Monday, December 31, 2007

Fun Political Definitions for New Year's Eve

Rather than doing a serious post for New Year's Eve, I thought I'd break with my usual somber self and post some fun "definitions" of political terms. It might not fit textbook definitions, but I think these capture the essence of it all. Enjoy!

Socialism – If you have two cows, you give your neighbor one.

Communism – If you have two cows, you give them to the Government and the Government gives you some of the milk.

Fascism – If you have two cows, you keep the cows, give the milk to the Government, and the Government then sells you some of the milk.

New Dealism – If you have two cows, you shoot one, milk the other one and pour the milk down the drain.

Nazism – If you have two cows, the Government shoots you and takes the cows.

Capitalism – If you have two cows, you sell one and buy a bull.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

What Will the New Year Bring?

The year 2007 is winding down with a breathtaking series of events. I could take up paragraphs with just the past month of headlines.

Of course, the news has been dominated of late by the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Who knows what ripple effects this will have on many areas - the war on terror, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the status of Pakistan itself (along with its nuclear weapons).

The latest news tends to drive other important news or issues off the radar screen, but it doesn't mean that events have ceased just because the media no longer pays attention to them. As Christians, we are not to be rattled or carried away by the events of the day. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't care, or that we should cease being salt and light in our culture. But our faith is not in this world, and events -- though they might seem out of control -- are not. We serve a Sovereign God whose purpose will be realized no matter what world powers might determine.

Here are a few Scriptures that I hope will bless and encourage you on this Lord's Day:

It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding (Daniel 2:21).

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure (Isaiah 46:10).

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11).


Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever(Revelation 11:15).

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Mormonism 101

With Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy, there has been quite an uproar within evangelical Christianity over whether to endorse him due to his Mormonism. As I have stated repeatedly, I have no problem with Mitt Romney running for office. What I object to is the effort of some within evangelical Christianity to get Mormonism recognized as just another Christian denomination. It is not. And for pastors to claim ignorance on the subject is appalling. They need to do their homework.

Here are some quick facts on Mormonism.

1. Mormons believe the Bible is the word of God "insofar as it is correctly translated." What determines if it is correctly translated? Mormon doctrine, not Bible scholarship in Hebrew and Greek. Hundreds of Hebrew and Greek scholars, as well as those with expertise in manuscript evidence, would testify at variance with Mormon claims.

2. Mormons believe the Earth is one of several inhabited planets ruled over by gods and goddesses, who were at one time humans on other planets. Mormons are polytheistic, not monotheistic.

3. Mormons misunderstand the Trinity, believing it consists of three gods born in different times and places. The Father begot the Son and Holy Ghost through a goddess wife in heaven.

4. Humankind is the same species as God. God begot all humans in heaven as offspring of his wife or wives, who were sent to earth for their potential exaltation to godhood.

5. Salvation is resurrection, but exaltation to godhood, for eternal life in the celestial heaven, must be earned through self-meriting works.

This is NOT biblical, orthodox Christianity by any stretch of the imagination. These are doctrines of demons, and believing them will result in an eternity separated from God -- in Hell.

While I have read several apologetic works on this subject, Dr. Walter Martin's "The Kingdom of the Cults," recently revised and updated by Dr. Ravi Zacharias, is stellar. Here is a link to another recommended reading list:

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pastoral Responsibility and Accountability

In my previous post, I discussed the recent gaffe by televangelist Joel Osteen during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. To recap, Osteen told host Chris Wallace that he considered Mormons true Christians, much to the dismay of not only apologetics ministries, but also to pastors and church leaders who take the Word of God -- not to mention their responsibility before God -- seriously.

And that is what I want to discuss briefly. I can already imagine the defenses that will be thrown up regarding this incident. Some of the defenses we've heard before when other high-profile Christian leaders have made similar stupid, unbiblical statements. The one that really incenses me is "Well, I am not a theologian. I'm a pastor (or evangelist)." What garbage!

A pastor by the very nature of his office is a teacher. He's the spiritual leader and shepherd of his congregation. He bears direct responsibility before God as to what his flock is being fed. Here's what God's Word has to say:

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2).

Did you note the "able to teach" part? That's important in the role of a pastor. And the teaching role of pastor comes with a very sober warning:

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1).

I don't know about you, but that particular warning from James -- the brother of the Lord -- always makes me very nervous when I am called on to fill a pulpit or teach a class. God forbid that I misrepresent the Lord when opening His Word to others.

When it comes to false teachers, there is an element that often gets overlooked by Christians. Whether it's because a lot of attention is given to cults on the outside, or because they simply don't hear the warning from the pulpit, this very important truth gets overlooked despite the warning of Scripture. False teachers often come from among us, and because of that, they can do a serious amount of damage before they are called on the carpet and expelled, or brought to repentance. Here's what the Apostle Peter had to say on that subject:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves (1 Peter 2:1).

Look at that verse closely. It says false teachers "AMONG YOU." And how do they introduce their "destructive heresies?" Do they do it loudly, with a megaphone? No. They do it secretly, more often than not. And by the time the people in a church finally wake up to what's going on, half the church is carried away by the error and a split takes place. Those who call attention to the error and sound the warning are called "divisive." They get accused of fomenting dissension and disunity. They're called "unloving." But in truth, the disunity is caused by those bringing in the false teaching, not the ones who are making the stand for biblical truth.

What about Joel Osteen? I do not know the man's heart. I don't think much of his preaching and teaching. He's really more of a motivational speaker than he is a pastor. He really ought to step down, or go get some theological training so he can really fill the office of pastor/teacher as he should. A man of true godly humility would do that. He'd admit his error publically and welcome correction. Will Joel Osteen do that? Time will tell, but for the time being, I am not confident.

I am reasonably certain that some will want to blast me out of the water for posting this. "How dare I attack a man like Joel Osteen, who has brought encouragement and hope to millions?" Encouragement and hope is fine, but if it's not encouragement and hope according to the truth of God's revealed Word, it's worthless. Cotton candy that melts away and leaves a bitter aftertaste. Or more accurately, it tastes sweet like anti-freeze tastes to a dog, but in the end it kills the dog.

I believe we are in the last days, and as such, deception will be increasingly rampant. As Jesus Himself asked . . . When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth Luke 18:8)?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Osteen Drops the Ball

This past week, the blogosphere (not to mention Christian apologetics circles) have been buzzing about Joel Osteen's recent appearance on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. During that appearance, Osteen said that as far as he was concerned, Mormons were true Christians. Here is something that apologist Bill Keller wrote shortly after Osteen's shocking statement:

I got flooded with literally thousands of emails Sunday and Monday about Joel Osteen's appearance on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace. I am grateful those in the Liveprayer family are discerning enough to spot his continued pattern of weakness and heresy despite the fact he has been rebuked and chastised by many seasoned men of God over the years. Many ask why harp on Osteen. He is why.

Osteen happens to pastor the largest church in America and is someone millions listen to each week goes on national TV. He epitomizes the compromise gutlessness that emboldens the enemies of God, fails to give people the Truth they seek and need, and makes weak and ineffective believers.

In Sunday's interview, Osteen actually told Wallace, "But just, you know, as a pastor, I'm not trying to get everybody saved that's not my main calling, like Billy Graham's." When asked about why he won't talk about sin and deal with the hard issues of the day, Osteen responded, "Sometimes when you take strong stands, if you're not called to do it, you're dividing the audience you're trying to reach." Sadly, he was asked about Mitt Romney and if a Mormon is a Christian. " Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his savior, and that's what I believe, so, you know, I'm not the one to judge the little details of it. So I believe they are."

Here is a guy who inherited an international ministry when his father, who was a great Gospel preacher, died several years ago, feeding Satan's lie to the entire world that members of the satanic Mormon cult are Christians! He makes a mockery of the Gospel when he brags about not talking about sin or taking hard stands on the issues of the day and that he isn't trying to get everybody saved. God's Word is black and white and REQUIRES us to take strong stands for righteousness. Meanwhile, his new book doesn't mention God and if you have ever read what he writes or listen to what he says, he rarely if ever says the name of Jesus.

My friend, we only have one message, the Gospel, and the BIBLE tells us there is only ONE NAME by which men are saved, the name of Jesus! Sadly, Osteen is little more than a motivational speaker who waters down and perverts the Bible to make people feel good and sell lots of books, rather than bring people the only true answer and hope there is, faith in Jesus Christ!

That is quite a severe indictment from Bill Keller, who stirred up his own hornet's nest a few weeks ago with appropriately severe criticism of Mormonism and evangelicals who wink at it.

