Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Romney: A Backlash Coming?

Not much time for a post today, so I draw your attention to this Newsmax article by CEO Chris Ruddy. He is predicting that Mitt Romney's slash-and-burn style of politics against Newt Gingrich and other Republicans will backfire. Big time.

We will see. I have already noted that Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment about not speaking ill of another Republican has been shattered. We are living in a very strange period in American history. The future of the country is at stake like it's not been since the Civil War.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Attacks on Christian Schools

Never thought I would see this in Arkansas—in the middle of the Bible Belt—but I am.

I'm talking about this disturbing report in the Christian Post, which says that a state agency wants to ban Christian pre-schools from having religious activities with enrolled children. Of course, the usual suspects are involved . . .

Last November, the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State accused the preschool of using state funding to promote religion, violating the First Amendment, and asked the state to investigate.

DHS sent an inspector to the school and discovered religious art on the walls, Bible study and Bible song sessions in the activity schedules, and a "Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian Flag" and "Pledge to the Bible" on the walls.

At first glance, our reaction is one of both outrage and wonder, since a Christian institution is expected to uphold Christian teaching. That's why most parents put their children in one. But the catch here is that this particular Christian school receives state funding. And therein lies the pit waiting to swallow its victims whole. When you take government funding, you have government strings.

Honestly, this whole thing gets very tiresome to me after a while. The argument that government funding (or better yet, the Constitution) mandates religious neutrality for anyone receiving government dollars (our dollars) is bogus. The Founding Fathers would have laughed at such a notion, and they ought to know what they meant when they wrote the Constitution. But such is the state of today's jurisprudence.

In the future, churches and other Christian agencies/schools will need to consider very carefully whether the precious tax-exemption and government dollars are worth the cost. Loyalty to Christ and loyalty to the Gospel ought to be the main driving factor. But how many will compromise out of economic interest?

It remains to be seen.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Seeing God . . . Or Not

It seems we go through spates now and then where people claim to have gone to heaven and seen God, along with all sorts of things in heaven—from the beautiful to the bizarre. 

I'll never forget one such book back in the late 80s or early 90s talking about seeing replacement body parts hanging from the wall to be sent here to earth for people who needed them. Um, yeah. 

I've got some views on that subject after some Bible study and prayer. My views might irritate a few people, but that's par for the course. Whatever the case, here is mine. As always, let's go first to God's Word to discern truth about our chances of physically seeing God and visions of heaven that we can come back here to tell the world on television, radio and magazines. 

First, let's go to Exodus 33, when Moses asked to see God's glory, God replied:

And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”

This is backed up in the New Testament too:

Joh 1:18* No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

1Ti 6:16* who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

The reason for this is that man in his sinful, fallen state cannot behold the spiritual face and glory of God unveiled. When God did appear in visible form to man after the fall, it was generally in the form of an angel, or in the account above, God hid most of His glory with His hand and Moses was only allowed to see His back. Even then, when Moses came down from the mountain, his face shone so brightly the people were afraid and Moses had to veil his own face until the shining dimmed. God also occasionally appeared in visions, which isn't like seeing Him directly face to face. Appearances of God in Scripture are called "theophanies."

The Lord Jesus is God the Son - God Incarnate, meaning God clothed in human flesh. Immanuel means "God with us." Here is what Scripture (Hebrews 1:1-3) says about Jesus:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.."

The disciples were given a glimpse of Jesus in His glory in what is called the Transfiguration. The verses are in Matthew 17 . . .

"Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and *led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”

Interesting that instead of telling them to go blab it right away, the Lord restricted them. The Transfiguration would have more resonance after the miraculous Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead.

One final thing to note: the Apostle Paul saw the Risen Christ, and at one point, he was taken to heaven in a vision. But he was forbidden by the Lord to reveal what he saw while there. In the context, he begins by saying "I know a man," but when you keep reading it's clear he was talking about himself. This is in 2 Corinthians 12:

"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows--was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak."

Paul even said that the Lord had give him a "thorn in the flesh" because of the greatness of the revelation - to keep Paul's sin nature from exalting himself.

To me, this is sort of the clincher with all these people claiming to have seen God face to face and having visions of Heaven. God's revelation to us in Scripture is His final Word, and if the Apostle Paul was forbidden to reveal what he saw, that makes me very skeptical of those who are out there writing books about it now and making television appearances. So many of these people reveal the bogusness of their stories when they say things that are completely UNBIBLICAL in the telling of their stories. 

Rest assured of this—God will never contradict His written Word. Never! 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Deadline at Dawn: Great One Liners

A brief diversion. If no one has ever seen "Deadline at Dawn" from 1946, it's a must see. Lots of film noir elements, but with hysterically funny lines, especially from Paul Lukas, who plays the cabbie/-co-detective in the film.

A smattering of lines: "The water evidently tasted good, so she jumped down the well." (Spoken to Lola Lane's dead character).

