her, but it is hard for us to understand the fear and pain she would have felt in that society. Widows often had no one to care for them.

Naomi had great relationships with her daughters-in-law, who had been married to her sons for over 10 years. Ruth had seen enough about the one true God that she had no desire to leave Naomi’s family.

The gleaning process was an Old Testament version of welfare, where landowners were instructed to leave some grain at the edges of the field so poor people could come pick it up. It was entirely legal to go on someone else’s property and do this.

I like how Boaz interacted with his employees. In our politically correct times, living out your faith at work is a constant challenge.

Ruth 2:4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The LORD be with you!” “The LORD bless you!” they called back.

It isn’t like you can walk down the hall at work passing out Gospel tracts. That would be ineffective and would shorten your career dramatically. There are many ways to encourage other Christians at work and to see where you can get involved where God is working in people’s lives, but you have to be intentional about it. I’ll write more on that on the 4Simpsons blog some other day.

Note how God in his sovereign will takes the free will decisions of humans and works them together to accomplish his mighty plans!

Feel free to comment on what stood out to you about the story.

The next reading is Ruth 3-4.

We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.