Wednesday, September 28, 2016

So Close, but So Far Away

One of the most sinister characters in American history is the infamous turncoat, Benedict Arnold (1741-1801). At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he joined the American army as a colonel and in 1775 shared a command with Ethan Allen in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. Later he led 1,000 men into Canada where he fought in the battle of Quebec. His courage in the battle of Saratoga proved to be a turning point for America, and won him the approval of Gen. George Washington. But something went wrong with the gifted military man. 

Arnold grew green with envy after five men of lesser rank were promoted over him.  The root of bitterness began to grow deeper and deeper in Arnold until one fateful day in 1780.  Arnold secretly met with British Major John Andre to discuss handing over West Point to the British in return for the promise of a large sum of money and a high position in the British army. 

However, before that happened, a British spy was captured carrying papers that exposed Arnold’s plan. Benedict Arnold barely escaped and he went down in history known as “the best general on either side of the conflict.” 

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The story of Benedict Arnold reminds me of Judas. Even though he traveled with Jesus he was not committed to the cause.  John tells us that Judas was the treasurer of Jesus’ operation and that he often pilfered funds for his own use (John 12:6) On the night of his cowardly betrayal he became a tool of Satan (John 13:27).  Judas ended up selling the Son of God for a measly 30 pieces of silver and betrayed Him with a kiss (Mark 14:43-45). One commentator insightfully said of the kiss that, “Judas was kissing away the door of heaven and becoming guilty of deicide—the killing of God.”[1] 

If there is one thing that we learn from Judas it is this—that it is possible to be near to Christ and to associate with him on a superficial level and yet have a heart that is calloused, hardened and in rebellion against Him. It is possible to spend a lifetime in church and yet not be saved.  If Judas were alive today, we would award him with an Oscar—because he was quite the actor. Superficiality can look a lot like true spirituality.      

What makes this so scary is that Judas was not the kind of person who comes into a service late and sits in the back row. He was not the kind of person who did that and then left before the benediction. No, he’s the Sunday school teacher. He’s the deacon. He’s the treasurer. Maybe he’s even the pastor, and nobody knows what is in his heart.

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Perhaps, you’ve wondered “if Jesus was omniscient then why did he select Judas to be a disciple if he knew that he would inevitably betray him?” I like how Dr. Erwin Lutzer answered that question when he wrote:
            “Why did Jesus choose Judas?  Possibly it’s because Judas represents the whole human race.  Jesus wanted to tell future generations, “This is the heart of man.  This is what man is—he has the ability to appear good on the outside, but inside he is rotten. Judas shows us that the gate to hell is right beside the door to heaven.”[2]

Matthew’s more detailed account records that because of the guilt that had overtaken him, soon after this Judas committed suicide. He could not live with his blood money and with a short rope he noosed himself around a tall branch (Matt. 27:3-5). Scattered throughout the Scriptures there are many epitaphs. Perhaps over Judas’ grave we should write a quote from Jesus, “It would have been better if he had never been born (Matt. 26:24).”

It’s been said there are three kinds of believers in every church: believers, unbelievers, and make-believers.  Judas is a warning to us that it’s possible to be close to the truth of God and yet still be far away.  C.S. Lewis wrote, “You will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or John.”[3]

[1] R. Kent Hughes, The Gospel of Mark, vol. 2 (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1989), 174.
[2] Erwin Lutzer, Slandering Jesus (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2007), 64-65. 
[3] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (San Francisco: Harper One, 1940), 111. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Maker or Multiverse?

Imagine if you will a giant universe-making machine. This monolithic generator comes equipped with thousands of dials, each one corresponding to different settings. There is a dial for the speed of light, one for the force of gravity, one for the nuclear forces which hold together the sub-atomic particles, there is also a dial for the number of stars in that universe and likewise a setting for the number of spiral galaxies. As you adjust these dials, they change conditions and thus produce a uniquely different universe. Given enough chances—let say trillions upon trillions—you will eventually produce the favorable conditions of the universe we currently inhabit. It’s like playing the cosmic lottery an infinite number of times and finally winning big!

There are many serious astronomers and cosmologists who actually propose the above example is more science fact than science fiction. You may have heard of it—the multiverse theory. As the name suggests, the idea is that our universe is just one of an infinite number of universes. In a multiverse, any and every set of conditions will occur, including our own.

