Sunday, 31 July 2011

of Body Piercings, Depravity & Anti-Establishmentarianism

I just don't get it! What is the attraction to body piercing? Maybe I'm just old fashioned. Sure, as a rebellious teenager, like many of us I had my own forms of stupidity. As my father's prodigal son, I was also guilty of making my statement of independence to my parents and to the world. But looking back, those anti-establishment statements of mine were tame in comparison to the body piercing of today. Or am I missing something?

Does each generation get more stupid than the one before? Tattoos used to be the marks of rebellion in previous generations. I even got two of them myself as, in my opinion, a stupid know-it-all 17 year old. I paid dearly for that foolishness, both financially and in terms of pain, having had them removed with lasers. In generations before that, parents used to cringe at the body gyrations of music idols like Elvis Presley and the Beatles. Now tattoos are as common as sliced bread and, as for dancing and music, well anything now is acceptable (even among Christians). We no longer seem to hardly notice either any more. Perhaps body piercing is just the logical (or is that illogical?) next step in non-conformity to societal mores.

So what comes next? If each generation lately seems to get more twisted than the one before, what will the rage be for up and coming generations? How will the yet to be born generations make their anti-establishment statements? I mean, they're already mutilating themselves now; what's next? Open bestiality? Self amputations? A return to the legalized death games like the gladiator days of old? We've already reduced humanity lower than the animals in that we've allowed the wholesale execution of the would-be next generation through legalized abortion. Can society get any more twisted than it already is?

Personally I like to think that all this degenerative activity is simply a sort of preparation to the return of the Lord. I like to think that God will only allow us to go so far down the road of depravity before He says, "Enough is enough! "I like to think that when our valueless society finally gets that low (assuming it isn't already) that it accepts every form of depravity and says, "peace, peace" (1 Thessalonians 5:3), well that's going to be about it.

All we can do is let the world spin itself down to it's own destruction. That's not to say that we shouldn't continue to preach the Gospel and be witnesses for Christ; of course we should. But as for the rest of it, well, let the prince of the world have his way for now; his time is coming.

"Surely I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

of Selective Hearing and Itching Ears


We’ve all heard it, haven’t we? She says of her husband, “he only hears what he wants to hear.” He says of his wife, “You haven’t heard a thing I just said!” So go the arguments; back and forth. He said, she said; but nobody really heard anything, except, that is, what they wanted to hear.

We’ve all been there at one time or another. We’ve all been guilty. Little wonder this world is so screwed up! Little wonder marriages are so screwed up! Nobody knows how to really listen anymore! We’re all so wrapped up with our own little agendas that, unless someone is saying exactly what we’re thinking, we quickly tune them out. They don’t know what they’re talking about! They’re just a bunch of liberal morons! They’re just a bunch of dumb conservative literalists! How could they be so stupid?

Yeah, we’ve all heard it. But before we say too hastily, “well, that’s the world for you,” let me just say that I’m not talking about the world; I’m talking about the church. Does that shock you? As Paul says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5: 12-13a).

Paul said to Timothy, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4: 3-4; NIV).

Friends, all it takes is a quick look at some of the strange doctrines that the charismatic, evangelical and even the catholic churches of today preach, to confirm to us that we are already in that time. When we stop and look at some of the strange s**t taught from many a pulpit today, one has to wonder what’s going on! Where, I ask you, do they get all this junk from? Am I reading a different Bible than they are? Perhaps the logical answer is, “Yes.” But the truth is more likely that they’re hearing simply and only what they want to hear. The truth is, if I don’t preach what they want to hear, they will simple go down the block and find someone who will preach what they want to hear. In other words, they will find someone who will give them what “their itching ears want to hear.”

There used to be a time when the church would practice something called “church discipline” (for example, 1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tim 1:20; Tit 3:10). Those days are long since gone. As a pastor, if I were to rebuke someone for something, today they would likely simply leave our local church and, snubbing their noses,  go across the street to the next church. In today’s day and age when there is virtually no unity in the church, that is doable. In earlier times when there was unity, that was not heard of so much.

