Thursday, July 2, 2015

NORMAL OR NOMINAL

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Before the culture and political correctness became dominating influences, the birth of this nation was grounded upon Judeo-Christian verities and values. Even though there were some deviations on the part of the founding fathers of this nation, the basic core values had The Creator and Scripture as the guiding influence as they sought to define how to establish and maintain “all men are created equal” and the best route to follow if one desired the freedom to realize “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The founding documents desired to clearly define what was the norm (a standard, model or pattern) versus anything that would be a breach or license for the abnormal (deviating from an established standard, departure from the usual or typical, extraordinary).

There was a time when the citizenry had a strong sense of what was normal (usual, typical, common, regular). Laws were based upon foundational principles and enforced accordingly. At some point a shift in perspective and perspicacity (keenness of mental perception and understanding and discernment) occurred. Some proponents of a nominal (in name only, theoretical) approach to freedom and liberty began to gain traction and ultimately momentum. As a nation, we began to be enticed to taste the forbidden fruit. While our demise was not immediate, it allowed for further tasting of forbidden fruit so that now we have journeyed a great distance from the established verities and values. The nation has drifted to where it finds delight in the experimental and has marginalized any frame of reference to a standard or divine authority. There has been a continuing effort to remove reference to God and the Christian religion from public consciousness. 

Regardless of where the secular culture is heading, the greater concern is for the presence and influence of the Biblical Christian and Church amid the decadent culture. By choosing to avoid being labeled as confrontational, we have allowed for a spirit of accommodation to emerge. Too many have become similar to the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz as the manifestation of a lack of resolve and courage is the observable behavior. The subtle attitude of let’s just live and let live is actually similar to bankrupt currency. This is not what the Biblical Christian and Church commitment and resolve is to be. Regarding my recent book, “The Twenty-First Century Church: Is It Waxing or Waning?” the reviewer wrote: “The author…uses the Old Testament to remind the New Testament Church that consequences follow when God’s people ignore the Word of God. ‘With set minds, hardened hearts and seared consciences, the words from the Lord will fall upon deaf ears’ is a scene from the Book of Jeremiah and it applies to the twenty-first century church. The book examines the contemporary church to see if it measures up to the standards of the Bible.  It reveals the failure of the church in relationship to the biblical model. As time passes, the Church begins to allow complacency, apathy and cultural accommodation to occur. At such a time, the Church no longer is waxing (as it should be doing) but begins a waning process (as sin and heretical concepts are embraced). What can the Church do? What should it seek after?” 


A place to begin self examination for both the professing Christian and accommodating Church should be Revelation 2 and 3, especially Revelation 3:1, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” Also, Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” We are long overdue to return and begin again to take a serious God seriously. He wants us to follow the norms of His standard and flee from the lure of culture's nominal. Consider these things with me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

WALKING THROUGH THE VALLEY

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For several months, a story that has been repeated often indicates: “After being issued an ultimatum from ISIS in Mosul, some of the city’s last Christian families have fled, only to be robbed of their last possessions at ISIS checkpoints. Friday at noon was the deadline for Christian families to meet ISIS’s demands: Convert to Islam, pay an anachronistic Islamic tax for non-Muslims or be killed. But the day before the final exodus, Christians were informed…the order came to convert, leave, or die” (The Daily Beast, July 22nd, 2014). Just this past week people were suddenly displaced from their homes with no time to take even a change of clothes. People flee from place to place and many are captured, tortured and killed.

My thoughts shift to conditions that are evolving within our own nation. What if our liberties were suddenly terminated and freedoms were denied? What would we do? What if we were suddenly ordered from our homes, what would we attempt to take with us? We can be dismissive of this notion but the point of the questions are to measure one’s priorities and what is of greatest value if a choice had to be suddenly made. I ponder this with the words spoken by Jesus Christ regarding prevailing conditions prior to His coming again. Note the scope of what He indicated in Matthew 24:15-22 (ESV), “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” Regardless of how one chooses to interpret these words of Jesus, the truth that should be noted is that in the midst of adversity there is the assurance that “for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.”

