Our Obsession With Death

Intrigue. Plotting. Guns. Explosions. Executions. Blood. Murder. Carnage. Terror. Running. Fear. Screams. Panic. Revenge. Retaliation, etc., etc. … will it ever end?

I am talking about America’s infatuation with and obsession with death. All this of the world is obsessed with it, too. All this includes television, theaters, video games, and eastern religions. There are two groups of people involved here.

The first group consists of everyone who like to watch it happen. They talk about it, meditate on it, are thrilled by it, and pay billions of dollars to support it. And many people are paid millions to portray it.

Here are the names of several rock bands: Death, Black Sabbath, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Avenged Sevenfold, Guns N’ Roses, As I Lay Dying, Fear Factory, Demon Hunter, Grave Digger, Grim Reaper, Grateful Dead, and many more!

Do you know what group was playing when the terrorists began murdering in the Paris Le Bataclan Theater? Eagles of Death Metal.

Other ways we manifest our obsession with death is by what we watch in theaters. Several movies are: Spectre, The Last Witch Hunter, Sinister, The Exorcist, The Babadook, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and The Evil Dead. I don’t have enough time or space to name them all. 

The theater in Aurora, Colorado was showing the film The Dark Knight Rises. Mass-murderer James Holmes entered the theater dressed like one of the evil characters and began killing. He even cunningly rigged his apartment with explosives to kill any policeman or detective who might enter. (The detectives out-witted Holmes there.)

There are hundreds of murderous and sex-crazed television series and dramas. Quantico, Zombie, Once Upon a Time, Walking Dead, Boardwalk Vampire, Six Feet Under, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Death Note, Castle, Scandal, You’re the Worst, Penny Dreadful, and American Horror Story are but a few.

Do you see what I mean when I say we have an obsession with death? And don’t ever again believe that watching videos or movies or playing deadly video games don’t affect people! One person who was arrested for murder was asked why he butchered the 17-year-old girl. His response: “I’ve seen it so many times in theaters and killed so many times in video games, I wanted to see what it felt like to actually do it.”

We legislate God and morality out of our society, legislate evil and immorality into our society, then we wonder why all this hell is breaking out. Incredible!

Have you ever wondered why sex crimes are at an all-time high? People – both genders – see nudity on television, in theaters, and in advertisements hour after hour, day after day. When actors remove their clothing, people think, “They are actors and it is okay to watch it.” We have become a sex-crazed people. That’s because society lost its sensitivity to inhibitions that God placed in us at creation. Therefore, as people feel free to murder, people also feel free to commit sexual crimes. And it all falls under the banner of “rebellion against God.”

The second group who are obsessed with death are those we call “radical jihadists” and who are attempting to create a world-wide Caliphate. These people scorn anyone who doesn’t believe the same way they do – even those of their own religion. But they view their murderous activities in a different light than we do: they do it in honor of their god, and they don’t intend to quit! They are convinced that fomenting a world-wide war will hasten the return of their long-awaited spiritual leader. And we westerners believe the lie that jihad is not a religious war? Again, incredible.

But even Christians in the so-called “civilized countries” have a problem. We pay untold millions of dollars to involve ourselves mentally and spiritually in murder, witchcraft, and adultery by watching it – which is sin – but we don’t want to see it happen in real life. This is a world-class double-standard! Stop and think: are you guilty of this double-standard?

If you truly detest what happened in Paris, London, Pensacola, the Middle East, in the Aurora theater, and in many schools, and the hundreds of other places people are murdering people, if you believe that people should not commit sex crimes, then you need to stop watching that stuff! You may not realize it, but watching it contaminates your mind and spirit. Our crime, immorality, and pornography rate prove it.

Why does it happen? When society stops living for and worshiping Almighty God, something must fill the void. And that “something” is some form of evil.

dscn0464In order for society to change for the better, we individually and corporately must change. We must turn away from evil and learn to truly honor Almighty God.

As long as people insist on enjoying evil, evil will prevail. But if you want the world to be a better place to live, you must turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, and make your portion of the world better.

 

Reset the Computer

At a National Laboratory where I worked, one of our scientists called our computer tech to fix his computer.

“What’s wrong with it?” Nolan asked.

Allen responded, “It won’t do anything. It’s been working fine through all my research and writing. But now I’m ready to print my report for the symposium at Washington, DC. I gave the computer a command to print, but it just sat there. I pushed the print command several times and nothing. I think the hard drive crashed.”

Nolan, one of the best in his field, needed to take Allen’s computer to his shop to check it out. He asked, “How long can you be without your computer?”

“I can’t be without it at all!” Allen exclaimed.