I personally have had concerns about Osteen for some time, but thus far have refrained from commenting too much. But this time, I can't be silent. Osteen made a horrendous error, and needs to repent of it. He is the pastor of a church, and responsible for the spiritual welfare of the people who sit under his teaching. Regardless of how large Osteen's church is, he is not beyond accountability and deserves the rebukes he is getting.

Mormonism is a false Gospel, and those who follow false Gospels are lost according to Scripture. This isn't rocket science. For that matter, it's not even Christianity 101. When Christian leaders can pass along such spiritual tommyrot and get away with it, it is a sign that all is not well in Denmark (or Texas).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Victory of Christ's Advent

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:1-5).

Today is Christmas, and that brings to an end my series of posts on the subject. I want to start out with an observation, and I'll be interested to see how many of you picked up the same thing as you watched television coverage this season.

In past years, news broadcasts typically included stories about how Christmas is observed in other nations. Of course, there would be stories about the Holy Land and how the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Arabs was affecting the holiday season. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there were the ubiquitous Christmas shows we all watched as kids. In general, nothing out of the ordinary. The season was treated with a modicum of respect.

In recent years, I've been detecting a different note in the air, and it was worse this time around. Oh yes, the holiday specials are still there. But did you notice the growing number of stories and broadcast specials trying to poison the well? Yesterday on Christmas Eve, I saw special reports on how some are claiming that Jesus wasn't really born in Bethlehem. Another reporter aired a story where he brought up the dispute between scholars as to whether the Gospel of Luke was accurate in its mention of the Roman census. The reporter backed the skeptics and made no effort to balance his report. As a former news director, I find that outrageous. This "journalist" aired the charges of the skeptics, but didn't bother to interview anyone who could rebut their claims. He could have found plenty of sound Bible scholars if he had wanted to find them. When I see things like that, I smell an agenda afoot. That isn't journalism. It's propaganda.

As I ponder all of this, the truth of the words of the Apostle John quoted at the beginning of this post rings loud and clear, especially verse 5 -- "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." John is right. They really don't get it. In the end, it doesn't matter how loudly a minority of malcontents squall, kick, and chew the carpet. They don't impact my faith in the slightest. I find them irritating, and more than a little ridiculous. And I am sure that I am not alone in that feeling.

Christmas is a victory celebration -- Christ's victory. It was a victory won at the outset, and foreordained before the foundation of the world. Even in the Garden, the scene of man's fall, the promise was made of a coming King who would bruise the serpent's head. Satan tried his best to thwart God's purpose, but failed. Christ was born in Bethlehem, and the enemy couldn't stop Him no matter what he tried. Jesus fulfilled the purpose of His first Advent in dying on the cross for our sins, and rising again from the dead for our justification. We now await His glorious second Advent, where His kingdom will be realized at last at the threshold of eternity.

Each Christmas that comes along on the calendar is a stark reminder to Satan that his days are numbered. Each prayer, each carol sung, each worship service, and yes.. each man, woman, boy and girl won to saving faith in Christ, is a sharp arrow fired in his direction. For the enemy, Resurrection Day (Easter) is an even worse time of year. The resurrection of Jesus sealed Satan's doom forever. We're just waiting for the sentence to be carried out.

So enjoy Christmas with gusto and annoy the enemy. While you're at it, annoy the media and the other skeptics out there. Be joyful and glad, remembering the Lord's admonition . . . be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Monday, December 24, 2007

To the Mystery

For today's post, I'd like to take a small step back and time and share the lyrics of a wonderful song by Michael Card. I think it's a perfect modern "carol," even though you don't hear it played as a carol even on Christian stations. I first heard it when working in Christian radio many moons ago. I think you'll agree with me that the lyrics capture the true wonder of Christmas, and capture it spot on. (The music is just as lovely as the lyrics).

If you'd like to hear the song, here's a link to the YouTube video.

To the Mystery
(copyright Michael Card)

When the Father longed to show
The love He wanted us to know
He sent His only Son and so
Became a holy embryo

That is the Mystery
More than you can see
Give up on your pondering
And fall down on your knees

A fiction as fantastic and wild
A mother made by her own child
A hopeless babe who cried
Was God Incarnate and man deified

That is the Mystery
More than you can see
Give up on your pondering
And fall down on your knees

Because the fall did devastate
Creator must now recreate
So to take our sin
Was made like us so we could be like him

That is the Mystery
More than you can see
Give up on your pondering
And fall down on your knees

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Word Became Flesh!

In this fast-paced, commercialized world, it is difficult to cut through it all and recapture the joy and wonder of Christmas that we felt as children. In our worship service today, our pastor spoke of watching children as they receive and open their gifts. Smiles play over their faces, their eyes sparkle, and it's all they can do to contain their excitement. He then gave an excellent reminder about what Jesus said about receiving Him like a child. It's hard for cynical, world-weary, worldly-wise adults to do, but we'd better learn. Because those who don't receive Him with the same trusting, thankful faith as a child will not receive Him at all.

This is a message I was thankful to hear, not only for the reminder to myself, but also because it's of a piece with what I have been talking about this week here at The Seventh Sola. Brothers and sisters in the Lord, we've got to slow down and tune out the noise long enough to remember the real wonder and miracle of Advent:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace (John 1:14-16).

Can you imagine? The Word become flesh. God Himself in the flesh. Immanuel, God with us. The Lord Jesus, who said, "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father." The Creator Himself, who humbled Himself to come and buy our pardon.

I love to think about the Second Coming, the return of the Lord. It is right and comforting in this troubled world to long for it. Jesus Himself is spoken of as having the attitude, "for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). For the joy set before Him. But before that joy, he had a cup to drink and a cross to endure.

It is typical among Christians to attach sort of a different mood to Christmas than we attach to Easter. Maybe that's because things have become so commercialised. Yes, Christmas is about the birth of the Savior, but why did He come to begin with? Resurrection Day is about Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, the denouement of his first Advent. The final denouement is to come with His second Advent. I sometimes think we'd be much better served spiritually if we wouldn't compartmentalize so much. It's all one immensely important story.

I know some will want to argue with me about this, and that's fine. But I really do think our whole understanding of who we are and why we are here, and who God is, are better served when we can look at the big picture. In reality, the picture is too big for our finite minds, but God is faithful to grant us the gift of revelation. He has revealed to us what He wants us to know. Sometimes it takes a little digging, but we CAN know what He expects of us. We have His Word on that.

I am so thankful for Jesus, and the choice He made to be obedient to His Father in humbling Himself, taking on the form of a man, dying on the cross for my sins and rising from the dead for my justification. I am thankful that He has promised to return and receive me unto Himself. I am thankful that I have the hope of heaven, but also thankful for the privilege of serving Him on this fallen world in the presence of His enemies.

May we all purpose anew to bring Him greater glory in the days we have left by living lives pleasing to Him. May He enable us to be better witnesses of His grace, mercy and truth.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Punishing a Child at Christmas

Well, what do you know? I have to cave in already on my determination to ignore the news. But I think you'll forgive me when you see why. It is Christmas-related, after all. Take a loot at this story from a newspaper called The Scotsman in the U.K.

Basically, a nine-year-old boy described as an atheist was excluded from the class Christmas party by the school because of his beliefs. The boy was heartbroken, and it's not hard to see why. The school made the case that since the boy didn't believe in Jesus -- the reason for the season -- there was no sense in him being part of the party.

First, this was cruelty to a child -- a child who I can't really blame for his supposed atheism because that's what his mother and father have been teaching him. A nine-year-old really hasn't thought it out all that well. If Christians were behind this exclusion, what kind of witness was that? Didn't our Lord tell us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us? Perhaps some love and kindness shown to this child might well be used by the Holy Spirit to work in his heart later.

Now, even though I am whacking the school, I need to whack the silliness of the parents also. Their statement that Christmas parties "aren't religious" is outrageous. Sure, office parties and school parties typically aren't prayer meetings, but at the same time, without Jesus there wouldn't be any Christmas. What's next? Atheists demanding to be part of church worship services because those aren't Christian in nature either?

Before someone tries to bring it up, this situation is not morally equivalent to the row over atheists joining the Boy Scouts. That organization's charter calls for members to believe in God. So don't go there.

In the end, what is the fruit of this story? Those who are supposed to be celebrating the love, joy and peace of Christmas end up looking like Ebenezer Scrooge, and a child, put in that position by unbelieving parents, ends up looking like a martyr.

The First Thoughts of Christmas Morning

When going through some photos taken from some trips I made recently, I came across this photo of a steam engine that I took while in Minnesota. It reminded me of the excitement I had one Christmas morning when I realized that I was getting a Lionel train set. That was many years ago, during my childhood. Even now, I can remember the anticipation that Christmas once brought to me.

