Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Playing the God Card


God is holy. He must not be used for anyone’s purposes. The question is not is God on our side, but are we following Him. But when believers play God as leverage for their politics it is not only unseemly, but it circumvents the ministry of the Holy Spirit and places it in the manipulative hands of men. There is a case to be made for believers to consider the entire specter of national politics and weigh its spiritual benefits. And if you decide to participate, then it also behooves you to pray about how you participate. This is not just about moral issues, as important as some of them are. This is also about honoring the Lord Jesus Christ in all we do.

But it was not enough for certain employers to warn their employees about losing their jobs if President Obama is reelected. But HERE comes a former minister who openly suggests eternal consequences for those who vote against the interests of God. The stakes have been raised. God must have dispatched scribe angels to follow you into the voting booth, see how you vote, and return with a report. And when God hears how you voted, you may be in big trouble. And Huckabee uses the word “fire” to give you an idea of the seriousness of your vote.

It is no secret that Huckabee has endorsed Mitt Romney who believes in a false Jesus and a false gospel, but apparently moral and economic issues override those theological issues. But not only does God really not care about a candidate’s spreading a false religion, but God is ready to exact judgment upon those who do not vote for Romney. This is nationalism and idolatry at its zenith. I guess God is not able to elect who He desires and is at the mercy of the people’s will. Yes, this is most enlightening.

The fear mongering and the suggestion of divine retribution is an especially nice touch. Just when I thought the carnality could not reach any deeper, this ordained minister raises the bar. And if Mitt Romney does not win the election, what will the 2016 election bring? I mean that will be our very, very, very last chance to save a nation. And since the threat of God’s fire did not persuade voters in 2012, what threats will be needed in 2016? How about lit torches and pitch forks? Stockades and racks? Perhaps it is way past time to bring back the ever popular burning at the stake! I mean Donald Trump could advertise it and Chic-Fil-A could cater the entire event.

Since God does not seem capable of getting rid of all these earthly miscreants, it is time to take matters in our own hands. Let us corral all the gays, all the liberals, all the socialists, and the pro-choice crowd, all the illegal immigrants, and all who sympathize with them, and let us light a flaming bon fire and dance around it like students at a football rally. And by the light of those flames we can read aloud the Declaration of Independence, and after it is read we can take the Lord’s Supper using cups with George Washington’s picture inscribed on them. And in the closing ceremonies we can all recommit ourselves to our faith by being rebaptized in water that is colored red, white, and blue.

What a wonderful gathering that would be. But this one thing we do know, that if Mitt Romney is elected as president everything will be great once again, and God’s hand of judgment will be stayed. And as he is sworn in with his hand upon the Book of Mormon, perhaps, as is the tradition, Romney will hang a portrait in the White House of His own choosing. Joseph Smith. We can only hope for such a utopia.

You see, in the midst of a political card game, when someone plays the God card the game is over. And I do mean the Donald Trump card.

Do you really want to play the God card? Come out from among them and be seperate.

Electing the King of Babylon


If you have read my blog for any length of time you will know that I lean heavily toward grace, and I abhor some of the vicious attacks by believers on unsaved sinners. It is like shooting fish in a barrel, and it completely redirects the focus from their souls to their sins. Only God’s Spirit can give us a love for the lost, and when He does we should cherish it because it is the essence of the cross.

But there is another issue from which I have been delivered and which is a strong deception. It also sets up an idol and marginalizes the spiritual life of believers. Especially in America, it has been a colossal stumbling block and has led to all kinds of spiritual mischief. It wreaks of self righteousness and it openly exhibits a love for the things of this world. In summary, it is what is called “nationalism” and it goes against the overarching theme of the New Testament.

Let me unpack the definition of nationalism. It is a love for a particular country here on earth. The heart of such a love for the inanimate is self. And at the heart of self is pride. The Scriptures at one point categorize sins as the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. And when you grasp that kind of expose, you must see just how apt a description that is of the earthly country called America. To be sure all earthly countries are fallen, but the culture in America has become a treatise on hedonism and the promotion of almost every kind of sin. And in an astonishing piece of fallen hubris, Americans believe they should export this culture around the world.

But let us not kid ourselves into believing the fairy tale that America was created by God and has some divine favor upon it. That in and of itself reveals the height of self righteousness and idolatry. When you attach divine favor upon inanimate objects or fallen governments, that is blatant idolatry. And what is even more horrific is when that government is pluralistic and invites and accepts all gods and religions as equal. And that is the construct we believe God favors and creates? How deep is that deception?

So aided by the spirit of adventure and industriousness, the nation of America was created. At the heart of the Revolutionary War was the colonial objection to being taxed by England. And once the war was won, America rapidly prospered and became an international influence. There were some spiritual awakenings by God’s grace, but as a whole the nation became more and more imprisoned by material things and the pursuit of pleasure. America became the example to the world of just what democracy and capitalism can do for a nation. The prosperity was breathtaking and the military might was unrivaled. America in many ways was the envy of the world.

But as the country grew and prospered, the underlying desire of the culture became more and more exposed. Yes there was still a framework of religion, and thousands upon thousands of church buildings littered the landscape, but the culture consistently grew in materialism and hedonism. And this nation was willing and able to defend its way of life against any and all threats. After WW II there was a population explosion and housing projects sprung up all across the nation. I lived in a large one that had thousands of homes designed exactly alike. The baby boomers had arrived. Television had become the dominant medium and we all became addicted to it. That would play a significant part in the direction of the culture, but make no mistake, even with television money was the driving force.

But let us fast forward to today. The American culture has morphed into what was inevitable given the original Constitutional structure. Democracy, or even a representative republic, places man as his own master and makes the majority the ruler over all. There are no absolutes, and even the original tenants of the Constitution can be changed and some of them have been. This is no Christian principle and the mention of God in the original documents is nebulous and would be excoriated if it was used in a church’s statement of faith, and yet people still cling to their misguided notion of a Christian nation. No where is the name of Jesus Christ mentioned in the original documents, and that was by design.

Take a frog and throw it into a boiling pot and he will attempt to jump out. But place him in a pot of lukewarm water and slowly bring the water to boil and he will usually die. Little by little the nation continued its slide into materialism and hedonism. So now you have television commercials during children’s programs that show more flesh than you saw ever on television in the 1950s. Alternative lifestyles are no longer alternative. Cars have become idols. Money is a god. Drugs and alcohol are mainstays of the culture. Profanity is pervasive. References to the devil or demons are widespread and entertaining. People like Donald Trump are idolized. Pornography is easily accessible in every imaginative form. Child molestation is rampant. The entire culture is drenched in all kinds of sin and debauchery. And in the midst of it all money and success are the driving forces within the culture.

As I said, this is the inevitable result of a pluralistic society whose original charter had the “pursuit of happiness” as its foundation. It is impossible to understand the depth of the depravity lived and enjoyed in America, and when juxtaposed against the holiness of God it must be almost unbearable. Only the redemptive patience of God has stayed His hand of judgment against the earth, and do not be fooled by the self serving voices telling us that this tornado or that hurricane are God’s judgment. When God’s judgment befalls this world there will be no mistaking its power. It will not just be New Orleans or New York or some other place where western “theologians” sit back and offer their pronouncements. It will be worldwide and no one will have to explain it.

This nation called America is not and never has been Christian. For sure there were men and women of faith who were leaders along the way, but the structure and culture has never even sought to be Christian. But somehow the evil one has deceived the church into believing it was acceptable, even commendable, to partake and enjoy the fruits of such a culture. And the misguided notion that America was favored by God played right into the hands of this deception. The church many times was not spearheading the drive toward materialism and hedonism, but they followed at a close distance, just close enough to make a weak case that we were not part of the fallen trappings of this culture.

And many of the most demonstrative sinners were used as scapegoats in order to provide exculpatory evidence of our desire to be different. So if we rebuked Madonna or Hugh Hefner or Barney Frank, we could legitimately show that we hated unrighteousness and remained separate from such unbridled iniquity. Sinners became our measuring stick and not the Word of God and the life of Jesus. Little by little the church became lazy and more and more relied upon its written doctrines rather than the living expressions of Christ. And the culture? Well we became fully invested and partakers on every level, only being careful to not be caught in certain sins. We reserved a few sins in order to provide cover for our own.

