Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pre New Year's Ramblings

As this gets posted on mid-morning New Year's Eve, I will spare you any resolutions about being a more regular blogger. My life right now simply doesn't provide the time and space for daily, or even sometimes weekly, posts.

Usually, I'll put up a simple "Happy New Year"  - sometimes with a spiritual application, sometimes not. This time, I want to end 2013 with a passage from Dr. Harold Lindsell's timeless "The Battle for the Bible." We will see the battle for the Bible continuing into 2014, and until Jesus comes to gather His own. But as I've been rereading Lindsell for the umpteenth time, a particular passage leapt out at me because Lindsell addresses an issue that's always bugged me enormously. And that is the lack of integrity involved when people sign on to a doctrinal statement that they don't really believe, and seduce the church or theological school of which they are a part.

In "The Battle for the Bible," Dr. Lindsell documents numerous places within denominations and theological schools where drift has begun and the battle has been enjoined. Keep in mind, this book was written in the mid-1970s, and Dr. Lindsell has gone on to glory. In this passage, Lindsell discusses the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod—long a stalwart for holding on to essential truth on the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. More specifically, he addresses a statement by Lutheran Paul Bretscher about inerrancy. Read closely . . .

Since Luther and the Synod both agree on the principle sola Scriptura, are not the opponents of biblical inerrancy wrong when they refuse to believe what Scripture teaches about itself? What the Missouri Synod has done in its Brief Statement of 1932 is not something new; it has been part and parcel of the Synod's views since it was founded in the United States. Bretscher was raised in this environment. If he personally believes that the Synod has erred in demanding adherence to an infallible Scripture, and he cannot convince the Synod that it is wrong, he is free to remove to another Lutheran group more to his liking. So long as he wishes to remain within the Synod, he is bound by his ordination oath to believe, teach, and propagate what the Synod is committed to. He has every right to change his views and depart from synodal teachings. He has NO right to remain within the church when he does this.

We need to explore what it means to be a Lutheran, keeping in mind what Martin E. Marty said about who Lutherans are. If a man denies what a Lutheran church teaches, is he truly a Lutheran? Let me illustrate this. Suppose Bretscher denies the deity of Christ, the vicarious atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and His Second Coming. Does he then have any claim to the title "Lutheran?" Does he have any right to remain with a church that calls itself "Lutheran?" More than that, does a Lutheran church not have the right to exclude from its fellowship those who deny truths that their confession says a Lutheran church believes? Does a church have a right to permit those who disbelieve Lutheran teaching to remain in its fellowship? Does not the presence of those who disbelieve Lutheran teachings almost surely guarantee further infection in the church and at last the loss of the church to historic Lutheranism in all except name? Since any church has the right to determine what its own confessional standards shall be, men like Bretscher have no right to deny those teachings, or to defy the authority of the church that has set up those standards. This is an ethical issue that cannot be avoided.

Dr. Lindsell is right. And this is a serious issue that goes way beyond Lutheranism. It impacts any Bible-preaching, Bible-teaching, conservative evangelical church body. When you have seminary professors who sign doctrinal statements to belong to a faculty in good standing, or pastors who sign a doctrinal statement to have their ordination renewed, but in reality DENY the doctrine onto which they are signing, it is an ENORMOUS ethical issue. Let's call it what it is. It's lying. Deceptive lying. And it is right in keeping with the warning of the Apostle Peter in Scripture:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned, and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep (2 Peter 2:1-3).

We've been warned in advance. Before the Lord returns, we who hold to biblical truth will be facing quite a battle. Will we be ready and able to stand when called on? Or will we fold and cave in to the "innovative and trendy?" Will we throw biblical doctrine out the window for expediency, or to maintain "peace and harmony?"

God forbid!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pre-Christmas Ramblings

It's been an interesting Christmas season thus far. If I have to be honest, it's been quite a while now since Christmas has had the same "magic" as it did when I was younger. (And don't start in surprise at my use of the term "magic," - I don't mean it in the way you think I mean). I'm talking about that sense of excitement and wonder that most kids have at Christmas, assuming you come from a family that is not completely dysfunctional.

Instead, in more recent years—especially as my Christian faith has matured—I've been much more able to be contemplative and reflective on the meaning of Christmas. It's a meaning that far transcends the story of the Nativity and the general warm, fuzzy platitudes we hear about it. It's the beginning of God's work through His Son, but not the entire work. God the Son—God Incarnate—took the form of a man to come to earth to save His people from their sins. And after saving them, to conform them into His image and likeness, to be His ambassadors to a fallen world in enemy-occupied territory, until the fulness of the Gentiles is complete and He completes His plan at His Second Coming, the gateway to eternity. And that I find more wondrous than anything, but it's not the same wonder a child has at the excitement of presents the next morning, with the Lord Jesus in the background.

I have to confess a bit of frustration also. Events both in my immediate vicinity and globally challenge the message of hope, joy and peace that we want to share. I have been on Twitter and Facebook for some time, and here we are, two days before Christmas. I can't believe the general grumpiness and vitriol that is out there. And quite a lot of it is an all-out assault on the Christian faith itself. The Duck Dynasty flap, the activist atheist haters out there putting up billboards at Christmas for no other reason than to be ugly..other dustups..the ongoing political turmoil over Obamacare..pick your poison. Maybe I'm wrong, but it just seems worse than ever this year. And it's sad.

The strange thing is, I shouldn't be shocked. I shouldn't be surprised. The Lord Himself warned us through His Word that we would have difficult times in the last days. Things are happening precisely as He said they would. Yet, I have to echo the words of a dear pastor over in Belarus, a former Soviet country that has a very authoritarian, oppressive government—a government that tolerates little dissent and keeps a very heavy hand on the churches and their ability to worship and share their faith as Christ commanded. The pastor was addressing a congress of other pastors, and he said, "I thought we had more time."

