Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Can Have Uncertainty

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me”
Psalm 23:4

No one goes to Colorado for the valleys. Vale and Aspen owe their wealth to mountains, not valleys. Tourists don’t pay exorbitant sums of money to ascend Pike’s Valley, it’s Pike’s Peak they want to scale. We all know the view from the mountains is spectacularly breath-taking.

And through the pathway of life, we like the mountains as well. When we can see clearly and the air is fresh and the wind is blowing and we sense refreshment, grandeur, calm, power—this is to what we aspire. But snaking our way through the dark valleys is a journey anyone would rather skip.

The Christmas cast of the New Testament gospels knew valleys well. Simeon the priest saw Roman guards on the street corners on his way to work at the Temple. Every day he kept hoping for the Messiah. Every night he went home disappointed. And the shepherds? No doubt they often heard music from the parties of Bethlehem, but society had taught them well their status in life. Ostracized and outcast, they watched others dance and heard about the great events in the cities, they trudged to their lonely hillsides to spend yet another night with sheep, while others in the world made merry with friends.

The wise men too, those magi from the East, were encumbered with a culture of political chaos. They grew tired and impatient with incompetent leaders who made promises they never kept. Joseph was a blue collar worker who struggled with making a living. After paying high taxes to Caesar Augustus, he tried to figure out how to set aside a little extra for his family. There never seemed to be enough money. And Mary? I’m sure the changes she was feeling inside her were very frightening. Even more frightening was the appearance of an angel who told her what she was feeling was pregnancy—via the Holy Spirit! Try telling that to a chauvinistic Jewish population. She was plummeted into a valley overnight.

But none of those folks stayed in the valley. Read just a couple of chapters of the gospels and you’ll quickly discover that an encounter with Jesus pulled these folks out of their valley and moved them to a mountaintop.

It’s the same today. Some of you are in a valley. Call it loneliness, hurt, disappointment, sin, financial uncertainty, job insecurity or whatever label you choose. Maybe you’re there. Smack dab in the middle of a valley. Some situation that stinks. Some event you’re not sure you can face another day. But do you remember the words of today’s Scripture reading “The Lord is my shepherd”? The baby in the manger became our Shepherd who is always with us, who will guide us through dark, uncertain valleys.

This Christmas remember His presence. There’s no need for fear, because He is with You. In crowded lines at Wal-mart and candlelight worship services, our Shepherd is with us!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Center Your Life on the Word of God

"No one can be a good Christian who does not with holy zeal set out to know, delight in, and live by the Word of God!" --John R. Rice

John R. Rice was not a perfect man. But rather than accentuate his imperfections or even extol his myriad of contributions, I'd simply like to highlight that he was a man who was preoccupied with honoring God through His Word.

While creation testifies of God's greatness (Psalm 19:1), we know God through His self-revelation...through the Bible. This is the central point of the Christian's life. We are not to live by some code of generic kindness. While that may be the popular mantra of many Christians today, and kindness and charity towards others is, without question, advanced by the Bible itself (Matthew 22:39; Ephesians 4:32), kind deeds are not the measure of our Christian faith. We measure ourselves by the Word of God.

"Thou hast commanded [us] to keep thy precepts diligently." --Psalm 119:4

Sunday, October 09, 2011

D.L. Moody's Thoughts on the Sabbath

Today is a special opportunity to honor God. If you don't often attend church, perhaps you'll read this early enough to get there today. Here's an exerpt from Moody's famous sermon "Weighed in the Balances."

THERE HAS BEEN an awful letting-down in this country regarding the Sabbath during the last twenty-five years, and many a man has been shorn of spiritual power, like Samson, because he is not straight on this question. Can you say that you observe the Sabbath properly? You may be a professed Christian: are you obeying this commandment? Or do you neglect the house of God on the Sabbath day, and spend your time drinking and carousing in places of vice and crime, showing contempt for God and His law? Are you ready to step into the scales? Where were you last Sabbath? How did you spend it?

I honestly believe that this commandment is just as binding today as it ever was. I have talked with men who have said that it has been abrogated, but they have never been able to point to any place in the Bible where God repealed it. When Christ was on earth, He did nothing to set it aside; He freed it from the traces under which the scribes and Pharisees had put it, and gave it its true place. "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." It is just as practicable and as necessary for men today as it ever was--in fact, more than ever, because we live in such an intense age.

The Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. The fourth commandment begins with the word remember, showing that the Sabbath already existed when God wrote this law on the tables of stone at Sinai. How can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine are still binding?

I believe that the Sabbath question today is a vital one for the whole country. It is the burning question of the present time. If you give up the Sabbath the church goes; if you give up the church the home goes; and if the home goes the nation goes. That is the direction in which we are traveling.

The church of God is losing its power on account of so many people giving up the Sabbath, and using it to promote selfishness.

Without a doubt, this day has become a day of selfishness. A day to spend on ourselves, not God. Truly America is suffering because 1) we do not honor God with a day of worship; and 2) we do not apply the principle of sabbath rest.

Friday, October 07, 2011

President Obama Continues Bias Against Jews

Morton Klein, of the Zionist Organization of America, recently bemoaned President Obama's favoritism of Islam over Judaism, saying:

Obama’s attitude towards Jews and Israel, following the latest presidential Rosh Hashanah Message, addressed strangely to “everybody,” and in which he never actually mentioned ‘Jews’ or ‘Judaism’ even once, referred to ‘Jewish tradition’ only once, and said nothing about the Jewish contribution to American life or anything else. (This is in stark contrast to President Obama’s August 2010 Ramadan Message, in which he referred to ‘Muslims’ six times and to ‘Islam’ twice, stated that “American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country,” and praised “Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings … a faith known for great diversity and racial equality”).

You can read the entire commentary here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

McDonalds Joins America's Downed Economy

Things must be bad. McDonalds just ended their $1 all sizes fountain drink. To their credit, it seemed like a very long promotion spanning several months and helped my own skimpy "blow money" budget. But with the ecomony limping along, I knew it was a matter of time before the Golden Arches hiked the price.

I frequent McDonald's to access the internet and my recent purchase of a cola ended up with the miniscule "small" 16 ounce cup. The kind and knowledgeable associate informed the person ahead of me that the Monopoly promotion bumped the large drink for $1. It was now $1.69. This advanced let-down helped me to at least be able to speak again when it was my turn. The clerk repeated verbatim her mantage when I stepped up to order a drink.

I guess the McD empire is reasoning that we cheapsakes can't have both an additional 20 ounces of soda AND a free monopoly piece. If we want those, we'll have to shell out another $0.69. But since I'm a "dine-in" customer, this only means that I have to make more trips to the fountain drink counter. And at 150 calories a chug (I don't drink Diet) I need to be more active anyway.

