Saturday, February 28, 2009

Stay Tuned. . .

I have company this weekend, so I am going to take a hiatus for a day or two. I want to finish the series on persecution, so that's probably first on the list unless something grabs my attention. 

Which isn't unheard of. Anyhow, I'll be back either late tomorrow or Monday. Until then, God bless, and don't forget to go to church tomorrow. 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

An Open Plea to McDonalds

. . . and any other fast-food chain out there . . .

A lighter note today, although I don't know how light the emotion of irritation is when one is experiencing it.

When I go through a drive-thru at McDonalds, I am typically in a hurry and not in the mood for conversation. I know what I want. I know what I like and I like what I know. I don't need instructions or sales pitches.

Drive-thru speaker: "Hello. Would you like a cappucino today?"

Joel thinks (in noticeably sarcastic tone): "No, if I want a cappucino, I'll tell you when I make my order. As it is, you just forced me to waste breath, energy and time to tell you I don't want one, thereby keeping me from ordering what I really DO want."

Instead, I mutter under my breath, ignore the pitch and make my order. After paying for my order (and nine chances out of ten they mess it up), I drive back to my office in a very foul humor, which doesn't help the process of digestion.

Please. Stop with the sales pitches at the drive-thru. I am capable of reading the menu myself without a Mitch Miller "follow the dancing red ball" routine. You're going to keep on until I just make a sandwich at home and not bother gracing your parking lot with my presence.

While I am at it, I am also sick of answering machines at businesses that take an hour to walk you through a list of options. Just sound the dang beep and let me leave my message, or better yet, have a receptionist answer the stinkin' phone and direct my call where it's supposed to go. You are wasting my precious time and I resent it.

If you'll excuse me now, I'm off to the range so I can let off some steam.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Revisiting Orwell's "1984"

It's not uncommon for pundits and journalists to call something "Orwellian," but I have to wonder how much of today's generation really knows what that means. How many young people today have taken the time to read George Orwell's prescient novel called "1984."

We're well past 1984 now, but it really doesn't matter. It's a book for all time. Some passages strike me particularly forcefully, especially today. Here's a clip where Winston Smith, jailed in the "Ministry of Love" for thoughtcrime, is being tortured and lectured by O'Brien, a powerful member of the "Inner Party."

'As you lie there,' said O'Brien, 'you have often wondered - you have even asked me - why the Ministry of Love should expend so much time and trouble on you." ... 'Do you remember writing in your diary, "I understand ~how~: I do not understand ~why~"? It was when you thought about "why" that you doubted your own sanity...'

'You understand well enough ~how~ the party maintains itself in power. Now tell me why we cling to power. What is our motive? Why should we want power? Go on, speak,' he added as Winston remained silent.

Nevertheless Winston did not speak for another moment or two. 'You are ruling over us for our own good,' he said feebly. 'You believe that human beings are not fit to govern themselves, and therefore -He started and almost cried out. A pang of pain had shot through his body. O'Brien had pushed the lever of the dial up to thirty-five.

'That was stupid, Winston, stupid!' he said. 'You should know better than to say a thing like that.'

He pulled the lever back and continued:

'Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.
Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?'

Perhaps this generation of Americans -- and a good chunk of middle aged to elderly folks -- need to think about things a little while, and then look around.

You might not like what you see.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Avoid Morality?

Oh, good gravy! It appears social engineers in Britain aren't satisfied with the moral vacuum they've helped create. Now we have this piece of advice from Beverley Hughes, the UK's children's minister, soon to come out in a government leaflet.

The headline in the Sunday Times reads . . . "Parents told: avoid morality in sex lessons." Now, here's a clip from the article itself . . .

Parents should avoid trying to convince their teenage children of the difference between right and wrong when talking to them about sex . . . Instead, any discussion of values should be kept "light" to encourage teenagers to form their own views.

Oh, really? And this in the wake of a 13-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl allowed to sleep together by their parents -- resulting in said 13-year-old fathering a child (barring another father being revealed by DNA)?

Lest anyone think I am picking on my British friends (and I am of Welsh extraction), we have plenty of the same stupidity here in the States, and it's wrought the same kind of havoc on our own society and the health of the family unit. How contrary to Scripture, which mandates how parents are to raise their children in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord." That doesn't mean exposing your children to a smorgasbord of thought, and letting them select what they'll choose to absorb. It means laying out right and wrong before your children, with the full understanding that they are ultimately accountable to a God who will not be mocked or gainsaid.