It's sobering, and I find myself saying the same thing. It is truly breathtaking to see how much things have deteriorated in the United States in just five years. Many will be tempted to blame the advance of the homosexual movement for a lot of it, saying that it is bringing God's judgment on the nation. While there may well be truth in that, I think we have to be honest and admit that the problem began long before the homosexual rights movement began gaining steam.

The problem really began when heretofore solid evangelical churches began fudging on key doctrines like inerrancy, the substitutionary atonement, the concept of absolute, revelatory truth, and the nature of the Gospel itself. Once those compromises began, evangelical churches began to fall into the same morass as the mainline churches did years ago. When churches get away from preaching and teaching—without compromise—the clear message of God's Word, drift begins, and the domino effects throughout society begin.

So tomorrow is Christmas Eve. The next day is Christmas. I will be celebrating and thanking God for the fact that my Savior came to earth to buy my pardon. I look forward to His return. And I will be wondering what the new year will bring us? Are we ready? Will we keep standing in the face of what is sure to be a stepped up onslaught of all we hold dear? Will we be able to proclaim the truth we believe, yet with a gentle heart and spirit, with love, grace and mercy, and without any self-righteousness? Or will we go along and get along? Compromise. And eventually drift away?

I thank God for His promise to build His church, and to hold on to His remnant. He will complete the work He began in His people, and His purpose will not be thwarted. But that doesn't mean that we're not going to have a rough time before it's realized. Be ready for it.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A&E's Double Standard

Today, via ASSIST News, I offer a commentary from Brian Nixon about the Duck Dynasty kerfuffle. He includes a reference to a new book by Christian philosopher and thinker Dr. Os Guinness on the public square, and the freedom needed to maintain it. Worth reading.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Welcome to Socialized Medicine

Today's post was sparked a bit by Dr. Charles Krauthammer, a board certified psychiatrist in addition to being a political columnist and television commentator, mostly on FNC.

During this evening's "Special Report" appearance, Charles made the accurate observation that for all intents and purposes, the United States is now in government-run nationalized medicine. He also did a column on it in the Washington Post. The column is scathing, and spot on, as far as I am concerned. But even as the country grows angrier at what's spewing out of this Trojan Horse that got crammed down the collective throat, I have to issue this warning. Repealing it before the law does irreparable damage to the country will be a hard, hard slog because of the way the nation is polarized, and because of clever gerrymandering of Congressional Districts.

To get rid of Obamacare, conservatives (mind, I did not say Republicans) MUST recapture the House of Representatives AND retake the U.S. Senate. Holding the House should be no problem, but the Senate is very, very iffy. AND . . . even if conservatives can take both Houses of Congress, there must be sufficient numbers that will ensure a veto override from Obama. Most importantly, conservatives MUST have a viable reform package in place and be able to convince voters that it's the way to go.

Now, why did I make the distinction between "conservatives" and "Republicans." As House Speaker John Boehner made clear the past week or so, he and the GOP Establishment really view the party base with barely concealed contempt, despite their protestations to the contrary. Boehner eviscerated the Tea Party part of the base, the same people that helped the GOP retain control of the House and enabled Boehner to keep the Speaker's seat. Conservative Republicans have fought this battle with the more "moderate" to liberal party leaders for years. Many like to point to the "Rockefeller Republican" days, but I think it goes back even farther than Nelson Rockefeller.

I've seen it happen over and over again. These non-conservative Republicans are great at talking a conservative game. They love to point to their 80 percent voting record and say they're with the people. However, that 20 percent involves places where THEY VOTED WITH THE DEMOCRATS. And it's nearly always been on an issue where we had a real opportunity to roll back the size and power of the government.

People are finally catching on, I hope. And I hope they took very close note of what John Boehner said. Once and if the House is recaptured, there needs to be some housecleaning. We need a new Speaker. And we will need a much more effective Senate Majority Leader than Mitch McConnell would be. And by all means, keep John McCain, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and those who think like them away from leadership positions. Primary them if possible. This has to stop. If it is NOT stopped, we will continue on the path we've walked for decades now. The left makes three steps forward until they go too far, and then will go back two steps when they get slapped. Three steps forward, two steps back. All the while, the advance is taking pace, albeit slowly with temporary reverses.

Another lesson needs to be learned. The left approaches politics like a religion. They are committed to it with evangelistic zeal, and they WILL NOT GIVE UP. On the other hand, conservative minded folks do what their natural bent is to do. They get aroused, fight and win an important battle, and then dust off their clothes to go home and return to their lives as usual. Leaving an open field for liberals to continue their advance. Conservatives need to be at least as bloody-minded as the left, even more so. It's about time we got determined, involved, and stayed on duty, vigilant and ready to act. The biblical scene of Belshazzar comes to mind, where he was partying down in Babylon without a care in the world. While he was full of wine and song, the Medes and the Persians were working their way into the city via stealth. Babylon had fallen before Belshazzar even knew what hit him.

One final observation. I do not mean to suggest that Christian conservatives place politics on a higher plane than our main duty on this earth, to live out and share the Gospel, and to make disciples. If we would concentrate on that like we should, the political would not be a problem. The Moral Majority and Christian Coalition folks made a big mistake. They worked for political transformation but the transformation necessary in the heart through the Gospel got forgotten over the political. We paid for it. Let's not make that mistake again.

The Dynasty and the Ducking Stool

In a way, I am really reluctant to weigh in on the current "Duck Dynasty" flap. For those who manage to stay unplugged from such silliness, the patriarch of the family which centers the A&E "reality TV" show made some rather crude comments to a magazine expressing his disapproval of homosexuality.

