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12/07/2012

THE VIRGIN BIRTH: MYTH OR MIRACLE?

Historical Evidence for the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ

The virgin birth of Jesus Christ was documented by a physician and world class historian who interviewed eyewitnesses, probably including Mary herself, for his account of this world-changing event—the entry of God into the world. Luke gives the most detailed account of the Nativity and mentions Mary twelve times, more than any other Biblical writer. He also gives special, detailed attention to the birth of John the Baptist and many see his gynecological interests to be a result of his training as a physician.
 
At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke indicates that he has made a thorough investigation of the things about which he is writing, which included his utilization of eyewitness accounts. He spent extended periods of time with Paul in Jerusalem and Judaea and would have had opportunity to interview those who were closest to the event, including Mary if she were still alive. There is no reliable information on how long Mary lived, but some traditions say she lived as much as 24 years or longer after the resurrection. The detail Luke presents does indicate that he has derived his information from a primary source, either Mary herself or someone to whom Mary had relayed the intimate details of the event.


Luke Recognized in the Scholarly World
as a First-Class Historian
Luke’s attention to detail and the accuracy of his accounts of people, places, dates, and events in his Gospel and in Acts have been noted in the scholarly world and gained for him a high regard as a historian. For example, the famous archaeologist and agnostic, Sir William Ramsay, expected to discredit Luke’s accounts by visiting and examining the places mentioned in his Gospel and Acts. Ramsay taught that the New Testament was a religious treatise written in the mid second century and not an historical document recorded in the first century. He was so convinced of this that he went to Asia Minor to retrace Luke’s account of Paul’s journeys expecting to find the physical evidence to refute Luke's account.
But after years of travel and study, Ramsay completely reversed his view of the Bible and first century history. He acquired a very high regard for Luke as a historian and wrote, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense; in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians” (Sir William Ramsay, 81, 222.)

Another famous historian, A.N. Sherwin-White, carefully examined Luke's references in Luke/Acts to 32 countries, 54 cities, and nine islands, finding not a single mistake (Norman Geisler, 47). His findings corroborated the findings of Ramsay’s archaeological research who also said, “You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment” (Sir William Ramsay, 89).
This begs the question that if Luke was this careful to get his facts right about names, places , events, and dates, can we not be confident that he was just as careful to get his facts right concerning the more important things about which he reported, such as the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. The well-known Greek scholar, Kenneth S. Wuest, writing of Luke’s attention to detail, said, “If Mary was still alive, he, a doctor of medicine, investigated the story of the virgin birth by hearing it from Mary's own lips;” and commenting on accusations by critics that the story of the virgin birth was a hoax, the noted Greek scholar, Professor John A. Scott, said, “You could not fool Doctor Luke" (Kenneth S. Wuest, 52-54).
The Bible Teaches & the Earliest Christians
Believed in the Virgin Birth
Like Matthew in his Gospel, Luke is clear that the birth of Jesus was supernatural and that He was conceived without the involvement of a man. He records how Mary asked the angel Gabriel how she could give birth when she did not know a man, a reference to her state of virginity and being unmarried. Luke says the angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the highest shall overshadow you; therefore, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 2:34-35). Interestingly, Gabriel links the miraculous conception of this Child with His deity, for it is because of His miraculous birth that He will be called the Son of God.
That the earliest Christians believed in the virgin birth of Jesus is verified by the “Apostle’s Creed,” an early confession of faith that probably dates from the second century in its earliest formulation. It reads in part:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;
The third day he rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven,
And sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
 