"Let us pause for station identification." (Spoken by Susan Hayward doing a double-take at something Bill Williams said)

"A kamikaze with hair on her head." (Lukas again, spoken to Lola Lane's corpse. He really didn't like the woman.)

"People with wax heads shouldn't stand in the sun." (Joseph Calleia to Jerome Cowan)

You've gotta see it. In glorious black and white, and lots of shadows. And a surprise ending.

Love? Is That All?

Today's post is a brief thought-provoker. It's about something that is so simple—yet so complex and multi-faceted in how it is lived out. But it still is pretty simple if we could only grasp it.

Most Christians know what the greatest commandment of God is. In case you don't know, here it is, given when someone asked the Lord a question about it . . .

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40). 

Did you notice that last sentence from Jesus? On those two commandments the WHOLE LAW AND THE PROPHETS DEPEND! 

Let's put it even more simply. If I love God, I will not want to do anything to wrong Him. Period. In fact, He said, "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

If I love you, I will not want to do anything to wrong you or anyone else. As the Apostle Paul puts it, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the Law." (Romans 13:10). 

Now, there is quite a bit of unpacking to do there, and how we live out that love day by day. And in this life, none of us do it perfectly. But it begins by having a saving relationship with Christ, believing that He died on the cross for our sins, and rising again from the dead for our justification. Only then, through His indwelling Holy Spirit and empowerment, can we truly begin to love as God loves. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

John Calvin an "Occupier?"

Every now and then, I encounter an article or report that simply leaves me speechless—at least until I get my breath back.

Today's stunner was revealed by the Institute for Religion and Democracy, a group that works toward reform in mainline churches that have gone astray from their biblical moorings. In this article published by IRD, they discuss Dr. Setri Nyomi's claim that John Calvin would have sympathized with the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Dr. Nyomi, by the way, is general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

As you'll see from the article, Dr. Nyomi really stretches the rubber band to the breaking point. While I would agree that Calvin would have been concerned about true economic injustices, I do not agree that he would have embraced Occupy's general economic theories or tactics. He certainly would never embrace liberal theology in any way, shape or form.

I am especially irritated at the way Dr. Nyomi describes Calvin as a man bound by the times in which he was living. In other words, because Calvin was alive in the 1500s and lived by the practices of the day, that explains his position on women being role-restricted in the home and in the church. In other words, Calvin held to a complimentarian position, not an egalitarian position.

Sorry. If Calvin was bound by anything at all, he was bound by Scripture. As he (and all of us) should be.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Under the Weather . . .So Solameanie Presents:

 . . . David Limbaugh, brother of Rush.

I haven't felt well since Sunday, but realize I need to get a post up. So I'd like to share these recent columns by David, the first of which highlights liberal columnist Maureen Dowd and her realization that Barack Obama isn't all they thought he'd be.

Next, David takes up something I noted earlier about Newt Gingrich. He will stand up and fight! Although he seemed to reel a bit last night in the Florida GOP debate. We'll see how Newt recovers in the days ahead.

Speaking of recovery, pray for mine. I really feel lousy.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Everyone's Talking and No One is Listening

I was in a Facebook discussion of sorts today with a friend who is a fellow Christian, yet falls on the far left end of the political spectrum. I, of course, am on the right and it's an election year.

After a few exchanges back and forth on the subject of liberal media bias and whether there was such a thing (as if any more documentation was necessary) I finally threw my hands up and posted this (minor edits to improve clarity):

What good would it do to offer you any quotes? I've done that in the past and it seems to me (perhaps I have Alzheimers) that when I do, you impugn the source. If I were to mention Brent Bozell and his media watch dog group, you would immediately slag it off as right wing propaganda much as I probably would raise my eyebrow if you were to post something collected by Move On or Air America.

As to the food stamp thing, I hear one thing and you hear another. I hear Republican candidates say they want to move people off of food stamps and into productive work—for them to have the climate where productive work i.e. good jobs will be available. In other words, wanting the best climate possible for those on food stamps (whatever the race) to be able to improve their condition and get OFF food stamps. You hear a racist rant and code words to hate blacks. I think we're at an impasse, quite frankly.

I don't care much for Gingrich, to be honest. I like Rick Santorum much better, and Mike Huckabee even better than Santorum. But Huckabee isn't running. I don't believe any of them are racists. To hear this accusation aimed at them is just as offensive to me as it is to those on the left when some Republicans accuse liberals of wanting to keep blacks on the plantation. When liberals accuse Republicans of wanting to bring back Jim Crow etc, that is every bit as bomb throwing. And here we are, at an endless back and forth of who can urinate the farthest. What good does it do?

I can already imagine the comeback, but I'm tired of the discussion. I'm tired of politics, and tired of such little interest in truth from all sides. No doubt this will come as a surprise if you've read my previous posts through the years on political matters, but something unusual is in the air, and in my psyche. I am truly getting sick of it all. Crosby Stills and Nash (liberals to the core) once sang something in their song called "Daylight Again" with which I agree completely . . . "when everyone's talking and no one is listening, how can we decide?"

