~~Alexander Hamilton to John Laurens, August 15, 1782
... but I am moving. Soon.
Apologies to all of my friends and readers out there. I have hardly been writing a thing on these blogs, but I am well. The truth is, my blogs are MOVING! Or will be, very soon. Herculean Reflections will be moved from Blogger to Wordpress, but all of my other blogs (The Foundation Forum, Meet the Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton Patriot, and The Founder's Bookshelf) will go to their own domain. The Foundation Forum and Meet the Founders will also merge into one blog. So as I move databases, fix coding, etc., it is not worth it to write too much on these blogs.
So take heart -- my absence from Word for Wednesday and Founding Father's Quote Friday are only temporary!
Did I also mention I am in the process of writing at least two books, writing articles online, and doing countless other non-writing jobs?!?!? Yeah. So don't worry; Herky has not been taken down by the swine flu or the Swat team. As soon as his horizon clears up, he'll be kicking again!
If you want to read anything from Herky while these blogs drift from hibernation to dormancy, visit my page at Helium.com. I probably won't be adding things there regularly, but who knows when I might? :)
Thanks to all of you for your support. :)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17Today, I would like to share a little reflection that has been occupying my thoughts recently, so this post will not be very lengthy. I honestly do not recall what I was thinking about, or how this thought came to my mind, but it was more or less of a question that applied to myself, and to (I hope) many Christians throughout the world. In case you haven't noticed, there has been a growing rave in Christian circles concerning supernatural manifestations, especially prophecy. Now, I think that this rave was initially the start of a good thing: the Pentecostal movement -- people who actually believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit works among consecrated believers today, just as He did when He fell upon the Upper Room assembly in power 2,000 years ago.
We have seen an explosion in this country of supernatural healings and prophecies and similar miracles that were reported in the New Testament. This is a good thing; I'm not about to criticize it. In recent decades, however, a growing over-emphasis on the manifestation, and not the real thing, has begun to show itself among these charismatic groups. It seems to have come to the point where we will stamp anything that bears a semblance of supernatural power as coming from God, and we have ignored the standards and warnings set forth in Scripture. We have put more emphasis on the signs and wonders someone performs than upon the quality of their personal character, which the Scripture places as a high, high priority. We have put more emphasis on prophecies (whether genuine, or merely so-called) than upon the words of God, which were written down by holy men as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). This same Word is that standard by which we judge prophecy. It even instructs us to do this very thing: "Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast to what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).
So the question that came to my mind was this: In comparison to other things that we perceive as being from God, how much do we value His Word? -- the Word which God Himself breathed (the Greek word used for "inspired" in today's passage means "breathed" literally), the Word which thousands of saints have died just for copying and preserving up to the present time, the Word which God oversaw, so that what was written thousands of years ago has been accurately conveyed to us today, the Word from which neither one jot nor one tittle will pass, though heaven and earth should be destroyed, until all is fulfilled. God has confirmed this Word more than anything we can imagine, and yet, the Church in America is so ignorant of this Word. And think of this: are we as eager to read and study the Scriptures as we are to read the latest headline, or the latest prophetic ministry update? Or do we truly realize that the Bible that collects dust on our shelves contains everything that God wants to say to us; it contains everything we need for life and for godliness.
"[The Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether [the things spoken by Paul] were so" (Acts 17:11).
I happen to be familiar with statistics and polls dealing with religion in this country in recent times. However, these results only explain the sometimes seeming contradictions between different polls of American citizens. For example, polls reveal that most Americans believe that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman, and that it is not anything else. The favorite television shows of this same majority, according to other polls, however, anything but depict marriage as a sacred union. Among the same majority, divorce is now quite commonplace; the last I heard, the divorce rate among unbelievers and professing Christians is the same – 50%. Half a century ago, in the Christian community of the United States, divorce was scandalous. Even more scandalous was divorce and subsequent remarriage to another person during the lifetime of their former spouse -- a practice which Jesus Christ unequivocally condemned as adulterous (Matthew 5:31-32).
How can the majority of Americans believe that marriage is sacred, protest pro-'gay' legislation one minute, and then sit down, enjoy all the hideous “entertainment” our decaying culture can provide, and divorce and remarry left and right the next minute? And then we scratch our heads like a punch of puzzled monkeys, wondering why we are losing the “culture war”?
