"The Stem Cell Debate is Dead."

It seems that Dr. Oz is proved right more with every passing day and each new story that breaks in the news. In case you are wondering, my title is a direct quote from Dr. Oz who is a regular guest on the Oprah Winfrey show. You can read my original post about that episode and watch the video clip of that episode here.

PR Web Press Release Newswire just released a story this morning that there is another advance in the stem cell research industry. What is most interesting is that this advance has nothing to do with embryonic stem cells. It seems that there is less news about ESCR everyday and more about other forms of stem cells that do not at all involve embryos. The featured company in this article is STEMCELL Technologies. They are announcing the release of their new “animal component-free (ACF) and serum-free medium for culturing human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)” or more commonly known as bone marrow stem cells. You can read the full story here. To summarize the article, it explains that this new medium will allow culturing of MSCs in a much safer fashion enabling researchers to grow these stem cells with a much greater probability of success in developing treatments.
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The British Embryonic Stem Cell Debate

The debate is not like our debate though. The British are not concerned about using embryonic stem cells (ESC) for research; they have been doing that since 2002. The debate for them is now about funding, why? They are worried that America will surpass their advances in the field of stem cell research since President Obama lifted the ban on federal funding of ESCR. The Telegraph, a British news agency, released a story yesterday cataloging all of the advances they have made in stem cell research. In the article, it is interesting to note that many of their best advances came not from using ESC, but from using iPS (adult stem cells) and bone marrow stem cells. I would encourage you to read the entire story. You can read it here.
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Dog for Dinner?: Shocked by the Bible, Chapter 13

The previous chapter discussed Noah’s Ark and a lot of the misconceptions surrounding it. Part of that discussion included Joe Kovacs pointing out that it wasn’t just two of every kind of animal on the Ark, but that there were actually fourteen of each kind of clean animal. He used that to lead into this chapter, which discussing what animals were considered clean and, therefore, okay to eat.

One of the major points Kovacs appears to be making in this chapter is that Christians are often times disobedient to the Scriptures simply by the food that they eat. He points out that God lists certain foods as unclean and not to be eaten. Two examples of unclean animals were pigs (ham, bacon, pork, etc.) and sea creatures without fins and scales (crabs, shrimp, lobsters, oysters, etc.). He began his point that the status of clean and unclean food hasn’t changed on page 110 when he wrote, “It is clear which foods the Bible labels as clean and unclean, but was there ever a change in the status of these foods? I realize most people, including the vast majority of Christians, believe it’s permissible to eat anything. But let’s take a look at some verses that relate to the question.”

Following that statement Kovacs then began to survey several passages of Scripture that change the status and made all foods clean. He begins with Mark 7, then cites Acts 10, followed by 1 Timothy 4, and ended by citing Isaiah 66 as showing that what people eat will matter at the final judgement. So is Kovacs correct, have the majority of Christians been disobedient to the Bible with what they have been eating? Let’s look at those passages he cited and some he left out that also address this issue of what is okay for us to eat.

Mark 7—Kovacs noted that there is a common belief that a statement made by Jesus made it okay to eat any food. In fact, Kovacs put it this way, “some suggest Jesus Christ came right out and made some kind of declaration that all foods are now clean.” The statement he referred to came from Mark 7:18-19 which reads, “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” Something important to point out is that in the book, Kovacs used the King James Version. This is important because Kovacs made the statement, “The verses do not say Jesus declared all meats clean. Even in the original Greek, those words simply are not there.” The problem, however, is that a quick look at any modern translation (NIV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, for example) will have this declaration present. The full reference of verse 19 in any modern translation includes the statement (or very similar), “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods ‘clean.’”

So then, this brings up a new question. If it is present in many English translations, is Kovacs right that it is not in the Greek? No, it is present in the Greek. However, it is not attributed to Jesus in the Greek (that is why it is in parenthesis in the English translations). The Greek makes it clear that it is a statement by the author of Mark about Jesus statement. So Kovacs is incorrect that the statement is painfully absent from the text.

Acts 10—This passage of Scripture is when the apostle Peter received his vision of the sheet full of unclean animals. In this vision, God commanded Peter to kill and eat from among the animals contained in the sheet. Kovacs pointed out on page 112, “People who feel it’s now perfectly fine to eat any kind of creature often cite these verses, believing all unclean foods have been made fit to eat.” This is because God commands Peter to kill and eat. After receiving the command Peter refused to obey because he had “never eaten anything impure or unclean.” Upon Peter’s refusal, God responded by stating, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Kovacs pointed out that there is a problem when citing these verses as support. On page 112 he wrote, “Peter did not take this vision to mean that God was making unclean foods clean.” He is absolutely correct; Peter understood this vision had to do with God making the Gentiles “clean.” This is evidenced in Acts 10:19-20, 28-29: “While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them…He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” As Kovacs put it, Peter understood the vision to mean “that no human being is to be considered unclean.” So he is correct that this passage does not support the view that all foods are now acceptable to eat.

