Tuesday, February 28, 2017


The search for happiness is a life-controlling pursuit. We might seek it in many ways, but we all seek it. However, happiness is an elusive butterfly, seemingly within reach but almost impossible to grasp.

Social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, has observed:

·       “You dream of getting a promotion, being accepted into a prestigious school, or finishing a big project.  You work every waking hour, perhaps imagining how happy you will be if you could just achieve that goal.  Then you succeed, and if you’re lucky you get an hour, maybe a day, of euphoria.”

Many are convinced that wealth buys happiness. However, after exploring the data, Haidt concluded:

·       “Wealth itself has only a small direct effect on happiness because it so effectively speeds up the hedonic treadmill… As the level of wealth has doubled or tripled in the last fifty years in many industrialized nations, the levels of happiness and satisfaction with life that people report have not changed, and depression has actually become more common.”     

We tend to dream about what we do not have. While the wealthy might continue to obsessively pursue wealth as the addict pursues his drug, they have little hope that it can buy the happiness they seek.

And it’s not just wealth that disappoints. Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert cites other failed dreams:

·       “From field studies to laboratory studies, we see that winning or losing an election, gaining or losing a romantic partner, getting or not getting a promotion, passing or not passing a college test, on and on, have far less impact, less intensity and much less duration than people expect them to have.”

Instead, unlike in animal world, the human dream for temporal satisfaction often morphs into a dream of the eternal, if it remains alive. Haidt wrote,

·       “Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger.”

Why should we despair of having our dreams fulfilled in the temporal? There are many indications that we were made for relationship and not for self-fulfillment. Philosopher Alain de Botton identifies an overlooked but important distinction:

·       “[Modern society has] nothing at its center that is non-human. We are the first society to be living in a world where we don’t worship anything other than ourselves.”

Although it is natural to want to be fulfilled, perhaps we have been focusing on the wrong thing. MIT Professor Ian Hutchinson became a Christian at Cambridge University. He found that the most fundamental aspect of reality is the ultimate “loving relationship”:

·       “The fundamental assumption in the intellectual West today is that there is no reality beyond what natural science discovers and that there is no authority or good higher than the freedom of the individual. Both science and individual freedom are good. But followers of Jesus, like me, have a different view. We believe that both the deepest reality and the highest moral meaning, good, and authority are to be found in loving relationship.” (All of the above quotations: http://www.veritas.org/modern-psychology-biblical-wisdom/ )

Meanwhile, some claim that this relationship is delusional, perhaps an irrational by-product of evolution. But consider this – if evolution has equipped us with senses and intuitions fine-tuned for our survival and successful navigation of this world – and the irrational works against a successful adaptation – perhaps a belief in the Transcendent is not irrational. Perhaps it is as instructive of reality as is our moral, aesthetic, and taste-bud intuitions.

A belief in the God of the Bible is associated with many benefits – survival advantages. The deceased psychiatrist, M. Scott Peck, had written the highly popular book, “The Road Less Traveled.” It had been successful because he was able to infuse barren psychology and clinical practice with a more robust and richer portrait of ourselves through his Buddhism. However, over the years, he began to observe improvement of a certain group of his patients, those who believed that their Savior would bring them through. Peck concluded:

·       Now what better news can there be than we cannot lose, we are bound to win? We are guaranteed winners once we realize that everything that happens to us has been designed to teach us what we need to know on our journey. (“Further Along the Road Less Traveled” was written 15 years later.)

He became so convinced about the need for this conviction that he too became a Christian.

This doesn’t mean that our dream has been fulfilled in this life. However, as radar can detect the approach of an airplane, we too can detect the fruition of our not-too-distant dream.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


It’s not too difficult. For one thing, the false prophet preached a popular, politically correct message:

·       “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace," they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:11-12)

The false prophets of Israel had been masters in presenting a message that was broadly marketable. They told the people what they wanted to hear:

·       “They continually say to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, "You shall have peace" '; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, 'No evil shall come upon you.' I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.” (Jeremiah 23:17-18; 14:13-14)

In contrast to this comforting message, the Lord wanted Israel to hear the opposite – a warning to repent. However, this is a distasteful message.

It is little different today. The false prophet preaches a popular message, which attracts many. He teaches that we can and should be wealthy, if only we would just believe this false gospel. The Christian evolutionist preaches that we can be Christians and evolutionists. We can have professional respectability without compromising the Gospel. The mystic teaches that all can partake of the intimacy and grace of God with just a few simple exercises, apart from faith and repentance.

Instead, the true and loving message would be the uncomfortable one, the one that demanded repentance. However, Israel had little appreciation for such a message.

There is another way we can discern the true prophet from the false. The true prophet will be persecuted. The false prophet knows how to win popularity and approval.

The Prophets of Israel were all persecuted by the people they were trying to help:

·       “Why do you contend with me? You have all transgressed against me,” declares the LORD. “In vain have I struck your children; they took no correction; your own sword devoured your prophets like a ravening lion.” (Jeremiah 2:29-30)

Ordinarily, humankind hates the light of God (John 3:19-20) and will attempt to extinguish it. The false prophet is not the source of light. Instead, he enables the people to remain comfortably in their darkness.

In prayer, the Levites under Nehemiah acknowledged that God had been good to Israel. However, this wasn’t enough to keep them from rebellion. Instead, they killed the Prophets of God, whom He had sent to warn Israel:

·       “Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies.” (Nehemiah 9:26)

In contrast, we have no record of the false prophets being persecuted. And why should they be! They were studiously giving the people just what they wanted to hear.

