Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Truth and Freedom

"You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

You may have heard these words a hundred times before, but the power behind this verse is nothing short of miraculous.  This verse more than any other is the key to unlocking the secret to living in the will of God.  Many believers seem to be blown and tossed about from storm to storm, never realizing the peace and security they have in Jesus Christ. 

This is because they have not fully grasped the truth.  And what is truth?  God's Word is ultimate Truth.  With a right understanding of this, everything else pales in comparison to the Truth that God has revealed to us. 

For instance, how often have you felt like the world was passing you by, that you have missed the opportunity to have lived a more important and influential life? How about the feeling that God has abandoned you?  Is that reality?

Oh no dear Christian, that is not the Truth.  While reading the Bible we can know those thoughts are lies. The Truth of God’s Word tells us that that believers are His children (John 1:12); by His grace He has saved us (Ephesians 2:8-9); He has a good plan for our lives (2:10); we have His Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12); and He will act on behalf of those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:4).

These Truths should be an awakening for you and bring you out of discouragement and into joy.  The ability to identify a lie is only through knowing the Truth.  This is how the Truth sets you free. Only from a correct mindset about who God is, who we are in His sight, and what He has for us in this life can we have a chance at discerning the Truth. And we are very grateful that God has given us truth in His Word.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Health of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Church

The above link is to a very interesting article posted on the Christian Index.  Though I wholeheartedly agree the SBC is in its death and the stench of decay can no longer be masked with our churches Glade Plugins hidden behind our silk roses, I see the thesis of this argument as the other side of the coin that is killing it.
In considering social justice, which many in the conservative branches of Evangelicalism see as a catch all watch word for the new liberalism, I would ask you to see if Social Justice is any different from Conservative Politics.  In a desire to want to do what is right and have a group fall into line the Social Justice Warriors have become militant and taken to recruiting.  This is no different than Evangelicals championing causes through Conservative Politics in an effort to fulfil the righteousness that they see fit. It is all a system of social engineering through governance that is all corrupt because the heart is corrupt.  Change the heart and the world will change.
In the Social Gospel, many will say that the church should not engage in such things.  Pishh Posh.  I would say that if anyone is without clothes or daily food and we say, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed.”  Well like James said it.  You are the smell of death.  The full blame for the social system we have in this country can be laid at the feet of the Church.  When the depression hit, the one force large enough to do anything about suffering, starvation, medical care, care for widows, care for orphans, and myriad other maladies was the Church.  Through callousness and indifference we allowed our fellow man to suffer and when called we failed to act.  So, FDR sprang forward with his New Deal.  We lament the cost of social programs, but it is the unfortunate consequence of a Church who loves its wealth more than sinners.
The feminist movement is dangerous.  It is a plot of the Devil to ensnare the mind of women who have been mistreated or those who love women who have been mistreated.  It’s evils are exactly the same as all other evils that put one person over another and cry out for their rights.  Truth is, we have no one to thank but ourselves.  If we were truly living the principles of Jesus teaching as found in Matthew 20:16, feminism would not touch the church as it has.  Out of our refusal to stand against the mistreatment of women we have allowed this to come into our churches.   No one would fault a man for attempting to protect himself against injustice, battery, or death.  So maybe we should look at the feminist movement as their attempt to do that as sinful as it is.
Tolerance has abounded in the church for centuries and it continues with much vigor.   I agree we have dead and lifeless men preaching the Gospel.  Time and again I have seen preachers refuse to acknowledge the sin in their own pulpit while claiming the world is the sinfulness that is destroying the moral fabric of the world.  The moral fabric of the world has been ripped beyond repair since Adam and Eve sinned.   We must no longer allow sin to overcome our churches.  We must call out gossip, slander, lust, adultery, child abuse, spouse abuse, thievery, lying, and pride when we see it rise in our church.  To preach against LBGT but to skirt any other sin is death. 
We then arrive to Nationalism.  When I look through the fruits of the Spirit or the good vices in Colossians 3:12, I see a strange absence of the words loyalty, pride,  nationalism, identity, or patriotism.  I am sure this will ruffle some SBC feathers, but I am a citizen of the Kingdom.  I will only serve one master.  Nationalism is a vice of excess and I will not submit myself to it or anything else.  I will give respect to the V.P. or the President, but I also give respect to the House and Senate Minority Leaders, soldiers I see,  children who come to my church, and homeless people I come into contact with.  I treat them all the same and pray for all who need it and will use every opportunity I get to tell them the Gospel so that they can also become citizens of the Kingdom of God and no longer be trapped in their sin.
Yes there is death in the SBC.  The prognosis is bad, but the Church will live on.  We must preach Christ crucified to sinners who love their sin and are going to Hell.  We must call believers to lives dedicated to holiness and mercy, and in doing so we speak life into death.   This will bring revival.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Trump Prophecies