I looked forward to the annual showing of "Frosty the Snowman," "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and other specials. While they didn't show as many biblical accounts of Christ's birth on secular television, there were always a few that were broadcast, and I enjoyed them very much. I can remember even at my young age getting tears in my eyes when they would show the Star of Bethlehem in one of these shows, and I caught that it was always in the shape of a cross. It's a wonder how the Lord works in the heart of a child.

I looked forward to having two weeks off of school, because school was a miserable experience for me. I won't go into why, but take my word for it. I was able to be home and watch all the preparations for family company over the holidays. I got to go to town with Mom and Dad when they were shopping, and was excited when the city workers were putting up the Christmas decorations. The time was getting closer and closer!

In all honesty, the thing I looked forward to the most was opening the presents on Christmas morning. And what else could be more normal for an American child at Christmas? But looking back with the hindsight of age and hopefully more spiritual maturity, I can't help having some regret over that reality. Because Christmas wasn't then -- and isn't now -- ultimately about kids who can't sleep out of excitement over opening the brightly colored packages under the tree in their living rooms. Christmas is indeed about receiving a gift, but not that kind. That should have been the most important thing in my mind, and that is what I should have been taught. I certainly knew about the "reason for the season." But my childhood training was lacking in the sense of giving me a proper perspective, and seeing it exampled in the lives of the adults around me.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I still wouldn't have been excited and happy at getting toys. But that excitement would hopefully have been balanced with a better sense of thankfulness, and realization of whose birthday we were supposed to be celebrating. The Lord Jesus gave the best gift He could give -- Himself. What kind of gift will we give Him? We ought to give Him the gift of our lives, as He gave His life for us. That should be stressed in the home of every believer, and the gifts around the tree only secondary. In fact, I often wonder if the presents shouldn't be given on another day, and Christmas Day itself reserved for worship and praise.

Don't get me wrong. I don't intend to make a legalistic, morose thing out of all this. I just get concerned that even Christians have fallen prey to the commercialization of Christmas, and what is truly the most important thing of the holiday gets forgotten in all of the baggage we have placed on it.

We must always remember . . . She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

There is an old hymn, "I would rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today." I don't know about you, but today I would rather have Jesus than the coolest Lionel train set a kid could ask for. As a child, I am not so sure I could have said that. But Christian kids ought to say it, and mean it. Since that is a matter of the heart, that is up to the Holy Spirit to form such a mind and heartset. It is our role as adults to teach it and model it. When Christian families place God's Word -- and God Himself -- at the center of their homes, the Holy Spirit is faithful to work in each heart and accomplish His purpose.

More thoughts later. So far, I am resisting the temptation to comment on "news" developments both within the church and outside the church. It's hard. But I am determined.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Prophecies at Christmas

Today, I am posting a link to a great article over at WND. Yesterday, I had mentioned my enjoyment of reviewing the prophecies of Jesus' first advent, and the linked article is a welcome addition to that line of thought.

Tomorrow, I'll post more of my own Christmas reflections.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Greatest Gift

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

At this time of year, I love to review the prophecies of Christ's first coming. This particular promise in Isaiah is especially comforting to me as I look around our world today and see the hate, war and violence that seems to grow worse each day. What wonders this verse holds when you read it closely!

"A child will be born to us, a son will be given to us." The birth of Jesus was indeed a gift to God's creation, a gift to God's people. It was a gift of indescribable magnitude, but as was foretold, many at the time didn't realize the full implication of what that baby in a manger meant to the world. They didn't "recognize the time of their visitation." Many remembered the prophesied Messiah, but they thought of him in terms of an earthly political leader who would end their oppression. And that indeed lies in the future. But at the time of His birth, there was another agenda to accomplish. Before He set up His earthly kingdom, He had another task to fulfill.

Once in a while, the song "Mary Did You Know" comes to mind. There's a line that says, "Mary did you know when you kissed your baby boy, you kissed the face of God?" That line brought tears to my eyes when I first heard it. Many have wondered what Mary knew as she saw Jesus growing up before her. We know from Luke 2 that Simeon warned Mary, "a sword will pierce your own soul, to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." Jesus, said Simeon, was appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel. But first, He had another task to fulfill.

I can remember another movie about the life of Christ. In it was another scene that made me tear up. The scene involved the young Jesus (at age 12) walking to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph. Along the road was a row of crosses set up with men crucified on them. The boy Jesus looked up at the crosses with a very sober look on His face. That really got to me. Of course, that is an extra-biblical account and a Hollywood dramatic creation, but it certainly could have happened. Jesus knew even at that age that He had to "be about His Father's business." It truly is a wonder to contemplate just how much the Father revealed to Him and when. The Bible tells us Jesus "continued to grow and become strong in spirit." Did He know at age 12 what He would have to face? Did He know that, before He reigned in Jerusalem, that He had another task to fulfill? Just thinking about the realities of the Incarnation is mind-boggling. Fully God and fully man. How did He do it? And moreover, why did He do it? Why would the Creator of the universe expose Himself to the abuse He endured at the hands of His own creation? He could have easily taken over the entire world and deposed all rulers with just a word. But Jesus had something else to do first.

First, Jesus had to buy the salvation of His people with His own precious blood. He came first to die on the cross for our sins, and to rise again from the dead for our justification. All who believe in Him and put their trust in His finished work on that cross have eternal life. And yes, one day -- perhaps even in our lifetimes -- He will return to fulfill the rest of prophecy, ruling and reigning on the throne of His father David. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Immanuel - God With Us


For the next few days until Christmas, I would like to focus on various aspects of what makes the First Advent of Jesus so important and special. Sadly, I am finding this a hard commitment to make because there is a lot happening in the news and in politics that just screams out for comment. For instance, I find this kerfuffle over Mike Huckabee's Christmas message and the supposed subliminal messages in it ludicrous. Oh, well. I'll let everyone else fight about that today. Let's focus on the Savior.

Did you ever stop to think about the enormity of those words, "God with us?" When you look at most religions, God (or the gods) is a shadowy, unknowable figure. That probably delights the Emergent Church folks, whose bodies release endorphins whenever they contemplate how much they can't know for certain. But the God of the Bible is different.

Throughout human history, God has revealed Himself to His creation. Sometimes in direct manifestation, sometimes through the words of chosen prophets, and through His written Word. The writer of Hebrews points to the final word in Christ . . . in these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:2).

Not only has God spoken to us in His Son, but His Son willingly took on human form, was born among us as a babe in a lowly manger, grew up, lived among us and suffered all the ignominious things that come with being clothed in human flesh. He ministered among His people for three years, finally dying on the cross for our sins, and rising again from the dead for our justification . . . the Creator Himself -- God with us.

As the wonderful hymn says, "Hallelujah, what a Savior!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Knew Bill Clinton Was Low, But . . .

. . . this takes the cake.

Beginning tomorrow, I am going to try to focus on Christmas for the next few days. But this just had to be mentioned. The link below to the Political Ticker quotes former Oval Office adulterer Bill Clinton saying that the first thing Hillary would do as president would be to send him and President Bush's father around the world to "repair the damage" caused by the elder Bush's son.

It is beyond cheap to try and divide a father and his son like that, especially for partisan political advantage. I hope Barbara Bush (not to mention George Senior) comes out and cleans Clinton's plow but good. And I hope that the elder George will also realize that nothing the Clintons do is for mere chumminess and comraderie. Bill likes to trumpet his "friendship" with the elder Bush. I hope the Bushes wake up and realize that they're being used.

The Political Ticker

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Truth War

Over at TeamPyro, they are digging into Dr. John MacArthur's new book, "The Truth War." Due to a heavy schedule, I don't have time to make a post here today, so I recommend heading over there and checking out the meta. I trust you will see a hearty discussion over postmodernism and its effects on not only our society, but also the evangelical church of today.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Lads in Genesis Put On a Great Show

Today is a day for a break from the troubles of the world. I am going to post some photos we took at the Genesis concert in Chicago this past October 2. Genesis is one of the few secular shows I'd bother attending. At least you can go to one and not hear smut, politics or attacks on your faith.

My friend Caleb and I attended. It was an outstanding show, and the first Genesis show I have seen since the Abacab tour in 1981-82. The sound was crisp and clear, the musicianship top class, the Moog Taurus pedals rattled the very chairs bolted into the United Center concrete, as I told Caleb they would. And of course, the light/screen show was stunning. Here is a sampling of what we saw.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Endorsement on Hold

Earlier, this blog endorsed Mike Huckabee for the GOP presidential nomination. I am putting that endorsement on hold until further notice. There are questions that have been raised about theology, taxation views, immigration, and other important areas, and thus far I am not satisfied with the answers.

