By the Mercies of God

There are some who would advise me not to tell this story on myself.  Their reasoning would be sound; they believe others would think less of me.  They think if you relate details of your sordid past – the “knowledge is power” thing – you open up too much of yourself.  I take a different tack.  If I can tattle on myself (instead of other people which they likely prefer to do!) to convince others of the wrongness of something or to extoll the grace of God evidenced in a sinner’s life, my own, then it is worth the risk to me.  I’ll give someone else a break and stick my neck out.

In my younger days I was quite the heathen.  I could posit blame on my friends, relatives, parents or society at large as all were less than perfect.  Others surely influenced me but nobody put a gun to my head.  I made the choices and many were bad.  Please remember that.  Don’t blame others.  Don’t play the victim card.  “For all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23).  That means you and me.

It was dark and very late at night.  I was riding shotgun in an old flat-front Dodge 6-cylinder van heading toward Stuttgart, Arkansas down a deserted stretch of highway.  Me and the driver, a buddy of mine (I won’t name names) had been drinking and were planning to visit a friend of mine.  In a moment of inebriated stupidity, I laughingly suggested for him to steer between the lines in the road – the white ones mind you.  He, by nature disinclined to refuse any dare, obliged without hesitation.  Being a  good driver, even if a bit out of his head, we began playing “dodge-em” and he did pretty well for a few minutes.

Then he lost it.

The rear end of the van tried to come around which prompted him to over-steer.  He swerved sharply to prevent a skid but instead the van started to fish-tail badly.  This went on for a few seconds and we left the road on the right starting down a fairly steep embankment.  By then I had gripped the open window brace with one hand while holding on tight to a can of beer (remind me to tell you sometime about the lethality and stupidity of imbibing intoxicating beverages).

I looked out the front window and up ahead loomed a sawed-off telephone pole, a thick one, not one of those spindly things you see in town.  We were approaching it fast and it was centered squarely in the middle of the windshield.  I knew instantly there was no way on earth we were going to miss hitting it; we were going too fast, we were rolling over grass and my buddy still did not have full control of the vehicle.  Almost reflexively I put both feet on the dashboard and pushed against it to brace myself for the impact I knew was coming, still holding on to the can of beer with my other hand while what was left of its contents sloshed all over me.

I realized I was going to die.  There was no doubt about it.  I stared death in the face; the scythe was on the downward swing.  I was seized with a strange sense of pervasive calm, a kind of hopeless, peaceful, resignation.  I remember feeling a silent exhale of air as my heart fell, a surrendering sigh as if my very soul was preparing to exit my body.  The last thing I saw before closing my eyes was that huge pole, eight or ten feet tall, standing off the ground, dead center of the van, mere yards away as we rushed toward it and our doom.

Then we stopped abruptly, not because we had hit the pole but because we had ran up on an embankment from a road that bisected the highway we had been traveling on.

By the very mercies of God my buddy had missed the pole.

All we could do is laugh insanely until we saw another vehicle approach.  Thinking it might be a State Trooper we jumped out of the van and ran into some undergrowth.  The only injuries we sustained came from that idiotic decision – multiple and painful lacerations from hiding in a blackberry thicket.

I would love to say that episode changed my life, but it did not.  We got up the embankment and arrived at my friend’s house later that night.  I am sure I praised my buddy for his remarkable skill.

It took a lot more trouble for God to bring me around but He spared me long enough to wake up.

So when I read that verse, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present yourselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1), I think back on that night.  The mercy of God saved me not my buddy’s driving which actually nearly killed us both.  No one will ever tell me different.  By all rights I should have died that night and died as a fool dies.

But I lived to die and be reborn years later when I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, dying with Him in the watery grave of baptism, therein calling upon Him to save me, having repented of my sins and confessing His name as deity itself as Scripture instructs.  I now intend to fulfill the rest of that – presenting myself as a living sacrifice daily until the day I leave this mortal coil behind.

Perhaps you have had a near-death experience.  Think back.  Let it teach you something.  View it as one of the many mercies of God.  He spared your life.  He gives you a perfectly good and acceptable reason to live.  So, for now on out, let it be for Him.

