Posted by: davidlarkin | January 3, 2015

Sons of Ham

Sons of Ham: I have read and heard over the years that Egyptians are descendants of Ham, a son of Noah in Genesis.

After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem,Ham, and Japheth.

Genesis 5:32 (ESV)

Reading 1 Chronicles yesterday, I noticed for the first time that Egypt was listed as a son of Ham:

The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.

1 Chronicles 1:8 (ESV) See also Genesis 10:6 (ESV)

and that Egypt had sons named in the Bible:

Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 12 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.

1 Chronicles 1:11 (ESV)  See also Genesis 10:13 (ESV)

I wondered why I had never noticed that. I looked at other versions, King James, New International Version (prior to the latest revision), New American Standard. All of them had Mizraim instead of Egypt. But the NIV had a footnote for Mizraim, “that is, Egypt.”

So the new version I am reading, the English Standard Version or ESV avoids the footnote stating that Egypt is the name of the son of Ham, deciding to use “Egypt”, i.e., that “Mizraim” is the Hebrew or Aramaic word for “Egypt.”. In Matthew Henry’s 1710 Commentary of the Bible, he writes of Mizraim, “from whom came the Egyptians . . .” and “for with their descendants the Israel of God had severe struggles to get out of the land of Egypt and into the land of Canaan; and therefore the branches of Mizraim are particularly recorded (v. 11, v. 12)”

There is archaeological evidence from non-Hebrew sources of Mizraim as the source or ancient name of the Egyptians. From Wikipedia:

“Neo-Babylonian texts use the term Mizraim for Egypt. The name was for instance inscribed in the famous Ishtar gate of Babylon. Ugaritic inscriptions refer to Egypt as Msrm, in the Amarna tablets it is called Misri, and Assyrian and Babylonian records called Egypt Musur and Musri. The Arabic word for Egypt is Misr (pronounced Masr in Egyptian colloquial Arabic), and Egypt’s official name is Gumhuriyah Misr al-‘Arabiyah (the Arab Republic of Egypt).”

So, this is well-settled.  Egypt is a son of Ham, a son of Noah.  The Egyptians are descendants of Noah, and his son Ham.

Posted by: davidlarkin | October 19, 2014

What Should We Pray For? A List From R. A. Torrey

Christians know that they should pray.  Jesus admonishes us in the parable of the persistent widow to pray always and not to lose heart. Luke 18:1-8 [ESV]  Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 [ESV].  What then should we pray for?  We have the Lord’s Prayer as a model, but it is not a prayer that can be said without ceasing or it becomes vain repetition.

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Matthew 6:7 [NKJV]

I was pleased to find a very complete delineation of what we should pray for in a work by a Yale alumnus, R. A. Torrey (1856-1928). Torrey was an American evangelist, pastor, educator, and writer.  He graduated from Yale University in 1875 and Yale Divinity School in 1878. From 1882-1883, Torrey studied theology at Leipzig University and Erlangen University in 1882–1883.   He had a blessed career of service for the Lord, impacting countless lives over the years.  A prolific writer, he published books to help Christians live holy lives and appreciate and use the Scriptures in their lives. From Wikipedia,

Torrey joined Dwight L. Moody in his evangelistic work in Chicago in 1889, and became superintendent of the Bible Institute of the Chicago Evangelization Society (now Moody Bible Institute). Five years later, he became pastor of the Chicago Avenue Church (now The Moody Church) in 1894.

In 1898, Torrey served as a chaplain with the YMCA at Camp Chicamauga during the Spanish-American War. Later, during World War I, he performed similar service at Camp Bowie (a POW camp in Texas) and Camp Kearny.

In 1902–1903, he preached in nearly every part of the English-speaking world and with song leader Charles McCallon Alexander conducted revival services in Great Britain from 1903 to 1905. During this period, he also visited China, Japan, Australia, and India. Torrey conducted a similar campaign in American and Canadian cities in 1906–1907. Throughout these campaigns, Torrey utilized a meeting style that he borrowed from Moody’s campaigns of the 1870s. In 1907, he accepted an honorary doctorate from Wheaton College.

In 1912, Torrey was persuaded to build another institution like Moody Bible Institute, and from 1912 to 1924, he served as Dean of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola University) and contributed to the BIOLA publication, The King’s Business. Beginning in 1915, he served as the first pastor of the Church of the Open Door, Los Angeles. Torrey was one of the three editors of The Fundamentals, a twelve-volume series that gave its name to what came to be called “fundamentalism”.

In his 1898 book, What the Bible Teaches, Torrey presents a systematic theology with propositions derived from Scripture.  In his chapter on prayer, the section on “What should we pray for,” Torrey presents 41 separate substantial matters about which Scripture provides express authority for our prayers.   I added one proposition at the end of Torrey’s list, number 42, so that we should pray for our government authorities that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 [ESV],  Romans 13: [ESV].