Nolan was smart. “Well, you’re without it right now, and it’s almost noon. Are you going to lunch in a few minutes?”

“Okay,” Allen said. “You got me. When do you think you can fix this thing?”

“I’ll get on it right away.”

As the group’s security officer, I was in Nolan’s office working with him on another issue. Nolan didn’t immediately turn the laptop computer off because he wanted to see how the machine was being used. What he found didn’t surprise him.

Without shutting it down for the past two months, Allen had used eighteen high-powered programs, searched on the internet several times every day, and worked on twenty-three detailed reports including complex mathematical databases. He currently had thirteen documents open and six programs running while compiling his final report.

“No wonder the computer decided to take a nap.” Nolan said. “It’s just plain tired!”

Saving Allen’s work, Nolan shut the laptop down, let it sleep for a minute, then restarted it. Next, he ran a program that cleaned out the junk that accumulates over time. This “junk” consists of temporary files, broken shortcuts, damaged registry, and other associated problems. He ran a “disk fix” program to repair any potentially damaged sectors, and finally he defragged the computer.

Fragmentation happens every time a computer is used. Because files are constantly being created, written, deleted and resized, pieces of data are scattered across the hard drive and creates a mess which sometimes causes the RAM (Random Access Memory) to overwork. Fragmentation causes slow performance, longer boot-up-times, seemingly interminable pauses, and freeze-ups–sometimes even the inability to shut down. Defragmentation gathers all of the separated pieces of data and puts them back together, and places the files where they belong.

Nolan said, “We need to clean up our computers periodically.”

Two hours later when he took the laptop back to Allen, Nolan told him, “When you close a program or put down a document, mini-programs continue running in the background which gradually usurp more of your RAM; and that slows things down. Also, unless you shut the computer down, it never stops ‘thinking’ and cannot reset. I know you’re busy, but try to remember to shut down your computer once a week to let the thing reset itself. And try not to have more than three or four programs open simultaneously.

Allen blurted, “I don’t have time to remember all that!”

“That’s okay. Just call me when it freezes up again.”

Walking back to Nolan’s office, we began talking about our biological computers–our brains. Communication across the cranial network is similar to the communication between computers, routers, servers and the internet. Brains don’t totally shut down, but they do need to “reset” often; and God designed that reset to take place when we sleep.

Our sleep must be sufficient in quantity and quality to rest our bodies as well as our brains; and in the deepest part of sleep the brain closes down most of its connections–it resets. However, always active to some degree, the brain is on “standby” mode; and most dreams are our thoughts in pictorial format.

When we get proper sleep, the brain “saves” the learning we experienced during the day; therefore, sufficient sleep completes the learning process. After rest and mental reset, we are more prepared for the next days’ challenges.

But a lot of junk–worry, animosity, fear, etc.–enters our minds every day and generates mental fragmentation. The way to “clean up” or “defrag” is found in 1Peter 5:7 – “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.” and Proverbs 3:5 – “Seek God’s will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.”

Why don’t you sit down, get a cup of coffee, tea, or milk, relax and think about it? It’ll do you some good.

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Should We Legislate Morals?

Some years ago, a friend and I were talking about our nation’s problems and how they could or should be solved. He was thinking from a political world-view where new laws need to be created for every new situation, and I was thinking from a realistic world-view where multitudinous comprehensive laws had already been created. But Henry, knowing me but not understanding my view-point, blurted out, “You can’t legislate morals.”

Surprised, I asked what he meant. He said, “Outlawing alcohol – you know, prohibition – in the 1920s didn’t work; outlawing gambling didn’t work; and outlawing prostitution, drugs, and other activities isn’t working. Therefore, they should all be legalized so the government can collect taxes on it all. You just can’t legislate morals!”

He said a mouthful in those forty-three words. But is he correct? No! Whether those activities remain illegal or are legalized, they have been legislated.

“Morals” is defined as: relating to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct; the distinction between right and wrong; concerned with the judgment of right or wrong human action and character. Conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior.

Who or what made the distinction between right and wrong? Let’s look into it.

What about taking a life? Homicide has commonly been called 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree murder, and it’s against the law in the US to murder someone. What about theft? On the books we have petit larceny, then four degrees of grand larceny: also against the law. What about lying? Perjury is spelled out in the US Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 79, § 1621. You guessed it: illegal.

Let’s see now – “morals” is the distinction between right and wrong. And we just identified three moral activities which we have outlawed by legislation. And you might be interested to know that those three activities are prohibited in the 6th, 8th, and 9th of The 10 Commandments (Exodus 34). Our government does agree with Scripture – sometimes.

