Archive for December, 2008
Posted by Job on December 28, 2008
Posted by Job on December 26, 2008
Posted by Job on December 26, 2008
Listening to Christmas carols this year on contemporary Christian radio, I made note of the fact of how the vast majority of the songs, especially the older or traditional ones, were actually about Jesus Christ. A quick inventory of the older Christian songs and hymns that I ran through my mind turned up the same thing: most – though not all – of them were in praise of God, His actions, and His attributes.
Not so with modern Christian music. It appears that easily more than half of the modern Christian and gospel songs is not music about God but rather music about Christians. Often it centers around what Christians (and often the artists themselves) think, what they do, how they live. This is not to say that modern Christians do not deal with the worship and praise of God or the mighty acts of God. But the rub is that the songs are about how God is blessing them and how praising God makes them feel. Instead of “Praise God for He is wonderful, righteous, and holy” it is “praise God for giving me increase.” Instead of “worship God” it is “worshiping God makes me feel so good” or “praising God gives me the strength to make it through the day.”
I have to say that there is a particular artist who is very popular in both gospel and contemporary music right now (a rarity) who refers to himself as a psalmist. To me, it is very strange, because if you actually read the Psalms, the heavily dominant material is clearly describing God and/or worshiping and praising God merely for being God. Even the references to God’s blessings, the effects that worship has on the believer, or the life of the believer are generally clearly subservient to and a function of God and His attributes. Yet this modern psalmist makes songs that are almost entirely about receiving things from God and his personal Christian life.
Does anyone else agree that this is generally the case? Or is it simply my lack of exposure to both modern gospel and Christian music and such music in times past? However, if my observation is correct, is this shift from “singing about God” and “praising/worshiping God” in Christian and gospel music to “singing about Christians (especially if the Christian is me)” and “praising and worshiping God is wonderful because of how it makes me feel” and from “God is righteous, holy, powerful, and wonderful” to “God is good because of what He has done for me” a cause of current trends in gospel music or is it a reflection of it?
Posted by Job on December 25, 2008
Posted by Job on December 24, 2008
Posted by Job on December 23, 2008
Ebenezer Baptist Church is now one of the nation’s pillar institutions for theological liberalism, right up there with Union Theological Seminary. And Rick Warren is going to get into their pulpit. This Rick Warren thing just grows and grows …
Posted by Job on December 23, 2008
Well, the news breaks from Apprising Ministries that James Dobson and Focus on the Family is promoting Mormonism. (And that they also denounce people who oppose Roman Catholicism.) Really, this is no surprise. Allow me to explain why by asking a question: what is the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it to transform lives by saving souls? Or is it to transform nations and cultures by spreading values and norms? Many would say that either/or is a false choice when the answer is both. What those people ignore is that so often those two goals find themselves in conflict, and when they do it is much easier and more expedient to “focus on” transforming the nation and the culture than it is getting people saved. Tending to the nation and culture is far less difficult and produces quicker, more broad based results than crawling on your belly and face over the sharp rocks on craggy cliffsides and through the thick briars and brambles trying to find that one lost sheep, and then discipling that sheep so that he doesn’t run off again. It would imagine that it pays a lot better too, even if Focus on the Family has had to resort to layoffs lately. It is easier to focus on the family than to focus on Jesus Christ and Him crucified, so any offense that results from fighting false cultural battles will be far less.
So, when the time comes that the path to salvation is not through the false gospel of Mormonism or through a Roman Catholic Church that is now teaching religious pluralism, Dobson must stand down and count such people as his allies. Why? Because Mormons and Roman Catholics have good values, and are too useful allies in the culture wars over gay marriage and abortion to turn your backs on. So instead of telling Glen Beck that he needs to repent or spend eternity in the lake of fire, Focus on the Family promotes his allegedly Christian testimony.
So in times like these, the truth be told: it is not the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform the world, which includes cultures and nations. Instead, the purpose of the gospel is to save God’s elect from the world. Evidence of this is found in the very book of Revelation that amillennialists and dominionists love to reject with a “spiritual interpretation.” Even upon His return, Jesus Christ does not transform the world. Instead, He smites it and rules it with a rod of iron. See Revelation 19:15. Why does He do this? Because the world does not submit to His rule. The world is still trying to rebel, still trying to reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Sovereignty of God. That is why when Satan is released, he has no problem finding allies for his final and futile effort as recorded in Revelation 20:7-9.