Another thought is that Psalm 23 seems to indicate the Psalmist felt alone when walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Consider that possibility with an article posted yesterday: “Evangelicals have become largest Christian group” Tuesday, 06/30/2015 (OneNewsNow.com). The article states:  “While a recent survey showed that Christianity is on the decline in America, a longtime Christian leader says there's some very encouraging data about evangelicals.  Despite negative numbers in the Pew Research study published in May, Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina, points out there are some positive takeaways. He notes that while the number of evangelicals didn't grow as fast as the population from 2007 to 2014, it did show growth. The evangelical community grew from 59 million to 62 million and is now the largest segment of the Christian faith in America, 55 % of all people who identify themselves as Christians in America identify themselves as evangelical Christians.” How many of these will be present walking through the valley.

Jesus said, Matthew 24:10-11, “Many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” We should note and remember that David believed and wrote in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death that he did not need to fear any evil because he was not alone in that valley - The Lord was with him! Is that your ongoing confidence today? Whatever your situation or circumstance may be, you are confident that The Lord is with YOU and you do not need to be afraid of the unknowns as long as you continually walk with Him? I need that truth for myself and I pray it is reassuring for you in your journey of faith. Consider these things with me. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

CULTURAL OBFUSCATION

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What is it to obfuscate? Is there any application in the immediate for the rapidity of civil and secular actions? Are we experiencing cultural cleansing or purging within the contemporary affairs of state? How does this impact the Church and its message, mission and adherence to secular laws that conflict with Biblical mandates? To obfuscate means: “to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy; to make obscure or unclear; to darken” (dictionary.com). Some synonyms given are: “to muddle, perplex, cloud.”

I heard a comment on some program that was on in the background in which a person made the statement: “I want to leave the darkness for the light but I can’t escape the darkness.” Even though that is a line from a fictional drama, there is a Biblical connotation to it. In The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:22-23 (NASB),  Jesus made this statement: “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” It is similar to what the Lord had the prophet declare in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” One commentator suggests that Jesus had in mind: “a person who enjoyed this heavenly treasure permitted his simplicity of intention to deviate from heavenly to earthly good; and his purity of affection to be contaminated by worldly ambition, secular profits, and animal gratifications; then, the light which was in him becomes darkness,  his spiritual discernment departs, and his union with God is destroyed and, like a man who has totally lost his sight, he walks without direction, certainty, or comfort. This state is most forcibly intimated in our Lord's exclamation, How great a darkness! Who can adequately describe the misery and wretchedness of that soul which has lost its union with the fountain of all good, and, in losing this, has lost the possibility of happiness till the simple eye be once more given, and the straight line once more drawn” (Clarke’s Commentary).

What will Cultural Obfuscation, if allowed to persist, lead to within the nation?  A friend who lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia forwarded the following: “Koalas Rescued From Animal Brothel.” The article states: “ Federal agents have arrested more than 40 people from a privately owned petting zoo yesterday, over allegations of bestiality and animal cruelty. According to authorities the private petting zoo was being monitored for last few weeks; suspected for running a underground animal brothel, where customers/clients pay for sexual services with animals. The 67-year old farm owner was arrested with two of his sons and some 40 guests who were present for an all-night party. The Federal police caught all the party goers in full action; the raid engaged more than 16 agents in what local officials believe to be the biggest crack down on an animal cruelty in Australia’s history. The poor animals were forced into sexual acts with clients, before being rescued. Local authorities fear a recrudescence in sexual deviant behavior with animals in the region since this is the third animal brothel to be closed down in recent months in the area.” The “fear of recrudescence” implies: “the breaking out afresh or into renewed activity; revival or reappearance in active existence.”