May I suggest to my audience that first of all, we are fighting the wrong war? And second, that we are fighting the wrong war in the wrong fashion? I say that we are fighting the wrong war, because we are trying to fix the culture, without fixing what is really wrong with our nation. In all of the analyses that have been done about our cultural illnesses (all done by honorable and studied men, for whom I have great respect), I have never heard one that addresses the worldliness of the modern American evangelical community as lying at the bottom of it (though there could be such an analysis out there that I have not seen!). I hear of the complacency of Christians to get involved in politics, as being the cause of the great cultural decline. But this is a contradiction, since politics do not determine the climate of the culture. Politics, legislation, and court rulings do not determine whether a nation is moral in general or not. Rather, a nation's morality (or lack thereof) will determine the amount of governmental interference with that level of society. If there is not a considerable problem with drunkenness among the populace, then numerous laws, regulations, and interferences by the government are unnecessary, and if proposed by the governing body, will be rejected as tyrannical. Only a moral and virtuous people truly appreciate the responsibilities they have as the keepers of their liberties.
In conclusion, culture is not what lawyers, congressmen, judges, or even what celebrities, popular artists, and other cultural figures determine. Culture arises from the people themselves, from the way they act, speak, and think. These ways may be influenced by certain things like legislation, they may be influenced by popular media, but if the people are not already pre-disposed to have their behavior affected by certain stimuli, an abundance of laws and propaganda could not change it.
To demonstrate my point, let me ask a simple question: would Roe V. Wade, if passed by the Supreme Court in 1790, have resulted in mass abortions? If Hollywood was the main supplier of visual entertainment in the colonial world of the Founders, what would have been the effect upon that culture? Would they have accepted it? Imitated the celebrity world and fashion of Hollywood? No! They would have chased those judges and the whole corporation of Hollywood and all of their golden assets into the Atlantic with the British redcoats! Why? Because pastors were not prohibited by the IRS from preaching on specific cultural and political issues? No again! Rather, because the conscience of America at the time, by and large, was reinforced by biblical teachings. The Bible was the nation's conscience, and Christian and Deist alike in America felt in some way its power and the weight of its authority on their lives. God was at the core of our national conscience and consciousness.
Why is that different now? The morals of Unitarians and deists and rationalists in America in the Founders' day (although far from perfect) was more laudable than that of many professing evangelical Christians in America today. It is not, because the evangelical community is not engaged enough in our culture. It is because we lack holiness, we lack fervent dedication to God, we lack a zeal for justice and an abhorrence for everything God hates, and therefore we lack the power of godliness, first to change our own lives, and to spread that change to the world. We work and labor and strive to keep the form of godliness up and running, but because we do not deal with the problem and cleanse the vessel, the multitude of layers of paint simply have ceased forever to obscure the deterioration of the wooden structure behind it. The whole thing needs to be burned down, and the wall built afresh. We need to give up our dreams of a utopian kingdom of our own, that makes us comfortable with a pro-family values religion devoid of true godliness. We need to quit thinking that we can achieve a comfortable Christian culture, that can coexist with “lesser” sins in the church pews. Thorn bushes will never produce figs, just as a bad tree will never produce good fruit. Gluing apples to the branches of sumac trees will only waste good apples; they will only rot, and be replaced again and again until we finally learn that only apple trees make apples.
When God deals with the sins of a nation, He deals with the sins of the church first. “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person'” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
Conformity is the name of the game. Conformity tells who you follow; who is really your master. That to which you consistently conform shows who your master really is. The question I would ask then is, are you conforming to the Word of God, or are you conforming to the world? When you read the Scriptures, do you wear the lenses of the world, that presents mankind as basically good and God as basically wishy-washy? Or do you change your thinking to conform to God's Word? Are you fulfilling the commandment of God by being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” rather than being “conformed to this world”? What do you imitate?
OK, this is starting to become an irregular "Word for Thursday." Sorry Jean! I'll try to be more consistent here!
"I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2Those who read my writings on the Internet know that if my writings could be classified under one category, it would be the category of showing how popular opinion, particularly popular perceptions of problems and their respective popular solutions, are wrong. This piece that you are reading now will be no different. Plain and simple, the majority of what the majority believes is not founded in truth, and therefore needs to be contradicted, not with another opinion, but with the truth. My goal is to tell the truth as much as is in my power. I believe in absolute truth, but this absolute truth is not the truth according to me. It is absolute truth according to God, and He has made His standards and His truth very clear. It is irrational to say, as many seem to say (even those in the 'church'), "Who can know what God really said? After all, doesn't the Bible have a lot lost in translation?" To believe this is to make one or two irrational assumptions:
(1) that God is unwilling to reveal His word to us, whom He made in His special image, or
(2) that He is unable to reveal His word to us in a manner which we can understand, even though the very fact that He is God means that He is omnipotent (having all power).