Even after the final rebellion of Satan is crushed and this accuser is cast into the lake of fire, Jesus Christ does not set about transforming the nations and cultures. Instead, Jesus Christ judges them, they are destroyed with fire, and there is a new heaven and a new earth. Revelation 21:1 – “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” Now the Roman Catholics have the statement which goes to the effect “world without end amen amen.” But that is not what the Bible says. The Bible clearly states in Revelation and in the other eschatological passages that this world is coming to an end. So why bother trying to transform it? Why polish the brassware of a sinking ship? That would only divert the energies from getting as many people as you can off the ship and into lifeboats. The gospel is the lifeboat. It cannot be meant as both a lifeboat and some attempt to plug the leak in the boat. Why? Because those are two aims at cross purposes. If the gospel was meant to transform the world, there would be no need to save men from it. Also, make no mistake: it was God who put the hole in the boat to begin with. Indeed, it is God Himself that will judge the world for its wickedness.
Also, if the role of the gospel is to transform the world, then the Bible itself would declare the gospel to be a failure. Why? Because the Bible makes it clear: the world is never transformed. It is never subdued. It remains wicked and rebellious to the very end. So if the gospel fails at the goal of transforming the world and the culture, of say, making the government respect the Ten Commandments and making the culture respect traditional family values, then why should the gospel succeed in saving any Christian from the eternity in the lake of fire?
This is not some bold new theological innovation here. Instead, it can be found in a simple Frank Peretti novel “The Visitation.” In it, the protagonist, a burned out pastor, is confronted with his new, eager, inexperienced replacement, and the latter states “we are taking this town for Christ.” To which, the protagonist replied “how are you going to take any town for Christ when not even Christ took a town for Christ. Have you ever asked this town if it wants to be taken for Christ?” Taking towns for Christ was never Christ’s job. Thus, transforming the world and culture was never the job of the gospel or of the church. The very Bible itself declares that the world and culture will not be transformed, so if that was ever the goal of the gospel, then the Bible which declares the gospel would declare that gospel to be a failure, making the Word of God a failure, and Jesus Christ’s going to the cross to be in vain.
The idea that it we should be trying to use the gospel to give life to things that are doomed to die instead of using the gospel so that people could be born again is a great deception. It transforms the unchangeable truth of God into a lie, and takes the all powerful all knowing God and uses His own revelation to declare Him to be weak, a failure, as if Revelation depicts God as destroying the world only after being frustrated by His many attempts to save it; that not even sacrificing His own Son on a cross and sending that Son to Personally rule the world was enough. And what could be more Satanic, more anti – Christ, than that?
So we are left with the truth that the purpose of the gospel was to transform lives, to save souls, and to spare them the judgment that awaits the nations and their cultures. And we should reject anyone who comes promoting a different aim using a different gospel that represents a different Jesus.
Posted in Christianity | Tagged: abortion, christian values, family values, Focus on the Family, gay rights, Glen Beck, gospel, homosexuality, James Dobson, proposition 8, Roman Catholicism, salvation | 30 Comments »
Posted by Job on December 23, 2008
This is another attempt to get a handle on the controversy surrounding Rick Warren’s speaking at Barack Obama’s inauguration. First, let me get something out of the way. As to my opinion of Rick Warren’s speaking at Obama’s inauguration, let me say that truthfully I have no opinion. Why should I? Rick Warren is a self – admitted member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and openly advocates the idea that the work that he does for this body makes him a better pastor, a better Christian, and the world a better place. Barack Obama? His wife is a former leader of the Chicago chapter of the Council on Foreign Relations, whose members and/or people knowingly and willingly working to advance their agenda include such people representing the right as Newt Gingrich and George H. W. Bush, such people representing the right as Clinton and the aforementioned Michelle Obama, celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie, and pastors such as Rick Warren and T. D. Jakes.
Also, consider that one of Barack Obama’s early advocates: Rupert Murdoch, whose entire career as a pro – business race – baiting conservative would seem to have made him an Obama opponent. Well, Murdoch, actually 100% literally the world’s biggest pornographer in that no one, not Hugh Hefner or Larry Flynt or the mafia, more widely distributes or makes more money off pornography than does Murdoch, has lucrative and mutually beneficial business ties with Rick Warren. So now, right on the heels of the release of Rick Warren’s new book, already a bestseller, which Warren calls “the most clear definition of Christianity – of what it means to follow Jesus, what it means to be saved – of anything I’ve ever written“, comes the announcement that Obama is making Warren his inauguration speaker. So I ask of you … what is there to think of this other than to say that for Warren and Obama this is just business as usual?
Now this could have been an opportunity for a great many Christians to take a longer, deeper look at Rick Warren, his theology, and his associations. In other words, apply the same to Rick Warren as so many conservative Christians did to Barack Obama’s liberal and black liberation theology, and with Jeremiah Wright, Saul Alinsky, William Ayers, Michael Pfleger, ACORN etc. Really, the Council on Foreign Relations and Rupert Murdoch are just part of a much larger picture with Warren, which tends to indicate that he – and Obama – are merely players in a much larger game. So, then, who are the game masters and ultimately the puppet masters? And who is ultimately the head behind the puppet masters? These are questions that Obama’s tapping Rick Warren – and Rick Warren’s accepting – should raise.