Obviously we CAN and DO legislate morals! So the question is: what morals do we choose to legislate? The answer: more than you would believe!

Rev. Ravi Zacharias, who has a radio program titled “Let My People Think”, said the non-Christian world politicizes morality while they moralize politics. He is correct. Many of our politicians seem to agree or disagree with the Bible depending on how many votes they can garner. What baffles me is that sometimes our government – or even a single judge – listens to a very small minority of the population and makes laws that override the desires and morals of the vast majority. What kind of logic is that for a Democracy?

Example: The US Supreme Court just handed down its 5-4 ruling that homosexual marriages are constitutional. (This is only one of many instances where our government has politicized morality.) This ruling puzzles me for three reasons: 1) the ruling has nothing to do with the constitution, 2) most Americans are against same-sex marriages, and 3) according to the constitution, it is the Congress (state and federal) who is supposed to make laws, not the court.

But why is marriage a moral issue? The Bible clearly specifies that human marriage was created by God Himself; therefore God is the only One who has the right to decide how marriage is to be employed. God determined that marriage is between a man and a woman, but our politicians decided that Almighty God is wrong.

We also have a built-in dichotomy in our government. Some well-known government officials can commit crimes and lie about it, and we overlook it; while other well-known officials commit crimes and lie about it, and are prosecuted. The “morality” of the issue seems to depend on what side of the political fence the official is on. They moralize politics.

However if it’s a “hate” crime, THAT is bad! Amazingly, this is a double-legislation of morals.

Friends, we legislate morals all the time. But we have a problem!

We are legislating OUT wholesome, healthy core values and morals, and legislating IN anti-Biblical values and morals which go against our national heritage, and weakens our nation both morally and politically.

Morals – right versus wrong – is a Biblical issue. Galatians 6:7 says, “Don’t be misled. You can’t ignore God and get away with it.” Therefore, if we don’t revert to using Scripture as our legislative standard as we formerly did, we are in trouble.

Living With Conviction

Did you read this report? “With conviction, the elderly pastor conned the former convict into surrendering after the ex-con attempted to con the pastor out his life savings. And with conviction the jury convicted the ex-con.”

Are you dizzy yet? When I read that news brief, it made my head spin. So, get a cup of coffee, and let’s look at the word Conviction. What does it mean?

It comes from Latin: convincere; which means: to conquer, to overcome decisively; to firmly persuade. Today the verb form is: to argue successively, persuade, convince or convict; and the noun is: conviction. So, a conviction is a firm belief that I hold on to. And many times, a conviction is not just an idea that I believe; it is often a value or set of values upon which I have based my life.

Therefore, convictions are the criteria by which I make important decisions, and are the foundation of my character. And when we act on convictions, society often changes.

Thomas was a man of convictions. He saw a problem. He felt a conviction in his heart and mind about it. He prayed about it. Then, facing derision and opposition, he decided to do something about it.

Born in Glastonbury, England in 1845, Thomas was a dentist, a minister in the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion (which became the Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church), and disapproved of both slavery and alcohol.

Already understanding the detrimental results of alcoholism on society, Thomas became concerned about the use of alcohol (the sacramental wine) in Holy Communion. He objected to the use of alcohol anyway, had a pastoral concern for recovering alcoholics, and wanted children to partake in the sacrament of communion. As a communion steward in the church, Thomas Bramwell decided he had to do something about it.

He read about Ephraim Wales from Concord, Massachusetts who had finally achieved his goal of “developing the perfect sweet and palatable grape.” Ephraim named the grape after his hometown, Concord. Thomas also knew about Louis Pasteur’s process of retarding the spoilage of milk, called pasteurization, and applied that process to the Concord grape to prevent the fermentation process. After developing his unfermented communion alternative, he eventually convinced his church and many others to use the unfermented wine.

So, there you have it. A centuries-long practice of using alcoholic wine in communion was overturned in some churches by a prohibitionist. Today entire denominations decry any use of alcohol in any form, including in Holy Communion.

But society also changed in other areas due to this man’s convictions. His full name is Thomas Bramwell Welch, and he – with his son, Charles – had developed Welch’s Grape Juice. This achievement not only gave us unfermented wine, but marked the beginning of the processed fruit juice industry.

Let me add a few other tidbits of Welch trivia. In 1913 Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan served Welch’s Grape Juice at a state diplomatic event instead of the traditional fermented wine. In 1914 the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, forbade wine on naval ships and [temporarily] substituted Welch’s Grape Juice.

In 1918 the Welch Company developed its first jam and called it Grapelade. The U.S. Army bought the first entire batch, and the G.I.s clamored for it when they returned to civilian life. In 1923 the world-famous Concord Grape Jelly was introduced, and as you see in this picture, it is still my all-time favorite jelly.