Not a Myth
Some, of course, refuse to accept the historical evidence, and claim that the virgin birth and other miracles of the New Testament are myths fabricated by followers of Jesus who wanted to deify Him. This reminds me of C.S. Lewis, an agnostic professor of Renaissance Literature at Oxford University, who exposed the shallow arguments concerning the mythological character of the New Testament. Lewis was an expert in mythological literature and he tells of his astonishment the first time he read the Gospels. His surprised response was, “This is not myth!”
Lewis, of course, became a believer and an astute apologist for Christianity. It was at this time that higher criticism was being popularized in seminaries in Germany and certain theologians, such as Rudolph Bultman, were claiming that the New Testament accounts of the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles, and His resurrection were myths created by His followers. Lewis challenged these theologians, saying, “I would like to know how many myths these people have read!” Lewis went on to explain that he had been a long-time professor and critic of mythological literature and knew how a myth sounded and felt, “And the gospel story,” he said, “is not myth!”
Old Testament Prophecies Concerning the Virgin Birth
Genesis 3:15. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel.
The “seed of the woman” in this passage is an allusion to a future descendant of Eve who would defeat Satan. The Bible normally speaks of the seed of men but in this case it is the “seed of the woman.” This prophecy thus clearly anticipates the future virgin birth of Christ--a birth in which the seed of a man is not involved. As Adam Clarke says; “The seed of the woman; the person is to come by the woman, and her alone without the concurrence of man” (Adam Clarke, 53). This Seed of the woman will receive a temporary wound from Satan—you shall bruise His heel—but the Seed of woman shall inflict on Satan a final and mortal wound—He shall bruise your head. This Messianic promise was fulfilled through the virgin birth and through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Isaiah 7:14. Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
The Hebrew word translated “virgin” in this passage refers to a young woman of marriageable age, but would include the idea of virginity since that was expected of a young woman being married for the first time. This is borne out by the Septuagint, which translates the Hebrew with the Greek word parthinos, a word that specifically means “virgin,” i.e., a young woman who has never had sex with a man. Parthinos is the word used by both Matthew and Luke in their description of Mary, affirming that she was a young woman who had never had sex with a man when Jesus was born. Incredibly, Isaiah says that this Son that will be born of a virgin shall be called Immanuel, meaning “God with us,” a clear Old Testament prophecy of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.
3 Reasons it is Important to Believe in the Virgin Birth
(1) To affirm the veracity of the Biblical record.
To deny the virgin birth is to deny the reliability of the Biblical record, particularly the accounts of the Lord’s birth by both Matthew and Luke. This then becomes a slippery slope, for if one is comfortable denying the clear Biblical account of the virgin birth, then from there it is an easy path to denying the deity of Christ and His resurrection.
(2) To affirm the deity of Christ.
If Jesus was born a natural birth with two human parents, then this would undermine His claims to deity. Unlike normal births that take place by the natural processes of procreation between a man and a woman, the virgin birth required a miraculous conception with God’s direct involvement. Gabriel linked Jesus’ deity with His miraculous conception (Luke 2:34-35). As mentioned above, to deny the virgin birth of Christ is only a small step from denying His deity as well.
(3) To affirm the efficaciousness of our salvation.
If Jesus was a normal man born of two normal parents, then His death would not be efficacious for all humanity. It is the fact that He died in our place as God incarnate—not a mere human being—that gives His death and subsequent resurrection the power to release salvation and forgiveness into our lives.
Conclusion
Believing in Christ does not require a so-called "blind leap of faith." Because of the clear and reliable account of Dr. Luke, it is more reasonable to believe in the virgin birth than it is to deny it. Those wonderful Christian carols heralding the birth of our Savior can be sung with zest and confidence because the Christmas story is true. We know it is true because of the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts; but even for those who do not yet have this inner witness, there is adequate, external evidence provided to by Dr. Luke that Jesus was truly born of a virgin. And if that part of the story is true, then we can have confidence that the rest of the story is true as well.

 
by Eddie L. Hyatt
www.eddiehyatt.com

 
Works Cited
Ramsey, Sir William M. The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. Hodder & Stoughton, 1915.
Geisler, Norman. Baker Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.
Wuest, Kenneth S. Word Studies In The Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979.
Clarke, Adam. The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments with a Commentary and Critical Notes. 3 Vols. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1824.
 

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight


 



 
 
 

10/20/2012

RUNNING TO WIN


Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith . . . (Hebrews 12:1-2)
The Christian life is depicted in Scripture as a race, but a particular kind of race. It is not a sprint--a 100-meter dash--wherein flash and speed are of essence. The Christian life is a marathon in which discipline, determination, and focus are the qualities that will enable you and me to win our race.

In this race we are not competing with one another, and we win by finishing our individual race. The race that is set before us is the unique path/race that God has given you and me to run. It is in running this race that we fulfill our God-given purpose. Your path/race will take you up some steep hills and through some deep valleys. It will lead through smooth terrain and over some rough terrain. It will seem long and grueling at times. Nonetheless, it is a race that you can win if you will keep your focus on Jesus, exercise discipline, and refuse to quit no matter how tough the going seems at times.

So, keep on running with your eyes on Jesus. Lay aside anything and everything that would slow you down. You will surely finish you race with joy.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (I Corinthians 9:24-25; NIV).