However, Kovacs attempts to show how this passage actually upholds that Christians are not to eat anything unclean. He wrote, “Peter himself stated that he had never eaten anything unclean. This is further proof that Jesus, during His ministry, never declared all foods to be clean. If He had done so, then Peter, a devout disciple, would have been eating them. But as mentioned before, Jesus did not declare all foods to be clean, and therefore Peter correctly abstained from them.” The problem with Kovacs’ logic here is that simply because Peter did not eat anything unclean does not mean that Jesus never declared all foods clean. Jesus could have declared all foods clean and Peter could have chosen to still abide by the Jewish dietary laws. In fact, this would make sense as Peter points out that it was unlawful for a Jew to associate with a Gentile. Why? Mainly because they didn’t adhere to the cleanliness laws (such as clean and unclean foods). Therefore, if Peter wanted to reach the Jews with Christ, it would make sense that he would continue to obey the dietary laws of the Jews.

1 Timothy 4—In this section, Kovacs first quoted 1 Timothy 4:1-5 and then wrote, “Among the supposed doctrines of the devils is the command to abstain from meats. Does this mean the exclusion of unclean meats from one’s diet is a doctrine of devils?…The apostle Paul warned in his letter to Timothy that in the latter days people would adhere to ridiculous beliefs, one of which was abstaining from all meats—in other words, vegetarianism.”

Once again, it is important to note that Kovacs is using the KJV. But it appears that he forgets that it is written in Old English when reading these verses. He takes this verse as meaning that one “doctrine of devils” is vegetarianism. The problem is reads the word “meats” in the King James and doesn’t understand the Old English meaning of the word. This word did not mean meat in the same sense as it does today; it had a much broader meaning then. In fact, this broader meaning is still listed in merriam-webster. It is not that it referred to the actual “meat” of an animal, but it referred to food in general. Once again, reading any modern English translation will reveal this meaning as many read “abstain from certain foods” rather than the KJV which reads “abstain from meats.” The KJV was not wrong, Kovacs read the verse incorrectly.

Isaiah 66—Kovacs even supposes that the Old Testament prophet forbid eating unclean foods. Kovacs wrote, “He even made special mention that people eating “abominations” such as pig meat and mice will be in trouble.” He particularly honed in on verse 17 which reads, “Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things—they will meet their end together,” declares the Lord.” Because he was so focused on the fact that God’s judgment and eating pigs and mice were mentioned so closely together, he apparently forgets what the rest of the verse mentions. It connects these actions with “consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens.” Those eating pigs and mice were doing so after consecrating and purifying themselves specifically for the purpose of “going into the gardens.” What does that mean? It was referring to idol worship. Isaiah was specifically condemning the actions because they were connected with idol worship. In fact, in 66:3 God appears to condemn those who obey the rules—“But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like on who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol” (emphasis added). The context of the entire passage is essential, because if all we quoted was that making a grain offering was like offering pigs blood, then Scripture would appear to contradict itself. However, when read in the full context, God was condemning idol worship. Particularly because the Israelites were worshiping God and idols at the same time.

Now, what about those passages he left out? The major passage Kovacs did not address in this chapter specifically addresses this issue. In Acts 15, the question of what food was acceptable to eat was addressed. It was only brought up because of Paul’s missionary work among the Gentiles. What was the answer to the question about food? Acts 15:20, “We should write to them [Gentiles], telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” There was no requirement that they abstain from eating the meat of “unclean animals.” They were encouraged not to eat meat sacrificed to idols (this is what Isaiah 66:17 referred to). The New Testament does make it clear that Gentiles are allowed to eat the meat of unclean animals. There is no requirement to continue adhering to the dietary laws of clean and unclean meats; however, there is also no prohibition against the Old Testament dietary laws. So Kovacs' underlying point that Christians sin often because of their diet is simply not correct.
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The Cosmic Speck of Dust Called Man

Psalm 8:3-4

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens...
When I condsider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the starts, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

Indeed, who are we? Watch this video clip to give you some perspective on just how big and important we are in creation. What is still amazing, is that even though we are so insignificant, we are the crowning glory of God's creation. Particularly, when we are glorifying him with our lives.

What about you, what does this video make you think about?

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Noah’s Ark—What You Don’t Noah: Shocked by the Bible, Chapter 12

Just as we already learned, and Kovacs pointed out, there are a lot of myths about Christmas. There are also a lot of myths about Noah as well. Kovacs addresses those myths in this chapter. However, there are some corrections to which I don’t think he does justice.

Clean and unclean…
He addressed the issue about exactly what animals were on the Ark with Noah. He pointed out that it wasn’t just two of every kind, but that there were at least seven pairs of each kind of “clean” animal aboard the Ark. He makes a slight overstatement on page 101—Kovacs wrote:
“A complete list of which animals are clean and unclean is provided in the eleventh chapter of the book of Leviticus, but it’s apparent that righteous Noah was acquainted with God’s dietary laws and followed the directions.”

Such a list does exist in the book of Leviticus. The problem is not with the list of animals; the problem is that Kovacs made it sound as though Noah knew about this list. Then what is the problem you might be asking? The list Kovacs refers to wouldn’t come into existence until thousands of years later when the Israelites vacated Egypt. There is no way that “righteous Noah was acquainted” with God’s dietary laws contained in Leviticus 11.