Now, of course, I'm going to grab Monopoly's "official rules" the next time I'm in. I'm sure there's a "no purchase necessary" clause in there somewhere--allowing me to get my soda (albeit a reduced size) and monopoly piece...all for $1.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

President Obama's Stimulus (Jobs Incentive)

I wish I had a few more economists as friends. This is not meant to disparage the intelligence of those who are my friends, nor to deny that they have some cerebral grasp of capitalistic economic theories, but I just don’t understand the President’s JOBS bill that he recently presented to Congress, the American people and is now stumping for throughout the land.

I have to admit I smiled when a read an article with an acrostic JOBS (Just Obama Blowing Smoke) which probably reveals my rather extreme bias against Stimulus IV (or is it V?). If the proposal is truly about getting the American economy moving again, I propose the following (and I’m serious):

First, cut the proposed $447 billion spending in half—just on the principle of the matter that an economy in peril doesn’t warrant that kind of spending. America’s GNP is around $15 trillion but since I’m not an economist and have no economist friends who would patiently endure my thick-headedness to explain whether that’s excessive or not, I maintain that it is. Being rather intelligent in my own right apart from much exposure to economic theories, I reason that taxes generated on a GNP of $15 trillion would be about 25%, so I’m guessing about $3.8 trillion.

But even as I write this, I thought surely our federal budget would be a better measure and sure enough, with the help of my internet search engine, Wikipedia reports that last year the federal government collected $2.16 trillion in taxes. So it’s worse than I thought. President Obama’s proposal is about 25% of what we collected last year. So, if a family making $60,000 a year is struggling economically, and the husband suggests INCREASING their spending by $15,000, you’d understand why his wife ripped his hair out. Sure, they may need to pay for more education for a better career to start making more money, but if they’re barely surviving now, how will they make it by increasing spending by 25%? So, my redaction of the President’s plan stands at $223.5 billion.

Second, I’d assess a 50% penalty for a track record of government waste. Spend an hour here reading and you’ll agree. It’s so much easier to track $20 than $200. When I go out on a Friday night with $200 in my pocket and come home with $20, I don’t always know where the dollars went (was it the appetizer, the Venti or the sporting goods store?). But with only a 20 in my pocket, I guard it like a pit bull. Now the President’s plan stands at $111.75 billion.

Third, give about half of that ($506 million) to the two major parties (sorry Tea Party, Constitution, Libertarian, etc. They must split that between themselves ($253 million each) and they can invest it however they choose. If they wish to put it all on one project or a handful of projects or spread it out over the states. But it would be a competition of sorts, to see how they use taxpayer dollars and whether they are successful.

Fourth, the remaining $506 million should be equally divided among the American people. With a population of about 312,000,000, this means every breathing American would get a bit over $1.5 million—none of the Bush tax rebate nonsense (remember the $600 in 2008?). There should be no lobbying for those who are already millionaires to do their patriotic duty and forego the stimulus. They can use it to pay the maid at their castle in Sicily. And no doubling up for poor mothers with 17 children either. Remember, the 17 children will each get a check, so she’ll be more than compensated.

Now, I really am serious about this. President Bush’s idea of a tax rebate was a good one, but the amount was ludicrous. My $600 caught me up on bills. My under my editing of the President’s plan, a family of 3 persons would receive about $4.5 million. I think we’d see some major economic stimulus going on.

Personally, with that kind of rebate, I’d purchase a new or nearly new automobile. I’d take a major vacation (probably more than one), eat out weekly, buy some small farm equipment, small office equipment , go to a Chiefs game, and invest. I'd also seriously consider starting my own business. And I don’t think I’d be the only one doing these things.

I know this seems ridiculous, but I am serious. Why wouldn’t giving the American people some serious cash stimulate our economy?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spurgeon: On Keeping the Sabbath

This thought about today from Spurgeon's catechism #51

Q. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
A. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days (Lev. 23:3), and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship (Ps. 92:1-2; Isa. 58:13-14), except so much as is taken up in the works of necessity and mercy (Matt. 12:11-12).

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Bloomberg's 9/11 Memorial Excludes Many

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided not to invite clergy and first responders to the upcoming 10th anniversary memorial of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. The mayor's office is citing space issues, saying they are inviting only family members of those who died in the attacks.

Most American's will remember the first recorded death of the Trade Center attack
was that of a Catholic priest, New York Fire Department Chaplain Mychal Judge (pictured here).

Rudy Washington, a former official in the Guiliani adminstration, makes a profound point. "This is America, and to have a memorial service where there's no prayer, this appears to be insanity to me. I feel like America has lost its way."

While laypersons can pray to God (I am not certain any prayers will be offered), clergy are visibile representatives of an invisible God. Their physical presence is symbolic of God's presence. Hence, their exclusion is His exclusion.

The trouble, no doubt, is that once one member is invited, the dominoe effect of "exclusion" gets tipped. If a Catholic priest, then a Protestant minister. If a liberal, then a conservative. If a male, then a female. If Christians, then Muslims...and now the great offense is on. Families of victims of Muslim terrorists exposed to a Muslim imam praying to Allah--who commanded the deaths of the American infidels. That gets messy.

Of course, the Mayor has allowed the governors of New York (Andrew Cuomo) and New Jersey (Chris Christie) to participate. And yes, the President will be there too. All of these politicians will bring sizable staff and security details (so much for the space limitation excuse).

We'll accept the presence of politicians, but accept the exclusion of Christ's ministers. We've come a long way from the days of the founders who decided early on to have ministers pray to God. America has indeed lost its way.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Republican Hypocrisy

One of the most interesting political issues that has been quietly waged is our nation’s involvement with-in-or above-Libya. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m relatively clueless about the affair. And being a semi-intelligent person, that’s part of the criticism our President is facing over his decision (and it is virtually his decision alone) to involve our nation in the overthrow of Gaddafi and his regime. Folks like myself don’t understand it.

In fact, even the Speaker of the House doesn’t understand. That’s partly why he sponsored a resolution back in June requiring the President to give his rationale.

Admittedly, the War Powers Act, which stands at the center of this controversy, is a piece of American law that is both obscure and convoluted. Every American President seems to have been criticized for “violating” it. The interesting part of this saga is that the President, who heretofore has been anti-war, is ignoring it; while Republicans, mostly in favor of using force for international conflicts, are citing it.

So I’m a bit more than cynical. I’m seeing hypocrisy in action.

Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, all advised the President that he would need to scale back operations in Libya. Not liking that counsel, the President found cover in the legal opinions of White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department’s legal adviser, Harold H. Koh. Both of them argued Congress could be snubbed and the War Powers Act ignored.

