Joseph Herrin (04-11-2016)
Last month I posted two articles containing correspondence with a man in prison whose name is Kenneth.
Every Sentence is a Story
The Least of These...
Kenneth had expressed a desire to be mentored spiritually and I sensed the Father would have me to answer this call. This past week I heard back from Kenneth. I was encouraged by the things he had to share. Here is our most recent correspondence.
(Friday March 25th, 2016)
Dear Mr. Herrin,
I hope this letter finds you well and good. As for myself, I am doing just fine, all things considered. I was glad to get your letters and the info you sent me. I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am for you agreeing to help me on this spiritual journey. Your letters really got me to thinking, and opened my mind to things I have never considered. I prayed a lot about my course of study options before I wrote to you last and it seems God is answering my prayers through you.
I am looking forward to this “accelerated pace of instruction” that you mentioned. I have read everything you sent, and over this weekend I will start reading it all again. It was a lot of info, and I want to be sure I get all I can out of it. I’ll also be taking notes this time and see if I have any questions. Also, I’m not going to be able to keep everything that you send, so I have to try and determine what I should keep. And anything you send to my cell mate Virgil, you don’t have to send to me because I’ll be reading all his material too. So maybe that will save some paper and postage.
I have known in my heart for some time that God was calling me for something. I just need some help figuring out what that something is. I have a strong desire to try and help others. I’m just unsure as to how to do it. That feeling is what led me to enroll in the Bible correspondence courses I’m taking (Gospel Echoes and PMA). I don’t feel that God is calling me to be a minister, or anything like that. I just feel that He has a “job” for me. Is it possible for me to feel this, but God is waiting or preparing me before He reveals to me what it is He wants me to do? Or is it possible “I” just want to do good (striving)? I truly want to do God’s will. There is just a great struggle inside me with the flesh.
I know without a doubt that God saved my life by allowing me to be sent to prison. And I am certain He put me in this Tier II program (lockdown) where I would have plenty of alone time to study His word and talk to Him. He has been dealing with me the whole time I have been in prison, but it took this seclusion to get me to fully acknowledge His will. It was in this Tier that I first came across one of your newsletters and that led me to writing you. I have about 3 months left until I go back to regular population here in prison, and I have to admit I’m a little nervous about it. I like the path I’m on and don’t want to be distracted from it. At least I now have a mentor and a good solid course of study to follow, so that’s going to be a big help.
I’d like to take a moment here to let you know that I don’t feel I’m very good at getting my thoughts on paper. I do think I’m getting better, but my talents lie elsewhere. (I can build or repair anything structural, mechanical, or electrical.) So, if I ramble, or skip from one topic to another, I apologize. Also, my thoughts outrun my pen and it really messes up my handwriting, spelling, and grammar. It’s terrible at times. (I miss my laptop.) From my writing, you could never guess that I was an A or B student that took college prep courses all through high school. I also went to a technical college for electronics before dropping out to join an electrical union (IBEW) and becoming a journeyman industrial electrician.
Anyway, I proofread all of my letters and I can’t believe some of the mistakes I find sometimes. I usually have to re-write my letters at least once, sometimes twice. So if you notice something incorrect or out of place (bad grammar, spelling, etc.), please feel free to correct me. I will not consider it insulting. I always try to get better at anything I do, and writing has never been a strong subject for me.
Now, on the topic of books and study material: I am using a (very small print) paperback NAS Bible and a Pocket New Testament NKJV. I’ve also just received a dictionary called “The Practical Bible Dictionary and Concordance, also including The Treasury of Biblical Information.” (3 books in 1). This book is from Barbour Publishing and was free. Are you familiar with it, and would you recommend I use it? I have never used a concordance or Bible dictionary before and I honestly don’t know how to use it yet. I have been able to look up a few things, but it may have been dumb luck to find what I was looking for, or more likely, the Holy Spirit.