Well, I guess we'll have to continue to reap the whirlwind. Unfortunately, the whirlwind is quickly becoming a maelstrom.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Mother of All Callouts!

So . . . President Obama is going to "call out" state and local officials who "waste" porkulus money?


Methinks he should begin standing in front of a mirror first, and then use a tin-can phone to shout it out loud to Congress, where the waste began even before the vote was punched into the electronic board.

Give me a royal break!

A Jaundiced Eye on the Oscars

I haven't watched an Academy Awards show in years. However, I do see the news coverage of the Oscars. On that note, I have a couple of observations. 

First, there seemed to be surprise that the celebrities and the presenters largely eschewed political statements. Why should that be a surprise? The hard left is in firm control of both houses of Congress and the White House, therefore -- no need for celebre-angst. They're happy as clams in a mud pit. 

Second, there was a bit of surprise expressed that Mickey Rourke didn't win Best Actor. Sean Penn won instead for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, the late homosexual city supervisor of San Francisco. Why should that be a surprise? It's a blow for political correctness, further pushing the going propaganda that sodomy is something to be celebrated. No, I'm not surprised at all. 

If anything, I am waiting for it to get worse. 

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Heartless, Soulless, Selfish Automatons?

Normally I like to put up photographs to illustrate the point of my posts, and this one was no different . . . except for some last-minute scruples. The picture I saw from the Palm Beach Times was perfect. They called it their best shot of the day. I call it horrific and tragic.

What was it? A picture of a little boy -- probably no older than three or four -- flipping off someone while screaming. It looked like he was in a crowd of people, but you couldn't tell for sure. I really wanted to post it, but figured that there would be some who would be so outraged that I posted a pic of the middle finger that they'd miss the point of what I wanted to say in the post. Oh, well.

With that explanation of the photoless post, here I go.

I've been saddened at the growing number of stories where younger and younger children are getting mixed up in a host of crimes. Rapes, robberies, and even murders. We had the case out in Arizona where an 8-year-old shot his father and the father's roommate to death. This morning, the news broke of an 11-year-old boy in Pennsylvania shooting a pregnant woman and her unborn child to death. It's not clear what their relationship was. In Britain, we have the possibly bogus story of a 13-year-old boy fathering a child with a 15-year-old girl, where the parents let the kids sleep together. The boy looks more like he's seven rather than 13 -- but as I said, subsequent reports lead me to think someone else might have been the father. Even if that's the case, it's still a horrible situation.

Lest you think I'm picking on the kids, it's not just the children -- there's a whole host of adults to earn censure out there. Who are the children learning from?

What on earth is going on?

I can't help think of what the Apostle Paul said to Timothy about what would happen in the world as the sands of the hourglass begin winding down . . .

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. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith (2 Timothy 3:1-8)

The King James Version of Scripture uses the term "without natural affection." What an apt description of what seems to be a group of people who are more like animals than they are human beings. But then again, without hearing and believing the Gospel, and the regeneration by the Holy Spirit that accompanies saving faith, bestial behavior bubbles beneath the surface of every man, woman and child.

These days in Western culture, it seems like the Gospel is the last thing people want to hear. And tragically -- for a growing number of churches -- it seems like the Gospel is the last thing they want to preach.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What Is It with These Democrats?

I can remember the days when Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy was known as "Leaky Leahy" for his big mouth. Well, it's happened again, only now it's California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who now chairs the Senate's Intelligence Committee.

The loose-lipped senator let it slip during a public hearing that Pakistan was secretly allowing the United States to launch drone strikes against terrorist targets in the country's tribal regions on the Afghan border. This is a big deal because Pakistan was publicly denying that this was happening. Muslim extremists would use such information to stoke more anger at the Pakistani government for helping the U.S. and provoke more instability. Such a disclosure certainly cannot help our efforts to combat terrorists in the region, and risks further destabilizing a nation that has nuclear weapons.

It's hard for me to know whether Feinstein just slipped or did this on purpose. Either way, it's just another example of why most liberal Democrats at the national level are useless, if not dangerous, on national security and military matters.

Just another example that elections have consequences.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Striking a Blow For State's Rights

If you get a chance today, read this commentary from It highlights the recent move by New Hampshire State Representative Daniel Itse to reassert states' rights in the face of the growing federal juggernaut.