And in 1949, Welch became a pioneer in the frozen fruit juice industry by introducing Welch’s Frozen Grape Juice Concentrate. An added bonus is that in 2002, researchers reported the potential cancer-fighting benefit of the purple grape juice.

One man who had strong convictions changed society for the better. But a simple research can reveal thousands of others who, with conviction, changed our world: some for the better, and some for the worse.

How about you? Are you a person with convictions, or do you just float through life and let other people establish your political, religious, and personal ideology? Living with and acting on convictions will produce the foundation in life we need in order to determine our direction and set our goals in life. Living with convictions produce character and integrity.

Pray about it, and ask the Lord to help you establish and act on Godly convictions. You just might change the world.

It Was On Backwards

We lived in the high country of northern New Mexico for many years. At 7,827 feet above sea level, we lived about a half mile higher than Denver. When folks who live near sea level take a trip up there and start chopping wood or do some other vigorous activity, they find out what it means to be out-of-breath. Why is that?

Sea level atmospheric pressure averages around 14.7 pounds per square inch, and water boils at 212 F. But the air pressure at 7,827 feet is around 11.1 psi, and water boils around 198 F. Okay, that’s not a big deal; but when we remember that the oxygen content in the atmosphere averages around 20.9%, a 3.6 psi drop in air pressure effectively reduces the available oxygen by 5%. Therefore, people need to breathe deeper or more often until their bodies acclimate to the altitude.

Conversely, when Carol and I moved to Siloam Springs (altitude of 1,132 feet, air pressure of 14.1 psi, with the boiling point around 210 F), we had a much easier time breathing.

Back to my story.

In New Mexico, we lived in the forest about thirty miles from town. Sometimes we had to remove a tree that had fallen across the road. Many of us carried chain saws in the back of our 4-wheel drive vehicles, so if the tree was too large to move by hand or truck, we would cut the tree to manageable chunks to clear the road.

Tornados, which are common in the flat country, are almost unheard of in the mountains of New Mexico. But one day a small twister touched down and took out about 183 trees that ranged in diameter from twelve inches to three feet (plus tons of saplings and underbrush), and it really cluttered up the road.

Seven or eight of us gathered around the mangled mess and got out our trusty chain saws. I was real proud of my saw. Our kids gave me a Sears-Best with a 20-inch bar, and I could hardly wait to show my friends what I could do with it.

I put gas and oil in it, checked the tension of the chain, put on my safety goggles and hearing protection, and pulled the cord.

RRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!! It started up like it knew what it was doing.

I eagerly stepped up to the nearest tree lying across the road and increased the power. RRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!! I was excited and ready to throw chips and sawdust all over the road. With the saw revved at full speed, I attacked the tree. But nothing happened.

I was perplexed because my prized saw didn’t cut anything. I tried it again with the same results: nothing. No one was watching, for they were busy clearing their own portion of the road, so I shut the saw down to analyze the problem.

Have you ever felt an agonizing and humiliating embarrassment flood your soul? I did right then. Again, I looked around to see who was watching. Everyone else was busy working, and I was glad.

I had the appropriate tool, gas was in the tank, and the engine ran smoothly. But I had the chain on backwards!

Completely aggravated at myself for my ignorance, I quietly put the saw back in my pickup and did what any hard-working “wanna-be mountain-man” would do: I helped move the logs the other guys were cutting.

How many times have you discovered that a good plan wouldn’t work simply because you did something backwards? Many Christians I know complain about their lack of finances, but they squander their money at the casinos. Other folks make disastrous or poor decisions because they didn’t pray about them or seek counsel. These folks aren’t thinking properly.

But do you realize that God never gets things backwards? His plans are perfectly laid out. When something goes awry, it is us – you and me – who mess up. Proverbs 3:5-6 exhorts us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek God’s will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.” Proverbs 4:7(a) says, “Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do.” And wisdom comes from God.

God’s plans are perfect. Listen to Him; trust and obey Him. God is omniscient and He’ll never lead you astray.

When I returned home, I reinstalled the chain. A month later, I did successfully clear the road of a fallen tree. And if I ever get tempted to look down on someone who made a mistake, God reminds me of when I had the chain on backwards.

Contagious Thinking

The flu is contagious. The measles, mumps, and smallpox are contagious. A large number of diseases are contagious and people are scared. Many are afraid of going shopping, going to the dentist, even afraid of going to the hospital because – well, let’s face it: that’s where folk with contagious diseases go.

Some folk are afraid of having their children vaccinated, and others are afraid of NOT having them vaccinated – both for very good reasons. And we find dispensers of hand-wipes almost everywhere to help stop the spread of the invisible, evil horde.