The Measure of Our Effectiveness

We may know how successful we are by the vehemence of the attacks and quality of the invective brought against us by our enemies. It is easy to ignore small-time nuisances but when we are truly agitated we cannot help but take sterner measures. Usually, the greater our frustration with overcoming opposition, the greater our anger. Then, as anger gives birth to hate, civil dialogue disappears and all the attacks become personal and nasty.

This happened to Jesus. When the Pharisees and Sadducees could not overcome Jesus’ arguments against their traditions and man-contrived teaching; when they could not successfully outwit and outperform Him in civil discourse and debate they turned to hurling insults:

“Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (Matthew 12:24).

“Then the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?’” (John 8:48)

For those out there who think Christians should just hide our heads in the sand on moral issues in any arena, including the political one, keep quiet, and “just be nice” you would do well to remember what Jesus said:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:34-36).

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

We are bound to be at odds with people who do not believe in Christ Jesus or who claim fellowship with Him but do not obey His will.

But if fear of reprisal, loss of friendship, timidity or sheer cowardice prevents us from standing up for what is right, speaking out against sin and religious error, we are liable to be counted among the ashamed and renounced by Christ.

Blessing those who persecute us (Romans 12:14) does not mean we say and do nothing more or nothing else. That passage does not sanction the muzzling of Saints against speaking out. If you think Jesus was meek and mild to the point of silence on issues, then why did He cleanse the temple twice during His earthly ministry (and thrash around with a whip of cords in the process)? Why did He pronounce woes on the hypocrites? Why did He verbally chastise His contemporaries for their error, turpitude, willful ignorance and rebellion to God’s plain commandments? Why did His enemies finally pin Him on a Roman cross? It was not because He was the kind of preacher who only wanted to make everyone around Him all “warm and fuzzy” when He spoke to them.

Soul-saving is serious business. We do not help anyone by holding back on what needs being said while sin goes on ravaging their lives. God’s grace is freedom from sin, not to sin. When sinful, impenitent, people go away believing they do well after hearing us preach then we have failed them, God, our mission and ourselves.  We have, unlike Paul, held back on declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).   And for what?  Popularity?  Peace at any price?

Be forewarned however.  If you won’t keep quiet, will point out error and stand unashamedly for what is right, you must expect to be hated and hammered by the opposition.  And do not be surprised that some of them, regretfully, will be Christians who mistake your passion for Truth as mere fanaticism. Take it in stride. Remember Jesus’ words:

“Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26)

“You will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matthew 24:9b).

And He prayed to the Father, “I have given them Your word; and the world hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).

If those who hate God and His Christ rounded up all those they considered their “thorns in the flesh” would you and I be among those arrested first or would our names be at the bottom of the list?  Would they be on the list anywhere?

We will know how effective we are in our preaching, in our living Christ and our support for the Truth by the measure of our opposition’s fury and hatred against us.  It will not be by our popularity.

Enlightened Religious People

‘Enlightened Religious People’ Don’t Use ‘Bible as a Textbook’ says the host (Neil deGrasse Tyson) of the upcoming remake of Dr. Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” in an interview (which, shamefully enough, contains an introduction by our sitting president, Barack Obama).

“Enlightened” you say?  You mean only the “smart” ones who stand in opposition to what scripture proposes as stated fact from the mouth of Almighty God?  But if they stand in complete opposition to the inspired account provided us by God through Moses, how smart can they really be?

Scripture uses the word “enlightened” to describe people who have been illuminated not only with the knowledge of God’s saving grace (John 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:8) but who have also been illuminated by the presence of God in their lives through the obedience of faith to the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 1:4-9; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; 1 Peter 2:9; Hebrews 6:4).   Therefore, according to the Bible, the only truly “enlightened” people are those who believe and obey the gospel of Christ–the same Jesus Christ who endorsed the Old Testament record as a factual account by His usage of it as a “textbook” (Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6; 13:19; John 8:44).

There are no two ways about it.  If we are truly enlightened in the sense of understanding the truth, we will believe the Bible text as fact, including any and all of that describing the creation of the world.

Mr. Tyson has it backwards and our president is championing the error the program contains.

Already I have heard people disrespect and disbelieve the Bible because of what humanistic scientists, professors and philosophers portray as fact (when, in fact, they, like us, hold to the tenets of their doctrine by faith only–they cannot prove them through experimentation).  Through the supposed “enlightenment” of such men and women the Truth is being squelched, stifled and marginalized in our society.