Of course, the usual harpies in the leftist media, pundits, politicians, and homosexual activist groups like GLADD flew out of their lair with talons extended. A&E quickly "suspended" Phil Robertson, but the baying of the bloodthirsty hounds continues, with some demanding the cancellation of the wildly popular show.

Even though I'd rather write about Christmas or some other spiritual subject, I do want to make a comment about this while it's in the news. First, from an analytical perspective of the entertainment industry, hypocrisy, and a paradigm shift of sorts within the industry.

It is fascinating to me, as always, that a tiny minority of the population can have so much clout, and cause so much fear and trepidation. I can only assume that is because those with the most powerful megaphones—the media and the entertainment industry—are behind that tiny minority and burn anyone at the stake who expresses disagreement or disapproval of it. Aside from that, how times have changed, and how they remain the same.

Remember "All in the Family" when it began back in the early 70s? That show broke a lot of taboos and pushed a lot of envelopes that seem mild in the light of Miley Cyrus's lewd public exhibitions and other current television shows. People with traditional values raised their voices. Millions of them. But the network involved dug their heels in, defended their show no matter who it offended, and made itself out to be a white-robed crusading champion of free speech and free thought.

Fast forward to today, and this situation. Phil Robertson expresses a traditional, biblical viewpoint that homosexuality is sin. Despite the program being a huge hit and making millions of dollars (by usual secular network standards, that's the deciding factor more than anything else), this time the network buckles its knees and throws the program, as well as the Robertson family, under the bus. In so doing, I suppose A&E is being consistent with the image they choose to project, saying that they champion homosexual rights etc. Phil, nor the family, will (or should in my opinion) apologize for having and voicing Christian beliefs. The network's values are not consistent with those beliefs and values, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised. They are open to a charge of hypocrisy if they didn't take the action they did. But unless I miss my guess, they're going to take a hit over this.

Another observation needs to be made—one I have made before. One reason that the homosexual movement has been able to make such gains (aside from a society turning away from God) is that they have been able to make the argument that sexual behavior is the equivalent of race and ethnicity. Because they've managed to make that argument largely unchallenged by the media (because the media agrees with them), hence they've been able to move the needle in society's views. If there had been a fair debate all along and someone was able to present a strong counter to that argument unhindered and uncensored, then we'd have a different picture and a different outcome to this week's events.

I will not make the concession or allowance demanded by the activists. Sexual behavior is not the same as one's ethnicity, and should not be judged in the same way. Disapproval of sexual behavior, especially when it is a tenet of one's religious faith, is NOT hate, and it is NOT bigotry. If we are going to say that it is, then we could throw back the counter charge that those who are persecuting Phil Robertson are the bigots because they hate Christians and Christianity. Somehow I don't think they'd like that being tossed at them.

As for people who identify themselves as Christians, yet make the claim that homosexual behavior is fine and dandy, I will call that apostasy and a denial of biblical truth. It makes God's Word false, and makes God into a liar. To reach that conclusion, you have to deny the authority of Scripture, or try to use Scripture by the cafeteria plan, which is not permissible. God's Word says what it means, and means what it says. Homosexual behavior is sin, and those who engage in it and are unrepentant will not inherit the Kingdom of God. I did not say that. God did, through His Word and through His Spirit that inspired that written Word.

You can get by with flouting God's Word in the present, while He is extending time and grace to allow people to hear the Gospel, believe it, and repent of their sins (of which sexual sin is just one matter). All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. All have sinned, and sin manifests itself in different people in different ways. But the joy and the hope is that we can be set free from our sin through the power of the Gospel and the shed blood of Christ on the cross. If you reject this free offer of grace and mercy, then you must stand before Him and He will no longer be in the capacity of Savior, but as Judge. Your unrepentant heart will get you just what you deserve, and just what you want. Separation from the God you hate for eternity. High stakes.

Better think about that for a while.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Say What?!?

By now, I imagine many if not most of you share my frustration watching the "talking head" shows at night, where political pundits or figures on the right and left "debate" the issues of the day. They don't really debate. They just spew their talking points, talk or shout over the top of each other, refuse to ask direct questions asked of them, and most frustratingly, continue to lie when everyone knows they're lying, and their lying has been abundantly documented and shown. They still lie shamelessly and keep spewing it like they're possessed.


Well, let's leave aside demonic possession for the time being. Let me note just a few perplexing conundrums. I'll start by saying something that is true, at least by statute and practice. Federal law supercedes state law by Constitutional provision and interpretation. Right? Marijuana is illegal by federal law. Right? Yet states pass marijuana legalization provisions with no action by the federal government to enforce its will.

Next. Illegal immigration is a serious problem. Right? Immigration is by definition and "settled law" a federal issue. Right? The feds do nothing about the problem, so the border states step in and enforce federal law. Only to be sued and stopped by the feds.

Finally (although I could go on)—Obamacare. Heck, why stop at Obamacare. Look at the entire program of the Obama Administration and what its impact has been on the country and our international status. It is a DISASTER. An epic fail on steroids. Everyone knows it. But the Democrats (except for some of those who are in electoral trouble in purple or red states) insist on digging in their heels and refusing to allow for any fixes or adjustments whatsoever, and forget about repeal. No matter how badly it damages the country. No matter how many millions have their lives destroyed by this Trojan Horse, they don't care. They are hell-bent on forcing socialized medicine on the country whether the country wants it or not. By their own admission, single payer is the goal, and to get there, they have to destroy what is. And they don't care. At all.

