Friday, September 28, 2012

Bread, Circuses, and Pushing the Envelope

By now, many will have heard that a man shot himself to death on live Fox News television this afternoon. It was during Shepard Smith's Studio B program.

When it became obvious the man put a gun to his head, Shepard to his credit began yelling, "Get off it, GET OFF IT!" But the tape delay didn't work or something, and the man pulled the trigger on himself on live television. Shepard grimly apologized to the audience after they came back from the immediate break they took.

After I had a chance to mull it over and collect my thoughts, I wanted to say something about this before it becomes forgotten in the 24-hour news cycle. This disturbs me a lot. I am a former news director, anchor and reporter on radio. Thankfully, radio can't "show" things except audio. The television I have done has been limited to school, being interviewed and once on a political panel.

My cynical side wants to take over and run. There is a part of me—knowing our culture and knowing how today's media strive to constantly one-up each other—that wonders if some of these "accidental" airings of something gruesome are really all that accidental? The media and the entertainment industry is constantly pushing the envelope to outdo the other in terms of outrageousness and what they can get away with—all in the name of ratings and getting more viewers. I sincerely hope that's not what is happening here. I doubt it, but that little warning klaxon in my head is making its presence known. God forbid. However . . .

The photo you see is of the famous Roman Coliseum. It is a place where people went to watch other people die for entertainment. Gladiators fighting to the death. Christians being eaten by lions. You name it. The gorier, the better. And often before the Emperor, who acted as emcee.

Let me clue you in on something. Human nature has not changed since the days of the Coliseum. Not one whit. There are people who still get tremendous enjoyment out of watching the macabre, the gruesome and the cruel. We are increasingly a voyeuristic culture. And such voyeurism only gets worse when it's fed.

I am praying more fervently than ever for our country. I really don't like the direction we're going.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Clearing up Christians and Divorce

For obvious, biblical reasons, the subject of Christians and divorce is always a difficult, controversial one. God Himself says in Scripture . . . I hate divorce (Malachi 2:16). When you take that and the whole counsel of God in His Word together, divorce should certainly never be a first option among true Christians.

Having said that, we know that all of us as believers are still capable of falling into sin, and divorce is no exception. A divorce among a Christian couple does not happen unless one or both parties is in some sort of sinful behavior/attitude. And more often than not, both parties have blame to share.

But that's not really the point of my post today. I want to share with you this Christian Post article on the subject of Christians and divorce. The enemies of Christianity love to throw statistics out there and claim that divorce is just as high, if not higher, among Christians as it is the non-Christian world. The Gospel Coalition has done yeoman's work in clarifying that issue and righting a somewhat skewed statistic.

For Christian couples having problems, I pray sincerely for forgiveness and reconciliation—and repentance where repentance is due. And trust me. The need will be there.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Come Ye Thankful People

No politics or theological controversies today. Just a thankful heart.

As most people know, the Midwest and much of the key agricultural areas of the U.S. have been in an extreme drought this summer. Entering into fall, it hasn't been looking much better. We are getting a bit of rain in northern Illinois today, for which I am thankful.

The two lovely quart mason jars you see to the right are full of freshly made salsa with tomatoes, peppers, cilantro etc. out of my garden. The garden didn't do too well this year in some things. The spinach didn't come up. The carrots didn't grow. The potatoes were sparse. The radishes were too hot to eat. The corn produced better than I expected, but due to illness in the family, we forgot about it in the refrigerator and it molded before we could get it processed. But we did get a couple of meals out of it before that happened.

The bright spots were the zucchini and cucumbers, which were prolific. The lettuce was plentiful early on. And the tomatoes really produced, much to my surprise. I don't know if the drought had anything to do with it (and we did water), but the flavor was much more intense than usual, and when canned—either just plain tomatoes or in salsa form as above—the deep red color was/is just gorgeous!

Times are getting harder. Mom and I are having to tighten the belt and try to be much more careful with our money and resources. We canned as much as we could. It's kind of sad because canning seems to be increasingly a lost art. My generation and younger basically says, "I don't have time for that stuff," or "Why waste time with that when I can go to the store and get it." They'll never learn that food tastes so much better when you've grown it yourself and worked to produce it, with prayers for God's abundant blessing. As always, whether we're talking about souls or produce, "He causes the growth."

So, folks, I am thankful. There were plusses and minuses, but we managed to gather far more than I thought we would. God is good. Come ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home. All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin."