At a June 16 White House brief, President Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, brought the nation’s attention to an April 28, 1999 statement Representative Boehner’s office released. Then, the issue was President Clinton’s involvement in Kosovo. Boehner said then
“The President of the United States is, and should remain, the chief architect of America’s foreign policy and the Commander-in- Chief of our armed forces. As distressed as many of us are over the Clinton Administration’s ill-conceived strategies in the Balkans, Congress must resist the temptation to take any action that would do further damage to the institution of the presidency itself. Invoking the constitutionally-suspect War Powers Act may halt our nation’s snowballing involvement in the Kosovo quagmire. But it is also likely to tie the hands of future presidents who will need the authority to lead in crises with less ambiguous implications for our national security. A strong presidency is a key pillar of the American system of government - the same system of government our military men and women are prepared to give their lives to defend.”
Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck countered by drawing attention to a statement made by Barak Obama at DePaul University in October 2007 while he was a senator.
“After Vietnam, Congress swore it would never again be duped into war, and even wrote a new law -- the War Powers Act -- to ensure it would not repeat its mistakes,” then-Sen. Obama said. “But no law can force a Congress to stand up to the president. No law can make senators read the intelligence that showed the president was overstating the case for war. No law can give Congress a backbone if it refuses to stand up as the co-equal branch the Constitution made it.”
If Republicans truly believed the President’s authorization of drone-led bomb attacks and an expenditure of $10 million a day constituted ‘hostilities’ the War Powers Act addressed, they should have supported the resolution by Dennis Kucinich. It called for the withdrawal of our involvement and as a “privileged” resolution it would have gone to the Senate for a vote. But Republicans supported Speaker Boehner’s tepid measure instead, allowing them, it seems to me, to criticize Obama’s involvement in Libya without really enforcing the War Powers Act.

So, the liberal Democrats, led by Kucinich, are the heroes of this saga—staying true to their anti-war convictions. Sadly, Republicans, who we often look to for the moral high ground, played the part of hypocrites.

On June 16, the House passed a Boehner resolution by 268 to 145, including 45 Democrats and all but 10 Republicans, requesting a detailed outline of the cost and scope of the operation in Libya. A stronger resolution sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), which would have required the U.S. to withdraw all its troops from Libya within 15 days, failed but was supported by 87 Republicans and 61 Democrats.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Governor Rick Perry: A Rising Star Who Fizzles Fast

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been eyeing the Republican nomination for President and has been quite good at manipulating Religious Right conservatives toward his cause. He is the foremost voice of calling for a national day of prayer in Houston on August 6 and is termed “initiator of The Response” by The Response website.

The groups “leaders” and “co-chairs” are quite the consortium of religious figures in America, mostly dominated by the false teachers of the charismatic, word of faith movement, some of them outright quacks.

Which bring us to the surprises. Don Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, is a “leader” along with Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church of San Diego. Richard Land, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Jim and Shirley Dobson of Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America are among the honorary co-chairs. Ed Young, Pastor of Second Baptist Church, Houston, along with David Barton of WallBuilders are also named among supporters.

That Governor Perry is using a spiritual event for political purposes should be apparent. This is even more problematic by his recent endorsement of homosexual marriage by individual states, as reported here by the Wall Street Journal. With the solid lineup of key religious faces, many undiscerning conservative Christians will back this candidate, who has declared war on God.

Further, the gobble-de-gook of religious pluralism will ultimately harm the gospel. When conservatives link arms with biblical heretics, we are in serious trouble. And some of America’s foremost pro-family voices have done exactly that.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Democrats Seek to Advance Homosexual Marriage

While President Obama’s popularity ratings continue to plummet over his dismal financial policies that continue to virtually bankrupt the nation, White House strategists have opted to play to the Democratic power base—hoping to shore up some meager measure of support.

The Senate has begun hearings on the Respect for Marriage Act, a pro-homosexual bill, designed to destroy biblical marriage, which was solidified by the 1996 passage of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA defined marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman, was passed by 84 percent of those who served in Congress and was even signed into law by then President Bill Clinton, a supporter of sodomite rights.

Speaker of the House John Boehner said: “This is another effort by the White House to take attention away from jobs and the president’s economic policies, which have been a failure. The Defense of Marriage Act is the law of the land, and the House will continue with its effort to ensure the constitutionality of the law is determined by the courts rather than by a unilateral action by the Obama Administration.”

The one semi-surprise of today’s hearing, which was called to order by Chairman Patrick Leahy at 9:45 a.m., was Senator Al Franken’s attack on Tom Minnery, senior vice president of CitizenLink, a ministry of Focus on the Family. Minnery was one of only a few witnesses the Democratic controlled Judiciary Committee allowed to testify at today’s hearing. Franken tried to make a point that a HHS study citing the ‘nuclear family’ could have been referring to same-sex couples.

The ranking Republican member, Senator Chuck Grassley (IA) said of the name of the repeal bill, the Respect for Marriage Act, "George Orwell would have marveled at the name."

In fact, marriage, these days, has little respect in our country. While its most aggressive and current threat is from the homosexual community, divorce and pre-marital sex continue to weaken this God-ordained institution.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Patrick Henry--American Patriot

One of America’s favorite patriots is the fiery Virginian, Patrick Henry. Most citizens know (or at least used to know) of his famous “Give me liberty, or give me death” statement. Few, however, have ever read the entire speech in which it was uttered. That speech, known as The War Inevitable, was delivered to Virginia’s House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775 at St. John’s Church in Richmond. We forget that the founders were far from united on the matter of independence from Great Britain. Patrick Henry helped persuade the Virginian leaders to offer troops in support of the coming conflict.

I’ll refrain from analyzing the speech, trusting only that you, the reader, will notice his several references to God. He, like so many of our nation’s founders, was thoroughly Christian.

The War Inevitable
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?

No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne!

In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.

Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Some twenty fours years later, Patrick Henry was on the threshold of death. He turned to his attending physician and said:

"Doctor, I wish you to observe how real and beneficial the religion of Christ is to a man about to die... I am, however, much consoled by reflecting that the religion of Christ has, from its first appearance in the world, been attacked in vain by all the wits, philosophers, and wise ones, aided by every power of man, and its triumphs have been complete."

Friday, May 20, 2011

The world will end…but not tomorrow.

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:16

Perhaps you’ve heard the prediction of a semi-prominent American false teacher, Harold Camping. He’s predicted that tomorrow, May 21, at 6:00 pm Pacific Standard Time, Jesus will rapture His church.

I really wouldn’t mind if he was right. We Christians are “to watch and be sober” (1Thessalonians 5:6). Must of us want the rapture to occur sooner, rather than later. However, this penchant of setting an exact time is a flagrant offense against the Word of God.

Camping has previously predicted Christ’s return (1994) and there have been others throughout history who have attached a precise timing to Jesus’ return.

The Montanists established a community in Anatolia in 699 AD where followers could wait for Jesus’ expected return.

In 1284, Pope Innocent III predicted that Christ would return that year. He simply added 666 years to the date of 618 AD, the year Mohammed founded Islam.