Can we afford to ignore this effrontery to the Truth?  We must counter this error so that our young people can know the truth about the world we live in, how it came to be and whose Mind not only imagined but created it for the purpose of His glorification in us, His Saints.   To do less consigns the world to an even deeper spiritual darkness.

The battle for the minds and hearts of men goes on.   Stay focused and fight on, you truly enlightened religious people.

Let It Go?

I know, I know, it’s only a song in a movie. Big deal. Get over it, Danny.

I can’t. It’s too endemic now, too symbolic, indicative of a full blown pervasive mentality that has spread like a plague throughout our society:

“It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through. No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I’m free.”

Lyrics from the song, “Let It Go” from the Disney movie, “Frozen” sung by a large crowd of young people, mostly girls, on Good Morning America. As if anyone, much less the youth of any generation, needs more encouragement to spurn the rule of law, order and convention.

Antinomianism.

That’s what the technical term is for it. Lawlessness. It is a mindset, an attitude, of sneering at moral standards. Much of the Apostle John’s first letter rejects it sharply:

“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:” – 1:6

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” – 1:8

“If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” – 1:10

“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” – 2:4

“But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” – 2:5

“If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” – 2:29

It is something God views as rebellion, which to Him is as the sin of witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23). At the very least, it is not something law-loving people should be singing rapturously about.

It isn’t anything new. “I did it my way” crooned Frank Sinatra to an older generation who loved the song.  Same thing, different wrapping.

There was a time when virtues mattered a lot in our society.  They were held in esteem, championed. We knew what the limits were because we knew when we broke them. There was a striving to excel, to go the second mile and while no one was anywhere near perfect, like Jesus was, we could easily see how hard some tried to be.  Honor, truthfulness, a firm if not entirely flawless moral code, a strong work ethic, a servant spirit, compassion and love for God, nation and fellow man were things our cereal box heroes stood for.  Only Jesus mastered it, but we could see them trying to stand in His tall and lengthy shadow, trying to provide good role models for us in our youth and young adulthood.

No longer.

Find anyone like that today, especially after they die, and observe the tweet-filled ether reverberate with the venomous bile of the haters who crawl out of the woodwork to spew it. (Learn what was “tweeted” about Shirley Temple after her recent death by them if you don’t believe me).  But let some Hollywood or rock star die of a drug overdose and the whole world stops to sing their praises and preach them into heaven.

No, the crazier someone is, the more outrageous and outlandish they can make themselves appear in public, the more disgraceful and ungodly manner that they talk, dress and act; the worthless heroes they pay lip service to, is the rule of the day. A great many people watch them, follow them, buy their recordings, watch and buy their movies and fawn over them. Oh they decry the shameless extravagance of the Oscars, but never miss an episode.

Is it too late to do anything about it? I pray not. Here are our choices:

Sweat the little things. Don’t pretend little things don’t really matter. Small stones falling down a slope produce avalanches before they reach the bottom. Don’t hold back because something is just folksy, cute or kiddie stuff. That’s what they want you to do – just turn a blind eye to it. Don’t.

Keep talking. Don’t be silent. Silence kills. Keep telling people what God’s Word says is right and wrong (not what we think is but what God says is). Make sure we know what the Word says and then keep on speaking out until death itself quells our voices. Make the devil and all the lawless ones like him breathe a sigh of relief on the day of our departure.

Pray often and fervently – for our nation, our leaders and ourselves. The Judge stands at the door. The threshing floor will be thoroughly cleansed. Unless we want to see our nation dragged down further into the abyss, we must do this.

Cast any and all ballots for decency. Ask yourself if Jesus would vote for this person. If you are doubtful, then don’t vote for them. Toss party affiliations – they’re just a tool for the ungodly to sway your mind. Vote moral issues. Stand with those who do. Reject those who don’t seem to care.

Boycott the lawless ones and their products. Money is all that matters to them. Hit them in their pocketbook. Maybe it will get their attention.

Decades of  timidity, silence, looking the other way, neglect, fear of reprisal, threats, intimidation and/or just plain apathy have placed the keys of our nation’s moral foundation into the hands of those least able, disposed or qualified to wield them.  Instead they have opened the flood gates of ancient paganism and are drowning us all in a sea of sin.

As the Lord lives, brethren, it is most certainly NOT time to let it go.