Why then, if popular opinion is so unreasonable, is it so prevalent? The answer is simple, but it is also so obvious that we often miss it: People do not love truth. While they have the capacity to reason, they are not rational by nature. They love what makes them feel good about themselves. They love what feels smart, what feels profound, what feels good at any given time. If we stopped to think about the rationality of everything we did in life, I think we would quickly discover how inherently irrational we are. This truth in itself (that humans are not rational by nature) contradicts yet another false popular opinion. And yet even we who claim to be Christians miss this fact. We think that we can reason the world into believing the Bible is true. We think we can argue people into the kingdom of God, that we can reason with people, and they will be saved.
And then we see masses of 'Christian' or at least, church-going, youth going off to high school and then to college for one to four years, coming out believing that there is no God, because evolution disproved His existence. They no longer have an interest in the things of God, and they quit attending church. Our response to the problem? They need apologetics. They need proofs that the Bible is a scientifically and historically-validated book. They need to know that faith and reason are not contrary to one another. They need to be able to defend the faith with tangible, historic (etc.) evidence. The reason why the polls say that 75% of Christian youth who attend college stop coming to church and leave their faith is because their Christian environment at home and at church did not adequately prepare them for the onslaught of arguments wielded by professional “evangelists for Satan.”
I answer, that yes, we do need apologetics. We do need to be able to give a reasonable defense for the tenets of our faith, as the Scriptures plainly declare we must. Young Christian people should not have a milk-toast view of Christianity of something abstract from reality, that is only by blind faith. They should have thought these things out for themselves. And yes, Christian churches and homes should encourage and help prepare these young people for what they are going to encounter in the world. I am encouraged that this is beginning to be a growing "favorite subject" of believers in America. We definitely need to be more familiar with this kind of material than we are; in free and prosperous America, we have no excuse to be ignorant.
HOWEVER, the lack of factual knowledge is only a very small fragment of the real problem to this enormous drop-out of Christian churches. This is something that I have slowly come to realize in the last year or so, and I think that the real problem, is the same underlying thing, that sums up everything that is going wrong in this country. The real problem is, that many of these youth that are dropping out of church after their high-school or college term, are doing so because, they were never converted to begin with. How in the world can I make such a drastic claim? I can make such a claim for two reasons: first, I have observed this myself. No matter how much truth you can drill into someone's mind, if that truth does not change their heart, and convert their most fundamental nature, they are unconverted, and nothing will keep them from following the dictates of who they really are, underneath the cover of their Christian sub-culture. Christianity, in its true form as manifested on the part of the individual, is a change of heart (and therefore a fundamental change of nature), and not merely a change of mind. Apologetics can merely change the mind. This branch of study is merely intellectual. It does not change the heart when it changes the mind, unless by a miracle of God's grace.
The second reason I think I can make such an earth-shattering claim, is inference. By now, stories of harsh persecution in nations like Communist China are familiar to us. We often hear of Chinese farmers-turned-evangelists who boldly preach the Gospel far and wide, at the expense of their own lives, the security of their families, and the preservation of their churches and property. They are abducted by the Communist authorities, put in prisons in the most ghastly inhumane conditions, starved, beaten tortured, interrogated, pressured in every imaginable way. These uneducated farmers (certainly no theologians, in the American sense of the term) withstand such enormous pressure, never denying their faith, even though everything turns against them. Their faith does not shrink, but rather thrives in these conditions. They couldn't tell you the scientific, historical, archaeological, and philosophical reasons to believe the Bible. Many of them have never seen a whole Bible. These people withstand not only the physical torture, but state-of-the-art Communist indoctrination (in sessions which last for countless hours) and brainwashing, the psychological torture, and so on. And yet we suppose that it is merely for lack of factual knowledge that our American youth, who have grown up with the knowledge of Christian things all of their lives are turned away by the, oh-so-intimidating arguments forwarded by evolutionists, existentialists, atheists, and religious humanists? No, the problem is a heart problem by and large, not a head problem.
