Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sometimes Opportunity is the Child of Adversity

Acts 8: 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. 4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.

Throughout history, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has spread and flourished during times and in places of persecution, hardship, and the moral bankruptcy of societies.  We see this in the book of Acts and the early history of the Church. It can be seen today in countries all over the world. In some places a particular religion is favored by the state. In others Christianity is regarded as seditious or treasonous. Many Christians have been imprisoned, tortured and killed.
In the U.S. Christians have not yet, for the most part, experienced the kind of persecution that threatens our lives. Persecution for us has involved lawyers rather than storm troopers. Our rights under the Constitution are being marginalized. Our day may come but our current plight does not compare to that of the jailed pastor of a Chinese house church.
For most of my 52 years, Christians have watched with alarm as American society has declined morally. The response to this has often been to organize politically. The phrase “take America back” has been one spoken from the church pulpit and the campaign stump. When Ronald Reagan won the White House in 1980, It may have seemed that the tide had turned in favor of Conservative/family values/Judeo Christian principles. That was an illusion
It was also wrong-headed. I believe God will always expose and chastise His people when Christians deceive themselves (I'm pleading guilty) into believing their hollow, temporal, man-centered victory is from Him. The open displays of sinful behavior we see flaunted today did not appear out of thin air. These are simply the desires of man coming out of the shadows into the open.
The United States has never been led by people who were not tainted by sin. On the one hand, we can be patriotic and appreciative of our freedom and the good things the U.S. has done for the world. On the other, we recognize the dark intervals in which our nation perpetrated evil.
The desire for the victory of high principles has often kept us from recognizing the fact that there are real people behind the caricatures invented for the purpose of winning debates and elections. For instance, my opinion about immigration policy remains what it has always been. But no one in Washington is asking for my opinion. To allow our domestic grievances to become an impediment to the Gospel puts us on a par with people Jesus described as a brood of Vipers.
The fact that U.S. borders are essentially open and porous is a source of political and moral frustration for an ideological Conservative like me. But think about how many lost people we Christians may encounter as the world enters this country. The opportunity for the spread of the Gospel could be huge. Your ‘neighbor’ (in the Biblical sense) needs to hear the Gospel regardless of the means by which he or she entered the country.
Immigration policy is only one example. The challenge for American Christians is to reconsider what it means to honor God in the marketplace. If you encounter, corruption, preach the Gospel. If you see sin on parade, don’t try to force it back into the shadows. Preach the Gospel. If you are exposed to every kind of sinner among your neighbors, preach the Gospel. Because such were some of you.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I visisted a church recently and, for the first time in my life, was told essentially to not come back. Sharing with an assistant pastor my desire to find a Christ centered church focused on teaching God's Word,  he said, "Well then this is not the church for you. We have found that Christians already know enough (alarm on my part). They just need to go out and be Jesus (more alarm)."

I made the mistake of voicing my thoughts when I said, "Wow, that is so wrong." To which he replied, "We are not like the Pharisaical churches you are used to."

The passage for the "sermon" which they described as a conversation, was Matthew 28:19, "Go ye into all the world baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost..."

During the "conversation," two assistant pastors, dressed very mod with gotees and cool glasses, mentioned the passage and then used it to make a recruiting pitch for volunteers. The application of the verse was summed up in "Just bring them in (the unchurched). We will take care of the rest."

The assistant pastor also told me, "We model ourselves after Andy Stanley's church," (still more alarm) I know that years ago, this church was Purpose Driven. There is no telling when the next fad will overtake them.

Later in the week, the pastor sent me an email saying, "we are looking for Christians who want to be missionaries rather than students primarily."

The problem with all of this is that verse 20 follows verse 19. "...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you and lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.Amen." Studying the Word and going out to the unchurched is not an either/or dichotomy. In fact, to send the church out into the world without having equipped the body of Christ to teach goes against God's command.

Once again, God's Word has been surgically marginalized by leaders with a plan to make it "relevant."   

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stop Looking Everywhere For an Explanation

The most empirically provable (and socaily dismissed) explanation for the evil that man perpetrates on himself has been expressed in God's Word for centuries.

Jeremiah 17:9
"The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

Mark 7: 21-23
"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 "deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23“All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Max Hastings Says it Better Than I could

Max Hastings writes for the UK Daily Mail. His assessment of the societal deterioration in Britain is one that should lead to some introspection here in the U.S.

Notice the rioters all seem to have cell phones.

Some quotes:
A century ago, no child would have dared to use obscene language in class. Today, some use little else. It symbolises their contempt for manners and decency, and is often a foretaste of delinquency.

If a child lacks sufficient respect to address authority figures politely, and faces no penalty for failing to do so, then other forms of abuse — of property and person — come naturally.

So there we have it: a large, amoral, brutalised sub-culture of young British people who lack education because they have no will to learn, and skills which might make them employable. They are too idle to accept work waitressing or doing domestic labour, which is why almost all such jobs are filled by immigrants.

They have no code of values to dissuade them from behaving anti-socially or, indeed, criminally, and small chance of being punished if they do so.