By most normal thinking standards, you'd think such a thing would be suicidal from an electoral standpoint. They must be really confident in their long-term game plan. And they may have reason to be. With more than half the country dependent on government benefits (by design), people will tend to vote for whoever keeps the checks coming. Their lock on the educational system has helped mold an entire generation more willing to accept statism instead of individual freedom and individual responsibility. They've sold the snake oil of collectivism very well, and they've had a sycophantic media helping them along. Plus the entertainment industry—largely made up of leftists. So they take a shellacking in the mid-term elections. They've made such a mess that it will be left to the Republicans to fix it, and when the Republicans try to fix it, and can't get the mess cleaned up quickly enough in this age of instant gratification, the Republicans will end up getting the blame for causing the mess in the first place. The media will repeat the lie, and people will willingly believe it.

Yes, they might lose a mid-term election. But as always with the left, they have the long view battle in their sights, and that has always been a weakness for conservatives and traditionalists. Think about the Marxist dialectic. Three steps forward, two steps back. Three steps forward, two steps back. The retreat is only temporary and limited. The advance toward the socialist utopia keeps advancing.

I've painted a pretty bleak picture, haven't I? Some conservative pundits are talking now about how enraged the public is getting with Obamacare, and they've got huge buyer's remorse. Just remember. You've got to have veto-proof margins in BOTH Houses of Congress to effect any meaningful change. Until Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option, you had to have 60 votes in the Senate to break a logjam. Whether the Republicans have the will to do the same thing back remains to be seen. But you still have to be able to muster enough votes for a veto override. Not sure that will happen at all. Even if Republicans manage to get a 2/3 roster in the Senate or House, you can always count on a group of Republicans who talk a conservative game, but when it counts, they vote with the Democrats and stall any conservative/traditionalist drive in its tracks. "Too extreme," don't you know? They parrot their Democratic marionette masters when they say it. Former Senator Lowell Weicker was a great example of this type of Republican. With friends like him, who needed enemies?

And finally (I mean it this time), we can't leave out divine sovereignty. This well could be God's judgment beginning to fall on America. If so, like Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, we'll have to endure the pain along with the rest. And hopefully be candles in the darkness.

I am no prophet. I have no idea how all this will play out in the long run, and as a former broadcaster who covered politics, I used to be a fairly good predictor of what would happen. Not anymore. The country has changed too much. I am alarmed in the short term. I hate to see the country I love wrecked by a bunch of power-hungry, wicked despots in waiting. But until there is a divine miracle and enough people wake up to enforce their will, that's what is in store. God help us.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Heaven's Real Treasure

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Luke 12:34).

As I am wont to do from time to time, I muse on things from Scripture, and how we (the church in general) deals with ideas and concepts we find in Scripture. Not too long ago, the idea of "treasure" came to my mind, and how we often think of that term and what it will mean in Heaven.

The Bible talks about "riches in glory" (Philippians 4:19). The Lord Jesus promised "In My Father's house are many dwelling places . . . (John 14:2). How many songs and hymns have been written and sung about "mansions," "streets of gold" and the like? Too many to count, no doubt, including some probably written hundreds of years ago and forgottten, even lost.

While Heaven will no doubt be a glorious place, and the people of the Lord will have need for nothing, I wonder if sometimes we don't miss the point? One of the pastor/elders at my church put it very well. "All that we take into eternity is our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ." Those who have been born again are "in Christ." All that we have, all that we will ever be, is "in Christ." He completes the work He began in each one of us. All that is in creation is His, although He graciously allows us the use of it. Even in Heaven, the Apostle John speaks of how we will all cast our crowns at His feet—and He is the One who awards us the crowns!

When I think of Heaven, and what it is that I am looking forward to most of all, I think we all will be glad to be free of sickness, pain, death, and the sin that brings on all those things. That struggle will at long last be over. But Heaven's greatest treasure is the Lord Himself, and the greatest reward that we can ever be given is to be able to stand in His presence, loving Him, serving Him, and giving Him the glory He alone deserves. And that is a reward that will never end. As believers, our hearts indeed ought to be in Heaven, where our treasure is. Our hearts need to be in Him, the substance and definer of that treasure.

Mull that over for a while!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Weatherman is Intoxicated

I read and just shake my head. Here we are in northern Illinois, and normally we'd be very cold with snow on the ground by now. And what do we have instead?

Dense fog, 40 plus degrees, although bitter cold allegedly is on the way. But no snow. In the meantime, Arkansas, Texas, and a good chunk of the South is under a winter storm warning.

I don't buy into the anthropogenic global warming nonsense, for what it's worth. We've had bizarre weather before. But I will say that the weatherman needs to get off the sauce. In fact, let's blame the Weather Channel. Since they began naming winter storms, all this weirdness started. Yeah, that's it.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Another Testimony Bites the Dust

Beginning a few years back with the then-teen band Hanson, it seems like stories like the one I'm about to relate have become a steady litany. We've seen it over and over again. The story is the same—just change the names. Young talent phenomenon gets major attention. Young talent proclaims a love for Jesus Christ and commitment to His biblical principles. Time marches on, and the once-vocal commitment seems to fade into the distance. Eventually, there's a meltdown. The testimony for Christ is in shreds, and little repentance or regret is visible.

The latest story comes to us courtesy of Fox News, and deals with singer/musician Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers. He discusses how Miley Cyrus and his ex-girlfriend introduced him to marijuana, and how he lost his virginity at 20—tossing the much publicized "purity rings" he and his other brothers wore into the dustbin.

Let's walk down memory lane. The Hanson guys described themselves as "evangelical Christians" whose faith "is very important to us." Yet they didn't want to talk about their faith much, which I found unusual considering the Lord's command not to hide our faith under a bushel basket. Brother Taylor got his future bride pregnant out of wedlock, and there went the testimony. Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber—one and all have been very public about their purported Christian faith. And one by one, their behavior in public and private degenerated into something to bring shame to Christ and to their Christian brothers and sisters. Of course, this all assumes that their faith was genuine, saving faith and not a false faith.

Why does this bug me so much? Why do I write about it and highlight it when it happens? How dare I be so judgmental? I'm glad you asked.