Here is my adaptation of Torrey’s list of what we should pray for taken from Scripture, with his citations.  I have not included Torrey’s excellent exposition of the Scriptural support for his propositions, which I encourage all to find in this fine book.  Although the book was published more than 115 years ago, it is not dated because the Scriptures were the same then, and because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Hebrews 13:7-8 [ESV].

A. Prayers Relating to God.

1. We should pray for the hallowing* of God’s name. 

Matthew 6:9 [ESV] “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name.”

* “hallow” means to honor as holy.

2. We should pray for the coming of God’s kingdom.

Matthew 6:10 [ESV] “Your kingdom come.”

3. We should pray for the coming of God’s king, Jesus.

Revelation 22:20 “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

4. We should pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:10(b) [ESV] “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

5. We should pray for the reviving of God’s work and God’s people.

Habakkuk 3:2 [ESV] “O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.”

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Posted by: davidlarkin | July 12, 2014

A Prayer for John Shelby Spong

I recently read the autobiography of John Shelby “Jack” Spong, Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality. Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey for 24 years before his retirement in 2001. He is a prolific writer, and his latest book, The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic, was published in 2013 when he was 82 years old. Bishop Spong considers himself to be a prophet of a new age of Christianity, a post-modern age where science speaks to Spong louder and with the authority that the Holy Scriptures no longer have for him, if ever they did.  Born in 1931 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jack Spong’s long life is very interesting from a human point of view. He was a civil rights activist, leading his southern dioceses in integrating their cities in the early 60s, and always preached and lived the social gospel.  While he was active in issues of social justice, he also began early in his ministry to question the authority of Scripture, finding it difficult to relate to the old stories from two thousand or more years ago in the modern age of science. Consequently, he gradually discarded the Holy Scriptures, the personal God, the deity of Jesus, the incarnation of God in the flesh, the atoning sacrifice and death of Jesus on the cross, for a god compliant with modern science of Spong’s making.  Spiritually, it was a difficult task to finish this book because my faith is in a different God and a different Jesus.  I am a Christian for whom the “Five Solas of the Reformation” are the foundation principles of my faith:

Sola Fide, by faith alone.
Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

 Over time, Bishop Spong rejected the five solas, replacing them with a new faith, a faith that he considered to be the beginning of a new reformation of Christianity.  He was very proud of his intellectual creation of a post-modern “Christianity” that used Christian nomenclature, but with anti-orthodox meaning, rejecting the Scriptures as the Word of God, but rather, as man’s writings to men in ancient times, writings that no longer had meaning to modern scientific men and women like John Shelby Spong.  He is also very proud of his academic and intellectual accomplishments, repeatedly referring to his academic and professional achievements and accolades, interactions with prominent famous names, thus, relying on the praise of mankind outside the orthodox church of God for confirmation of his radical anti-theology.  He has very unkind things to say about conservative Christians who hold to the traditional orthodoxy.  For example, he had disdain for evangelism and those who took the Great Commission seriously: at a gathering of the Episcopal House of Bishops, Spong writes, the day devoted to Evangelism “hit a new low in content and in attendance, . . . and while our conservative evangelical bishops droned on about how they sought souls for Christ and how we should follow their good example, the crowds around the coffee tables in the hall grew larger and larger.” [p. 301].   He and his liberal brethren did not take seriously Jesus’s Scriptural command to go into the world and make disciples, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Matthew 28:1-20  Spong rejects the personal God of the Bible, the physical resurrection of Christ, the incarnation of God in the man Jesus and his divinity and redefines Christianity in his own terms on his own authority, Sola Spong.  Spong proudly considers himself the new progressive Martin Luther, when in fact, he is the anti-Luther.  In his 1999 book Why Christianity Must Change or DieSpong announces his creation of a new “Christian” religion, calling his work, “a manifesto calling the church to a new reformation.”  As he states in the appendix to Here I Stand,

In that book I sketch out a view of God beyond theism, an understanding of the Christ as a God presence and a vision of the shape of both the church and its liturgy for the future.