But instead, we had this convenient explosion of protests from angry homosexuals and their advocates. The result has been a great many conservative Christians to take the position that if the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, ACT UP, People for the American Way, and other such groups are attacking Rick Warren, then he can’t be all bad. “The enemy of the enemy is my friend”, right? Well, I should remind you that this slogan originated in the Middle East, and radical Islam opposes homosexuality (and abortion and rock music and pornography and separation between church and state) too.
So, we have Obama able to use Rick Warren to advance his agenda, and Warren to use Obama to advance his. And, of course, whoever is using both Obama and Warren to advance their own agenda is getting what they want too. The reason for this is that similar to Billy Graham before him, a complete and total lack of prominent people, people of position, esteem, influence, and reputation, willing to criticize Rick Warren. Whether they are conservative, evangelical, traditionalist, or fundamentalist, you cannot find a single Christian leader willing to incontrovertibly and without qualification oppose the fellow. Oh they will criticize him from time to time when they are forced to confront something disturbing that Warren does or says. But they will not ever deal with the fact that Warren as a matter of routine procedure does and says disturbing things.
They also will not apply what scripture says about Christians, especially pastors, who routinely say and do things that are unscriptural, Christians who glorify and revel in their things unscriptural, and take pleasure in others who do unscriptural things just as they do. Scripture calls those people in need of severe rebuke at the very best, and on balance false Christians and heretics and those allied with them synagogues of Satan.
Now I admit, I had a glimmer of hope that Republican – leaning Christians would start to closely examine any pastor who aligns himself with a president that has stated that his first act in office would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. But the very convenient Proposition 8 homosexual marriage controversy rendered that moot. And as I mentioned earlier, the lack of well known Christian pastors and theologians willing to publicly and directly take on the Rick Warren problem is exactly what allows a sort of “jury nullification” to be applied to Warren and his theology. Which, of course, leaves us right back where we started. Which is that I have no opinion on Warren giving the inauguration blessing other than “business as usual.”
My main problem with Rick Warren’s theology? It is simple. Who is Jesus Christ? Our Lord and Savior. Not only is Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Lord comes first. Jesus Christ was our Lord before He ever was our Savior. And even if Jesus Christ had never been our Savior, indeed had God decided never to redeem mankind (or perhaps had mankind never needed redeeming) He would still be our Lord. The Lordship of Jesus Christ, indeed the Sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ, is spiritually and logically prior. The authority of Jesus Christ comes not from being Savior. It comes from His being Lord. It is because Jesus Christ is Lord that we can call upon His Name and be saved.
The problem with Warren and those like him is that they offer a Jesus Christ that is Savior without truly being Lord. They offer an incomplete picture of Jesus Christ which results in being a false Christ. Jesus Christ is only the helper, provider, and friend, sort of like a best buddy. Jesus Christ the Ruler, Leader, and Judge is left out. (So if Jesus Christ is only the lamb, who is the lion? America’s economic and military machine perhaps?) It is so easy to look at Revelation and see how chapters 4 – 20 apply to the overt non – Christians, the world that is, who rejects Jesus Christ as Savior and say “none of that is going to happen to me” if you are a Christian. But in doing so, are you forgetting that Revelation chapters 1 – 3 applies to the church? Those three chapters lead Revelation because judgment starts in the church. It does not start in the world. And that fits the gospels and the epistles that precede Revelation, and also the Old Testament before the New Testament. Those things were not given as warnings to the world. The Old Testament was given to God’s people Israel. The gospels and the epistles were given to God’s people the church. The warnings, judgments, etc. in the Old Testament, gospels, and epistles were to the Old and New Testament saints, not to the heathen.
So the only purpose of Revelation 4-20 is to show what will happen to the heathen. The rest of the Bible is for believers – or should I say partial believers – who fail to obey. It is for Ephesians who have left their first love. It is for those in Pergamos who follow Balaam and the Nicolataines. It is for Thyatirans who follow the Jezebel doctrines. It is far those in Sardis who do not repent and strengthen the things which remain before they die. And it is for the lukewarm Laodiceans. These are all people who profess Jesus Christ as Savior but who by word or action reject Him as Lord. As a result, the professed Christians that reject the Lordship of Christ in Revelation 1-3 will receive Revelation 4-20 and miss out on Revelation 21-22. For them, it will be as if they never professed Jesus Christ as Savior at all. And in truth, they never will have, because Jesus Christ is not your Savior if He is not your Lord.