The Millerites sold off their belongings and gathered in upstate New York on October 22, 1844 to meet Jesus at His return. But that day came and went causing Hiram Edson to report: "Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before... We wept, and wept, till the day dawn.”

More recently, we had 88 Reasons Why Christ Will Return in 1988 by Edgar Whisenant, followed up the next year by 89 Reasons Why Christ Will Return in 1989. Oh well.

The Bible is clear that we “know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13) and Jesus said “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:32-33). If Jesus doesn’t know when the Father has established His return, certainly Harold Camping doesn’t know it.

While the exact time of Jesus’ return is uncertain, that He will return is very certain. We may not know the day and hour, but we can know “the times and seasons” (1 Thess 5:1). And we are very close to the rapture of Christians, the return of Jesus and final judgment of the world.

John “saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).

Are you ready for judgment day?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Ben Liden Dead

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Hunted by America for nearly 10 years, this terrorist had his day of accountability. Certainly my patriotism abounds. When I think of the many spouses who had to adjust to life without their marriage partner; the many children who have grown up without a mother or father; the communities and workplaces that were weakened because of the loss and our nation that has been radically altered by intrusive security measures, I am glad that this enemy has been eradicated.

Spiritually, I am reminded by this action of our accountability to our Creator. In the words of the old preacher RG Lee, we all have a “payday, someday.” Bin Laden’s payday came this past weekend in Abbottabad, Pakistan, when a team of CIA operatives and Navy SEALS delivered American justice—swift and severe.

2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his] body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad.” Our day of answering for our earthly deeds may be delayed, but the day will come.

Former President George W. Bush, speaking of this incident, said: “America has sent an unmistakable message: no matter how long it takes, justice will be done.” And that is also the message of the Bible regarding our spiritual accountability. No matter how long it takes, you will face the justice of God.

Fortunately, God opened the eyes of my heart to my evil deeds and showed me I cannot stand on my own and hope to be declared innocent. The Bible says: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The only hope we all have, Americans and non-Americans alike, of escaping the judgment of God is by taking refuge in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Warning from 1 John

1 John 4
1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 4Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 5They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. 6We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

With so many heresies bombarding the church today, it is somewhat encouraging to read John’s words from the end of the first century. Somehow I imagine that we’ve done something wrong; that we went to sleep and forfeited the high ground of sound theology. But if the apostles weren’t successful in getting the infant church into the second century untarnished, what makes us think we’ll have pristine orthodoxy?

Paul “marveled” that the Galatian church had abandoned the true gospel (Galatians 1:6) and said he would turn over to the devil "Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred."

The Bible warns us “Do not believe every Spirit”. Not everyone holding a Bible is a true teacher.
Interestingly, behind the voice, every doctrine, every teaching, there is a spirit. False spirits give false teachings; only the true Holy Spirit of God teaches us the Word of God.

“Many false prophets have gone out into the world”. Rob Bell is one of the current abusers of God’s truth. I could name 100 more.

Notice that John did not say we can tell false spirits by their works. He said we can identify that they are false spirits by their message. This was the acid test of a false prophet under the Old Covenant as well (Deut. 13:1-5). And the primary message false teachers avoid is a discussion of Jesus Christ. He is come in the flesh to save us from our sins. That message is likely to be avoided by many.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

KFC Launches $390 Dollar Giveaway

Oh wow! I just received an email from Kentucky Fried Chicken. They are giving away one free $5 lunch meal every day in May...and, hold on there partner, they're even giving away one free $10 chicken bucket each Sunday. There's a small catch. You have to subscribe and follow their Facebook and/or Twitter page.

Now I'm not opposed to free food. But doing a bit of quick math, KFC is investing $195 in this national blitz for each website. That's a bit odd. I know everyone is cutting back a bit, but I find it Scroogishly laughable that a multi-million (probably billion) dollar company has pulled together a total budget of $390 to entice America to join their Facebook and Twitter pages. Maybe they only have a couple of dozen folks as their Facebook friends, so your odds of winning may be greater than I expect. And if you join Twitter, you've doubled your chances.

Of course, KFC's miniscule May reward program prompted my reflection on a lack of generosity in general. I vaguely remember they tied into Oprah a couple of years ago when they we're promoting their new grilled chicken. All you had to do then was download a free certificate from Oprah's website. Maybe they are still recovering from that fiasco. I downloaded one and the local KFC said they weren't honoring them anymore.

Christians, in general, do not reflect the great generosity of their Lord Jesus. He gave lavishly and extravagantly. But we share so little of our resources. Little money, little time, little thoughts of others and their struggles through life.

KFC's $390 May reward program seems out of place for a company of their stature. What's out of place in your life?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Still Contemplating...Still Rejoicing!

Charles Spurgeon commented on the celebratory nature of this solemn day. The entire sermon can be read here.

The Lord of life and glory was nailed to the accursed tree. He died by the act of guilty men. We, by our sins, crucified the Son of God. We might have expected that, in remembrance of his death, we should have been called to a long, sad, rigorous fast. Do not many men think so even to-day? See how they observe Good Friday, a sad, sad day to many; yet our Lord has never enjoined our keeping such a day, or bidden us to look back upon his death under such a melancholy aspect. Instead of that, having passed out from under the old covenant into the new, and resting in our risen Lord, who once was slain, we commemorate his death by a festival most joyous. It came over the passover, which was a feast of the Jews; but unlike that feast, which was kept by unleavened bread, this feast is brimful of joy and gladness. It is composed of bread and of wine, without a trace of bitter herbs, or anything that suggests sorrow and grief. The bread and the cup most fitly set forth the death of our Lord and Saviour, and the mode of that death, even by the shedding of his blood; but as they stand before us now, they evoke no tears, they suggest no sighs. The memorial of Christ's death is a festival, not a funeral; and we are to come to the table with gladsome hearts, ay, and go away from it with praises, for "after supper they sang a hymn." At both ends it was psalm-singing. The great Hallel of the Jews commenced it, and another psalm, full of joy and gladness out of the hallelujahs of the psalms finished it. Oh, what hath God wrought! We crucified the Christ of God; but in that crucifixion we have found our ransom. With wicked hands he was slain by us; but his blessed sacrifice hath put all our sin away for ever.

A Good Passage for a Good Friday

One is the most powerful passages in the Bible enunciating the benefits that we’ve received because of Jesus’ voluntary death on the cross is Romans 5

1 Therefore,having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according
to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore,as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in
condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
According to the passage, we’ve been “justified” (a legal term declaring us righteous even though there is substantial evidence against us); we have “peace”—even though we’ve warred against God and assailed His holy character; and we have access—even though we have no merit, worth or standing. All of this because Jesus embraced the cross.

Even more, this passage tells us we were “without strength”(verse 6)—a word revealing our powerlessness and paralysis. We were “still sinners” (verse 8) and “enemies” (verse 10).