America has become a metaphor for Babylon, a place of hedonism, materialism, and debauchery. And the church has wet her beak in the culture as well. And while clinging to some unBiblical ideas, the church continues to be fully energized in using fallen systems to help cleanse the culture of certain sins as well as create a more accommodating atmosphere for personal prosperity. Both of those motivations are misguided and are actually counter productive to the gospel. The gospel is our commission to offer God’s redemption to fallen sinners and it must not be used as a disinfectant for certain aspects of the culture. When we fall in love with any culture or any country, we inevitably begin to focus on changing the culture rather than spreading the good news.

And now we have the election of 2012. And because the church is so invested and so in love with an earthly nation, it no longer sees things as they are spiritually. The church now sees through moral, democratic, and capitalist eyes. We still retain our doctrines, but in practice we deny them. To embrace a nation is to reject Christ. As believers we have no country here and now, and our citizenship is in heaven. What America is doing in this election is in effect electing a King of Babylon. Regardless of which party affiliation or which name, whoever is elected will preside over a country that resembles Babylon in practice and in principle. But the church still insists that through human efforts and human freedoms the culture can be cleansed and prosperity can be regained, at least more prosperity.

The church has sold her birthright for a mess of pottage and is following after strange gods. Evangelicals by the millions will vote for President Obama even though he holds some unbiblical moral stands. And evangelicals by the millions will vote for Mitt Romney even though he is a priest in a cult and has systematically accumulated great wealth through legal but questionable methods. And at the root of it all is the pursuit of wealth and prosperity as well as a fallen affection for the modern day Babylon. I do not wish to sound unbalanced or impress with hyperbole, but what does it take to open the eyes of believers to see exactly how America was formed and what America has become? And with what mirror can we use to allow the church to see just how compromised and culturally invested we have become?

This year has been a magnifying glass into the carnality and spiritual dearth of the evangelical church in America. Rushing to elect another Babylonian King, the church has revealed its blindness to things spiritual and its obsession with loving a fallen nation. Joining forces with heathens of all stripes, the church rejects humility, moderation, meekness, love, and the overall revelation of the Person of Christ. Instead, propelled by a moral and economic crusade, this election has exposed the fleshly underbelly of the evangelical community. Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. And willing to embrace anyone who they believe will enhance their personal wealth, the church supports the spirit if antichrist, regardless of which candidate is supported.

God has provided a test. And if the church had been seeking Christ there may have been a chance for repentance and some level of awakening. However, since this election is a god, regardless who wins the election, the church will remain in a fog of mirth, sentimentality, and self centeredness. After the election it will return to Babylon, continue to practice the ways of the heathen, and prayerlessly enjoy the fruits of the culture. And four years from now, if Jesus tarries, the church will once again march with great energy to the sirens of democracy and national pride. And all things will remain the same since the fathers slept. But thankfully, Babylon will have its king, and in that king the church will continue to have its hope.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jesus - A Pro-Life Liberal


Jesus is the Creator of all life, so he is always pro-life. So Christ and His teachings would never approve of abortion in any case except where the mother’s life was in jeopardy, which is extremely rare in the west. But that does not mean He hates those who are pro-choice, rather He wishes to redeem and change them.

But with that settled Jesus taught many things that were decidedly liberal in today’s political parlance. And many of His teachings were anti-capitalist, and dare I say, socialist. I know many believers who would slit their doctrinal wrists upon hearing those words. But God’s way are not our ways, thank God. Man has always had difficulty allowing God to do things His way, and many times man has concocted a way that seems right to him and assumed, and even proclaimed, that it was God’s way.

And yet our Savior broke all the human molds. He confronted the religious leadership, He acted outside established religious norms, he taught things that confounded the wise, he astounded the common man, and Jesus walked in a spiritual aura that was decidedly unconventional. He even used everyday examples which everyone understood to communicate deep spiritual truths. His earthly ministry was filled with controversy as well as love and compassion. Taken as a whole, the ministry and teachings of Jesus are unique and resist being placed within well worn human cultures. He established a culture all His own which transcended all other cultures, but when practiced can have a profound affect on any earthly culture.

The problem arises when we attempt to live and acquiesce to our own earthly culture and also attempt to observe a divine culture for a few hours on Sunday mornings. But another unique aspect of the divine culture as taught and lived by Christ is that it naturally resists being part of a cultural amalgam. In essence, when the teachings of Jesus are forced to be practiced and observed within the dictates of an earthly culture, then the essence and power of His teachings quickly lose their distinctiveness and potency. And eventually, they become so diluted and so manipulated by the earthly culture that they morph into little more than religious and moral systems which have been nicely assimilated by the overall culture and to a great extent only have a residual resemblance of Christ’s teachings. They become but for the most part caricatures and human creations.

For example, in American religious circles man has made issues like abortion and homosexuality the cornerstones of Christ’s teachings when in fact they are almost nonexistent in the Christ narratives. It does not mean that Jesus is ambivalent about such things, but what it does clearly indicate is that the teachings and life of Christ have a divine power that is not revealed through moral and political issues. In fact, many of His teachings are seen as irritants to the established western culture if indeed they are practiced literally and without being shaped by the fallen culture. And earthly freedom and capitalism are also two issues that have found their way into the church and have been incorporated into the normal Christian theology.

But when we honestly and completely examine the teachings of Jesus Christ we will be surprised, shocked, and in many cases sorely vexed at just how diametrically opposed His teachings are to what we have come to accept and believe. While the evangelical community champions and defends capitalism, the teachings of Christ say something different. While the evangelical community champions democracy, the teachings of Christ say something different. While the evangelical community champions earthly wars, the teachings of Christ say something different. While the evangelical community comes against certain sins, the teachings of Christ say something different.

And here we have the divine crossroad. The two perspectives, Christ’s and ours, are incompatible. They were never meant to be symbiotic. In fact, the teachings of Christ are overwhelmingly counter to the practices and principles of the fallen culture. But in a self serving attempt to have our spiritual cake and eat it as well, we have taken the fallen culture, sprinkled in a few moral tenants, added a thin layer of the name Jesus, and embraced it as Christian, or in other words, the teachings of Jesus. But in fact what the western church practices is far from being a revelation of Christ’s teachings and we have created a religious system that seeks to change parts of the culture but fully embraces and practices most other parts. And very cleverly we come against a couple of sins in order to soothe our religious and moral consciences, but in no way do they remotely resemble the life and teachings of Jesus. And yes, to put the entire spectacle in some very painful words, we no longer practice Christianity.

Oh we are against homosexuality and abortion and Islam, but that does not represent the Savior or His gospel. We “boldly” embrace conservative politics, but that is counter productive to the gospel itself. And the collection of believers living within any specific community must have hundreds of local fellowships and meeting places separate from one another. The most minute doctrinal variance requires the formation of a separate local assembly complete with staff salaries, building upkeep, and many times mortgage debt. But the evangelicals with join hands with conservative unbelievers or Mormons in the political fray, but they cannot even worship together in one room. That, my friends, is Christian sectarianism.

But the teachings of Jesus have as their foundation the gospel. Jesus, God in the flesh, died for the sins of the world and resurrected from the dead. Therein is the core of our faith. However what Christ taught as it pertains to how we should live is fully invested in pointing people to and persuading people of the gospel. In other words what we do and say must have remarkable qualities that can be used of the Spirit to draw sinners to Christ. Anything other than that is of the flesh and becomes an obstacle to the spreading of the gospel. And it isn’t just feeding the poor or doing humanitarian works, as important as that may be. But how we live and what we treasure and what is important to us and how our lives mirror those of the unbeliever also affect how people receive the goods news.

And at the very heart of the practical teachings of Jesus are people. Yes, His message was populist and many of His teachings are overtly counter to democracy, freedom of speech, and an overall capitalist mentality. What kind of capitalism gives away both coats to people who ask? What kind of free speech asks people to guard their lips? What kind of nationalism exhorts us to love our enemies? What kind of Judeo-Christian ethic forgives an adulterous woman? What kind of conservatism speaks so little about homosexuality? What kind of industriousness is content with food and clothing? What kind of political activism rejoices when it is persecuted? And if we really desire to reveal the core that exposes us as frauds, what kind of culture dies for everything and everyone that is against it?