And the result of doctrines, theologies, movements etc. that profess Jesus Christ as Savior without making Him Lord? For such people the Bible is no longer the authority. For these people, the Bible is only AN authority. It is a reference. A source. Something from which to draw footnotes. But it is not THE authority. Such people may reject the notion of the Bible being the singular authority in all things out of hand. Others may profess it while not living it. And there are the many shades in between. But the root is the same: Jesus Christ is their Savior without being their Lord. For those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord have seared in their minds and hearts John 14:15, and diligently study, meditate, and strive to heed the Bible to live up to John 14:15, and when they discover that doing so is impossible, they have no choice but to take refuge in the cross to relieve, cover, and fix up their brokenness in light of their failure. Those are the Romans 7:7-25 people.
Otherwise, where does the authority come from? In trying to categorize the Protestant Christian landscape (and for the most part exempting the largely liberal mainline denominations) there seems to be three basic groups. Fundamentalists are basically known by their rejection of modernism (the intellectual and ideological movement that began with the Englightenment and ended with World War II, or as others say began with the French Revolution and ended with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the age of reason, science, and rationality). For them, the authority appears to be received tradition. That old time religion is good enough for them! What if the old timers were wrong on things like, say, consuming wine in moderation as Jesus Christ incontrovertibly did? Or even ideas that really aren’t that old like dispensational premillennialism, or didn’t even originate with fundamental Christianity such as trying to use religiosity or religious – tinged secular activism to transform an unregenerate society into a society that they perceive to be more like the one which gave them their tradition? Well it is still good enough!
Evangelicals are known for their embrace of modernism. After all, God is a God of order, God made creation to reflect His orderly nature, which makes the faith by which we come to know and experience God entirely rational. Right? I am not going to attempt to belittle evangelicalism by making flailing attempts to point out where this thinking leads. (I will, however, say to open practically any major work of evangelical systematic theology written after 1970 and see for yourself!) I have to ask this question, however: is it an issue of whether a member of a church shows no interest in theological things, or if they have no interest in spiritual things? Or are theological things, especially if this theology is propositional and deductive in nature, and spiritual things one and the same? It would appear that for evangelicalism, then, the ultimate authority is reason and rationality, even if for no reason other than mainstream evangelicalism is hesitant to deal with Biblical matters that do not lend themselves to reasonable or rational discourse. For messy things like that, concepts like “Christian values” step up and fill the void. Failing that, you have “the proper meaning of this Bible text must necessarily be limited to the single meaning that the speaker intended the hearers to understand in that day and time, and the single meaning that the hearers understood the speaker to be communicating in their cultural context.” Or for that matter “those things were only for the apostolic era forthe church’s foundational purposes and were not meant for Christians coming thereafter.” (Never mind that there is not a single Bible verse that anyone can point to that actually says this!) For what are we supposed to be contending? For the jargon now delivered to the saints, or for the faith once delivered to us?
As for emergents or the emerging church? It is known for its embrace of postmodernity. Among postmodernity’s claims is the idea that definite truth either does not exist or is unknowable. All that exists is perception, and perception is basically the product of one’s cultural background, preconceived notions, and other biases, and as a result one person’s opinion is as good as another. (Of course, no postmodernist actually believes this insofar as they actually go about pretending as if 1+1 may or may not be 2, and they certainly believe their own opinions and values to be true, so in truth postmodernism is actually more of a place of first and permanent resort when challenged.) So what is the authority? Me. What I believe. What I believe to be true, or more accurately what I believe to be right. And even when I am proven wrong, it is no big deal because hey, no one’s perfect anyway. It isn’t as if it makes me a bad person or anything!
Now consider that one of postmodernism’s criticisms of modernity is that it is individualistic. Postmodernity claims to be about building, indeed restoring, the sense of human community. So it is not merely individuals running around with their own individual human opinions. Rather, postmodernism gives groups of people the ability to more or less coalesce around the same truth, meaning, or interpretation. (You believe the same thing that I do? Sweet! Let’s hang out!) Now the truths of various communities will inevitably diverge, but that is not what is important. What is important is the shared consensus of these communities, which is that there exists no single truth that can be imposed upon them, and more importantly no authority with the right to impose it. This authority may have the power, mind you. But they don’t have the right. Any authority that exercises its power to impose a definite truth on any person or group is by nature totalitarian, oppressive, and illegitimate.
So, then, can the postmodern Christian still be conservative, evangelical, or orthodox? I am going to leave aside the games that postmodernists play with language, their tactic of co – opting vocabulary by giving words different meanings to make people believe that they agree with them (sort of like how when Christians and Mormons refer to Jesus Christ as the Son of God both groups mean totally different things!) for a minute.