I don't write about this with any joy at all. It grieves me. The foundational truth of Christianity is that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. None of us has the right to take a "holier than thou" attitude toward anyone else. We need to be clothed in humility, as Scripture says, hoping to "restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, taking attention to yourselves, lest you too be tempted." This assumes that the one who has stumbled has recognized their sin, acknowledged and confessed their sin, and has REPENTED of their sin, and who is intent on walking uprightly and in holiness before God, by His power that enables us to live lives pleasing to Him. The one who recognizes and admits—"Yes, I screwed up. Badly. I have sinned and brought shame on my Lord by my un-Christlike behavior. I compromised my testimony, and may very well have caused others to stumble by my actions. Lord, forgive me, and enable me to walk rightly from this day forward. Brothers and sisters in Christ, forgive me for the shame I have brought on you and the church by my behavior. Come alongside me, walk with me, hold up my arms, help me and hold me accountable for the glory of our Savior, who bought my salvation with His precious blood."

Let's be clear. I cannot and will not judge the heart or inner motivations of anyone. Only God can do that. However, the Word of God is crystal clear that we in the church are to hold one another in the church accountable for our behavior. Sin in the camp is not to be tolerated, and will eventually result in serious damage to the church if it is not addressed and dealt with in a biblical fashion. If these young professed Christians have no church fellowship that preaches and teaches biblical truth, and will hold them accountable, they need to find one. Now. They need to examine their hearts, and again as Scripture commands, "test yourselves to see if you're in the faith. Examine yourselves!" If you have not really repented of your sin and entered into a true, saving relationship with Jesus, you need to do it now. You might not have another opportunity. The Spirit of God will not strive with men forever.

You see, herein lies a vitally important difference. Can true Christians sin? Yes! Can true Christians fall into serious sin? Yes! Can true Christians fall into rebellion and denial for a time? Yes! But a true Christian indwelt by the Holy Spirit will never be able to live in sin and rebellion in comfort and ease. That persistent conviction and still small voice will prompt, prod, poke, plead, convict, and not relent. In the end, He may need to break you entirely before you come to repentance. In the worst case scenarios, He may well elect to end your life and take you home before you can do too much more damage. But if you profess Christ, and you can live in and engage in a sinful lifestyle—AND YOU DON'T CARE—then I would have serious doubts about whether you indeed have saving faith. It's a question you need to resolve.

If I can't appeal to you in any other way, think about this. The Lord gave you your gifts and talents for a purpose. Your purpose for being is to bring Him glory, and to testify to others about what He has done for you. Your purpose is to be an ambassador for Christ, representing Him before a fallen humanity and offering them the hope of the Gospel. In human diplomacy, when an ambassador is disgraced or offends his/her host country, they are expelled under the diplomatic term "persona non grata." God forbid that we become "persona non grata" over engaging in wicked behavior.

Many young people admire you and follow you. Your words and actions carry great weight. Fame is a gift, but it is also a responsibility—all the more for those who are in the public eye. All eyes are watching you. What you do. What you say. How you act. And you have a Savior who is God Incarnate, Who came to earth in the form of a Man, humbled Himself, gave Himself over voluntarily to His enemies, endured enormous physical agony, dying on the cross for your sins and rising again from the dead for your justification. He gave His life for you. You have been bought and paid for with a price. And how is lewd, vulgar, and in some cases even criminal, behavior repaying this dear loving Savior who gave his all for you?

I pray that my loving remonstrance will resonate. Instead of bridling in anger, hear the love in the direct, plain words spoken here—as much as to myself as anyone else. As a recently retired broadcaster, I know what it means to be in the public eye, and I know what it means to compromise my testimony. I know what it means to grieve my Lord and Savior. I wish I could undo it all, but I can't. I would like to spare as many as I can from the pain of regret—again, assuming that genuine saving faith is truly involved here.

God forgives. He heals. He cleanses. He does not always remove the consequences of our actions, but He will use us to bring glory to Himself. Read Scripture, and see the many biblical accounts of the heroes of the faith who stumbled, but repented and God went on to use them in mighty ways. Heed this loving warning while you can. Don't let your life and testimony be shredded beyond repair. Remember your first love. He can do greater things through you—greater than you can imagine. But he needs hearts and lives yielded wholly to Him.

Monday, December 02, 2013

A Walton "Homecoming?"

They used to call Hollywood movie studios "dream factories." It's a fitting description. How many of us have watched shows through the years, falling in love with both the show and the characters portrayed? Then we find out that the real lives of the actors and actresses don't necessarily jive with what we see on screen.

Of course, that is reality. Actors are just that. Actors. They portray roles. Often the roles they play are far removed from their real persona.

So, why did I find such interest in this story about actor Ralph Waite, who played John Walton, the father on the beloved television series "The Waltons?" Because it touches on Christian theology and doctrine, and that's what this blog is generally all about. I've actually had several things catch my eye the past few weeks, but as you see from the dearth of posts, I simply haven't been able to keep up with the blog.

Ralph Waite's political liberalism is certainly no secret. He once ran for Congress in the same district where the late Sonny Bono (and later Sonny's wife Mary) served on the Republican side of the aisle. Waite was not successful in his bid for elected office, but his views on the issues were known. This article discusses something I had not known, i.e. Waite's past as a Presbyterian minister of sorts, and his 40-year time out of "organized religion." As the article states, Waite has returned to the Presbyterian Church, and now is part of a desert fellowship out West. I suppose I should rejoice that a wanderer has come back, but come back to what?