I have been asked several times about the book, The Trump Prophecies, so I got a copy of The Trump Prophecies at Barnes and Noble and I read it and made a bunch of notes.  I have some serious concerns with Mark Taylor and Mary Colbert concerning this book.  I do understand the audience and the message that it is speaking.  I don’t disagree with everything in it, but the things I do disagree with seal its fate for me.

In the area of nation, prophecy and the Bible I usually draw  hard line when it comes to those who claim a prophetic word from the Lord.  The Bible takes an extreme line on prophets who prophesy falsely.  Deut. 13:5 says that they must be put to death.  That being said, the prophecy of the Bible is either forthtelling or foretelling.  Forthtelling is the most common and always is concerned with speaking God’s word to God’s people, calling them to repentance.  We see this with Moses, Nathan, Jonah, Malachi, Elisha, Elijah, John the Baptist, and many others.  
Foretelling is of course speaking about events that will come to pass.  In most cases they revolve around the coming of the Messiah, the destruction of a nation for wickedness, or the end of the world.  For them to be valid they must be in full agreement with the rest of God’s word.  
When we look at the promises of the Messiah, we see that they were fulfilled through Jesus with His life, Death, Resurrection, and one day His Second Coming.  These Prophecies line up perfectly with the events that happened.  The destruction of a wicked nation always follows a similar pattern.  God calling a people to repentance.  It never stared with a ruler of a nation though, possibly Josiah did but only after the High Priest found and brought the scroll of Law to him.  It always started with one of His prophets.  Usually a man (or woman) who was called to judge, prophecy, or preach repentance to a world who had forgotten God.   When we see these national prophets, we do not see God saving a nation because of who they are.  Remember Israel was destroyed and carried away by Assyria, and even Judah fell and was taken to captivity by Babylon.  I don’t think that God is a respecter of nations and He is certainly not a respecter of Nationalism as it is usually a vice of excess.  Meaning that it is so easy to be swept up into pride and patriotism that we lose focus on Jesus and that we are citizens of the Kingdom of God.
When we start to look at Eschatology Prophecy, we must remember that though the Bible says quite a bit about it, much of it is veiled in mystery and symbols.  Every generation (I mean every last one) since Jesus left has thought their was the one that would see Jesus return.  Each thought their nation would play the pivotal role in the great gathering that is to come.  Time and again, people have calculated the day, but been wrong every time. 

Forthtelling prophets are hated because they call out our sin.  Nobody wants to be that, because we have to call out all the sin, not just the ones everybody loves to hate on. 

I will add this about the foretelling prophets.  If memory serves, all of them (or at least most) all performed miracles alongside their foretelling.  This was God’s way to show they were of Him. 
As I stated previously. I draw a hard line for “Foretelling Prophets”.  Their prophecies must be 100% correct every time.  And typically you will see miracles to prove that the foretelling is genuine, not just the voice of the one saying it is so.  Without Mark Taylor performing miracles we will have to wait and see.  I have listed the following prophecies that he stated would come true below.  Note there is some concern with a few of them already:  This Prophecy was reported written on April 28, 2011, there is no way to prove time and authenticity other than the writer's own word. 