Social media today is no different. You question someone on something that, in your opinion, does not line up with the Scriptures, what happens? I’ll tell you what happens, they simply “unfollow,” or “unfriend” you. No big deal, right? There are, after all, plenty of other  “fish” in the church, any number of which will give them the time of day if you and I don’t. I saw that this week. I questioned the ethics of a “brother” (???) in the Lord, he took exception, and before I could blink an eye, I was “unfollowed.” Man, it’s a good thing my significance doesn’t lie in the number of Twitter followers!

So what are we to do today? How do we handle so-called Christian brothers and sisters who obviously have a vastly different understanding of the Bible’s teachings that we do? Do they have “itching ears,” or, dare I say it, do we have the “itching ears?” Who is right? Who is wrong? Does it even matter? Ultimately, if there are dissentions and factions in the Body of Christ, all signs of the “sinful nature” (Galatians 5:20), isn’t it really all simply a sign that we have yet to learn how to love one another? Hmm, I wonder.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Gunmen at Church

One Sunday morning during service, a 2000 member congregation was surprised to see two men enter, both covered from head to toe in black and carrying sub-machine guns. One of the men proclaimed, “Anyone willing to take a bullet for Christ remain where you are.” Immediately, the choir fled, the deacons fled, and most of the congregation fled. Out of the 2000, there remained only around 20 people.

The man who had spoken took off his hood, looked at the preacher and said, “Okay Pastor, I got rid of all the hypocrites. Now you may begin your service. Have a nice day.” And the two men turned and walked out.
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A friend sent me the preceding short story. While I suppose something like that could happen (anything is possible), it’s more than likely simply a made up story. If you have reason to believe otherwise, I would love to see the link to the real story. Having said that, I remember an incident a couple years ago where a gunman did open fire in a church building. I wrote about it here.

Real or made up, the story does beg some important questions:

·      Is the average church filled with hypocrites? “Hypocrite” is defined in my dictionary as, “a person who pretends to be what he is not, especially one who puts on an appearance of goodness or religion.” So a hypocrite is a pretender. Are there pretenders in our church gatherings? If I were a gambling man, I’d bet on it. The only question is, how many?

·      Is our faith a faith of convenience? It is easy to be a Christian in our North American society. Unlike many of the Christian martyrs around the world today, our version of Christianity is really quite easy in that it doesn’t cost us anything. Belonging to most institutional churches today is comfortable, much like belonging to a secular club somewhere. Anyone for golf?

·      How far would you go before turning denying your Lord and running away? We have not yet suffered to the point of shedding our blood for our faith. If real persecution were suddenly to land on our shores, would we still be found in our church buildings, or would we turn renegade and run out the doors?

·      Would you be prepared to die for your faith if it came to that? Now there’s a loaded question. I’d like to say the answer is yes, but I suppose we really wouldn’t know until we were actually faced with that very scenario. He died for you and me; would we die for Him in return?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

of Talkers and Doers


I am sick to death of Sermons! I’m sick to death of Bible Studies! (Yup, I actually said that and meant every word of it!). Year after year, sitting in neatly lined up rows, like ducks in a shooting gallery, listening as the pastor says, “turn with me to this verse; turn with me to that verse.” Year after year, it seems more and more like all we're doing is worshipping with the back of the head in front of us, listening to sermons after sermons after sermons. Year after year we sit in a small group at our mid-week Bible Studies and ask each other, “what does this verse mean to you; what does that verse mean to you?” If I had a nickel for each sermon I've listened to and each Bible study I went to, well, you get the point. Enough all ready! I’m sick of it!

Now before you go labeling me a heretic, let me back up a little and explain.  First of all, let me say that I am of the firm opinion that we can call ourselves “Christian” and be faithful members of a Bible believing church all our lives, never missing a service. We can be baptized, tithe regularly, and even claim to speak in tongues. We can have a high attendance record at a mid-week Bible study for 50 years, and one day still hear Jesus say to us the words nobody wants to hear, “I NEVER KNEW YOU.”