So why should this not be a Good Friday? This reconciliation does indeed cause us to “rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Certainly, it caused Him much pain, humiliation and anguish. So I stand in awe and reverence…and joy!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Maundy Thursday Meditation -- Judas the Betrayer

Matthew 22

Notice first, that Judas was one of the Twelve. Judas was an insider, not an outsider. He was "in the know" and "on the team." He was entrusted with sensitive information. Often the greatest harm done to the cause of Christ is from within. Consider for a moment Jesus's opposition in Israel. You may recall the four major groups that opposed Him--the Temple priests, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Herodians. Throughout His ministry, Jesus was barraged by their theological and political traps but had always successfully outmaneuvered and outwitted them. Matthew's 22nd chapter bears light on this public conflict. The outsiders are once again banging away at Jesus.

The Pharisees and Herodians form an alliance and ask Jesus if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. (This tax question is particularly interesting to us at this time of year). You understand this question is a catch 22. If Jesus says it is lawful, then He appears to be supporting Rome and will lose the support of the people. If He says it is not lawful, He would probably be arrested for insurrection against Rome. But Jesus says clearly to give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God the things which are God's. After that attack from external forces, the Sadducees come asking about the resurrection of the dead. Immediately after that, the Pharisees are back in Jesus's face laying a trap about the greatest law. (And you think you've had a hard day!). At the end of chapter 22, Matthew says "and no man was able to answer Him, neither did anyone dare from that day on to ask him any more questions." Get this picture! For the past three years, Jesus has been battling political groups. Finally, three of them have surrendered; they've given up! Jesus can relax a bit, or can He?

The one group remaining to oppose Jesus is the priests and elders of Israel. Verses 3-4 of our chapter under consideration make clear the intention of the chief priests and elders of Israel--they wanted to secretly arrest Jesus and kill Him. Their hatred is still strong and their resolve is still robust. But as the passion drama unfolds, the danger comes not from without, but from within. We would do well to meditate on this passage. The ravenous wolves are easy to recognize--those who argue against Jesus being God, those who advocate homosexuality as an acceptable alternative to a man/woman relationship, those who trust in their goodness and benevolent works for salvation, those who chant "eat, drink and be merry"--these are easily recognizable as a threat to our faith. Often, the danger is not from outside our walls but from among our pews. The church has great trouble in recognizing wolves that eat like sheep, sound like sheep, look like sheep and smell like sheep. Judas was one of the Twelve! He was a professing sheep outwardly, but he was a despicable wolf inwardly.

The wolves among us profess the same. They pretend and profess to serve the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. But inwardly they are selfish, fleshly, and deadly. These people would never say the Bible is just an ordinary book; they simply ignore the Bible. These folks would never say abandon the church; they however, give as little of themselves as is necessary to keep pretending they are true disciples. They would never assert that God is not worthy of our praise and worship; they simply sing His praises lackadaisically--without passion, without volume, without conviction. You'll never hear these people say prayer is irrelevant; you will, however, hear these persons use vain repetitions in their insincere recitations or vocalize incessantly their worries and anxieties. And ever so gradually, their thoughts and their actions begin to rub off on true disciples and the Church is pulled into their vicious net of superficial and meaningless faith. Judas was one of the Twelve.

The greatest threat to your living a life totally for God may lie within--within the Church or within yourself. As we reflect on the Betrayal, may we recommit ourselves to total loyalty to Christ, sincere devotion and steadfast faith. May we guard ourselves against the Judases in our lives and even more importantly may we guard our own self against becoming a Judas. May we abandon mediocrity and reach for greatest heights. May we not be satisfied with just another meeting, but may we long for a life-altering encounter with the Holy One.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Where'd This Come From?

This quote dropped into my life today:
"The respect that leadership must have requires that one's ethics be without question. A leader not only stays above the line between right and wrong, but stays well clear of the gray areas." G. Alan Bernard-President, Mid Park, Inc.

I have no idea who G. Alan Bernard is (and no time to Google), but this is a saying close to my heart. We're always trying to walk the line, and no offense to Johnny Cash, but that's no where for a Christian to be. Sadly, many Christians live on the line. No wonder they too often step over it.

Do you?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Continued Thoughts from John’s First Letter

Since I’m teaching through 1 John at my local church, I thought I’d pass along these ideas from the beginning verses of chapter 3.

First, it is incredible that we are the children of God!
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

Right on the heels of 2:29 where John first introduces the very famous phrase from his gospel “born of Him”, is this burst of praise that a) God’s love is foreign to us; b) God’s love is lavished upon us; c) God’s love makes us His children. We’re fairly (and unfortunately) inoculated to this truth. It is so common to us “that we should be called the sons of God” that we’ve lost the grandeur and phenomenal-ness of this simple truth.

The word “manner” stems from a somewhat obscure Greek word that means “of another world” or “foreign”. It’s what the disciples said of Jesus when He calmed the storm in Mark 4:41 “And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” They clearly indicated that what they had witnessed from Jesus was not normal, not of their world. And that is exactly what John is trying to convey here. What manner of love is this?

Second, ongoing sin is an indication that you are not a genuine Christian.

The reason this is so is because: 1) sin’s nature is lawlessness and 2) sin’s origin is of the devil. True Christians are at peace with God (through the sacrificial blood death of Jesus) and are born of God. To war against Him (sin is lawlessness) and join with the devil (sin’s origin) makes no sense and cannot be.

John fires away in rapid succession with his “whosoever” statements:
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law…(3:4)
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: (3:6)
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin…(3:9)

There is simply no room for justification of sin here. Of course, the Bible is here conveying an ongoing, continued pattern of repeated sin, no the occasional or infrequent sin.

So, sin is to have hardly any presence in the life of a truly born again, Christ-loving Christian. It’s one of the ways you can know whether you are genuinely one of God’s children.

Friday, April 01, 2011

What I'm Reading

Here's a quick disclaimer--it's not the only thing I'm reading! While some of my intellectual skills have degenerated to a fourth grade level, I still manage to read SOME stimulating literature. But I did manage to grab this whimsical book on a recent trip to the library.

I don't mean any disrespect to author Tom Burns, but the book does give me hope for becoming an author some day. I mean, how hard can throwing together some very common, pithy colloquiums along with some animal photographs, be? And again, no disrespect intended to Mr. Burns, but his 2005 book that retailed for $8.95 is going for the illustrious $0.01 used on ($.0.50 new).

Here's some that caught my eye:

Hospitality is making your guests feel at home...
...even if you wish they were.

Borrow money from pessimists--they don't expect it back.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

These piqued my interest:

42.7 percent of statistics are made up on the spot.

Research shows that 14 out of 10 people like chocolate.

A recent survey shows that three out of four people make up 75 percent of the world's population.