They have no sense of responsibility for themselves, far less towards others, and look to no future beyond the next meal, sexual encounter or TV football game.

Read more:

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Punxsutawney Phil Confirms Global Warming

Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog that predicts the arrival of spring, confirmed today that spring will indeed arrive early.  "Clearly," said Phil, who failed to see his shadow this morning, "gloal warming will lead to an early and warmer-than-normal Spring season this year."  Phil went on to predict that Ground Hog Day will have to be moved up to mid January because Spring will be coming so much earlier now. When asked to explain how it is that the reason that he cannot see his shadow was because of a monumental snow storm, Phil said, "Look buddy, I don't make the rules.  I just call it like I see it."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A good book

Signs of the Times

Re: Michael Patton's question, What makes two people married or divorced?

Living together, sex, and having children are things common to people who “hook up” for periods lasting anywhere from a week to a few years.

Clearly what is important is intent. In Matthew 19, the Pharisees tempt Jesus with the question, “‘Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put her away?’

8. He saith unto them, Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so.”

They were splitting hairs with the Lord, like a bunch of lawyers, trying to maneuver him into a corner. But he made it clear. God puts up with our machinations because of our hardness of heart.

The fact that God allows us to violate his ordinance should not be seen as consent.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Joel Osteen Always Good for a Laugh

Watching Joel Osteen Sunday night. His message was from the passage in which Jesus turned water into wine. Osteen used this story to say that God is going to "accelerate the blessings in your life. It goes like this:

Jesus took a process that normally takes years (the production of wine) and did it instantly. God will do the same thing with your dreams and goals. He will make your dreams come true faster than you ever thought they could. Just believe.

There is at least one major problem with this application. Water does not normally turn to wine. You can stare at a jug of water as long as you like and it will still be water (minus some evaporation). Jesus didn't speed up a process. He did the impossible.

Why Are The Begats Important?

Matthew opens his account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the most boring part of the Bible. The family tree of Jesus. To a person who has never read the Bible, the begats are the point at which that person, especially a young person, begins to wonder just how long it is going to take to get to the exciting part. The first family line is in Genesis. So right away, we run into a long list hard-to-pronounce names. There is a point, however to the family lines in the Bible. One of Matthew's main purposes is to present Jesus Christ as The King. From beginning (the lineage) to end (Matt 25), Christ is portrayed as the expected King. Jesus is not merely the King because he is God. He is the earthly king of the Jews as well.

While it is true that the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus as king (John 19) It is also true that Jesus family tree shows his royal pedigree. The King had to come from the line of King David. Look at the list in Matthew's Gospel and you will see that his line runs from Abraham through David through his adopted father Joseph. Notice verse 16 says "16Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah." The verse does not say Joseph was the father of Jesus. We know Mary was a virgin.

You might ask how Jesus is qualified to be king if Joseph is not his biological father. It is true that adopted children in Jewish society had all the rights of biological children. And later in his life Jesus was referred to as the son of Joseph so he was recognized that way. But there is even a better answer.

Mary was in the royal line as well. There is a fork in the road at David. Joseph's line came through Solomon. Mary's came through David's other son Nathan. So Jesus is doubly qualified. This is also important because in Joseph's line there is a man named Jeconiah. Jeconiah was put under a curse by God (Jeremiah 22:30). His ancestors were forbidden from taking the throne. So if Jesus were only in line through Joseph, that would have actually disqualified Jesus from being king. Another interesting thing about Jesus family tee is who is included in it. There are gentiles, women (even a harlot) and some rather unsavory people.

The point of this is that God uses whom he chooses. No one is chosen by God because of any special righteousness or qualificatiosns. In fact, the people God chose for His puproses were sinners. Just like us.

Matthew-First Installment

Background: Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors were employed as contractors by Roman senators. The senators would bid amongst themselves to auction off the rights to collect the taxes from particular territories of the Roman empire. The senator would pay the tax for say, Jerusalem. Then he would collect the tax plus a mark-up. The tax collectors would pay the senators and collect the tax plus the senators fee plus something for themselves. By the time the citizen paid the tax it was much more than what was actually paid to Rome, depending on just how much the senator and the tax collector were trying to extract for themselves. There was a fair amount corruption in the whole system. The Jews considered Rome to be an evil occupying force. Tax collectors were considered just above prostitutes in the social structure. Some (not all) tax collectors were ruthless. Zacchaeus was the tax collector who Jesus found in a tree (because Zacchaeus was short, he climbed up to see Jesus) (Luke 19) along his path and called him down to spend time at his home. Zacchaeus was so moved that he vowed to pay back everyone he had defrauded four-fold and give half of his belongings to the poor. This came AFTER he had been called by Jesus. Salvation came first. Charity and restitution second. Apparently, Matthew felt no such compulsion. Or he simply did not say so. Matthew may have been a relatively honest tax collector. Taking only a reasonable commission. This would not change the fact that Matthew was a sinner in general or mitigate the overall lostness of his soul. God's Word does say that when Matthew was called by Jesus, (Matt 9) Matthew left his previous life behind immediately. Even though Matthew is describing his own experience he writes in the third person, always keeping Christ at the center of the story.