We go to great lengths to warn people of the latest epidemic. We talk about it on television, radio, and on all the social media. We even warn people about what MIGHT be coming around the bend, even though sometimes it doesn’t happen.

That reminds me of the counselor who told his worried patient, “90% of all the things you worry about never happen.” To which the patient replied, “Good! Now, what can I do to eliminate the other 10%?”

We need to be alert to all kinds of dangers that are lurking out there, and we need to help others because we are our brother’s keeper. But viruses and bugs are not the only disease we catch out in the public. Often the more pervasive problem is our attitudes, and they are easier to catch than the flu.

Attitudes and emotions are contagious.

I remember being in a planning meeting at a science lab, and we had a difficult obstacle to overcome. We were in a deep discussion on how to solve the problem, but the key individual, Matt, was missing due to a scheduling conflict. Each time an idea was presented, one dour experienced member of the team explained why it wouldn’t work. After about forty-five minutes, the entire team was feeling dismal because of the failure syndrome that pervaded the room. The team mindset had been poisoned because it “caught” this man’s negative attitude.

But Matt finally arrived and asked for an update. After he heard each rejected proposal, he laughed and said, “Well, I’m glad I finally got here. You have in your hands the answer to the problem.” He then happily explained how two of the proposals would work. When the dour man spoke up, Matt explained how his rebuttals didn’t apply to this situation.

This man had not been contaminated with the prevailing negative attitude, and that freed his God-given creativity to recognize the value of the ideas that had been presented.

We don’t need to be caught as creatures of our negative culture. Rather, with a positive attitude we should create an atmosphere in which others can be set free to rise to their God-given potential.

A complainer can destroy the company’s vision and torpedo the goal. Negative attitudes can undermine the morale of the team and hide or destroy the available talent and creativity. Negative emotions are destroyers of progress.

But positive attitudes and emotions are just as contagious. We don’t have to be a Pollyanna to cheer up the room, and we don’t have to have an ever-ready smile to make people happy. But we can ask the Lord to help us see past our problems and see things from God’s perspective. We create our immediate environment by what we believe, how we think, and how we act.

We have a choice as to whether we will inflict emotional and spiritual damage, or bring emotional and spiritual healing to others.

What we believe affects how we think. How we think affects how we act. How we act affects what we accomplish. It also affects how others around us think.

I believe God wants us to represent Him as much as we know how. Some years ago, my friend, Terry Langham, and I were operations officers in a scientific laboratory. The scientists and workers there thought the atmosphere was “all business.” But it felt to us somewhat gloomy. After praying about it, but without telling anyone else, we decided to change our culture.

Our phone calls and e-mails started with “Good morning.” In the calls and e-mails, we often asked what we could do for them. We stopped by people’s offices periodically to assure that we were effectively communicating with them.

After several years, the division leader told us, “You’ve changed our atmosphere. The entire division is a kinder and more cheerful place to work. Thank you.”

Our thinking and attitudes are definitely contagious. How are you affecting your community?

Does God Decree Everything That Happens?

This topic has been a major debate among theologians, and is based on a religious philosophy that predates Christianity by several hundred years. That belief, which had been picked up by a portion of the Church, wrongly teaches that God engineers and approves everything that happens – including theft, murder, and rape.

Some folk refer to that belief as Calvinism, but that is short-sighted because John Calvin got it from St. Augustine, but it doesn’t stop there. Here is a brief history lesson. Please understand that this is an ongoing debate among theologians, and it won’t end with this writing. But I will, nevertheless, shed some historical light on the subject.

Augustine’s mother (Monica) was a Christian, but Augustine immersed himself in immorality and pagan religions. One of the religious philosophies that he used to condone his lifestyle was belief in the goddesses called, in modern English, The Fates.

The Fates, or The Moirae, were supposedly goddesses who assigned to everyone at birth his or her personal destiny in every matter of life. 

The three main goddesses were: Klotho (spinner), who spins the thread of life for the person; Lakhesis (apportioner of lots), who measures the length of the thread; and Atropos (she who cannot be turned), who actually cuts the thread of life. At birth, the Fates supposedly predetermined the entire life of the individual. That included everything the person thought, did, said, what happened to him, what was done to him, or what was said about him. This concept gave Augustine the freedom to live a debauched lifestyle, because he figured the gods predestined him to live this way.