9/15/2012

WHY I DO NOT FEAR A GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN

God’s Promise of Abundance During Tough Economic Times

The world-wide economy continues to struggle with millions of Americans out of work and millions more underemployed. Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, recently described the world economic situation as “the most serious financial crisis we've seen at least since the 1930s, if not ever." Steven Bell, chief economist at the GLC Ltd. in London agreed, saying, "The external environment has definitely darkened."
Many economists are saying that the politicians are not dealing with the real problems, but are implementing temporary fixes that only delay the inevitable. Many are predicting a total meltdown of the global economy. What that will look like when it happens, no one really knows.
Sue and I believe that God has shown us that there will be a collapse of the world economy, but that out of the rubble God’s people will see His providential provision arise. This providential provision and blessing I call “the opening of the windows of heaven.” Many years ago, God spoke to me with great clarity about this “opening of the windows of heaven” and it has been an incredible source of strength ever since.
God Gives Me a Promise
In 1976 I was reading a small book entitled The Authority of the Believer. Within the book was a quotation of Malachi 3:10, which includes the promise from God that He will open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. The phrase open for you the windows of heaven burned in my soul. I went to bed that night and it seemed as though I could actually “feel” that word in my soul in the same way food just eaten could be felt in the stomach. It was a very real experience.
I arose the next morning and began my devotional time in which I was reading through the Bible. However, I immediately sensed my heart beginning to burn with that phrase I will open for you the windows of heaven. I paused to consider whether I should continue with my devotions as usual or should I give attention to this burning in my soul. As I pondered this question, I glanced down at my Bible which was lying open on the floor. It had fallen open to 2 Kings Chapter 7 and the first words I saw were windows in heaven. I was astounded for I did know there was another place in the Bible that spoke of the windows of heaven. This was incredible and I knew that God was speaking.
Why Sit Here & Die?
I continued to read and found that this was the account of God’s supernatural deliverance of a city of Samaria that was besieged by the king of Syria and his powerful army. They had cut off all escape routes and blocked any food or other supplies going into the city. No one could go in and no one could come out. It was an impossible situation and hunger had reached the point that some in the city were turning to cannibalism.
It was in the midst of this desperate and impossible situation that Elisha the prophet (who was inside the city) made an incredible prophecy. He predicted that the very next day food would be sold at ridiculously low prices because of the abundance. An officer of the king of Israel (who resided in this city), heard Elisha’s prophecy and scoffed. Look, he said, If the Lord could make windows in heaven, could this thing be (I Kings 7:2)? Elisha replied that he would see it but would not eat or partake of it.
That same night four leprous, homeless men who lived outside the city gates decided that it was time to take radical action. They said to one another, Why are we sitting here until we die? They reasoned that if they went into the city they would die of starvation. They would also die if they remained in their present position. Why not go out to the camp of the enemy, they reasoned. The worst that can happen to us is that we will die. But if we sit here, we are going to die anyway.
So they began walking toward the enemy camp. As they marched forth, God caused the Syrian army to hear a sound of a large army marching toward them. They concluded that the king of Israel had hired the Egyptian army, and they ran in terror, leaving everything behind
The Windows of Heaven are Opened
The four lepers reached the camp and found food, clothes, gold and silver in abundance. They enjoyed a sumptuous meal and then they took gold and silver out and buried it. Then they went back to the city and informed the watchman on the wall of what they had discovered. The watchman informed the king and the king sent several men to check it out. It was as the leprous men had said. The Syrian army had fled leaving behind a massive storehouse of supplies.
As morning dawned and word spread that food was being sold at the gates of the city, there was a mad rush by a lot of hungry people. The officer of the king who had scoffed at the prophecy of Elisha was put in charge of the gate where the food was being sold. As the crowd rushed forward he was trampled under foot and died. The prophecy of Elisha was fulfilled in that he saw the widows of heaven open but he did not eat or partake of the miracle.
God’s Sudden, Supernatural, Abundant Provision
Out of this experience the opening the windows of heaven came to mean to me “God’s sudden, supernatural, abundant provision.” It is God breaking through from above into our present situation. It is God bringing about effects for which there is no human cause or explanation.
In the natural world there is the scientific law of cause and effect which says that for every effect there is a cause. This is a human attempt to explain, on a horizontal plane, why things happen. We work forty hours per week and get a paycheck. The paycheck is the effect and our forty hours of work is the cause. We toil for hours digging, planting, weeding, and watering and the effect is a beautiful garden. Sometimes it seems that nothing happens unless we do something to cause it to happen.
But when God opens the windows of heaven, He brings about effects for which there is no human cause or explanation. He breaks into our lives from above and produces effects that we have not caused. He provides in a way that is sudden, supernatural and abundant.
As I pondered all of this that morning, I seemed to hear in my spirit, “I am going to open the windows of heaven on you and on everyone who supports you in what I have called you to do.”
God Confirms His Word
About two years after this, Sue and I were sitting around our kitchen table with several other people, including a white-haired, eighty-year old woman who was a long-time prayer warrior. As we lifted out hearts in prayer, this dear old saint, whom we knew as Sister Manetta, arose from her chair, came around the table, laid her hands on my head, and began to pray. After our time of prayer had ended she said, “The Lord told me to lay my hands on you and pray, and when I did, I saw two doors/windows open over your head.” I excitedly replied, “Praise the Lord! He told me he would open the windows of heaven on me.”
Practical Steps to Seeing the Opening of the Windows of Heaven
As Sue and I have, for many years, sought to walk out God’s plan for our lives with integrity and a daily dependence on Him, we have seen Him fulfill His promise and open the windows of heaven in ways we could never have imagined. Out of our walk with Him certain principles have emerged that I will here share with you. They are, I believe, keys to seeing God open the windows of heaven in your life.
1)      Always see God as your source.
Your job is not your source. Your government pension is not your source. These are channels that God uses to provide for you. God has many channels that He can use, but you must always see Him as your One and only Source.
2)      Ground yourself in God’s promises.
          Before we married, the Holy Spirit brought three promises to Sue’s mind that would characterize our lives together. All three are wonderful promises of God’s provision; Psalm 34:10, Psalm 84:11, and Philippians 4:19. Memorize these and other promises of provision and meditate on them every day until they are a part of your life. 
3)      Nurture an attitude of generosity.
I am not talking about a “give to get” religious legalism that often comes through in Christian fundraisers and telethons. I am talking about a heart attitude that wants to bless others and help those in need. There are many promises in Scripture related to the generous and those who give out of a pure heart. Jesus said, Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken down, and running over will be put into your bosom (Luke 6:26).
4)      Listen for God’s wisdom.
God’s provision often comes to us, but it will sometimes come through us. In other words, there are times that we will have to take certain actions to set in motion the miracle that is needed. Wisdom is defined as “the correct application of knowledge” and God wisdom working through you will bring blessing and favor into your life.
5)      Be the best you can be—diligence.
One thing that impressed me about John D. Rockefeller was that in his autobiography he tells about when, as a young man looking for his first job, he decided that he would put in eight hours per day looking for a job until he found one. This is known as “diligence.” At a significant time in our lives, God said to Sue and me, “Be the best you can be.” That is diligence. Proverbs 22:29 says, Do you see a man (or woman) who excels (is diligent) in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.
Concluding Thought