Mr. Itse bases his bill on Jeffersonian principles, calling for New Hampshire to secede from the Union if federal usurpation reaches a certain level. He used the language of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, written in 1798 in response to the "Alien and Sedition Acts." Here's an excerpt from Itse's bill . . .

“That any Act by the Congress of the United States, Executive Order of the President of the United States of America or Judicial Order by the Judicatories of the United States of America which assumes a power not delegated to the government of United States of America by the Constitution for the United States of America and which serves to diminish the liberty of the any of the several States or their citizens shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution for the United States of America by the government of the United States of America. Acts which would cause such a nullification include, but are not limited to:

“I. Establishing martial law or a state of emergency within one of the States comprising the United States of America without the consent of the legislature of that State.

“II. Requiring involuntary servitude, or governmental service other than a draft during a declared war, or pursuant to, or as an alternative to, incarceration after due process of law.

“III. Requiring involuntary servitude or governmental service of persons under the age of 18 other than pursuant to, or as an alternative to, incarceration after due process of law.

“IV. Surrendering any power delegated or not delegated to any corporation or foreign government.

“V. Any act regarding religion; further limitations on freedom of political speech; or further limitations on freedom of the press.

“VI. Further infringements on the right to keep and bear arms including prohibitions of type or quantity of arms or ammunition…” -- House Concurrent Resolution 6.

This could get interesting. Couple this bill with moves by the legislatures of 20 other states to reassert states' rights, and it's not hard to see where this could be going in the long run. Who knows if it will work or not.

One possibility to keep in mind. It is within the realm of speculation that the powers that be might want to provoke as much social unrest and agitation as possible. That desire would be in keeping with the principles of Marxists and other revolutionaries who see social chaos as desirable in achieving their overall goals for society. These types take advantage of crises to push through all sorts of draconian policies they might not be able to achieve in a time of calm. And in general, the bulk of the population is too blind to see it or acknowledge that it's even happening.

How about this for a scenario. Imagine getting the bulk of U.S. troops overseas in Afghanistan or some other place, and all of a sudden riots and unrest break out here. Imagine the Administration calling in troops from the United Nations to keep order on American streets. American troops would likely be very reticent to open fire on their fellow citizens. However, foreign "peacekeepers" might not have such scruples, as they would have no loyalty to this country. Crazy, isn't it?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wisdom from Harry Truman

On August 8, 1950, President Harry Truman sent something known as his "Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States. Mr. Truman was concerned about implementing laws that would curb expressions of dissent as a means of combating subversion. Here is a clip from that message . . .

There are some people who wish us to enact laws which would seriously damage the right of free speech and which could be used not only against subversive groups but against other groups engaged in political or other activities which were not generally popular. Such measures would not only infringe on the Bill of Rights and the basic liberties of our people; they would also undermine the very internal security they seek to protect.

Laws forbidding dissent do not prevent subversive activities; they merely drive them into more secret and more dangerous channels. Police states are not secure; their history is marked by successive purges, and growing concentration camps, as their governments strike out blindly in fear of violent revolt. Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

Today, we have a growing chorus to reimpose the misnamed "Fairness Doctrine" for broadcast media. We also stand a good chance of serious social unrest should the economy get any worse, or if the current government here in the United States decides to try repression itself. It could also be that they're hoping for civil unrest to give them the excuse to impose draconian, dictatorial restraints. It's been done before in history.

In light of that, President Truman's remarks are rather prescient, aren't they?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Give Up Half of Israel?

For those of us who love Israel and are concerned about what Scripture says regarding the land and the Abrahamic Covenant, this news story regarding would-be Israeli prime minister Tzipi Livni ought to raise a few eyebrows. It might also well result in Benjamin Netanyahu recapturing the prime minister's post despite Livni's one-seat advantage in the Knesset.

You would think the events in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip would have awakened a few people on the Labour and Kadima sides of the fence. Apparently not. And that's just from a geopolitical sense.

In a biblical sense, I would recommend a review of what God says about "dividing His land." It isn't pleasant. There's a judgment coming for it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Putting On a Snark

As someone who is not beyond getting a bit snarky from time to time, I always have to ride my tongue with curb bit and spurs. As I've always maintained, there are times when harshness and severity is appropriate, as well as times when it is not appropriate or necessary. It takes wisdom to know the difference, and all of us blow it from time to time. Getting snarky is also quite a bit easier when it's on a computer screen and not face to face (although I've met people who relish direct combat a little too much, too).