“Theism” is generally defined as “belief in the existence of a god or gods; specifically : belief in the existence of one God viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world who transcends yet is immanent in the world.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.  Spong arrogantly wants to go beyond a belief in the Christian God who is a person with whom we have a personal relationship with, pray to, and rely on for our salvation.  He wants to replace God with a “god presence,” an impersonal force. Praying to God is an antiquated concept for Spong.  All four Gospels proclaim that Jesus prayed to the Father, more than 25 times.  The night he was betrayed, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.  Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Matthew 26:36-46 [ESV]

Spong rejects this depiction of Jesus himself praying to God, the Father, as a person who hears our prayers.  Spong has summarized his anti-theism with a sorry mockery of Luther’s 95 Theses.  On 31 October 1517, Luther posted the ninety-five theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, which is considered the commencement of the Reformation.  Luther was calling for a reformation of the Church based on the authority of Scripture, sola scriptura.  Spong, by contrast, is calling for a reformation of the Church by a rejection of the Scripture.  Spong is very proud of his technical fluency with Scripture, but he does not believe that the Scripture is the word of God. Reading his biography, Spong never speaks of any faith in the trinitarian God of orthodox Christianity.  He does not mention God at work in his life, he abandons prayer early in his ministry as meaningless, and he gives himself credit for all his achievements, no credit to God, whose minister he publicly and proudly pretends to be.  He has no faith that the Holy Spirit preserved the Scriptures for the faithful to find revelation of God’s plan of salvation.  Spong has no personal relationship with God because, for him, God is not a person with a name who hears us call on His name and saves us.

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Acts 2:21 [ESV]

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:13 [ESV]

Here, the anti-Luther makes his proclamation which are Bishop Spong’s 12 Theses of unbelief, with my comments and Biblical references in brackets:

A Call for a New Reformation

1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

[The Bible clearly speaks of a personal God who is Lord and has a name, which we translate from the Hebrew as Yahweh (archaically translated Jehovah).   Yahweh or Lord is a personal name, a proper name, that is called upon by His people by name.  Yahweh or the Lord is also a person.  John M. Frame, a Reformed theologian, explains the Biblical doctrine of a personal God as follows:

Scripture rarely if ever uses the word person to describe God, or even to refer to the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit.  But like Trinity, person is an extrabiblical word that is very nearly unavoidable for us.  It is the word in our vocabulary that applies to beings who speak, act intentionally, and so on.  The Biblical term living reinforces this picture. God is the living God against all the nonliving gods of the nations. (See e.g. Deut. 5:26, Josh. 3:10, 1 Sam. 17:26, 2 Kings 19:4, Psalm 42:2, 84:2, Jer. 10:10, Matt. 16:16, 26:63, Acts 14:15, Romans 9:26)

Frame, John M., The Doctrine of God, p. 25 (P&R Publishing 2002)

As R. A. Torrey summarized the personality of the God of the Bible:

God is a living God.  He hears, sees, knows, feels, wills, acts, is a person. He is to be distinguished from idols, which are things, not persons.  He is to be distinguished from the works of his hands which he formed. 

Torrey, R. A. What the Bible Teaches (1957)]

2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.

[Paul wrote to Titus of the identity of Jesus with God:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)]

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Posted by: davidlarkin | June 29, 2014

For We Saw His Star

The familiar Bible story of the Three Wise Men, the Magi, tells of a star that appeared to them, signifying a great historic event. Somehow, a “star” acted as a travel guide. As the story goes, when Jesus was born, these three men from the east saw his star in the sky, and somehow, guided by the star, they traveled to the stable in the “little town of Bethlehem” where Jesus was born, in diapers in a manger, and giving him luxurious gifts, they worshiped him, intuitively knowing by the grace of God, that they were in the presence of God.  Here is the familiar Christmas passage from Scripture:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

. . .

 And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11 (ESV)

I have read attempts to explain this phenomenon of the star as an actual historic astronomical event, like a super nova.  However, if that were the case, it does not explain how this astronomical event “came to rest over the place where the child was.”  It is a difficult passage to explain objectively in modern scientific terms.  Science, of course, undoubtedly requires this event to be disposed of as myth.

For those who believe that God is a God of miracles, and that He can give a heavenly sign to three men alone who believe in signs from God in the heavens, as a guide to witness the new birth of the Messiah, the Lord and Savior, there is likely a supernatural explanation that will evade natural history in this life.

I attended the Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California for a time in the 80s.  The Church on the Way was an early “megachurch” with thousands of members, notably then, Pat Boone and his daughter, Debbie Boone, who sang at the Christmas service when I attended.  The Pastor was Jack Hayford, a brilliant Bible teacher and man of God.  I remember Jack Hayford giving us a lesson about how God will make a way for the Gospel to be heard by those who are waiting to hear it.  He told us a story about an evangelist who attended the Lausanne Congress, the First International Congress on World Evangelism held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974.

“The congress was a conference of some 2,700 evangelical Christian leaders that was held in the Palais de Beaulieu in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974 to discuss the progress, resources and methods of evangelizing the world. The conference was called by a committee headed by U.S. evangelist Billy Graham and brought together religious leaders from 150 nations.’

