Pastor's Blog

Wednesday
Feb162011

A Spiritual Battle Plan

February 15, 2011
Pastor Hammond 

Do you ever feel like you’re fighting an endless battle?  The Bible is clear that Christians are, in fact,  in a spiritual battle!   In Ephesians 6:12, Paul wrote, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  The Devil knows that he's already lost us to Christ; he lost that battle.  His only remaining opportunity is to engage us in a spiritual battle in order to harm our walk with the LORD.   How can a believer be prepared for this battle?

Tactic #1:  Choose to Resist the Devil 

Praise God that Christians may know that the LORD has perfect authority over the Satan and his demons.   So, it comes as no surprise that His words offer the key to winning spiritual battles:   In James 4:7, the Bible says, " Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."  We’re promised that, when we  submit ourselves to the Lord and resist the devil, the devil feels from us!  

Tactic #2:  Choose to Find Strength for the Battle in the LORD 

Praise God, that we don't have to fight the battle our own strength.  In Ephesians 6, Pauls tells us that we may find strength for the battle in the Lord, i.e.  we can know His strength, His power and His might to overcome the devil.  See these verses:

Ephesians 6:10 ¶ Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might

Tactic #3:  Choose to Put on the “Whole Armour of God”

The LORD gives us His strength for the battle -- and he equips with the armor that protect us for the battle.  In Ephesians 6,  Paul implores us to put on the "whole armour of God" for this battle:

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;  15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:  18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;  19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.

Our armour includes the truth of God's word (v. 14),  righteousness that we have found in Christ (v. 14), the gospel (v. 15), faith (v. 16),  salvation (v. 17), and the Holy Spirit (v. 17).  Also note the critical importance of the "word of God" (v. 17) and "praying always" (v. 18).  When the enemy attacks, we need to get even more serious about being in the Bible and prayer.  The enemy know that these are powerful weapons.  So, he wants us to be discouraged from reading the Bible and from spending time in prayer.  Don't allow him to discourage you!  Pray and ask the LORD to help you remain faithful to Bible reading and prayer. 

Tactic # 4:  Choose to Separate from the Ungodly Influences of the World

The devil is a crafty adversary who conscripts the world and the people of the world to aid him in battle.   That’s a practical reason why it’s so important for Christians to separate from the influence of worldly friends and other negative influences.  And let's be reminded that the LORD has commanded us to do just that!

2 Corinthians 6:14-18  14 ¶ Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers... 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,  18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Consider your entertainments and your involvements.  And consider your social circle.  Ask the LORD to show you if you need to make changes.  And draw upon His strength to make changes that will be pleasing to Him. 

Tactic #5:  Praise God that we’ve been made “new creatures” who don’t have to be ashamed of past sins

Perhaps none of the devil’s tactics is so effective as encouraging us to focus on memories of past sin.  However, believers may also know that all  of those past sins are 100% forgiven.  You've been made a "new creature in Christ..." (2 Corinthians 5:17).  "... old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."  The Bible says that when we are obedient to the LORD, we do not need to be ashamed.  In Psalm 119:6, the psalmist wrote,  "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments."  It's those unsaved people who are still living wicked lives who should be ashamed.  And Psalm 31:17 says, "Let me not be ashamed, O LORD; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed..."  

The Bible also says that you can have a "good conscience" when you're prepared to give the gospel to those "evildoers" around you."

1 Peter 3:14-17  14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye:: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;  15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:  16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.  17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. 

So, pray and ask the LORD to use an encounter with someone from the past as an opportunity to share the gospel with that person!  But also be sure to ask the LORD to protect you from any negative influence as you encounter people from the past.

Tactic #6 - Understand that the battle will end!

The prophet Zechariah reminds us that a day is coming when "all the saints" will come with the LORD (Zech. 14:5) to enjoy a time when the "the LORD shall be king over all the earth" (Zech. 14:9).  And shortly thereafter, the Devil will be bound (Rev. 20:2).  Praise God that we may look forward to  such a wonderful future with Christ!

Conclusion

Praise God that he has given us all that we need to prevail in the Spiritual battle that He has permitted for this time.  Let’s re-commit to availing ourselves of all that the LORD has provided!  Let’s recommit to spending time in His word.  And let’s get serious about being people of prayer.  Lastly, let’s ask the LORD for strength to separate from the ungodly influences of this world – and instead, influence those lost people through the Gospel of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday
Feb122011

Should Christians Practice Yoga?