As a brief example, I am going to post a comment someone from overseas made in response to a post I did, which touched on race relations in the United States. I was trying to make the point that things have improved greatly here from what they used to be. The commenter then posted this:

This is ridiculous. If you seriously think America, or the world for that matter has moved on from racial prejudice you are deluded.

After being told I was delusional, I responded with some mild asperity. But what if the young man's comment had run like this:

Sola, are you suggesting that America and the world have moved on from racial prejudice? If so, I strongly disagree and here's why . . . etc.

I would have replied:

Oh, no! I didn't mean to suggest anything of the kind at all. Of course racism still exists here and elsewhere. But here in the U.S. there has been a tremendous improvement from the way things were decades ago. Our recent election is a case in point.

See what I mean? I guess that's what Scripture means when it says a "soft voice turneth away wrath." It is possible to express disagreement with someone without gouging their eyes out and impaling their head on a pike. Now, as I said, sometimes it is necessary to ratchet things up. Scripture does talk about "reproving severely" on occasion when merited.

I like sharp, witty polemic as much as the next person, and I'm not averse to taking the paddle off the wall and using it briskly on a gluteus maximus. I just don't think it needs to be a template reaction.

Postscript: I know there will be some who might accuse me of trying to have it both ways, ignoring the nuances of what I am saying. For those, I close with this little exchange from "The School for Scandal," a stage play from 1777 written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan . . .

MARIA: For my part, I own, madam, wit loses its respect with me when I see it in company with malice. What do you think, Mr. Surface?

JOSEPH SURFACE: Certainly, madam. To smile at the jest which plants a thorn in another's breast is to become a principal in the mischief.

LADY SNEERWELL: Psha, there's no possibility of being witty without a little ill nature. The malice of a good thing is the barb that makes it stick. What's your opinion, Mr. Surface?

JOSEPH SURFACE: To be sure, madam, that conversation where the spirit of raillery is suppressed will ever appear tedious and insipid.

MARIA: Well, I'll not debate how far scandal may be allowable, but in a man, I'm sure, it is always contemptable. We have pride, envy, rivalship, and a thousand motives to depreciate each other, but the male slanderer must have the cowardice of a woman before he can traduce one.

And with that little sally, I retire from the field for the moment.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

More from Barnhouse

I have been teaching a series on Romans at my church. Among the sources I am using in my study (with the Bible being the main one, of course!) is Donald Grey Barnhouse's commentary series on that book of Scripture. In the portion of his commentary dealing with Romans 6, Barnhouse does a wonderful job of illustrating where we as believers are positionally with Christ. Earlier, he had described how California redwoods grow together and become one tree with two roots, or a single top growing from two trunks. On this Sunday, I offer it up to you for edification . . .

When we comprehend this truth, we see the effect that it has upon our position. You can say, "So far as God is concerned, when Jesus Christ died, I died, and His death paid for all my sin forever." God looks on the believer as judicially dead to sin forever. I was in Christ in His death, and everything that God the Father did to God the Son, He also did to me. When the Father made Christ to be sin for us, it was my sin that He was dealing with. When the Father turned His face away from Jesus Christ, He turned His face away from me so that His hatred for my sin was exhibited to all the universe. When the Father bruised the Son and put Him to grief, He counted me as bruised and put to grief. Though it was not I but Christ, God saw me in it. The suffering was all His but the results are all mine forever. In God's sight, we are one plant.


Have a wonderful day in the Lord today.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Persecution in America? (Pt 2)

I can see now that I am going to have to expand this subject beyond the original two-post idea I had originally. Rather than a complete focus on persecution with this post, I need to make some observations first. And my observations were sparked by a frequent commenter to The Seventh Sola.

In the meta of my earlier post on potential persecution of Christians in America, commenter Lee posted a very appropriate Scripture, plus an observation . . .

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:11-13).

And this:

What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence does still uphold all things?

Answer: "That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from his love; since all creatures are so in his hand, that without his will they cannot so much as move."

Since at least the Carter years (remember, he suckered folks by being a "born-again"), evangelicals in the United States have been known mostly for the politics of their movers and shakers. We're a "block" to be appeased. How many, outside or inside, can tell with any accuracy what our Gospel is? We could be in for a sifting.