Augustine eventually returned to his Christian upbringing, but he created a Christianized version of the belief. Some call it fatalism. That is, we cannot change what has been predestined for us. And he misapplied Romans 8:29 to support him. It says, “For whom he [God] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son.” The emphasis was meant to be on foreknow, but Calvin put it on predestinate. Paul wasn’t talking about God choosing whom He will save. Instead, he is talking about God’s omniscience – the fact that God knows everything, including who will eventually ask the Lord to forgive him or her and allow them into the Kingdom of God.

However, according to Augustine, based on the Fates, some people have been predestined to go to hell no matter their lifestyle (good or bad), while others have been predestined to go to heaven – again, with either good or bad lifestyle. He believed our lifestyle and decisions about serving God do not change our fate or our destiny. God decided for us.

The Church carried that erroneous belief through the centuries and John Calvin picked it up. In the Reformation, Calvin broke with the Church but brought this concept with him. Developing his theology, Calvin produced an acronym called TULIP, and you can look it up on the internet.

Calvin formalized his doctrine and wrote The Institutes of the Cristian Religion. His view of predestination is in book 3 chapter 21 titled, “Of The Eternal Election, By Which God Has Predestinated Some To Salvation, And Others To Destruction.” Some call this hyper-Calvinism. It is not Biblical because there are many verses in the Bible that prove God wants everyone to turn from a life of sin. God wants everyone to live a good life and go to heaven.

In attempting to prove God’s ultimate and total sovereignty (which is Biblical), Calvin taught that God planned for Lucifer in heaven to rebel (which is anti-Biblical). The concept goes against Scripture and against the nature of God. Scripture emphasizes over and again that God is love, and loves all mankind. That’s why Jesus came to earth to rescue us from destruction.

Believing that nothing happens unless God specifically ordains it impugns God’s integrity. Here are several examples.

In Genesis 3, God told Adam NOT to partake of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. But Adam disobeyed. Therefore, Calvin taught that God both planned and ordained the disobedience. That would make God flaky, capricious, the and unstable; therefore, untrustworthy.

God planning and approving every single thing that ever could happen in the world, as Augustine picked up from Grecian mythology and Calvin taught, would mean that God plans and approves the abduction of little children. It also means that God plans and approves of the people who rape and brutally murder the children. It means that God makes sure that it happens. Where is the love of God in this evil work?

God planning and approving everything that happens in the world means God is the author, instigator, and approver of all the heinous evil and brutality the world has ever experienced. And this is supposedly all for the glory of God.

PICT0217Friends, that is not the God of the Bible.

God is omniscient, so He KNOWS what will happen. But knowing it and making it happen are two entirely different concepts. And we must never forget: God is Love.

Think about this. The first commandment states, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” But many in the world do worship other gods. So is God contradicting Himself by making people worship false gods? No. We must understand the disobedient nature of man and the immutable (unchangeable) nature of Almighty God.

Is God still sovereign when evil people behead others? Of course He is, but God doesn’t ordain murder. The sixth Commandment says, “Thou shalt not commit murder.”

God is sovereign and His ultimate plan will be accomplished in spite of evil humanity who disobeys Him. But the question is: will we participate in God’s plan, or will God need to set us aside for disobeying Him?

God did not create robots to mechanically perform His every wish. That would never bring glory to God. Instead, God created both angels and humans with the ability to choose to obey and worship Him. Obedience glorifies God.

According to Scripture, our rejection of God determines our eternal punishment, but our acceptance determines our eternal rewards. (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9)

Relevance or Authenticity?

Several years ago, we received a calendar from the Insights For Living ministry titled: “The Dawn of a Church Awakening.” Chuck Swindoll’s caption for June was “The Church’s Attractiveness” and Chuck wrote:

I am convinced that the church doesn’t need marketing devices, worldly strategies, live entertainment, or a corporate mentality to be contagious. Not if the glory of God is the goal. Not if the growth of God’s people is in view. Rather, the church needs biblical truth taught correctly and clearly … and lived out in authenticity.

Now that’s a mouthful. I found ten themes: the Church’s nature; marketing devices; worldly strategies; entertainment; corporate mentality; God’s nature; spiritual growth; biblical truth; ministry; and reality.

The two central themes around which the other eight revolve are the Church’s nature and God’s nature. And the nature of the church directly affects how the world views the nature of God. So, how is the church doing?

For over fifty years I’ve heard “the church needs to be relevant” in order to influence the world for Christ. I might agree with that statement, but I need to see what it means first.

Relevant has various meanings, but the current meaning is pertinent to the matter at hand.

So is the church being relevant to the world? Yes. But we have a problem. The little-known church motto is: “The Bible is our standard for faith and practice.” That means our faith, lifestyle, and actions should conform to Scripture. However what we find is the church is conforming to the world.