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7: 21-23; ESV)

Does that mean that we shouldn’t have times of teaching and Bible study? No, I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is that there must come a point in time somewhere where we walk out of the classroom and begin putting into practice the things we learned. If that were not so, then perhaps Paul’s words about “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7) can rightly also be applied to us. Yes, life is a life-long learning time. However, somewhere in the process every student must do a practicum. Somewhere along the line students get ready for graduation. Instead, I see a lot of classroom lectures in Christianity (or in pseudo-Christianity), but I see very little practicums.  Instead, 50 year Christians are still eating pabulum from their booster seat called the church pew, instead of the meat and potatoes of “doing” the faith in the marketplaces of life.

James tells us to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1: 22-23; ESV).

Has the modern church deceived itself? Are we even aware of what we look like? Have we become hearers only as opposed to doers? Other than perhaps a few small exceptions, I think we have. Many are good at hearing; but only a few are good at doing. James actually goes so far as to say that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). Did you see that? A work-less faith is a DEAD faith!

If your schooling has no practicum, you fail the course! The proof of the faith, the test, is in the doing. We’ve all heard the expression, “words are cheap.” That’s not just some secular mantra; it applies to our faith too. Sometimes I just want to yell out, in the words of that classic TV commercial, "Shut up, Steve!" There must come a place and time where we “shut up” and start “putting up.” That’s what I’m talking about. I don’t care any more how well you can parse that Greek verb! I don’t care any more how powerful of a preacher you are! I don’t care any more about your Bible school and seminary degrees, or that you’ve got a D.Min (that’s ‘Doctor of Ministry,’ not ‘demon’ – ha, ha). What I care about is not your talking the talk; I care about your walking the walk. I care about “doing” the word; not “talking” the word.

I remember an illustration from my seminary days. This didn't happen at our school, but the story was told by a professor and supposedly happened at another seminary somewhere. Apparently at that seminary there was a lecture series on the Good Samaritan. Part way through the series, there was a break for lunch and everyone was directed to an adjacent building where lunch was to be served.  What everyone didn’t know was that the walk to lunch was a test. What everyone didn't know was that an old man who was dressed like a needy bum, and who was asked to sit half sprawled out on the path between the buildings. Sadly, not one of those attending the Good Samaritan lectures even acknowledged him, much less offered to be of any assistance. They got the teaching, all right, but they all failed on the doing part.

Is this what the church of today has become? Have we become mere talkers and listeners? Have we forgotten that the purpose of all those Bible studies, and all those sermons, is that we then take those lessons and put them into practice? What good is a nursing degree if you never use it to nurse a patient back to health? What good is a Bible lesson learned if I don’t then use it in a practical way to bless someone else with the love of Jesus? What good is a divine blessing from Heavenly Father if I don’t use it to bless another of His children? Or do we think that all the blessings of the Gospel are for us to internalize and keep to ourselves?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of “Cheap Grace.” He said, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14; ESV). Are Bonhoeffer’s “cheap grace” and Jesus’ “wide gate” the same thing? I think so. If not actually the same, they’re certainly related.

Certainly there are many Christians who will never hear that horrible “I NEVER KNEW YOU!” They have learned the importance of being “doers” of the faith and not “hearers” only. But I would argue that they are in the minority. I’m afraid that there are far too many today who, though they may claim to be born again believers, are really simply “religious.” They are trying to enter by the wide gate called “Religion.” Oh, they look Christian enough. They even speak all the right Christianese dialects that they learned from years and years of pew-sitting listening to sermon after sermon and attending Bible study after Bible study. They might even be deacons and elders and choir directors, and perhaps even, are pastors themselves. But unfortunately, the road they’re on leads to destruction. Unfortunately, the road they’re on will one day lead them to hearing, “I NEVER KNEW YOU!”

And he told them this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit from it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13: 6-9; ESV).

The fruit is often missing because there is no “doing.” The lesson is that if there continually is no fruit, the tree is in danger of being cut down. The lesson is, the barren tree has only, at best, one more season and one last chance to produce fruit. The lesson is, if the fruitlessness of being a hearer and talker only is not soon followed by the fruit of “doing” the Gospel, we face having our tree cut down.

I equate all those religious talkers and hearers, all those incidents of Bonhoeffer’s cheap grace, all those examples of Jesus’ wide gate and barren fig tree - I equate them all with Jesus’ coming pronouncement to the pseudo-Christian masses of “I NEVER KNEW YOU!” For me, that is scary stuff. Has the modern church become lethargic in this regard? I wonder sometimes.