Perhaps when the whole globe is burning, the politicians and their acolytes will be satisfied. There, rant over.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Politics: Bringing a Nerf Bat to a Knife Fight

As much as I insisted on trying to ignore the political after leaving radio broadcasting completely earlier this year, I can't stand it. Once a news director and political analyst, always a news director and political analyst.

Listening to the talking heads, some if not most are wondering how Newt Gingrich could surge in the polls after all of his personal baggage has been aired again—most recently with the damning interview given by Newt's ex-wife Marianne, as to his adultery and character.

If you're looking at a gut answer as to why Newt is rising, I'll give it to you straight. And my doing so is not an endorsement of Newt's character or theology. Not at all.

Newt is catching fire precisely because he is doing what the Republican rank and file have been begging from the establishment of the party for eons. "Give us a candidate who will FIGHT!"

Whatever his personal baggage, Newt Gingrich is not intimidated or fearful of his leftist, Democratic opponents. He is not afraid of using the Democrats' politics of personal destruction, scorched-earth tactics against them. Newt is not  afraid of a street fight. He won't bring a Nerf bat to a knife fight. When the Democrats (or whoever) decide to hit below the belt, Newt will return a knee in the groin, a backhanded chop to the Adam's Apple, and eventually disembowel any opponent he encounters in a debate with joie de vivre.

And that is what Republicans who are tired of being pinatas for the Democrats have been longing for. Someone who will actually fight back. And fight back with a vengeance.

Those of my generation will remember Congressman Bob Michel of Illinois. An honorable chap for the most part, but under his leadership in the House, it was more go-along and get along rather than fight for principle. We're tired of it. We're tired of falsely being called racists from the Alinskyites. We're tired of being told we don't have compassion. And we're tired of being called sleazy by people whose lives would have alleycats look virtuous in comparison. Tired through and through.

Point to be made in closing. Even as I say what I said above, as a practicing and believing Christian, I believe the truth will win out in the in when properly and forcefully told. I don't think one needs to resort to dirty or underhanded tactics to be successful. I write this strictly in the role of an analyst trying to make sense of the current political milieu. What I have often found is that the truth is hurtful and embarrassing enough. One doesn't have to hit low blows to bring it to light.

Of course, many on the left consider bringing the truth to light a low blow.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seventh Sola Flashback: Caning and Mr. Chips

I don't often go back and repost things I have written in previous years. But today I'm going to break that tradition, because one particular post I made back in 2008 continues to get comments to this day—and I find that fascinating.

I'm talking about this post on corporal punishment in British schools before it was outlawed. I had been watching the 1939 classic "Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which has a caning scene or two, so it got me curious about the subject.

As you will see from the comments section of that particular post, corporal punishment of any kind—whether it's in school or done privately in the home by parents—remains a hot button issue with many people. What I found even more funny that the first commenter in the meta thought I was the retired schoolmaster who wrote the article and accused me with finding some sort of pleasure or delight in inflicting punishment (I had made it clear in "Sola's Note" before the article that it had been written by someone else).

I also made it pretty clear in the meta discussion that I was not advocating the extreme of what the British public school system once employed (although, having said that and seeing some of the behavior I see these days, I might change my mind on that one).

So, just for grins, I am pointing back to that 2008 post again today. We'll see if the meta explodes again, unless total apathy has metastasized in four years.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Yes, but . . .

I honestly don't quite know what to do with this ongoing story/saga.

A young "spoken word artist" (is that another euphemism for rap or hip-hop?) has released a video called "I Hate Religion, Love Jesus. Many young "hip" evangelicals no doubt driven by Mark Driscoll's type of young hip evangelical love it, while others—especially non-believers or non-orthodox believers—have used it to bash the church at large.

To his credit, the video's creator, Jefferson Bethke of Tacoma, Washington (and a congregant of Mark Driscoll), came out strongly in a warning for people not to use this video to bash the church. That wasn't his intent . . .

If you are using my video to bash ‘the church’ be careful. I was in no way intending to do that...The Church is Jesus' bride so be careful how you speak of His wife. If a normal dude has right to get p****d when you bash His wife, it makes me tremble to think how great the weight is when we do it to Jesus' wife. The church is His vehicle to reach a lost word. A hospital for sinners. Saying you love Jesus but hate the Church, is like a fiancĂ© saying he loves his future bride, but hates her kids. We are all under grace. Look to Him.

I can agree with Mr. Bethke here, and I can say a hearty amen to many things in his video. But there are aspects of this whole thing that do make me very uncomfortable.

I don't think I need to rehash my position on Christians having potty mouths. We disobey the Lord (and His revealed Word in Scripture) when we cuss like sailors. To this day, Mark Driscoll has the reputation among some for being the "cussing pastor." And even if one isn't technically "cussing," there is an element of crudity and vulgarity that Christians are expected to eschew. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."

