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Archive for June 2019

From Noah to America

by Dick Hill

We just finished our tenth Cousin Camp at the Ponderosa. The highlight for me, and I hope for my seven grandchildren who attended, was time spent in God’s Word twice daily tying in history to the characters in Genesis. God gave a strange prophecy to Noah concerning Noah’s three sons: Ham, Shem, and Japheth in Genesis 9:25-27. He said that God would enlarge Japheth and that he would dwell in the tent of Shem and that Canaan (Ham’s son) would be his servant. He said that the living God who created everything would be Shem’s God.     

Many paganistic gods would pepper the ancient world. Japheth’s family would become large (be enlarged) in number and power, and they would profit spiritually from the God of Shem. The way that God said it in the passage is that Japheth would “dwell in the tent of Shem.” As I told the children, this was “prophet speak” for Shem’s blessing of serving the living God being shared with Japheth. I taught them briefly one specific incident of how this has happened precisely as God had predicted by the founding of this nation.

Upon leaving the ark, Japheth’s family went on to form the endo-European nations. Right in the geographic center of these nations today is the small country of Germany, which is referred to as “Gomer” and specifically “Ashkenaz” in Genesis ten. As a side note, it is interesting that Germany still claims to be the center of Europe even today (Google it).  There are still Jews today who call themselves Ashkenazi Jews (German Jews). It is my view that Japheth first drove his tent pegs into German soil, and then from Germany his family scattered and spread, forming the European Continent (some 44 countries, give or take).

Shem’s shared blessing with Japheth worked to perfection. The gospel of God’s grace preached by Paul and the rest of the apostles had been bogged down for centuries, buried in the dredges of the Roman religious system. I gave a brief footnote teaching about Nimrod and the beginning and spread of paganism, the worship of God’s creation. This evil system filled with gods and goddesses collided head on with the church of Jesus Christ around 300 A.D. The result of this crash resulted in the formation of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. The Roman church deemphasized the clear, unobstructed gospel with a plethora of religious rituals and ceremonies. There is no doubt that people came to faith under this system because of God’s faithfulness to give life to those whom He has chosen.

The clear gospel was hidden as the church began to teach that one had to be baptized by the church in order to be saved. Other works were added, including absolution (the confessing of sins to a man), indulgences (payment to get a loved one out of purgatory), a false view of transubstantiation (the elements of the Lord’s supper actually become the body and blood of Christ), the deification and worship of Mary, and Purgatory. These are all subtle ways of adding man’s works to God’s finished work of Christ on the cross.

It was not luck or chance that in 1517 God revealed to a German Monk named Martin Luther His unblemished truth of God’s magnificent grace. This was a part of Japheth dwelling in the tent of Shem. It was also not chance that a German named Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press at that very time so that the retrieved gospel could be jettisoned throughout Europe and the world.

The Church of England (also Japheth’s territory) made some serious changes. They emphasized less form and more substance,moving ever closer to the truth of grace. Again, many were, no doubt, saved within this church movement, but the Puritans began to take a firm stand, calling upon the church to become even more Bible-centered and to better clarify salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. But there were still many, maybe even most, fighting for the reestablishment of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, many good and godly people were burned at the stake by the Roman Church for preaching what they felt was the reformation heresy.

The Separatists, a small group of believers that wanted to remain absolutely true to the gospel both by word and by life, felt it necessary for true believers to become totally separate from this universal system – and even the Puritans. It was from this small assembly that a group called “Pilgrims” came to America.

Wow! The grandchildren were astounded that Noah’s prophecy in an amazing way ultimately led to helping to establish America.  While they were recovering from this truth, I went out on a limb by explaining that in my view God raised up this great nation for two very special reasons. One is that we might become the greatest missionary sending country the world has ever known. The second reason is to become an ally to the people of Israel (Shem), thus receiving God’s blessing associated with His promise to bless those who dared to bless Abram and to curse those who cursed him (Genesis 12:3). This truth is teetering perilously in the balance today.      

 

Gospel Pie

by Danny Forrest

What’s your favorite pie?  Pecan, coconut cream, sweet potato, chocolate, lemon or maybe you would prefer a savory pie like chicken pot pie, or other meat pies. My mother made the best pecan pie that I have ever eaten.  I have her recipe that I follow meticulously, but my pecan pie still doesn’t seem to be as good as Mom’s.  I have learned that recipes are very important.  Every time I have ever veered off a good recipe to try and make it my own creation, it never seems to measure up to the original.

Good cooks oftentimes keep recipes in their head.  They follow that recipe so many times that it becomes entrenched in their memory.  My brother-in-law Joe was like that. He created dishes that I would travel from Texas to Alabama to partake in.   Joe recently passed away of a sudden and unexpected heart attack.  He was a good friend and will be missed by many.  His recipes will also be missed.  As I was preparing to deliver the eulogy at Joe’s “celebration of life” service, I thought of the very first time I met Joe almost 30 years ago.  He was dating my sister Mary, and since I was the first person from Mary’s family that he had met, he wanted to make a good impression on me.   He did what he did best, he cooked.  

The dish I remember most was Joe’s spaghetti and meat sauce.  He was meticulous with the ingredients.  My idea of spaghetti sauce usually comes from a jar but that would have been an insult to Joe.  He combined all the ingredients for the sauce and then he cooked it all day. Needless to say, Joe became my friend very quickly.  Joe and my Mom both taught me something about cooking and about life: put in the right ingredients and the outcome will be good, maybe even great.

I have discovered that God is the master at putting together the right ingredients.  Just look around at the beauty of creation.  God’s character, His eternal power, and His divine nature are seen and understood through what He has made (Romans 1:20).

When God put together the ingredients for the salvation of man, He did not get it from a jar or a can.  It wasn’t a list of impossible tasks for man to accomplish or a book of wrongs to avoid.  God’s ingredient for our salvation was Himself.  A very simple recipe, God became a man.  The only one who could satisfy a righteous, holy God was a righteous, holy God.  

The Apostle Paul called this recipe the “gospel.” Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”   The gospel is the “power of God” but the only ingredient is God Himself.   In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (15:3-4) he broke down the ingredients of the gospel:  “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  I reverently call this powerful recipe “gospel pie.”  

Sadly to say, not everyone likes gospel pie.  To those who reject it, the taste is bitter and just not satisfying.  Many try to improve on the recipe by adding their own ingredients.

No matter how hard I tried to improve on Mom’s pecan pie, I could not do it.  Less sugar, more sugar, more pecans, more or less Karo, it didn’t matter. I could not improve on the recipe.  Most of the time I just messed it up.  When we try to add to or take away ingredients of Gospel Pie, we just mess it up to the point that the new Gospel Pie that we create becomes ineffective with no power to save.  

How prideful we are to think that we improve on God’s Gospel by adding our pious religious rituals and traditions.  No matter how good the added ingredients are (church, baptism, service, giving), by adding anyone of them to the God’s Gospel we change the entire structure of the message.  I think many would agree that Blue Bell Butter Pecan ice cream is very good.  But what would it do to Joe’s spaghetti recipe if we dropped in a half gallon while he wasn’t looking?   It would ruin the spaghetti!  

Adding our favorite religious ingredient to God’s Gospel Pie does the same thing.  The Gospel of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is powerful and satisfying.  Most important is that God Himself is satisfied with His work.  There are just some things you cannot improve on — Mom’s pecan pie, Joe’s spaghetti, and God’s Gospel Pie to name a few.


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