Angels and sex again?

Kovacs then moved into an area that probably deserves an entire chapter in his book and not a few passing statements. The topic is that of Genesis 6 and the “sons of God” and the “men of renown.” On page 104 Kovacs wrote, “Their offspring were famous people, the ‘giants’ of their day, as Steven Spielberg, Mel Gibson, and Donald Trump might be considered in ours.” This led to him mentioning the controversy surrounding what the meaning of the phrases/terms “sons of God, men of renown, and giants.” This led to him proposing that the ‘giants’ were angels mating with human women, as others have suggested as well. I think that it truly meant giants, like our modern day giants. The photo on the right shows what I mean. I think Floyd Mayweather (the guy looking up at "The Big Show) would considered Paul Wight a giant and not in the sense Kovacs meant. Click on the photo to see the difference in height and weight between the two men; my point being this isn't a staged photo to make the difference really stand out.

There is a problem with that theory though. The problem is that the Bible nowhere says that angels are given the ability to reproduce. The command of God to mankind and animals to “be fruitful and multiply” is not found anywhere in the Scriptures concerning angels. Those who propose that angels were doing this are going beyond the Bible and supposing that this is possible. I also understand that simply because the Bible is silent about something does not mean it is not possible. However, Jesus also indirectly addressed this whole notion of angels reproducing.

In Matthew 22, the Sadducees asked Jesus a question. They wanted to know to whom a woman would be married at the final resurrection if she had been married many times during her earthly life. Jesus answered them by saying, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” The implication is that the angels do not marry. What makes marriage more special than other relationship (friendship, family, etc.)? It is the ability to unite sexually, which is to fulfill God’s directive to “be fruitful and multiply.” The Bible makes it clear that sex is intended to take place in marriage and nowhere else. Therefore, if the angels do not marry, then they do not have sex—as this would be detestable in God’s sight. So the notion that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were angels is simply unfounded
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The Live Forever Diet: Shocked by the Bible, Chapter 11

I think that Joe Kovacs does an excellent job in this chapter. He addresses the tree of life in this chapter, which is rather appropriate considering he just discussed the tree of knowledge of good in evil in the preceding chapter. He simply gives a short discussion about the tree of life.

He addresses that cherubim guarded the way to the tree of life. The other place it shows up is in Revelation at the other end of the Bible. All in all, I think Kovacs did a good job with this chapter.
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UPDATE: The Death of Embryonic Stem Cell Reseach?

My original post:
It seems that the information continues to mount that adult stem cells (induced pluripotent stem cells, iPS) are a far better option than embryonic stem cells. Forbes.com released a story explaining that adult stem cells avoid many of the problems scientists have faced with embryonic stem cells. To read the full story, click here.

Now Forbes has joined the growing tide of mainstream media reporting that adult stem cells are the future in stem cell research. I posted a few weeks back about Dr. Oz on the Oprah Winfrey show. He and Michael J. Fox were guests on Oprah’s show and it was on this show that he made the statement, “The stem cell debate is dead.” You can read that post here.

Add to the list of News Agencies reporting this story Reuters, NBC's Miami affliate, and the Wall Street Journal. Read these stories here, here, and here.
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The Death of Embryonic Stem Cell Research?

It seems that the information continues to mount that adult stem cells (induced pluripotent stem cells, iPS) are a far better option than embryonic stem cells. Forbes.com released a story explaining that adult stem cells avoid many of the problems scientists have faced with embryonic stem cells. To read the full story, click here.

Now Forbes has joined the growing tide of mainstream media reporting that adult stem cells are the future in stem cell research. I posted a few weeks back about Dr. Oz on the Oprah Winfrey show. He and Michael J. Fox were guests on Oprah’s show and it was on this show that he made the statement, “The stem cell debate is dead.” You can read that post here.
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My Christian Blogs

People are always looking for great Christian websites and blogs. There is new website that has as its goal to compile the "best of the best" in Christian websites and blogs. What is it? MyChristianBlogs.com

Could be that this website will become the unofficial "yellow pages" of Christian information on the web.
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One Bad Apple Don’t Spoil the Whole Bunch: Shocked by the Bible, Chapter 10

This chapter is about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Joe Kovacs points out that the word “apple” is never used to describe the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He does, however, offer some possibilities as to the origin of the idea that it was an apple that they ate.

Kovacs' suggestions:
(1) Apple was a generic term. Kovacs noted that apple was used as a generic term in many languages. He cited Latin as one example. He stated that pomum can be translated as both “fruit” and “apple.”
(2) A positive light. He then noted that apples are always cast in a positive light in the Bible. He explained that in every instance where the actual word “apple” is used in the Bible, it is never in a negative connotation. His argument is, therefore, that if apple were used in the story of Adam and Eve that it would be the only negative connotation of the word “apple” in the entire Bible. I don’t think this is the strongest argument though.