And in light of all these questions as well as many, may more, how can we truthfully say we are following Jesus and His teachings? Well, to be honest, the church hardly professes such a thing anymore. We are more apt to say we stand for truth or we stand for Biblical morality or we stand for a return to the Judeo-Christian ethic, but we rarely say we are following and practicing the teachings of Jesus. Abortion and traditional marriage have become the convenient litmus test for being a committed Christian, while the teachings of Jesus are quaint stories that can be used in interesting sermons which are designed as little more than ecclesiastical Hallmark cards. And when we need some real red meat, the preacher can throw out abortion, gay rights, socialism, or the founding fathers. That kind of atmosphere is sure to spark a frenzy! And if he says "This is the greates nation on earth!", well that brings down the house, in spite of any teaching on humility, whatever that is.

The Master teaches us not to bring a gift to the altar if we are angry, but how many evangelicals walk right into the Sunday morning service with hatred in their hearts for Obama or Chris Matthews or the liberal du jour? The sermon on the mount reserves much space concerning adultery and divorce, and yet how many people who are guilty of those sins applaud with effervescence when the preacher touts traditional marriage? I guess we must stand for traditional divorce. We are taught to bless our enemies and yet how many call liberals names and pejoratives? We are taught not to worry and yet preachers by the thousands peddle in fear. We are commanded not to worry about money and yet professing believers complain about gas prices and taxes and consumer goods incessantly.

We are commanded not to store up money for ourselves but how many billions are right now in the savings accounts of believers? We are taught to examine the mote in our own eye but how may believers are in the speck removing business? And we are taught that those who hear and do what Jesus says are built upon the rock, and yet we have supplanted politics, moral issues, and Americanism for the teachings of Jesus. And all those teachings about giving to the poor and turning the other cheek and not saving up money for yourself, they all sound so very…well…libarl and socialist. In fact they are not really socialist, they are divine. And they are not really liberal, they are divine.

You see, we have taken Christianity, sifted out a few Biblical words and principles, and formed an alliance with the fallen culture. And our alliance is so distilled and so compromised and so earthly, that even many unbelievers gladly join in our cause. That in and of itself should be painfully telling. I used the word “liberal” in my post title to draw attention to how we have made our own labels that either represent God or Satan, and how the church now marches to earthly agendas and not to the teachings of Jesus. But if you still must embrace certain labels, then many of the teachings of Jesus must be labeled as “liberal” in western parlance. Does that repulse you?

If it does, than you must be a “conservative” who is fully invested in that moniker but who is blind to the surpassing power of the teaching revelations of Jesus. He and His teachings cannot be, and must not be, confined to cultural labels and mores, and if our lives are not remarkable and spiritually incandescent within a culture of darkness, then we are not following Jesus. We are following ourselves.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween? What About Christmas?


So many people will dismiss such a discussion instantly and without a genuine desire to investigate its Scriptural validity. It is in the same class as nationalism, and it is so ingrained and so enjoyable that it rarely if ever gets any substantive consideration. Many will label it as legalism, but this has nothing to do with salvation except that it is used by the evil one to suggest to lost people that they are saved and it engenders a sentimentality that inebriates the spirits of believers and thereby dilutes spiritual commitment.

The church has for many centuries observed and celebrated many religious “holidays“, which comes from the words “holy days”. Many protestant denominations even observe seasons like lent and advent, but most churches usually have Christmas and Easter as their main days of celebration. Sadly, many churches now include a 4th of July weekend in this same category. That is blasphemous and actually desecrates the gathering.

But observing days and orchestrating celebrations around these days is hardly innocuous. It has quietly and inconspicuously pushed out true worship and has replaced it with pagan rituals and a self serving emotional uplift which is more saccharine than it is spiritually authentic. What if a man proposes marriage to his girlfriend, and then after a few months they are married. But after they are married the man begins to construct the event in which he proposed. He insists every week that they go to the same restaurant, sit in the same seats, order the same food, wear the same clothes, send out the same invitations, and eventually these observances begin to replace the emotional and even the physical intimacy in their marriage.

That is what has happened in the church. Instead of a growing intimacy with Jesus Christ through worship, service, and an insatiable desire to learn and obey His Word, the church now primarily observes days and seasons. Even Sunday is observed as a holy day and usually sees a congregation that is outwardly more pious than they had been throughout the week. Most pew sitters join in the music service after had little if any personal worship during the week. But the observance of the day suffices. Instead of the Sunday gathering being a time for collective worship naturally flowing out of a week long journey of seeking Christ, it has become a religious observance which soothes the conscience, uplifts the spirit, and offers a time for surface greetings and convenient times of snapshot fellowship. That is hardly what was envisioned by the early church.

But churches across the country will observe the pagan ritual named “Christmas” and spend much money on flowers and other seasonal accoutrements. In fact, some churches will engage in a recreation of the birth of Christ in a gala spectacle which required hundreds of hours of practice and preparation. And after the presentation everyone goes home feeling good and complimenting the performance. It seems so right and so edifying but in reality it is actually a pagan ritual. Our faith is not thespian in nature. It is allowing the Spirit to take God’s Word and infuse it into our lives so that we are living and exhibiting Christ in the here and now and not in a redundant production of certain written narratives.

Paul in his letter to the Galatians makes it perfectly clear that we are in no way supposed to take Old Testament shadows and mesh them with the New Testament Spirit.

Gal.4: 9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

How many people loudly and sometimes proudly claim they believe the Bible is God’s Word and even inerrant? Well, what do these words mean? I mean come on, we must do some verbal gymnastics to avoid the obvious implications of Paul’s warning. And yet the church has found ways to dilute and avoid being inconvenienced by words like these. And if a sinner comes to Christ during a Christmas pageant, and sometimes they do, that is presented as evidence of God’s approval. The end justifies the means. But there is much more to Paul’s warnings.

Gal.4: 20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

There can be no compromise regardless of how deeply in love you have fallen with pagan observances, that is if you sincerely wish to please God and follow His Words. The bondwoman, the law, cannot share a doctrinal tent with the freedom that is found in Christ. Even though the law was once a schoolmaster that brought us to Christ, the two are enemies now. After the law had finished its work, it was destroyed. To resurrect it is a sin and compromises the gospel and the truth. Shadows cannot feed, they cannot edify, and even though sentimental observances have found their way into the church, they still diminish the glory of the Risen Christ.

Religious holidays spiritually persecute the Spirit as is mentioned in verse 29. This is no game, and part of the reason the church blends in so well with the world is that we observe days like they do, we spend like they do, we borrow like they do, we vote like they do, and yet we believe that Christ has changed us? The event called Christmas is not only unscriptural as it pertains to accuracy in its date, but it is not even an Old Testament feast. It was ushered in by a fallen religious church to provide a substitute for another pagan holiday.

But even if the birth of Jesus was commanded by Scripture as an observance by the church, the western practice has become nothing short of a hedonistic spending spree and a heathen leviathan that is overwhelmingly sentimental rather than a true worship of the Incarnate Christ. I have seen Christmas celebrations in church where there is a play where people sing “It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas” and other songs which celebrate some kind of Christmas “spirit”. To treat Christmas as a spirit is pagan but certainly defines the observance. To be technical, observing birthdays in and of itself is also pagan.

It would be a compromise for individuals believers to observe pagan holidays, but over the centuries the church has succumbed to the cultural pressure. And this pagan ritual has become a mainstay in the church with trees and gifts and the spirit of the season. Does this rattle your cage, or does it disturb your plans? This kind of issue, even though it is not essentially doctrinal, is often a beginning point for believers to begin to move away from the trappings of the western institutional church. Do you think this was just discovered? Do you think a nobody like me is just finding axes to grind? Well, since you seek a greater earthly authority, I leave you with the words of C. H. Spurgeon.

"We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, and not because of divine authority."

I exhort you to pray about it this year.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Persecution of the Cross

Gone from the western church

“What is gone,” you ask, “the persecution or the cross?” Both. They have a symbiotic relationship. When the church preaches and lives the cross it will always have spiritual power, but it will also endure persecution. The cross is both a stumbling block and foolishness to the lost world, and in this age of human intellect and technology the cross is little more than a fable and a religious talisman. But because of the absence of the cross in the western church, the pews are filled with all kinds of unregenerate sinners who love the shows and are aided by the good advice coming from the pulpit.