Take for example the multiverse musings of Steven Hawking in his most recent book The Grand Design:
            Our universe and its laws appear to have a design that is both tailor-made to support us. That is not easily explained and raises the natural question of why it is that way . . . The discovery relatively recently of the extreme fine-tuning of so many of the laws of nature could lead at least some of us back to the old idea that this grand design is the work of some Grand Designer. That is not the answer of modern science. Our universe seems to be one of many, each with different laws. The multiverse concept can explain the fine-tuning of physical law without the need for a benevolent Creator who made the universe for our benefit.”[1]      

Image result for multiple universe

As you can see, atheists like Hawking are not hiding their worldview. The multiverse theory is nothing more than extreme mental gymnastics to stretch the limits of credible science in an all-out attempt to disallow a Divine foot in the door. Rather than admitting the infinite God of Genesis 1:1, they believe in an infinite number of universes. They hope for a multiverse more than a Maker. In other words, the multiverse theory is a skeptic’s escape hatch from God.  

So next time you are witnessing to the village atheist or the casual skeptic at the office watercooler and the multiverse objection comes up, how do we offer an apologetic in favor of biblical creationism? Allow me to help you stock up your quiver so you won’t be defenseless.

First, there is not one single shred of evidence that there are more universes than our own. Dinesh D’Souza writes, “Most scientists seem to hold that we will never have empirical evidence for other universes. That is because if there are universes other than our own, they are likely to have laws that are different than the laws that govern our universe. Consequently, those universes would be inaccessible to us; we would have no way of finding out about them. A multiverse enthusiast must hold that they exist largely on the basis of faith.”[2] The question that naturally arises then is, “Do you have enough faith to be an atheist?”

Second, even if other universes could exist then who built the machine that made them? And wouldn’t those other universes need fine-tuning to get started just like ours? Really, the multiverse theory, just pushes the issue of God’s existence back one step. Positing multiple universes doesn’t eliminate the need for a Designer—it multiplies the need for a Designer!  

Image result for in the beginning

Third, the multiverse theory seems to open up a Pandora’s Box of problems. The theory is so broad that any event can be explained away by it. For example, “Why did the planes crash into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11?” We need not blame the Muslim terrorists for their actions, because we just happen to be in the universe where that happens. Somewhere out there is a universe where 9/11 doesn’t happen and one where it’s an accident. Given an infinite number of universes, no event would be improbable, let alone impossible. As Noman Geisler says, “A multiverse doesn’t multiply chances, it multiplies absurdities.”[3]

And Oxford mathematician John Lennox humorously writes, “I am tempted to add that belief in God seems an infinitely more rational option, if the alternative is to believe that every other universe that possibly can exist does exist, including one in which Richard Dawkins is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Christopher Hitchens the Pope, and Billy Graham has just been voted atheist of the year!”[4]

Ockham’s razor states that we should not multiply causes beyond necessity. It seems gratuitous to theorize an infinite number of universes, when one God will do the job. The atheist wants to abolish one infinite God so badly that they are willing to theorize an infinite number of unobservable substitutes. This is pure foolishness, just as the Bible declares in Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” -DM

[1] Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (New York: Bantam Books, 2010), 162-165.
[2] Dinesh D’Souza, God Forsaken (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2012), 174.
[3] Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 108.
[4] John C. Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target (Oxford, UK: Lion, 2011), 36.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How Does "Brexit" Align With Bible Prophecy?

Most American’s gave scant attention to a significant headline that came from across the pond this summer—the big political shake-up that has been dubbed, “Brexit.” As the name implies, it refers to the historic vote that took place on June 23, 2016 among the people of Great Britain on whether to remain part of the European Union or to leave it. When the votes were tallied, those in favor of a UK exit won 52% to 48%.  

This was big news in the Eurozone, and it would be akin to one of the larger states in America —like California or Texas—deciding to drop out of the U.S. Because of Brexit, David Cameron, the former Prime Minister resigned, allowing Theresa May to take his place. Moreover, the world economic markets took a tumble in the wake of the uncertainty, as the value of the pound plummeted to near a 30-year low.[1] While the Brexit isn’t formally taking place until 2018 it has many scratching their heads and wringing their hands wondering how this significant change will affect geopolitics and the financial sector.

