September 11 Remembered

Nineteen years ago today, the USA was attacked by those who hate both the United States and Israel. The Islamists who killed around 3000 souls hoped to do much more damage.  They are still enemies today and they do not stand alone as recent events within the United States demonstrate. The craziness of American politics right now scares the entire world. Many in the world are worried about those of us in the States. On September 16-17 (Wednesday and Thursday next week), the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics will deliberate on the topic of “Dispensationalism, Politics, and Culture.” Join us as we attempt to think biblically about a polarized nation in these alarming days.  To join the meeting, use the following Zoom link:

https://zoom.us/j/95228303197

https://zoom.us/j/95228303197

August 18, 1974 — A Day to Remember

Today is my 46th spiritual birthday. It was on this day (it was a Sunday), my twin brother Jimmy and I came to Christ at the West Huntsville Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama.I did two things this morning to honor the memory. First, I listened to the recording of the worship service from that day (had it on cassette tape). The choir sang John W. Peterson’s song “Lost in the Night.” Then Pastor Sam Wolfe preached a message from Exodus 25 on the Tabernacle in the wilderness. However, he spent a lot of time on the doctrine of salvation and who Jesus was. During a gospel Billy Graham kind of invitation, Jimmy and I went forward trusting Christ for forgiveness.

Second, I reread my sermon notes from the funeral sermon for my brother Jimmy (March 16, 2018). It reviews this experience where we trusted God together.I will never get over August 18, 1974. It was the single most life-changing event — more than my marriage and birth of my children. The entire course of my life’s journey was altered as well as my eternal destiny. I thank the Lord for dying for me on the cross and being raised from the dead so I could go free from the penalty of my sin. I am reminded of the Stuart Hamblen song “It is No Secret What God Can Do.” The line continues — what He has done for others He’ll do for you. God will save anyone who calls upon him, even a young man from Alabama.

One other thing I did today that Jimmy would have approved. I printed out the just announced schedule for the 2020 Alabama football season.

MY TRIBUTE TO AL KALINE

My hero as I was growing up was Al Kaline, the Hall of Fame right-fielder for the Detroit Tigers. He passed away yesterday at 85. I want to present a tribute to him today.

I stood in line for one hour at a baseball card show in Arlington, Texas around thirty years ago to get Al Kaline’s autograph on the picture I have here. The autograph is somewhat faded now but you can see a bit of it. While I was in the long line waiting to get my turn, I was mulling over what to say to my boyhood hero. When I got up there and handed him my picture to sign, I said, “I don’t care what they say about Mickey Mantle; from 1955 to 1966 you were the best!” He seemed surprised. Then Kaline said, “Oh no. Mickey was pretty good.” Kaline was known for his humility and he demonstrated it in that moment quite naturally.

From the time I was around 6 months old until around 3 or so, I lived in Detroit. I was born in 1953, the year that Kaline came up to play for the Tigers as an 18-year old. My Dad adopted Kaline as his favorite player and passed him on down to his two boys.

We grew up in Alabama. My twin brother Jimmy and I may have been the only two boys in the state listening to WJR Detroit at night in the summer time. We were trying to get the Tigers’ game on the radio. On a cloudy day, it would come in fairly strong. One night as I was dozing off to sleep, my brother Jimmy (we shared a bedroom) was listening to the game on a transistor radio with an earpiece. He suddenly got excited and blurted out to me: “Kaline just hit a two-run homerun to win the game!” We would always run out to get the local newspaper when it came in the afternoon so we could see the boxscore so we knew how Kaline did the day or night before (we didn’t have round the clock news like we do now).

One of the highlights of my teenage years was when our family drove to Detroit in the summer of 1970 for Al Kaline Day at Tiger Stadium. It was a Sunday game but we also went to the Saturday night game as well. Late in the game, Kaline hit a homerun into the upper deck in left field to tie the game against the Minnesota Twins. Even my Dad got up out of his seat! It was a special moment for a teenage boy’s soul.

My twin brother and I always shared our love for Kaline. At Al Kaline Day they had someone sing a song: “Thanks for the Memories.” Today I say to his family, my prayers are with you. And I say “Thanks for the Memories.” Al Kaline will be missed.

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Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics 2020 in Philadelphia Area

We are keeping our eye on the developments of the cornavirus, but at the present time, we are still planning on meeting for our CDH meeting on Sept. 16-17, 2020 at the Crowne Plaza hotel in the Philadelphia area. Below is the “Call for Papers” that was distributed through the Council website. Plan on joining us. If you are a traditional dispensationalist who would like to give a paper, we would love to consider your proposal.