I am going to wait a bit longer in the primary season to see how Huckabee answers some of these concerns. If you've noticed, all of a sudden he's the man of the hour, and some of the people beginning to talk favorably about him make me nervous, including the Council on Foreign Relations.

Don't get me wrong. I like Mike Huckabee, and think the potential is there. But on some issues his conservative credentials need beefing up, and not just for the election. I want him to "get it," and get it from the heart. I might reinstate my endorsement.

Then again, I may not. I probably shouldn't have endorsed so early on, but I have been so dissatisfied with the "front runners" i.e. Giuliani and Romney, that I wanted to express my support for a solid conservative Christian candidate.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Radical Islam and Europe

For today's post, I want to link you to this astute article written by Robert Leiken in Foreign Affairs Magazine.

While many dispute whether the radical jihadist movement poses much of a threat to Europe (and America), I think Mr. Leiken's article is thought provoking and paints an accurate picture of what is bubbling under the surface in many countries. I hope to have more to say about this later.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Yes, They Really Do Believe That Way!

Limited time today for a post, but I want to highlight something in view of the mainstream press hyperventilating over Mike Huckabee's question about Mormon beliefs. Huckabee is quoted as asking, "Don't Mormons believe Jesus and the devil are brothers?" Since then, a kerfuffle has started, with Mormon spokespeople saying such questions are a "smear" against their faith.

As usual, history has to intervene and people have to do their homework. Mormonism does indeed teach that Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer. Just read their material. It really doesn't matter what the 1992 Mormonism encyclopedia says. To find out what Mormons believe, you must read their "Scriptures." These include the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.

Again, just so we're clear. The Constitution does not permit religious tests for office. Mormons have the right to believe what they wish. But when Mormonism tries to obfuscate what they truly believe and accuse orthodox Christians of smearing them, we have to speak up and set the record straight.

Mormons need to fess up and admit what they teach. Otherwise, they risk being accused of lying and subterfuge.


As requested by commenter Joe Whitchurch, here is a link to a Politico story on this situation. Note the comments below the post. Very enlightening!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Colorado Shootings and the Demonic

I am posting the following story by Dan Wooding's ASSIST News Service regarding the young man who committed the church/missionary center shootings in Colorado. I suspected an occult/demonic link, and if true, this story bears that out.

Colorado Gunman Scared Co-Workers 5 years ago

By Jeremy Reynalds
Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO (ANS) -- Matthew Murray was kicked out of a missionary training program five years ago for strange behavior, and talked about hearing voices, according to a man who served at the center with him.

Murray was the gunman who killed two people at the Youth With A Mission center on Sunday and two others at a Colorado Springs megachurch later that day, police said. He was shot by a church security guard and died of his wounds.

Richard Werner, 34, told CNN on Monday he was a worker at the center in Arvada, Colorado, in 2002, the same time as Murray.

CNN reported he said Murray was told in Dec. 2002 he would not be allowed to join a mission trip to Bosnia. That was five days after Murray performed a pair of dark rock songs at a concert at the mission that made fellow workers, according to Werner, "pretty scared."

The performance -- which included a song by rock band Linkin Park and another that had been recorded by controversial rocker Marilyn Manson -- followed months of strange behavior, CNN reported Werner said.

Werner, of Balneario Camborius, Brazil, said he had a bunk near Murray's and that Murray would roll around in bed and make noises.

"He would say, 'Don't worry, I'm just talking to the voices,'" CNN reported Werner said. "He'd say, 'Don't worry, Richard. You're a nice guy. The voices like you.'"

Werner told CNN he immediately suspected Murray when he heard the news of Sunday's shootings.

"I turned to my wife and I said, 'I know who did it. It's Matthew,' " CNN reported he said. "It was so obvious. For four months, he was sleeping right next to me. Those are the things you don't imagine, but when it happened it was so obvious."

Werner told CNN his "heart is crushed" by news of the shootings.

Peter Warren, director of Youth With A Mission, said Monday in a statement that Murray did not go on the mission he was training for in 2002, because managers thought that "issues relating to his health made it unsafe for him to do so."

Phil Abeyta, who identified himself as Murray's uncle, read a statement from the family Monday asking for forgiveness.

"Our family cannot express the magnitude of our grief for the victims and families of this tragedy," CNN reported he said. " ... We cannot understand why this has happened."

Abeyta spoke at a news conference with spokesmen from the Youth With A Mission center.

Police said Murray, 24, of Englewood, Colorado, shot and killed two people at the Youth With A Mission center and wounded two others early Sunday.

At New Life Church, about 80 miles away, Murray sprayed fire from an assault rifle and threw smoke bombs in at least two locations where large numbers of churchgoers were likely to be, police said. Two teenage sisters were shot in the church's parking lot and died of their wounds; three other people, including the girls' father, were wounded.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Anger of Man and the Righteousness of God

What a week it's been in this country, and yes, that was said with my inherited Welsh gift of understatement. A self-pitying, probably demonic, whacked-out kid shoots up a mall in Nebraska. Another self-pitying, probably demonic whacked-out kid decides to hate Christians and shoot up a church and missionary school in Colorado. We don't know the whole answers, the whys and wherefores, but sin and the enemy lie at the root. It's a no brainer.

My mood wasn't all that good when I got home tonight and watched the news. Shepard Smith relished in showing a video where four young ladies (no, they weren't ladies. I've got another name for them that can't be repeated in polite company) decided to walk onto a public subway in New York City and do a vulgar pole dance in front of everyone. Apparently it's part of some website that dares people to do things like that in public for money. For a brief moment, I found myself wishing that the Saudi or Iranian propriety police were around to take their whips and canes to these young strumpets. I'd leave welts and then some. And that brings me to the point of this post. I have written about this subject before, using some of the same verses that I am about to use, but it's worth doing again. All the more because I think that the feelings with which I struggle are probably shared by many Christians out there.

For people who have some level of morality, decency and propriety left, it's normal to be justifiably outraged at the increasing evil in our culture. Lewdness, lasciviousness, rebelliousness, thoughtlessness, hatefulness and violence are all hallmarks of what we deal with today. It steadily grows worse. God's Word has the following things to say about it all:

. . . although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Romans 1:32).

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these (1 Timothy 3:1-5).

Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold (Matthew 24:12).

That last verse was the warning of our Savior, Jesus Himself. And I can certainly feel the truth of it in my own heart as I get increasingly disgusted by what I see around me. He warned us about it because He does not want us to let our love grow cold. The world will know we are Christians by our love, not unrighteous anger. Righteous anger seeks justice AND redemption. Unrighteous anger seeks only revenge. The anger of man devoid of the Holy Spirit is not capable of achieving God's righteousness. And but for God's grace, we ourselves can fall prey to the very sins and evils we detest in the society around us.

It is very easy for me to feel merciful and compassionate to those who know they have done wrong and exhibit sorrow for it. I can sympathize with those who struggle with sin and evil in their lives. It is easy to want to help them all I can. But for those who enjoy their wickedness and take every opportunity to rub society's nose in their filth, I find it hard to be compassionate. Very hard. Every time I see Britney Spears or some "starlet" being crude, vulgar and thumbing their nose at decorum, it makes me mad. I'd love to personally take a strap to them. Same thing goes for these tramps on the subway. In my flesh, I'd love to see them stripped down and flogged with a bamboo cane ala Singaporean justice. These guys who committed the shootings at the mall and at the churches, I feel regret that they're dead. But what troubles me is this. While the "new man" within me regrets that they are dead without knowing Christ, the "old man" within me regrets it for another reason. Its not because they died and are likely in Hell -- true justice at the hands of the One who judges justly. It's because they escaped having to face the music here for what they did in the electric chair. It is there that I see the evil in my own heart. It matters little whether the things with which I am angry are things that deserve anger. It is the vengefulness in my own heart toward them that I find frightening. Why? Because there isn't a one of them that God couldn't reach and couldn't change. There isn't one of them that God couldn't have saved and redeemed.

Does this mean that I should oppose criminal justice imposed by the state? Not at all. But I do not want my own anger toward evil in society to warp my own mind and heart. I do not want righteous anger to become unrighteous anger. It's a very, very hard balance to maintain as our culture continues its free fall toward the septic tank, and divine judgment in the end. But maintain it I must.

As the darkness increases in our world, being a light in the darkness becomes all the more important. May we not extinguish our light behind a dark bushel of hatred and self-righteousness. As redeemed children of God, our only righteousness is imputed to us by Christ. We had best remember that, even as we fight to clean up our society.