Paul shares with Timothy what can be expected in the last days, II Timothy 3:1-5, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” In like manner, Peter write to the believers in his day, II Peter 3:2-7, “You should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires…For they deliberately overlook this fact…that the earth was formed…by the word of God…by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” The judgment of God is nearing. Our nation must begin to take a serious God seriously. Consider these things with me.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

THE HYPHENATED-CULTURE

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Our culture appears to be torn between two great divides. There is an overwhelming influence of the secular progressives who are rented to government control and redistribution versus the conservative libertarians who want less government intrusion in the affairs of state and citizen’s lives. The moderates who occupy the middle begin to be seen as those who will either absent themselves from taking any stand that would prove to be controversial and are willing to be part of an increasing number who are willing to subscribe to being all things to all people.

The hyphenated worldview is not new. More than one hundred years ago, there was a pronounced marginalization as people were identified with a hyphenated group. Currently it is the hyphenated world of African-American; Hispanic-American; LBGT- American, etc. The Wikipedia has this interesting glimpse of attitudes and designations in the early 1900s: “In the United States the term hyphenated-American is an epithet commonly used from 1890 to 1920 to disparage Americans who were of foreign birth or origin, and who displayed an allegiance to a foreign country. It was most commonly used to disparage German-Americans or Irish-Americans (Catholics) who called for United States neutrality in World War I.  Former President Theodore Roosevelt was an outspoken anti-hyphenate and Woodrow Wilson followed suit. The term ‘Hyphenated-American’ was published by 1889, and was common as a derogatory term by 1904. During World War I the issue arose of the primary political loyalty of ethnic groups with close ties to Europe, especially German-Americans and also Irish-Americans. President Theodore Roosevelt in speaking to the largely Irish Catholic Knights of Columbus at Carnegie Hall on Columbus Day 1915, asserted that: There is no room in this country for hyphenated-Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated-Americans, I do not refer to naturalized-Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized-Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated-American is not an American at all…The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of it continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic…There is no such thing as a hyphenated-American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else. President Woodrow Wilson regarded ‘hyphenated Americans’ with suspicion, saying: Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.”

It’s regrettable that our nation today tends to hyphenate most of the time. Our leaders and pundits speak of all groups with a hyphenated identification. Sadly, the church follows along with this pattern and has brought about the hyphenated-church ranging from theological differences and organizational control. It would be almost impossible to persuade some religious groups of the intent of Galatians 3:26-29 (ESV), “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” The Baptists would latch onto the word “Baptized” as being water baptism rather than it being identified with Christ (dying to self and living unto God). The Presbyterians would latch onto “Abraham’s offspring (seed) and maintain that necessitates covenant theology, etc. Colossians 3:10-11 (NLT) reminds us all to: “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (who believe in Him alone for salvation).” Consider these things with me!

Friday, June 19, 2015

FANTASY OR FACTUALNESS

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One of the issues of our day is an orientation toward defining many situations as being “Racism.” That there is a racial divide in this country cannot be denied. To allow there is inequity in housing, employment, education and cultural values is also a reality. There are a few  people within our nation who never saw a normal incident they could not interpret as racist. Some may do it out of sincere desire to achieve some semblance of equal justice under the law, whereas others create a narrative that will inflame people to civil unrest and disrespect of the law.

Major religious denominations usually convene in June to discuss varying issues in their Conventions or General Assemblies. One Presbyterian denomination, near the conclusion of  their General Assembly, saw nearly one-half of the assembled men sign a protest in terms of racial reconciliation. Two ministers from Mississippi rose to offer a resolution in this regard. It was routinely sent to the Bills and Overtures Committee. The denomination’s official magazine, By Faith, reports the following: “The resolution was debated in committee for over nine hours. Those against adopting the resolution argued that the PCA didn’t exist during the Civil Rights era, that individual presbyters themselves did not do these things and therefore could not confess, that the resolution seemed to cave to political correctness and white guilt, and that if prominent PCA churchmen were racists perhaps they have repented of it thus we shouldn’t call them out. Others argued that this was new information and thus they needed more time to digest it. Arguments for adopting the resolution were that corporate confession is biblical, we as a denomination have already delayed this for far too long, and that there are members of our denomination, including pastors and elders, who greatly desire this confession. Others also argued that we must stop hiding the past and be honest about what we did.”