I am not saying that there are not Christian youth who were sincere believers, but were overcome with doubts as to the Bible's validity. And when it comes right down to it, if the children have been raised in public schools (yes, raised – the average student, from kindergarten to twelfth grade spend about 14,000 seat hours in school, and that doesn't include recess, where peer-pressure does its work) all their lives, it won't matter if they go to church or Sunday school or have an average American Christian family. Their behavior and habits will be shaped by the most powerful forces in their environment. Here, the parents take more responsibility for what happens to the child. So in such cases, I do not necessarily put all of the blame upon the child. (Voddie Baucham recently delivered a message entitled "The Children of Caesar," and it is being released on DVD by American Vision and other such groups. I have never seen it, but based upon this preview, which contains some fantastic quotes, I highly recommend it.)
But by and large, our youth do not know God. It shows, even in the circles of Christian youth who still profess Jesus as Savior. Their lives are in perfect harmony with the sinful lifestyles of the world, and when someone takes a stand for righteousness, that person is usually mocked and ostracized. Our Christianity, by and large, is one that is merely outward. We wear "Christian" T-shirts, listen to "Christian" punk rock, and watch "Christian" television shows. It is a subculture, that only affects how we look, but it does not change us fundamentally. The reason why so many church-going youth change their behavior when they leave their Christian subculture is because their Christianity was only an outward conformity to their environment. But then, when they began to stretch their wings, become more independent of their parents and their church, and they became initiated into the “real world,” their environment drastically changed. They didn't merely conform to their environment; they were free to be who they truly were on the inside – people devoid of the knowledge and love of God; people with a form of godliness, but no power (the power of a changed life) to show for it (2 Timothy 3).
This essay will continue in Part 2, which will discuss the root of the problem.
Shame on me. I haven't participated in Jean's great meme in ... forever. But then again, I also haven't been doing any blog work whatsoever, which means I have also neglected (for several weeks) my own meme, Founding Father's Quote Friday. I don't know if I will ever get back into the blogging saddle any time in the near future. So don't worry; my absence (total silence for that matter) doesn't necessarily mean that the USCC Facility has gotten me yet! ;) Soon, I hope to post a video for a future WFW, citing several portions of Scripture dealing with the state of the church in the Last Days.
Today, I would like to just write about something that I have been thinking about for a while, concerning one of the pieces of Scripture that is often called the "culture mandate." It is Matthew 5:13-16:
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.This passage, which states that Christians are the salt and light of the earth, is, as I have just said, referred to as the "culture mandate." Now, as we are so often prone to do, we accept such explanations concerning the Scripture, when such explanations sound good to us, and we take such claims for granted, and consider them to be true. This is what I did rather unconsciously until I found myself thinking through this "salt and light" passage again, particularly in light of its context. While this statement has been used to encourage Christian in the United States to "get out of the shaker" and take an active part in the political process, in education, and in media (and it is commendable that Christians take part in these things and propagate godly standards in those places of life), that is not the command that Christ is trying to give us here.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Notice that Jesus does not say "You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt stays in the shaker, how shall the earth be seasoned?" Notice now, what He does say: "You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?" The last clause may be read accurately both ways: "If the salt loses its flavor, how shall it [earth] be seasoned?" and "If the salt loses its flavor, how shall it [the salt] be seasoned?" The implied answer is, of course, nothing else can season the earth, because nothing else can season the salt of the earth.
Jesus is not telling us to go out into the world and change our culture for Him. I think that, compared to our Great Commission, which is preaching the Gospel to every creature and making disciples of every nation, is of far greater importance and urgency in God's eyes, than keeping the culture afloat.
This is the thing I think that many believers in America are missing. Polls reveal that American Christians find it easier to discuss politics than the Gospel, and that Christians are more associated with conservative political views than with the power of Christ that transforms lives. I think that we have so under-emphasized that Gospel, and that we are trying so hard to maintain the shell of a Christian culture, that was the product, and not the cause, of an active working of Christ and the message of the Gospel in our nation's past.
We forget that God's intent for America was not to bring democracy and prosperity to the nations of the world. It was to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the earth. We are missing that. All of us need to repent of this sin that we have committed, by putting country and patriotism before Christ, and in effect, taking from the reverence that our nation should hold for Him.
Rather than simply making the point of this post a correction of some wrong ideas, I would like to present a personal challenge to my readers (including myself -- didn't you know I read my own posts? :D): are we doing what we can to be salt and light? Are we tasteless? Do we hid beneath our baskets? Are we letting our good works shine before men, and if so, are we doing it so that our Father in heaven may receive the glory, or do we have other reasons for doing good works?