And pray for these people -- the shooting victims, the perpetrators' families, and for these sad, misguided girls who think it's cool to strut their stuff like hookers and offend the public at will. They need our prayers the most.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

They Just Don't Get It

This linked story contains the latest on the Episcopal/Anglican church situation and their ongoing battle over homosexuality and adherence to biblical truth. While you can click on the hyperlink to read the whole story, I am going to post a clip from it here because it is extremely illustrative of the irreparable breach . . .

"We have leadership in the Episcopal Church that has drastically and radically changed directions," McCalister said. "They have pulled the rug out from under us. They've started teaching something very different, something very new and novel, and it's impossible for us to follow a leadership that has so drastically reinvented itself."

Episcopal and Anglican advocates for accepting gay relationships say they are guided by biblical teachings on social justice and tolerance. Traditionalists believe that gay relationships violate Scripture.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, elected last year as the first woman to lead the church, had warned San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield against secession but did not outline specific consequences. Jefferts Schori supports ordaining partnered gays and lesbians.

"We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness," she said in a statement after the vote. "We wish them to know of our prayers for them and their journey."

Did you catch the statements of both McCalister and "Bishop" Jefferts Schori? McCalister is spot on, of course. The current leadership of the Episcopal Church (the American contingent of the worldwide Anglican Communion) has indeed begun teaching something "very different, something very new and novel" compared to biblical Christianity. Because the Episcopal leadership seems bound and determined to drag the church into abandoning orthodoxy, conservative, biblically faithful congregations and dioceses feel no alternative but to leave.

And what does the "Bishop" say? "We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness." I am sure the conservative contingent would take issue with her claim that they are violating historic Anglicanism. Rightly, I think they would also note that she doesn't appeal to Scripture in her statement. Ultimately, who cares about a "historical understanding of comprehensiveness" if it doesn't have anything to do with the Bible and its final authority over what a church teaches?

Rather than the departing congregations needing to repent, "Bishop" Jefferts Schori and the heretical leadership need to repent and return to biblical standards. Rather than wanting Metropolitan-type "nudge nudge wink wink" so-called churches, homosexuals need to repent of their sin and find the freedom that only saving faith in Christ brings.

In addition, and just in case this hasn't struck anyone, it is a shame that churches have to end up in court to settle disputes. I believe Scripture addresses that issue as well. But who pays attention to Scripture anymore?

I believe we will see more ruptures in the days ahead. Those of us who are not Episcopal need to keep praying for our true brothers and sisters in Christ who are Episcopal, and are trying to stand firm for the truth of Scripture. More likely than not, we might well find some of them in our churches because their own fellowship has gone so far off the rails.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Oh What Tangled Webs . . .

Below is a link to a recent story on the Omaha Mall Shooter. Read it closely. I am not mentioning his name because I don't want to add to his last wish of "being famous." I have to give credit to Gretchen Carlson on "Fox and Friends" for that idea.

Here's the story:

AP Story on Mall Shooter

It would be easy for me to comment on the obvious political issues with this i.e. gun control. The usual suspects will be coming out of the woodwork to call for gun bans. In my view, if people were allowed to carry concealed weapons, this guy would have been stopped long before he could kill so many. But that's another issue.

No, today I would like you to look at what was said in the suicide note by this young man. There are many reasons why people end up killing themselves. Fewer go on murderous rampages before killing themselves. Most do not. However, this guy did.

You will hear lots said by the pundits on what possibly could motivate this sort of thing. Some will blame society. Some will blame his home life. Some will attribute it to a disease. Some will try to psycho-spin it. "He must have been bi-polar." In short, lots of speculation.

How about considering the demonic? In my view, this sad young man had plenty of voices ringing in his ears. His comment about the meaninglessness of life jumped out at me. That's a very nihilistic statement, and nihilism is rife in our culture, especially among the young. Most of them don't become homicidal maniacs, but the philosophy is there regardless. And nihilism is just one of many "doctrines of demons." Where do I get that line?

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1).

Now, I don't know what "faith," if any, was held by this guy or his family. In the news article, it seems like a lot of bad happened in his 19 years. A lot of it seems like it was self-inflicted by his behavior, and in his suicide note, he seems unwilling to genuinely take responsibility for his own behavior. He gave lip service to "being a burden," but the fact that he lashed out with murderous rage tells us that he really blamed others and not himself deep down inside. I don't intend to negate the possibility that he indeed had a chemical inbalance of some sort that helped trigger this behavior in the brain. There are sometimes genuine, medical causes to so-called mental illness. However, I am suspect of a lot of psychobabble. Everything gets denoted to some sort of "disorder" when in fact it is merely wicked behavior triggered ultimately by self-pity and selfishness. The trick is discerning the difference.

I don't intend to give a pass to other people who might have hurt this boy in some fashion. We don't know what his family life was like. Those who treated him unkindly will be held accountable in eternity. However, we know from Scripture that everyone has to take his own hide to market. We will not be able to stand before God and blame someone else for the evils we commit. If our society (encouraged by the left) has any problem, it's to classify everything as either a disease or as the result of some slight to self-esteem. Personal responsibility is ignored or only given lip service.

In the meantime, there are a host of grieving families out there touched by this tragedy. I pray that they will find healing. God can bring good even out of tangled webs of chaos like this. For the family of the shooter, I pray that they will be drawn to the Lord who alone will be able to give them the answers they seek. The only ultimate solutions to tragedies like this are not more psychology. Not more gun control laws. Not grief counselors.

The solution is only to be found at the foot of the cross.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Joseph Farah's Take on Mike Huckabee

I am pressed for time today, so in lieu of a post of my own, check out this column by WorldNetDaily CEO Joseph Farah. He raises some interesting issues about Huckabee's past actions on taxes and illegal immigration. Those issues also trouble me, and hopefully Mike will take note of these concerns shared by many who would otherwise jump to support him.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More on the Televangelists


Today on the newswires, there is this update on the televangelist investigation. I am glad to see that the news media is beginning to recognize that there are conservative, Bible-believing churches out there who do not buy into the excesses of some of the ones targeted for investigation by Senator Charles Grassley.

One thing you'll notice is that even the critics of the televangelists are concerned about government overreaching. I share that concern. However, I have to throw this caveat out there. If we were better at policing our own within the church, things wouldn't get to this pass. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was formed just for that purpose, and each of these named ministries refuse to join it. I think it's time for some serious pressure from other high-profile pastors and evangelical spokespeople to get these ministries to open up and be accountable.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Romney Makes the Speech

According to this story, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is ready to make a Kennedyesque speech on his Mormon faith and how it plays into his political life. It is a strategy that does have risk, but risks to Romney's candidacy are not what concerns me.

Senator Orrin Hatch has served for years, and I believe Mormon leader Ezra Taft Benson was in a presidential cabinet in days gone by. So it is not unheard of for Mormons to hold high office.

What troubles me is the continuing gullibility, stupidity or some other nefarious reason evangelicals are willing to wink the eye and classify Mormonism as just another Christian denomination. It isn't. It's a pseudo-Christian cult, and its followers are lost. Mormons won't be out in front with you about their theology at first, so let me give you just a couple of points for starters. Mormons believe:

1. Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer.

2. Faithful Mormons will eventually become gods and create their own planets.

If that's not enough, ask them sometime about Father God and celestial sex, and see what they tell you. The story talks about people spreading false stories about Mormonism, and some of that might well be true. But in my view, why bother? The truth about Mormon theology is damning enough, and it's there for anyone who wants to read the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants or the Pearl of Great Price.

Are evangelicals winking the eye for political expediency? Are they really that far gone theologically to where they can't tell the difference between a cult and true, orthodox Christian belief, faith and practice? Who knows.

Mitt Romney has every right to run for president. People have every right to vote for him. But so-called evangelicals do NOT have the right to call Mormonism just another Christian denomination. Mormon theology is false theology. Any Christian leader who fails to draw the distinction and warn his flock will give account to God.

SOLA'S NOTE: For some reason, when you click the link I provided, it doesn't want to work, saying "page not found or moved." However, if you look at the URL that comes up when you click the link, you'll see this after html:


Edit that out, and the link should work fine.

Don't Mess With Mom

I am not sure who wrote this. My cousin sent it to me this morning. It's such a stitch that I had to post it. Enjoy, and show it to your kids.


My son came home from school one day,
with a smirk upon his face.
He decided he was smart enough,
to put me in my place.

"Guess what I learned in Civics Two,
that's taught by Mr. Wright. It's all about the laws today,
The 'Children's Bill of Rights.'

It says I need not clean my room,
don't have to cut my hair
No one can tell me what to think, or speak, or what to wear.

I have freedom from religion,
and regardless what you say,
I don't have to bow my head,
and I sure don't have to pray.