It has become patriotic to attend church and be seen as “God fearing”, whatever that means these days. I mean who fears God anymore? The church has become a three ring circus complete with celebrations of the national origins, sensationalism, and all kinds of special days. And although the cross sometimes makes a cameo in the statement of faith, and even sometimes is spoken of from the pulpit, it no longer is where we take our spiritual stand. Abortion, gay marriage, morality, and some other issues are now what elicit our warfare.

But let us examine the origins of the faith rather than the origins of any nation. When we say “the cross” we mean the sacrifice that Jesus made upon those Roman planks. Either He did die for a payment for the sins of the world or He did not, and if He did, than the cross must be the foundation for our faith. The resurrection substantiated the victory, but the sufferings on the cross satisfied the justice of Almighty God. But somewhere along the line the cross became an aside as the church battled for control of the culture and the nation at large.

But a church without the cross is not a church at all. It may be religious, and it may even help people get earthly victory from various addictions and sins, but it still is not a Christian church. Without the cross all these little local assemblies are little more than watering holes for goats and centers of religious affiliations where people can gather periodically and feel good. And even though by God’s amazing grace some people get saved, that still does not justify their spiritual existence. The cross must be at the heart of everything the church does as well as we as individual believers.

But who really dwells and meditates upon the cross anymore? Our minds are consumed with earthly issues and earthly endeavors. Saving a nation is more important than the cross. Your personal finances are more important than the cross. Iran is more important than the cross. The election is way more important than the cross. Almost anything is now more important than the cross. And because of that, the average believer lives with different levels of discontent and is always open to something new to energize and excite him.

But professing ourselves to be wise, we have become fools. Our church growth strategies are cross-less. Our debt ridden buildings are cross-less. Our capital raising schemes are cross-less. Our political activities are cross-less. Our marriage conferences are cross-less. The western church has left the glory and the persecution of the cross and has headed for greener and more sophisticated pastures. And the masses do not desire to feast at Golgotha. We want the leeks and garlic of this hedonistic culture and with that we are satisfied for a moment. It is all so carnal.

But Paul preached Christ and Him crucified. How quaint. How Neanderthal. How archaic. Surely we have moved beyond that kind of preaching. This post modern age requires much more than an old fashioned, cross centered theology. How can Jesus help me succeed here and now. Oh we do not deny the cross outwardly, but with our preaching and practice we have relegated it to the back of the doctrinal bus. We are attacked because of our pro-life convictions or our traditional marriage stand, but who scolds the church because of our love for the cross? Let us be honest, the church has become embarrassed by the cross in this sophisticated society.

Just listen to the moralist and capitalist rhetoric offered by so many in the evangelical camp. It is a cross-less brand of religion that champions the Ten Commandments instead of the bloody sacrifice at Calvary. It heralds capitalism and prosperity rather than His crimson stripes. It calls for the spreading of Americanism rather than the everlasting gospel. The church is wandering in spiritual darkness and the absence of the cross in preaching and in lives gives undisputable evidence of this blindness.

Gal.6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Who says such a thing anymore? Who lives their lives daily with a view toward that cross? Who denies themselves, not just in material luxuries, but denies themselves in thought, word, and deed in deference to His thoughts, His Word, and His very life? The western Christian life as it is now defined and accepted has no room for the cross except in a quick appearance in salvation and then is hidden away like an embarrassing uncle. And when the cross is treated like so much fringe theology what you have is no longer the Christian faith.

The cross must be our life. But how, you ask, can we incorporate an event which took place thousands of years ago? And there is the problem. We no longer even ask that question much less seek it. What effect should the cross of Jesus Christ have on the life of a believing follower of Jesus Christ? Paul says that he glories in that cross and in that glory the world is crucified unto him. So when a person places the cross of Christ as his life in principle and in substance, then the desires of this world fall powerless. His life is empowered by the sheer force of that cross and he walks in a different spirit and kingdom.

The cross is the portal through which a sinner can gain eternal life. This is no religious perspective that can be discussed or diluted or compromised. This is the foundation upon which our faith is built, and after a sinner has come to faith in Christ and been redeemed through that cross, well, his journey has only just begun. Now we are exhorted to pick up that cross as if it were our very own. The sacrifice, the self denial, the humility, and the love must now be the distinguishing features of our earthly lives. And our message must always be that the cross alone is God’s offer of redemption for mankind.

Gal.6: 17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

The word “marks” in the Greek is our word “stigma”. Paul says that in his body he bears the stigma of the cross. Oh my, what a glorious thought! And yet there were no nail scars on Paul’s hands and feet, so what is he saying to and for us? Well first we must take a look, a gaze, a concentration, and a personal witness in the spirit of the cross. The word “cross” seems so antiseptic and doctrinal, but please allow me a humble and painfully incomplete attempt to unfold the reality contained in that one word, the “cross”.

God is a spirit and even that cannot be defined with human minds and words. He is above all things and he has created all things. The Word, now who is called Yeshua or Jesus, created us knowing our plight. Who makes something they know will become their enemy? But even before creation, in a profound mystery, the Word had already seen Himself upon that cross. In Bethlehem He enters a body that had been prepared for Him. There are volumes written about the nature of the incarnation, but in some ways they are finite guesses. What the Scripture tell us is that Jesus was God in the flesh and God with us. The invisible God put on the clothing of human flesh and was revealed in the likeness of sinful flesh. Would you put on a Charles Manson face? Would you put on a Jerry Sandusky mask? And yet God so loved the world that He put on our mask. Just that concept alone is unthinkable.

But as He walked this earth He did many miracles of compassion and love. But do not expect applause and appreciation, and if there was some appreciation it was fleeting. In the end He walked a path which would end alone. He enters Jerusalem with the shouts and praises of people who had their own desires in mind. They desired to use Jesus and would have been shocked and repulsed if they knew what events would befall Him. Nothing has changed through the centuries.

We are allowed a sacred seat in Gethsemane’s garden as we watch and hear the agony which He now experiences. Alone in the world, He begins to sense an impending separation from His Father, with whom He shares the divine essence along with the Spirit. He prays alone and sweats blood, The sacrifice has begun. Is this story boring? Has it lost its luster? Does it now seem stale and archaic? Make no mistake, this garden was the sacred place of preparation and the Spirit has offered us a privileged vision. This is no story, this is life everlasting.

The Shepherd is arrested in front of His sheep and taken away to be judged and condemned by wicked men. Yes, the men for whom He will give His life will now mock Him and condemn Him to death. But before He is even allowed to be condemned they must prepare Him. And how do they prepare Him who created and loved them? His back is laid bare and becomes a place for flesh shredding lashes. Over and over again they beat him until His back is nothing more than a bloody mess. They punch His face and pluck at His beard. His face swells and His eyes become slits. Could you bear to watch this even if the man was a criminal? It would be most excruciating to witness, and yet this was the sinless Lamb.

He is being mocked and made a laughing stock, and they put a robe around Him and press down a crown of thorns and mock Him unmercilessly. And there he stands, barely. The Creator of the Universe, battered and bruised and bloodied. A pitiful spectacle to be sure. This Author of Love has willingly submitted Himself into the hands of wicked men, and given His face for their fallen spittle. He is disgusting to behold. Repulsive, loathsome, and sickening. And this is supposed to be our Rescuer, our Messiah? Oh, but there is more, much more.

You see, this is the kind of rhetoric which turns off the modern crowd. And even to the average church crowd it is mostly sentimental. It elicits some sympathy, but only as fleeting doses. But now He is made to drag His own cross to the place of His death, only helped by one lowly man. He arrives on the small hill know as Golgotha, the place of the skull. Perhaps this is where it got its name.

The sweaty workers quickly go about their ghastly business. The hands and feet of Jesus are nailed to two boards, and with a thud He is raised up off the earth. He made those planks, He made those nails, He made those soldiers, and yet there He is. Gasping for breath and writhing in pain, the blood continues to cover His being. He is dying. The guiltless dies for the guilty, the sinless for the sinful. Just what mystery is contained in this death? Here we have a dying Jew and yet there is something that surpasses human knowledge occurring here. The suffering is immeasurable, the pain unbearable, and yet there He dies publicly.