The world is on a fast-track heading away from Jesus Christ. Those in an ungodly lifestyle have no intention of being influenced by the church, but the church wants to be relevant. Therefore the church adopts much of the world’s music, entertainment preferences, activities, and behaviors in order to promote identification. But as the world continues its trajectory away from God, the church, still wanting to be relevant, continues toward the world.

Do you see what’s happening? Many in the church, desiring to influence people for Christ, identify with non-Christians by becoming like them. Recently I heard a member of a Christian rock band say, “We try to be on the level of the main-stream artists.” And that’s the downfall of the church as it becomes relevant: many in the church look and act like non-Christians. Therefore, they begin living like non-Christians.

One New Mexico pastor asked a young man, “Would you like to become a Christian? God will accept you just the way you are.” The response was, “Sure, man; why not? There really is no difference between your church and my group anyway. I’ll accept your Jesus.” The truth was: he did not accept Christ; he merely joined a church.

Many in the church dress, act, talk, and live like the world, thus, blurring the distinction between church and world. That’s why many non-Christians don’t see the need to turn away from their detrimental or harmful lifestyles.

For fifty years the church’s priority has been to identity with the sinful world rather than promote the Glory of God through Jesus Christ. A youth pastor I know takes several youth groups to pagan rock concerts where drugs and alcohol flow. When I challenged him about it he said, “Pastor Linzey, it’s the same music as Christian rock, but we tune out the words so it is okay. We like to use this kind of music in our churches but use Christian lyrics. That makes the music Christian. Also, after we get the kid’s attention, we can teach them about Christ.”

That sounded good, but I learned later that if he stopped paying for their rock concert tickets, they stopped attending his youth meetings. So, where is his authenticity?

A problem is that we are confusing concern with identification; and that degenerates to watering down the Gospel. We also need to understand that religious activity often blocks the voice of God. And if there’s no observable difference between church and world, we are preaching the wrong gospel.

Chuck Swindoll is right: In order to change our world for the better, in order to truly influence people for Jesus Christ, we must live authentic Christian lives.

Intolerance? By Whom?

The subject of intolerance comes up often. Emotions sometimes get in the way and people lose sight of reality. But what is intolerance?

Synonyms are: dogmatism, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, sectarianism, etc. The root is tolerate, and the widest definition is: to permit, allow the existence of. Therefore, intolerance in the public arena today is the unwillingness to consider other ideas; not allowing beliefs that differ from your own. So, who are the culprits?

Some folks insist that only Christians are intolerant, but that is not true. Political, ethnic, and religious intolerance has existed for more than five millennia; and there is a monumental misunderstanding of who is being tolerant or intolerant today.

Many pagan religions have been and are intolerant of Judaism and Christianity. Misguided Christians have been intolerant of others – even of other Christians. Japan was intolerant of China. Germany was intolerant of Jews. Many Democrats and Republicans are intolerant of each other. Islam (supposedly the religion of peace and submission to God) is hotly intolerant of anyone they consider an infidel – including Moslems of the other Islamic sects. Some atheists are intolerant of Christian symbols, such as a cross and the 10 Commandments. Members of the LGBT community are intolerant of Bible-centered Christianity and Christian ethics.

However, the governments of western nations, including America, are giving political recognition to homosexuality and the LGBT rights movements, while in many instances they are denying the right of Christians to practice their faith. In that sense, these governments are tolerant of the gay rights movement, but have joined the Moslems and others in becoming intolerant of Christianity.

Our American Congress is supporting the “rights” of non-Christians to talk against Christianity, but in some cases is denying the same freedom of speech to the Christian community. That means our Congress is tolerant of the gay-rights movement, but is becoming intolerant of Christianity.

When a Christian quotes the bible — not just his/her own viewpoint — concerning God’s thoughts on sexuality, marriage, and man-woman relationships, the gay community cries bigotry, prejudice, intolerance! But when the gay community protests against our traditional American culture – and hatefully embarks on Christian-bashing, cursing, etc. – the culprits are often ignored because our traditional American culture is becoming tolerant of non-biblical ideology, but intolerant of Biblical ideology. Why? The homosexual/gay lifestyle is protected under the erroneously named: “hate-crime” law.

Who is intolerant? Generally, those getting their feathers ruffled and crying INTOLERANCE! are the intolerant ones.

Take another look. In Matthew 5:39 Jesus teaches if anyone insults you, ignore it – turn the other cheek. Don’t fight about it. In Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:35, Jesus said to love your enemies (and those who disagree with you). In Matthew 5:10-12 the result of Jesus’ teaching is that we should not even fight against those who attack or persecute us for our faith. Therefore, true Christians are the tolerant people, and it is Christian ethics that made us a strong nation. Christianity is the force that allows the intolerant people to decry Christianity.