I can wear earrings if I want,
and pierce my tongue & nose.
I can read & watch just what I like,
get tattoos from head to toe.

And if you ever spank me,
I'll charge you with a crime.
I'll back up all my charges,
with the marks on my behind.

Don't you ever touch me,
my body's only for my use,
not for your hugs and kisses,
that's just more child abuse.

Don't preach about your morals,
like your Mama did to you.
That's nothing more than mind control,
And it's illegal too!

Mom, I have these children's rights,
so you can't influence me,
or I'll call Children's Services Division,
better known as C.S.D."

Mom's Reply and Thoughts

Of course my first instinct was
to toss him out the door.
But the chance to teach him a lesson
made me think a little more.

I mulled it over carefully,
I couldn't let this go.
A smile crept upon my face,
he's messing with a pro.

Next day I took him
shopping at the local Goodwill Store.
I told him, "Pick out all you want,
there's shirts & pants galore.

I've called and checked with C.S.D.
who said they didn't care
if I bought you K-Mart shoes
instead of those Nike Airs.

I've canceled that appointment
to take your driver's test..
The C.S.D. is unconcerned
so I'll decide what's best."

I said "No time to stop and eat,
or pick up stuff to munch.
And tomorrow you can start to learn
to make your own sack lunch.

Just save the raging appetite,
and wait till dinner time.
We're having liver and onions,
a favorite dish of mine."

He asked "Can I please rent a movie,
to watch on my VCR?"
"Sorry, but I sold your TV,
for new tires on my car.

I also rented out your room,
you'll take the couch instead.
The C.S.D. requires
just a roof over your head.

Your clothing won't be trendy now,
I'll choose what we eat.
That allowance that you used to get,
will buy me something neat.

I'm selling off your jet ski,
dirt-bike & roller blades.
Check out the 'Parents Bill of Rights',
It's in effect today!

Hey hot shot, are you crying,
Why are you on your knees?
Are you asking God to help you out,
instead of C.S.D..?"

Sunday, December 02, 2007

More on Music . . . In Church

Whenever I see the great Mike Rutherford (Genesis, Mike & The Mechanics) and his unique 12-string/bass doubleneck, I get envious. I try to resist. Really. And that brings me to my real subject -- music in church.

Now, I know this will probably get me in trouble (not to mention probably odd for someone as biblically conservative as I am), but I do like rock. Especially the Genesis/Pink Floyd variety. Prog to the core. I don't mind contemporary Christian music either. I don't think Christian music has to be old hymns or country gospel to be truly Christian. So this comment isn't aimed at the genre really, but is more aimed at wondering what is really appropriate for Sunday worship.

I comment on this reluctantly. I am not a legalist, especially in terms of music. I actually used to enjoy a more contemporary style of worship music at one point. That is, until I began to miss hearing hymns. There's some really great theology in the old hymns, and I must say, that's something a lot of modern "worship" choruses aren't known for -- great or deep theology. After a while, I found myself missing the calm and quiet. I began going to the traditional service at my church instead of the later, contemporary one. I found it more conducive to actually focusing on the Lord and getting in the right frame of mind.

Today, because of circumstances at home, I had to attend the contemporary service this morning. It has been a while. I expected a bit of a rocked up arrangement, but when I was trying to focus on the words of the song we were singing, as soon as the chorus kicked in, the guitarist turned on an effects pedal. After the chorus, he let a lead rip. All of my attention went there instead of where it was supposed to be. Could it be because I am a quasi-musician myself? Maybe. But it also was very distracting. The message was good and biblical. No problem there. But on the way home, the more it began to bug me.

Is worship supposed to have the feel of a rock concert? Sigh. Maybe it's generational, although I wonder why. I grew up with rock and still listen to it (along with classical, Celtic and other styles). Maybe today's generation can somehow focus on the Lord and enter into a worshipful attitude despite the fuzz, wah, and distortion. But I really, really wonder.

After all, is worship supposed to be about us and our tastes, or is it supposed to be about Him? In Spirit and in truth. I think the question really needs to be asked.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Young Rock Bands

If you look at today's issue (November 30) of USA Today, specifically in the Life section, you will findthis feature article on "kid bands."

As much as I am tempted, I am not going to go off on some huge diatribe. I have nothing at all against kids forming music groups. I happen to be connected with one in an informal, advisory sense. However, there are some telling things in the USA Today profiles of today's "kid bands" that ought to be at least a little disturbing to the rest of us, if not parents.

First, why would a group of very young kids (some pre-adolescent) want to call their band "The Naked Brothers Band?" No matter what innocent explanation that could be offered up (and I don't know, having just heard about them), is such a name really a good idea given the problems that have arisen of late with the sexualization of the young in our culture? Even if they didn't mean anything nasty, I am sure others will enjoy the double entendre.

As for the kid band called "Light of Doom," I found some rather disturbing things in that profile also, especially the mention of "liking the lifestyle" of rock and roll and girls "throwing themselves." Again, keep in mind the ages of these guys. And the "lifestyle?" These guys would do well to remember the destructive side of the rock and roll lifestyle, which has seen more than a good many young musicians dead way before their time, and most likely in Hell.

Yes, I know. I sound like an old, prudish curmudgeon. And I'll keep on sounding like it, because I for one am really getting tired of seeing young people with a lot of potential crash and burn on the public stage. (Britney and Lindsay, anyone?) I am tired of seeing deaths, drug overdoses, molestations, abortions, venereal diseases, suicides, and young lives ruined before they've even begun.

Will those terrible things happen to these guys (and a few girls)? I hope and pray not. And that responsibility lies with their parents for the time being. I hope they're watching things like hawks. And for their legions of budding young fans, I hope THEIR parents are watching THEM like hawks. Down the road, there might well be some things crop up that aren't quite such innocent fun.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Quote of the Day: Michael Horton

Check out this article in World Magazine. In it, Michael Horton had this to say about the seeker-sensitive church issue . . .

People are not consumers who need to be satisfied. They're sinners who need to be justified. Preaching is not technology. It is a means of grace.

And then . . .

The state of the church in America today is poor, and it's a condition you can't blame on Willow Creek alone. It's increasingly difficult to swim against the tide of materialism, consumerism, and narcissism in the culture."

Those statements hit the bullseye spot on. Kudos to Michael Horton for calling it like it is.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bill Clinton and the Emergent Church

If you would like to see a classic example of why so many of us get frustrated at dealing with Emergent-types, check out the comment thread in this post at Dr. Ron Gleason's blog.

After you've finished there, check out this little gem from Bill Clinton. How are these two things related in my mind?

I have stated before that Bill Clinton was America's first postmodern president. He can claim two mutually exclusive positions on an issue and then claim that he's being consistent. Bill Clinton (and Hillary for that matter) make up their own truth as they go along, and people seem to always swallow it hook, line and sinker. Why people don't call it what it is -- lying -- is beyond me. "But," you say, "they believe what they are saying when they say it." In that case, they are delusional and belong in Bellevue Hospital, not out on the campaign trail or in the Oval Office.

I think Bill and Hillary would be quite content in an Emergent church, because the concept of absolute, objective truth is foreign to these people. If truth isn't determined by political expediency, truth is determined by culture -- a notion more out of Derrida than it is out of Scripture. As you can see at Ron's blog, they take a handful of Bible verses and throw them against the wall in hopes that something sticks, using it to justify their position whether or not the verse has anything to do with their position.

When you correct them on their chosen verses and their applicability, you are usually ignored, or they throw more out of context verses at you. Sometimes, they don't even bother citing Scripture and merely emote. They run off on bunny trails and highways of non sequiturs. By the end of the discussion, you are ready to swallow a whole bottle of Xanax.

At the end game, they really don't think much of the authority of Scripture, or discerning the true meaning. They're simply not interested. Their agenda is all that matters. In fact, they rather remind me of radical Marxists. Anything is permissible as long as the end goal is realized. They'll joyfully tear to pieces as many local churches as possible until they are all remade to fit the postmodern Brave New World. If you object, you'll be taken to Room 101* until you alter your point of view, or you'll be run out of the church they've taken over by stealth and deceit.

The end-times, apostate church will be made up of many facets. The Emergent Church nonsense is just the latest facet on the old chunk of coal. They've been set up for tremendous deception by their own insistent rebellion. Deceived they are, and deceived they will be.

As the Bette Davis character Margo Channing once infamously said, "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

*(Sola's note: Room 101 was the feared room at the Ministry of Love in George Orwell's 1984. "Everyone knows what is in Room 101, Winston." I think people would do well to read that classic novel again, especially to see how the book's evil regime dealt with truth and history.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Huckabee Campaign Response

In response to my concern over Mike Huckabee appearing with Texas televangelist Kenneth Copeland, the governor's campaign office sent me the following note. In fairness to them, I want to post it here.