While some of those immediate questions remain to be answered, we can take comfort in the fact that Bible prophecy gives us clear roadmap of the future. In fact, I would submit to you that the Brexit event actually fits the prophetic picture of global unrest in the end times.

Remember Daniel’s interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2? That polymetallic statue with the head of gold, chest of silver, torso of bronze, legs of iron and feet of iron and clay was a prophecy of world history. The metals represented the rise and fall of nations—Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome and Rome 2.0, the final one-world government of the Antichrist. Notice that as we go down the statue we move forward in time and the materials go from highest value to lowest value.

36 “This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37 You, O king . . . are the head of gold. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay . . .” (Dan. 2:36-43).

By the time we reach the base of the statue we have moved from history to prophecy, from past to future. Notice that the feet and toes are a mixture of old and new—iron and clay. This is telling us that the Roman Empire isn’t fully done away with. Some vestiges of the Roman Empire will emerge in the future, and according to Daniel, it will be in place prior to the coming to Christ to rule and reign over the earth. Since the downward movement from one section of the statue represents the passage of time and since nothing like a ten-fold coalition of Roman rule has ever occurred this shows that the fifth stage is yet to come.  Prophecy buffs have noted that the ten toes of the statue represent a ten-kingdom confederacy of nations or ten leaders who will come together to create a revived Roman Empire—Rome 2.0, so to speak.

If we apply this part of the prophecy to our times we can trace how decades of stage-setting have prepared the world for the entrance of this final kingdom. It appears today that the body known as the European Union is the revived Roman Empire described by Daniel. Several major developments provided the necessary impetus for reuniting Europe.

First, at the end of World War II a dramatic shift occurred. Instead of building up for the next great conflict, like the nations of Europe had done in the past, they decided to come together politically and economically. This officially began in 1957 when The Treaty of Rome was signed on Capitoline Hill, one of the famous Seven Hills of Rome. This first confederacy included six nations—Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy and the Netherlands.

Second, the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 has also played a key role. The collapse of Communism throughout Eastern Europe in the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s removed the biggest remaining barrier to European Union. Germany was reunited and all of Eastern Europe was liberated to seek its own destiny. On April 16, 2004, in the shadow of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, eight Eastern European nations joined the EU that could have never joined as long at the Soviet bloc was still thriving. Those nations brought the population of the EU to nearly half a billion.   

Then on January 1, 2002 the EU officially released its common currency called, “the euro.” Many economists expect that one day the euro will replace the dollar as the standard world currency. The strength of the euro has enticed many countries to coalesce with the EU.

So, how does Brexit fit with Daniel’s prophecy? When the UK does drop out of the EU it will take its membership down to 27 countries. The key I believe is found in the image of the iron and clay. The prophecy tells that the iron will be mixed with clay, which speaks of weakness and instability. This mixture of iron and clay shows that these kingdoms will try to strengthen themselves by forming alliances with each other through intermingling. Picture a coalition of diverse racial, religious, and political elements which will makeup this final revived Roman Empire. Strong nations will ally with weak nations. But they will not hold together, just as iron and clay do not coalesce. Doesn’t Brexit fit perfectly with this image of instability?   
Accordingly, I believe the EU will remain volatile until it is united and stabilized by the Antichrist who will then use it as his base of operations from which he will build his world empire. As of this moment, God is moving the chess pieces on the board of world politics. He is setting the stage and putting all the props and characters into place for the curtain to rise and the final act of His divine drama to be played out as it was written down in advance so many years ago.

And the best is yet to come! Because at the end of Daniel’s prophecy we read that a stone that comes from the heavens, “not cut by human hands,” and it strikes the statue, grinding it into powder. The stone then grows to the size of mountain and it fills the whole earth.

According to the Daniel, this is a picture of the return of Christ, the Rock of Ages, who will come back in power and glory and depose the kingdoms of man and set up His millennial kingdom on Earth to rule with a rod of iron from a throne in Jerusalem. Do you see the puzzle pieces of prophecy coming together? They are spelling an unmistakable message—Jesus is Coming!  