What transpired in the spirit for those hours changed the universe. And at the end, He breathes His last, lowers His head, and dies. He is dead. The glory of God, wrapped in blood and death, and shrouded in mystery. Human words can only give structure to this narrative, but only the Spirit can lead us into a piece of this redemptive reality. Man searches for meaning, and he looks to connect intellectually to the universe, but rarely does he pause to consider what has happened at Calvary.

Does a man addicted to heroin look at a comet and is set free? Does a woman who cuts herself study geology and is released from her self mutilation? Does a man who cannot control his violence read about human cells and is suddenly transformed? Do degrees from universities create new human beings who are now free from the ravages of the fallen condition? Have all the nutritious foods and all the vitamins and all the exercise given mankind eternal life? And yet millions have taken a vicarious journey to the cross and believed that the Jew they see is God in the bloody flesh paying for their sins, and in a moment in time they were changed forever.

And this is the cross which we are called to champion, embrace, emulate, and live. This is no stagnant doctrine of the faith which is dusted off on Easter. This is more than a church pageant. This cross in all its brutal glory must be our passion. But the church has lost the stigma of the cross. Oh we are castigated for our moral stands and our overtures to return to days gone by. We are reviled for our Judeo-Christian ethics and our support for traditional marriage. Issues we have in abundance, and we are well informed and well versed in those issues. And we do not shrink when it comes to voicing these and other issues. In those we are bold moral and political witnesses.

But when it comes to the cross we will show our doctrinal card if we must, but we are embarrassed to speak openly and with specificity about that bloody tree. An innocuous mention once in a while in church must suffice, but in public we must relate to the world on their ground. We love to argue, but we hate to die. We love to complain, but we hate to die. We love to organize, but we hate to die. We love to vote, but we hate to die. We love to condemn, but we hate to die. We love America, but we hate to die.

And if we do not die, then we do not love the cross. And if we do not love the cross, then we do not love Jesus. And if we do not love Jesus, then we only love ourselves. And if we love ourselves, then we need not die anyway, because we were never alive in the first place. And the death in which the church now walks is not the death of His cross, it is the death of trespasses and sins. And in that death there is no resurrection. We have become demonstrative corpses. Without the cross as a living template the church is a religious mausoleum full of dead men’s bones. These bones speak and prosper and work and build and have activities and present doctrines and statements of faith. These bones are evangelical bones, but they cannot eradicate the smell of spiritual death without the cross.

God help us to allow the Spirit to awaken us once again the source of all life, both here and forever, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Field is the World


Matt.13: 24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;

Have you even been in an automobile, maybe even behind the wheel, and as you drive you come across a very subtle fork in the road. It is so subtle that you unknowingly veer to the right or the left and many miles later you realize you are no longer headed in the right direction? That has happened to me. And when you look once again at the map you realize that you have inadvertently veered off course. Yes the veer itself was subtle, but the consequences became increasingly dramatic. In the end you could never get to your desired destination without a course correction. Have you been there?

Well somewhere along the line the church in America veered off course and instead of allowing a course correction by God’s Spirit it has continued to go further and further off course. And now the church is so far away from the original course that it is headed in the opposite direction completely. So where did the ax head fall and just where did the church go off course?

Throughout the ministry of Jesus He again and again emphasized people. His ministry was to people and He would give His life for people. He was not interested in building earthly nations or political influence. Jesus had a world view of redemption, and He saw people as fields. We are so often warned about a one world system, and yet Jesus saw the entire world as fields that were white unto harvest. There is a vast difference in viewing the world as an American and viewing it as a Christian. Americans see people as non-Americans while believers should see people as fields.

This is no small issue. This has been the downfall of the western church and anyone who addresses it is met with less than pleasant objections. I have had my salvation questioned just because I have presented an accurate account of America and the founding fathers. But blindness has come over the church and she has earthly eyes that divide people into sin classes and national allegiances and even ethnicities. The fields are no longer labors of redemption. And now we hear voices that embrace a nation rather than embrace a Lord. That perspective is extremely counter productive to the kingdom God and it is a grievous sin. It is at odds with the persona and mission of Jesus.

We must see things as does our Blessed Savior. We have no right to say we believe in Jesus and then go our own way. Jesus is not an American and He does not view people as American or Swedish or Egyptian. He sees the entire world as the field, and when we get caught up in embracing and even loving the things of this present world we lose sight of our calling. We are not called to judge the world, we are called to reach the world. And we are not called to love and profess allegiance to the ground where God’s providence has placed us. No, we are called to the world without division and partiality.

Jn.4: 34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

How do you describe the color red to a blind man? What words can communicate that which can only understood with eyes? And so it is with the church and the average Sunday morning pew dweller who is caught up in the deception of nationalism and all its tentacles. I truly believe that this deception is so deep and entrenched that only a divine miracle will be able to deliver some. Most will not even give it a second thought. And most will listen to and follow their pastor or someone else who’s personage they hold in admiration. And the field continues to die right in front of our faces.

While we play temporal and worthless games of politics and legislated morality, souls meet their eternal death. What we call liberal God calls lost. What we call Muslim God calls lost. What we call socialist God calls lost. What we call conservative God calls self righteous. What we call capitalist God calls greed. You see? God has His own dictionary. But all of it is only divided into two parts - lost and saved, sheep and goats, and light and dark. But when we depart from that perspective we enter into a fallen world that condemns on many different levels. It is a moral cast system which excuses some sins and condemns others without a shred of redemption.

And so here we are as believers influenced by a church which has gone off the rails and seeks its own and not Christ’s. Our eyes are trained to see people in a kaleidoscope of moral, ethnic, religious, national, and many other perspectives. No longer do we see the world as a field. We have eyes of the flesh and not eyes of the Spirit. And we have quickly forgotten how God saw us and came to earth to rescue us because we could not rescue ourselves. And we were not seeking God, in fact we were His enemies and we were frolicking in our own sin.

But God did not see us as moral enemies who did not deserve His love and redemption. For reasons only completely known to Him, God came as a man and made a way for us. So what do you call someone who did not deserve redemption, but through God’s grace alone became a child of God, but who turns around and spits upon those who just moments ago enjoyed his company? What do you call people who were translated from darkness into light but who now cling to an earthly country and despise those who will not bow to it? What do you call those who have heard Jesus say that the meek shall inherit the earth and yet are brash, irritating, and loud in their condemnation of others?

I guess you can call them professing believers but you cannot call them followers of Jesus. Why have we so openly rejected the definition given by our Master and created all kinds of labels that have nothing to do with redemption? Why do we have such hatred for those who are replicas of our own past? Why can we speak so disparagingly about the same people for which Christ gave His life? We have become so self centered. And we have constructed a religion that elevates us and demeans others. Instead of weeping over the lost we castigate them as if they were nothing but animals, but we prop ourselves up on moral pedestals and bark out attacks.

Look out upon the world. Do you see fields or do you see irritating miscreants? Do you see the throngs in which you once romped, or do you see worthless human refuse? Can you even imagine that the power of redemption is strong enough to reach the vilest of sinners? And what do you think about Paul who wished that he himself would be accursed if his rebellious countrymen could be saved? Is that the kind of spirit the western church exhibits? Do you want to see where God’s heart beats? The fields, brethren, the fields. As the church in America weeps over a waving piece of cloth the heart of God beats for those who walk in darkness. The church places her hand over her heart in allegiance to a wicked empire while God’s kingdom calls allegiance to the Suffering Servant. What a paradox!

Lift up your eyes all you who call Christ your Master. Look out upon the desperate masses who are heading for a horrific eternity. Does that move you more than a patriotic song? Does it move you more than the life of your own dog? Does it move you more than your personal problems? If you say you love Christ than you must love the lost. Jesus wept over Jerusalem who would crucify Him, and yet we cannot bear the whips and scorns of the lost? Must we have our pound of flesh and our retribution? Or are we willing to die to ourselves and head out into the fields.