  • Donald Trump will win the next election.  (would have been 2012)
  • There is a part that says when Trump announces.  (some say he never officially announced in 2011, but others say he did.  He did bow out of the Republican Primary in May, 2011.)
  • Billions of dollars will be spent to keep Trump from winning.
  • Mainstream media will be captivated by Trump.
  • Donald Trump is chosen by God and will be for the USA what Benjamin Netanyahu is for Israel.
  • The US Dollar will restore to its strongest point ever in history.
  • The US Dollar will be the standard of world currency again.
  • Honor, respect, and restoration will come to America because of Trump.
  • The enemy has stolen from the USA and this will be returned 7 fold.
  • America and Israel will once again stand hand in hand.
  • Israel will flourish like never before.
  • USA and Israeli ties will be stronger than before.
  • Trump will be a man of his word.
  • When Trump speaks the world will listen.
  • Trump will be fearless.
  • A financial harvest will appear in the USA and so will a parallel spiritual harvest.
  • Trump will use the army to defeat God’s enemies.
  • Trump is to be the spiritual gatekeeper.  (Not much is explained about this.)
  • Trump will build a wall between the US and Mexico.
  • USA will no longer need OPEC.
  • Gasoline will be cheaper than $1 per gallon.
  • The Supreme Court will lose 3 by resignation or impeachment due to a scandal.
  • Trump will replace those 3 with picks from “MY TREE!”
  • 2 other Supreme Court Justices will also be replaced for a total of 5 replacements.
  • “El Chapo” the drug lord, will be located and will be killed.  Body will be seen by the world, in the red shirt that he wore.  (He was captured alive in 2016 and extradited to the USA under the agreement that the death penalty would not be sought.)
These are the main prophecies that Mark Taylor has given.  Many of them are vague in meaning. A few of them seem to be failed or in the process of failure.  Only time will tell, so I reserve judgement on these as of now.

I do have some serious concerns for the book and for Mark Taylor’s theology.  This book is about the prophecies of a Christian given to him by God.  Mark Taylor gives an extensive biography about himself in the first 49 pages of the book, but never once goes into his testimony about how he knows Jesus and is saved.  The first mention of scripture happens on page 30, and it is in conjunction with a dream he had in which God appeared to him as a black cloud of smoke.   Mark Taylor is a retired Orlando, Fl. Firefighter and has had many situations that have taken a huge toll on his body, mind, and spirit.  Though the diagnosis never came out he does exhibit many signs of PTSD and he had a debilitating physical condition at the end of his career.  He consults dream interpreters that are affiliated with Streams Ministry in Florida and he attended spiritual wellness sessions at Inner Healing in Tampa, Fl.  I could not find much about Inner Healing, but Streams Ministry is well known and people have mixed reviews about them.  Reading through his section on himself, I got a distinct feeling that Mark Taylor is very interested in Christian Mysticism.  Though there is nothing wrong with this in small and appropriate doses, we must remember what Paul wrote in Colossian 2 about those who would claim access to a visionary realm.  For me, it is just not provable.

Mark Taylor also writes his prophecies like so, “The Spirit of God says.”  This equates his writings with The Bible.  He says his prophecies defer to the Bible as the authority, but you cannot have it both ways.  Either your words are the words of God and are divinely inspired or they are not and are lesser than the word of God.   He also takes the line that those who are against him seem to be against God.  He covers his bases and asks people who disagree with him not to use the Bible to correct him. 

                He writes, “At the heart of this movement, people literally attack each other with the         
                Bible, using their intellect, fueled by what they feel is the interpretation of   Scripture.
                Many of them think that they are doing God’s work but they’re really operating in the
                flesh.  They think that their scholarly knowledge of the scriptural words means that
                they, in their infinite understanding, can quote the heart of God.  But, the Lord is saying,
                “No, you’re off base. You are making My Church a house   divided. You people who create
                 a rift in my house don’t even know me.””