Hey Joel,

Thank you for your interest in Gov. Huckabee's campaign for president! With respect to your question on the Copeland affiliation, thank you for your concern, and your point is well taken.

The Governor is not a prosperity gospel advocate, nor would he condone any financial negligence or fraud on the part of anyone, especially preachers (but as far as I know, Copeland has not been proven guilty of anything at this time). However, I believe that promoting one's message is often important enough to warrant public appearances with people who we may or may not agree with on everything. For example, a number of years ago, the Governor traveled with Bill Clinton to promote measures to fight child obesity throughout the South. The two certainly do not agree on much at all, but that message was more important than playing politics.

Again, the Governor appreciates your interest in his campaign. He also needs your support! Please continue to check the website, and I urge you to take advantage of opportunities to contribute in various ways, whether through monetary donations, volunteering in your area, or just spreading the word to vote Huckabee for President!

Best regards,

Jared Morris
Huckabee for President, Inc.

Annapolis and Russia - Two Quick Comments

I am pressed for time today, so I'll just comment quickly rather than do an in-depth post.

1. Annapolis "Peace" Conference.

It amazes me that anyone could call this a peace conference. The words of Palestinian President Abbas aside, it is difficult to make peace with a group of hostile nations and individuals who want you dead and wiped off the map. Israel keeps getting pushed into making concessions, while there are no concessions on the other side. This is obscene, and the Bush Administration ought to be ashamed.

Russia Elections

We've heard much over the past few years/months about Russia's retreat from democracy. Doesn't anyone have the long view of history anymore? Russia has never been a true democracy or representative republic. It has no tradition of democracy. And since 1917, there has been a general modus operandi. The Soviets were very good about appearing to liberalize for a time, only to tighten up again when sufficient Western capital had flooded in, or certain political objectives were realized. All who had hoped that President Putin would be a different type of leader (including our own president, who claimed to be able to look into Putin's soul), are now having to face a bit of reality.

I will probably have more to say on this later, but that's all for now. Think about it.

The Hoot of the Day

If I wanted to, I couldn't make stories like this up. And no, this isn't an account of extreme or hard-core wrestling. It actually happened in a Memphis McDonalds, of all places.

I'll begin grieving for the state of our society after I quit laughing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Raging Nations and Psalm 2

As the world's attention is drawn to Annapolis, Maryland, and the so-called "peace" conference, I want to look at world leaders through the lens of the Psalms -- specifically the second one. This is derived from a sermon I preached back in early January.

Psalm 2 is a popular psalm especially for the Messianic prophecy in it. But there is a lot more to glean from it. It is a royal psalm that was written for the coronation of the Davidic kings, in keeping with the Lord’s covenant with David. (See 2 Samuel 7 to review that covenant). We also see in the psalm the future references to the ultimate fulfillment when Christ assumes the throne of His father David. We also see the judgment that falls on the house of David and the ultimate redemption of God’s people.

Note how the rulers of the earth are portrayed beginning in verse 2. It is interesting that this is an active rebellion, not a passive one. Rather than just ruling as evil leaders, they are shown to be actively TAKING COUNSEL TOGETHER against the Lord and His Anointed. The term anointed can be used to refer to the King of Israel/Judah, as in 1 Samuel 24 when David refused to smite Saul. It also refers to Jesus -- the English word Messiah comes from the Hebrew word for anointed one. Our Jewish friends try to dispute that, but that's another post for another time.

In verse 3, look at the complaint of the earth’s rulers. They actually are chafing at the Lord’s restraint, but the Lord actually laughs at them and reminds them that He is sovereign over His creation. Proverbs 21:1 – “The heart of the king is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” We know that God’s wrath against evil is in firm keeping with His holy character. God’s wrath against sin reflects His righteousness.

God is the one who puts kings in their positions and removes them at will. Daniel 2:21 says “it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings.” In recent times, we had an example of that in the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan. I am sure that Turkmenistan’s President Niyazov had no idea he would be immediately ushered in to stand before the real “father of all Turkmen” as Niyazov liked to style himself. I can’t help thinking of that golden statue that revolves with the sun in Ashgabat built at Niyazov’s orders. I remember another statue erected by the order of a king in Daniel 3. That was a remarkable event considering Daniel’s prior interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the warning contained therein. What ultimately happened to Nebuchadnezzar? He ended up eating grass in a field for seven years. God overruled him and judged him for the sin of wanting godlike worship.

How many times do we see this throughout world history? A ruler wanting to be God and ruling like a despot. (As an aside, how many times do we as individuals want to be God? We don’t come out and say it, but when we rebel against the Lord, we are really saying we want to be autonomous in our own lives, aren’t we?)

The psalm ends with a glorious promise to all who trust in God.

As the Annapolis peace conference gets underway, I am thinking about all of this again. In my earlier post on the possible upcoming war, I referenced the Oracle of Damascus in Isaiah 17. Damascus is one of the oldest continually lived-in cities. It has never been completely destroyed and removed from being a city. This prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, but it will be in the future. How? Israel? Nukes? It remains to be seen.

No matter what happens, we know from Scripture (and experience) that the Lord's decrees will be accomplished. This is in keeping with Isaiah 46:10 – “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure.’”

Wouldn't it be nice if the world would remember that? It would be really nice if those of us in the church would remember it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Huckabee Makes a Mistake

I first got wind of the event described in this Christian Post story about a week ago. Now it's been picked up by WorldNetDaily, and I am very, very concerned.

What am I talking about? Word that Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee hitching to the Kenneth Copeland bandwagon in terms of having Copeland take a high-profile spotlight in pitching his campaign. Note Governor Huckabee's glowing praise of Copeland and his wife, Gloria. In terms of politics, I can't believe that an astute politician would want to hitch his wagon to someone under investigation by U.S. Senator Charles Grassley for his use of donor finances. Yes, innocent until proven guilty, and believe me, I really don't relish the idea of the government sticking its nose in church business. However, some of these televangelists have brought it on themselves. Take a look at Richard Roberts' recent resignation at ORU. It appears the chickens finally came home to roost.

Aside from politics, Kenneth Copeland's theology is horrendous, and I would expect a Southern Baptist to know better. I'm not just talking about minor theological differences, either. Copeland teaches the "Jesus Died Spiritually" doctrine, and has made a whole host of statements through the years that are heretical, to put it mildly. This isn't an anti-charismatic/Pentecostal thing either. Traditional Pentecostals rejected Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin's "latter rain" doctrines long ago.

I am seriously troubled by this, and have to rethink my earlier endorsement of Mike Huckabee. I have yet to hear a really good explanation.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Coming War - Pt 2

The oracle concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city and will become a fallen ruin (Isaiah 17:1).

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that we had just had Middle East free-lance journalist and author David Dolan on our radio program. Dolan, a former CBS News correspondent, has been living in Israel for the past two decades and has reported extensively on the many conflicts there. As promised, here are some more thoughts on what he had to say.

David's prognosis was decidedly grim. He made several observations, beginning with the upcoming Annapolis "peace" conference in Maryland. David thinks this conference is a sham and window dressing. Nothing much will genuinely come from it. Some of it might well even be designed to provide cover/distract attention from what is really going on - preparations to deal with Iran's nuclear program. And on that note, David says the messages ought to be clear to anyone reading what's going on. There had better be a resolution to this crisis soon, with "soon" being spelled out for emphasis. If the United States doesn't deal with Iran, the Israelis will. They have no choice.

Why? A comparison was made to what took place during World War II. Adolf Hitler breathed plenty of threats toward Jews, and no one took him seriously. Iranian president Mahmood Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs who pull his marionette strings are threatening to wipe Israel off the map, and soon. While the world appears to roll its eyes, the Israelis are taking Mad Mahmood seriously. In David's view, there is a window of opportunity to get the Iranians to straighten up, but it's a narrow window and it's closing rapidly.

Now, what about the "peace" negotiations? Anyone with half a brain realizes that peace is ultimately impossible between Israel and the Palestinians while a large majority of the Palestinian leadership (not to mention the people) want Israel driven into the sea. Yet Israel continues to receive pressure from the international community to make "painful sacrifices." To the Israelis -- and to the evangelical Christian community that supports them -- this kind of unfair nonsense is getting very, very old. From the leadership on down to the ones on the street who, in interviews, say that this peace is only "temporary" until they're ready to strike again, there is no real desire for peace in terms of two people living side by side in harmony. The only "peace" these evil murderers will accept is the silence that comes with every last Jew lying in their graves. Why the world placates these monsters is beyond any stretch of the imagination. One can only guess, and I don't like the reasons that come to my mind. There are many Arab/Palestinians who indeed DO want peace with Israel. A genuine peace. But should they voice that desire, the radical zealots have no compunction about butchering them as well. It's truly tragic. Arab Christians are caught in the middle. They deserve our prayers and support as well.