Source: Wikipedia

One of the evangelists in attendance was an African man who carried the Gospel message on his bicycle to the rural tribes in his native African country.  He told the story of how he had heard the Gospel and was saved.  He was living in a tent in the bush lands.  He felt a need to know God.  He prayed that the God of the universe would reveal Himself.  He said he then saw a light outside his tent.  He followed the light overland through the bush country until he was led to the tent of a Christian missionary.  He told the missionary he was led by a light to his tent and he wanted to know the true God.  The missionary shared the Gospel with him and he was saved. He then dedicated his life to sharing the Gospel with his countrymen and women, thankful for the supernatural grace he was shown by the Living God, who led him by a light to Jesus, just like the Three Wise Men were led by a light to the Lord.   We will never know what kind of light led the Wise Men.  Certainly, a light in the sky that was revealed only to the Magi would appear as a “star” to them, but under the circumstances of the birth of the Savior, we can be sure that God did a miraculous work in leading them to a Bethlehem stable from afar.

The African evangelist was drawn by God to Himself when he sincerely petitioned God for revelation of His existence.  By grace, he was given the faith to ask and to believe.  It takes faith to be blessed with the experience of the supernatural presence and work of God.

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

Matthew 13:53-58 [ESV]

Who were the Magi? This discussion from the January 8, 2015 Tabletalk Devotions with R. C. Sproul is a good summary:

Present among the figurines in the nativity crèches found everywhere at Christmastime are usually three regal men bearing gifts. As we know, these kings are supposed to represent the wise men.

Unfortunately, this depiction of the wise men takes liberties with the text. Matthew never tells us how many wise men come to see the Messiah. The tradition of three wise men probably comes from the three different gifts mentioned in Matthew 2:11. Moreover, the first gospel does not say the magi are kings. This idea goes back to the church father Tertullian (around 200 a.d.) and is likely due to his reading of passages like Psalm 68:31 and Isaiah 49:7.

Who, then, are the wise men? Precise identification is difficult, but we do know they are “from the east” of Judea (Matt. 2:1). Persia, Babylon, and Arabia are all possible countries of origin, with Babylon the likeliest option since contact with its large Jewish community would have prompted the magi to come looking for a king in Jerusalem. The Greek term for “magi” (magoi) refers to a group interested in predicting the future via dream interpretation, magic, and other methods, such as astrology, which explains their interest in the star.

Posted by: davidlarkin | May 11, 2014

Susan Larkin’s Message

My wife, Susan Larkin, was asked to give a message on her walk with Jesus this past year to her women’s bible study group, Arizona Women’s Experience (“AWE”) at our church, Arizona Community Church.  This is Susan’s message she gave last week summing up what God had put in her heart to share with the ladies:

Looking back on this year ‘walking with Jesus’, what first came to mind is how thankful I am for the new friends I have met here at AWE and the ones I am getting to know better, just the sweet fellowship and the wisdom of the women as they share their walk with the Lord.

I am thankful too, for the women in the prayer for our adult children group because while each of us are praying for the same things for our children, we get to hear the fresh insight and perspective the Lord gives each one. So we can have unity of spirit and a new vision at the same time. We know hears our prayers for our children but we can influence their lives with prayer.

Another great thing is the Lord brought me two darling prayer partners this year-they are in this room tonight. I had a prayer partner for about 15 years and she broke up with me, so I was delighted when these new sisters came. In case you wonder, we pray for you – so that has been a real blessing.

I learned about the power of prayer long before I became a Christian. I was a flight attendant in the mid-70’s, so 40 years ago, and worked on international flights. I had 2 close calls one after another. The 1st time our pilot almost landed us in a jungle in Africa. I remember feeling the descent, looking out the window and seeing all green when there should have been concrete, and hearing the first officer scream “Pull up, pull up, pull up!!!”. Suddenly we were zooming up. When we did land, it was on the runway in the right city. I never did find out what happened that day, the pilots did not want to talk about it. It was really scary.

The next time was in a DC10 over Calgary Canada going from London to Oakland when the plane dropped about 5,000 feet in just a few seconds. We dropped so fast that everything and every one that wasn’t secured hovered in the air before crashing down -people, beverage carts, everything. And then lots of serious vibration, it felt like the plane would break apart. A lot of people were injured, and if you ever thought you were going to die, you never forget it. So after my time off, I was really scared to get back on a plane and a friend, not a Christian, suggested I pray for peace to go back. And it worked! I asked for protection every time we took off and I thanked God every time we landed safely – and I still do. I flew for a couple more years after that. So I knew God answered at least emergency prayers for sure.

But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.
When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.  He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

 Jeremiah 10:12-13 (NIV)

When I first became a believer, someone gave me a laminated prayer card with a list of things to pray for because I only knew the Our Father & Hail Mary from my days at Catholic boarding school – so you prayed for the leadership of the church, people in government, the schools, police officers, and on the list was pray for the harvest. I lived one valley over from a large agricultural area, so for about 6 months I was praying for the broccoli, strawberries, lettuce before I found out that the Harvest, capital “H” meant the unsaved souls.