My suggestion as to the possible origin of the apple:
(3) A figure of speech. There are a lot of figures of speech that would seem to indicate that either the understanding that Adam and Eve ate an apple is the source of these figures of speech or that the figures of speech gave way to the understanding that they ate an apple. For example, take the figure of speech—the apple of my eye. Everyone understands that this does not mean that an “apple” makes up part of our eye. It is addressing that which we long for, desire, and care a great deal about. When the serpent beguiled Eve into taking the fruit and eating, the reason given for her doing so was that she “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for good and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom.” The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil became the proverbial apple of Eve’s eye.

Of course, that’s just me. What do you think? Why did the apple become the known as the fruit of tree of knowledge of good and evil?
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Hemorrhoids Heard in Heaven, Shocked by the Bible, Chapter 9

Chapter 9 brings out an aspect to Kovacs I don’t think I had expected—he appears to be humored by hemorrhoids. He focuses in on a story recorded in 1 Samuel following the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines. After bringing the Ark into one of their cities, the Philistines began to suffer from several plagues—one of them being hemorrhoids.

Kovacs quoted 1 Samuel 5:12 and followed it with a statement—here is what he wrote, “‘And the men that died not were smitten with the hemorrhoids; and the cry of the city went up to heaven’ (v.12 Darby). This was likely the worst case of hemorrhoidal hysteria in history, with people shrieking so loudly from pain that their voices were heard in heaven.” Apparently, Kovacs takes the phrase “and the cry of the city went up to heaven” as a literal statement and not a figure of speech. This is interesting because he didn’t take the similar phrase “because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great” literally when he was addressing “gay sex with angels” in his chapter Let There Be Sex. If one looks up the other places in Scripture where this phrase is used, it becomes clear that it is a figure of speech. That it addresses people praying to God, not their literal crying out in a loud voice—so loud that it is heard in heaven.

Then somewhat of a minor point, Kovacs wrote “It’s one of the least known—and strangest—stories in the entire Bible.” I certainly don’t think it is the least known or strangest story. Perhaps a lot of people do not know that the plague that God struck the Philistines with was hemorrhoids, but the story of the Ark of the Covenant being captured by the Philistines is one of the more widely known stories in the Bible. People may not know the details accurately, but that doesn’t make it unknown—just misunderstood.
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The Dumb Ass of the Bible, Shocked by the Bible, Chapter 8

In this chapter, Joe Kovacs talks about two animals in the Bible that speak—the serpent in Genesis and the donkey in Numbers. Overall, he only appears to be informing people that these stories are in the Bible. He doesn’t offer any “correct” understandings, he doesn’t point out any common misconceptions, he just states that these two accounts are contained in the Scriptures.

I didn’t disagree with any of the information Kovacs presented; however, I did take issue with his attempt at a play on words. He played on the common curse word rather than what the phrase “dumb ass” meant in this context—a mute donkey.

The only other thing I would note is that Kovacs stated on page 83, “Balaam’s mute donkey, or as the Bible puts it, his “dumb ass,” spoke with the voice of a man.” The Bible doesn’t say the donkey spoke with the voice of a man though; it simply says that the donkey spoke. It is probably safe to assume it was the voice of a man, but I think Mr. Kovacs should be careful not to introduce some misinformation—particularly since he is supposed to be correcting a lot of misinformation about the Bible.
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The Easiest Way to Oppose Abortion

There has been a lot of buzz of late concerning Christians and certain moral stances (abortion, embryonic stem cell research, homosexual marriage). With Obama changing a lot of things about abortion, it has awakened a lot of religious groups opposed to abortion.

A story I heard about a month ago was back in the news recently. The big discussion was a way to let the White House know that there were a lot of Americans who were opposed to abortion and the recent executive orders coming from the White House. One man, named Christ Otto, believes that God gave him the idea to send some empty red envelopes to the White House. On the back of the envelopes he wrote, “This envelope represents one child who died in abortion. It is empty because that life was unable to offer anything to the world. LIFE begins at conception.” The idea quickly caught on among Christians across the nation and quickly became known as the "Red Envelope Project."

World Net Daily and The Florida Baptist Witness both recently ran stories addressing the success of the project. The story in WND reported that a White House staffer confirmed that there were well over 2 million envelopes received.

Christ Otto, in an effort to continue the success of the Red Envelope Project, has started the website The LIFE Envelope Project It is still the same effort—to make clear the concerns about abortion to the White House—with some new ideas about envelopes. I think this is a great way for Christians to get involved in opposing abortion. It is not confrontational (like standing in front of an abortion clinic), it does not take great debating skills (like addressing the issue publicly), and it is something people of all ages can do. If you have been looking for a way to get involved in the abortion arena but haven’t really been sure how to do so, I encourage you to go over to Christ Otto’s site and take a look at how to get involved. It’s extremely easy and I don’t think you will regret it.
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Did Al Gore finally get somthing right?

It appears to be that way. USA Today ran a story yesterday that announced Al Gore would be donating $20 million dollars (seems awfully small in the face of all the recent stimulus spending) to fund research on induced pluripontent stem cells (iPS). These stem cells are one of the alternatives to embryonic stem cell research and one that holds a lot of promise.