Some are concerned because of Bethke's criticism using the word "religion," which some define as man's way of dealing with the subject of Deity. The way Bethke and most evangelicals define religion, it is man's efforts to gain God's approval through his own efforts, rather than trusting in the means God has provided to deal with our sin—the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the dead for our justification. That's the simple, life-changing Gospel as defined by 1 Corinthians 15. There's a lot to unpack in there as to how the Gospel is lived out day-to-day, but the Gospel itself is so simple "even a child can understand it."

I think our chief worry (at least mine is) that people will approach this issue in a postmodern mindset and want to quibble about words, meanings, etc, when the plain meaning is as obvious as the nose on one's face.

Another concern expressed by others that I share regarding Bethke's video is the (perhaps unintended) notion that one can go on living their sinful old life unchanged—the Lord's forgiven you and accepted you as you are, so don't worry about it. You aren't expected to live up to anything. If that WAS his intent to express, I couldn't disagree more with him. That's antinomianism, and is heretical. We still have to obey Christ's commands as Christians. Obedience to His commands does not save us, but it proves we are His disciples. It proves we love Him and love one another. If I say I love the Lord, yet proceed to live an unchanged life like an unbeliever, how is that expressing and showing love for the One who said, "If you love Me, keep my commandments."

That includes watching your mouth.

Sola's note: Take a peek at this updated article the Christian Post. Seems like the guy's heart is in the right place, and he accepted correction very well.

Behaving Badly in Hollywood...Again

I suppose we should be thankful Ricky Gervais held his stinger in for the most part at this year's Golden Globes Awards. At least that's what the linked article indicates.

Having said that, you'll also note from the article that the evening was laced with penis jokes and the "F-bomb" on a few occasions. Am I surprised? No, I'm not. We've seen worse behavior at this and other awards shows in the past few years, and will probably see even worse as time marches on.

It would be interesting for me—if I could go back in time—to an Academy Awards dinner back when Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Olivia deHavilland, Joan Fontaine, Norma Shearer, Kay Francis, William Powell and Myrna Loy reigned supreme. Somehow, I have a hunch things would have proceeded as the Golden Age displayed on camera—with class and elegance.

Seems like the new crowd could learn a bit from their predecessors.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gingrich's Spiritual Tragedy

Newt Gingrich is making some news that will probably not be picked up by the mainstream news media. In this Christian Post article, Gingrich talks with South Carolina pastors about his spiritual journey.

I call this a spiritual tragedy for a few reasons. First, it's obvious that the young Gingrich had a lot of spiritual confusion from being bounced around from church to church as a child.

Second, he gets established in the Southern Baptist Convention, where one would presume that he was exposed to the biblical Gospel and thus hopefully would have become saved. The article hints at a potential issue when one of the churches Gingrich describes left the SBC—and I am assuming that this was due to the conservative-liberal battle within the SBC. If you remember, former president Jimmy Carter helped gin that up because he didn't like conservative Bible doctrine and interpretation. This led to the creation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship—basically a collection of moderate to liberal Baptist churches. Depending on the preaching and teaching Gingrich was receiving, this no doubt led to further confusion.

Then he ends up in Roman Catholicism—which I consider to be a false religion because it offers a false Gospel of works, no matter how much they deny it. Scripture teaches that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, with Scripture alone as our authority, and to God alone be the glory. Pope Benedict recently reaffirmed foundational Catholic belief that we evangelicals do not belong to "true churches." The Roman Catholic Church also still holds to the Council of Trent, which contains many "anathemas" against people who believe as evangelicals believe. So Rome isn't the innocent, picked-on party when we, as evangelicals, choose to defend ourselves and what we believe. Rome throws down the gauntlet, we respond accordingly.

Newt's tragedy is this—that he could reject the biblical Gospel and end up in the arms of Rome. And I have to wonder if any of those evangelical pastors in the meeting with Newt even challenged him on it. Newt himself will stand before the Lord and bear responsibility. But so will the preachers and teachers who might have helped out with Newt's spiritual confusion.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

More On The Taliban/Marines Controversy

I've been doing some more thinking this evening on the Marines/Taliban corpses controversy, and have one more point to make about it.

While not excusing the actions of this particular group of Marines alleged to have urinated on the corpses of Taliban fighters, I think we ought to review the record of the Taliban before engaging in too much hand-wringing. We can look no further than this CNN article documenting some of the horrific things done by these animals to their own people.

It seems to me that the Taliban's outrage (not to mention that of the Afghan government) is a bit misplaced. They ought to begin with themselves, and questioning what gives them the right to brutalize their people regardless of age. At least the fighters who got a little wet were dead and couldn't feel what was being done to them (We'll leave the subject of Hell aside for the moment). Not the case for the Taliban's victims. In light of this history, one can at least understand why some Marines might have done what they did, and even more the case if some of their buddies got killed at Taliban hands.