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Matthew 9:35-38 (ESV)

I thought the Lord had such a sense of humor to let me pray on about the farm workers and the rain and fertilizer – and nothing wrong with that, farmers do it all the time. So, my early prayer days as a Christian.

Kathy has been using Scripture to teach us about the Lord’s compassion. One of the ladies in our prayer group shared that she lost her wallet, she left it on top of her car when she bought gas and drove off. You can imagine her distress. But the next morning she got a call from her apartment manager that there was someone in the office who wanted to speak to her. And there was a young man covered in tattoos, kind of scary looking, someone she said you would instantly make a judgment about and not a positive one. But he had been riding his bike, found the wallet and wanted to return it. She thanked him of course, gave him some money because it was all there – and she invited him to our church. It was such a lesson to me how if we could only see the heart like Jesus does, we would treat people so much differently.

And God forbid that young man should come to our church and I would judge him by his appearance instead of seeing him as he really is, as God sees him. It was a great lesson to me to be so much more generous in my assessment of others.

The Lord does not look at the things a man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

My girlfriend read this and it reminded her of when she lived in San Francisco, she said she was reading the Bible while riding the bus and she saw this ‘gay guy’ looking at her and she thought – a derogatory word you might think about homosexuals. But he approached her and said, It is wonderful to see someone reading the Bible, it reminds me of when I read the Bible with my family. She was profoundly ashamed before the Lord for judging that man.

Sometimes I encounter someone who at a glance I think I have nothing in common with and my first impulse is to avoid that person. Our Lord did exactly the opposite – He sought them out if they had an infectious disease, were known sinners or homeless and destitute, were mentally ill, demon possessed, crippled, or blind. Even the Samaritans who were despised as a mongrel race by Judaism, were tenderly regarded by our merciful Messiah. He went out of His way to connect with them and offer what He could and so did His disciples. So the theme of compassion this year really has convicted me that I am not really that Christ-like at all. I think Kathy wanted me to talk about what I had learned, but I’m afraid this is about what I haven’t learned.

I sometimes forget that we are the rich of the world that the Bible speaks of and that everything I have is a gift from God, but it belongs to Him, it isn’t mine alone. I have a place to sleep, clothes and shoes, I never miss a meal all because of His grace and goodness. Mother Teresa told a story about a dying man who was brought to her shelter in Calcutta and as she visited him he was crying. She asked him why. He said it was because it was the only time in his whole life he had ever laid in a bed the day he was dying and it was just a wire cot, but he was thankful. She said once, “I wouldn’t touch a leper for 1,000 pounds, but I will willingly care for him for the love of God.

When we see someone begging we might think they should get a job-but if they have dirty clothes, no place to shower or brush their teeth, no phone or transportation, they are unlikely to be hired unless they get some help. I know of a man who had been a respiratory therapist at a hospital, they reorganized and moved him to another area of the hospital, his license lapsed and then a new administrator downsized his dept. and he was terminated. He didn’t have the money to renew his license and he had been trying but he hadn’t found a job. He said he never could have imagined himself begging in his wildest dreams but he had 3 children he needed to feed and he was begging because he was desperate.

In Luke 6, Jesus said ‘Give to everyone who asks of you.’ and to be merciful and not to judge. In Matthew 25:31-46, He tells us whenever we provide for someone who is hungry, thirsty or we visit the sick or the prisoners, the least of these, as He calls them, we do it for Him. And as Paul says, not that I have achieved it yet, but I can press on, keep trying and thank Jesus for demonstrating compassion so I can know exactly what it looks like. And I praise God we have His promise that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.

Let’s pray. Lord, would You give me the heart of love that You have. Let me remember that every person on earth is someone You love so much, You gave Your only Son’s life so that one day they could spend eternity with You. Amen.

I know all were blessed by her words.  Click here to read Susan Larkin’s Testimony

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 13, 2014

Now is the Favorable Time

For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (ESV)

In the 80s I was attended the Hiding Place Church that met at a middle school next to the Mormon Temple on Santa Monica Boulevard in West LA.  A humble fellowship in the shadow of the proud Mormon showpiece.  I met a middle-aged woman there who was on fire for the Lord.  She was not ashamed of the Gospel, and was a personal evangelist working on the streets of Hollywood with those who the Lord appointed for her to meet.  She told me about a neighbor of hers in her apartment building in Hollywood.  He was a very bright young man in his thirties, she said, who was working in a business where he had great opportunity for material success, he told her.  One night she had the opportunity to share the gospel with him, declaring to him that Jesus died for his sins and rose again, and is alive and ready to save him from his sins, and give him the gift of life eternal, if he will only call on the name of the Lord, repent and ask forgiveness and let Jesus be his Lord and savior.