I have been wanting a good NAS Study Bible for months now and in the addresses you sent me I found one place that says they will send me one (Mount Nebo Ministry). I wrote them and tonight I got an enrollment form from them and a letter telling me I must first complete a 13 chapter Bible Study. I am going to mail the form out Monday the 28th, and I’ll complete the lessons as soon as I get them. Their letter says they will send me a MacArthur Study Bible when completed, either NASB or NKJV. It depends on what they have available at the time. Are you familiar with the MacArthur, and would you recommend it for my studies?
You also said a topical Bible would be another valuable tool to have, however, I cannot find any place that offers one to inmates for free of charge. Could you let me know what a Nave’s Topical Bible will cost? We are allowed to receive books as long as they are shipped from an online retailer and they must be soft cover. Bibles don’t have to be pre-approved. I’ll have to write my mom and ask if it is possible for her to order me one. I’m not sure if she can afford it, so we’ll see.
I had also written Gospel Echoes concerning the teachings of that Armstrong guy and we all seem to have the same opinion of him. They sent some photocopies of an excerpt from a book titled “Biblical Essays by A Historical Evangelical Fundamentalist” by Robert L. Sumner (pgs. 316-344). The book basically refers to Armstrong as a false prophet. I had already stopped reading all books and material from him and his church organization. I just wanted the opinion of others on this guy. There are a lot of young men in here who really like reading their books and a magazine they put out called “The Trumpet.” I am constantly cautioning them against the lies that this material contains, but the books are so well written and interesting that they read them anyway. They tell me they can’t be deceived, that they are too smart for that guy to fool them. I say, “He tricked ya’ll into reading his books,” but I can’t seem to get them to understand. Why tempt yourself? So, “thanks again” for your advice concerning this guy.
Another important thing that’s on my mind a lot is I want to encourage my mom and dad. I would like to introduce my mom and dad to your writings and blogs. My dad lives outside Vidalia, GA by himself and has no idea how to use a computer. I do think he would like to read some of your material though, if I can just get it to him. He is an ole farmer and doesn’t like to write much. I read one of your blogs that you sent to another inmate titled “Have You Been Played Lately?” I would like to be able to mail a copy to both my mom and dad. I’ll let them both know how to write you and get put on the mailing list if they like what they read. My mom will soon be online. My mom and dad both believe, but they don’t go to church and they don’t read their Bibles. They are both in their 60s and on disability. I hope and pray they will get right with God before it’s too late. I’d like to do what I can to encourage them to do this. Any ideas?
My mom has recently had to move in with my sister. My mom has M.S. and is in a wheelchair now. My sister is building her a small apartment onto her house, and when it’s complete mom will be back online. They had lightning strike the house on Christmas Eve and are having to re-wire a lot of the house. They were already adding onto the house, as well as building mom’s apartment, but this slowed them down considerably. Maybe they will be finished soon. I feel like my mom will check out your blog then and I am hoping she will keep reading it. I’m going to encourage my sister to do the same. My sister does go to church and takes her children. They just don’t go very often and it’s not a priority. Any ideas how I can convince her that it is? My sister and I have always been close and she has always looked up to me, so I believe she will listen to what I have to say.
Well, I’m going to close this letter now. Our mail room is funny. Sometimes they only let letters of 7 or 8 pages go out on one stamp, but I’ve sent as many as 15. I’m not sure what is up with that, but it’s the world I live in.
On behalf of myself and several other men here in the Tier, I just want to thank you for all you do for us through your ministry. We communicate with each other by passing notes and your books through some of the officers. God works in some wonderfully strange ways sometimes to spread His word. I look forward to hearing from you again. I’ll probably have another letter in the mail to you before you can respond to this one. I’m not going to rush through the material the second time. We’ll see. May God bless you and be with you in all you do.
P.S. I need a little help with some answers for my cell mate. His father was Catholic and just passed away. My cell mate now wants a Catholic Bible. His mom is a Christian and he is torn between what his dad believed and his mom’s beliefs... If you have any material we can use to help sort this out it will be much appreciated. I want to do all I can to help this young man toward the right path. He has had a very rough life and has never had any guidance. May the Lord help him find the right path.