CALL FOR PAPERS

Thirteenth Annual Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics

Crowne Plaza Hotel Conference Center, Claymont, Delaware (Philadelphia Area)

September 16-17, 2020

“Dispensationalism, Politics, and Culture”

This is a call for papers for the 2020 Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics.  The Council is an academic study group for traditional dispensationalists although observers from other theological traditions are welcome to attend. This year’s focus is on the dispensational understanding of politics and culture. This is a follow-up to last year’s discussions on social justice and race. If my read on last year’s work is correct, many of us preferred the term biblical justice to social justice. This year we expand our talks at a time when politics and culture appear to be at a boiling point in the United States. Our hope is to bring the Bible to bear on the polarization that confronts all of us. As usual, we desire not simply a theological debate but an attempt to evaluate the hermeneutical and methodological positions involved as we engage in interaction about politics and culture. We want to answer “why” we hold the views we affirm.

We may be asking specific individuals to do various topics as well as receiving your proposals.  Off-topic proposals will be considered but those concerning politics and culture will be reviewed first.  All proposals with full title and descriptions (not more than 200 words) should be emailed to the Executive Director, Dr. Mike Stallard, at mstallard@foi.org. The deadline for topic proposals to be turned in is June 1, 2020.  The entire Steering Committee of the Council will decide collectively which papers are accepted.  This process usually does not take long.  The deadline for presentation papers to be turned in is September 1, 2020 in order to be posted at the Council website.

This year there is a modest registration fee of $25 for the Council to help cover the costs of the meeting.  Registration will be online at the Council website:  www.dispensationalcouncil.org.  Please make sure to register online as information becomes available if possible.  You may also register in person at the conference.

Topics that we are requesting members to consider are the following:

  • The contribution of a particular section or book of the Bible to issues of politics and culture — examples
    • Should all Ten Commandments (vertical) be enforced in society today?
    • Should only the last six (horizontal) of the Ten Commandments be enforced today?
    • Application of the book of Proverbs to issues today
    • The contributions of Jesus’ teaching on issues of politics and culture during his earthly ministry
    • The contributions of Paul’s teaching on issues of politics and culture in his epistles
    • Empire criticism and the book of Revelation
  • Is there a form of government that is more biblical than other forms of government? (monarchy, democracy, democratic republicanism, etc.)
  • Is there an economic system that is more biblical than other approaches to the economy of a nation or the world (e.g., capitalism, socialism, communism)?
  • As a corollary to the previous question, what does the Bible teach about private property?
  • What is the biblical role of government?  Does this change through the panorama of the ages? Is it different in dispensationalism than in other theological systems?
  • What is a biblical approach to understanding and interacting with culture in general?
  • Do Niebuhr’s classical categories (Christ and Culture) have validity for our theological thinking today?  (Note D. A. Carson’s Christ & Culture Revisited)
  • An evaluation of various forms of liberation theology and how culture is impacted by such teachings (e.g., Latin American liberation theology, feminist or womanist theology, black theology, Christian Palestinianism, Jürgen Moltmann, etc.)
  • A defense or refutation of just war theory — does dispensationalism differ from other theological systems on this issue? To what extent can dispensationalists embrace pacifism?
  • To what extent can a Christian get involved in politics – running for office or working for politicians?
  • How should Christians respond to recent advancements of immoral and unethical behavior in society at large (i.e., homosexuality, transgenderism, etc.)?
  • What is the relationship of nations today (including the United States) to the kingdom of God?
  • Analysis of various views in church history of politics, government, and culture.  Some examples would be (1) is postmillennialism given over to the advancement of political means to advance the kingdom?; (2) Christian attempts to bring in the kingdom during the time of the English Civil War (Cromwell, 17th century); (3) Augustine’s City of God; (4) changes brought in by Constantine in the early 4th century, (5) views on social engagement in progressive dispensationalism.
  • Does the distinction between Israel and the Church, a doctrine championed by traditional dispensationalism, affect one’s view of how believers interact with politics and culture?
  • How does dispensationalism affect one’s view of political engagement on the issue of Zionism and Israel as a nation today?
  • An analysis of a specific Christian’s approach to political engagement (John Nelson Darby, Wilbur Wilberforce, Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, etc.)
  • Is there a necessary correlation between liberal theology and liberal politics? Between conservative theology and conservative politics?

Other topics related to the theme are welcome as well.  These are suggestions to help us think about the issues.

As always, we will attempt to have an appropriate pastor’s panel to make sure our discussions stay grounded in concern for the local church.