Instead, to strictly deal with the question, the answer is yes, the postmodern Christian can have almost entire points of agreement on evangelical and fundamentalist Christians on theology and doctrine. However, this is only because the postmodern Christian personally chooses to. The postmodern Christian is totally free to pick and choose based on his own ideas of interpretation, his own ideas of true and untrue, his own ideas of right and wrong, which Bible interpretations to accept and reject, which doctrines are true and false, what things to emphasize or ignore. The rule of faith? Nay, the rule of what I think is right. Which ultimately becomes the rule of what I and my community of like – minded believers think is right. (The community of like minded believers is extremely important, because there is indeed strength in numbers.) And anyone who comes around and says different, anyone who tries to impose their personal notions of truth on me, is a small minded hypocritical judgmental Pharisee.
So this brings us back to the many evangelicals, fundamentalists, and other theologically conservative Christians who are willing to allow Rick Warren to reside within the sphere of what they consider to be acceptable merely because Warren professes the historic creeds, confessions, and doctrinal statements, and moreover his social and cultural beliefs are well within the conservative Christian consensus. They are looking at the fact that Rick Warren professes the right beliefs alone while overlooking – willfully I might add – that Warren’s authority for his beliefs are none other than Warren himself. (And yes, that does explain why despite his profession of orthodox beliefs his actions are so disturbing.) They do this because in their evaluating Warren – and more importantly their deciding what to do (or what not to do) about him – their authority is the fundamentalist or evangelical consensus. They are already tolerating things that are abiblical or questionably Biblical within their own spheres. So long as it remains in their sphere, it is fine. So Warren is just something else. Admit it: Warren falls right within the fundamental or evangelical spectrum. And as long as he does, there is no need for anyone whose authority is the fundamental or evangelical consensus instead of or in addition to the Bible to oppose him in any meaningful way.
Here is the irony. Suppose Warren were to come out and say that abortion and homosexuality are the state’s business or the culture’s business that have nothing to do with the church. That the church should mind its own affairs, which is to win converts and disciple new members, and let the state and culture manage theirs. Now such a position would be far closer to the New Testament writings and what the New Testament figures actually seems to have practiced than the many peculiarities of fundamental or evangelical Christianity. Yet, were Warren to start promoting such an idea, that would be when some prominent Christians would have occasion to oppose the fellow. Why? Because the idea that Christians should find some active means of opposing the drift and tide of our government and culture away from the traditions and norms of the past is well within the fundamental or evangelical mainstream, so stating that the Body of Christ should concentrate its energies on Jesus Christ’s sheep, both lost and found, would place Warren out of this mainstream despite the very real possibility that such a position may be Biblical. (At the very least, the position would be worthy of serious reflection, study of scriptures, and doctrinal debate.) So, by remaining nominally anti – abortion and anti – homosexuality (nominal in that he makes public statements to that effect, but don’t expect to see him at a pro – life rally or handing out gospel tracts at a gay pride event very often) Warren basically remains in the evangelical or fundamental good graces no matter what else he does. How can fundamentalists and evangelicals oppose Warren’s deviations when they have or suffer other ones? It is only if your final authority is the Bible that you have the position to consistently oppose deviations, no matter who exhibits them and or what area the deviations exist. This is not to say that you will go around using that position on a constant basis because there is such a thing as Christian charity, humility, and a desire for unity that will cover a multitude of faults. But these things do not apply to people who because of a multitude of consistent errors in their statements and practices cannot truly be called Christians, and this is certainly the case with one Rick Warren.
That is why the little criticism of Warren that exists concerns his embrace of such things as environmentalism and global warming. Pardon me, but can you show me the Bible verses that command Christians to be anti – abortion anti – homosexuality activists and not anti – poverty pro – environmental activists? I have been through the Bible several times and seem to have overlooked them. Maybe the reason is that I mostly adhere to the King James Version, perhaps? Because what I have seen in my readings of the New Testament is Jesus Christ and the epistle writers speaking to the issues among believers. Their dealing with unbelievers was limited to sharing the gospel with them so that they might become believers. For homosexuality, disposing of unwanted children, and other forms of sin and immorality were pervasive throughout the heathen Roman Empire, yet the only thing that the New Testament manages to say about the world outside the church is Romans 13’s commandment to generally respect the government. Not transform the government (or the culture), mind you, just to respect it, as the Bible calls lawlessness and sedition sin.