This statement allows him to be authoritative and claim anyone against him is not of God.  That is not what the Bible intended.  We are to call out error and heresy.

Mary Colbert helped Mark Taylor write this book.  She lent a lot of help to the Trump Campaign in 2015-16 in organizing pastors and churches in prayer teams.  She was convinced when she read Mark Taylor’s prophecies in 2014, due to what she called “The Rhythm” of how it was written.  She stated that the rhythm of them proved to her that they were of God.  I would say that this is also very close to the same argument that Mormons make for the Book of Mormon. 

Mark Taylor and Mary Colbert also stated that God has used the outcomes of horse races to help prove to them that these prophecies are real.  I am not kidding.  They have both written extensively about it in this book.

Mark Taylor dives deeply into a heresy on page 46.  He suffered from nightmares of fighting demonic beings, so he got in touch with some intercessor prayer ministries.

He writes, “Eventually I got in touch with an intercessor named Melissa through generational deliverance ministry stationed in California.  Melissa claimed that although we can cleanse our own personal sins through prayer, it does not cleanse the sins that have been committed before us in our familial lineage.  (Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9). So we tackled generational deliverance from every angle, addressing in prayer everything we could think of, from idolatry to addiction to perversion and beyond – but like an onion we kept pulling back layer after layer to find nothing underneath but the next layer.  One by one we ruled out each potential cause of affliction in my ancestry …. until Freemasonry came into discussion.” 

The biggest concerns for this is of course the that he holds we can cleanse our sins and the idea of blood corruption sin.  Yes, the scriptures listed do talk about generational sin being passed on, but they are also negated by Jeremiah 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:2-4;  Psalm 103:3.  Not to mention that we cannot cleanse our sins through prayer.  Only Jesus can cleanse our sin and only when we believe and repent.

There is another undertone in this book that is very dangerous.  Nationalism is heavy in it.    I think that God is no respecter of nations or princes.  I think it is ok to have a healthy pride for our nation, and to want to enjoy the freedoms God has certainly blessed us with, but Mark Taylor’s brand is very blatant.  God will save the USA through Trump.  He even calls him His new champion.  Jesus came to all for all time to save all who believe in Him alone. Christ will not share glory.

There are some redeeming factors to this book.  Mark Taylor does seem to have a genuine desire to see revival in the world.  I share that with him.  When I look at revival in the world and I have studied a bunch of them they almost always start the same way.  Society is at its lowest point.  People lament that God has abandoned the world.  People claim the Church is irrelevant and will be gone soon.  Then God puts on faithful people a desire to get serious about holiness, prayer, and evangelism.  Then when those initial faithful are matured (usually through anguish and prayer) God lets loose His power.  He literally steps down out of heaven into the community of people to be revived and it is irresistible.  A presence that draws sinners to repentance and faith, because they see the enormity of their sin against a holy righteous God.  When this true revival happens it always lasts that generation, but dies slowly once the affected people die.  There is no backsliding in real revival, but you must experience it to be affected by it.  I have prayed long and hard that revival, true revival, might come to our area.  But it will not come through governmental or political means ever.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Two Ways to Change The World

     Watching the news lately I see the world has not changed.  For the most part things are the same, only the issues have changed and the faces of those who are participating.  As of late, "Racism" has once again reared its ugly head.  This time over the symbolism of a past war, its effects on a people, and a geographical region of the United States.  As I contemplate the atrocities of the past, present, and inevitable future I am once again reminded there are only two options available to change the world in which we life.  To change the world you must choose either to change the circumstances or change your heart.
     We live in a world that is as diverse in thought and culture as it is in anything else.  People cling to the things that they hold sacred and can become very emotional when their perceived identity is threatened.  For instance, I would say that someone's identity as an American is something that most US Citizens hold sacred.  Even to the point of being willing to lay down your life for the sake of the cause.  This of course is just one example and for any circumstance this will most likely hold true. 
     Let us say that your identity comes under attack.  How then are you going to respond?  As I have said there really is only two responses.