Life is so much better when we have thankful hearts, even if we don't have much. God provides and takes care of His own. Sometimes I think many of us don't have greater abundance because we couldn't handle it. We'd begin depending on ourselves instead of on the Lord as He intends for His people. May it never be in my life.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

No. Just. No.

The "flag" below is being put out by the Obama campaign. I personally find it enormously offensive. Not to mention being a violation of the U.S. Flag Code. But Obama has shown repeatedly that he cares little for things like that. And another disturbing thing. If you've been seeing these celebs and their "Pledge to Obama," I would think (and hope) that many would find that just a bit eerie. Wake up, America!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Married Jesus? Again?!?

I am not going to waste a lot of time and energy on this story hitting the media at the moment. Some Harvard professor is revealing an ancient document probably from the 4th Century stating that the Lord Jesus had a wife.

Been there, done that. Over and over again across church history. It keeps coming back like gum or dog doo doo on your shoes. Aside from being 400 years after Christ walked the earth, the linkage to the Gnostics ought to open a few eyes or at least raise a few eyebrows.

Scripture does not reference the Lord having a wife. With one exception. And here it is:

The only "bride" the Lord has is the Church—the body of Christ. But some folks can't be content with that simple biblical truth, and they will go to amazing lengths to create a Jesus of their own imagination.

Gnosticism never went away. Antinomianism never went away. Most if not all of the errors fought by the Lord Himself, and by Him through the Apostles and writers of Scripture are still around stinking up the place, albeit with different disguises from time to time. We are warned in Scripture repeatedly about false teachers and false doctrine. We are warned over and over again, and yet each generation manages to find a way to ignore the warning and fall for the error.

It does get tiresome.

Addendum: Fox News just published this little update. Some scholars are a bit skeptical, to put it mildly.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

If It Were Only Cops and Robbers...

The photo to your left was borrowed from today's Drudge Report. It was taken at one of the never-ending Palestinian demonstrations in Gaza or the West Bank.

Now, if this were simply a shot of a little boy playing "Cops and Robbers" or "Cowboys and Indians" as we used to do when little, I don't think most would pay it much mind. It was only a game, and we kids knew it was a game. We had no intention of really going out and shooting or killing anybody. But this photo is in a bit of a different context in the rancorous Middle East where hatred of Israel and anything Jewish is near-pathological.

No, these children are not playing cops and robbers. Many of them are taught from their earliest days to hate and eventually kill Jews, the hated "occupiers" of Arab/Palestinian land and the "oppressors" of their people. It's drilled into them like a catechism. And when they get big enough, many of them act out on it.

It's sad. Beyond sad. And those who are responsible for teaching children to hate and kill will be held directly accountable by the Creator Himself.

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea (Mark 9:42).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Don't Forsake the Assembly

The church of Jesus Christ is under considerable pressure these days. The type of pressure is different depending on where you're at around the world. Here in America, the whole concept of "church" is being debated again—namely, how we as individual members of the Body (or Bride) of Christ relate to one another, and what is the relationship of the individual believer to the church corporate. 

Because of apostasy, or abusiveness in some church fellowships, more and more are turning to house churches or home fellowships. That in and of itself is not necessarily unbiblical. The picture to your right is a ruin of an early "house" church from a time where believers met in homes instead of cathedrals or church buildings as we know them today. 

From my study of Scripture, I don't believe that "going to a local church building" per se is necessary—IF no local, Bible-preaching, Bible-teaching church body was around. That "IF" is a pretty significant qualifier. Obviously, new church plants or very small bodies of believers that meet together have no building typically until they are large enough to either rent or put up their own building to meet. I have no problem with house churches, as again, those were the norm in New Testament times. We may end up back in those if apostasy continues to spread, or persecution of the church intensifies. 

Be Careful Not to Throw Accountability Out the Window!
Having said the above, I would caution that the New Testament pattern is pretty clear that bodies of believers ARE expected to gather together in local churches (assemblies), and those local churches are to have appointed leaders/elders in them after they are formed. Scripture tells us that the Apostle Paul sent Titus to "appoint elders in every city." The reason we have buildings today is largely for convenience, as a church grows and needs a place large enough to accommodate people. As an aside, there is also an inherent suspicion culturally of any group that meets without any obvious tie to a known church or Christian fellowship. But don't get hung up on the building. Accountability and authority are the chief concern. We're not supposed to be "lone rangers." 