I think those last three underscored for me, the reality that truth can be ridiculously subjective, unless, of course, it is grounded in something bigger than you or me, or a Republican or Democrat. It's way too common to be watching a talk show with opposing heralds bantering back and forth and one will state something along the lines that we can make statistics say anything we want. The notorious political polls have biased questions designed to illicit a certain outcome.

Not so with God's Word, the Bible. It is truth. It will save you from eternal damnation. It will teach you the mind of Jesus and the holy ways of God. It is truth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Weakening of the Bible

Many of my regular readers know my past history with the Southern Baptist Convention. A few years back, I went into a self-imposed exile of sorts, having been informally and unofficially ousted by a denomination that had covertly changed its convictions from its once stalwart resurgence. Still, I have a deep love and a not-so-deep hope for the denomination that gave me so much in terms of my personal faith development and professional preparation.

I find myself still following the happenings of America’s largest protestant denomination, bound to this love-hate relationship of a man and a convention that espouse rather significant differences in biblical convictions. The latest angst I’ve experienced is from the current edition (April 2011) of Facts & Trends, a publication of Lifeway, the publishing arm of the SBC. Lifeway is probably my least favorite entity of the SBC for several reasons. First, Lifeway isn’t very discerning about the books they sell. One would think they’d be rather rigid in peddling books that support Baptist doctrine and foster fundamental Christianity. Not so. While the shelves aren’t littered with bad books, they’ll sell the popular stuff even if it has a bit of a rub against traditional Baptist beliefs.

Second, Lifeway also makes money, lots of money. Long ago, they were the Baptist Bookstore of the Southern Baptist Convention, committed to serving the local church. In these later decades, they’ve reinterpreted their identity to appeal to the larger Christian family. The trade off is their service to the local Baptist church isn’t all that great. When I was pastoring local Baptist churches, one of the highest budgeted items was our literature from Lifeway. But hey, they do give money to the Cooperative Program!

And while I’m pontificating, why not give a third critique. Lifeway’s major face of Biblical teaching is Beth Moore. While she does hostess only woman’s conferences (though I’m sure men attend) and seems to teach orthodox beliefs, it seems ironic that a denomination that believes in male-only Biblical offices, wouldn’t also have a male face hosting conferences and writing studies.

Be that as it may, my most recent conflict is that Facts & Trends is currently debuting one of Lifeway’s newest training modules: “Game Plan for Life.” One headline reads: “Football, NASCAR champion helps guys develop a “Game Plan for Life.” Did you catch that? Yeah, read it again. It isn’t the Bible that’s helping men develop their game plan. It’s football and NASCAR.

Joe Gibbs, head coach of the Washington Redskins and NASCAR owner, is at the center of the new discipleship module. Maybe he’s the author. Maybe he’s the sponsor, I’m not sure. The whole promotion rubbed me wrong. Here’s a new module off the presses designed to help the local pastor train his men in Biblical discipleship and the dominant graphics, words and ideas are football, superbowl, NASCAR, etc. Lots of glitz, but very little substance.

The accompanying article was the most troubling. Entitled “Football and NASCAR captured men’s imagination, led to Bible study” (yes, you read it right again…it’s football and NASCAR that are capturing Christian men, not the Holy Spirit or the Bible), it focused on the module’s usage by Riverbluff Church in North Charleston, South Carolina. The summation of the article was that this is a great study because it draws men together via the sports theme and gets them talking with each. Hmmm. And I thought we men were supposed to be learning the Bible.

Now to be sure, I’m quite convinced that the men of Riverbluff Church did talk about the Bible. My problem is that in reading the article, you come away with this dominant idea that the Bible alone is insufficient (and even absent!) in attracting men. It must be repackaged. And the wrapping needs to be pretty. The Bible wasn’t in the spotlight. Joe Gibbs, football and NASCAR were.
Two realities are staring at me.

The first, is that in the modern church age, there is a demand to repackage the Bible. Common churchmen and women aren’t committed to studying the Bible on its own merits. They don’t want to abide with Christ, learn of Him or be sanctified by His truth. They must be enticed by bells and whistles. They need allurement and excitement.

The second reality is that church leaders and church entities are catering to this immaturity. It brings to my mind God’s scathing rebuke in Ezekiel 34. Verse 10 states, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I [am] against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.” Lifeway needs to stop focusing on what sells and what is attractive, and start focusing on what matters and what is needful.

The church is weak. We don’t need chats stemming from the backdrop of football championships and roaring stock cars. We need men (and women) who recognize their great need of God’s Word and will “lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Abide in Christ

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

1 John 2:28

The Bible here gives warning that some Christians will be ashamed at Jesus’ coming. The very event that has transfixed our hope, that encourages us to continue faithful, that calms us in the midst of difficult circumstances—that great hope of Jesus’ return, His second coming—is an event that will cause some folks shame.

It certainly won’t be a day of joy for people who have lived their lives apart from Jesus. They will say “to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16). Clearly, non-Christians meet Jesus’ return with fear and dread. And rightly so, because His second coming is very unlike is first coming. When He first came to earth, it was to seek and to save. When He comes again, it will be to search and destroy.

But surprisingly, even Christians meet the day with “shame”. Certainly, many of Jesus’ followers will probably understand at His coming, wasted opportunities, squandered time, misplaced priorities, but I think the Bible here is ultimately saying that genuine Christians are to abide in Christ until His coming. If they don’t, they will prove themselves un-geniune and be ashamed, much like the lost, unbelieving world that tries to hide from Him.

So it's John's way of saying to those in His congregation, stay true to Christ. Don't abandon the faith you once embraced. Or to state the converse, those who once went to church, believed its teachings and embraced her Savior but who no longer do so, are not "abiding in Christ" and will be "ashamed" (damned) at His appearing.

The key to understanding the verse, I think, lies in that phrase “abide in Him”. Many try to make that into something mystical and ethereal.

Listen to what one teacher has stated: To abide has to do with the concept of 'being' instead of 'doing'. Abiding in Christ is a process. We don't get there over night. So don't get discouraged if it seems hard to just 'rest in Him'. Enjoy the mountains, the ocean, the blue skies (even the thunder and lightning), the green pastures (even the hot desert). As you enjoy God's creation, you will sense His presence. Abiding will come. Stop and 'smell the roses'.

There seems to be a lot of that kind of giberrish on this matter of “abiding in Christ”. It seems that we should be taking up yoga, or at least be sitting by the beach in the lotus position, palms upward, eyes close and perhaps a long, deep hum…is this seriously what they think “abiding in Christ” is all about? The word itself, “meno”, in the Greek, isn’t very mystical. It simply conveys the idea of remaining, or staying, or enduring. And it fits well with one of the major reasons John writes this brief letter—assurance of salvation.