When a people is threatened with annihilation, they can only do one thing. That is to defend themselves to the death by whatever means necessary. In the case of Israel, that could well be a nuclear strike of their own if they feel their backs against the wall. Syria is being pressured (according to David) by Iran to share in an assault on Israel. Should Syria indeed attack Israel with troops and thousands of rockets (containing chemical weapons?), Israel might feel no alternative but to launch a severe response. The oracle of Damascus as predicted by the Prophet Isaiah has yet to be fulfilled. Could that be around the corner?

Only the Lord knows. It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority (Acts 1:7). Those are the words of Jesus Himself. So we watch, wait and pray. His purposes will be accomplished. For those of us who name the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior, are we ready to face the difficult times that will come in the wake of such a war? Are we ready to show ourselves as lights in a growing darkness? Will we bring the Lord glory by our faith and resolve, and by the "peace that passes understanding? Will we still boldly share the Gospel as the only true answer for all the world's calamities? Most important of all, are we ready to face Him at last?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Thankful Heart?

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits (Psalm 103:2).

As I observe Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, I trust that most of us who name the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are indeed using at least a portion of this day to think about Him with a measure of gratitude. If you detect a note of cynicism in that statement, you wouldn't be far from the truth. However, don't take it personally because the cynicism (maybe conviction would be a better word) begins with me.

As with most holidays having religious significance, Thanksgiving has almost become a caricature of itself here in the U.S. At one time, you would have heard much about the blessings God has showered on this nation. You would have heard retellings of the first Thanksgiving in the early days of the Republic. You would have watched heartwarming movies about the love of family gathering together to enjoy a wonderful, traditional meal, including a heartfelt prayer of gratitude to God.

Nowadays, any "family" movie centered on a holiday seems to focus on the relatives from Hell, or families from Hell. The holiday is just a big nuisance. Thanksgiving parades used to be a family affair, but today who knows what outrage you might see trundling down the street. Commercialization has set in as well. It's hard to get enthused about Thanksgiving when they start advertising it on the Fourth of July, and begin putting up Christmas decorations at Halloween.

And churches? Oh, you might hear a sermon or two on being thankful, that is if you're still in a congregation where the Bible is still preached. And even then, there might be a contingent of malcontents who think you're not being authentic and relevant to a postmodern mind. Even now, I find myself instinctively reaching for a fireplace poker to swing. Down, boy!

What about me? I notice all these things and struggle with cynicism. My own life can get pretty frantic. I am way too busy for my own good. Some days I find it hard to pray. Some days I find it hard to read Scripture outside of using it in connection with my work. I ought to be reading it for personal devotion as well. And that has ripple effects. If these are indeed the last days (and I believe that they are) none of what is going on in our culture should be a surprise. But like many believers, seeing the growing sin around us fills us with sadness. And with me, the sadness is easily replaced by contempt and even fury at times. Praise God, it is then that the Holy Spirit does His work and begins reminding me of a few things. None of us should ever get too much on a high horse. We are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast(Ephesians 2:9). If anything, the state of our culture should provoke me to greater love, to greater witness, and to a deeper desire to live a holy, righteous life. It should lead me to praise and thank the Lord for the opportunity He has granted me to serve Him in the presence of His enemies. And that's not all I should be thankful for.

I am thankful for salvation. I am thankful for a roof over my head. I am thankful for the privilege to serve full time in Christian ministry. I am thankful for a warm fire on a cold morning. I am thankful for good doctors who help me when I am ill, and for good dentists who fix my teeth when they develop problems, I am thankful for shopkeepers, gas station attendants, grocery store clerks, postal workers, delivery crews, broadcasters, and yes...even government officials. I am thankful for everything I take for granted every day, with a reminder to myself to stop taking them all for granted. Even these things are the blessings of God. He can use people even in rebellion against Him to accomplish His divine purpose, and that is something for which to be thankful. His purposes will always be accomplished.

I am thankful for the opportunities He gives me to show love to others. I am thankful for the opportunity to tell others what God has done for me. I am thankful for the many kindnesses great or small shown to me by others in the course of time. I am thankful in adversity, even when I don't feel thankful at the time. Why? Because the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:3).

This list could go on and on, and that is appropriate. Eternity won't suffice to tell of all the things for which I -- and you -- should be thankful. I know there will be those on the unbelieving side of the fence who will dwell on all the rotten things that have happened to them, and scoff at the notion of being thankful. How many of those rotten things have happened as a consequence of their own actions is known only to them and to God. They don't realize that they could have it much, much worse, and maybe it's God's mercy to thank that they don't have it even worse than they do. Perspective.

At the top of this post is a little cabin in the Arkansas Ozarks. It's now a historical site, but at one time a family lived there. From all appearances, they didn't have much. They didn't have the cars, the supermarkets, the fast food, the electricity, the running water and all the other things we take for granted. Life was hard. But I have a hunch they knew how to be thankful for what they had.

A good reminder for the next time I am tempted to complain.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dilbert and the Emergent Church

I will be posting a Thanksgiving-related post tomorrow. But for fun today, go to the website for the Dilbert comic strip and look at the one for today, 11/21/07. It's hysterical and unwittingly makes a point that many of us have been trying to illustrate for some time about the Emergent Church, and their manner of playing fast and loose with the meaning of Scripture. Keep in mind, if you happen to see this tomorrow or afterward, you will have to click on the "archives" button and select the strip for November 21st.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Late Update - A Coming War?

It is late and I am just getting home from doing my radio program. This evening, we had former CBS correspondent David Dolan as a guest. David has lived in Israel for the past two decades, reporting extensively on the never-ending conflicts in the Middle East. Tonight's program was sobering. David fully expects a military campaign to break out against Iran soon. When he said it, he spelled out S-O-O-N for effect. Whether it is Israel launching the strike or the United States, he believes the powers that be have decided that action must be launched if negotiations fail to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. David also believes that much of the world will privately be thankful even if some protest loudly.

I will have more to say on this later in terms of comment, hopefully to both put a biblical analysis on it as well as a geopolitical analysis. Before bed I will say this. If this does indeed happen, the ripple effects will be global and possibly devastating. Yes, something has to be done. But wars have a way of creating ripple effects with unforeseen consequences. Does that mean military action should never be taken? No. But let's walk into it with eyes wide open.

More later.


Today's post is decidedly non-theological. For once, I felt like posting a rant in true Luddite fashion. Right now, I am incensed at my bank for changing the on-line banking system. And while my ire is currently leveled at them, in reality there is enough to go around for the ubiquitous, never-satisfied, never-ending "tweakers" out there.

The previous on-line system they had was wonderful. It was simple. It was user friendly. No need to click multiple areas to accomplish a simple task such as a fund transfer. If you called your account up and gave it a date range, there was the whole thing there right in front of your eyes. No longer. The powers that be just couldn't be satisfied with a good thing. Noooo. They had to tinker. They had to "make it better." In a pig's eye.

Very, very rarely have I found anyone's tinkering with things such as this "better" or "helpful." It usually ends up in an abortion. More complicated. Confusing. Not user-friendly. Multiple levels to jump and navigate. Yep. They fixed it alright. I honestly think these kinds of people exist just to make our lives more frustrating, and our efforts to conduct simple, everyday business as time consuming and frustrating as possible. Mind, I am not talking about redesigning a look or appearance. I am talking about messing with the functionality. In a disjointed, random sort of way, I can compare my frustration over this to frustration experienced during my radio days, when a person with whom I used to work would tie up the production room for two or more hours recording and re-recording himself doing a commercial. He'd take an hour just to pronounce one word. By the time he got done and we heard the finished project, it wasn't any better than the rest of us could do in 15 minutes. But he thought he was "making it better."

While I am at it, this ranks up there with the idiots at food manufacturers who think they're "improving" a product one has used for 40 years such as Fleischmann's Margarine or Crisco Shortening. "New, improved taste." Yeah, right. It has the consistency of sea foam. Just try popping corn with the stuff or baking a pie crust. The margarine foams up in the skillet like a latte and ruins the popcorn. And the pie crust with the Crisco comes out the consistency of road tar. My fondness for the electric chair grows with each passing day.

Earth to "consultants." LEAVE THINGS ALONE!!!!!! They're fine just the way that they are. If I want you to change it, I'll tell you.