I agree with Lee's observation. Around that time period, Rev. Jerry Falwell founded "The Moral Majority." A bit later, Rev. Pat Robertson helped found "The Christian Coalition." While the motivations of these groups were noble in my view, I really do believe -- as one who was very involved in media at the time -- that Christians got way too focused on the ballot box as the chief means of altering our society. And the result? We focused on getting supposedly conservative politicians elected, but the Gospel took a back seat. In some cases, the Gospel was forgotten completely.

The consequence of Christians over-focusing on politics at the expense of the Gospel was that our society remained largely unregenerate. Gains at the ballot box don't last very long in this fickle culture. However, salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ lasts for eternity. The indwelling Holy Spirit begins the process of sanctification after changing the heart, and that has ripple effects on society.

As an aside, we keep hearing how the "conservative philosophy was tried for years, and it failed. We need change." I would argue that genuine conservatism hasn't really been tried in toto. Even when Republicans had the White House and both houses of Congress, there were always just enough Democrats in concert with liberal Republicans in the Senate to block important reforms that would indeed be a conservative revolution. We got a few things, but the most important things typically got blocked.

Today, Democrats/liberals control all branches of government. Only this time, they have enough votes to ram through what they want. They can always count on Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. It reminds me of the days when Lowell Weicker, Jim Jeffords, and John Chafee were around. They could always be counted on to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for the party they were supposed to represent.

So the left has won for the time being, if not for years. Elections have consequences. If we thought things were bad before, just wait. Everyone is focused on the economic crisis at the moment, but there are other storm clouds on the horizon. If believers ought to know anything, it is this . . . all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). That is a guarantee, which we here in America haven't had to worry about too much. Here, we think someone calling us a nasty name is persecution. Christians in China, the former Soviet Union, Burma/Myanmar and other nations would laugh at that notion.

And with that, I'll stop for the day. In part three, I'll try to turn back to the subject of persecution itself, and examine what God's Word has to say about it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Peter's Second Sermon

Today's post is more of a personal reflection of mine. When we hear evangelistic sermons these days -- and I am talking about genuine evangelistic sermons -- it's interesting that the FIRST sermon of the Apostle Peter seems to be the most quoted. Every now and then, you will hear references to the second sermon of Peter in Acts 3, but the first one seems (at least to my mind) to get the most attention.

But let's look at Peter's second sermon. It's really tremendous. God had just healed the lame man at the Beautiful Gate through Peter and John, and that drew a crowd . . .

And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement.

But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. “But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.

“And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.“ Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. ‘And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.

“And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’ “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways" (Acts 3:9-26).

I love how they immediately directed any glory and praise to the Lord, as He is the one who really deserves it. They didn't revel in glory and attention themselves. They also immediately got to the point of the whole thing, which was to proclaim the Gospel. And in proclaiming the Gospel, they immediately got into Scripture and didn't waste 15 minutes telling jokes and Reader's Digest stories.

And they actually mentioned sin.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sola in the Dock

Hmmm. It appears your humble Meanie has gotten at least a few people in a snit in recent days. Of course, I am referring to the contretemps over my post on George Beverly Shea's 100th birthday.

As things progressed, that post resulted in -- among other things -- me being called a liar, dishonest, and a denier of the Gospel. It also resulted in me issuing a very rare ban to a commenter from posting at this blog because of those tender little epithets. This individual considers Billy Graham a false teacher, and in his view, Mr. Shea shares his guilt by virtue of their connection. And I apparently fall under this condemnation in part because of 2 John, which tells us not to receive false teachers into our homes and not to even give them greetings. Hoo, boy!

I wasn't sure at first whether I was even going to bother responding in depth. There were attempts to goad me into what I considered a pointless debate, which I rejected. I thought about posting something in a satirical vein, but then felt on reflection that this issue was too important for that kind of treatment -- well deserved though it might be. I considered discussing the fine points of Billy Graham's theology, and believe me, there are areas where I have strong disagreement with things he's said and done over the years. I still might well do that in time, but not now. There's a deeper issue involved, but how to address it appropriately?

I think what I want to do is take this bit of unpleasantness and turn it into an edifying teaching moment, both for myself and for those who read along with me. To do that, let's read a key, pertinent passage in 2 John:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds (2 John 7-11).