Again, in this Warren is no different from the last generation’s Billy Graham. Around the time of the Vatican Council II, Billy Graham just up and decided that Roman Catholicism was perfectly fine. After that came a flood of other pronouncements from Graham, culminating in his statement to a major newsmagazine that he was no longer certain that Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven. (Please realize that such has been the position of the Roman Catholic Church since the Vatican Council II; Roman Catholicism is officially pluralist, even if conservative Catholics don’t like talking about it much.) So many fundamentalists and evangelicals declared themselves shocked at Graham’s statements. Why were they? Like Warren today, Graham had long been saying and doing worrisome things. And like Warren today, no one of any prominence was willing to rise up and take Graham on. So, Graham’s attack on the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ was just swept under the rug, just as everything else Graham said and did in rejection of the fact that the Bible declares Jesus Christ to be Lord. After all, can it be denied that the position of the Roman Catholic Church is that the church is lord on earth, and the pope is the head of the church?
So really, this is not about Rick Warren or Barack Obama. It is about you. On what authority rests your faith? Is it based on received tradition? Is it based on reason, rationality, and proposition? Is it based on what you believe and decide to be right? Or is it based on the Bible? Now of course, I am fully aware that we worship God and not a book. (After all, the “New Testament church” – meaning the early, apostolic church – didn’t even have the complete New Testament in canonical form, but they most certainly had God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit!) But are not God’s Commandments to us contained within this book? And how can we say that God is Lord of our lives if we make His Commandments subservient to tradition, reason, or the imaginations and high things that exalts themselves against the knowledge of God of our own desperately wicked and deceitful above all things hearts?
So worship a book? No. Worship and praise God by striving to obey the Bible? Yes. So what, then, are we to make of people who refuse to even try? Who make excuses for this refusal for themselves and for others? Well, to be honest, that is just business as usual, as most of the epistles were indeed letters describing how to view and deal just such people in local congregations, and before those the law, the prophets, and the writings of the Old Testament addressed those very same such people in Israel.
So then, Christian, what business is yours? Is it the business of your God, your Savior, your Creator, your Lord? Or is it the business of the world, that is, business as usual? The answer to this question is determined by whether the Word of God is your ultimate authority.
Posted in Christianity | Tagged: Billy Graham, Bush, emergent, emerging church, evangelicalism, fundamentalism, gay rights, homosexuality, modernism, New Age, Postmodernism, proposition 8, Rick Warren, rick warren barack obama inauguration | 3 Comments »
Posted by Job on December 22, 2008
Of course, being the father of two small children, we oft do the “Disney family movie” thing. (DreamWorks too. Can’t discriminate against them. Even if their fare is generally edgier than Disney’s. Then again the Disney movies do contain more occult and witchcraft elements … oh never mind.) One of their videos which we saw recently: “Meet The Robinsons.”
“Meet The Robinsons” centers around an orphan boy whose primary conflict is, of course, being an orphan. He was abandoned by his mother, has been keeping track of all the potential adoptive parents that have declined to give him a home, and becomes convinced that he is fast becoming too old to be adopted and is facing the prospect of going through life without a family, alone, and with no future. The conflict is resolved when the orphan travels through time and meets his future family, which includes an adult version of himself, now a father, husband, and very successful entrepreneur. The adult version of himself warns him that the future that he is now seeing is only a possible one, and that to bring it about he had to make the right choices. Make the wrong choices, and it is ruined! So this orphan goes back in time, still without a family and in an orphanage, but comforted and motivated by his knowledge of the bright and happy future ahead of him to face the huge challenge that was his life, including for the first time to cease being concerned only with his own plight long enough to start helping others. And the movie ends to an optimistic modernistic anthem “The Future Has Arrived.”
You might be interested to know that there is a Christian message in this. That little orphan boy may be you, the Christian pilgrim, trying to progress through a difficult life, the narrow path through this evil and wicked world that leads to the strait gate. World events, national politics, church disputes, family tragedies, and personal challenges (i.e. with one’s physical, mental, or emotional health) may be battering you from all sides. You may feel lost, abandoned, rejected, and alone, especially during the times when you refuse to compromise your faith. You may start to identify with Psalm 22, which spoke of Jesus Christ on the cross, and begin to wonder if God has forsaken you. You may wonder if God is being unfair to you, harsh to you, that you should have to endure all of these things. You may even wonder if you are being punished for some real or imagined sin or shortcoming, and begin to think that if you “start living right” or “get back right with God” then you will obtain a less difficult existence. Or you may be someone who is not a middle or upper class person in a western nation, but rather someone who knows real poverty or true persecution, especially in a third world or developing nation with a tiny Christian minority, and as such knows that chances for a significant change for the better in your life are either small or are completely unrelated to such things as how much you tithe or how many days a week you attend church (attending church may well be illegal in your country!) .