The Jews didn’t want Jesus’ body to “remain” on the cross (John 19:31) and asked Pilate to take it down; Paul wanted Timothy to “continue” in the things he had learned (2 Timothy 3:14); Jesus asked the disciples to “tarry” with Him at Gethsamene the night of His arrest (Matthew 26:38); and Peter said it was the Word of the Lord that “endureth” forever (1 Peter 1:25). In each case, it is the same Greek root as our word in 1 John: "abide".

And in those other verse where the word is typical translated with a different word than "abide", we don’t suggest anything mystical at all, because it is very clear as to the writer's intent. And so with "abiding in Christ". It means staying with Him, enduring in the faith you began, tarrying and continuing with Him.

And contrary to the writer I previously quoted, “abiding in Christ” has more to do with “DOING” than “BEING”. Consider Jesus’ own words on the matter from John 15:4-5 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can DO nothing."

Also, John 15:10 “If ye KEEP My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.” And John 14:23, "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will KEEP My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him."

Abide is very much an active, doing-oriented matter. Far from sitting by the ocean and smelling the flowers, abiding with Christ comes through intentional action.

John 15:7 gives perhaps the biggest clue to what it means to “abide in Christ”. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Jesus puts the spotlight on His words as the factor of “abiding”. Reading, memorizing, meditating, engrafting the Word into your being is essentially what it means to abide with/in Christ.

Andrew Murray, in his book Abide in Christ, writes:

IT IS to you who have heard and hearkened to the call, "Come unto me," that this new invitation comes, "Abide in me." The message comes from the same loving Saviour. You doubtless have never repented having come at His call. You experienced that His word was truth; all His promises He fulfilled; He made you partakers of the blessings and the joy of His love. Was not His welcome most hearty, His pardon full and free, His love most sweet and precious? You more than once, at your first coming to Him, had reason to say, "The half was not told me." And yet you have had to complain of disappointment: as time went on, your expectations were not realized. The blessings you once enjoyed were lost; the love and joy of your first meeting with your Saviour, instead of deepening, have become faint and feeble. And often you have wondered what the reason could be, that with such a Saviour, so mighty and so loving, your experience of salvation should not have been a fuller one. The answer is very simple. You wandered from Him. The blessings He bestows are all connected with His "Come to ME," and are only to be enjoyed in close fellowship with Himself. You either did not fully understand, or did not rightly remember, that the call meant, "Come to me to stay with me." And yet this was in very deed His object and purpose when first He called you to Himself. It was not to refresh you for a few short hours after your conversion with the joy of His love and deliverance, and then to send you forth to wander in sadness and sin. He had destined you to something better than a short-lived blessedness, to be enjoyed only in times of special earnestness and prayer, and then to pass away, as you had to return to those duties in which far the greater part of life has to be spent. No, indeed; He had prepared for you an abiding dwelling with Himself, where your whole life and every moment of it might be spent, where the work of your daily life might be done, and where all the while you might be enjoying unbroken communion with Himself. It was even this He meant when to that first word, "Come to me," He added this, "Abide in me." As earnest and faithful, as loving and tender, as the compassion that breathed in that blessed "Come," was the grace that added this no less blessed "Abide." As mighty as the attraction with which that first word drew you, were the bonds with which this second, had you but listened to it, would have kept you. And as great as were the blessings with which that coming was rewarded, so large, yea, and much greater, were thetreasures to which that abiding would have given you access.

We wander from Him when we disobey His Word. So to “abide in Christ” means to stay faithful to you, to continue with Him. Neither the forest wind nor the sea breeze will teach me about Jesus. Only the Bible can do that. So ingest it into your soul. Consume it, learn it, live it. Obey it. If you do that, you will make it to the end with no shame.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Patrick and Forgiveness

It would be safe to say that Patricius, a 15 year old teenager of a semi-wealthy family, was like most teenagers today. His wealth and status probably contributed to a rather me-centered perspective that most humans, and particularly adolescents, seem to possess.

His kidnapping by Irish raiders changed his life. Grabbed from his British home in the middle of the night while his parents were away visiting a nearby town, he instantly lost all prestige and entitlements. Within weeks, he was a slave to an Irish landowner and consigned to guarding sheep. Some years later, he escaped and returned to his home and his parents. Shortly, thereafter, he decided to return to the people who had altered his life.

There are many worthy quotes from the aged missionary to Ireland worthy of our contemplation, especially on this, his day. But let’s not forget his life expended preaching the gospel, modeling the gospel and warring for the gospel was all predicated on an earlier decision. Long before he became known to the world as St. Patrick, he decided to forgive his enemies of their offenses and this action was the defining action of his life and is central to the gospel of Jesus.

Forgiveness is the core of the Christian faith.

Have you sought the forgiveness of God, your Creator, Designer and Sovereign King?

Have you forgiven others who have offended, wounded, and hurt you?

Ephesians 4:32
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

Friday, March 04, 2011

Knowing God

In my teaching through the letter of 1 John, I’ve been reminded that knowing God is a big deal to Him. It is a thunderous message in the epistle and it is the heart of biblical revelation—the why? of everything God tells us about Himself and the history of humanity. God is a self-revealing God. He wants us to know Him.

It is the ultimate reason behind the exodus—God’s rescuing His covenant people from Egyptian slavery. “And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Ex 6:7). And, too “…the Egyptians shall know that I [am] the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them” (Ex 7:5).

God used Jeremiah the prophet to tell us that if we accomplish anything at all with our lives and energy, be sure we know Him: “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I [am] the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these [things] I delight, saith the LORD” (Jer 9:24).

The apostle Paul said his highest quest was “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection…” (Phil 3:10).

And in 1 John, the Bible talks of knowing God experientially (ginosko) 24 times: 2:3, 4, 5, 13 (twice), 14, 18, 29; 3:1 (twice), 6, 16, 19, 20, 24; 4:2, 6 (twice), 7, 8, 13, 16; 5:2, 20 and knowing Him intellectually (oida) 15 times: 2:11, 20, 21 (twice), 29; 3:2, 5, 14, 15; 5:13, 15 (twice), 18, 19, 20.

The interesting this about the perspective in 1 John is that this knowledge of God manifests itself in action. It isn’t a passive, philosophical knowledge. It is an active, integrated knowledge. It really is an echo of the book of James. Don’t just talk about faith—show it.

So, how much of God do you know?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Claire’s Despair

"The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it."
Margaret Sanger, Founder of Planned Parenthood

Yesterday, Senator Claire McCaskill (Democrat—Missouri) was in Springfield and had a brief interchange with reporters. Among several comments she gave, she addressed the House of Representative’s recent vote to defund Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider. As reported by The Fuse, she said:

“As to Planned Parenthood, they are not allowed to ever perform an abortion with any federal dollars. The money they’ve cut is for birth control and contraception. That does not make sense to me, because we need to be preventing unwanted pregnancies. That’s how we prevent abortions. So, it sense [sic] backwards to me that we would cut the money for birth control and contraception in the name of reducing abortions. Those two don’t mix. I think we need to make sure women have access to birth control and contraception so that we don’t have unwanted pregnancies.”
At the heart of this issue, Senator McCaskill fails to share most Missourians (and Americans) disdain for an organization that brutalizes women and pre-born babies through abortion. Masking her complicit embrace of abortion, she advocates the “educational” arm of Planned Parenthood.