     First, you can change the circumstances.  This may seem to be a cliché statement.  However cliché it still holds true.  It may seem hard, but truly it is not.  If you live in a society that encourages free speech and the right to self government then there is already a mechanism for this change.  Non-violent protest and voting is a way that the ordinary everyday individual can effect change in the world.  But let us say for the sake of argument this is not an option for you.  There is another mechanism for changing your circumstances, violence.  You may feel shocked that I would mention that violence is a way to change the world.  But, in effect it is and has been the most exploited method to change circumstances throughout history.  All governments, and countries have their past rooted in conflict and violence and it is what has ultimately bond together the current social fabric of our world.

    The second method is something that is most difficult.  In order to change the world I would say you must change your heart.  Also cliché.  Through history there has been only one force that has been able to change the heart in an effective and permanent method.  That force of course is the Holy Spirit.  Mock me if you will, but I tell you that the only way to change the world is to change the heart of humankind. The only thing that has the power to do that is the power of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection.  The Bible tells us in Genesis 8:21 that the "imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth."  This being the case something drastic must happen.  In order for the heart to change our heart must die.  It must be put to death and be reborn by some miraculous power.  Romans 6:4 tells us "we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life."  The mechanism for the change of heart was created through Jesus.  The oly Spirit indwells the believer of Christ and makes the necessary death and rebirth in Him.

    The world can be changed.  When you change it by human hands the world will never be perfect.  You may make it more manageable for a while, but in the end the evil of man's heart will bring its ruination.  If you allow God to change your heart the change is permanent and will require everything that you are. 

    This post was born out of a conversation that I had with someone very close to me.  He was very agitated about the current state of affairs and he stated well you better get ready they are coming for your rights next.  I have clearly made my beliefs known in the past.  I serve Jesus Christ alone.  People cannot and will not ever be able to take this away from me.  I believe what I preach and if it comes to it I will die if that is what God requires of me.  I cannot and will not violate what the Bible says or what my conscience tells me that God's path is for me.  They may take my church, my home, my family, my rights, or my life, but they can never take my heart.  I pray that God will keep me from persecution, but moreover I pray God will strengthen my heart He has changed to withstand the evil one.
     I feel compelled to share a story of a martyr.  His life gives me inspiration and should be a model for anyone who "says" they follow Jesus Christ.

When President Paul von Hindenburg named Adolf Hitler Chancellor in 1933, Paul Schneider was the pastor of the Hochelheim congregation.  Initially, Pastor Schneider believed that the new Chancellor, with the help of divine guidance, would lead Germany into a bright future. It did not take long for him to perceive the true character of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. Schneider did not stand by idly as Nazi leaders ridiculed the morality of the Church. In writing and in preaching, he protested against the attacks directed against the Church by Nazi officials. Pastor Schneider received no backing from his denomination of the old-Prussian Ecclesiastical Province of the Rhineland. On the contrary, in order to placate Nazi officials who complained about Pastor Schneider, his superiors tansferred him to a remote region of Germany.

Early in 1934, Schneider and his family moved to Dickenschied, where he became pastor to the Dickenschied and Womrath congregations. That same year, Pastor Schneider became a member of the Confessing Church, a Protestant organization that opposed Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. On one occasion at the funeral of a Hitler youth boy a Nazi official said in his speech that the deceased would now be member of the heavenly storm of Horst Wessel. Pastor Schneider responded that he would not know if a heavenly storm of Horst Wessel existed but the Lord would bless the boy and take him into his realm. After this, the Nazi leader came forward and repeated his words. Pastor Schneider then responded sharply that he would not allow God's word to be adulterated during a Christian ceremony. As a result he was arrested, told to not preach against the Nazi Party, and then released.