It is these stem cells to which Dr. Oz referred to recently on the Oprah Winfrey show. I wrote a post on this and linked to the video clip of Oprah’s show where Dr. Oz makes these statements. What I find interesting is that a political liberal such as Al Gore would break step with the rest of the Democrats and publicly fund an alternative to embryonic stem cell research. It is even more interesting that the White House has not publicly addressed whether federal funding is available for iPS research. Does anyone else know if this has been clarified? Because I haven't heard anything about it.
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Should churches require anything for membership?

David Rogers at SBC Impact has written an intriguing article this morning about church membership. It is entitled “Church Membership: A Social Convention?” You can view the article here. In this article David addresses the “decline” of the Christian church in America. This has been a topic of discussion of late; particularly since President Obama declared that America was no longer a Christian nation (you can watch video of his comment here). President Obama’s comment is not the only reason there has been a lot of buzz about this topic; the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) released a study a few weeks ago that has created much of the buzz about the decline of Christianity in America.

However, David’s focus in his article is not so much on the decline itself. He attempts to address a possible reason for the decline—church membership. If I read his article correctly, his point is that “church membership” is not valued nor correctly understood by neither the church nor the people joining the church. As his title put it, church membership has become a social convention. I don’t think he meant that it was invented by our society, but to put it more bluntly, it is a fad. Church membership in America was something “you did” in the 1940’s. Now it is not necessarily something you do and so our numbers are declining. However, David brings out a point to which I would like to add. He wrote, “Personally, I am not so sure that the church overall was any healthier in the 40s than it is now. Not that we’re doing all that great now, but it seems to me, from what I can gather (and Latourette’s quote seems to validate this theory), that the church then was “a mile wide and an inch deep.”” That is still the problem today; churches don’t spend time deepening their members’ relationship with Christ.

The problem with church membership today is not that it is not “cool” to be a member of a church, but I believe it is a conglomeration of factors:

(1) People today don’t understand church membership. Churches have failed to explain that church membership is more than going to a church on Sunday mornings; it is uniting oneself with Christ in saving salvation and following through by publicly declaring that commitment in believer’s baptism. Church membership is first and foremost determined by whether a person has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

(2) Churches today don’t understand church membership. If a church will allow a first-time guest to come down the aisle and join the church, then I don’t think that church understand what membership is. We don’t create hoops for people to jump through, but we are to examine people to determine if they have truly accepted Jesus Christ. After all, we are told to judge a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:16, Luke 6:43-45). In my opinion, churches are doing a disservice to people by not asking about their salvation; we give people the false understanding that they are saved and going to heaven and we never even stop to ask them if they understand salvation.

(3) Churches today don’t require anything for membership. In America we have become afraid to ask our members to do anything. There is this stigma that “if you ask them, they will leave.” Jesus asked his disciples a lot! And a lot of them left! Jesus doesn’t call us to a lazy faith; he calls us to an active faith. There is nothing we do to earn our salvation; however, we are required to do something with our salvation. One of the greatest commands Jesus gave us concerning our faith is found in Matthew 28:18-20—All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. We have trouble asking our congregations to even share their faith with other people in their neighborhoods, workplaces, and families. When we don’t even push our people to be obedient to what is commanded from Scripture, should we really be surprised when we see people leaving the church in droves.

David was speaking to the churches of the ‘40’s, but I think many (too many) of our churches today are still a mile wide and an inch deep. We are not teaching them to be obedient to the Scriptures and to live out their faith on a daily basis. I think this is why so many students “leave” the church when they graduate high school and move on to college. We didn’t spend time deepening their faith in Christ. We didn’t help them build on a foundation of rock—we never moved them off the foundation of sand. So when the storm came, their “house” didn’t hold up. The same thing happens to the adults—when they lose their job, they go through a divorce, have a terrible death in the family, etc. We are setting up entire churches that are spiritually bankrupt, and then we wonder why the church as a whole is in decline.

Do you think churches should require more for membership? Does your church already, if so what do they require?
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Let there be sex: Shocked by the Bible, Chapter 7

In this chapter, Joe Kovacs presents the topic of sex as the Bible addresses it. He references the many restrictions God placed upon sex (for example: not to commit adultery, not to commit fornication, not to commit bestiality, etc.). All of these are fact; the Bible does have a lot to say about sex. He closes the chapter on page 81 with the statement, “There is no shortage of sexual matters in the Bible…Could that be one of the reasons it has been the best-selling book throughout the ages?” I would answer that question with a no. Mainly I say this because people have not been enamored with sex, particularly in America, until the last three or four decades (remember the “sexual revolution” that occurred in the ‘60’s?). However, there is one section in which I think Kovacs pushes too far to try and “shock” the reader.

On page 77, Kovacs begins a discussion following the subheading “Gay Sex with Angels.” Now that is a shocking, and provocative, title. However, the Bible never addresses gay sex with angels. The biblical passage Kovacs uses to address this “topic” comes from the book of Genesis, chapter 19. It is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. As he points out, there were two angels sent to these cities to determine the exact state of affairs. Upon arriving in Sodom, they were taken into the home of Lot. Later that night, all of the men in the city came and demanded that Lot bring out his guests so that they could have sex with them. However, the men of the town wanted to have sex with what they thought were men, not angels. Kovacs even makes this admission on page 78, “The angels, who look like typical human men, arrived in the evening and ate a meal prepared by Lot” (emphasis added). The men of Sodom did not desire to have “gay sex with angels,” they wanted to have homosexual relations with what they thought were men.

Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear that angels do not have sexual relations. Jesus stated in Matthew 22:30, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” Likewise, Angels were not given the same charge as humans following creation in Genesis 4:1-2—“Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (as Kovacs noted on page 70). The Bible mentions the angels being present at creation. Job 38:1, 4, 7—“Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said…Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?…while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” The book of Hebrews explains the purpose of angels in the form of a rhetorical question, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Angels are ministering spirits.

There is no mention of the men of Sodom wanting to have sex with Lot’s guests because they were angels; there is also no mention anywhere else in Scripture about whether or not humans can have sex with angels or any restrictions upon sexual relations between humans and angels. I think that if God cared enough to outline all other areas of our sexuality (even to the point of sexual relations with animals), then he would not neglect this area if it were possible.
As Kovacs closed this chapter, I mentioned that he notes there is no shortage of material concerning sex in the Bible. This made Kovacs ask if this is why the Bible has been a best-seller for so long; however, I think that all of the material concerning sex in the Bible shows just how much we have messed-up what God intended for sex to be.
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Do we go to heaven when we die?

…Joe Kovacs doesn’t think so. As he begins his discussion on “soul sleep,” Kovacs starts by citing Revelation 6:9-11. He explains that this is “another frequently cited passage that some claim implies people are alive in heaven as soon as they die.” He then quotes the verses from Revelation in full and writes, “Again, let’s not assume anything. The first major point is that nowhere in this passage does the word heaven appear. It’s just not there. So why infer it? This could easily refer to an altar here on Earth” (pg. 60).

Mr. Kovacs makes one big mistake in the statement that heaven is nowhere mentioned in this passage. The few verses he quotes do not have the word “heaven” in them; however, Revelation 6:9 begins with “and when he had opened the fifth seal…” If there is a fifth seal, that means there were four before it, so he has not quoted the entire passage. If one follows the breaking of the seals backward, they will end up at the first seal being broken in 6:1. More importantly, the introduction of the scroll with the seals that are being broken in chapter 6 is first introduced in chapter 5. In chapter 5, it is clear that the scene is taking place in heaven. In fact, this entire scene begins in chapter 4. Regardless, anyone who reads these chapters in Revelation can figure out that all the events in chapters 4, 5, and 6 are taking place in heaven. Particularly, these events take place around the throne of God.

Kovacs would have done better to only use his next argument that “souls” under the altar do not necessarily represent deceased human beings. However, even this argument fails. He says the “verse could be read” to say “lives” or “blood” rather than “souls.” The problem with this is that no English translation (at least the 36 I checked) uses either of those words in Revelation 6:9. More importantly, all of the English translations I checked use the word “souls”—none used a different word.

Kovacs then addresses the passage in Luke 23:43 where Jesus says, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” He makes the argument, “There are no commas in the original Greek, so the comma put in the English before the word today could be place after it. Thus, the phrase “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” could easily be rendered, “I assure you today, you will be with me in paradise.” While he is correct that there were not commas in the Greek, there were “periods” if you will. However, there were also not grammatical rules in the same manner that there is in English. Where we use punctuation in the English to express our point, the Greek language used word order. What was most important was placed at the beginning of the sentence. In Luke 23:43, the Greek first emphasizes that what Jesus is saying is the truth. Then he begins his point with “today.” To flippantly think we can move a comma in the English and change the meaning of the Greek is crazy. We use the commas in the English translation to communicate the same point that was made in the Greek.

Kovacs also touches the topic that Elijah the Old Testament prophet was not taken up into heaven, but was relocated to another location on earth. Since he doesn’t really use this in support of the concept of “soul sleep” I am not going to address that topic.

One other major place in Scripture Kovacs leans upon to support his view that there is “soul sleep” comes from 1 Thessalonians. In this book, the apostle Paul often mentions those who have fallen asleep (i.e. died). However, Paul does not teach the notion of “soul sleep” in this book. As he begins to close the letter he was writing to the Thessalonians, he wrote, “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him’ (1 Thessalonians 5:10, NIV). Paul was making the point that whether we are still alive or dead, that Christians are living together with him. We are not is some kind of “limbo” when we die. The Bible is clear that when we die, our souls are not “trapped” in our bodies in the grave until Jesus returns.

Note: This post concerns Chapter 6 (Imagine There's Three Heavens) in Shocked by the Bible: The Most Astonishing Facts You've Never Been Told
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About Mr. Hyde's Blog

Ever wonder which religion is right? Have you ever struggled with how to share your Christian faith with someone else? These are the kind of tough questions tackled here at Mr. Hyde’s Blog. I grapple with these tough topics and dig deep to uncover the truth resulting in a "no holds barred" blog about all things spiritual.

Why I started Mr. Hyde's Blog
I am a pastor at a Southern Baptist church in Florida. I didn’t start my blog because I wanted to become famous or make a lot of money from it. You will never have to pay for anything offered on my blog and that’s why you don’t see ads on my blog either. This blog is completely about helping you—the reader. It's not about making money.