One of the concepts that helped the United States become the nation of choice is the first amendment to the US Constitution: freedom of speech. It “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech….” But because of sinful nature, we know this freedom cannot be absolute. Example: overt threats – from whomever – on our person and property should be curtailed.

But our government has violated its own rule. The government HAS made laws respecting (limiting the exercise of) religion – specifically, Christianity – and violated the rule of free speech. Example: our government won’t allow Christianity to be presented in public schools or in many public settings; but other religions, such as Islam, Evolution, and Hinduism, are allowed public freedom of expression, and are actually promoted by the public and educational system. Free exercise of my faith IS impeded because intolerance is politically sanctioned.

True Christians understand fallible humanity; that’s why we present Christ to any and all who will listen. “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).” 

So, I repeat the question: Who is intolerant?

Those who intolerantly demand Christianity to be curtailed and Christian symbols to be removed are the intolerant ones. America, wake up, or your freedoms will be removed by those demanding one-sided tolerance.

Hear From God, and Obey Him

IMG_1791The Apostle Paul had an attitude. Whether you call him a Christian, Jew, or Roman, he was at times hard to get along with.

Naw! Wasn’t Paul gentle, compassionate, the teacher of the early church? Didn’t Paul write 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament? Didn’t Paul say in First Thessalonians 2:7, “We were gentle among you, as a nurse cherishes her children”? Paul had an attitude?

Yes he did. Let’s take a closer look at Brother Paul.

In Acts 7, Paul (then Saul) encouraged the killing of Stephen – the first Christian martyr. Paul might have called it an execution, but I call it murder. Then in Acts 9:1, “Saul was still threatening the followers of the Lord by saying he would kill them. So he went to the high priest and asked him to write letters to the synagogues [authorizing the arrest of Christians] in the city of Damascus.”

Saul was the scourge of the infant Church!

But Saul was a Pharisee and a staunch advocate of truth. Really? Yes. Although Jesus criticized some Pharisees for being hypocrites, others were unswervingly dedicated to truth. This described Saul. He was “a Pharisee of the Pharisees” – that is, he was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. Pharisees were teachers of the Jewish law, and Saul pursued truth with his entire being; at times even becoming angry at those he considered to be in error.

When Saul became a Christian, his name eventually changed but his character didn’t change. He remained consistent: adamant for the faith, but now unwavering for Jesus Christ.

We also notice something else. At first Paul didn’t fully understand that God has different plans for different folk. It took him some time to comprehend what he eventually wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 about each person having a place in God’s plan. This takes us to Acts 15:36.

Paul and Barnabas were ready to start their second mission trip. Disdaining Mark for previously deserting them, Paul resolutely refused to allow Mark to go again. But Barnabas wanted Mark (his nephew or cousin) to go. The disagreement turned into a major blow-up, so Paul and Barnabas – neither one understanding God’s larger plan – petulantly parted company.

This kind of thing also happens in the Church today. Someone gets a direction from the Lord and thinks he sees the full picture. Then when someone else hears form the Lord a little differently, the first person thinks the second person is totally wrong. They discuss it and/or argue over it, and often part company. Ministry teams are split, the church or even denominations are split. That is a human (sinful) reaction, and has caused problems throughout the history of the church.

But what we should do is stop and pray about it; think about our options. We need to realize that no one human sees the entire picture. This is why Paul eventually wrote 1 Corinthians 12: the eye needs the ear; the ear needs the nose; the eye, ear, and nose (and the rest) need the baby toe. (By the way, the baby toe provides stability while walking and tip-toeing.)

If Paul had remained calm and asked the Lord about it, he could have realized that God had a different plan for the three of them. What happened next? We find TWO ministry teams going out: Barnabas and Mark, and Paul and Silas.

The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement or consolation” although some say it means “son of a prophet.” It fits either way. And Mark? He is John Mark who later wrote the Gospel of Mark. The separate ministry teams were God’s plan! Ministry multiplication – not church torn apart!

We all have a role to fill, and we must find our place in God’s plan. The Holy Spirit will lead us if we pay attention. We all need each other. Each Christian needs the others. Each minister needs the church members and needs fellowship with ministers in his own and in other denominations.

When someone challenges your plan or appears to be challenging your pet project, don’t panic, freak out, or get upset. Pray about it. Maybe God is trying to show you a larger view of the picture, or give you another piece of the puzzle. You will need that larger view or puzzle piece to fulfill your mission in life. God empowers His children to fulfill their part of the plan. So, settle down. Pray about it. Do your part. Hear from God, and obey Him.