In spring 1937, with the support of members of his church elders, Pastor Schneider began the process of excommunicating parishioners who, because of their allegiance to the Nazi Party, engaged in conduct which violated congregational discipline. Complaints led to his arrest. Following two months in the Koblenz prison, officials released him with the warning not to return to the Rhineland, where his home and parish were located. Pastor Schneider knew if he returned to his flock, it would mean imprisonment in a concentration camp. Yet, the night before his release, he read in his Bible the story concerning the crisis confronted by Deborah. When Deborah summoned the twelve tribes together to confront the common enemy, only Naphtali and Zebulun responded. Pastor Schneider saw in this Old Testament story [Judges 5:18] a parallel to the crisis which the Church confronted in Nazi Germany, and he concluded even if his was a minority voice, he must act in harmony with his conscience, and protest.

As a result of his preaching, Schneider was incarcerated in Buchenwald, near Weimar, on November 27, 1937, just a few months after the camp opened. In the labor camp, Pastor Schneider watched out for his fellow inmates. After being sentenced to solitary confinement for preaching, he preached the good news of the Gospel from the window of his prison cell. He was moved to the cell when he refused to remove his beret in honor of Hitler on the Führer's birthday, April 20, 1938 and to salute the swastika flag. He explained his behavior by saying "I cannot salute this criminal symbol". He also refused, as he had done earlier, the Hitler salute, saying that "you can only receive salvation (Heil) from the Lord and not from a human being". From his cell, Schneider accused his captors and encouraged his fellow inmates. On one occasion on Easter Sunday, when thousands of prisoners were assembled for mustering, despite being severely handicapped by previous torture he climbed to the cell window and shouted: "Comrades, listen to me. This is Pastor Schneider. People are tortured and murdered here. So the Lord says, 'I am the resurrection and the life!'" His speech was interrupted by the guards.  As others had pleaded years earlier, the man who mopped the floors in the solitary confinement building begged Schneider, "Please stop provoking the SS against you... They will beat you to death if you continue preaching from your cell window".

On July 18, 1939, Schneider was murdered with a lethal injection of strophanthin in the camp infirmary. Camp officials notified Margarete Schneider of her husband’s death and she made the long journey from Dickenschied to retrieve his body in a sealed coffin. Despite Gestapo surveillance, hundreds of people and around two hundred fellow pastors attended Pastor Schneider’s funeral, including many members of the Confessing Church. One of the pastors preached at the grave side, “May God grant that the witness of your shepherd, our brother, remain with you and continue to impact on future generations and that it remain vital and bear fruit in the entire Christian Church”. Excerpt from Wikipedia

    Chose right now how you want the world to change.  Through your efforts or through Christ's effort. 

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Christian Veneer

     I have the great privilege to be friends with a couple of genuine people.  We often speak on matters of God, faith, the Bible, the world, and many other subjects.  A conversation I had with these people not to long ago led to a statement that has been bouncing in my head for about a month.  The gist of it is this, "When you identify a problem, don't stop there, give a real solution."

     This statement has really opened my eyes to how we in the church use our Christianese (a term to describe our church talk) to answer questions that people pose to us.  When people come with real problems we throw out some phrase, our maybe even a Bible verse thinking that we are doing a great service, but in the end we give them no real answer or peace.  I am reminded of James's words.  "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or food.  If one of you says to them, Go in peace; keep warm, and well fed, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?" 
     The sentiment that James uses is the same with our one word or stupid phrase answers.  For instance, if you say, "sharing the Gospel is the most important and overriding function of the church." Ok, Great!  When was the last time that you yourself, individually, and one on one, shared the Gospel with a lost person?  How well did you know this person?  Are you seeking out people that you both know and don't know to share this Gospel with?  If not, do not say the Gospel is a primary mission of yours, because it is a lie. 

     Or if someone comes to you and says "I am having difficulty dealing with this or that, or my world is crashing down."  Do you give them empty words saying that this is all in His plan?  Or do you embrace them physically, emotionally, and spiritually reassuring them that you are here for them.  Do you take time out of your day and resources away from yourself in order to show them God is caring for them?  If you are not doing this, you cannot say that you love your brothers and sisters in Christ.