The racial discussion and distinctions are not new. Some were challenged by an Inter-Varsity Press publication in 1971, “Your God Is Too White.” It was followed by an auto-biography in 1976 by John Perkins from Mendenhall, MS, “Let Justice Roll Down.” From a secular point of view, Langston Hughes was a very direct and somewhat crass poet. One could not avoid being impacted by one of his books of verse/poetry in 1956, “The Panther and The Lash.” 

On a Facebook Link that is discussing racial reconciliation, I have submitted two entries: (1) We need to begin by embracing Daniel 9 as a model for any confession before God about anything; and (2) “There is a difference between voting for something and actually doing it. Some of us "dinosaurs" have quietly attempted to "do it"! A group of 4 white ministers and 1 black minister attempted integrated activities, national day of prayer, worship times together, etc. in a widely segregated town and county. At first, it was met with degrees of suspicion - Could/Would the Black community trust the intentions of the White Ministers? Gaining Trust does not come via statements about racial reconciliation. The visible Church - both white and black - have to patiently try to meet the most minimum measure of the high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ in John 17 and the idea of being one as the Godhead is one. Just think of the heart of Jesus Christ prior to His ascension and His last mandate given to His disciples in Acts 1:8. It meant involvement with people (Samaria) where there had been generations of distrust and despising…”

In the denomination of which I am a member, I hope I live long enough to see the visible church move from its fantasy, theoretical approach to one that is factual and reality as ministry purpose will involve reaching out to the black and hispanic communities and genuinely convey that they are a welcomed part of the local body of Christ. A gnawing question for the denomination of which I am a part: Why are there so few black people and families in our churches across the United States?  How many Black Elders were present and voting on a Racial Reconciliation Resolution? Protests and signing statements is a good emotional act - BUT - if it is not followed by purposeful action in the churches and denomination, it is similar to I Corinthians 13:1-3, “Sounding brass or a clanging cymbal (just noise).” Consider these things with me!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

CULTURAL MACHINATIONS

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If you wanted to change the mindsets of a Judeo-Christian nation and culture, what steps would you take to accomplish your goal? Would you be straightforward and transparent, or would pervasive machinations be utilized. For the sake of clarity, pervasive means: “spread throughout” and machinations means: “a secret plan for accomplishing evil or unlawful ends.” The synonyms attached to machinations include: “conspiracy, design, intrigue, scheme.” 

I am indebted to a friend, Sue Thielke and her co-author Roger Ball, for the excellent work they have done in their book, “Serfing America: The Progressive Destruction of the American Dream!” It is available at: www.amazon.com. Sue has carefully mapped out the progressive strategy in Chapter 2, The Progressive Game, in which she quotes from the Saul Alinksy playbooks, “Rules for Radicals; A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals and Reveille for Radicals.” The following represents some of the progressive mindset and pervasive machination regarding how one can change a nation from its foundational principles into a progressive culture. From Rules for Radicals:
  • “The organizer’s job is to inseminate an invitation for himself, to agitate, introduce ideas, get people pregnant with hope and a desire for change and to identify you as the person most qualified for this purpose.”   Pg.  103 
  • “The middle classes are numb, bewildered, scared into silence. They don’t know what, if anything they can do. This is the job for today’s radical - to fan the embers of hopelessness onto a flame to fight.”  Pg. 194 
  • “…our concern is with the tactic of taking; how the Have-Nots can take power from the Haves.”  Pg.  126  
  • “Ethical standards must be elastic (lying when necessary) to stretch with the times.” Pg. 30-31.
  • “To me ethics is doing what is right for the most.”  Pg.  33
  • “...rule of ethics of means and ends is that you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments.”   Pg.  36