For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find them a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Romans 7:19 - 8:4
It seems that the prevailing message in our culture today is that all religions are the same, worship the same god, present the same basic message, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. I am surprised to hear, every now and then, that this view is tolerated, to some degree, by those with prominent standing in the 'evangelical Christian' community. How many times have you heard of distinguished evangelists and mega-church leaders ashamed to say that without Christ, an individual cannot be saved, no matter nobly sincere they may be in their religion? Examples of postmodernism becoming prevalent in the Western churches are frequently being pushed in our faces by the secular media, especially the news outlets, who wish to convince the world that Christianity has nothing significant to offer, since it is just like all other religions.
But I do not wish to simply combat more false views in the post. (It seems that the majority of what I write is an effort to convince the majority that the majority of what they believe is false. Not that combating error is a bad thing; but, there are other equally worthy, if not better, reasons for writing.) Here, I wish to bring out what makes the Gospel of Christ different from the religion of the world. I wish to remind myself and other Christians why we believe, because such reminders help us to be continually grateful to God, and to guard ourselves against the deceitfulness of sin, which is the foundation of the world's belief system.
The above passage from Romans summarizes the whole essence of the Gospel. Man, upon observing the moral perfection of the law of God, agrees that it is good and right. Man's conscience, whether the individual ultimately cooperates with it or not, affirms what his intellect discerns as true and good. And yet in spite of all his good intentions to follow those standards, he finds that his natural desires hold a greater sway over his sense of duty.
The various religions and belief systems of the world are the responses that mankind has had to this obvious dilemma. Some religions set up a system of good works, religious rites, denial and/or abuse of the body, sacrifices to false deities, and so on. And then there is the secularist attempt to deal with the problem, by denying that it even exists; it disposes of the possibility of God's existence, and of a discoverable and universally absolute moral standard.
But the Gospel of Christ fixes the problem. It doesn't cover a dirty wall with a new coat of paint; it cleans the wall, repairs it, and then paints it. Christ's blood doesn't just cover our sins; His blood forgives us and cleanses us. He gives us new desires; He gives us a heart after His heart. We are then to walk according to the new spirit that He gives us through conversion. When we are converted, our spirit is changed; our flesh remains the same. But because our spirit is changed, we do the righteous works of God. The hope that we have, according to the Scripture, our body will be transformed also, when we are reunited with the Lord.
Herein lies the power of the Gospel. And if the Gospel were nothing, it would not change so many people. And if the Gospel were nothing, those who oppose it would not be so afraid or concerned about it.
Word For Wednesday is hosted by Yeah, Right ... Go there for more!
A recent and prominent theme in sermons at my church has been the importance of giving thanks to God, and remembering to always have an attitude of gratitude for His promises, blessings, and oversight, in good times, in bad times, and in difficult situations.
I recently maintained on my FFQF post that America is indebted to God and God alone for her existence, and her success. When our politicians eloquently praise the virtues of the people, and laud man's accomplishments in creating our country, and then perhaps give a little credit on the sidelines to God (and they insure that their identification of the Deity is amorphous and undefined -- can't offend anybody, you know), they are reflecting their own ingratitude, as well as the ingratitude of our nation in general. If you challenge that statement, all you have to do is look at the way the nation responds to God's standards, both moral and spiritual.
But I think that even we Christians can fall into ungratefulness; things don't go the way they should, or they way we want them to. We become wrapped up, so to speak, in our little problems, and we forget all about the One who is to be the center of our attention. And furthermore, we miss out on what God has in store for us, if we just humply called upon Him, and waited for His answer, and His provision.
As we are finding out in our investigation of the Scriptures, God intentionally places a great emphasis upon calling upon His name in the time of our troubles, for thanking Him in advance, and for thanking Him after we have seen the answer, taking no credit to ourselves. Here are some passages of Scripture that bring this truth out:
First of all, it tells us that it is because of the choice of men to be ungrateful to God that they have fallen away, and that God has given those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, when they should know better, up to unrighteousness:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who supress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, beause, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man ..."
Next we see the importance of giving God thanks, from the beginning to the end of the day.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night ...
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 5:1-4, 18-19
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. ...
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one anoter in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Read more about Word For Wednesday on Yeah, Right ....
"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight," says the LORD.
"Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,"
Says the LORD.
"But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word."
A number of you saw and enjoyed the music video that I posted not too long ago. I would like to share with you a few more gems from the Tangle website. Enjoy!
Abide With Me - Libera
Be Still My Soul - Libera
Once in Royal David's City - Libera and Aled Jones
Gaudate - Libera
O Holy Night - Aled Jones and Libera
Te Lucis (Before the Ending)
And finally, I found this while searching for this wonderful Wesleyan hymn. I love the words.