She told me that he listened intently, and told her that he believed what she said.  He believed that he needed to be saved, and that he wanted to have life after death in heaven.  But, he told her, he was not ready to give his life up.  He wanted to be rich, and he wanted to be able to enjoy the worldly pleasures now.  He said that once he has success, he will get saved.

She was disappointed for him, she said, but she had shared the Gospel, and he had heard it.

The next day, she had been away from her apartment and returned to find an ambulance outside the building.  As she was about to enter the building, the paramedics brought her neighbor out on a stretcher, and put him in the ambulance.  They had put him in a straight jacket, and he was lying on his back with a blank expression on his face.  She asked the paramedic what had happened, and was told that he had lost his mind,  and a neighbor had called the police because of his loud screaming.  He was sedated and taken away.  She said he did not return.  She told me that she saw this as God’s instant judgment on the young man for hearing the gospel, understanding it, and sincerely rejecting it.  The story was chilling because that may have been his last chance for salvation.  As the scripture cited above says, “now is the day of salvation.”

Salvation is the sovereign act of God, not a voluntary choice we can make when it is convenient.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

There may be a point in a man or woman’s rebellion against God where God gives the person up to his or her sins for good.  As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 1:18-32 (ESV)

Three times Paul writes that “God gave them up,” for the “wrath of God from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  The young man who heard the Gospel from my friend apparently reached his last chance, and God gave him over to a debased mind, in fact, God took his mind away from him, perhaps for good, but arguably, in reaction to his sincere rejection of the truth, that we are sinners, and that we are called to repent:

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17 (NKJV)

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Luke 5:32 (NKJV)

“unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Luke 13:3 & 5 (NKJV)

How long will God wait for a man or woman to repent and call on Him?

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,  

Hebrews 9:27 (NKJV)

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  If you have not called on the Lord for your salvation, now is the time, and you may pray this prayer to be saved and to obtain the gift of eternal life: 

Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness.

I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.

You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God, that is, if we declare Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved.

Right now I confess and declare Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved.

Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself.

Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life.

Amen.

If you said that prayer sincerely, and are truly sorry for your prior rejection of God, and sorry for your sins, you have been saved by God.  You have the promise of heaven. You should ask God to help you find a Bible-based church that teaches the word of God and then be baptized.  You can talk directly to the Lord.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God, and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 11, 2014

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

“When you understand all about the sun and all about the atmosphere and all about the rotation of the earth, you may still miss the radiance of the sunset.”

Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (1925)

Scientists today estimate the adult human body is composed of trillions of cells, upwards of 37.2 trillion.[Source: National Geographic, October 2013]  There are approximately 200 different types of cells all working together expressing themselves as one conscious person.

One of the enduring mysteries of biology is that a variety of specialized cells collaborate in building a body, yet all have an identical genome. Somehow each of the 200 different kinds of cells in the human body — in the brain, liver, bone, heart and many other structures — must be reading off a different set of the hereditary instructions written into the DNA.

The system is something like a play in which all the actors have the same script but are assigned different parts and blocked from even seeing anyone else’s lines. The fertilized egg possesses the first copy of the script; as it divides repeatedly into the 10 trillion cells of the human body, the cells assign themselves to the different roles they will play throughout an individual’s lifetime.

New York Times, February 23, 2009 [Obviously, scientists differ in their estimate of the number of cells in the human body, 10 trillion in this 2009 article and 37 trillion in the 2013 National Geographic article cited above, but qualitatively, there is little difference for purposes of acknowledging the mystery of how billions of individual cells can cooperate to manifest one person]

If you are able to stand back from the massive accumulation of knowledge of the physiology of the human body, the neurons in the brain, the interaction of the billions of cells and their individual differences acting as one person, you cannot miss the glorious mystery and gift of life.  We are a reflection or the image of the incomprehensible God and Creator of the Universe.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26 (ESV)

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 2:7 (ESV)

We should praise God for the wonder of life and creation and especially for his saving grace as the Scripture teaches:

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!”

Psalm 40:16 (ESV)

For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Hebrews 2:2-4 (ESV)

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17 (NKJV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)

Here is a short prayer of praise for God’s creation and the gift of life:

O Lord and Maker of all things, from whose creative power the first light came forth, who looked upon the world’s first morning and saw that it was good, I praise You for this light that now streams through my windows to rouse me to the life of another day.

I praise You for the life that stirs within me;
I praise you for the bright and beautiful world into which I go;
I praise you for earth, sea and sky – billowing clouds and singing birds;
I praise you for the work You have given me to do;
I praise you for all You have given me to fill my leisure hours;
I praise you for my friends and family;
I praise you for music and books and good company.