The reason I launched my own blog was that there was something that really began bothering me the more I thought about it. What was it? I noticed that many Christians couldn’t share their faith nor defend their faith in any meaningful way. As I began brainstorming ways to really help equip Christians to engage the culture around them, I came up with the idea to begin writing a blog. Writing my own blog became a way that I could help equip Christians throughout the world with ways to better share and defend their faith.

For this reason, comments and suggestions are welcome. Although comments are moderated (see Commenting Policy). If you have a question about a topic, then I would love to hear from you. Think about this, if you never ask the question, then you’ll probably never get the answer. If you never get the answer, then you can never grow in knowledge and understanding. As far as the Christian faith goes, we are commanded in the Bible to grow in the knowledge and understanding of God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5).

A Quick Disclaimer
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of Mr. Hyde and are not necessarily those of any particular church or denomination.

Book Reviews
I review a lot of books here on Mr. Hyde’s Blog. Several different publishers send me many books free of charge. However, my reviews of these books are given completely independent of whether or not I purchase(d) the book. You will receive nothing but my honest critique of a book—good or bad.

On the other hand, I will begin to note whether or not I purchased a book or if it was sent to me from a publisher. And if I recommend you to purchase a book, you can rest assured that it’s not because I was paid to do so (see above about profiting from this blog).

If you would like to suggest a book to me, please feel free. Just know that if you suggest a book, it may or may not be reviewed on this blog.
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Looking Down at Catholics

As a Southern Baptist Pastor, I can speak to this with some firsthand experience. All too often we speak in a condemning manner about what Catholics believe. We are bereaved by the fact that they do not encourage individuals to read the Bible (although they do not discourage it either). There are many other “problems” that we Baptist’s have with Catholic theology, and for good reason.

However, I think that when we “speak” of Catholic belief, we do not carefully choose our words. I think we appear to be condemning individual Catholics rather than condemning Catholicism. I know I am guilty of coming across in this tone at times, even though I try not to do so. But it seems to be one of those areas where Southern Baptist’s as a whole think that it is ok to condemn the sinner rather than the sin—it’s ok to look down our noses at Catholics.

Some of the recent posts I have read from Southern Baptist’s seem to have moved beyond looking down at other religions and denominations and have carried that right into our very own denomination. I understand that the SBC has problems. I don’t think there has ever been a time in its history where it didn’t have its own problems. But in addressing these problems, we have begun to move beyond pointing the finger at the issues and have begun to point them at individuals in the SBC.

I think this is wrong and bordering on sin. This judgmental attitude and condemning spirit is what Jesus meant when he said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1, NIV). Furthermore, when we change from pointing fingers at the problems to pointing them at individuals the rest of that passage comes into play—“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3, NIV).
Whenever we want to point the finger at someone else’s “problem,” we had better have taken a good look at ourselves first to make sure we don’t have a “plank” in our own eye. So for all those “asking questions” that don’t concern an issue but are aimed at “certain individuals,” I would ask you—do you have a plank in your eye while you are pointing out the speck in your brother’s eye?

It was also quite amazing to me that one post attempted to keep it a secret as to who they were pointing the finger at by using cryptic language that, well, wasn’t so cryptic. I haven’t been blogging for very long, but I knew exactly who they identifying. This is a sad testimony to the “Baptist plank problem.” We too many times jump on the wagon of condemnation without first stopping to examine ourselves and determine if we too need to straighten this issue out in our own lives.

I understand that the SBC is becoming more centralized and so the leaders have a much greater effect upon the developing problems and so many feel at ease with pointing the finger at these leaders. The problem, and the plank we don’t want to acknowledge, is that as churches of the SBC we allowed it to become more centralized. One of the great pride(s) of being a Southern Baptist used to be our unique ability to unite together to further the kingdom of Christ without a central denominational government (as the Catholics, Presbyterians, etc. have). When we allow our “government” (the SBC) to become more centralized, it is going to become more dependent upon the leaders. If there are good leaders, then it will follow that the SBC will be good. If there are bad leaders, then it will follow that the SBC will be bad. It is no different than the United States government. It has become so centralized that it is becoming more dependent upon the president as to whether or not the government will be effective at serving the people or the agenda of the president in office.

When we begin to question whether or not a church is “truly” Southern Baptist based upon their giving, or lack thereof, to the Cooperative Program—are we not questioning how centralized we are allowing the SBC to become? I may only be in my 20’s, but I can read history books and I do believe that when the SBC was first formed there was no Cooperative Program. Were those churches less Southern Baptist? When the SBC proposed the 75 million campaign and churches pledged to donate what they could and the pledges exceeded the 75 million mark (92 million to be more precise); however, the receipts fell far short of 75 million (only collecting 58 million)—were those churches less Southern Baptist because they didn’t follow through with their pledge in the face of hard economic troubles (troubles we haven’t seen yet)? The cooperative program cannot be (and never was) the measure of whether or not churches were Southern Baptist. We are not Southern Baptist because we give to the cooperative program; we are Southern Baptist by conviction—by what we believe and not by where we give our money.