Having said all this, there is a code of conduct in the military, and it must be followed. We do have high standards of behavior and morality, and they ought to be upheld for our witness and example around the world. The Marines who did this (if in fact they were really Marines and this wasn't a staged incident) must be disciplined.

But the Taliban have very, very little about which to complain. If they were noble warriors instead of cowardly thugs who hide behind masks and civilians, I might feel a bit more sympathy.

Note: Here is an update on the situation. Looking grim.

Curious Timing and the Taliban

I sometimes wonder if having a suspicious mind is a normal part of the aging process.

I'm talking about this linked Reuters story regarding a video that purports to show U.S. troops urinating on the corpses of some Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Let me be clear. I have no doubts that terrible things happen involving troops during armed conflicts. Americans are human beings—outside of Christ, fallen human beings just like everyone else—and are just as capable of committing atrocities as any other human being. However, it is not the norm and not representative of American values.

In addition, American men, women and children are capable of being very stupid. And that is what bothers me about this particular incident. Were these troops really so stupid that they thought they could send a cell phone video to someone and not have it get out? This is the Internet age. This is the age where videos go viral, as is the case with this particular video. How could they be so dumb?

And the next question. Who posted the video online, and why? Were they so stupid not to realize that posting it could have serious international ramifications? If they were so concerned about these guys being punished, why not turn them in to military brass? Why post it in public where it could do the most damage, endangering the rest of our troops as well as our country's reputation? Maybe that was the idea, and if so, that's as reprehensible as the incident.

Of course, it's possible it was posted in the mindset of juveniles who laugh at passing gas. Think Beavis and Butthead as adults who haven't learned much. But it does seem very, very suspicious to me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Testimony Time . . . Or Not?

Addendum: I'm adding this preamble to the post below because I have performed some minor edits on it. Also, I think something needs to be said at the outset that I didn't say earlier today. I have tried to say it before, but I'll say it again because there will be many who are reading me on this stuff for the first time. 

The whole subject of tattoos in the church brings about an amazing amount of volcanic debate. There are those who hoist their flag completely in the arena of "Christian freedom," which does have a legitimate expression. There are those who hoist their flag in the arena of unabashed, ultra-fundie legalism, where having a tattoo is tantamount to having the Mark of the Beast. (Okay, that was for rhetorical effect, but you get the idea). My desire has always been to try and strike a balance, yet I probably fail in that effort. I want Christians—especially young ones—to think about what they're doing, especially things that will have lifetime ramifications. I want Christians to consider their testimony, and what message they are sending to the culture at large. A cavalier treatment or dismissal of Scripture does not advance the cause of Christ very well. 

One more thing. When I make posts such as this, they are not intended as personal attacks on the individual mentioned in the post. When something or someone is in the news, I comment on it and the issue in question. False teachers who ought to know better will get a sharper handling from me than those who are immature or untaught. I also do not expect non-Christians to act or think like Christians. However, we ought to expect Christians to act like Christians, and encourage one another to hold to high standards, not for our glory, but for our Savior. 

Now, here's the revised post . . .

Here we go again.

Fox News's website has yet another article discussing the purported Christian faith of young celebrities. As you'll see from the picture above, singer Justin Bieber made the news for his new Jesus tattoo, shown in the right-hand photo prominently on his leg.

You all know how I feel about tattoos, especially on the bodies of believers who are supposed to care about what God thinks. Just to repeat, I don't believe in a legalistic sense that having a tattoo will keep a Christian out of heaven. We aren't saved by works. We are saved by grace. But I think I can make a fairly strong biblical case that marking one's body displeases the Lord, who warned the children of Israel not to do it. They were to remain separate and distinct from the unbelieving nations around them, where the people often tattooed themselves as part of their idolatrous religious expression. God didn't say that one could tattoo as long as the tattoo was clearly representing Him i.e. YHWH, the God of the Bible. He just said don't do it.

Now, I can hear the challenges already. "Well, if you think it displeases God to have a tattoo, then you're accusing the tattooed person of sinning. You're a legalist." No, it would be more in the line of "all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable." (1 Corinthians 10:23) I would also counter that challenge by asking a question. If we do things that God has clearly commanded us not to do, is that sin?

Next will come the challenge of this being a situation where Christians aren't supposed to be under the Law of Moses. Several other Old Testament commands will get brought up, with the rapid fire questions to follow . . . "Are we allowed to do this? We're not supposed to do this either. Is this a sin today?" And so on.

And all of this misses the point that I am making, probably badly. I want people to THINK about what they are doing. I want people to THINK about WHY God makes certain prohibitions, whether in the Old Testament or the New Testament. He had His reasons. And even if you could make the technical case that you could get by with doing such and such, is it really a good idea? Is it really a witness? Or is it more truthful to say that it's just something that you want to do, and you'll find any argument under the sun to justify whatever it is you want to do?

I think we all wrestle with this. But, back to the tattoo and the related news story.