Interpretation of This Passage

One of the most elementary rules in biblical interpretation is that you don't isolate one verse or passage out of Scripture, and then build an entire doctrine around it. Another is related to that maxim -- when interpreting a passage, you look at the context extant in the passage. To whom was it written and why?

Note the part of the passage that calls attention to "those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh." At the time this was written, an early form of Gnosticism was rearing its head. These false teachers believed that the divine Christ came upon the human Jesus at His baptism, and then left Him at the cross so that it was only the man Jesus who died. Rank heresy, of course, and similar to what many of today's New Agers believe i.e. the "Christ-conciousness."

The Apostle John was discussing these itinerant false teachers, and warning the church not to give them aid and comfort. He issued a similar warning in 1 John:

By this you know the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world (1 John 4:2-3).

These passages help us understand John's point. Giving one of these Gnostic false teachers aid and comfort -- including shelter for the night -- was a no-no. You weren't to greet them as Christians greeted one another, all the more so because of their heretical teaching about the person of Christ. It did NOT mean that you couldn't give common courtesy greetings such as Happy Birthday, nor did it prohibit inviting them into your home for the sake of discussion, witnessing or conversation.

There have been many through the years -- well meaning -- who have interpreted this passage to mean that you ought to slam the door in the faces of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, or other cultists who show up at your door. How many witnessing opportunities have been lost through actions such as this -- all because of a mistaken interpretation. And beyond that, how many needless spats are sparked because some take the biblical doctrine of separation too far?

What about Billy and George?

Emphasizing again for the record, I do NOT agree with several of Billy Graham's statements and positions. I do not agree with what is known as "wider mercy." I think Graham has been overly ecumenical in who he has involved in his crusades. I do not agree with having Roman Catholic priests involved in crusades, and sending converts who might have grown up Catholic back into the arms of Rome and their works-oriented system. There are probably other areas, but this post is already getting long. You get my point. But the last time I checked, I don't know of anywhere Billy Graham (or George Beverly Shea for that matter) has denied that Jesus has come in the flesh.

I have not watched every single crusade sermon Graham has given in the past 50 years. I am sure that in decades of ministry, you'll find something on which to pounce. However, when the Gospel and altar call has been given in the crusades I have watched personally, this is what I have heard . . . all have sinned and have come short of God's glory. We are all sinners. People who die without Christ will die in their sins and be separated from God for eternity. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the dead for our justification. To be saved, you must repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in His finished work on the cross.

The last time I checked, that sounds like a biblical Gospel to me. And through the years, many have responded to that Gospel, and have been gloriously born again, including some that I know personally, and whom to this day have the same disagreements with some of Billy Graham's positions that I have. This is hardly an endorsement of Billy Graham's theological package, and I do not support BGEA financially. And what about those who came forward? Are their conversions rendered invalid because of Billy Graham's wrong statements? I don't think so.

Does the fact that God has used Billy Graham negate the wrong things Graham has said? Not at all. He needs to be corrected for them. Most of all -- and this is most important -- like every single preacher and teacher, Billy Graham will have to give an account of himself to the Lord, who at one time used an ass to rebuke a prophet.

My final word to my critics? I really don't have one, but I do have something to say to another person.

Happy birthday, George.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Persecution Topic Update

I just wanted to post a brief note to say that I haven't forgotten about the second post on potential persecution here in the United States. I'll get to it, but as is usual with me, events and work force me to alter my plans. It might come on the weekend, and in the meantime, briefer comments on other matters.

Today, if you have a chance, read Psalm 37. It speaks powerfully to me, especially today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pray for Australia

Sola's Note: The following is an urgent prayer request I received, sent in by my organization's office in Australia. I have not edited it with the exception of a couple of spelling fixes. The wildfires raging there were apparently set by an arsonist, according to authorities. The situation is dire, so please remember the country in prayer, most of all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I don't know if you are seeing reporting of the fires here in Australia. It the worst that has every hit our country. Because of the lack of rain, and also the last few weeks we have had temp. 43 Celcius (well over 100 degrees F), everything is dry. On Saturday it was 46 degress Celcius (which I have never heard of). Just going outside was unbearably hot! Reports of fires hit our TV screens and they are still burning out of control. Two townships have been hit the worst. There are about 180 reported dead. People just got caught because the fires spread so quickly. Those who escaped had only minutes to evacuate. Falling buring trees block roads so that families were trapped in their cars and they died. Many have died in their homes, and not all people are accounted for.