But count the cost if you go. These fields bite and sting. They say unkind things. They behave sinfully. If you are looking for morality you will find very little. If you expect the fields to be hospitable you will be disappointed. If you need praise and appreciation you may find the opposite. The fields have their own agenda. They are gay and straight and everywhere in between. They are pro-choice and even abortion doctors. They are NOW and Planned Parenthood. They are liberal and they do not share our family values. The may shout you down and hurl insults at your intelligence. They will hate you, everything you stand for, and they will hate your Christ. These are the fields, the same fields Jesus saw as He stepped down into Bethlehem’s manger.

So if you cannot endure persecution for His sake, then you should remain on the sidelines returning evil for evil, shouting for shouting, hate for hate, and expending your energies to save what cannot be saved. But please, if you choose that route, do not reveal that you follow Christ, because in reality, you do not.

Where are the Christian Voices?


I was not very surprised when the evangelical community gave their support for Mitt Romney. After all, their utter disdain for President Obama was hardly clandestine. I was surprised when Romney was invited to speak at evangelical universities and gatherings. I had long since concluded that the overwhelming majority of evangelicals were deeply invested in idolatry as it pertains to America, and they were listening to all sorts of voices shouting loudly that the destruction of the nation they loved was imminent unless President Obama was defeated. So in essence, Fred Phelps or Joseph Goebbels would be preferable to Barak Obama. The hysteria was and is breathtaking. And this time evangelicals couldn’t just hide behind the pro-life banner. This time it was money and freedom.

There were overt suggestions of the president’s patriotism or some secret agenda to set up a socialist state. People questioned his birthplace and his academic history. And some believers even called him an antichrist. Yes, it was nauseating to say the least. But sprinkled into all that mess were statements, attitudes, and pejoratives which not so subtly pointed to his race. Oh yes, racism still lives and breathes within this culture. And I am white so I really have no idea to what extent on the personal level.

One Romney supporter suggested the President was not too bright and was lazy and shiftless. Young people may not completely understand the implications and history of such words. Sarah Palin, a professing believer, said President Obama was “shucking and jiving”, another racially charged description. Some say Colin Powell’s endorsement was based upon race and not policies. Many still believe he is a secret Muslim. And on and on the demeaning and ignorant attacks continue.

But we should expect it coming from unbelievers and ignorant people. But where are the Christian leaders who even support Romney speaking loudly against such brute beast rhetoric and racially charged invectives? Those voices who have no problem excoriating President Obama about a myriad of things remain oddly silent when they hear unchristian verbiage leveled at the president. Hopefully his two daughters are shielded from some of it, but I am sure the first lady hears most of it.

Thousands of so called “Christian leaders” across the nation are a disgrace to Christ and His teachings. The same crowd that rightfully condemned the Rev. Wright’s caustic rhetoric take a far different tone when others use such language against the President. And why is this the case?

Hatred. Pure, distilled, and ready for human consumption, hatred. Honestly, if I was not a believer, and if I had heard the collection of Christian voices in this election year, I would never have come to Christ. But even when people who support Romney use unkind and vicious invectives against President Obama, those professing believers on the same political side are embarrassingly silent. That not only says something about their political agenda, is speaks volumes about their commitment to Christ.

I know many who clicked on this post and because of the title anticipated something far different. You may have thought I would ask for Christian voices to help save a nation. Or maybe Christian voices that would speak against immorality. Or Christian voices that would speak in support of freedom. Or Christian voices that would speak against socialism. But instead you got a request for Christian voices to speak up for Jesus and His teachings and to rebuke brothers and sisters who openly disobey and ignore them. I wish I could say I am sorry you did not get what you were looking for, but I am not sorry. But I am glad you read this.

This election has said much more about the church than it has about any candidate.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Assimmilated Church in America


There has been a quantum shift in hatred ever since Operation Desert Storm in 1991. I was still moderately deceived back then, but I still remember the meteoric rise of Rush Limbaugh in popularity. And he became the talk of the evangelical community and a must listen for millions of believers. And I listened as well. However it quickly became obvious to me that something was not right. There was so much effervescent joy over the victories happening so fast in Iraq. And even within the church there was robust nationalism and very little compassion for the civilian dead and wounded. It all seemed so carnal and wrong.

That was the beginning of my journey. Soon after the war ended, the election of 1992 began. And because of the war Rush Limbaugh now had a large audience. Now this was a man who was not an evangelical believer and spoke very little about Jesus, to say nothing of a personal relationship with Him. His was more of a “God fearing” perspective which would translate into faith in the Constitution, the founding fathers, and a decidedly conservative view mostly of economics and much less of some moral issues. He seemed to support the pro-life stance, however that support paled significantly when compared with his visceral attacks on liberals and their economic policies. And no wonder, he openly and proudly lived a hedonistic lifestyle.

But because he ranted against liberals and suggested they were ruining the country he became a darling of the evangelical community, regardless of his less than conservative practice of marriage. I believe he is now married for the fourth time. But even that was not what finally grieved my spirit, and God’s Spirit made me aware of the sinister nature of what I was sensing. The words became more and more caustic, demeaning, and belittling. He regularly used pejoratives and cute little demeaning labels on many different classes of people. He even created jokes and songs which were meant to disparage individuals and people groups. The hatred was pervasive.

And the self righteousness was palpable. He even used God’s name to suggest the he was on loan from God and of course he always elevated himself and his intellect using a thin layer of humor which could not actually hide the reality. I listened less and less, but when I did it was used of the Spirit now to teach rather than entrap me. But when the election began in 1992 the level of hatred and verbal violence began to increase until at the end of the year it was unbearable. But still he was extremely popular among professing believers who enjoyed his parodies, his demeaning language, and his “us verses them” platform.

And when Bill Clinton was elected the hatred and disdain reached a fever pitch. For the next eight years the radio and the television waves would send out hatred in ways that were not accepted in decades gone by. Yes, there has always been hatred, but now it became an art form and self labeled conservatives became a tightly knit amalgam who had their torches lit and were leading a march to uncover and obliterate liberals of any kind. And the founding fathers became idols while the Constitution was elevated over the Scriptures. Humility was now a weakness, and soon it was suggested that the country was systematically being dissolved and that the elected of 2000 was our last chance to save the republic. It was all so Lord of the Rings and the church was caught up in it all. Preachers even quoted Limbaugh from the pulpit.

President Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and liberals in general were excoriated with all kinds of unpleasant and self righteous language, and the teachings of Jesus were nowhere in sight. Love? Grace? Mercy? Patience? Humility? All of it had been left in the dust of nationalism and the war on liberalism. And what it has exposed is the spiritual depth of the evangelical church. How could believers have been so easily led astray? How could the church have embraced speech and behavior that was so obviously at odds with all that Jesus lived and taught? Why did not our conscience bother us when we heard such demeaning language against people in general who either disagreed with us or who were Muslims, which after 9/11 were added to the list of enemies on talk radio and talk television?

I believe there are two main reasons why the evangelical community fell prey to such unchristian rhetoric and helped make carnal men and women of the media millionaires many times over. The first is that the church had evolved into believing that allegiance to America and allegiance to Christ were not only compatible, but were synonymous. This is spiritually deadly and leads to all kinds of ungodly attitudes within the church. We are taught by the Master Himself that even mothers and fathers must not have our allegiance, and any love that we should have for them must be seen as hatred in comparison for the love and allegiance we should have for Christ. Could that be any clearer? And yet we have been indoctrinated from birth about allegiance to America and since people recognize how that could be taken as compromise, they have concocted a fairy tale about America being a Christian nation, appointed by God, and thereby allegiance to America can be seen as allegiance to God. “One nation, under God” is part of the deception.

But another way in which the church was led astray is through its leaders. Pastors were also caught up in the spiritual melee and since they had the pulpit they led their flocks deeper and deeper into idolatry. The allegiance that the congregation felt for America was reinforced greatly from the pulpit and through the example of those leaders. I mean if our beloved pastor felt that way what could be wrong with it? And the path that led away from the teachings of Jesus became well worn and pervasively accepted within the church.