Will God still open the windows of heaven? Will He do it for me? Absolutely! One of His Old Testament covenant names is Yahweh Jireh, which literally means the “The LORD will see and provide.” As we take Him as our Source and Provider, we will see Him open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings in ways we could never have imagined. We will not live in fear about the economy. As it says in Psalm 37:19 of those who trust in the LORD, In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty


Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian, Bible teacher and ordained minister. He founded "The Revive America Project" to remind America of its overt Christian origins and call the people of God to pray for another Great Awakening in the land. His books on Spiritual awakening are available from his website, www.eddiehyatt.com, and from Amazon.



9/10/2012

A MORMON IN THE WHITEHOUSE? SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?

5 Reasons Evangelicals Should Have no Reservations About Voting for Mitt Romney

A front page article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram referred to the “quiet resistance” among evangelicals to Mitt Romney because of his Mormon faith. I understand their concerns for I also have profound disagreements with Mormon theology. Nonetheless, as an evangelical, I am convinced that Mitt Romney is the clear choice in what is surely the most important election of our lifetime. In the essay below, I present 5 reasons why Romney’s Mormon faith should not be a hindrance to evangelicals voting for him in the upcoming presidential election.

Click the link below to read the rest of the article. If clicking does not work, copy the link and paste it in your browser.

http://biblicalawakening.com/2012/09/05/a-mormon-in-the-whitehouse-should-we-be-concerned/

8/23/2012

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

Politics and the Kingdom of God in a Year of Change

The political rhetoric has heated up as the politicians try to convince you and me that we should join their party and take their side in the coming election. Daily polls are taken by pollsters and political pundits wanting to know whose side we are on. As Christians, we need to turn the question on the politicians and put them on the defensive by asking, “Whose side are you on?”
There were a number of political and religious parties in Jesus’s day, all jockeying for power and control. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Zealots, and others all sought public support for their agendas. Interestingly, Jesus never identified Himself with any of those parties. Why? He did not come to take sides; He came to take over. He came to establish God’s values and righteousness in the hearts of all people. It was not a question of whose side he would take, but a matter of who would side with Him? This reminds me of the time Ronald Reagan was accused of claiming that God was on his party’s side. He responded by saying, “It is not a matter of whose side God is on; the question is, “Are we on His side?”
That is the question with which we should be challenging the candidates of both political parties. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan, “Whose side are you on?” Mr. President and Mr. Vice-President, “Whose side are you on?”
Mr. President, I Have Grave Concerns about Whose Side You are On
Mr. President, I have grave concerns about where you stand and whose side you are on. I heard you tell a foreign audience in a Muslim country, “America is not a Christian nation?” I also heard you say that the Bible cannot be used as a guide for public policy?” You have recently implemented a policy that forces Christian organizations to provide services that violate their conscience and are against their religious beliefs. Mr. President, “Whose side are you on?” Since you have dispensed with Christianity and the Bible, where are you deriving your values and your guidelines for public policy? Are you getting them from Marxist/socialist friends and think tanks? We have a right to know, “Whose side are you on?”
Mr. President, your dispensing of Christianity and the Bible is a sharp departure from the Founding Fathers of this nation. When George Washington laid his hand on the Bible and was sworn in as our first president, it was no mere formality. By taking his oath of office with his hand on a Bible, Washington was making a statement that the Bible would be the moral compass and guide for his administration. He even said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” The First Continental Congress was opened with an extended time of prayer and the reading of four chapters from the Bible. A recent ten-year study project to determine where the Founding Fathers got their ideas for America’s founding documents found that, by far, the single most cited source of authority was the Bible. Mr. President, “Whose side are you on?”
Candidates; Where Do You Stand on the First Amendment?
Presidential candidates of both parties, where do you stand on the First Amendment, particularly the section that says, “Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion, nor hindering the free exercise thereof.” Secularists interpret the first part of this statement to mean “freedom from religion” and seek to remove any Christian influence from the public arena. Based on this misinterpretation, atheists and secularists regularly file lawsuits because they are offended by the presence of a Christian symbol or expression on public property. One such lawsuit, now in process, seeks the removal of a cross from the 911 site—a cross that is actually a naturally occurring cross of steel beams pulled from the wreckage.
Secularists love to use Thomas Jefferson’s phrase “wall of separation” in this regard, but they have wrenched it from its original context and meaning. Anyone who has looked into the matter with an unprejudiced mind knows that Jefferson used the phrase “wall of separation” in a letter to a group of Baptists to assure them that in the new American republic they would be free from the kind of government interference they had known from the state controlled churches of Europe. Jefferson’s “wall of separation” was unidirectional, there to keep the government out of the church. The secularists, however, say “no,” that Jefferson wanted to keep expressions of faith out of government. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan; Mr. President and Mr. Vice-President, “Whose side are you on?”
Candidates; What Do You Think of “Jesus”
Presidential candidates of both parties, where do you stand on the current trend to remove the name of Jesus from any kind of public expression. For example, when Oprah Winfrey hosted a large prayer gathering in Yankee Stadium after 911, one criterion for those participating was that no one could pray using the name of Jesus. Here in Dallas, Texas, in the heart of the Bible belt, Dr. Tony Evans was asked to pray an opening prayer for the new city council. But, before he prayed, the mayor at that time asked him not to use the name of Jesus in his prayer. In Houston, TX, recently, a government bureaucrat issued an order that memorial services held in the Veterans cemetery could not contain the name of Jesus. Mr. President, your justice department did nothing to rectify the matter and it took a lawsuit filed by the good people of Houston to get the order rescinded. Mr. President, in April of 2009, when speaking at Georgetown University, you ordered that a monogram symbolizing Jesus' name be covered while you were speaking. This all makes us want to ask, “Whose side are you on?”
The excuse is made that, “We don’t want to offend people of other religions.” There is no Constitutional right to not be offended. But there is a Constitutional right of religious expression and free speech for everyone. We are fine with Muslims praying to Allah and Hindus praying to Krishna or one of their other gods, but why the onslaught against the use of the name of Jesus. What are you afraid of? The Founding Fathers were not afraid to speak the name of Jesus. George Washington once publicly prayed, “Bless Oh Lord the whole race of mankind, and let the world be filled with the knowledge of thee and of Thy son, Jesus Christ.” Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, closed all presidential documents with the phrase, “In the year of our Lord Christ.” The famous patriot and Founding Father, Patrick Henry, declared, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Candidates of both parties, “Whose side are you on?
We Must Recover Our Christian Values
A society derives its values from religion. Nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iran derive their values from Islam. America was founded and built on Judeo-Christian values that were also the basis of its laws and judicial system. These values of love for God and one’s neighbor, honesty, moral integrity, hard work, and compassion toward those in need are the values that have made America great. These are the values of heaven—what Jesus called the “kingdom of God.” Unless we can recover these values, we are headed for ruin. In his farewell address, George Washington warned the nation, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
This year I will not be taking sides with any political party. I will, however, be carefully observing the statements, actions, and policies of the candidates as to how well they reflect the Judeo-Christian values on which this nation was founded. I want to know Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan. We want to know Mr. President and Mr. Vice-President, “Whose side are you on?”