I propose that we look in the mirror and pull out the plank before we try to remove the speck in the eye of the SBC. I propose that we plug the hole in the boat instead of relying on the bilge pump and buckets. Let’s fix the problem rather than playing the blame game. If we only worry about who to blame, we can never move out of the past and on to the future. Let us resolve the problems of the SBC and get back to coming together to further the kingdom of Jesus Christ!

UPDATE: There were a few posts that led me to post this, but the two main posts that led me to this response can be viewed here and here.
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Imagine There's Three Heavens: Shocked by the Bible, Chapter 6

Kovacs attempts to define the “three heavens” mentioned in the Bible. The problem, and what he doesn’t mention, is that Paul is the only biblical author to mention three heavens and only mentions it in one place. The definition of the different heavens, which Kovacs gives are not incorrect. However, it would have been better for him to simply show the different nuances of the word as it is used in the Bible. It is used in a cosmological sense to include the entire creation—the earth and the universe (Kovacs’ 1st and 2nd heaven). Heaven is also used in a theological sense in two ways. The first is that heaven is the abode or dwelling of God (Kovacs’ 3rd heaven). However, he does not mention the other sense heaven is used. Heaven is also used synonymously with God. Luke 15 contains the parable of the “Lost Son.” In this story the son asks for his inheritance before his father has died and then squanders it. He realizes that he has sinned against his father and against “heaven.” The last I checked, we don’t sin against inanimate objects. The full context of the story makes it clear the son understand that he was sinning against God (i.e. heaven). This use of heaven as another name for God is clear in several places in Scripture (such as, Matthew 21:25).

The majority of people when speaking of heaven understand it in its theological sense—the dwelling of God. It seems as though Kovacs is making a stretch here to shock people that there are three heavens. There is still only one heaven as people typically mean when using the word.

Kovacs is even spot on when he made the point that heaven will even be on earth one day. For him, it seems to be a short jump from understanding heaven will be on earth one day in the future to that meaning no one is in heaven now. He places much weight upon the statement of Jesus in John 3:13—“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.” The problem, though, is that Kovacs doesn’t consider the context of Jesus statement in the whole of the conversation in which it was made. Jesus was speaking with Nicodemus—a Pharisee and “pastor” to the nation of Israel. Jesus was explaining “how to be saved” to Nicodemus, who was having trouble understanding what Jesus meant. Jesus chastised him and said, “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?…I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:1-,12). It was following this chastisement that Jesus said no one has ever gone into heaven. Jesus was teaching about heaven and how to go into heaven. He was not making a blanket decree that no one has even been to heaven, but he was saying that no one before him “knew the way into” heaven. In other words, no one has been there and come back to tell others how to get there—except Jesus, the Son of Man.

The other “evidence” Kovacs gave that no one has ever gone to heaven was from Acts 2:29, 34. In this passage, the apostle Peter is preaching a sermon and is citing an Old Testament passage (Psalm 110:1). He did make the point David was dead in contrast to Christ’s living after his resurrection. However, Acts 2:34 which reads, “For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said” was introducing the quote from Psalm 110:1. Peter was highlighting the fact that David was a prophet and was prophesying of heavenly things in that verse while David was still alive (i.e., had not ascended into heaven).

Yet Kovacs makes even a greater blunder. He cited Psalm 146:4 as evidence that we don’t think anymore when we die but “sleep.” On page 56 he wrote, “Scripture provides much more evidence for dead people being unaware of anything until Jesus’ return than it does for an immediate trip to heaven.” He makes the argument that the Bible does not mention our “souls” going to heaven or people going to heaven and “reminds” us that Jesus made this abundantly clear. However, Psalm 146:4 states, “When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing” (NIV, emphasis added). This verse makes it clear that our souls depart and our bodies return to the ground.

He also cited Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10 as evidence that the dead have “no thoughts of any kind.” However, Ecclesiastes in both verses is comparing the living with the dead. Both verses make the point that the dead no longer do the same things as those living “under the sun.” It is merely pointing out the fact that things change when we die, we aren’t working to support our family or gain wealth as we do while we are alive on this earth/under the sun.

Kovacs then moves into a whole other subject, which I cannot address in this same post because of space. He delves into “soul sleep” or altered states after death. To this matter I will turn in another post.
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Oprah on Stem-cell research

In a previous post I metioned that the medical and scientific community is making it more clear with every passing month that embryonic stem-cells are not the best stem-cells to use for all of this "life saving" research that is being conducted. This point was featured promintently on a recent episode of Oprah, which you can view here. The entire clip is only a little over 3 mins., but where Dr. Oz explains why embryonic stem-cells are not good for curing diseases such as parkinsin's begins at minute two of the clip.

Along with the Big O, the Washington Post recently ran a story covering the same issue, that there is viable and better stem-cells other than embryonic stem-cells (although there was one researcher quoted in the article not quite ready to call it quits on ESCR--it's the Washington Post after all they are not going to out-and-out say no to ESCR). What is amazing is how the White House is selling the lifting of these bans on embryonic stem-cell research as freeing science from religious oppression, yet the science itself shows that embryonic stem-cells are not the best for what is hoped to be accomplished.
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