The Presbyterian Church branch involved here is the liberal end of the denomination, not the more conservative Presbyterian Church in America. The PCUSA is among the most theologically liberal out there, sort of akin to the Disciples of Christ or the United Church of Christ (remember Jeremiah Wright?). In my view (and certainly the Bible's view), Christian in name but NOT biblically Christian in practice or belief—at least on some very important issues. You'll see in the story that the usual nod to acceptance of homosexual behavior is in place, regardless of what the Word of God has to say on the subject. And that brings me to a point I have made over and over again, and will continue to make.

The church is not subject to a cafeteria plan where we can pick and choose what we believe. The terms "orthodoxy" and "orthopraxis" mean something. You cannot wear the label of Christian and teach things that the Bible does not teach, or declare something to be right and good that the Bible condemns as sin. The Apostle Paul made this case loud and clear in his letter to the church in Rome - chapter 6. "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" Paul declares, "May it never be!" Or if you prefer the King James way of putting it, "God forbid!"

I pray for Ralph Waite. In many ways, he is an admirable man and great actor. I am glad that he has picked back up on his spiritual journey. I just pray that he comes the rest of the way and acknowledges that God's Word says what it means and means what it says. And those who name the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are compelled to live it—not that we are saved by works of righteousness, we are not; we are saved by grace through faith. But Jesus, our Lord, said "If you love Me, keep my commandments." And that doesn't mean we go through the Bible with a pair of scissors. Scripture is clear, and Scripture is Scripture's best commentary. Scripture interprets Scripture.

If I tell someone that God's Word doesn't mean what it means, and that their lifestyle and behavior doesn't matter to God, then I am not loving them. I would be lying to them. And that is the challenge of this generation—indeed, every generation. Will we love the truth or prefer a lie? In the end, we will have to stand before God and give account. We won't be able to weasel out of our disobedience.

One final word. I usually try to look at a church's (or ministries') doctrinal statement first before delving further into one. Very frequently, you might find a doctrinal statement that looks fairly orthodox, but then find out later that the church really doesn't hold to that doctrinal statement all that tightly. If I was an ordained clergyman or a seminary professor, I could not sign in good conscience to something that I didn't believe in my heart. All too many do just that.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Seventh Sola wishes one and all a most blessed, happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, and bless His name (Psalm 100:4).

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Harry Reid Will Rue the Day (Again)

It looks like Harry Reid, the Skeezix of the Senate and current Democratic Majority Leader, is at it again with dictatorial tactics to ramrod his will through the chamber in concert with Barack Obama. You'll get the gist of it here at FNC. The Washington Post and other media have articles about it also. Basically, Harry shredded long-standing Senate rules and tradition to ram through controversial nominees (or legislation) through the Senate by simple majority vote - 51 votes. In Washington-speak, this has always been called the "nuclear option." When Republicans had the majority and control of the Senate, they threatened this maneuver over constant Democratic obstruction, but never carried it out. They heeded concerns of cooler heads that this would ultimately be destructive to the Senate as a whole as it was intended to function - the "cooling pot" of legislation. It was intended to be slower and more ponderous than the House. In good compromise legislation, no side gets everything it wants, and the legislation can turn out much better for the country in the long run. No such luck this time.

With this sleazy move, Harry is getting his petulant way for now. But more moderate Democrats in the Senate such as Joe Manchin (D-WV) and others are warning that Harry will rue the day he did this. Sooner or later, the GOP will regain control of the Senate. And when they do, they will have every reason to use the tactics employed against them, although Democrats did plenty of hypocritical huffing and puffing when the GOP said they "MIGHT" adopt the tactic. They were all against it then. But most of them love it now. Obama, of course, applauds, because it helps throw the country into even more division and disarray.

End game: there will eventually be hell to pay for this. Blame Harry Reid, Barack Obama, and all the others who rammed this nonsense through. And as for complaints over Republican opposition, check your history and your Constitution. Senators who are in minority parties have been given certain rights to be sure that every voice is heard and taken into account.

I really grieve at the damage this group of clowns is doing to the nation. If the electorate returns control to this bunch in 2014, then I am afraid they deserve what lies ahead.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 2013: Illinois Tornado Record

Before the news gets too old, I wanted to post a story on the unusual tornado outbreak experienced in the Midwest yesterday. This ABC News story gives the lowdown on it.

In my corner of northwest Illinois, we escaped the devastation although we were under a tornado watch until mid afternoon. Although tornadoes in November do happen, having two EF-4 rated tornadoes in Illinois in November is a first. Our hearts go out to those whose homes have been destroyed—awful at any time of year but now at the doorstep of winter and near the holidays, it's especially difficult.

The Salvation Army and Red Cross will no doubt need donations to be able to assist the victims in the several states impacted—with Illinois being the hardest hit. And above all, pray, asking for God's comfort and provision in the difficult days ahead.

Finally, I want to share some analysis from Gino Izzi from the National Weather Service in Chicago, and Professor Victor Gensini of the College of DuPage on yesterday's record-setting weather:




I Spy, You Spy?

I must say—I think this is probably the longest time ever that I have gone without posting SOMETHING to the Seventh Sola. Profuse apologies offered, but the excuse is the same as always. A personal schedule that has been out of control, plus personal and family illness. I hope to be back to some semblance of normalcy now, for what falls under the category of normalcy with me of late.

What got my attention today was this story from FNC Looks like the Russians want to put up GPS monitoring sites up on U.S. soil. The State Department under John Kerry seems all for it, but our CIA and military are dead set against it, not surprisingly.

My comment? I've had a pretty dim view of the State Department for quite a while, no matter who sits in the Secretary position. Commentators galore have criticized State's policies and actions for many years. While noting the dedication and devotion to country of specific diplomats and even Secretaries, there has been ongoing concern about the bureaucracy and career staff that passes intact from Administration to Administration.

Have they completely lost their minds? I'd say yes.