Could you imagine our senator’s response to this hypothetical? An organization in the United States brutally ends the developing life of puppies. These puppies die painful deaths and some of their remaining body parts are even sold to research facilities. We discover that this organization receives federal money. Yet, miracle of miracles, none of that federal money actually goes to killing puppies. The puppy-killing organization actually educates about spaying and neutering dogs. That’s how they use their federal money. Would Claire be advocating we keep federal money going to the puppy-killing organization?

The fact remains that Planned Parenthood is a dark, violent and immoral organization. And despite Senator McCaskill’s skillful distraction, most Americans know it and are repulsed by our forced funding of such an organization.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Abortion Myths Still Strong in America

This week marks the 38th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion legal in America. Legal during the entire 9 months of a woman’s pregnancy. Millions of Americas have died through abortion, a term that has become a common part of America’s vocabulary, but a term that too rarely reminds us of the violence that it causes.

While abortion has its cold hearted advocates, most Americans prefer another option. However, these same Americans, who know in their heart there is something inherently wrong with the practice, have bought into one of the biggest lies of the abortion movement—the so-called “right to choose.”

Because Americans value individual freedom, it’s been an easy sell. I wouldn't have an abortion myself, they say, but what right do I have to tell someone else how to live? It certainly sounds very American. That was partly why we fought the War for Independence. British monarchs from London telling us how to live in Boston, Philadelphia and everywhere else up the colonial seaboard? So this abortion lie ties in easily to our entire heritage.

But Americans have forgotten to ask the ‘why’ question. Why wouldn’t you have an abortion yourself? Is it mere preference, similar to a beach lover not taking a vacation to the Alaskan tundra? Or is it something more? Maybe you wouldn’t have an abortion because it’s immoral. There is a vast difference between saying ‘I wouldn’t eat sushi myself, but who am I to interfere with another’s right to do so’ and saying ‘I wouldn’t physically abuse my children, but who am I to interfere with another’s right to do so’.

If abortion is a safe procedure, with no serious mental, physical or emotional problems for the woman to consider; if it is not illegal or immoral; if it is not killing a human being or an offense against society and our Creator, then why would you not have an abortion?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Too Much Silence

Today, of course, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday. And while we could (and probably always will) debate the merits of Dr. King getting a federal holiday in his honor, there can be little debate, if any, regarding the merits of his contribution to American betterment. Dr. King was a catalyst for incredible change.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about today is my reluctance to herald Dr. King as a truly great American. In case you don’t know me personally, I write from a white, conservative, Republican-leaning, evangelical, fundamental Christian perspective. And as much as I appreciate Dr. King’s work in the area of civil rights, his personal failures dampen my enthusiasm to embrace his life whole-heartedly. There seems to be credible evidence of his immoral sexuality, drinking, Marxism and Hinduism. I won’t go into all of these things but they seem to have been a part of his later life.

But I was awakened to some of my hypocrisy today when I thought of George Washington. Back to my first paragraph. If George Washington doesn’t get a day in his honor, why should Martin Luther King? So I’ve been thinking some about Washington and King. George Washington was a really good guy in my book—not perfect—but good. Washington’s big moral deficiency was that he was a slave holder. And ‘moral deficiency’ is way too benign. Slavery is repugnant; it’s an outrage and a horrendous sin against God.

So I have some questions for myself. Why am I hesitant to extol the greatness of King because of his adulteries but not hesitant to extol the greatness of Washington in light of his enslavement of other humans? Could it be that I have discriminatory qualities? Can I overlook Washington’s sin because it was more distant than King’s? Can I overlook Washington’s sin because it seems more bound to his culture than does King’s? Hmm. Some things for me to think about today.

Anyway, I do know two things. First, God does incredible works through imperfect people. And second, while King had many imperfections, his heart had been captured by Jesus who directed his mind and his life to this great quest of greater equality for black persons in America. His life is worthy of remembering. His memory is worthy of honor.

P.S. I’ve blogged in the past regarding two things.

First, that Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is one of the finest pieces of American literature. You should read it. Second, Dr. King’s statement: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” is one of his finest, and one of my favorite all-time American quotes. We need to stop the silence.

Monday, January 03, 2011

A New Year Resolution

AW Tozer’s classic book The Pursuit of God is as relevant today as it was decades ago. If you’ve never read the work, put it on this year’s “to do” list. One of his most poignant paragraphs is the following:
The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word. We have almost forgotten that God is a Person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can. It is inherent in personality to be able to know other personalities, but full knowledge of one personality by another cannot be achieved in one encounter. It is only after long and loving mental intercourse that the full possibilities of both can be explored.

I think, for the most part, the American evangelical church, has lost God. We do, in fact, want instant results for our zeal. We aren’t interested in fostering a relationship with God. And too often, we want a list rather than listen and learn. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating a subjective faith in which we do whatever we want because we’ve “heard” from God, downplaying the role of Scripture. God does speak through His Word. What I’m highlighting is the danger of a Bible only-emphasis. The Bible is the Word of….GOD. It is not an end. It is a means to an end…knowing and understanding God (cf Jeremiah 9:24).

So don’t expect to know God by one encounter only. Don’t think there’s a quick route to communion with Him. Knowledge of the Holy One will only come through painstaking labor of lingering with Him. Won’t you make this a year of knowing God, whatever the cost?

I’m not much of a fan of contemporary music. I don’t just mean the sound of modernity. I mean the lyrics too. Even good sounding songs are typically poorly written (that’s another blog article). But one song has gripped my heart. It’s not perfectly written and I think certain portions could be strengthened, but it comes very close to perfection. Certainly, its sentiment is perfect.

All I once held dear, built my life upon,
all this world reveres and wars to own,
all I once thought gain I have counted loss,
spent and worthless now compared to this.
Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.

Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
to be found in You and known as Yours,
to possess by faith what I could not earn,
all surpassing gift of righteousness.
Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.

Oh, to know the pow'r of Your risen life,
and to know You in Your suffering,
to become like You in Your death,
My Lord, so with You to live and never die.
Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.
Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy, my righteousness;
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy, my righteousness;
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy, my righteousness;
and I love You, Lord.

If you're into making "New Year's Resolutions" certainly put this one on your list--Knowing God more fully. I'm not into resolutions, but it tops my goals for this year. I'm on the heels of the Apostle Paul "that I might know Him..." (Phil 3:10).