8/17/2012

THE MESSAGE OF THE GREAT AWAKENING

What was Preached * Why it was so Effective


"The Declaration of Independence was a direct result of the preaching
of the evangelists of the Great Awakening.” – Perry Miller, Harvard professor

We all want to be more effective in preaching the Gospel and in teaching the Word of God. For some time I have asked the question, “What was the key (or keys) that produced the Great Awakening and led to the transformation of the 13 colonies?” To be more specific, I wanted to know what it was about the preaching of that era that made such an impact.
In considering this question, it became obvious that it was not the act or style of preaching, for there were very diverse styles; from Jonathan Edwards, who wrote out his sermons and read them in a monotone voice without movements or gestures, to George Whitefield who preached extemporaneously with much fire and movement. This also led me to question if, in our day, style has not taken precedence over substance and technique over content?
In researching and considering this, it became clear that it was not the act or style of preaching that made the difference; it was the message itself that brought the results. This is what Paul tells us in I Cor. 1:18; that it is not the mere act of preaching that produces fruit for the kingdom of God, but the message that is preached. Style may stir the emotions, but it can never change the heart. In fact, Paul says that if we go too far in trying to make the message cool, hip, and acceptable to contemporary culture, we run the risk of preaching a Gospel that is emptied of its power.
The Great Awakening, of course, had its problems and excesses as does any revival, and as does any Christian movement. Nonetheless, my research leads me to say that the results of the Great Awakening should be credited to the message that was preached, backed by much prayer, and to messengers who lived like they believed what they preached. Below, I have delineated 7 emphases that made up the message they preached—the message that transformed colonial America and, according to Harvard professor, Perry Miller, led to the Declaration of Independence of 1776.
The Message
1) God is a great, majestic, and holy Being who created all things and to whom all creatures owe their love, honor, and respect. Humanity was the crown of His creation, made in His own image and likeness.
2) The man and woman whom God created rebelled against their Creator and went their own way, dragging their posterity down with them into the abyss of sin and judgment, into what, in historical theology, is known as “the fall.”
3)  The human race in its current state is a rebellious and fallen race, separated from God, under the power of sin, and deserving of hell.
4) God in His sovereign mercy and grace now offers full pardon and forgiveness of sins to all who will put their faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior whom God, in His sovereign grace, sent to die on the cross for our sins and rise again for our salvation.
5) Get rid of faulty foundations. They emphasized that many professing Christians had built their faith on faulty foundations, such as church membership, good deeds, family pedigree, social status, and cultural refinement. They emphasized that these old foundations must be overturned and faith in Jesus Christ alone must be laid as the only foundation for righteousness and acceptance with God.
6) There must be a new birth. They emphasized that when one truly believes in Christ there is a work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit that occurs in the heart—a new birth—from which springs new desires and aspirations that are godly, producing a whole new tenor of life. They believed that one would be forever changed by this new birth, and the changed behavior they called the fruit of righteousness and faith.
7) They emphasized the eternal bliss in heaven for all who truly trust in Christ and the eternal suffering and damnation of all those who refuse God’s gracious gift of salvation in Christ.