The township of Marysville is totally destroyed. There was a lovely Christian campsite there and our church was scheduled to go there in March, but it was burnt to the ground. There was a church group of 90 people there over the week-end, and within minutes they were told to evacuate. Praise the Lord that they all got out safely. There is also a report that at a Christian school - 8 children perished. It is so heartbreaking because many families and friends don't know what has happened to their loved ones. Police will not let anyone into the areas. The terrible thing is that many fires have been deliberately lit, and our government is treating the town of Marysville as a 'crime scene' and have stated that the arsonists will be seen on the same level as 'terrorists' who kill innocent people. They have arrested 2 people at this stage. But the heartache for the families continues as they hope to see their loved ones alive. There are hundreds in hospital with burns to their bodies, so the Red Cross was urgently appealing for blood donors. Our nation has been called to pray for rain, and the fires have now depleted our dams even more. If the wind changes direction then it could become even more devastating. So we are going though terrible times. It has been wonderful to see many Christians offer their support by comforting, bringing food and clothing, and pastor are counselling the hurting and the traumatised, especially the children.

Please pass this on for urgent prayer.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Propaganda Has Begun . . .

Not much time for a real post today, but this news story should raise your eyebrows sufficiently. Note the comment from a member of this particular Tennessee Unitarian/Universalist group that talk radio contributed to the shootings at his congregation by stirring up "hate for liberals."

The drumbeat has begun, and will increase. Soon they will be channeling the spirit of Joseph Goebbels to help them intensify their propaganda onslaught.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Surprise, Surprise!

So "Republican" senators Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter and Susan Collins defect to the Democrats on the wrongly-named "stimulus" package.

Why am I not surprised?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Persecution in America?

Word to the wise: In this post, I will be using theological terms that some casual readers might not understand. I am not going to take the time here to define everything, so if you don't know what something means, look it up or email me. I am primarily addressing this post to fellow Christians of my persuasion.

If you've been involved in media (or the watchdog section of Christian ministry) for a long time, you hear and see a lot of things. You get inundated with a whole boatload of information, facts, stories, rumors, innuendo, urban legends and outright misinformation (lies). The media itself, at least here in America, is supposed to be a watchdog on government. It is supposed to discern the difference between truth and fiction, fact and propaganda. A medium that refuses to do that and begins covering up for the government becomes nothing more than a Stars and Stripes version of Pravda.

It is vitally important for the sake of credibility not to pass on false information, or to gin up panic when there's nothing to a story. I am sure most of you have heard the jokes on talk radio about the "black helicopter" crowd or conspiracy kooks. Sometimes the stories are indeed wild and without foundation, and those who pass them on without either doing their best to check or without disclaimer deserve censure and skepticism. On the other hand, when there are things that surface that are legitimate concerns and the media ignores or covers it up, that indeed at best is an abandonment of their responsibility, and at worst, evil connivance.

Recently, a story broke on WorldNetDaily and other sites about legislation that some say allows for the setting up of detention camps here in America. The legislation was sponsored by Congressman Alcee Hastings (D) Florida, who in his prior judicial career was impeached and removed from the bench. I saw the text of the legislation myself in the Library of Congress archives, so this isn't just a wild story. But here's the rub. The intent of the legislation might be innocuous, or it might not be. The devil is in the details and the interpretation. The devil is in how the law would actually be used and implemented in the case of some national emergency. Would such legislation be used to shelter people in a disaster, or would it be used to round up, imprison and execute people the government found inconvenient? These are the questions being asked.

Implications -- Prophetic and Otherwise

Eschatology is something I don't discuss often on this blog, although it is covered quite often on my radio program. I make no claim to be a prophecy expert. Kevin Johnson, my co-host and president of the Institute for Christian Apologetics, is much more well versed in the minutiae of this subject. However, I do have core principles in this matter. I am firmly premillennial in my eschatology, but not necessarily pretribulational. I have never been able to arrive at a concrete stance on the timing of the Rapture of the church.

Let's do some surmising. Let's say that I am pre-trib, and believe that the church will be taken to Heaven before the Great Tribulation described in Revelation. By most accounts of premillennial scholars, that seven-year period of time will be the worst seven years in the history of the planet. But even if that is true, what is to say that the seven years (or whatever time) before the Great Tribulation won't be the worst ever up to that point? It's something worth pondering.