Again, final papers are to be submitted to Dr. Stallard by September 1, 2020 at the email listed earlier.  There will be no remuneration for presentation of papers.  Council attendees need to provide their own transportation to the Council site. Those who are speaking at the Council must also register for the conference similar to what takes place at the Evangelical Theological Society and the Pre-Trib Study Group.

Information on area hotels will be provided on the Council website.  The Crowne Plaza hotel that is hosting the Council this year has some relatively good prices.  If you stay there, make sure to tell them you are with our group. The Crowne Plaza is at the corner of Interstate-95 and Highway 92 (address is 630 Naamans Road, Claymont, Delaware).  It is about 13 miles southwest of the Philadelphia International Airport, a straight shot down I-95.

Remembering the Summer of 1974

As summer was beginning in 1974, my twin brother Jimmy and I at the age of 20 began a quest, a search to find God. We had listened for many years to Billy Graham on television and were attracted to the message but did not fully understand it. We began to visit different kinds of churches in 1974. I remember one church where the people were nice but the invitation was not like Billy Graham’s invitations to receive Christ. They asked everyone in the church to go forward and put your hand on the back of the person in front of you and then they had a prayer. Nothing was clear. I remember asking God if this was enough. Had I done enough? I found out that was the wrong question. It is not what I have done. It is what Christ has done that counts. We simply receive what he has done by faith.

Jimmy and I quickly started to attend the West Huntsville Baptist Church where there was great music and good biblical preaching. On the way home we had many interesting talks. Often we would discuss what faith was all about. What did it mean to have faith? What did it mean to believe? Our understanding was growing. But we were beginning to understand that belief was not just intellectually understanding or accepting that God existed or that Jesus was a real historical person who lived in Israel in the first century. We were beginning to see that faith was trusting in God, trusting in Christ and what He has done to take away our sin. The final light dawned on August 18, 1974 when together we trusted Christ in this way to be our Savior. As a result, our lives have counted in a major way since then because of God’s ongoing work in us.

It is two years ago today that we lost Jimmy to cancer. Jimmy’s life and message continue and his impact is still great. I will always treasure those talks we had about eternal things, faith, and salvation. i will treasure even more the memory of coming to Christ together as twins in the Lord.

Christian Palestianism, Part 2

I am posting here a link to the second of three videos I did recently for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry on the topic of Christian Palestinianism.

Christian Palestinianism, Part 1

I am posting here a link to the first of three videos I did recently for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry on the topic of Christian Palestinianism.

THE TESTIMONY OF ONE EVANGELICAL ZIONIST

I was invited to write a guest column at the Zionists of America website and wanted to share it here and in other forums like Facebook and the website for the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday.  My family was on vacation visiting my grandparents in Virginia. The date was June 5, 1967. I was only 13 years old. The television news coverage spent quite a bit of time on the nation of Israel’s so-called preemptive attack upon Egypt in what would later be called the Six-Day War. I was mesmerized although I understood little of what was going on.  Why was I attracted so much to this event?  The answer may be surprising.  My parents had given me a Bible years before, a common cultural practice in the southern United States. I had started to read it off and on.  One thing that stood out was that the word Israel was mentioned hundreds of times.  I was not Jewish, but I had respect for Israel because it was in the Bible!  That is simplistic to some people, but it was a starting place for a young man who had made no final decisions about worldview.  One thing I knew – I did not hate Jewish people!

               Fast forward seven years.  As a senior in college I became an evangelical, born-again Christian believer.  The local church that I joined taught the Bible in great detail.  As part of the teaching, I was boldly told about God’s plan for Israel throughout history and that God had a plan for Israel’s future that was positive and wonderful.  Although I had studied about the pogroms and the Holocaust in college classes, I now began to look at these atrocities through the eyes of a biblical worldview.  How could anyone do such heinous things against other human beings? The issue became more than just academic to me.

               After graduation from college, I began a career as a computer analyst and engineer working on things like missile defense systems. A few years into my work, my heart was drawn to go into the ministry so I went to seminary where I studied, among other things, biblical Hebrew. As I progressed, I decided to move to Dallas, Texas (1981) to work toward a Ph.D. degree in theology at a Zionist seminary. However, I needed to work to pay for the school bill and provide for my new wife.  So I applied to work at General Dynamics in Fort Worth which at that time was making F-16 jet fighters. When I received the offer letter from the company, joy filled my heart since the letter noted that my first project would be working with the Israel Defense Force.  Israel at the time was procuring many F-16s which they still fly today.  I worked for about five years as an avionics engineer on one of the cockpit computers. For about four of those years, I rubbed shoulders with military men from the IDF.  For almost a year, I was a classroom teacher on software for them. We had a colonel and his wife eat dinner in our home. We were invited to celebrations of Israeli Independence Day.