A CRITICAL MOMENT IN TIME


“Taking Back America” by Teaching the True Origins of Our Nation
While we have been asleep, the enemy has been in the process of robbing us of our identity as a nation. Millions of children and adults in schools and colleges throughout our land are being taught that America’s Founders were a collection of rich slave owners, mostly Deists and agnostics, who created a secular state and put up a “wall of separation” to keep out any input or influence from people of faith. This is dangerous and deadly because a people derive their identity from their history. When conquering nations have wanted to assimilate the conquered into their own society, they have begun by cutting them off from their past. Within 2 or 3 generations the people with no history have no sense of who they are and are then easily assimilated into a new and different culture. This is what Karl Marx was referring to when he said, “People without a heritage are easily persuaded.” This is happening in America today!
It is not too late to “Take America Back” by teaching the true history and heritage of America, and I believe America’s Revival Heritage can play a key role in this. I envision pastors and preachers preaching from it in pulpits across America. I envision Christian schools and colleges incorporating it into their curriculum. AND I ENVISION HOME STUDY GROUPS THROUGHOUT AMERICA USING IT TO STUDY THE TRUE ORIGINS OF AMERICA, AND PRAYING FOR ANOTHER GREAT AWAKENING IN OUR LAND.
If you would like to begin a group study using America’s Revival Heritage, I have posted a free Study Guide on my website just underneath where the book is posted. This Study Guide was designed to accompany the book and help facilitate a group study. You are welcome to copy it and share it with members of your study group. There are 7 chapters in the book and 7 in the Study Guide. I would suggest at least 10 sessions because you will certainly want to give more time to some chapters, especially chapter 6 which is the longest chapter and covers the actual founding of the nation. Check it out at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.

The signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776,
which at the very beginning, acknowledges that our rights
come from God, not from government. 

http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html

8/12/2012

GOD IS PRO-CHOICE, BUT BE CAREFUL HOW YOU CHOOSE

I remember reading a poetic piece of prose in the newspaper about an old bridge that had been torn down to make way for a new highway. The writer ascribed personal virtues to this bridge, speaking of how faithful it had been for so many years, and how it had remained steadfast in the face of wind, rain, snow, cold, and heat. As I read this I thought about how there really were no virtues in this bridge, for it was just a heap of metal and concrete. Virtue is found in personhood and personhood is distinguished by the ability and freedom to think and choose.  


Not only is virtue not to be found in inanimate materials such as wood, stone, concrete, and steel, neither is it to be found in feeling. Virtue is ultimately tied, not to our feelings, but to our choices. We are responsible, not for how we feel, but for how we choose.

Love also is tied to the freedom to choose. Where there is no choice, there is no love. Can you imagine being married to a robot—even a sophisticated one like Data? Anytime you want to hear words of affirmation and love, all you have to do is push the right buttons. Somehow I don’t think that would be satisfying. Love is real because the people involved have chosen to love.

When God created Adam and Eve He did not create robots or creatures that were programmed to love and serve Him. Creating them in His own image and likeness meant that they would have the ability and the freedom to think, to choose, and to decide if they were going to trust Him and love Him. In this sense, it was a risky move on God’s part to create such beings, for they might choose to rebel against Him. But if there was going to be real love in the relationship, there had to be real freedom to choose.

Yes, God knew beforehand that our first parents would turn from Him. He also knew that countless numbers of their offspring would reject His love and truth. Nonetheless, He considered that the benefits and blessings of creating them outweighed the pain and suffering that He knew would come. 

Want to know why there is pain and suffering in the world? It cannot be blamed on God. It is because human beings have misused and abused their freedom to choose and have chosen to rebel against God and do their own thing, create their own morals, and erect their own standards of truth and right and wrong. But through those that have chosen to love Him and believe Him, God is sending His message of salvation through Jesus Christ into this world that human beings have mucked up by their bad choices. 

The freedom to choose makes necessary a judgment wherein every person will be held accountable for the choices they have made. In II Corinthians 5:10-11, Paul speaks of a future judgement, saying, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men. The great American statesman, Daniel Webster, when asked what was the most sobering thought to ever enter his mind, immediately replied, "My personal accountability to God."

The ability and freedom to choose is a powerful force in our lives that also affects others. I recall hearing a Christian man who is the co-founder and president of one of the most successful private companies in America, say, “I did not get here by making a really big decision, but by making a lot of small decisions.” Those daily decisions to trust God and do the right thing are so important in getting us to where we want to be in life.

Is God pro-choice? In the sense that He created us with the ability and freedom to choose, yes He is. He will, however, hold us accountable for the choices that we make. In Deuteronomy 30:19, God through Moses urged the people of Israel to make the right decisions and choose life.

I call heaven and earth today as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life that both you and your descendants may live.

8/09/2012

JESUS & SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: WHOSE SIDE IS HE ON?