To such people whose state of distress is akin to that of the orphan boy in this film, first of all, please know that you are not an orphan. You have a family. First, you are adopted through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5). God is your Father. The other members of the Body of Jesus Christ are your brothers and sisters in the spirit. They are your fellow servants, your fellow laborers who are toiling in tribulation just as you are. Also, God Himself, the Holy Spirit, is your constant companion to keep you and reassure you when you need Him the most. So, you are not alone. Your struggles are not in vain. Your cries are never ignored. You have not only other born again Christians, but also God, the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit, as your family. No matter what your earthly temporal situation, keep your heart and mind trained on the eternal spiritual reality.
Second, like the orphan boy in the movie, you do indeed have a time machine at your disposal that you can use to take a peek at your bright, glorious future. Further, knowledge of your predestined future should fill you with peace, hope, happiness and joy. It should give you the strength to make the right choices in service to the One who chose you when He elected you to salvation and gave you the free gift of the gospel and the saving faith and special grace to believe it. This strength should enable you to also serve others both by sharing the gospel with them and also by meeting the human needs of those in distress, which include not a few orphans.
So what is this time machine? Your Bible. Most specificially, the prophetic and eschatological passages thereof. Consider Revelation, or more accurately
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
This book contains a promise that every born again Christian who reads it is blessed, and part of the blessing is that all born again Christians will know their future: New Jerusalem, a place where life is eternal, every tear will be wiped from our eyes, and our former troubles will be no more. No more hate, no more division, no more fear, no more poverty, no more wars. No more death, no more sin that brings death. We will be in the presence of God always, and we will worship Him always unhindered and unencumbered. And yes, the final judgment and destruction, the final purging of all that offends and displeases God will occur as well. Christians should rejoice that this will happen for we should long for God’s righteousness, and we should also rejoice that we will not be destroyed ourselves. For instance, consider that the primary purpose of the book of Revelation was not to inform us of the future of this world, for it contains events that the overwhelming majority of Christians will never see in their own lives. Instead, its primary purpose was to comfort Christians, no matter our time or circumstance, with the picture of the world to come and of our place in it.
That is our future. Not yet. However, this future has been realized, so though it is not yet, it is now. (“Now and not yet” eschatology.) For Jesus Christ came to give life, and life more abundantly. This life is eternal, which means that it will never end. However, it does not begin at the return of Jesus Christ, the day of the Lord, the last day, judgment day, etc. No, abundant life, eternal life began the day that you were born again by believing on Jesus Christ and accepting Him as your Lord and Savior. So, your ultimate fate is set in stone, predestined. You are God’s. None can steal you out of Jesus Christ’s hand, and none can steal anything out of God the Father’s Hand, and you have been given to Jesus Christ by God. So, the first choice, the one that truly matters, has been made for you by God, for you did not choose Jesus Christ but rather God chose you.
But with that taken care of, you still have to make the right choices. You have to choose to live in light of the future that is yours and the present that is yours. You have to choose not to get bogged down in the skulduggery of mundane temporal things. You have to choose to resist the temptation of questionable doctrines and practices which promise to opiate you, inoculate you from the challenges of everyday living, and mask the truth that Christian living is about sacrifice and struggle just as our Master Jesus Christ sacrificed and struggled. If Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, endured many things, how much more so should we, being so much lesser in status and value than our Eternal Sovereign Creator?
You have to choose to submit yourself to the God that made you, the position that God placed you in, and the plan that God has for your life. It has to be His plan, not yours. It is His Will that has to be on earth as it is in heaven, not yours. Once this submission to the Will of your Sovereign takes place within in yourself, that is when the fruits of the Holy Spirit can begin to take over. Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control. Who cannot use these things without measure in our challenging but rewarding Christian life? If your life is not challenging, it is not Christian. But if it is not rewarding, it is not either. It is God’s will that your life be challenging, it is God’s will that your life be rewarding. If your life is lacking in one or the other, then it is not Godly, and the life that is not Godly is not in any sense Christian. It may be religious or “spiritual”, but it is not Christian.
But that is the purpose of the Bible. It teaches us how to navigate the challenging path, and tells us what is waiting for us at the destination. With God’s Word, by God’s Spirit, with God’s grace, and for God’s glory we have all that we need not only to run the Christian race, but to be encouraged and strengthened as we do so. The only question is whether we choose to do it.
So read, study, learn, and meditate upon the Word of God, Christians, and then be doers of the Word and not hearers only. If you do these things, then you will joyfully find the future in Christ Jesus that is already yours today!
Posted by Job on December 18, 2008
I hear it commonly asserted by pastors and theologians that I respect that Christians should engage the culture. So, I am asking those of you wise and learned in things concerning God’s Word and commandments these questions.