               However, the highlight of those years working on F-16s for IDF was a free trip to Israel!  I spent the month of July 1982, during the First Lebanon War (Peace for Galilee), in Israel working with Israeli soldiers. I did not get to do much touring of the country, but I did get to know the people and their concerns at the time since it was a time of war. My love for the Jewish people in general, and in particular, for Israelis moved a notch up and became much more personal. Their cause, which was already mine due to theology, became mine experientially. Perhaps the most special time of this trip to Israel was a dinner in the home of the IDF colonel who was in charge of the project we were working on. As we sat around the table someone said that he was a hero from the Six-Day War.  He was asked to show us his medals, which he did, and we discussed what had happened and a little about that war.  Looking back at that precious moment, I think of the word Israel that I had encountered in the Bible as a young lad reading about it for the first time and that newscast on June 5, 1967 when I was thirteen years old. In 1967 I would never have dreamed that I would be sitting in Israel with a hero of that war during another time of war in 1982. Beyond that, I would never have thought that I would be doing work that would assist the Israeli nation in defending itself against its enemies. I literally felt like I was in a movie.

               My ministerial career began to develop in 1986 in serious ways, although I had been speaking at various venues before then. I spent the next three decades as a pastor of local churches where I promoted Zionism and as a seminary theology professor where I made sure to tell my students the word Israel was in the Bible. So many Christians act like the word Israel is not in the Bible or that it does not refer to the Jewish people at all in modern application. But due to my earlier experiences with Jewish people and Israelis, I could speak on such topics with confidence and meaningful illustrations to highlight the truth about Israel in the present time.

               In 2016, my ministry pursuits took a dramatic, but logical, shift. I had been on the Board for the Friends of Israel ministry headquartered in New Jersey in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The Executive Director asked me to consider becoming a full-time employee as the Director of International Ministry which is what I am doing now. This position allows me to write, teach, and administrate a world-wide program which includes advocacy for the nation of Israel and opposition to anti-Semitism wherever we find it. By God’s grace, that thirteen-year old boy from 1967 has come a long way.

               I can understand why some Jewish people would be skeptical of evangelicals like me who support Israel and the Jewish people.  The unsettling history of persecution shows why the barriers exist. But I share my story in the hopes that Jewish people might remember that a theological friend is one of the best friends they can have.  For me to abandon the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, I would have to turn my back on the testimony I have given here.  In fact, I would have to abandon my entire theological worldview.  I would have to forsake the Bible that I had been reading when I was thirteen years old.

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Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed

I have recently been reading the book by Philip Hallie entitled Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. My copy is from 1994. It looks like the original book came out in 1979. It is the story of the French village in southern France named Le Chambon (on the Lignon River), a small town of around 3000 souls who saved many Jewish people, mostly children, from the Nazis from 1940-1944. The village was primarily Protestant — from the Huguenot tradition. The local Protestant pastor, Andre Trocme was the driving force behind the effort. Much tragedy was encountered but in the words of the author, “goodness happened there” as well as the people in a nonviolent way stood against Hitler and the Nazi determination to destroy the Jewish people. Although I do not agree with all of the theology of that community and its pastor, I appreciate their courageous stand. I highly recommend the book.

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Sailors and the Handiwork of God

Recently, someone gave me a free copy of an old book on submarines.  The author was a leading United States Navy man in the War in the Atlantic starting in 1942 when the German submarines were at the height of their successes against British and American shipping.  I found  a tremendous little section that I was not expecting about the reason that most sailors believe in God.  I thought it was worth sharing here.

“Sailors are supposed to be notoriously superstitious and to believe in all sort of omens religiously. When you get down to brass tacks, these so-called superstitions are fundamentally religious in nature.  They are an admission that man doesn’t run this Universe to suit himself and that his plans are subject to veto by a Higher Power.  Sailors instinctively understand this and believe in God because they have a better chance than men who stay ashore to observe and think about the handiwork of God.

They see the daily miracles of sunrise and sunset and understand the Power that regulates them better than the scientists do.  The scientists can “explain” the whole thing in terms of Newton’s Laws and show you that there is no miracle to it at all, the sun can’t help rising and setting.  But sailors who know nothing about Newton’s Laws are wiser than the scholars who expound laws which sailors can’t understand.  They go beyond the mathematics of the sunrise and see in it the hand of the One Who created these laws of mathematics as well as everything else. Read the rest of this entry »