And then compromise began to mutate into other forms. Evangelicals now held hands with Mormons and Roman Catholics. And those who once rejected the prosperity teachers now embraced them as good Americans. Preachers began to spread fear and suggested that Muslims were secretly planning to take over and institute Sharia law in the United States. It was openly suggested that liberals hated America. And men from behind pulpits not only encouraged idolatry toward America, but they nurtured hatred within the church. The entire evangelical climate, although not spiritually deep to begin with, began to move rapidly downward through the power of the flesh and I am sure the aid of the evil one.

And soon it became apparent that the church viewed herself as Americans who happened to espouse Christianity, rather than believing followers of Jesus Christ. Think long and hard about the distinctions in that statement. With a painstaking process, the church morphed into what is today a culture of morality, politics, capitalism, and the cares of this present world. There are now conferences held by preachers designed to excite people about the desperate situation facing the nation and get them to vote accordingly. And many of these gatherings have a doctrinal assortment of speakers that range from Mormons to Jews to Roman Catholics to evangelicals and mongrels of all sorts. And they all gather for one cause - America, and not for Christ. But as I said before, they openly suggest that allegiance to America is allegiance to Christ and that saving America from the clutches of socialism is God’s current obsession.

When it was suggested to Jerry Falwell Jr. that having a Mormon speak at an evangelical university represented spiritual compromise, he replied that we must save a nation first and later we can be concerned with Biblical truth. You see, the transformation is now complete. The church is no longer gospel light and gospel salt, it is now an extension of the Revolutionary War ,which by the way is viewed by evangelicals as a war started and won by God.

And so to return to my original point. The slide has been so dramatic and so complete that the church in America can practice all sorts of carnality and yet profess to love and follow Jesus. There is scant gentleness or humility. The clarion call for the gospel has given way to the clarion call to save a nation. “Send the light, the precious gospel light” is now “get out the vote, the precious conservative vote”.

When the attitudes and rhetoric of believers are indistinguishable from the rhetoric and attitudes of the unbelievers then there is a major problem. And when this occurs, it is overwhelmingly due to the believers lowering their rhetoric to the level of unbelievers and rarely that unbelievers have elevated theirs. And in the end we have imprisoned the gospel in our statements of faith, but in our speech and attitude we deny it. Jesus is now a doctrine and not a life. And in many ways we are now preaching another Jesus, not by our written doctrines, but through our lives.

For too long the western church has been content to outline our Christology through our written doctrines but neglecting the attributes of the Person of Christ through our lives. And when that becomes the norm not only does it render evangelism as ineffective, but it has led to all sorts of gimmicks and manipulation in order to attract unbelievers. And that leads to shallow conversions that are completely dependent upon a consistent diet of excitement, activity, and many forms of ecclesiastical structures deigned to control.

What then has transpired is that the visible church in America has been assimilated into the culture even while retaining some Biblical language and written doctrinal tenants. It has happened in subtle and not so subtle ways. And the most demonstrative doctrinal offenders like the emergent church, the liberal denominations, or men like Joel Osteen, Rick warren, and Rob Bell are identified by the less demonstrative offenders. And the suggestion is that we who identify them as false teachers remain unaffected by the culture. But that inoculates us from beseeching God’s Spirit concerning our own compromises and our own need of repentance and brokenness.

So the western culture assimilates the visible church, but inside the assimilated group there are those who rightly discern heresies and heretics, but are blind to the ways in which they themselves have been assimilated. The more blind are indicted by the less blind, and the one eyed man becomes the king in the kingdom of the blind. And ultimately we compare ourselves with ourselves and accuse and excuse each other with no discernable spiritual influence.

The church is now pouring water on a grease fire. Instead of being a radiant light piercing the darkness, we have fully invested ourselves in the ways and mores of the fallen culture. And in a real and tangible sense we are practicing another religion. And not only do we refuse to admit it, but we embrace it, enjoy the fruits of it, and most disturbing of all we rigorously defend it.

So sleep tight tonight, church, and lay your head upon a doctrinal pillow contoured to fit your own needs. And sing yourselves to sleep with this lullaby: Joel Osteen is a heretic. There, don’t you feel better now? zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Latter Day Saints to the Rescue


Joseph Smith is the founder and the Prophet of the Mormon religion. He once called the Mormons of Utah the “White Horse”, seemingly comparing them to the White Horse of Revelation. In his diary, a man named John Roberts, a friend of Joseph Smith, recorded a prophetic utterance given by Smith. Here is a portion:

“While this conversation was going on we stood by his south wicket gate in a triangle. Turning to me, he said, “I want to tell you something of the future. I will speak in a parable like unto John the Revelator. You will go to the Rocky Mountains and you will be a great and mighty people established there, which I will call the White Horse of peace and safety.” When the Prophet said, “You will see it,” I said, “Where will you be at that time?” He said, “I shall never go there. Your enemies will continue to follow you with persecutions and they will make obnoxious laws against you in Congress to destroy the White Horse, but you will have a friend or two to defend you and throw out the worst parts of the law so they will not hurt you so much. You must continue to petition Congress all the time, but they will treat you like strangers and aliens and they will not give you your rights, but will govern you with strangers and commissioners. You will see the Constitution of the United States almost destroyed. It will hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber.” At that time the Prophet’s countenance became sad, because as he said, “I love the Constitution; it was made by the inspiration of God; and it will be preserved and saved by the efforts of the White Horse, and by the Red Horse who will combine in its defense.” (source)

You see, Joseph Smith considered the Constitution as divinely inspired as Scripture, and he believed one day when that document was in jeopardy that the Latter Day Saints would rescue it. This prophecy has not become official church doctrine, however it does remain a source of interest and discussion within the LDS. Now Mitt Romney is a high priest in the LDS, and has taken many sacred and secret oaths. Hmm…do you think he may believe he is called by God to save the Constitution? If you believe that, you should vote for him. And if that prophecy is true, then you are a Mormon.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Buckle Your Self Righteous Seat Belts


Warning: The captain has lit the “turbulence” sign and for the next few moments you may experience some rough air pockets which can upset your doctrinal stomach.

I Cor.6: 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Scripture must be interpreted through the prism of Scripture itself. That means that we cannot cull out certain verses and make them exclusive and isolated teachers without placing them within the context of not only their Scriptural neighborhood, but they must be examined and unpacked within the context of the entirety of the written revelation. Sometimes that is very easy, but other times that is very difficult and demanding. It is Biblical laziness to lift out verses and make them your sounding board. But that has always been a widespread practice inside the church.

The verses I have provided above are an example of using Scripture for an agenda while ignoring both the entirety of their teaching as well as the overall theme of the New Testament. Let me also pause to warn against melding the Old and New Testaments. This has been commonplace throughout church history, and it is a favorite practice among some even today. It is a dangerous path to error and self righteousness. The Old Testament is a prophetic instrument that points to Christ regardless of the writing styles of poetry, narrative, proverbs, or any other literary vehicle. They all point in some way to Christ. But now we have the substance, and the types and shadows and metaphors are used to substantiate the inspiration of Scripture as well as give a clearer image of the Crucified and Risen Christ.

With that in mind we are pilgrims of the New Covenant, and although we are edified by the illuminations of Christ in the Old Covenant, we walk exclusively in the New and Better Covenant. This is the covenant of the Spirit born of God’s grace, kept by God’s grace, and glorified by God’s grace. The law is now dead to those who believe, and there can be no man made amalgam of law and grace. If any part of our beings are still judged and condemned by the law, we are all still dead in our sins. That is why it is against God’s grace to demand that we as New Covenant believers adhere to the Ten Commandments or any other moral or ceremonial directives contained in the Law of Moses.

We have learned by the Old Testament how God feels about sin, and certain sins are specified. So we know God hates adultery, however we as believers avoid committing adultery because we walk in the Spirit and the love of Christ constrains us. No longer do we obey writings in stone, but now armed with the knowledge of those commandments, we obey God through the Spirit and not because we are bound to the law. And when we sin against God we are no longer killed, but now we are corrected. We are not merely obeyers of the law, we are children who seek to obey and please their Father. Please do not minimize the distinction since it minimizes God’s grace and the surpassing glory of the New Covenant. To desire the law is to desire death.

But I want to focus in on the verses from First Corinthians I shared. These have been used as a self righteous platform to condemn others, and especially those who commit certain sins. But let us take an honest look at the sins listed here. The word effeminate has been used to suggest that homosexuals can never be saved if they are not completely rescued from that sin. But before I address that issue, let us remove that word for now. So without the word effeminate, let us examine the other sins.