[1] Kim Hjelmgaard and Jane Onyanga-Omara, “Explainer: The What, When and Why of ‘Brexit,’” USA Today, 21 June 2016 <> 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Knocking at the Door

In 1851 British artist William Holman Hunt created a painting entitled “The Light of the World.” It has become one of the most recognizable religious paintings in modern history, as it has been copied and reproduced by several artists. Hunt has Jesus standing at the tightly-closed door of a seemingly neglected cottage. Christ holds a lantern in one hand; His other hand is raised to knock on the door as if to gain entrance. However, if you look diligently you’ll notice that the most unique feature of the painting is that there is no knob or handle on the outside of the door. For Christ to gain entrance to the cottage, the door would have to be opened from within.

The motivation for Hunt’s painting was Revelation 3:20—a verse capturing Christ’s words to the church in Laodicea. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” The Laodicean church had become tepid and apathetic, yet Christ, the consummate gentleman, refused to force Himself into its midst. He was standing patiently in the chill of the night, waiting to be invited in.

What a sad picture—and the implication is stunning, if Christ can’t get in, then neither can anyone else. If you are careful to study the seven churches in Revelation, then you know each one is not only historic, but also prophetic. Meaning, that the assessments made by Christ not only described real first-century congregations that we should learn from, but they also foretell the different epochs of church history from then till present day.

The Laodicean church, being the last of the seven, represents the lukewarm spirit of the Church on earth just prior to the rapture, tribulation and the return of Jesus. It’s a Church that is materially wealthy, but spiritual impoverished. A church too busy with plans and programs and pride that it is oblivious to the fact that Christ has been shut-out. Instead of being refreshing, the Laodicean church is revolting, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16).

It doesn’t take long to see that the contemporary church fits this description. Instead of preaching the biblical Gospel which requires us to take up a cross, we have a comfortable health-and-wealth Gospel which tells us that we can have our “Best Life Now.” Instead of a church that stands on biblical convictions we have a church of easy compromise where the Bible is up for debate, where Jesus is not the way, but one way to heaven, where topics like sin and judgment have been erased from the vocabulary. Instead of worship where Christ is the focus, we have services that are suited to our preferences and tastes—the seats can’t be too hard, the temperature must be just right and music should make us feel good about ourselves.

Listen to the powerful commentary on the Church offered by Steven J. Lawson:
            “As the Church advances into the twenty-first century, the stress to produce booming ministries has never been greater. Influenced by corporate mergers, towering skyscrapers, and expanding economies, bigger is perceived as better, and nowhere is this “Wall Street” mentality more evident than in the church. Sad to say, pressure to produce bottomline results has led many ministries to sacrifice the centrality of biblical preaching on the altar of man-centered pragmatism.
A new way of “doing” church is emerging. In this radical paradigm shift, exposition is being replaced with entertainment, preaching with performances, doctrine with drama, and theology with theatrics. The pulpit, once the focal point of the church, is now being overshadowed by a variety of church-growth techniques, everything from trendy worship styles to glitzy presentations to vaudeville-like pageantries. In seeking to capture the upperhand in church growth, a new wave of pastors is reinventing church and repackaging the gospel into a product to be sold to “consumers.”
Whatever reportedly works in one church is being franchised out to various “markets” abroad. As when gold was discovered in the foothills of California, so ministers are beating a path to the doorsteps of exploding churches and super-hyped conferences where the latest “strike” has been reported. Unfortunately, the newly panned gold often turns out to be “fool’s gold.” Not all that glitters is actually gold.
Admittedly pastors can learn from growing churches and successful ministries. Yet God’s work must be done God’s way if it is to know God’s blessing. He provides the power and He alone receives the glory only as His divinely prescribed plan for ministry is followed. When man-centered schemes are followed, often imitating the world’s schemes, the flesh provides the energy and man receives the glory…In a strange twist, the preaching of the cross is now foolishness, not only to the world, but also to the church.”[1]

Friends, the church of this era won’t be killed by persecution, but by prosperity. The only hope is to declare spiritual bankruptcy, open the door and let the Master back in. -DM

[1] Steven J. Lawson, “The Priority of Biblical Preaching: An Expository Study of Acts 2:42-47,” Bibliotheca Sacra 158 (April-June 2001), 198-199.