Regardless of all of these questions, many Christians are joyfully inking themselves up with abandon, thinking they're making such a bold witness for the Lord, or maybe for less spiritual reasons. Maybe they just think it's cool self-expression. Whatever.

Having said (or reviewed) all that, Justin's new tattoo and the quotes from other young celebrities is not actually the thing that grabbed my attention and spurred this post. It was this quote from Justin that jumped out at me . . .

"A lot of people who are religious, I think they get lost. They go to church just to go to church. I'm not trying to disrespect them, but for me, I focus more on praying and talking to him," Bieber says. "I don't have to go to church."

To be fair to Justin, I would need to know more of what he means by that statement. I would agree with him that many people are "Sunday go to meetin" types whose relationship with God is only lip deep. It's tradition and appearance, not a real relationship with God.

But what did he mean by "I don't have to go to church?" What does Scripture say on that subject?

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:23-25).

I don't know about you, but I take that as a biblical command that we are not to forsake assembling together with other believers to worship God, fellowship with one another, and to learn the Word of God to be equipped for ministry. Jesus said if you love Him, you are to keep His commandments. It's really a no-brainer. But instead, we have Christianity by cafeteria plan these days. Keep what you like, skip the rest.

Again, to give Justin the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he meant that just going to church doesn't make one a Christian. If that was his meaning, I agree wholeheartedly. But if he meant that going to church wasn't necessary, I disagree emphatically. And so does God's Word.

In fact, I would say that biblical illiteracy is the scourge or cancer of this generation of believers, and when I say "generation," I don't mean just the young, like Justin. I am talking about this generation of believers currently alive.

A Bible verse that I love says, "I will hide Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Nowadays, we use the Bible to look for loopholes, to reinterpret or misinterpret it, or to argue its meaning in postmodern fashion. We don't seem to want to read it, exposit it, memorize it, or worse yet, actually obey it.

Maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon. Then again, maybe I'm not too far off target.

A postscript to this post: I was reading how Justin is handling some of the attacks that come his way, and thus far, he's been pretty charitable and Christian in his response, because there have been many who have been outright ugly. So kudos to him on that, along with a friendly caution on a statement he made in the media about Michael Jackson's lyrics being always clean. Um, no. He's dropped the F-Bomb in a song or two, and several are clearly sexually suggestive, including his videos. So Michael wasn't the Patron Saint of Disney Bubblegum.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Skipping Record of Politics

I suppose I am dating myself by referring to skipping records.

Yes, I mean the vinyl discs that used to be sold in music stores, and you'd take them home and play them on record players. Nothing annoyed an LP record audiophile more than a skip on a record. There was little chance of repairing a skip, so you'd have to go buy a new album.

Having said all that, I'm going to be the skipping record today and chime in on something countless people say each and every political season.

I am sick of the nasty, frivolous attacks waged by both sides of the political spectrum, whether it's in a debate or via commercials.

Why can't candidates for office simply lay out their positions on issues, and then fairly and honestly critique their opponents' views, and say where they believe their opponents are mistaken. Then articulate why their views are superior to those of their opponents and why they would work more effectively. Skip the gloom and doom ads with the mushroom clouds, narrators putting on their most histrionic or damning tones of voice, not to mention the lies, distortions, damned lies and lying figures. Skip the cheap shot personal attacks in debates or in media appearances. They only show the lowness of the person delivering them.

Case in point—the infamous snotty remark by the late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) aimed at Vice President Dan Quayle in the vice presidential debate in 1988. Quayle had been taking flack over being too young for the presidency, and Quayle was attempting to point out the parity of ages between he and John Kennedy when Kennedy became president. What did Bentsen say? "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." The audience howled, and a stunned Quayle could only say, "Senator, that was completely uncalled for."

It was a classless, gutless attack. If I had been Quayle, I would have retorted, "You're correct, Lloyd. I am no Jack Kennedy after all. My wife knows where I am at night." That would have brought the house down and rubbed Bentsen's nose in his own effluent.

But, that's remembering some of my own outrage in wishing this kind of bovine fecal matter would stop. It's childish. It's cheap. It's unintellectual. It's devoid of principle. It is a disservice to the country. It feeds a media only intent on the show and not to do what's best for the country.

I know some will argue that nastiness has been part of politics as long as there have been politics. Maybe. And I have to confess—in my younger years I'd cheer at a sharp put-down along with the rest and gloat when a campaign ad would put down a candidate that I opposed.

But I hope I have matured somewhat sense then. Now I hate it. I hate it with a passion. And I'm beginning to wish the American body politic would begin punishing candidates who engage in it, and DEMANDING that they deal with issues in a fair, dialogue-friendly manner. And then give the American electorate credit for having enough intelligence and discernment to figure out who makes the most sense and who is worthy of office. As an aside, we'll have to have a few media takeovers first, or at least to make the media pay by losing advertisers for not being fair and objective.