This post is adapted from an article that originally appeared in our ladies publication, The Way of Holiness , February 2011, by Jackie Thorpe (Edited by Pastor Hammond). 

 

In recent decades, the world has seen vast progress toward it's goal of unifying and globizing much of our modern institutions.  We now have a world bank and international courts.  And we have a pan-european parliament.  So it comes as little surprise to see a movement that seeks to unify the world's faiths into a single worldwide church.   And, indeed, throughout much of the 20th century, the so-called Ecumenical Movement made much progress in it's effort to unify Christianity across the globe.  This effort has encouraged nominal Christians of various backgrounds to globalize their faith by minimizing their doctrinal distinctives.  

 

In a clear allusion to the one-world religious system of the coming Tribulation Period, the Ecumenical Movement has broadened to include many of the world's false faiths.  Today, many in the Ecumenical movement seek to encourage acceptance of the practices of false religious systems by "Christianizing" those practices.  And, there's little doubt that this has included efforts to encourage Christians to accept Yoga - a religious practice that Hindus claim is virtually inseparable from their faith.


Haven't we seen this sort of thing before?   

  

For centuries, The Roman Empire, was held together through Caesar worship.  The Roman one world government required a one world religion.  However, in 315 AD, the Roman Emperor, Constantine,  prayed for victory in the name of Jesus during a particularly difficult battle of war. So grateful was he to the Christian god for his victory that day, that he made the Imperial decision that all the Roman Empire must become Christian.    

  

Though the Roman Empire had worshiped the ruling Caesars as gods, they also worshipped lesser gods, which have become known down through the generations as the mythical gods of Rome.  In order to  make Christianity palatable to the empire, Emperor Constantine Christianized all Roman temples, statues, symbols, holidays and rituals. The pagan temples were now called churches, statues of male gods were now dubbed Peter or Paul, the wheel of life symbol eventually represented the Eucharistic host. 

  

Today, the Ecumenical Movement  seeks to employ the same tactic to  bring all religions into one worldwide faith. Terms like  communion, salvation, social justice, are being given new meanings for all to accept.   Many new age practices have been Christianized, causing unsuspecting Christians to enter into realms and practices that God forbids. Eastern meditation is now called contemplative prayer.  New Age prayer circles are now being practiced as Christian prayer circles. 

 

The Ecumenical Movement claims that it‘s goal is limited to the unification of only those religions and denominations that name the name of Jesus.  But their interfaith outreach to spiritist,  Hindus and other pagan religions challenges that assertion.   Some grave examples are the Christianizations of Hindu, Zen Buddha and Shinto practices.   Hinduism has entered Christian circles mainly through Yoga. Yogi Masters such as Baba Prem claim that it is impossible to separate Yoga from Hindu philosophy. Baba correctly asserts that the roots to modern day yoga come from Vedic Yoga -- the same Vedic Yoga that is the authority of Hinduism.  Yet, some Christians have wrongly choses to insist that Yoga is only exercise.

 

Since all reliable sources state that Yoga is first and foremost a philosophy, Christians who dabble in Yoga are at risk of direct disobedience to the Word of God. The apostle Paul warns,  "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ, (Col 2:8).

 

Since any philosophy involves a set of basic principles or concepts underlying a particular sphere of knowledge, anyone practicing Yoga is essentially halting between two philosophies which  cannot be reconciled.  Elijah asks, "How long will you halt between two opinions..?" (1 Kings 18:21).  God also asks Christians to separate from the world. Yoga is of the world.

 

2 Corinthians 6:14-18  14 ¶ Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers...  17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,  18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

 

Hinduism and Christianity cannot be yoked.  As such, a choice  must be made. Yoga inherently asks for the yoking of practitioners to be one with the universe. The  Lord asks that we be submitted to Him. Only one master can be served.