Jesus, Lover of My Soul - Aled Jones
(Sorry that this post is a day late, Jean. :( But, better late than never, I suppose!).
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.Notice here that Paul does NOT say that he does not examine himself; in fact, he penned the following instruction in his second Corinthian epistle under the inspiration of the Spirit:
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (2 Corinthians 13:5)Notice that Paul addressed the above to Christians, not to unbelievers. He is telling them to examine themselves, to see if they are in The Faith, if Jesus Christ is in them. If the answer is "yes," then all we need to do is keep our eyes on Jesus. We are His stewards commissioned to do His service; therefore, He is the one who decides if our service is sufficient. If we need to amend, He has His ways of letting us know.
If we are continually "judging ourselves," we begin to think and live self-centeredly (what? that's not a word?). We take our eyes of Jesus, and we lose sight of our goal -- staying focused on Him, believing what He says even when we don't see it with our eyes, and doing what He says. Like Peter, we become concerned about the wind and waves around us, and we foolishly worry about our ability to walk on stormy waters; when in fact, it is through Christ that we walk on water.
We must keep our eyes on Him. We should not seek the approval of others, or even of ourselves. We should seek HIS. And the Scriptures make it clear what is necessary to be pleasing in His sight.
He has shown you, O man, what is good;The Word for Wednesday meme has moved to Jean's blog, "Yeah, Right ..." Please visit to see who else has participated!
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
With the signs of the end of the age coming closer and closer at hand, this Scripture from Hebrews 11 has been recurring to me, and for this week, I intended to post it. It just so happens that my family and I read this passage together during our devotions for this Wednesday morning:
By faith he [Abraham] dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. ... These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.Having this on my mind, I often find myself humming the last stanza of the British patriotic hymn, "I Vow to Thee My Country." The first two stanzas sing the praises of the author's country (which would be England), and I think that it's taken a bit too far. However, the last verse speaks of the Heavenly Country, the one which far surpasses any of the pitiful glories of our earthly habitation:
Most great to them that love it, most dear to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul, and silently, her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness,
And all her paths are PEACE.
The melody to this hymn comes from a portion of Gustav Holst's rousing composition, "Jupiter" from his work, "The Planet Suite." You can play or download it here, courtesy of FreePlayMusic.com. At 3 minutes and 15 seconds into the music is the melody to this verse. Please listen, and sing along!
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind [that is, your intellect and will], that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
(Notice here that what Jesus just listed the things forbidden in the Ten Commandments. Notice also that He listed "evil thoughts" first. The evil contents of man's heart produce evil desires and evil thoughts in him, and from that starting point comes the commission of the crimes.)
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Conversion is more than a change of opinion. Conversion is a change of heart, for according to the above Scriptures, the heart is the spring of action, and the spring of man's nature. Being a Christian does not mean that we sin, only our sins are forgiven forever. No; being a Christian means being fundamentally changed. Your nature is substituted for God's, and the things we practice in our meditations, words, and actions reveal the extent to which God has changed us.
Why oh why oh why???? Maybe it wouldn't have saved our country from its inevitable downfall, but at least we wouldn't have the Federal Reserve ripping us to bits.
Instead, we voted in a guy who carried with him nothing good but good slogans. We had absolutely no idea what they meant, but by gar they sure sounded good! We had a whole generation that just graduated from the government indoctrination camps, and they did their patriotic duty to vote the government into government again. They always know what they're doing, right? They always know how to fix the problems, right?
OK, here is the meaning behind those popular slogans:
HOPE -- Hope that you keep your job so you can pay the taxes and pay the bankers and pay the Fed and pay your social security. If you don't, we'll bail out the bad bankers who gave you bad loans.
CHANGE -- Changing the value of change, forcing our country to give up its own currency, and adopt a UN global currency instead. After all, there's no better way to solve a crisis than creating a crisis to solve!
BRIGHT FUTURE -- Kablooey.
I found this beautiful rendition of the great song, "Be Still for the Presence of the Lord," sung by Aled Jones. The choir in the background is the amazing soprano boy choir, Libera.
I wish I could find more on the history of this hymn. It's one of my favorites!
Philippians 1:3-11 may sound like a formal greeting to the Philippian Christians, but it is so full of the Gospel:
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
This statement in Scripture, repeated throughout the Bible, has been recurring to me lately. I thought I'd share it with you all:
Then the LORD answered me and said:
"Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.
Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith."
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith." Yet the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by them." Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
"For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him."