Sue continues by listing additional cultural machinations from Alinksy’s book, Reveille for Radicals:
  • It is a tactic “…to burn one’s bridges because you’re never going back anyway…”  Pg.  viii.
  • “…morality is largely a rationalization of the point you happen to occupy in the power pattern at a given time.”  Pg.  x.
  • “America’s radicals are to be found wherever and whenever America moves close to the fulfillment of its democratic dream. Whenever America’s hearts are breaking, there American radicals were and are. America was built by its radicals. The hope and future of America lies with its radicals.”  Pg. 15
  • “Throughout Western civilization, radicals tied their destiny to the organized labor movement…The labor movement has been as much of an ideological foundation to all left-wing thinkers as the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule are to devout religionists.”  Pg. 24 
  • “…today much of organized religion is materialistically solvent but spiritually bankrupt.” Pg. 200


From a Biblical Christian perspective, we should identify with the prayer of the Psalmist, Psalm 43:1, “Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!” One should be able to discern and identify the deceitful and unjust man. Two passages that give the Biblical Christian a heads-up are: Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV), “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick (wicked machinations); who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” And, II Corinthians 11:12-15, “And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” I Peter 5:8 reminds one to “be sober, be vigilant for your adversary, the devil, goes about seeking whom he may devour - resist him steadfastly.” We need to be aware of the strategy of the day and be found faithful as we stand upon and defend the firm foundation of our faith. Consider these things with me!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

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When Peter was writing to the persecuted Christians and Church during Nero’s reign, it must have given him some pause and caused him to gulp when he wrote: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (I Peter 2:17). The emperor was overseeing the destruction of the church, culture, moral values and any person who objected to his behavior or actions. It was a dreadful time when the foundations of faith and hope were being tested. Nero was a harsh and cruel dictator who generated fear among the faithful.

Throughout the centuries, nations and people have experienced peaks and valleys as despots came to power and civilization began to be threatened with extinction. The twenty-first century is no different. Many are anticipating the demise and death of civilization. Some wring their hands in despair and hopelessness. The United States seems to have wavered in its privilege and shrunk back from its responsibilities in the world. We have become like a tiger whose teeth have been extracted and whose claws have been removed. One pundit (George Will) suggests that we have a leader who feels obliged to speak in metaphorical language about everything. The world watched when a Red Line was stated for Syria. However, Syria dared the inevitable and crossed the Red Line with their chemical attacks against their own citizenry. We did nothing! The world watched when a declaration was made that ISIS would be destroyed. ISIS dared that to happen and beheaded an American and slaughtered hundreds of people in an atrocious manner. We did nothing! In cyber warfare, our leader announces to the world that we have vulnerabilities. We do nothing! When ISIS is mentioned in international conferences, our leader announces that we have no strategy. We do nothing! The world is defining the United States as an impotent ally with an incompetent leader. 

The visible church loves to sing: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, A bulwark never failing…” What does the visible church do in this world of flux and moral erosion? Do we represent Our God as a Mighty Fortress today? Perhaps the visible church, much like the government of the nation, is viewed as being impotent when it comes to making a difference in the world and incompetent when it comes to follow-through on the message of the Gospel and all Scripture. Could it be that our Pride and our Prejudices have clouded our minds and limited our resolve? The Invisible Church is the Church triumphant. The visible church is to represent that fact in the world. We cannot accomplish that mission by being complacent, indifferent, detached from reality or too accommodating to the prevailing culture. The visible church may have reached a place where it thinks more highly of itself than it ought to think. The visible church must remember that for both the individual and church entity, “The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; whoever guards his way preserves his life. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud” (Proverbs 16:17-19, ESV).

Is there a glimmer of hope for the country, church and culture in the twenty-first century? For the Biblical Christian and the committed visible church, the answer is affirmative. It will mean the implementation of texts such as Ephesians 5:15-17, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” It will be possible, only and as the determination is reached to give attention and heed Ephesians 5:18-21, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” What will your resolve and commitment be and how will it be manifested? Our task is not to merely talk but to act. Where do you fit into God’s scheme of things and requirements for His people?  Consider these things with me.