April 5th, 2016
How are you doing today? I had mentioned in the letter about the mail room not letting mail out sometimes. They sent this letter back to me today and said it was 22 cents short on postage. They never needed more than one stamp in the past. They also stopped me from getting my Survival Guide magazine because it has some pictures of “weapons” in it. I think we just have someone new in the mail room. I guess it’s all for some reason. I just wanted to let you know why this letter is late in getting to you. Anyway, I hope you are doing well.
I had been praying for you as I was concerned when a significant amount of time had passed since my last letter to you and I had not heard back. I am glad it was just a problem with the mail room. For informational purposes I will tell you that the prison mail room is not being arbitrary by refusing to send out mail that is too heavy. The post office charges by weight, as well as by the size of the piece of mail. Having sent out more mail than most people, I have learned a fair amount about how the post office works. In general, a first class postage stamp will cover any standard size envelope with up to 5 sheets of paper in it. This is the equivalent of one ounce of mail. If your letter is heavier, you will have to put an “additional ounce stamp” on it. This has been 22 cents, but the postal rates are changing Monday the 11th. They are actually going down for the first time in my lifetime that I can remember.
The post office at times will let mail be delivered that is slightly overweight, but you run a risk of having the mail returned if you do not put adequate postage on it. As a general rule, keep in mind that you can mail 5 sheets of paper with a first class stamp, and 10 or 11 sheets with a first class and an additional ounce stamp. You may notice that the newsletters I send out have the 2 ounce stamp on them due to their averaging about 11 sheets of paper. A few newsletters I mail contain 26 pages printed on both sides of 13 sheets of paper. These are the largest newsletters I send out, and I have never had any returned for being overweight. The newsletters are not mailed in an envelope, however. The post office describes them as a “self-mailer” which is why I have been able to get a couple extra sheets of paper under the 2 ounce limit.
When you say you read everything I sent you, I am assuming that includes the entirety of the writing titled Yahweh’s Book. There is a chapter in that book titled Knowledge Will Increase. It discusses some of the Bible study resources which are available and how to use them. You mentioned that you recently received The Practical Bible Dictionary and Concordance which includes the Treasury of Biblical Information. I am not familiar with that specific Bible dictionary and concordance, but I am sure they will be a helpful study resource. Dictionaries and concordances don’t hold much cause for concern, as personal beliefs and doctrinal views don’t influence them much. It is commentaries which are more concerning. You mentioned that you are seeking to acquire the MacArthur Study Bible, and asked if I am familiar with John MacArthur.
John MacArthur is a very popular minister who has broadcast nationwide the Bible teaching program Grace To You for some decades now. He is the pastor of a church in California where he has been ministering for more than four decades. He also founded a Bible college and seminary which are affiliated with the church. The church is aligned with the Independent Fundamental Church of America (IFCA). This association was formed in 1930, nine years before John MacArthur was born. He is now 76 years old. Among the fundamental doctrines of the IFCA are the following:
Biblical inerrancy, the Virgin Birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the literal resurrection of Christ, the Second Coming of Christ, the eternal joy of those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, and the eternal judgment of those who are unredeemed. It also holds to the Pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church and the Pre-millennial Return of Christ to establish His 1000-year reign on earth before the eternal state.
John MacArthur identifies as a Calvinist in his theology. On the Grace to You website there is a six part series by John MacArthur titled Why Every Calvinist Should be a Premillennialist.
As you study the teachings I have made available through the Parables Bookshelf Newsletters you will find that I believe a number of these doctrines held by John MacArthur contain significant error. I am NOT a Calvinist, and I believe it is an un-Biblical practice to align oneself with any particular man or denomination. The apostle Paul spoke against sectarianism in his letters to the church of Corinth.
I Corinthians 1:10-13
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Yahshua Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
In another place the apostle wrote the following.
Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
We might add to Paul’s list that some are saying “I am of Calvin.” If it was error to align with personalities in the days of the early church, it is error to do so today. Nor is John Calvin a man I would want to be associated with. He was a very harsh, judgmental, and cruel man, and his attitudes were shaped by his erroneous conception of God and of Biblical doctrine. His unabashed lack of love should reveal that there was something wrong with Calvin’s doctrines, for Yahweh has not called His people to manifest cruelty and harshness.
John Calvin ruled over a Protestant enclave located in Geneva, Switzerland in the 1500s. He was an autocratic dictator, and had the scholar Michael Servetus burned at the stake over doctrinal differences. Although Calvin did not order it to be so, his correspondence reveals that he was aware and chose not to intervene when the executioners of Michael Servetus chose to burn him alive over green wood to insure that his agony lasted longer. It was recorded that it was a full 30 minutes before Servetus succumbed to this most horrible form of execution. Calvin was deeply complicit in the murder of Michael Servetus in this manner. Following is an account of this historic event from an Internet source.
On October 27, 1553 John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, had Michael Servetus, the Spanish physician, burned at the stake just outside of Geneva for his doctrinal beliefs!(1) Hence, the originator of the popular doctrine of "once saved always saved" (known in certain circles as "perseverance of the saints") violated the cry of the Reformation -- "Sola Scriptura" -- by murdering a doctrinal heretic without Scriptural justification. This event was something John Calvin had considered long before Michael Servetus was even captured, for John Calvin wrote his friend, Farel, on February 13, 1546 (seven years prior to Michael Servetus' arrest) and went on record as saying:
"If he [Servetus] comes [to Geneva], I shall never let him go out alive if my authority has weight."(2)
Evidently, in that day John Calvin's authority in Geneva, Switzerland had ultimate "weight." This is why some referred to Geneva as the "Rome of Protestantism"(3) and to John Calvin as the "Protestant 'Pope' of Geneva."(4)
During Servetus' trial, John Calvin wrote: "I hope that the verdict will call for the death penalty."(5)
All this reveals a side of John Calvin that is not well-known or very appealing, to say the least! Obviously, he had a prolonged, murderous hate in his heart and was willing to violate Scripture to put another to death and in a most cruel way. Although John Calvin consented to Michael Servetus' request to be beheaded, he acquiesced to the mode of execution employed. But why did John Calvin have a death wish for Michael Servetus?
"To rescue Servetus from his heresies, Calvin replied with the latest edition of his 'Institutes of the Christian Religion,' which Servetus promptly returned with insulting marginal comments. Despite Servetus's [sic] pleas, Calvin, who developed an intense dislike of Servetus during their correspondence, refused to return any of the incriminating material."(6)
"Convicted of heresy by the Roman Catholic authorities, Servetus escaped the death penalty by a prison break. Heading for Italy, Servetus unaccountably stopped at Geneva, where he had been denounced by Calvin and the Reformers. He was seized the day after his arrival, condemned as a heretic when he refused to recant, and burned in 1553 with the apparent tacit approval of Calvin."(7)
In the course of his flight from Vienne, Servetus stopped in Geneva and made the mistake of attending a sermon by Calvin. He was recognized and arrested after the service.(8) "Calvin had him [Servetus] arrested as a heretic. Convicted and burned to death."(9) From the time that John Calvin had him arrested on August 14th until his condemnation, Michael Servetus spent his remaining days:
" ... in an atrocious dungeon with no light or heat, little food, and no sanitary facilities."(10)
Let it be noted that the Calvinists of Geneva put half-green wood around the feet of Michael Servetus and a wreath strewn with sulfur on his head. It took over thirty minutes to render him lifeless in such a fire, while the people of Geneva stood around to watch Michael Servetus suffer and slowly die! Just before this happened, the record shows: "Farel walked beside the condemned man, and kept up a constant barrage of words, in complete insensitivity to what Servetus might be feeling. All he had in mind was to extort from the prisoner an acknowledgement [sic] of his theological error -- a shocking example of the soulless cure of souls. After some minutes of this, Servetus ceased making any reply and prayed quietly to himself. When they arrived at the place of execution, Farel announced to the watching crowd: 'Here you see what power Satan possesses when he has a man in his power. This man is a scholar of distinction, and he perhaps believed he was acting rightly. But now Satan possesses him completely, as he might possess you, should you fall into his traps.'