Moral Immaturity

The title of the article ran, “Video games leave teens morally immature.” My reaction was, “How do you reckon that?” (Now, I am not one to defend violent video games, but I can assure you, as morally degenerative factors go, there are bigger fish to fry. The moral condition of this nation is at an all-time, gutter-level low. Video games are hardly the culprit most responsible).

I am amazed at how people who disavow any Biblical claims to a moral center can be so very judgmental about what constitutes morality. By what possible basis do they believe they have a right to determine the difference between right and wrong?

Do they believe in the existence of some inherent, infallible, human sensibility that serves as the norm? What about the native tribe which, I heard a missionary describe, praised Judas Iscariot because he betrayed Jesus, or the one that viewed lying as a virtue, or the mindset of millions of modern, sophisticated types who routinely excuse their sin and improprieties by reeling off the worn out idiotic lie “Everybody does it!”?

For us to uphold any standard of morality that standard must be flawless in every respect. It cannot change due to time, go chameleon when confronted with circumstantial ethics, revise due to culture, or be subject to a perspective interpretation. It must stand for all time as a monolith of virtue, set in stone, irrevocable, pristine, hallowed, impervious to winds of change but above all maintain the prescription for what serves humanity as what is supremely righteous and fair.

What is not fair is for anyone to insist that we all be nice to each other “just because.” Any atheist or agnostic who believes there is a standard of morality other than an individual’s own view is not being true to their creed. Worse, they are hypocrites. If man is god, as humanistic philosophy maintains, then one’s own version of morality is a personal choice. It sickens me when I hear some atheistic, blaspheming, Christ-hating, son of perdition tell me what is or isn’t right. No matter what standard is used they should be at the forefront championing personal choice in the matter and leave it at that…if, that is, they truly subscribe to the tripe they claim to believe in.

Every moral statute or law this nation has ever had and the one which has guided humanity into anything akin to civilization has come from the Bible. Oh, it’s true that history records horrendous crimes practiced in the name of God when Christianity so-called has been, or is, led by lying apostates and filled with pew-warming pseudo-disciples. Yet if practiced as Christ and His Spirit-inspired Apostles dictated, then there is no better moral code or ethic existent. The New Testament is the standard of morality by which we may rightfully judge the actions of someone else, whether they are right or wrong in a universal sense. Jesus said, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (that is, the morally righteous) (Matthew 7:20). If there is no moral high ground (fruits) which God has set in place then tell me how else we can know the difference between the good and the evil, the just and the unjust, the right and the wrong? The truth is, we cannot and ultimately will not in any unified sense.

Unless we acknowledge the Word of God as the Standard of Morality and strive to live it then no right exists for us to mandate what is or is not moral.

Until then “moral immaturity” is nothing more than a speculative concept that varies widely from one person, or one generation, to the next, leaving a trail of confusion and lawlessness in its wake.

“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” – Judges 21:25

Keep Yourselves from Idols

I have always found that verse fascinating. There it is, the last sentence John writes in his first letter (1 John 5:21). Have you given it much thought? Isn’t idolatry supposed to be one of those “Old Testament” issues that got the Israelites into trouble so often? Why would the ‘Apostle of Love’ warn Christians, who should be way above such behavior, to stay clear of idols? Was there real danger they would lapse into idol worship again? I know it was possible since idolatry was rampant during that time but is that really what John is talking about? Does such a warning serve us as Christians in the 21st century?

The answer lies in the fact that no matter who we are or how spiritual we think we are, we can fall prey to sin, of which idolatry is a big part. When we are converted to Christ God does not place a “guard-all” shield around us to prevent us from being tempted or from actually sinning. Yes, Jesus made it clear that Satan himself cannot “snatch” us out of the Father’s Hand (John 10:28-29) and that is surely a great comfort. But being snatched from God’s hand by the devil and us willfully jumping out of it into the mud-hole of sin (2 Peter 2:20-22) are two widely different things. The New Testament is loaded with passages telling saints to be careful, to be warned, to refrain from, to abstain from and so on. Robert Shank in his powerfully convincing and compelling work ‘Life in the Son,’ a treatment of the subject of the security of the believer, lists 85 verses that warn believers they can fall into sin or apostatize (fall from God’s grace).