A growing problem in the American church is an increasing tendency to "go it alone" (especially if someone has gotten in trouble for some reason within a local fellowship). There is a real reluctance to truly be accountable to pastors and elders in a local church, and in my view, that is a completely unbiblical attitude. Those who have a rebellious attitude toward leadership will often refer to the church as being "cult-like and controlling." People who have come out of true cults often react that way in a knee-jerk fashion. True biblical leadership is not like that at all, and isn't supposed to be, although there will be times it is necessary to exercise authority, especially with those in unrepentant sin or those who are causing division in the body. There must be biblical balance. 
Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus (the pastoral epistles), as well as the Apostle Peter - model the type of godly leadership that should exist in a church. But even these godly models in the church will still have to exercise authority and discipline as the occasion warrants, as was the case in Corinth. In recent years, I have actually heard of people suing the church if the church dares to be biblical and exercises discipline in any way. Because of these types of occurrances, many churches are willing to overlook sin in their midst instead of dealing with it as Scripture commands. 

Things to Remember About Discipline
Sometimes, church discipline is necessary. But there is a biblical truth about church discipline often lost these days. The main purpose of ANY church discipline is to be restorative both to God and to fellowship in the church. It's to be redemptive and corrective, if it is indeed biblical church discipline. However, if a church uses discipline to be abusive and controlling, that is sin on the church leadership's part. The Bible lays out the clear pattern to be followed. 

These are difficult days for Bible-believing Christians who love the Lord, love the church, and love the Word of God. Lots of congregations have fallen away from their first love, while others have fallen into total, outright apostasy. But we have to remember that the church - our brothers and sisters - is the Bride of Christ. Christ's Bride is precious to Him, and He has promised to present her without spot or blemish. We need to seek to build the body up, not tear it down. 

None of us are - or will be - perfect in this life. That includes church "office holders" as well as the so-called "laity." But we must strive humbly and prayerfully to organize our lives around the biblical pattern God has left us. If we depart from it, trouble surely awaits. And the church risks having the Lord "remove its lampstand." (Revelation 2:5)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beatles at the "Ridge

I wish I had remembered about this sooner, because the event is taking place this weekend.

Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, is the home region of my family, although it's technically a bit more complicated. They're all Arkansas born and bred, but Walnut Ridge/Hoxie (they're twin, bordering cities) was where they largely settled down.

They had a very brief moment with the Beatles on tour, as you'll see from the article. They flew on briefly at the Walnut Ridge airport back in the early 60s. Although they didn't play in "the Ridge," they did fly out of the airport again when their holiday in Missouri was over, and spent a bit of time with fans. Walnut Ridge is on the so-called "Rock and Roll Highway," U.S. Route 67. It's called that because so many early rock figures like Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and others traveled that highway often to get to gigs.

Walnut Ridge has built a little tourist attraction themed on the Beatles brief visit, and the Rock and Roll Highway. Do stop by if you're driving through the area. It's a great little area if you like peace and quiet, good fishing, friendly folks, the nearby scenery of the Ozarks, and a host of other attractions. The food is great too, if you like Southern cooking. And I do.

Monday update: Here is an update from KAIT on the celebrations.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Heart of Fallen Man

This lovely little picture to your left is not Photoshopped. It was taken outside last week's Democratic National Convention in North Carolina. A small little dose of what that event had to offer, but the news media didn't show you too much of it. Nice of them to censor the truth, wasn't it?

As much as this grieves me, I am not surprised. Some words from Jesus to us—His followers—will explain why I am not surprised at this ugly display . . .

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My Word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, 'They hated Me without a cause.' (John 15:18-25).

Folks, I've said it before and I'll say it again. Things are going to get very, very ugly before the return of the Lord. And when the Son comes, will He find faith on the earth?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rattling, and Rattling, and Rattling!

I don't know about you, but watching the Republican and Democratic National Conventions almost killed me this year.

Maybe it wasn't just the Conventions. I'm pretty sure listening to all the talking heads telling us what was said, how it was said, what was meant, what was not meant, and what was really said no matter what was said got to me. If your head isn't spinning by reading that last sentence, good for you!

As a former radio news director, anchor, reporter, announcer etc, I have followed politics for a long time. When I was still active in the business, I really did do my best to be fair and balanced long before Fox News ever came up with that branding idea. It's how I was trained.