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
I have been going through the three epistles of John, and have been meditating on them lately. The permeating theme in these letters is "love" -- that is, God's definition, and not the world's. Love is the nature of God. All of His justice, mercy, glory -- all of these atributes spring from His perfect love.
Since God is love, we, having been born again to Him are to partake of His nature. God wants us to be perfected in love. Love is the mark of the true believer, for it cannot be counterfeited or faked for long, especially in the hour of trial. God tests the hearts, and He knows how much we truly love Him and love those who have fellowship with Him.
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
I read this chapter recently.
Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you --
The sure mercies of David. ...
Seek the LORD while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the LORD,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55: 1-3, 5-11
I read this yesterday, and wanted to share it with you all, as I participate in Jean's meme, Word for Wednesday.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.I put the phrase "for this very reason" in bold, to bring out a fact that can be so easily missed as we read this verse. Peter charges us to add to our faith virtue, and so on and so forth. It is the human tendency to suddenly take such charges as some sort of legalistic charge, to work something up that we don't have, that we may gain something from God. But according to the context -- specifically, the first portion of the chapter, Jesus Christ, by His glory and power has already given these things to those who have put their faith in Him (after all, don't virtue, knowledge, self-control, etc. pertain to "life and godliness"?). This fact makes sense when we also notice that Peter says to add to our faith.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Of course, these things must be exercised diligently, as this passage exhorts us. We do not simply wait for a lightning bolt from the sky, and *BANG!* we are filled with everything from virtue to brotherly love.
One of the interesting things about God is that He always wants the submission of the will of man. He is not satisfied with outward works, with grudging concessions; rather, he wants the will and the heart of man. It is even more interesting to think along this line, keeping in mind that God created man as a "free-will creature." The original purpose, it seems, for the creation of man, was the voluntary service and willing worship of beings fully capable of reason, of choice, and of love.
And as we see in this passage, love is the end and aim of all things.
"Love is the fulfillment of the law." Romans 13:10
"Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith." 1 Timothy 1:5
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:7-8
Well, there is your Word for Wednesday!
when he spoke at this conference:
Hat-tip to Patriot Humor. Their caption for this image is:
Despite the severe winter storm warnings, these demonstrators are making ready for Al Gore's appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday morning to testify on the "urgent need" to combat global warming.ROFL!!! I guess they are combating it pretty well!
The only thing I find strange, is that the northeastern states are supposed to be those most sympathetic to ultra-liberal, whiny hanky-wavers like Al Gore. But how can we be that stupid?!?! (I'm excluding myself, of course.) Here in New York, our temperatures plummet below the ordinary winters temps of Alaska!
At this point, my toes are literally numb, and I'm stuck trying to figure out how "global warming" can make sense to my local New Yorkers! Oh wait ... they all work for the school board and the government. That means they get paid winter vacations to Florida. That means they probably don't freeze their toes off. That accounts for their shameful ignorance.
Problem solved! I always knew that my blogging helped somebody think around here, even me.
Keep fighting the good fight, fellow New-Yorkers! Don't let the cold take your toes in the name of global freezing!
This is not preaching that is popular on TBN, or even in most churches in America today. But it is the message that Christ preached. He attracted large crowds, but now we now why He also did and still does attract the hatred of a sinful world.
I hope these sermons bless and encourage all who hear them.
Today, my friend Jean over at Yeah, Right ... has announced that she has started a great Bible meme today, called "Word for Wednesday." Instead of a meme that has only a picture for a post and no words, she has decided to replace the Word of God with images -- a good policy :).
So, I have decided to participate. Any Christian blogger can participate. Simply select a text of Scripture, and post it on your blog. And be sure to check back with jean at her great blog Mohawk Valley Christians, and leave a comment on her meme post for Wednesday, with a link to your post.
The verse I would like to share today is one that has never ceased to amaze me. These are the words of Jesus, from Matthew 7:13-27:
(13-14) Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.Many of us are familiar with this verse; many of us, no doubt, have used this verse, reciting it from memory, for evangelism. However, I think that many of our distinguished evangelists today have forgotten it.
I am amazed that some of the most acclaimed ministers in the Christian evangelical community, when challenged about their views on Jesus, heaven, hell, and who will end up where, out of one side of their mouth they say they whole-heartedly agree with the scripture where Jesus declares that "no one comes to the Father except through Me," but out of the other side of their mouth, they openly assert that God may allow those who do not repent and believe the Gospel (it is Jews and Muslims who are usually named) may very well be admitted into heaven! Their explanation? "I cannot judge their heart, only God can; therefore, I cannot decide who will and who won't enter heaven, because only God knows their heart."