1. Does the Bible, especially the New Testament but I will accept the Old Testament (although no dominion or covenant theology interpretations of Old Testament scriptures please), contain verses that commands saints to engage the culture?
2. Does the Bible contain any examples of saints engaging the culture?
3. If the Bible does not contain any commandments or examples of saints changing the culture, should Christians do it anyway?
4. What other things that the Bible does not command or example saints to do should Christians engage themselves in?
5. What things that the Bible does not command or example saints to do should Christians NOT engage themselves in and why?
6. What is the goal of engaging the culture? Is it to spread the gospel? To oppose and restrain evil? Or is it to promote or preserve specific cultural norms?
7. Should Christians engage the culture only in cultures and populations that are majority or historically Christian? Or should Christians engage the culture in areas where they are tiny and persecuted minorities with little or no history?
8. Where should we focus our efforts? A. On primarily good, functional prosperous cultures to keep them from getting worse? B. Or primarily wretched, dysfunctional, violent, impoverished cultures to make them better?
9. What is the primary way or method that Christians should use to engage the culture, especially in the case of 9B?
10. If Christians successfully engage and change the culture, to whose will and glory is it, especially in the case of 9A? Is it to the will and to the glory of Christians (man) or of God?
Thoughtful sincere discussions and debate from Bible – believing Christians would be appreciated.
Posted by Job on December 16, 2008
A director of the US Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations and his wife were detained Sunday at Ben-Gurion Airport by Interior Ministry officials amid allegations he is involved in illegal Christian missionary activity.
Ben Gurion Airport …
It is illegal in Israel to proselytize among minors. It is also prohibited to engage in missionary activities among adults when economic incentives are offered.
After over eight hours of detention, Jamie Cowen, a former president of the union, and his wife, Stacy, were permitted to enter Israel only after they agreed to sign a document that they would not engage in missionary activities during their stay.
The Cowens are in Israel to visit their two daughters, one of whom is an Israeli citizen. The other is in the process of obtaining citizenship after she and a group of other Messianic Jews won a Supreme Court case against the state.
The Cowens and their daughters all identify as Jews but believe that Jesus is the messiah.
“This type of religious discrimination would be expected of Iran, not Israel,” said Jamie Cowen, a US immigration lawyer, a few hours after he was released by immigration police.
“In the US we imprison individuals suspected of terrorism. Here apparently one can be jailed for his religious convictions. This is a case of blatant discrimination against basic rights. It is a story of a bureaucracy run amok. Someone has to crack down and bring in people of integrity.”
Cowen said he had visited Israel about 10 times, and had been active in social causes via the Knesset Social Lobby.
“I’ve brought $100,000 in humanitarian aid to Israel. We’ve provided lone IDF soldiers with about $50,000 in aid. This is unbelievable,” he said.
The Interior Ministry, which directed the police to arrest the Cowens, said they had classified information regarding missionary activity.
“The Immigration and Population Authority has reliable information that the Cowens were involved in missionary activity prohibited by Israeli criminal law during their last visit to Israel,” a ministry spokesman said.
“This is the reason they were detained. As soon as they agreed to refrain from any missionary activity they were allowed in.”
The Cowens arrived in Israel on a flight from Frankfurt at 3 a.m. They were arrested at passport inspection and placed in detention at the airport.
“As an immigration lawyer I have visited many detention facilities for illegal immigrants. This one was particularly dirty, smelly and overcrowded,” Cowen said.
According to Cowen, the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations has 90 member congregations with membership ranging between 50 and 400 per congregation.
Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel of The Jerusalem Institute, which provides legal advice and representation to messianic Jews, said the Interior Ministry was filled will clerks who identified with a strictly Orthodox definition of who is a Jew.
“During the years that Shas controlled the ministry they made sure to appoint clerks who were willing to carry out their policies,” Myers said.
“As a result, Israel is the only Western country where basic freedom of religion is denied. Today those who being discriminated against are messianic Jews. Tomorrow it will be Conservative and Reform Jews.”
Myers said anti-missionary organizations such as Yad Le’achim often tipped off Interior Ministry officials regarding messianic Jews attempting to enter the country.
However, Meir Cohen, a Yad Le’Achim activist, said that while it was true that his organization did provide the ministry with information, they were not involved in the Cowens’ case.
Cohen said the ministry had its own intelligence unit that gathered information on missionaries and on messianic Jews who were ineligible for Israeli citizenship due to their religious convictions.
The Supreme Court has ruled that Jews who embraced Christianity are not eligible for Israeli citizenship. However, the court has also ruled that people who are not Jews according to Orthodox standards, but who are eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return do not forfeit this right if they adopt Christian beliefs.