But if you say it is impossible for Christians to fall away as victims of sinful living then what purpose do warnings serve? What possible reason would there be for God to warn His people to “take heed” (1 Corinthians 10:13) if no danger exists? What if I told you to not eat bananas because a lot of people got sick from eating them to stop you from eating them but not because the reason I gave was true? Deliberate misinformation is lying, like ending a promise with the word ‘period’ then quoting the same promise several times later adding a few words after the ‘period.’ Politicians may make careers out of lying, deception and falsehoods and so may we, but God cannot (John 10:35; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18).

So if the warning against idolatry is real, what then do we need to know about it?

The concept of idolatry is simple. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) is the first commandment and it contains the prohibition against idolatry. Anything or anyone we rate in devotion and loyalty above God (Yahweh) is our idol. Do I need to draw up a list? If so, I would begin with sports. I am amazed at the devotion of sports fanatics. They will sit out in extremes of weather even sub-zero temperatures to watch their team play ball for hours. No less fascinating are those who would not miss their program on television for anything. Then there are people who would not be caught dead in Wal-Mart but have to have the most expensive of everything. They cannot resist spending exorbitant sums on houses, cars, appliances, furniture…you name it. While these things in and of themselves are not necessarily indicative of idolatry, they become so if we spend much less time, energy, effort and money to advance the Kingdom of Christ on earth. In 21st century America we desperately need to ask ourselves if a few dollar bills in the collection plate is really worthy of “as we have prospered” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) or are really just “pinching the nickel till the buffalo cries”?

The sobering truth is we can get so absorbed in the mundane that we become profane.

I believe that is what John wanted us to remember. God comes first in all things. He does not deserve or need our ‘scraps.’ Jesus Christ, the One who bled and died to secure us forgiveness, salvation and an eternity of glory that mortal mind cannot begin to fathom nor tongue describe, deserves better than a second or third rate place in our lives.

Let’s you and me take plenty of time to review what consumes our time and money in comparison to our devotion to godly things and world evangelism and make appropriate changes.

Like John said, let’s keep ourselves from idols.

Christophobia

In the words of former President Ronald Reagan, “There you go again!”

The LGBT cabal of “we-know-Christianity-better-than-you-do” has struck again, this time twisting A&E’s arm to suspend Phil Robertson for daring to state his personal stance on homosexuality in an interview for GQ magazine.  His views are entirely in keeping with what the Old and New Testament teach on the subject.

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.  It is an abomination.  Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it.  Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it.  It is perversion.  Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you.  For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants… For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people” (Leviticus 18:22-25, 29).

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians, 6:9, 10).

“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.  For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Romans 1:26, 27).

If Scripture, the foundation of anything we can really know about Christianity makes anything clear on this, it is that the practice of homosexuality, among other things, is perversion and will damn the soul.

You may not like to hear that, and you are free to disagree entirely at the jeopardy of your soul, but do not tell me that my religion is pro-homosexual.  It is not, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, and be true to what the Holy Spirit, via Moses, Paul, and Jesus had to say about it.

Jesus didn’t say anything about it?  If you believe that, you are wrong again.

“And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man put asunder”
(Matthew 19:4-6).

Two things should be noted here:  1) Jesus claimed that marriage takes place between male and female, and 2) God joins them together.  Any sexual union outside of that He prohibited by stating the affirmative (what God expects).  Prohibitions, therefore, would naturally include adultery, polygamy and fornication which would encompass homosexuality, pre-marital heterosexual unions and bestiality.

And do not tell me to keep quiet about sin and its repulsiveness.  Jesus was not:  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law:  justice and mercy and faith.  These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.  Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23ff).

But the real issue is the LGBT community does not want anyone of any notoriety or influence to speak against their pet sin.  Oh, they don’t really care if you or I (if we are not of that sort) speak out, but they cannot have people like Phil Robertson influencing people contrariwise.  They are running scared.

To that I say, “Too late!”  Phil was echoing what millions of people worldwide believe, and what millions will always believe, whether Phil or anybody else champions it or not.  Nothing can ever change that.  As long as Scripture is believed, and it will be, as long as the Word of God exists, and it will (Matthew 24:35), people of all nations will believe what God, through the Holy Spirit, wants us to believe about that and a multitude of other subjects.

Such people who voice their belief in God’s Word will always be around and will never keep silent.  Those who try to stifle us, ruin us, smear us, and perhaps even kill us, had best take note:  your “Christophobia” is showing and we see it.