What?!?!?!? Just because you can't judge their heart means that God might make some exceptions to His sacred word?? Is it not impossible for Him to lie? God does not judge people by their intentions (it seems that "heart" in our modern vocabulary is synonymous with "good intentions" -- that definition is grossly contrary to Scripture). He judges us by our fruits.
Grand coincidence! Guess what Jesus says next?
(15-19) Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.No, we are not just poor ol' sinners saved by grace, who go to heaven because God knows that we had good intentions. Good intentions were not an issue to Jesus when He said that "every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
This raises the question, "What exactly are the fruits that are evidence of being a 'good tree'?" If Jesus asks us to judge the good from the bad (good and false teachers in this case), what kind of fruits is Jesus pleased with?
I think it has become popular in the mainstream American Christian community to judge ministers and teachers by their "success" rate (i. e., how many people attend their church, etc.), or by the wonders and supernatural manifestations that are evident in their minstry. While these things are important in their proper place, this is not the method by which we are to judge others or ourselves, according to Jesus. And if we think about it, it is a dangerous way to judge, misleading people into heresy, and possibly, eternal damnation. Harken to the next statement by Jesus:
Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord," have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"Youch. Scary.
There is a general cry among Christians in America for revival. When we picture revival, we picture one or two things: large crowds on their knees asking Jesus into their hearts, and/or supernatural manifestations of power and healing. To us, this is our picture of revival, and it seems that we have put every means in our power to generate these kinds of outcomes.
But if we are really honest with ourselves, we realize that all of our attempts to work up revival have done very little to change the face of our nation. The Church in America still wallows in the mire of immorality and of the humanism that produced it, and the rest of us can't seem to find the emotional booster to get us excited about the things of God.
And then we look at the passage above, and realize that not even the wonder-workers can get into Heaven on account of their miraculous works. Heck, these people prophesied! They cast out demons, et cetera, et cetera! Isn't that the common perception of the highest degree of spirituality among so many Christians today?
Many preachers whose ministries have revolved around signs and wonders have come and gone, without leaving revival in their wake. Many of these ministers, I am regretful to say, did not lead holy lives, and when their depravity was made known to the world, their so-called "revivals" came to a screeching halt, and once again, the name of Christ was blasphemed among the ungodly. Signs and wonders do not bring revival. Signs and wonders are not always a sure proof that God is working, because the Scriptures speak of a time when there will be a great apostasy, that is, a falling away, in which even God's elect will be in danger of being deceived, by the false signs and wonders which "the beast of Revelation" will perform in the eyes of the world (2 Thessalonians 2).
You want to know what God is looking for? Do you want to know what His will is? Here is a big part of it, that the Christian Church in our country would do well to heed:
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. ... For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.Why has the American Churh miserably failed to do this? A big part of it is that we have believed and preached a false Gospel, and many who call themselves Christians are not genuine Christians. I will not expound on the particulars here, but I will recommend a sermon by Paul Washer from seven years back, in 2002, preached on this very selection from Matthew. Using Scirpture and plain common sense, he makes havock of the modern method of evangelism, saying that all it involves is a little prayer, but no repentance, no change of heart.
1 Peter 2:11-12, 15-16
It is not enough to "believe" in Jesus. In fact, I think that we have the wrong definition of "believe" to begin with. The Bible commands us to believe, but it's definition of believe is much different than ours. According to the Bible, real belief (James would call it "living faith," as opposed to dead faith, which is no more faith than a dead body is a human being) produces action. The modern concept of "belief" and "faith" is simply mental assent. To agree that Jesus is God, died for sin, rose from the dead, etc., is not enough to make one a Christian. Heck, the devil knows all those things for a sure fact! But he is not saved anymore than the person who refuses to repent from sin, and seek to know God.
That was the complaint of Christ on the last day, against those who thought they were saved: "I never knew you. Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity."
If we do not know Christ (and if we know Christ, we will not practice iniquity), than we are not fit to be in the place where He is. Knowing Him is what Jesus says constitutes eternal life. "And this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." John 17:3
If we truly believe in Jesus, we will do what He says. If we love Him, we will keep His commandments.
(24-27) Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.Do you know Him? Are you seeking to know Him more? Do you love his holiness? Do you walk in His ways?
But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that hous; and it fell. And great was its fall.
"Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity ..." Jeremiah 29:12-14