And of course, this latest incident comes with all the other wreckage from the Obama Administration to date. What's next? Letting North Korea set up a shadow government in D.C.?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Illinois Joining the Lemmings

Today, the news broke that legislation to legalize homosexual marriage in Illinois had passed the Democratic controlled General Assembly. Democratic governor Pat Quinn says he's going to sign the bill. Illinois will then join the few other states that have passed such measures—largely blue states, but there are liberal Republicans who support it too.

I have been given permission by a gentleman and brother in the Lord named Ed Moore to post his comments made on Peter LaBarbara's page in response to this issue. When it comes to Illinois churches, I think he hits the nail on the head for a good chunk of of them, but I personally am not ready to declare ALL of the churches worthless yet. I honestly don't think Ed meant "all" of them either. But he's right to say that all churches and individual believers should have stood up to be counted on this.

Ed echoes a warning I've been making for some time. The day will come when churches will have to make the fateful choice to keep tax exempt status or to be faithful to the Lord. Today's events in Illinois may well put us closer to that day than ever. Here is Ed's take, to which I add a rueful "amen," subject to the proviso above.

Tonight I'm thinking of several,years ago when the attempt was made to put a referendum before the people of Illinois to define marriage in the Illinois constitution as between one man and one woman. We needed to collect something like 50,000 signatures to get this on the ballot. That's a lot. But it's not THAT daunting when you think about all the churches and all the Christians in the state. 

But we failed to get the 50,000. And we failed because the Church in this state is almost worthless. Church after church refused to let us in to collect signatures from their congregation. Nearly all of them said they supported the idea but they didn't want to get involved with politics or they were afraid of losing their tax exempt status. 

Well church in Illinois, how do you feel now that sodomy is enshrined in our legal fabric? I hope you're sick to your stomach. Because the blame for this is on YOU. You chose comfort over the lordship of Christ. You chose the state over the God of all creation. You chose money (tax exempt donations) over the Saviour Who died for your sins and rose from the dead to be Lord of All. 

You sold your soul and now you will reap unbelievable persecution and untold evil on your children and grandchildren. 

God forgive us for our weak and pitiful denial of your precious sacrifice.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Pray for the Persecuted Church

Today—as well as next Sunday, November 10, as an alternate date—is set aside as the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

In my view, this is one of the most underreported news stories out there. And even as we observe the Day of Prayer, we get this awful story out of Syria, where it appears there was a mass murder of Christians in the country's ongoing civil war.

Thousands of my fellow believers are persecuted, oppressed, or even martyred for their faith each year. We have little experience of this in America, but that may change, and much sooner than we think. I see the early signs of it now. We shouldn't be shocked by it. We ought to expect it since the Lord Himself warned us about it. But He also promised that He would be with us in the fire. We also know that the enemy might be able to destroy the body, but he cannot touch our souls committed to Christ.

So pray, fellow believers. Pray. We have brothers and sisters in need of our intercession.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Film Noir of the Week

Most readers know I am a film noir nut. This week's gem is "Between Midnight and Dawn" starring Edmond O'Brien, Gale Storm, and Mark Stevens. Here's a TCM overview of the film. 

Interesting plot as it involves two childhood friends who become policemen and are on patrol together. Both are attracted to Gale Page's character, and their relationship is weaved between chasing a gangster, the court, and the police station. And of course, it isn't long before there's a reference to the electric chair.

This one's from 1950, and the early 50s had some great noirs in it. But as time marched on and color film took over, movies billed as noirs really didn't quite do it, in my humble opinion. The stark black and white photography, often at night and in shadows, really conveyed visually the essence of film noir, which means "dark film." By 1955, it had really begun to wind down.

I wish they'd revive it. Given the level of interest in the genre, you'd think a studio would try it with some very big-name actors. And my hope would be that they'd follow the Production Code in making the film instead of overly sexing it up or peppering the dialogue with F-bombs every scene. One thing that the film noirs of the 40s and 50s accomplished was a clear demonstration that those elements are NOT needed for a good, taut, thrilling, and very engrossing picture.

C'mon, someone. Take the risk.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hillary? Against Yelling?

Now and then, a story pops up that just needs a little comment, if nothing else for hilarity's sake.

That's why this little blurb from CBS about Hillary Clinton and a heckler caught me up in the chuckles. You can read the whole story, which I linked, but the salient paragraph is this:

“Because we can’t move from crisis to crisis, we have to be willing to come together as citizens to focus on the kind of future we want,” she said. As the shouts grew louder from an upper section of bleachers, she added, “which doesn’t include yelling. It includes sitting down and talking.”
This from the one who yelled at Congress "What difference does it make?" when pressed about her involvement or lack thereof in Benghazi. This from one who has made confrontation and partisanship a hallmark of her personal style—including yelling. I think you'll find plenty of yelling from Hillary through the years. To be fair, some of the recipients of her raised voice might have had it coming (can you hear me, Bill?), but still. Seriously?

What media will challenge these statements from Hillary the next time she's in full attack mode against conservatives or Republicans? Probably not many.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Question Worth Asking

I do a lot of pondering, and it's increasing the older I get. Today on my drive into the office, I was contemplating the state of the world, and some things in my own personal life that are current challenges, and challenges I expect to have in the days ahead.

This train of thought continued as I arrived and began setting my day in order. In the course of all of my thinking, I found myself in a short prayer: "Lord, how long will it be before You come and take us out of all of this?" And shortly afterward, I had a twinge of conviction that led to this question:

"When we pray for the Lord's soon return, is it because we long to see Him, or is it because we just want to escape our circumstances?"

It's a question worth asking. The former is a must, and the latter is very human. However, the former ought to outweigh the latter. Sometimes, I am not sure that it does.

May the Lord change that in me. I want to see Him first and foremost. Everything else will work out.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Taking or Adding from Scripture

As you've no doubt noticed, Joel has had "writer's block" lately. My personal schedule has been so out of control lately that I simply haven't felt like blogging.