    The Christian Veneer is only as deep as you allow it.  The sad thing is that it is easy to spot a "Veneer Job."  Think about a counter top in a kitchen.  What is the difference between a real granite counter top and one that has been veneered with an imitation surface. From a distance it looks the same.  With every small move forward you can tell a real difference.  The person who has the veneer will tell you how wonderful it is and will try to convince you it is real.  But, lets be honest, it looks fake and it feels fake because it is fake.   The real granite is strong and sturdy and it is there to be used for what it is.  It does not have to constantly remind those who look at it that it is strong and sturdy.  The veneer on the other hand needs special attention.  It says, "I am what I pretend to be!"  BUT! Test it.  It fails in everything but appearance. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Gaurding against our sin is now our sin?

   I have been following a strange news cycle this week that has left me dumbfounded.  It has been reported that the Vice President of the United States of America follows a variation of the Billy Graham Rule.  For those who do not know the Billy Graham Rule, I will give you a little background.

   In 1948, Billy Graham was conducting a Crusade and one night a woman came to seduce him.  He was not overcome by her seduction and in order to avoid future issues he and his ministry team started to develop a set of rules to govern themselves.  They are as follows:

1.  Operate with complete financial transparency.  Meaning all financial issues are above board, completely accounted for, and managed by someone who is not the figurehead of the organization.

2.  Avoid even the transparency of sexual immorality.  A minister or male employee of the Billy Graham organization will not be alone with, travel with, eat with, or associate with a woman that he is not married to, or without his wife present.  This was to avoid even the appearance of compromise or the suspicion of it.

3.  Billy Graham's organization refused to criticize other ministries or pastors.  Pretty self explanatory, but the idea here is that their job was to preach the Gospel of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection and not to wage war against other camps.

4. The Billy Graham organization refused to exaggerate success.  It is not uncommon in churches or businesses to claim more success than you are actually having.

   So, those are the Billy Graham rules.  Mike Pence is under pressure now for following number 2.  He refuses to associate alone with any woman without his wife present.  Much to the ire of todays moralists, he follows this rule.  This week he has been called sexist, old fashioned, stupid, immoral, weak, childish, etc.  Though I do not know Mike Pence, I am sure that these terms fit him well from time to time, as they fit all of us from time to time.

  What I find most confusing, is that our known weaknesses have become our weaknesses.  Much like the kids that we all laughed at in Kindergarten for having some perceived or actual abnormality that they were helpless to change on their own.  I can remember being the child that was singled out from time to time and other times being one that singled others out for ridicule.  It of course was wrong, but it happened. 

   Reading through the news headlines about Mr. Pence were all just about the same.  However, I did come across one that proudly stated the following: 

           The problem with "don't eat alone with women": good character is better than strict rules.

I agree with this statement whole heartedly.  I feel that a high moral standard and impeccable integrity are valuable things in any time and society, especially one as morally bankrupt as which we live in today.   The moral man can accompany, counsel, associate, dine, or even cavort with any woman he so chooses and never once fall into the trap of sexual infidelity.  This man has no need for rules. 
   The problem is this.  I only know one man that fits this bill.  Jesus Christ the Nazarene.  People have been yelling and screaming on the internet how this rule is sexist.  Degrading women to merely objects of sexual desire and saying that women need the same face time with men that is afforded other men.  Maybe so, but I see a definite trap in forgoing rules to keep our sinfulness in check. 
   I find it so strange that our admittance of our sinfulness is now our sin in the eyes of the world.  The Bible clearly teaches all are sinful.  Every man, woman, and child among us.  The Bible also says to flee from our sin, as well as to resist the Devil and he shall flee from us.  How then, are we who are sinners to act if our barriers we have installed to keep us on the path towards righteousness are being broken down by our society?   Is it a matter of self control or will?   Should we just give in to temptation like everyone else?