 

When the Romans were presented with statues of Venus or Diana Christianized into the Virgin Mary they still saw them as Venus and Diana.  Similarly, when the ecumenists present Yoga as Christian exercise and mediation, God still sees it as Hindu. Yoga plays with the mind. One of its goals is to encourage relaxation, through both physical form and eastern style mediation. In contrast, Biblical meditation fills the mind with scripture and worship. Eastern forms of meditations require emptying the mind.  An empty mind is a play ground for demonic spirits. New Age channelers of angels and "spirit guides" begin by calling up the spirits that serve them by emptying their minds to allow the spirits to take over.  Is it any wonder that we are told to daily put on the helmet of salvation to protect our minds? (Eph 6:17). 

 

The heart of every Christian knows, through the workings of the Holy Spirit, when it is out of God‘s will. Beware of defensive phrases such as:   "it‘s only ..." or "what can it hurt?" or "it‘s just for fun", or "I don‘t see the harm" or "It‘s only exercise."  

Christians are called to lead a life that brings pleasure to the LORD.  In Rev. 4:11, John wrote, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

Giving up those things which weigh us down and displease the Lord require such little sacrificing in return for the great sacrifice He made for us. If one wants exercise and chooses Yoga, something deeper is being sought.  Neither Ecumenism, New Age philosophy, Hinduism, nor Yoga can offer the rest of eternal salvation.  If you're practicing Yoga, please consider it's relationship to the false faith of Hinduism - and ask for the LORD's strength to separate from this practice. 

 


Friday
Jan282011

Preparing for a message from Zephaniah

January 28, 2011
Pastor Hammond

LORD willing, this Sunday morning, I will preach from the Old Testament book of Zephaniah.  Please be in prayer for me and for our services. 

Zephania was  a pre-exhile prophet of Judah who wrote between 640-620 B.C.  Like the other minor prophets, he warned Judah of great judgment for their failure to repent of various sins.  

And then, in the closing chapter (3), we have the privilege to see a wonderful prophesy the future Millenial Kingdom of Christ -- Christ's 1,000-year reign on earth.  

Permit me to encourage you to read this short book as soon as possible.  You'll want to be armed with an undertanding of these eight words or phrases that may be unfamiliar:

chemarims (1:4)  - literally refers to burning or blackening.  In context, seems to refer to pagan ministers

malcham (1:5) - Another form of Milcom and Moloch, the idol of Moab and Ammon (Faussets Bible Dictionary)

fish gate (1:10) - location of a fish market at a gated entry to Jerusalem.  Always mentioned in the context of sin (e.g. working in the market on the Sabbath)  

maktesh (1:11) - literally motar.  Possibly a reference to the hollowed-out shape of the area.  Appears to refer to the northern part of Jerusalem where foreign merchants congregated.  

cormorant (2:14) - an unclean bird. Perhaps a pelican.  A voracious, but silent bird.

bittern (2:14) - A nocturnal member of the heron family, frequenting swamps and marshy places. Its Hebrew name means a creature of waste and desert places.  Known for its loud cry.  (ISBE Bible Dictionary)

lintels (2:14) - home --  or, can refer specifically the head-piece of a door, which the Israelites were commanded to mark with the blood of the paschal lamb.   

suppliants (3:10) - humble petitioners

Also note this interesting bit of trivia:   Zephaniah 3:8 is unique in that, in the original Hebrew, this single verse uses all of the Hebrew consonants!

 

Wednesday
Jan052011

Is Punishment in Hell Eternal?

January 4, 2011
Pastor Hammond 

Recently, I was asked to comment on a verse in the Gospel of Matthew, where the Bible says, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).  The question regarded the phrase, "...able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Some understand that phrase as a reference to so-called annihilationism - or the idea that, in hell,  the LORD will end the conscious existence of the unrepentant rather punish them eternally.  

I approached my response to this question like any other Bible question: (1) I compare scripture with scripture and (2) I look at the meaning of the underlying words.

When we compare Mathew 10:28 with other relevant passages, we see clearly that both hell and punishment in hell are "everlasting."  

  • Matthew 25:46  "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal"
     
  •  2 Thessalonians 1:8-9  8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:  9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;  

Given the clarity of the above verses, we must conclude that annihilationism is inconsistent with scripture.  