When the executioner began his work, Servetus whispered with trembling voice: 'Oh God, Oh God!' The thwarted Farel snapped at him: 'Have you nothing else to say?' This time Servetus replied to him: 'What else might I do, but speak of God!' Thereupon he was lifted onto the pyre and chained to the stake. A wreath strewn with sulfur was placed on his head. When the faggots were ignited, a piercing cry of horror broke from him. 'Mercy, mercy!' he cried. For more than half an hour the horrible agony continued, for the pyre had been made of half-green wood, which burned slowly. 'Jesus, Son of the eternal God, have mercy on me,' the tormented man cried from the midst of the flames ...."(11)
"Farel noted that Servetus might have been saved by shifting the position of the adjective and confessing Christ as the Eternal Son rather than as the Son of the Eternal God."(12) "Calvin had thus murdered his enemy, and there is nothing to suggest that he ever repented his crime [sic]. The next year he published a defence [sic] in which further insults were heaped upon his former adversary in most vindictive and intemperate language..."(13)
Is it possible for a man such as John Calvin to have been a "great theologian" and at the same time to act in this reprehensible way and afterwards show no remorse? Dear reader, do you have a heart that could, like John Calvin, burn another person at the stake?
Let us illustrate this another way. Suppose a man from your congregation with a reputation for being a spiritual leader captured your neighbor's dog, chained it to a stake, then used a small amount of green kindling to slowly burn the dog to death. What would you think of such a person, especially if he afterwards showed no remorse? Would you want him to interpret the Bible for you? To make the matter even worse for John Calvin, a person, unlike a dog, is created in the image of God! Like it or not, we can only conclude from this evidence that John Calvin's heart was darkened, and not enlightened, as a result of his murderous hate for Michael Servetus. John Calvin was spiritually blinded by this hate and therefore, spiritually hindered from rightly dividing the word of truth.(17) John Calvin himself was unsaved, according to Scripture:
"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars -- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).
"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in him" (1 Jn. 2:3,4).
"And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding [continuing] in him" (1 Jn. 3:15, NKJV).
The Greek adds an important word to 1 Jn. 3:15 that is sometimes omitted in English translations. That word is "continuing" or "abiding" (NKJV) and states that murderous people don't have eternal life continuing in them.
Dear reader, since murderers are unsaved and John Calvin was a murderer, then John Calvin was unsaved! Moreover, since the unsaved are darkened in their spiritual understanding (Eph. 4:18) and John Calvin was unsaved based on Scripture, then John Calvin was darkened in his spiritual understanding. Jesus said we can "know" people by their fruit (Mt. 12:33) -- be it John Calvin or anyone else! Similarly, the Apostle John wrote:
"This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother" (1 Jn. 3:10).
Can you say John Calvin did what was "right" regarding Michael Servetus? Doesn't this make him a "child of the devil," according to that verse and others already cited? Though some will rant and rave over this conclusion, can we Scripturally come to any other?