John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer, 7th Day, Morning

Posted by: davidlarkin | December 14, 2013

New Every Morning

At day’s end, it is often discouraging to reflect on the day’s activities. A sincere review will reveal failings and sinful actions and thoughts. As the Apostle Paul wrote:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Romans 7:18-20 (ESV)

It is common, therefore, to find confessions of sin and failures in daily evening devotionals, like John Baillie’s A Diary of Daily Prayer. We can be troubled by the past days misfortunes, sins and errors, and be worried about what will come tomorrow, both leading to sleeplessness and a troubled mind.

Paul McCartney recognized the problem of worry and sleeplessness in the Beatles song from the White Album, “I’m So Tired,” only he appeals to his lover, who is breaking his heart, for peace, as the troubled lovers so generally do, rather than to God:

It’s doing me harm, you know I can’t sleep
I can’t stop my brain, you know it’s three weeks
I’m going insane

You know I’d give you everything I’ve got
For a little peace of mind

Things often seem at their worst when I awake in the middle of the night and my mind is stirred to worry and I can’t stop it, losing sleep. The old saying, “The darkest hour is just before the dawn,” captures that late night worry about my life’s problems, my loved ones, or my work and also that feeling of nebulous doom I sometimes feel when I wake up in the middle of the night, with nothing specific worrying me. See Bob Dylan, “Meet Me in the Morning” and Crosby Stills and Nash, “Long Time Gone.”

It would be nice to have memorized a well-crafted prayer especially for the middle of the night, so I don’t have to muddle along with a sleepy rambling prayer.  I am sure, of course, that the Lord will accept any sincere and humble prayer in my moments of distress. Typically, I appeal to God to stop my brain and give me peace.   This requires trust in His faithfulness.  As I grow older in the Lord, 42 years now, I am more aware of His presence, and more constant in communicating with Him and seeking reconciliation.  As a result, I am able to fall asleep and when I awake in the middle of the night, fall back to sleep easier, although there are occasional times when I have to get up and do some online legal research on a case that is troubling me, which I consider a blessing that the Lord has prompted me to do that work, even in the middle of the night.

The blessing of communicating with God at the end of the day, or even just before the dawn — asking forgiveness, petitioning for peace and for a good day to come — is that the believer can awake with the joy that he has made peace with God and start the day walking in the Spirit as if he were starting anew.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:8-9 (ESV) [See my previous post, A Daily Confession]

When we fall, the Lord is there to lift us up and begin as if anew.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24 (ESV)

Alexander Whyte (1836-1921), a Scottish minister, professor at the University of Edinburgh and prolific writer, wrote:

The victorious Christian life is a series of New Beginnings.

The mercies of God are new every morning.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 21, 2013

A Reader’s Prayer

I am a reader. I have too many books left to read, and more are available to read everyday. When I reached 60 years old, I realized that I would not be able to read all the books that I had hoped to read over the years.

I am grateful to have the time to read and that I am compulsive about making the time to read.

Today, I was reading John Baillie’s A Diary of Daily Prayer, Day 21 morning, and included in that daily devotional was a petition to God for reading guidance that can be used as a prayer on its own. So for dedicated readers who want divine help in choosing what to read for profit or recreation, and in being a better steward of his or her time, I offer this Reader’s Prayer which I adapted from Baillie with modification to include internet reading:

A Reader’s Prayer

Leave me not, O gracious God, in such hours as I may today devote to the reading of books, magazines, internet websites and blogs or newspapers. Guide my mind to choose the right books and other written works, having chosen them, to read them in the right way. When I read for profit, grant that all I read may lead me nearer to you. When I read for recreation, grant that what I read may not lead me away from you. Let all my reading so refresh my mind that I may the more eagerly seek after whatsoever things are pure and fair and true.

Adapted from A Diary of Daily Prayer, Day 21, Morning Prayer by John Baillie

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 20, 2013

A Violent Week

This has been a violent week.  The tragic drama of the Boston Marathon bombing and the gripping manhunt has left us all emotionally exhausted.   What can I write that we all have not thought or experienced about this horrific event.

Closer to home, however, we had a shooting at our office complex on Thursday morning.  I was at the dentist when I received a call from my wife that our office complex was a crime scene, someone had been shot.  Fortunately, my wife and I, who work together at my law office, did not arrive at the office until after the shooting, and were not harmed or in danger.  Nevertheless, I left the dentist immediately and went to meet my wife at the office, where we waited while the police secured the crime scene and took the shooter away.

We heard a report that the criminal attorney in another office, two doors down from us, was involved.  My first thought was that he had been shot by a criminal client.   The criminal lawyer’s father works for him, and had been arrested a few months earlier for pulling a gun on a client, apparently in self-defense, but had not shot the gun.  My wife and I were very uncomfortable having the criminal law practice so close and considered moving, but did not.  Now with this shooting, we were physically and emotionally shocked.