The author of the Chronicles concluded with an explanation of Israel’s tragic history:

·       The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

Jesus reaffirmed this indictment in many ways:

·       Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town…O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matthew 23:34, 37)

The same hatred of the light would also send Jesus to His death. However, Jesus warned us that it would also be the same for any who were determined to live for Him:

·       “Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues…Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 10:17, 21-22)

But why would we be hated? Because we too are of the light:

·       “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept MY WORD, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:18-20)

True messengers of the light will love His Word more than their own lives. We will seek to honor Him through His Word above seeking our own honor. However, the world cannot tolerate such light and will seek to kill us. Therefore, Jesus said:

·       “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” (John 16:1-2)

Gnosticism had been a popular heresy in the early church. It taught an affirming gospel. If you are one of the spiritual elite, you have the truth-within and don’t need the Bible. Unsurprisingly, the Gnostic Christians didn’t suffer persecution. They didn’t love the Word more than their own lives and were free to modify their truth-within to fit the times.

However, according to Jesus, true believers would be hated by all, even by so-called brothers:

·       “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” (Matthew 24:9-11)

Even our brethren will turn on us, and we see this happening today. The Bible-believing Christian is held in contempt by many churches. These churches preach “Peace, peace” and embrace the prevailing culture. They prefer to be acceptable to the world and their professional communities than to God. They love the praise of men rather than the praise of God (Proverbs 29:25; John 5:42-44). They claim that the Word of God is not enough and seek to be culturally relevant.

However, Jesus provided an important test:

·       “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:23-24)

This is how we can know if we truly are His. However, we will suffer persecution for His Word’s sake, but it is a blessing and also an encouragement that we are walking in the light:

·       “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23)

When we seek to please God through obedience to His Word, we will swim against the currents of the culture and will be hated. However, be of good cheer, for our Lord reigns.


According to Rob Bell, it is:

·       "We're moments away," Rob Bell said. "I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbors and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone." http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2015/02/rob_bell_on_gay_marriage_were.html

Bell claims that the Church is not relevant as long as it quotes New Testament letters. Instead, our opinions have to be formed through our culturally conditioned eyes – what we see.

“Culturally conditioned eyes?” Certainly! In the past, almost every culture and religion informed our eyes that there was something wrong with same-sex sex. It is only today, in our “aware” and “advanced” culture that our eyes tell us otherwise.

Why? Certainly, it has a lot to do with our power elites – the mainstream media and the universities – which have silenced any speech to the contrary as “hate speech.” However, for Bell, these molders of public opinion are wiser than the Bible.

But why should we regard the Bible as the wisdom of God rather than the wisdom of man, trapped within their own myopic cultures? This, of course, is a lengthy discussion, but let me just present several considerations in support of the Bible as God’s Word:



Should we be criticizing false and defective gospels? One sister took issue with me on this account:

·       You know, Daniel, with all the horrific sin in the world and all those unbelievers out there needing to know the Gospel of Christ, I do not see the benefit in criticizing any ministry regardless of doctrine provided that they adhere to the basic tenets of the faith. Mega ministries such as these, have the resources to send missionaries all over the world, spreading the gospel, providing millions of dollars to feed the destitute. I believe Christ's bride in all its forms, will be contended with by the bridegroom in his own time. It is NOT our mission to dissuade people by these posts from attending Churches.

While it is true that we are in no position to separate the wheat from the tares (weeds), the Bible is filled with admonitions for us to be alert to false teaching. Paul had written:

·       See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

·       Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one DISQUALIFY YOU, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:16-19)

If we can be “disqualified,” shouldn’t the love of God and of His Church require us to warn? Jesus certainly did His share of warning:

·       “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15; Mark 8:15)

Mustn’t we follow suit! I therefore wrote to this sister:

“I think that people must be warned against other gospels. The NT certainly speaks a lot into this area:

·       Galatians 1:6-9 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

I think that we need to ultimately be concerned about loving God by abiding in His Word and being a light. Consequently, considerations about how much “good” a defective gospel is achieving or how many people are being “saved” through it must be secondary.

But where to draw the line? This is not an easy question. There are certainly honest disagreements that do not seriously impact the Gospel. I just want to point out that Paul regarded some seemingly innocuous digressions as quite serious:

·       1 Timothy 4:1-3 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Is teaching against marriage and certain foods that consequential? Paul claimed that because of such teaching, “some will depart from the faith.”

Please notice that I am not even calling Osteen or Campolo false teachers or false brothers. I am merely pointing to the fact that their teachings depart from the Bible, and that this is something that we required to do:

·       2 Timothy 2:24-26 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, CORRECTING his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

This applies especially to preachers of the Word. We are instructed:

·       1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

What if we do not test these false prophets and their teachings? We are culpable before God. The Ephesians had been commended for this:

·       Revelation 2:2 “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.”

Other churches were criticized because they failed to exercise biblical discernment and tolerated teachings that they shouldn’t have tolerated (Rev. 2:14, 20). When we remain silent, we endorse false teaching and sin, if we know to do good and do not do it (James 4:17).”

Can we truly weigh the fruits of a defective gospel? If our calculated silence about the conflict between evolution and the Bible has enabled the Gospel to penetrate into the university, isn’t this justification enough? If mega-churches have been built upon the prosperity ministry and, seemingly, many have come to the Lord through it, do we have any basis to preach against it?

The US South had been a godless place. Missionaries, preaching an anti-slavery message, had tried to penetrate it for years without success. However, subsequent missionaries found that the Gospel could take root as long as they didn’t preach against slavery. Who could argue against such results? Time could!

We have payed dearly for this omission. However, this isn’t the primarily consideration. Rather, we have failed to love God enough to preach His full counsel (Acts 20:26-32).