Further, when we examine the Greek word that's translated "destroy" (
apollymi)  in Mathew 10:28, we make observations that lend further support to our conclusion.  Apollymi appears at least 91 times in the Greek text that underlies our King James Bible.  In 31 times of those instances, apollymi is translated "lose," "be lost," or "lost." Vine's dictionary notes that the idea of apollymi "is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being."   This is key to understanding Mathew 10:28, i.e. to "destroy both soul and body in hell" doesn't refer to a literal end of one's conscious existence.  Rather, it refers to a conscious state of loss (of the presence of God and reward in heaven). 

Given all of the above observations, we must conclude that both hell and punishment in hell are eternal. But, praise God that hell will be avoided by everyone who has repented of sin and placed their faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 1 John 5:13).  The reality of both heaven and hell should be strong motivators for believers to share the Gospel message - including a warning of the reality of eternal punishment for those who reject Christ.


Tuesday
Dec282010

Problems With Tel Aviv University Report Regarding Human Origins

December 28, 2010
Pastor Hammond

On December 27, the Associated Press reported that "a Tel Aviv University team excavating a cave in central Israel said teeth found in the cave are about 400,000 years old and resemble those of other remains of modern man, known scientifically as Homo Sapiens found in Israel."  According to the report, "the earliest Homo sapiens remains found until now are half as old."
 
Bible-believing Christians will recognize significant problems with this report.  The Tel Aviv Univerity team employed faulty assumptions to arrive at a conclusion that is entirely inconsistent with Scripture.

1.  The dating of the tooth is based on faulty assumptions regarding the age of the earth.  Note that the Tel Aviv University team freely admits that they concluded that the tooth was 400,000 years old because of the "layers of earth where they were found." 

"It's very exciting to come to this conclusion," said archaeologist Avi Gopher, whose team examined the teeth with X-rays and CT scans and dated them according to the layers of earth where they were found.
Gopher and team assume that the layers of earth observed around their discovery required at least hundreds of thousands of years to form.  However, the Bible simply does not permit the earth to be that old.  The Bible timeline only permits the earth to be 5,000 – 6,000 –years-old. Even if we interpret the Bible timeline rather loosely, the Earth cannot be more than 10,000-years-old.   The layers of earth observed by Gopher's team are easily explained by the Biblical account of a global flood during the lifetime of Noah.

2.  The team from Tel Aviv University wrongly assume that "modern man" evolved from more primitive human-like forms including Neanderthals.  The Theory of Evolution proposes that that over millions of years, relatively complex life forms (including man) evolved from simpler forms of life. While this is an intriguing scientific theory, the Bible does not permit this possibility. Rather, the Bible teaches that the LORD created all forms of life as distinct, fully-developed life-forms during a literal six-day creation week.
The language of Genesis chapter 1 speaks of six literal days of creation. Six times, the Bible describes the days of the creation week as being composed of an “evening and morning.” The LORD used very literal language in order to rule out the possibility that he was referring to longer periods of time (i.e. millions or billions of years).

In Genesis chapter 1, the Bible says that all forms of life were created to reproduce “after his kind.” Grass produces grass; whales produce whales, beasts of the earth produce beasts of earth. Multiple times, the Lord repeated that each form of life reproduces “after his kind.” This phrase refutes the possibility of evolution because it refutes the possibility that one life form evolved into “another kind” of life. Rather, each form of life reproduces “after his kind.”

In Genesis 1:26-28, the Bible teaches that the LORD created man separately from animals. We have an origin that is distinct and separate from the origin of plants, sea life and animals. Man was created at a distinct point in time (v.26-27). And man was created separately from animals (vs. 24-25) and separately from sea life and birds (fifth day of creation). And the Bible is clear that only man was created “in the image of God.” (1:26). The literal language of Genesis 1 excludes the possibility that man evolved from other forms of life.

The Bible is clear that death entered the world as a result of sin (Rom. 5:12). Therefore, if the theory of evolution is true, nothing could have died for millions (or billions) of years, i.e. nothing could have died until man evolved “far enough to sin.” This isn’t possible because the earth isn’t large enough to accommodate all of the animals that would have been produced over the millions or billions of years that evolutionist claim were required for man to evolve.  As such, we must also reject the so-called "Gap theory."
The tooth discovered by the Tel Aviv University team does nothing to bring the truth of the Bible into question.  Both their assumptions and their conclusions are faulty.  Please pray that Bible-believing Christians will not be deceived by the theory of evolution.