It turns out that the shooting had nothing to do with the criminal lawyer’s law practice or criminal clients.  The lawyer was the criminal.  He was 48 years old, married with children, and he was having an affair with his office receptionist who was in her twenties.  He was representing her in a paternity action against her ex-boyfriend.

The lawyer  came to the office that morning with his .357 handgun to meet the ex-boyfriend.  The 25-year-old victim was sitting in his car.  The lawyer approached him holding the gun, and ordered him out of the car.  The young man grabbed the barrel of the gun and tried to duck out of the way but the lawyer fired a shot, striking him in the back.  The victim ran to a nearby medical office and collapsed.  He recorded the incident on his cell phone which police recovered at the scene.

After the shooting, the lawyer stood over his victim saying something like, “Do you feel that … that’s you dying boy,” according to court documents.   Others in their office who heard a pop, went out to the parking lot, saw him standing there holding the gun, and called 911.  The lawyer went back to his office and called police to turn himself in.  See news report here.

I first met the lawyer on Tuesday this week in the parking lot where he was arriving with his receptionist.  I suspected they were having an affair because I had seen her driving to work in the morning in the lawyer’s Mercedes and opening the office.  My suspicions were correct, and his adultery was the source of the emotion and evil intent that led to his attempted murder of the young man.

So, this week has been a week of violence for us along with everyone else in America.  Today, April 20, is the 14 year anniversary of another day of violence in America, the Columbine High School massacre.  Reading through the One Year Book of Christian History in my morning devotions, today’s entry was about a young teen, Rachel Scott, who attended Columbine High School in 1999.  Here is the remarkable April 20 entry from the book:

——————————————————————

God gave us a glimpse of the future.

RACHEL SCOTT was just eight when her father, Pastor Darrell Scott, walked out on her mother Beth, leaving her with five children. A year later Rachel’s grandparents helped her mom move to Littleton, Colorado, and buy a home.

When Rachel was twelve, she had a life-changing spiritual encounter.  She later wrote in her Journal, “Everyone was there at the altar, and I felt so drawn to it.  You have to understand that I was so young . . . to be drawn that way, it was nothing short of God . . . .  That night I accepted Jesus into my heart.  I was saved.” From that time on her family saw a spiritual depth beginning to develop in Rachel.

Two years later, Rachel’s mother remarried.  During this difficult adjustment Rachel became increasingly withdrawn and private.  When she was sixteen, her mother gave her a journal, the first of many.  Rachel began to chronicle her spiritual journey and commitment to Christ — a commitment that cost her deeply.  She broke up with the boy she loved in order to keep herself chaste and was rejected by five of her closest friends for talking openly about her faith.  On April 20. 1998,  one year to the day before she died, she wrote these words:  ‘I have no more friends at school.  But you know what . . . it’s all worth it to me . . . . If I have to sacrifice everything I will.”  Rachel had no idea of the sacrifice she would ultimately make.

On April 20, 1999, Rachel sat outside the cafeteria when two troubled students armed with guns came up the stairs at Columbine High School.  They opened fire, hitting her three times.  After leaving to find more victims, they returned to where Rachel lay in pain.  One of them lifted her head by her ponytail and jeered, “Do you believe in God?”  She answered, “Yes.”  He put the gun her temple and killed her.

About a month after Rachel’s funeral, her father received a phone call from a stranger who told him about a dream he had.  As Darrell recalled it, “He dreamed about her eyes and a flow of tears that were watering something that he couldn’t quite see in the dream.  He was adamant about the eyes and tears and wanted to know if that meant anything to me . . . . He told me that dream had haunted him for days, and he knew there was a reason for it.”

Her father had no idea what the dream could mean.  Several days later he picked up Rachel’s backpack from the sheriff s office.  Inside were two journals, one with a bullet hole through it.  He turned to the last page of her most recent diary and was dumbfounded to see a drawing of her eyes with a stream of thirteen tears watering a rose.  The tears appeared to turn into drops of blood as they touched the rose.  The number of tears matched the number of victims at Columbine.  It practically took his breath away to see in Rachel’s final diary exactly what the stranger had described to him a week earlier.

Looking in previous diaries, her parents discovered that same rose drawn a tear before Rachel’s death.  The earlier drawing simply showed the rose with the bloodlike drops, not her eyes or the clear tears, and it showed the rose  growing up out of a columbine plant, the state flower from which Columbine High School got its name.

——————————————————————–

It was like “Pop, Pop, Pop.”  A Christian couple hid in the bathtub with their dog praying for safety.  Click Here for the video interview by NBC anchor Brian Williams with the Watertown, Massachusetts couple who heard the gun fight between the Boston Marathon terrorists and police taking place in their front yard.

After a week like this, the Apostle Paul’s words are a comforting source of rest.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 [NIV]

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