Be that as it may, a story surfaced this week that I thought needed wider attention. Check out this FNC story about the new biblical epic film about Noah and the flood.

The story reports a battle between the director and the studio. Somewhat surprisingly, the studio wants the story to stick close to the biblical text. The director wants to take liberty with the story and make the biblical flood the result of environmental naughtiness rather than sin against God. He demands the freedom to "interpret" the biblical account however he likes, making it mean something that is not meant in Scripture.

This underscores the problem when Hollywood and the Bible run smack into each other. It's one thing to take a story out of classic literature and take liberties with it for filming purposes (even though it drives me nuts and the authors of most books—given they're still alive to see what the filmmakers have done to their stories). But when we take the Bible and dare to portray it, we enter dangerous ground when we depart from what it says. Assuming one believes (as I do) that the Bible is God's written Word and revelation to mankind, and that it says what it means and means what it says, there are rather severe penalties attached by God toward anyone who would add or subtract from His Word. Check out the end of the book of Revelation for one such warning. There are others.

There is speculation on whether Noah will bomb at the box office and offend believers. I found it curious in the article that such offense shouldn't enter the concerns of the director. Very curious. I understand the muse of the artist, but if your work ends up being so outlandish no one wants to see or hear it, you've defeated your purpose. "Shock art" appeals to only a few. Remember the late Andres Serrano and his infamous "P*ss Christ" exhibit where a crucifix was dunked in Serrano's own urine? That was supposed to be "art." Serrano was also known for homoerotic photographs where the end of a bullwhip was sticking out someone's rectum. Grotesque? Absolutely. But hardly artistic.

Serrano is an example of when the human soul and spirit has rotted, and the only "art" that can be created is a twisted, vulgar representation of what God intended as a blessing and a symbol of loving union. Art at its highest form uplifts, encourages, portrays beauty, and glorifies God. It provokes thought, but hopefully the thought provoked points you in the right direction of truth.

I can't say that for a lot of art today. Oh, it's out there if you look. But the media and entertainment industry seem to want to focus on the offensive, perverse and grotesque. But what should we who believe do? Light a candle in the midst of the darkness.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Two Elizabeths, Two Royal Assents, and Trouble

by Dr. Peter Jones

Last week, on the plane back to the US from London, I wrote:

On June 3, 1953, sixty years ago, Queen Elizabeth gave her assent to the "Coronation Oath" administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which read:

Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law?

In July 2013, almost sixty years to the day from taking that vow, Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal stamp of approval to the government law legalizing homosexual marriage! So much for the "laws of God" and the "true profession of the Gospel." Politics oblige.

Though the Queen's imprimatur was a legal formality, it is powerfully symbolic. The final constitutional bulwark of the Christian faith meekly surrendered before an agenda to legalize homosexuality, a relationship that utterly rejects the image of God in man as revealed in Genesis 1:27: "God created man in his own image...male and female he created them." Around the same time, as if on cue, the same decision was made in the USA, in France and in New Zealand. The Bible warns us of the cultural implosion this overturning of the defining essence of human life will entail. 

A bright red double-decker London bus went by me yesterday with a large imposing sign on the side: Some people are gay: get over it.
The same city council refused to allow a response to be put up on its buses: Some people are ex-gay:  get over it.  Not only is the Lie proposed for all to see but any expression of the Truth is now officially silenced.

The UK Christians for whom I lectured (who have been involved in legal and public interventions to maintain in the culture the notions of the biblical worldview) have been forced to admit that "Christian Britain" seems finally to have disappeared. (In the US there is more optimism because of a greater sense of citizen power-but I think we have lost the soul of America.) We must now ask, "When is a culture finally "given over"? According to Paul, this occurs when the leading cultural institutions "exchange" their public confession of God as the Creator for interfaith divinized nature; when their worship of the immortal God is "exchanged" for the worship of mortal man and animals; and when their public legitimation of "natural" sexuality is "exchanged" for the promotion of "unnatural" sexual expressions (Rom 1:23, 25, 26). At that point, says Paul, "they are given over" (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). In Britain, culturally speaking, the God of the Bible is dead. Already in 2010 a respected British journalist, Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail, published a 486-page book with the ominous title, The World Turned Upside-Down. The passage of the "gay marriage" bill was an exclamation point on the repudiation of the biblical worldview occurring in Britain and in the West in general for some time.

At the UK conference where I lectured this past week, under the title "Understanding the Times," there was general agreement among the Christian leaders in attendance that the various acts of opposition to Christianity by courts and the police were not accidental or anecdotal but rather indications of a more systematic silencing of the free expression of the Christian worldview in the once-"Christian" public square.

Must the goal of Christian action turn, perhaps, from a focus on "saving the culture" to a focus on saving the church? Infiltrated by cultural attitudes, the church often fails to understand and express the Christian cosmology presupposed in the Gospel. Specifically, those active in a biblically faithful Church need to call into being a remnant, equipped by the Spirit and the Word to embody and "make known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph 3:10).

Never in my lifetime has there been a more urgent need for like-minded Christians to formulate a theological and practical response adapted to the times in which we live, based particularly on the blueprint Paul gives of our situation in Romans 1. To those of you who are providentially reading this call: I invite you to a consultation/Think Tank next February 4-7, 2014 in Escondido, CA, sponsored by truthXchange, entitled "Shining As Lights: Telling the Truth in the Pagan Utopia.

Great things are not always achieved by masses. Sometimes a small dedicated band suffices-a remnant with a passion for God's glory to be seen in the earth in both word and deed.

Editor's Note: Dr. Jones' website can be seen at this link. Prayerfully consider what you can do to help. He's a great voice in the Christian Apologetics community.