   Ask yourself this.  Have you ever overcome any adversity on your own?  Be honest.  I will tell you this now the answer is a resounding no.  If you grew up completely isolated in a sterilized pressure chamber in the remotest part of the galaxy and only had your own thoughts to guide you the answer would still be no, as you inherited traits from your mother and father that keep you alive.  But, Man (meaning all of humankind) was not meant to live alone or in a vacuum.  We are constantly bound to one another from cradle to grave.  The one thing that binds us all together is that we all (men and women) are immoral sinful monsters of iniquity.  Completely given over to our base desires to fulfil and serve self.  This is why we have community.  Community is built to help control our base desire. 

   In the Christian sense, we have community as Christ with our head.  Jesus Christ the morally perfect God-Man who has no need for law, but followed it perfectly anyway.  Christ not only followed the law, but He perfected it.  Asking his followers to be wise as serpents but as harmless as doves. 

Be wise - know your faults.  Know that you need things in place to help keep you on the narrow path.  Have boundaries (i.e. rules to live by), have a brother or sister in Christ that will keep you accountable, and most importantly take God's law serious and Christ's call for you to be perfect seriously (be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.)

Be Harmless - know that the person next to you is also as week as you.  Do not give opportunity to anyone to sin by your actions.  You will be held accountable not only for your own sins, but also for the sins that you lead others into by your actions or through your inaction.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Your Only Human, so am I

   This evening I was able to have a deep conversation with a few people that I dearly love.  The conversation came around to expectations that we have for ourselves and for each other.  Many of us admitted to having anxiety and sadness about how we have not lived up to our potential.  This of course is a favorite topic of mine, due to it being how I see myself.
   I oftentimes catch myself in mid-wish.  Silently thinking to myself how if I had taken the right instead of left, gone straight instead of turning around, or done such and such better.  A part of me desires to correct the things that I did wrong.  But, like the bell that has been rung, we cannot undo the past.  Although I am certain that God is capable of rewinding the clock if He so chooses, I am not sure that is His will for any of us.  Like the sound when the bell is rung, so it is with my past experience shaping me to who I am today.

    It is human nature to desire to be perfect.  But in our fallen state and in a fallen world we lack the ability to do so.  Sometimes the one thing we desire more than our own perfection is perfection in those around us.  Knowing our own limitations (even if we don't care to admit them) we still have an unreasonable desire to not be troubled with the failure of those around us, especially those closest to us.  You will see those expectations in almost every relationship: husband/wife, parent/child, employer/employee, friend/friend, etc. 

   This is the crux of what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 7.  How often it is quoted.  "Judge not lest ye be judged."  Oh how we love to say that, and especially when we are the ones being judged.  Jesus never commanded us not to judge or not to have high expectations of one another.  On the contrary, He said "Be prefect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."  Oh what a standard and a goal.  One that we can desire after and strive for, but ultimately one that is completely out of our grasp.  That is why Jesus came to die.  So what does He mean by that?  To not judge but to also be perfect.

   A man is on a journey through a forest that is overgrown and dangerous.  He is making bad progress and he slips down into deep pit.  He struggles to jump out, to climb out, to dig out, but with everything he tries he sinks deeper into the pit.  He yells out, he can hear people talking and walking by, but it seems that nobody cares.  He finally gives up and decides he is better off dead and begins to regret ever starting his journey.  Just then from up above he hears someone at the top of the pit.  The man looks up and sees a friend.  He cries out for help.  His friend waves at him and jumps down into the pit.  The man looks at his friend and says, "Why did you jump down here you fool? We are both going to die now."  The friend smiles big, places a reassuring hand on his shoulder, and says, "Do not worry, I've been down here before.  I know the way out." 

   What Jesus meant was that we are to use our shortcomings to soften ourselves to our brothers and sisters.  He gave Himself for us and he expects each of us to treat each other accordingly.