No other evidence is needed to objectively assess John Calvin's spiritual status. However, two other men should also be briefly mentioned: "Two other famous episodes concerned Jacques Gruet and Jerome Bolsec. Gruet, whom Calvin considered a Libertine, had written letters critical of the Consistory and, more serious, petitioned the Catholic king of France to intervene in the political and religious affairs of Geneva. With Calvin's concurrence he was beheaded for treason. Bolsec publicly challenged Calvin's teaching on predestination, a doctrine Bolsec, with many others, found morally repugnant. Banished from the city in 1551, he revenged himself in 1577 by publishing a biography of Calvin that charged him with greed, financial misconduct, and sexual aberration."(18)
End Notes on Michael Servetus
1. "On only two counts, significantly, was Servetus condemned -- namely, anti-Trinitarianism and anti-paedobaptism." Roland H. Bainton, Hunted Heretic (The Beacon Press, 1953), p. 207. [Comment: While Servetus was wrong about the Trinity, regarding his rejection of infant baptism, Servetus said, "It is an invention of the devil, an infernal falsity for the destruction of all Christianity" (Ibid., p. 186.) Many Christians of our day could only give a hearty "Amen" to this statement made about infant baptism. However, this is why, in part, Servetus was condemned to death by the Calvinists!]
2. Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Baker Book House, 1950), p. 371.
3. The Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary Of The Church (Moody Press, 1982), p. 73.
4. Stephen Hole Fritchman, Men Of Liberty (Reissued, Kennikat Press, Inc., 1968), p. 8.
5. Walter Nigg, The Heretics (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1962), p. 328.
6. Steven Ozment, The Age Of Reformation 1250-1550 (New Haven and London Yale University Press, 1980), p. 370.
7. Who's Who In Church History (Fleming H. Revell Company, 1969), p. 252.
8. The Heretics, p. 326.
9. The Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary Of The Church, p. 366.
10. John F. Fulton, Michael Servetus Humanist and Martyr (Herbert Reichner, 1953), p. 35.
11. The Heretics, p. 327.
12. Hunted Heretic, p. 214. [Comment: Nowhere in the Bible do we see this sort of emphasis for one's salvation. The dying thief, the Philippian jailer and Cornelius were all saved by a most basic trusting-submitting faith in Jesus.]
13. Michael Servetus Humanist and Martyr, p. 36.
14. John Hus attacked various Roman Catholic heresies such as transubstantiation, subservience to the Pope, belief in the saints, efficacy of absolution through the priesthood, unconditional obedience to earthly rulers and simony. Hus also made the Holy Scriptures the only rule in matters of religion and faith. See The Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary Of The Church, p. 201.
15. The Heretics, p. 326.
16. Ibid., pp. 328, 329.
17. For example, in clear contrast to the meaning that Jesus gave of the parable of the weeds in the field (Mt. 13:24-43) where the Lord told us "the field is the world" (v.38), John Calvin taught "the field is the church." See Calvin's verse by verse commentary of Matthew's gospel.
18. The Age of Reformation 1250-1550, pp. 368,369. Bolsec's book in which he charges Calvin as he did is cited as Histoire de la vie, moeurs, actes, doctrine, constance et mort de Jean Calvin ... pub. a Lyon en 1577, ed. M. Louis-Francois Chastel (Lyon, 1875).
I agree with the conclusion stated by the author of this article that “John Calvin was darkened in his understanding.” He was a man who manifested the proud and murderous spirit of Satan rather than the humility and gentleness of Christ. Consider for a moment how Calvin justified such ungodly behavior through his doctrine. He believed that Yahweh was going to torment the vast majority of His creation in the fiery torments of hell for eternity without end. Consequently, Calvin reasoned that it was a very small thing to subject a man to the torments of a fiery death for a limited period of time here on Earth.
I have demonstrated the falseness of the doctrine of eternal torment in the book God’s Plan of the Ages, and in doing so have also refuted one of the key points of Calvinism which is defined as “Limited Atonement.” Truly a man’s conception of God will have a great impact on the way he treats others.
Interestingly, at the top of the website on which this article appears there is an audio clip where John MacArthur is asked who he most admires among Christians. MacArthur responds by naming John Calvin.
John MacArthur has embraced the typical role of a pastor as a businessman. He has coveted the wealth and comforts of this world, eschewing the example of Christ and His disciples. Doing a quick search online I found a report on his earnings from the year 2011. In that year alone he received a salary of $402,044 from the Grace to You ministry, as well as a salary of $103,000 from the Masters College and Seminary. In addition to this he also received a salary from Grace Church and earned book royalties and speaking fees. The MacArthur Study Bible has sold more than one million copies by itself, so the amount of money he earns from his books could well exceed his multiple salaried positions.