Throughout history Jesus has been used to justify everything from the crusades to the Inquisition to the suppression of women. Today, many on the social and political left, including President Obama, seek to use Jesus to justify their support of same-sex marriage. This should not be surprising for Jesus is the greatest single moral authority of human history and if He can be seen as being on the side of same-sex marriage, then the proponents will likely win the day.
Proponents of same-sex marriage cannot, of course, point to any specific statement of Jesus advocating or even tolerating their position, so they focus on his emphases on love and tolerance. For example, I listened to a guest commentator on Fox News trying very hard to convince her audience that Jesus would not have opposed same-sex marriage. She kept saying, “Jesus was all about love.” She then stated, “His final words were all about love.” I thought to myself, “She has never read the gospels, for her concept of love as a sugar-coated niceness that never challenges anyone’s behavior is foreign to Jesus and the New Testament.”
Yes, Jesus emphasized the necessity of love for God and one’s fellow human beings, but He also warned that our choices and actions have consequences. To the woman caught in the act of adultery he spoke words of kindness and forgiveness, but his final words to her were, Go and sin no more (John 8:11). To the paralytic whom He healed at the Pool of Bethesda, He spoke words of caring and compassion, but concluded by saying, Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you (John 5:14). And let’s not forget that it was Jesus who made a whip and drove the moneychangers, who were using religion to pad their pockets, out of the temple area (John 2:13-16).
On the matter of same-sex marriage, Jesus did make His position very clear, but one has to get beyond the superficial, political posturing to see it. Once we understand His position, it is then up to us to decide if we are going to be on His side or the side of popular, contemporary culture. We are free to choose, but our choice will have consequences.
Jesus Affirms the Original Genesis Model of Marriage
Jesus clearly affirmed that marriage is between one man and one woman in a discussion with the Pharisees about divorce (Matt. 19:3-8). The Pharisees wanted to know if it was okay for a man to divorce his wife for any reason. Jesus answered by pointing them back to how it was at the beginning when God created humanity. According to Jesus, the Genesis account of the creation of the man and woman is to be the ongoing model for marriage since it reflects God’s original intent.
In the Genesis account of creation, God creates a man and a woman and brings them together in a wonderful partnership of mutuality. They are blessed by the Creator and told to bear children and fill the earth. Both are given the same blessing, authority, and mandate as is indicated by the use of the plural pronoun “them” throughout the creation account (Gen. 1:26-31). The man is created first and then the Creator takes a “side” from the man and fashions it into a woman. He then brings the two together and when the man sees the woman he breaks forth into what Hebrew scholars say is song or poetic verse.
This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called woman
For she was taken out of man
The Genesis writer then sums up the creation narrative in Gen. 2:24 with the words, Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh
In this discussion with the Pharisees, Jesus keeps pointing them back to how it was in the beginning, showing that He saw the Genesis account of creation as the Divine model for all marriages. The Greek scholar, Marvin A Vincent, points out that the perfect tense of the verb used in this passage indicates that “the original ordinance has never been abrogated or superseded but continues in force” (Vincent, vol. 1, Word Studies in the New Testament, 108).
Jesus sums up His argument by quoting Gen. 2:24 (see above) and saying, Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate or, as the KJV reads, "put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). The modern supporters of same-sex marriage are seeking to “put asunder” the form of marriage that was instituted and blessed by the Creator at the very beginning of the human race, and affirmed by Jesus Christ.
We Must Follow the Creator’s Plan
This “putting asunder” of the Creator’s plan for marriage will only lead to much pain for individuals and for society. For example, most manufacturers provide instructions with their product so that the purchaser can maintain the item and get the best use from it. An expensive garment may say on the label, “Wash by hand in cold water.” If the purchaser of that garment ignores the instructions and throws the garment into a washer and washes it in hot water, he should not be surprised if the garment is ruined. In the same way, we should not be surprised to see lives ruined and society negatively affected when we ignore the clear instructions of the Creator concerning how marriage should work. God gave instructions and principles, not to “rain on our parade” and make us miserable, but so that we could derive the maximum joy and fulfillment from the life he has given us.
Even if one rejects the Bible and Jesus as authoritative guides, it is obvious from nature itself that same-sex marriage is unnatural and out of harmony with the natural order. Even if you believe in evolution and the “survival of the fittest,” you must admit that it is heterosexual marriage that has survived and sustained the human race. In other words, what we see in the Genesis account of creation is in harmony with what can be observed in nature. This is what Cardinal Francis George and six bishops of the Chicago diocese were referring to when they spoke of the dire consequences of legally redefining marriage to include same-sex marriages, and warned, “When the ways of nature and nature’s God conflict with civil law, society is in danger. It is to that danger that we direct your attention.”
Because same-sex marriage is so out of sync with nature and common sense, all major religions have condemned the practice as have societies in general throughout history. Only in our modern Western society where all transcendent authority has been rejected and morality is relativized to whatever “I” want it to be, has there been such a push to make the abnormal the normal.
Speak the Truth in Love
In Ephesians 4:15, Paul said that we, as believers, should be about the business of speaking the truth in love. The arrogant and angry verbal attacks on homosexuals by some who call themselves Christians is not the Spirit of Christ and should be rejected. On the other hand, a superficial niceness that flinches from telling the truth must also be rejected. If the surgeon pulls back the knife and does not plunge it in and remove the cancer because the patient flinches and cries out, he has not acted in love. Leaders, both religious and civic, who are unwilling to tell the truth for fear of criticism and loss of popularity are like the leaders of Israel in Jeremiah’s day of whom God said, They have also healed the hurt of my people slightly (superficially), saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14).  