We can start with complete reform of debates. These events today are not debates. They are glorified press conferences, and the media controls what gets asked and what questions get their 60 seconds of soundbite. Back to the Lincoln-Douglas format, and the media can go jump in the lake. Plus, let's drag the public to watch by scruffs of their necks, and make them pay attention and use their brains.

I can dream, can't I?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Lines in the Nuclear Sand

A rather interesting statement by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta over the weekend. He said that Iran "developing a nuclear weapon" would be a "line in the sand," in addition to Iran attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz. That statement goes along with this AP article on the subject of Iran enriching uranium.

This leads me to wonder something. I hate it when I wonder things. But here goes my wondering as I wander.

If Iran develops a bomb, isn't it a bit late to draw a line in the sand? If Iran has a workable nuclear explosive, isn't it reasonable to assume that they would detonate it if we attacked? They don't need to have an intercontinental ballistic missile to make an enormous mess.

I am far from being a war hawk. Like most Americans, I am tired of the U.S. getting involved in every conflict around the globe and having to be the policeman of the world. At the same time, I am also not naive. The world is a dangerous place, and there are plenty of people out there who despise America. They would love nothing better to see America destroyed. In fact, Mr. Achtungdinejad has already made that feeling crystal clear.

If there ever was a reason to act, this is it. Preferably in concert with other nations, but alone if need be. We do not need to have mullahs with nuclear weapons. It's bad enough Pakistan has nuclear capability. That should have been stopped, but it wasn't. And who knows where unstable Pakistan will end up in the days ahead. Let's hope the India card can help restrain things.

Like it or not, folks, the nuclear genie is out of the bottle. Let's just hope and pray no one says "Shazam."

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Pray for Pastor Chuck Smith

Please take some time today (and on an ongoing basis) to pray for Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel fellowships.

It came out this week that Chuck has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Fellowship in Riverside, CA (a member of the Calvary Chapels), is going to interview Chuck before his scheduled surgery to remove the lung tumor.

While I never had the opportunity to attend the original Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA, when I lived out there in the early 80s, I did visit Greg Laurie’s church in Riverside and enjoyed the fellowship. Many of those who came of age in the “Jesus Movement” days will remember Chuck and his “father figure/mentor” status with many of the early contemporary Christian music groups back in the late 60s and early 70s. Remember Love Song, Mustard Seed Faith, The Way, Honeytree, Paul Clark, and a host of others? The list could go on and on. I’m thankful for the impact of Chuck Smith on the lives of so many, and for all who have been brought to Christ through his ministry, and through those who came to faith through his preaching.

A word about doctrinal issues. The Calvary Chapels are a very low-key, charismatic fellowship, typically emphasizing Bible teaching and preaching more than sign gifts, even though the practice of sign gifts is allowed. The day I attended Harvest, I might have well been attending a Baptist church with contemporary music. The preaching was thoroughly biblical and no sign gifts were in evidence on that day. The Chapels are also typically Arminian in emphasis.

I might not be in agreement with every jot and tittle of theology, but this is a prayer request for a brother in the Lord who has been a faithful preacher of the Gospel for many years.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Colson on the Cult of Celebrity

The cult of celebrity . . . my, that's an easy target. But what a target!

In this Christian Post article, author and Prison Fellowship head Chuck Colson takes up the subject of celebrity cults, and especially the version of them that some have created within the church.

This has been going on for quite some time, and I'm afraid that it's only accelerated in recent years. It's not just movie stars and musicians now. Nationally-known pastors have almost acquired rock star status, much to the detriment of their ministry, and as Colson points out, eventually their own walk with Christ.

I have told this little story before, but I'll share it again because it's so relevant. A large local church in my environs used to have an old, huge wooden pulpit up on the platform before the plexiglass skinny podium and now, couch, became popular for platform settings. When the preacher of the day would get up to deliver his sermon, he would see before him this little, engraved metallic plaque affixed to the lectern where he would place his Bible and notes:

"Sir, we would see Jesus."

Colson's warning is one that we'd best not forget, while always remembering the message of that little sign.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Review: The World Tilting Gospel

One of my chief regrets these days is the lack of time to read. I have a library literally overflowing with books just begging to be picked up and read, but instead I run around like the proverbial headless chicken. But this one I was determined to not only read, but also finish AND review.

I'm talking about one of two new books by Dan Phillips—his first—called "The World Tilting Gospel." I had become acquainted with Dan through his well-written, well-thought-out blogging with Phil Johnson over at Pyromaniacs. In addition to his blogging there, Dan also maintains his own blog, Biblical Christianity.

This is a book that is sorely needed. Today's evangelical church is becoming more known for losing a biblical worldview than it is for maintaining one. Generations of self-professed Christians have a hard time even understanding the Gospel, and all of its implications. Don't get me wrong—the Gospel and its implications are wondrous enough that even long-term, dedicated believers will always find new riches within its depths—but we're talking basics here. What is the Gospel, what does it mean, and what does it do? Those are the salient questions.