When I left secular radio and went into Christian broadcasting, I had a little more editorial freedom, but editorials are precisely where my opinions stayed. In my actual news broadcasts, I stuck to the way I was trained—give both sides equal say, and let the listeners make up their own minds.

Now that I am no longer earning a living in the field, I feel I can now be as partisan and opinionated as I like. But that doesn't mean I want to be purposely unfair, misleading, or ugly in expressing my views. That would, of course, be counter to what I believe as a Christian. Do I reflect my heart's desire perfectly? No. I often fail and fall short of Christian civility. I'm working on it.

Anyway, as I said earlier, I've followed the political world for a long time. I don't believe I have ever seen a campaign filled with this level of anger and vitriol. Despite official calls for "civility," the ones doing the loudest braying over civility are the ones showing the most hostility. It really is getting tiresome. Crosby, Stills and Nash (political opposites of me) actually got it right in "Daylight Again" when they sang . . . "Everyone's talking and no one is listening. How can we decide?" Can everyone just shaddap for a while?

I don't know how this contest between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will finish. I used to be fairly good at predicting the outcome of elections, but not any more. The country has changed too much. And not in a good way. Quite frankly, I find it frightening.

I am not happy with any of the candidates, if I were evaluating them strictly through a theological lens. But leaving theology aside, the choices really are stark. They couldn't be starker. Do we want European-style socialism and its inherent debt, malaise and erosion of personal freedom and responsibility, or do we want to hold on to what has made America unique in the world? Will we hold on to our core founding principles, or will we flush them down the commode for the mirage security of a government benefit? Will we pursue policies that will lead to eventual economic recovery, or will we keep spending wildly until our economic house falls like someone's playing 52-card pickup?

What will be the final decree of God? He "establishes kings and removes kings" according to His Word (Daniel 2:21). He judges nations. Sometimes severely.

My own viewpoint? If this country keeps on its present course and returns Barack Obama to the White House—and keeps the Senate in the hands of Harry Reid—America will get precisely what she deserves. And I say that with absolutely no sense of schadenfreude. I have to live here too, you know.

And that's no guarantee that Mitt Romney will fare any better if he obtains the levers of power. We may be too far gone. I hope and pray not. I know God can work miracles, and that He is full of grace and mercy. I pray for that daily. For me, and for us all. I pray for national repentance. In the long run, that is the only thing that will really pull America out of the fire.

P.S. If you're wondering what "rattling" means, it's an old Southernism for too much talking, prattle and chatter. Parents used to tell their over-talkative kids - "Hush that rattlin!"

Monday, September 03, 2012

Too Many Books

I still haven't gotten to the hypocrisy post yet, and wonder if I need bother since some of the conservative blogs have dealt with it. We'll see. But right now, I don't have time and I'm not in the mood. I'd rather kvetch about something else.

I have books. Lots of books. I should post a picture of my study. I don't have room for them all, and I've been procrastinating about building another shelf for the ones piled up on the already full shelves.

I have a quandary. There are many books on my shelves that are worthy volumes to peruse. Some are not so worthy. Some have great theology, and others have horrendous theology. I have the discernment to know the difference, and I keep those horrendous volumes for reference in the event I have to deal with the theological error in question.

But I have no children. I am a bachelor. One of these days, I will assume room temperature unless the Lord returns and translates me to Heaven as is His promise for "all who alive and remain" at His Second Advent. If that happens, what will those who have to dispose of my few earthly possessions do with all these books? And given that the majority of my family do not share my evangelical faith, I would hate to leave behind a book that might mislead them into thinking I endorse what's in it.

A former ministry colleague used to have a stamp for his books like that: "Contains Heresy. Do Not Believe." Maybe that's the solution. I suppose I could have a bonfire out back, but there is just some visceral reaction I have against burning books. Martin Luther said once that if he could be shown his teachings were unbiblical, he'd be the first to cast them in the fire. I sympathize completely. I'd hate to stand behind everything I've written since I could put pen to paper. It's all the more important when eternal matters are at stake.

But when you are in apologetics ministry, original resource is often vital to make your case about the heretical teachings of a cult or false religion. When it's in their own writings, they can't tell people you're making it all up.

And there's always the issue of having to move. I will not be able to maintain this house and property forever. It already tires me out and I don't have the time to care for it as I'd like even now. Just the thought of boxing all those books up and carrying them out to a truck, up stairs and down stairs. AAUGH!

I got myself into this, and I'll have to get myself out of it.