8/01/2012

INSTITUTIONAL OR NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY?

Breaking the Institutional Cycle that Quenches the Life of the Spirit
While doing research for my book, 2000 years of Charismatic Christianity, and looking for evidence of Spiritual gifts in church history, I found something in church history I was not looking for. I discovered what I call an “institutional cycle” in church history. In this cycle there comes a spiritual awakening with emphases on life in the Spirit, freedom, relationship, issues of the heart, etc. The revival lasts for a while and then inevitably comes the institutional trend where the emphasis shifts to things like authority, order, governmental structure, etc., and out of the revival emerges another denomination. I discovered that this institutional cycle has been occurring since the first century.
“Institutionalism” is defined as “an emphasis on organization at the expense of other factors.” Something is always lost in an over-emphasis on organization; and in the church this loss is always in the area of the freedom and dynamism of the Holy Spirit. In other words, institutionalism quenches the Spirit and replaces it with ritual, formality, and a hierarchical leadership that claims to speak for God. What I discovered was that, throughout history, institutionalism has been the greatest enemy of revival, and it seems to me that we are seeing this same institutional process at work in our day.
During the 1990s there was a powerful move of the Holy Spirit throughout the earth. I remember hearing the Holy Spirit clearly speak to me in August of 1993 during my daily prayer walk. He said, “A new wave of Holy Spirit outpouring is coming and will continue to the end of the century.” It was such a clear word that when I returned home I opened my calendar and wrote down those words on August 23, 1993. Shortly thereafter, revival broke out at Oral Roberts University, where I was connected at the time. We saw students praying into the wee hours of the morning and many being slain in the Spirit across the campus grounds. Praying, singing, and shouts of praise could be heard, ringing forth from the dorms and the cafeteria. There were classes in which I was not able to teach because of the students being overwhelmed by the presence of God. It was an incredible moment in time. Soon afterwards, we began hearing reports of revival springing up in other parts of the world.
No, the revival was not perfect—revival never is. There was much flesh and probably even some demonic stuff that intruded at times. I am sure God would like to use perfect people, but the only problem is that he can’t find any. So he uses what is available; and I would say He has done quite well considering the material He has had to work with.  Nonetheless, in spite of the problems and defects, this revival impacted many lives around the world and brought a new sense of liberty and freedom to many.
But since the year 2000 (it was in the works before that) I have been seeing in real life what I had already seen in church history—an institutionalizing of revival. The emphasis now, in many quarters, has shifted and is now on authority, structure, and governmental order. Although expressed in a variety of ways, the most popular approach seems to be the current emphasis on the restoration of the office of the apostle along with apostolic order and structure. My basic issue with this approach is two-fold: (1) ministry and leadership in the New Testament is functional in nature and not official and (2) there is no prescribed order in the New Testament laid down by either Jesus or the apostles.[1]
Now, we know that organization is needed to carry out the work of the ministry. No church or ministry can carry out the work to which God has called them without some element of organization. The question is, “How do we know when we have crossed the line and are institutionalizing a work of God?” Below are five indicators that indicate that church and ministry are becoming institutionalized. These have been drawn from a wonderful article by Findley B. Edge entitled “Experiential of Institutionalized Religion?” Findley, who served for many years as the Professor of Religious Education at Southern Baptist Seminary, said the Church is becoming institutionalized . . .
(1)        When its adherents are related primarily to the church as an institution or to the organizations of the church rather than to the living God.
(2)        When the church turns its concern inward upon itself and is more concerned with its own existence and progress than it is with the mission for which it was founded.
(3)        When the multitudinous activities required to build up and enlarge the organization becomes identified with “doing the will of God.”
(4)        When means becomes ends and ends becomes means. Institutions and organizations which were designed and intended to be used as a means of serving people may become ends and the loyalty of the people is determined by their service to the institution.
(5)        When the spirit of religion is lost and only the form remains.
Another way of saying it would be, “When the spirit of freedom (revival) is lost, being replaced by outward forms and authoritarian offices and structures.”
Some years ago, Sue and I heard Dr. Harvey Cox, of the Harvard Divinity School, speak shortly after he had completed a two year sabbatical during which he had been studying the history of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. He had also been visiting Pentecostal-Charismatic churches and ministries around the world, out of which had come a just completed book entitled Fire from Heaven.  He said one thing that I never forgot. He said the early Pentecostal revival exploded in growth because it was “quasi-chaotic.” He meant this as a compliment and was referring to the fact that at that early stage, the movement/revival had not yet institutionalized and was being borne along on the dynamism, freedom, and power of the Holy Spirit.
My prayer is that, as we move forward in doing His will and advancing His cause, we will walk carefully; and not be guilty of quenching His Spirit with organizational offices and structures. Let’s stand fast in the freedom of the Gospel and be the generation that breaks that “institutional cycle.” As we do, times of refreshing will surely come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19).


[1] If you would like to read more of my thoughts on this topic, see my article entitled, “Why I Have Not Aligned Myself with the Modern Apostolic Movement” which is posted at http://www.biblicalawakening.blogspot.com/2012/06/why-i-have-not-aligned-myself-with_05.html.