MacArthur’s salary is a matter of public record and his ministries’ tax forms are posted online. The same report that pointed this out lists the following information.
In a clear conflict of interest, John Macarthur's Grace To You has paid approximately $4,300,000 over the last 6 years (2008-2013) to a private firm solely owned by Kory Welch, his son-in law. The Welch Group Companies receives approximately $775,000 annually to produce videos for Grace to You.
Just a short time ago I was corresponding with a brother in Christ who cited John MacArthur’s explanation of the Gospel passage where Christ and His disciples watch people putting money into the Temple Treasury. The Son of God spoke approvingly of a widow woman who put two small coins into the Treasury.
And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on."
In contrast, John MacArthur spoke condemningly of the widow’s action.
You know, the prosperity gospel is more morally reprehensible than a Las Vegas casino because it masquerades as religion. They take your money in Las Vegas but you expect it because it’s run by the Mafia. You don’t expect the people that represent God to do the same thing. And when Jesus saw the widow put her last mite into the temple offering, He said, “This Temple is going to come down. Not one stone will be left on another.” I don’t know what you have been taught about that story of the widow giving her last two cents. That was not an example of Christian giving. God doesn’t expect you to give your last two cents and go home and die. That’s what happens to a widow who is suckered by a religion of works. She was trying to buy with her last two cents her way into the kingdom because that’s what she had been taught. And Jesus says, “Any system that sucks people down to the place where they have nothing left in a false hope is coming down.” And it did.
Remarkably, the title of this message by John MacArthur is Testing the Spirits. I think there should be some testing of John MacArthur’s spirit. Isn’t it remarkable that this man who states that Christians “don’t expect the people that represent God” to “take your money” has grown rich off of the money of the church? We should also ask whether it is true that God does not expect His people “to give your last two cents” to Him? Christ declared the following to the people who had gathered to listen to Him.
So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his possessions.
And to the rich young ruler who asked Christ what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Yahshua responded:
"One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
For many years John MacArthur invited listeners to his radio program to join him for an annual cruise where he and other Grace To You employees would be holding speaking sessions aboard ship in the midst of great opulence, self-indulgence, and 24 hour buffets. Of course John MacArthur would get to cruise free of charge and would even profit from the cruises which serve as opportunities to sell books, videos, and other ministry materials.
Kenneth, it is not my intent to single out John MacArthur as an example of what a minister in the apostate Christian religious system of this day looks like. There are others who are worse, and not all that he teaches is error. He does proclaim some truth. I have gone to the trouble of sharing this information with you in order to alert you to the need to test EVERYTHING that is being taught. There is much danger of being led astray into error by reading a study Bible or a Bible commentary if you are not practicing spiritual discernment and showing yourself to be a diligent student, examining carefully and patiently every teaching you encounter. This includes my own.
I do not shy away from encouraging men and women to have their Bibles opened and to check the context of every Scripture I cite to make sure no false interpretation has been wrested from the pages of the Bible. Truth does not mind being scrutinized. Indeed, it is of benefit for you to scrutinize that which is true as well as that which is false, for in doing so the truth will be firmly established in your mind and heart.
I placed an order for a copy of Nave’s Topical Bible for you. You said Bibles don’t need to be pre-approved. This is not a typical Bible, however, so I don’t know if you want to request approval of it. I ordered it through Books A Million, one of the Georgia Department of Corrections’ approved book sellers. You should be receiving it soon.
In your letter you stated that you don’t feel that God is calling you to be a minister, but you do sense that He has a call on your life. It is true that Yahweh has a work prepared for all of His sons and daughters. The clergy/laity separation which is commonly recognized in the churches today is a wholly un-Biblical concept. The Scriptures teach that ALL who are born again of the Spirit of Christ are called to be a nation of priests. We are all Christ’s ambassadors, representing Him to the world.