I began by saying, “I am sick to death of Sermons! I’m sick to death of Bible Studies!” That is actually not totally true. It is only true if the “DOING” of the Gospel is not front and center.

Lord, keep me from practicing cheap grace and from the hypocrisy of being a barren fig tree. Keep me from inadvertently getting sucked through that wide gate. I’m tired of all the religious talking, Lord. I want to be a doer of the Gospel. To that end, I pray for your help. Amen.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

School Prayer HYPOCRISY

Photo Source: Unknown

"Christians, Jews, Hindus, and other parties have been up in arms after the recent, widespread exposure of a Canadian school's policy allowing an imam to lead Muslim students in prayer on campus."



PLEASE NOTE: What follows is not original to me but rather comes from The Christian Post. Is it just me, or does anyone else also have trouble with this?
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While many are voicing their opposition to prayer being allowed in a public school at all, others are crying hypocrisy since prayers by other faith groups are prohibited at Valley Park Middle School in Toronto, in Southern Ontario. Prayers by students of other faiths, such as Christianity or Judaism, are not allowed.

Various groups have been rallying against the Toronto District School Board for various reasons concerning the case, but most are insisting that the board is violating Ontario’s Education Act by allowing prayers of any kind. The act bans religious services during school hours.

The imam-led prayers have been going on for the past three years, according to the school board. Board officials say they worked with parents to decide on the 30-minute prayer sessions. About 80-90 percent of the student body at Valley Park Middle School follow Islam, according to media reports, and about 300-400 students participate in the Friday prayers.

Critics have taken issue with what they see as preferential treatment for Muslims. Some are also concerned that the Muslim students who gather for Friday prayers in the school cafeteria are separated by gender, as they would be in a mosque.
Officials with the school board say their reasoning for accommodating Muslim students is to “maximize instructional time.” Students are allowed to leave school on Fridays for prayers, but apparently too many of them fail to return to school afterward.

Some question the board's reasoning, saying the prayer sessions also disrupt students' class time.

Board officials insist Canada's freedom of religion laws allow them to make an exception for the Education Act's prohibition on religious services during school hours. Board members say students participate voluntarily and with parents' permission.

In a statement issued on its website last week, the board said: “Where religious accommodation is concerned, the law is quite clear: freedom of religion in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms supersedes the Education Act. As a public school board, we have a responsibility and an obligation to accommodate faith needs.”

The board's statement also hits back at critics who say allowing an imam on campus to lead prayers makes way for indoctrination, insisting that religious practice is not being taught at the school.

The board's official position is not good enough for some groups who wonder the affect the organized prayers might have on students of other faiths. “It has the potential to stigmatize non-participants and gives the potential to give an official seal of approval to a given religion,” Ed Morgan, a law professor and president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, told CJNews.com.

Some members of the Muslim community have also criticized the school board's decision. “The reality of that is that the school board is being politically correct and naive,” Salma Siddiqui, senior vice-president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, told the Globe and Mail. “Honestly it does not work in the long run. How are they going to accommodate other religious minorities?”

Members of Toronto's Hindu community are voicing their opposition to the prayers at Valley Park Middle School as well. Ron Banerjee, director of Canadian Hindu Advocacy, told the Globe and Mail that he believes Islamic groups are “imposing their view and trying to change the rules, regulations, norms and values to accommodate themselves, and in the long-term, to spread their ideology.”

Although the school is presently in summer recess, the prayer sessions are expected to resume in the Fall when students return to their studies, which runs from November to May.

A recent case here in the U.S. regarding prayer in schools involves a lawsuit involve a Texas student and Medina Valley Independent School District. Corwyn Schultz, who graduated in May, is an agnostic and he and his parents found it offensive that there was a call for prayer at his graduation ceremony. The lawsuit filed by his parents claimed that the district forces prayer on students at school-sponsored events.

Federal Judge Fred Biery, who sided with Schultz in his decision, had his ruling overturned. The case has yet to be resolved as Biery has now called on the respective parties to notify him by July 21 whether they plan to continue to pursue the case.
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Source: The Christian Post