Why is it that we here in America think we're immune to persecution for our faith? Our nation has a wonderful heritage of freedom indeed, founded by men and women with a strong Judeo-Christian consensus. But we have seen that heritage steadily eroded, and both our federal and state governments become larger, more powerful and more bloated. We have seen the freedoms we enjoy slowly whittled away, although to most people it's imperceptible. We have also seen a growing hostility to the Christian values we believe in and advocate. Look at the hostility over California's Proposition Eight for an example. The long and short of it is that, yes Virginia, it can happen here. And faster than most people realize.

Since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, a whole series of executive orders have been on the books enabling the federal government to assume dictatorial control of everything in a national emergency. A national emergency can be declared with the stroke of a pen. Even way back during the Civil War in the 1860s, Abraham Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus, and appropriated money without the consent of Congress. Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, viewed Lincoln as a tyrant, hence his words, sic semper tyrannis , or "thus ever to tyrants."

Back in the opening days of our republic, the story is told of Benjamin Franklin being accosted by a woman who wanted to know what kind of government the Founders were giving America. He is said to have replied, "A republic, madam, if you can keep it." It's ironic, isn't it? A group of men who risked their necks during the Revolutionary War to free this nation from tyranny . . . a group of men who wrote a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution designed to put a curb and bridle on government . . . would surely tear their clothes in despair at seeing what has become of their "noble experiment."

My point thus far? Even if this detention camp legislation was a hoax or urban legend (and from what I can see, it's not) . . . even if declaring martial law in America is not the eventual intent of the current government . . . it doesn't mean it can't happen here. It can, and it just might, if things continue to deteriorate.

In all of this, what's a Christian citizen to do? What attitude ought we to have in the face of potential persecution and death for our faith?

I'll take that up in the next post.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

My, my, my!

It is truly a wonder that an international incident could arise out of a birthday greeting to a 100-year-old hymn singer -- theology aside.

Moral of the story: Next time you're tempted to say "happy birthday" to anyone, put a hand on your mouth and walk out the door. Doing so might get you stoned to death on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Schlafly on Obama and Saul Alinsky

Phyllis Schlafly is someone I've respected for a long time, although I believe she's Roman Catholic and that means I probably wouldn't agree with her on vital elements of theology. However, her political and social observations are often spot on, and her WND column today is a great example.

In it, Mrs. Schlafly exposes the ideas of "community organizer" Saul Alinsky, which have been key influences in Barack Obama's life. Alinsky's agitation methods played a major role in Obama's election, and will also play a major role in his administration getting what it wants.

Is the American public willing to open their eyes and see it?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Taxman

I couldn't help but think of George Harrison's song when watching the news today. What is this rash of tax problems in President Obama's appointees all of a sudden?

I'm trying hard not to indulge in schadenfreude, but it's hard.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Breitbart Vs. Hollywood

Every now and then, I come across a link that makes me chuckle. This one did it today. It seems Andrew Breitbart is a bit peeved with Hollywood celebrities.

We'll see how this goes over on the Left Coast.

Enter the Brave New World

A few passing stories of interest today. First, this little story out of Britain. If I didn't know better, I could mistake the UK's "green guru" for a Chinese communist party functionary. No one should be allowed to have more than two children, plus contraception and abortion to get rid of excess population. Just lovely, isn't it?

Next, we head down under. The Aussie PM wants a New World Order. Again, just lovely.

Last but not least, here at home. Some of the powers that be want to create detention centers through the National Emergency Centers Establishment Act. When you click on the Library of Congress link, just paste in the name of the act in the search area. I tried linking directly to it, but it expires too quickly.

With the election of Barack Obama and a very useful economic crisis -- engineered or not -- the far left and globaloney crowd are really feeling their oats. They are going to ram through as much as they possibly can, and most people are either too asleep or don't care enough to try and stop it.

And when they finally pull their heads out of the tar pit to look, it will be too late.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Happy B-Day, George Beverly Shea!

Over at his blog, Dan Phillips gives a shout out and happy birthday wishes to George Beverly Shea, who turns 100 today. And he's still singing for the glory of Christ!

Dan's got a feature linked where you can send greetings to Mr. Shea on this special day.