The World Tilting Gospel drew me in immediately—right from the outset. Dan's introduction to the book is good enough on it's own, and spot on enough, to serve as a stand-alone even without the rest of the chapters. Here's the clip that got me on my feet:

"The first Christians didn't have any power base whatsoever. They didn't control the local media. They had no big name celebrities giving concerts with two-minute "testimonies" at the end. They didn't have massive popular numbers. They didn't have PR firms shining their image. 

They didn't have lines of clothing, entertainment, or holy hardware. They didn't even own buildings. Their assemblies could mostly be contained in people's houses. They didn't control any institutions—religious, educational or political. They didn't have money, equipment, or rapid-transport vehicles. They couldn't even have Twitter! 

Yet they created something like blind panic virtually everywhere they went. How did they do it?"

Wow. By this time I could have been on my feet yelling and cheering as if I were at a football game, and I hate football. And I wasn't even out of the introduction! I kept stumbling across further phrases that grab you by the throat and rattle your cage—lovingly, of course. People thinking of the Lord as "co-signer instead of Savior." Grasping the "transformative implication of the Gospel." The folly of self-diagnosis. One line that had me in a belly laugh was a reference to John Calvin's "Institutes" as "brain jerky" for theologians. But it really was intended for devotional purposes.

But there's more to the book than the introduction. Dan's point, or I should say, one of many fine points, is that today's professing church isn't turning the world upside down as did the early church. It's not professing and living out a "world-tilting Gospel." Dan's intent is to help us rediscover, relearn and live out the wonderful, life-changing, glorious truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dan lays out his case like a master builder, beginning at the beginning. If you don't believe the opening pages of the Bible, why are you going to take the rest of it seriously. There is far more in the Bible's account of the fall of man than most realize. The implications and reality are enormous. The cataclysm of the fall will take something far more powerful to deal with its consequences. And God had the solution already in mind—the world-tilting Gospel.

From there, we are taken step-by-step through biblical history, but also some surprising introductions. We get introduced to the biblical God. What a concept! But the introduction is necessary, because this generation doesn't have a clue of who He really is, His character, His love, His justice, or of His purpose. We are introduced again to Jesus, who is God Incarnate.

Then we get to the heart of the matter—what is the Gospel and what does it do for us? It should not only "tilt" us, but we also ought to be out "tilting" the world with it. It's that glorious. Far more than fire insurance, the Gospel is transformative. Completely transformative. If we would only grasp it, believe it, and live it. God had this plan laid out meticulously from before the beginning. Jesus Christ Himself is the center of the plan. As Dan puts it . . .

"For, you see, the Bible is clear that the miserable, lonely death of the Son of God was absolutely necessary for the recovery and redemption of men and women. If such extreme measures were an absolute necessity—and they were—then the ruin from which we needed to be rescued must have been far worse, and far more comprehensive, than many imagine. As we are about to see, the cross of Christ underscores the truth of what we just learned about man, and our need for what we are about to learn.

From there, Dan walks us through, step by step, through the magical mystery tour of what God Incarnate did on that cross—dying for our sins, rising from the dead for our justification, and most wonderful of all, being able to declare as righteous all who believe. The wonder and NECESSITY of being clothed in the righteousness of Christ, because we have none of our own.

After covering that ground, Dan begins taking apart some of the things that render churches and individual Christians ineffective in proclaiming and living out that glorious truth. And seriously, each chapter hits right between the eyes. But don't misunderstand. Dan is not writing in the vein of someone intent on disemboweling the reader. He is not condemning, but convicting. There is a difference. This is steel wrapped in velvet. But it's a hunk of steel that we need to grasp and hold on to like a precious metal.

I don't want to give away too much. I want you to go out and buy the book. Buy lots of them and give them to friends. Do all you can to get it into your church library. And I'm about to say something that might shock those who know me well, because I don't do this very often when it comes to Sunday school materials.

Get it for your Sunday school classes!

Yes, Joel just said that. I've never been a huge fan of studying with books other than the Bible in church. We have an entire generation of Christians growing up biblically illiterate. We need to be studying God's Word and hiding it in our hearts. I usually tell people to throw the curriculum books and other men's books out, and pick up the only book that really matters—the Bible. Study it and learn it. Front and back, backwards and forwards. Keep other books for personal amusement, but let's study God's Word in church.

I am making an exception here. I believe The World-Tilting Gospel is that important a book for this generation. When reading it, keep a Bible alongside because you will be using it. Dan's book will help make sense out of things that even those who have been years in the faith have difficulty grasping. And for those new to the faith, it will help them—in most user-friendly fashion—understand what God has done for them through His eternal plan.

The World-Tilting Gospel should be available through most Christian bookstores. It is published by Kregel, and can also be obtained via Amazon.

Sola's note: Dan also has a new book on Proverbs. More on that later.