II Corinthians 5:17-20
Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Kenneth, God determined before the foundations of the Earth what work is appointed to each individual. It is our responsibility to seek the Father and to know what works He has appointed to us.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Yahshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
You need not wait until you are released from prison to enter into those works God has appointed to you. There are ministry opportunities in prison. I know well that there are men in prison whom God has prepared to receive a word of truth. You need not think conventionally when thinking of your calling. There are a great many ways to demonstrate the life of Christ to others. An act of kindness; a word of encouragement timely spoken; sharing what possessions you have with others; praying for a man who has a spiritual or physical need; these are just a few of the ways God uses men to demonstrate the life of Christ to others. Invite God to give you eyes to see the opportunities He has appointed for you, and to anoint you with His Spirit that you might demonstrate the life of Christ to others.
On another subject, you need not be concerned about the quality of your writing. I have the advantage of being able to compose my thoughts on computer. I also read through my correspondence for mistakes before I print it out, or send it on. I catch all manner of errors that way, but a few still slip by.
Back on the subject of Study Bibles, I believe some of the most useful are those which contain references to other passages of Scripture that have some association with the content of the passage you are studying. An example is the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. In this Bible you will find in the margins references to other Bible passages which address the same subject. You get the same basic information in a Bible concordance, but this puts the information right alongside the text of the passage. Other valuable study aids are notes explaining some detail of the Scripture you are reading, such as the identity of a geographical name, or the definition of some ancient unit of measure. In a sense, this is like adding the information from a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia into the text as well.
One of the more concerning features of modern study Bibles is commentary. As with the MacArthur Study Bible, the author’s commentary is usually leavened with error, or misleading as to the deeper meanings of some passage. I rarely use commentaries for I have found them to be shallow, or filled with error. There are some that go a bit deeper, but they too must be tested for they all have some error. One of the more insightful study Bibles I have found is that produced by E.W. Bullinger. It is called The Companion Study Bible, but as far as I know it is only available in the King James Version. Bullinger brings out many unusual aspects of the Scriptures and delves into subjects others rarely address, but he too has some error. It is always necessary to test all things.
In your letter you expressed a desire to encourage your parents and your sister to begin showing a greater interest in spiritual things, and to introduce them to some of my writings. Kenneth, I don’t want to discourage you in this matter. Yet at the same time I would have you to consider that a vital and dynamic spiritual life being manifested in the life of a person is a very rare thing in this age. I am often reminded of the following passage of Scripture.
Return, backsliding children, says Yahweh; for I am a husband to you: and I will take you one from a city, and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion: and I will give you shepherds according to my heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
I would like to be considered by Yahweh to be one of those faithful shepherds who will feed people with true knowledge and spiritual understanding. Yet the greater revelation I take from these verses is that the number of individuals prepared to receive truth and understanding is but a remnant. One from a city and two from a family is not many. Zion is the place where Christ stands among the overcomers. There are not many people journeying there. At this time Yahweh is dealing primarily with a first fruits group who are coming to maturity before the more numerous majority.
I encourage you to attend first to your own spiritual growth, and wait on Yahweh to lead you to opportunities to speak a word of light and truth to those you love. Pray for them, for apart from the drawing of the Holy Spirit, no man will come to deeper places in Christ. Don’t underestimate what Yahweh will do in response to your prayers. He does not need our activity or intervention, but He will at times permit us to play a part in stimulating those we love to a purer devotion to Christ.
Regarding the material I send to you and your cell mate, it is better that I continue to send material to each of you individually. It is too much labor to try to figure out what material you are receiving in common, and if you do receive duplicate material that you need to dispose of, this may give you an opportunity to share it with someone else.
As for your roommate and his interest in Roman Catholicism, I will send you a writing titled Syncretism. I invite you to read it first and then if you deem it appropriate you can share it with him, or whatever portion of it you deem fitting. I am also enclosing a writing titled Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), Ash Wednesday, Lent and Easter.
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days,
Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
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