Look at the word covetous. Now remember, the word effeminate is for now not in the list. And these verses were written before the Industrial Revolution and when the culture was agricultural in nature. So what temptations were there for covetousness? Your neighbor’s crops? You neighbor’s one room house? Your neighbor’s mule? Yes, the sinful heart still coveted after such things. So if covetousness was a problem in that environment, how much is it a problem in this hedonistic culture? We are bombarded with commercials and advertisements that strenuously pull at our hearts and create small and medium and great amounts of lust.

But since we have been raised in this culture, and since we seem to compartmentalize sin, and since we arrive at truth with all kinds of cultural and environmental ingredients, how much covetousness do we have today? Cars, and houses, and clothes, and vacations, and savings accounts, and food, and romantic getaways, and movies, and concerts, and music, and all sorts of material things and experiences elicit some level of lust and covetousness within our hearts. And if you deny that you fall prey to any of it than you are exhibiting the sin of lying and are self deceived.

But as believers living in this culture, we have become inoculated and insulated to our own sin. We are no longer sensitive to covetousness, and the church now only recognizes a brand of covetousness that actually drools over something or in the context of coveting your neighbor’s wife. The little foxes, though they may be many, are ignored and accepted as normal. And in a clandestine effort to further minimize and marginalize our own covetousness, we magnify other sins which do not plague us and thereby sweep our own sins under the doctrinal rug. It is a very tidy way to rip Scripture apart and use whatever indicts others while almost ignoring what indicts us.

So in effect, we as western believers can covet all sorts of things and even practice idolatry while standing upon a moral platform and proclaiming that those that practice other things cannot inherit the kingdom of God. How rich is that? Of course if we did not have the word “effeminate” we would have to be even more creative in our interpretation. Nationalism is blatant idolatry and yet it is openly and warmly received within the evangelical community. But we never suggest we cannot inherit the kingdom of God. It is quite the spectacle and reveals a superior level of Scriptural gymnastics.

And let us be clear and pull back the curtain. The sin of covetousness is not only committed with regularity within the community of faith, it is on some level accepted. The prosperity message has made it an art form. But even in “orthodox” communities, it rears its ugly head like the chipmunk game at a kid’s amusement park. I once attended an evangelical church that called a pastor from another church to be their pastor. That pastor said he was willing but they had to increase the salary package or it would just be a “lateral” move. And that pastor had made millions in the secular world before he became a preacher. That is blatant covetousness.

Even such seemingly innocuous things like cell phones elicit covetousness when the newer versions come out. See the lines form to buy the new iPhone and pay handsomely to get it! And believers by the millions covet them. I am suggesting that covetousness is embraced and practiced by the western church in ways that should be clear and also in more clandestine ways. And yet we would never suggest that preacher who coveted a new set of golf clubs or a designer suit or even a new reference Bible was not going to inherit the kingdom of God. Why? Why can we excuse that sin and not the sin of being effeminate? Or why can the rabid patriot who hates President Obama and regularly speaks ill of him and others inherit God’s kingdom but not the effeminate? Why can the believer who regularly complains about taxes or gas prices which is a form of covetousness, why is he allowed to enter God’s kingdom even though he commits sins included in that list?

Why? Because we have taken God’s Word and made it our personal defender and an incendiary device with which to condemn others. Take another look at verse 11. You were sinners attached to those sins, but because you are now in Christ you have been washed by His blood. This does not mean you do not commit those sins ever again, because if it does mean that then heaven will be empty. But it does mean that once those sins condemned us to death, but now we have been justified through Christ.

Rom.4: What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Not only are we justified without works, we are justified in spite of works. This is no game of grace by faith to get in, but sinlessness to actually be in. Are we called to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit? Yes, of course! But even those who legalistically attempt perfection in that area fall short. And if we say that certain sins exclude people from redemption, than we must say that all sin does. Christ did die as a sacrifice for all sins, but some have a caveat? And the caveat is that they can be forgiven if you do not commit them. So what does that say about redemption?

Let us be clear, no one can be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ. No one. But what sins must be given up to be saved? If that even enters the conversation then the answer is all sins. And just so we are clear about this, the person who says he trusts Christ and then goes on exactly as he was before and with no change or desire to change, that person is deceived. But all of us still sin after we have been saved. And regardless of how wonderful our transformation was and is, we still sin. Sometimes we sin inadvertently, sometimes we sin knowingly, and sometimes we sin and are blind to the sinfulness of that sin. Yes, sometimes we practice something that we believe is not sin, or even believe is of God, and yet it is sin.

But we are now washed, and as John wrote, “The blood of Jesus is cleansing us from all sin”. And why would we depend upon God not imputing sin unto us if we had no sin to impute? Redemption is a faith-gift of God’s grace. And when a sinner sincerely believes in Christ, his sins no longer are imputed against him. There is now no condemnation, not to those who do not sin or even try and not sin, but to those who are in Christ Jesus.

So can a sinner believe on Jesus and be saved and washed but still practice certain sins? Let us be clear, we all fit that description. Can a person be saved and still covet? Can a person be saved and still be self righteous? Can a person be saved and still curse? Can a person be saved and commit adultery? Can a person be saved and look at pornography? Can a person be saved and abuse prescription medication? Ok, most of us would say yes to all these.

But here is my point. The church has loudly and self righteously promoted the concept that a gay person cannot be saved unless he rejects that sin and makes an observably successful effort to live without it. We have made the sin of homosexuality the unpardonable sin and thereby both kept gay people from faith in Christ as well as made ourselves moral champions. But there are growing numbers of gay people whose lives have been changed by Christ in many ways, who read the Scriptures and pray, and who support world wide missions, but who remain blind to that particular sin. Some of them are honest in their business, active in a local church, pay their taxes, and even witness Christ among the gay community. Can they, hypothetically, be saved?

If we do not even allow for that possibility than what we are saying is that millions of heterosexual believers who lie, and covet, and practice idolatry, and lust, and never read the Bible, and never pray, can be saved but not the afore mentioned gay person. Only God knows those that are His, but if we limit redemption to those who do not commit certain sins we dilute the scope and power of redemption but are careful not extend the boundaries to exclude us. What about the preacher who divorces his wife and marries his mistress, can he be saved? Oh yes, you say, because he has repented and is not steadily committing that sin. Sure he repented, because he fulfilled his lusts and now he can claim complete forgiveness while enjoying the fruits of his sin. Like a bank robber who steals a million dollars, repents, and keeps the million dollars.

But I am not saying that preacher cannot be saved. What I am saying is that if you say the gay person cannot be deceived about his sin but still be saved, then none of us can be saved. This is where redemption is put to the test.

I Cor.3: 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Now examine this principle. Here is a man who arrives in heaven and has his works burned up, but is saved. Now I ask you, was that man’s life filled with begin works that were neither righteous nor sinful? Is there any such thing? No, this man lived a life filled with himself, which is sin, and all his works went up in smoke. However, in the hypothetical, the man’s soul was saved. Why? Because he had trusted Christ and upon that foundation alone he inherited God’s kingdom. Wow, think about that. Yes, there are warnings in Scripture about people having false conversions and yet thinking they were saved. That is a very legitimate concern and should be presented to all of us. But this particular teaching is revealing as it pertains to the scope and power of redemption.

But back to the original portion of Scripture. We are not labeled as covetous, although we still covet. But we are washed and are now the redeemed. We are not labeled as idolaters although we still commit idolatry. We are washed and are now the redeemed. You see, our sins are no longer imputed to our account because we are washed and justified. We are not justified because we no longer do those things, but we are justified because of Christ. We should not commit those sins, in fact we should not commit any sins. But we are not justified based upon our successful avoidance of sin in particular or as a whole, and thank God we are not.

So the next time you hear a preacher proudly proclaim that no gays can inherit the kingdom of God, and he quotes those verses, take a look around and watch as people who commit others sins outlined in the New Testament nod and clap. And as you do, bow your head and your heart and give thanks to Almighty God because He has saved you even though you yourself are just like that publican, or for that matter, just like that gay person.