Friday, January 27, 2006

The Upside-Down Candidate

An interesting phenomenon appears to be taking shape in American politics where in the state of Ohio, a Mr. Ken Blackwell is running on the Republican ticket for Governor of that State. Mr. Blackwell played a pivotal role in the 2004 Presidential Elections, where as Ohio’s Secretary of State, he shepherded the Republican Party through several attempts by the Democrats to try and get George W. Bush’s victory in pivotal Ohio overturned based on unproven voter fraud charges. That Mr. Blackwell has taken an early lead in the upcoming Governor’s race is heartening to Republicans since Ohio will probably remain close to ground zero in the next Presidential campaign in 2008. What makes this development additionally interesting is the fact that Mr. Blackwell is black and running apparently as a social conservative with no apologizes, pretensions or attempts to pander to the historical race-driven rhetoric of the minority base.

Mr. Blackwell’s candidacy in its current form raises some needed issues as it relates to religion in politics, race in politics and religion specifically in the African American church. Each of these three areas would appear to put Mr. Blackwell in a position of political weakness based on cultural American norms. However, as Steven Malanga’s article “Ronald Reagan’s Unlikely Heir” details, this candidate apparently sees no reason to apologize to anyone about his core convictions:

It hasn’t hurt Blackwell’s reputation with the rank and file that his deep religious convictions have drawn fire from noted liberal interest groups, winning him some extraordinary publicity. Several years ago, he opened a meeting with state employees by asking them to pause for a moment of prayer and reflection, prompting a complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union. What particularly irked the ACLU was that Blackwell actually seemed to be in earnest: he didn’t “want them to just go through the motions of praying,” the ACLU complained, “but wanted it to be a sincere and thoughtful prayer.” After the well-publicized episode, Blackwell asked state employees in his next meeting to sing “God Bless America” before getting down to business.

Imagine that, a politician who seemed to actually be praying “in earnest”. One who didn’t want to “just go through the motions of praying”. I don’t know much about Mr. Blackwell, but if this is an accurate depiction, I hope he never changes, or gives in to the predictably powerful forces around him who will inevitably attempt to pull him to a more “nuanced” and “pragmatic” approach to religion in politics. You know, the one that won’t alienate the masses…while alienating Jesus Christ in the process.

The other interesting sidebar in this developing story is the question of whether Mr. Blackwell can attract African American voters in substantial numbers. Why would this be an issue? Well, Mr. Blackwell is a Republican! Isn’t it automatic that blacks cannot vote Republican? It’s in the DNA isn’t it? Well, to be accurate it’s in the social DNA. God on the other hand is in the spiritual DNA; but with African American voters this seems to be the paradox. There is a sizeable African American percentage who regularly attend church and proudly claim the label of Christian, but who instinctively vote with politicians who are strongly embracing of anti-biblical platforms. I find that a glaring paradox. Is it that they hold race-based principles in higher priority than biblical ones? In this area Mr. Malanga goes on to state:

Blackwell is betting that many black Americans may be ready for a candidate, like him, who doesn’t preach victimology and doesn’t see the world almost entirely in racial terms. Blackwell is a post-racial, post-civil rights campaigner; race rarely enters into his speeches and is barely a part of his political platform. And even when Blackwell does address racial issues—the achievement gap between black and white students, for instance—it’s to tout free-market solutions like vouchers and charter schools. So far, this approach has resonated with black voters, attracting 40 to 50 percent of them in his statewide elections, even though he runs on the GOP line.

If this trend holds true or even grows, I for one hope it marks the beginning of a turning point for African Americans and generally for Christians in their motivation for supporting one political candidate or another (regardless of race). If you claim to worship God, then act like it in all aspects of life. Politics is no different. The political “sheep-herders” out there would have people remained spiritually and socially chained to their humanistic mindset of supporting politicians based on non-changing social norms. They care no more for the principles of God than the ACLU does. They simply care about their political fortunes. Demographic voting blocs are a means to their ends. To this Mr. Malanga writes:

Blackwell has become a growing target of left-wing blacks like Jesse Jackson, aghast that the first black governor of a major midwestern state might actually turn out to be a conservative who doesn’t trade on race…Jessie Jackson showed up in the state just before the 2004 vote and denounced “beneficiaries of our work engaging in election schemes to undermine the right to vote,” a reference to Blackwell’s role as the state’s chief election officer. Mindful that many people found it hard to swallow the notion that a black was disenfranchising other blacks, Blackwell shot back, “I am Jesse Jackson’s worst nightmare.”

As I said earlier I know relatively little about Ken Blackwell. However from what I read He has an opportunity to put convictions about God ahead of race and disingenuous political rhetoric. For an African American in particular, I say it’s about time. I pray he remains true to these convictions as his election race draws more likely fire from more coalitions of the ACLUs and Jessie Jacksons of the world. It will do well for him to remember this remark from Jesus in the scriptures: Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 NIV) It appears that Mr. Blackwell has publicly affirmed his intention to wear his Christianity on his sleeve. I say more power to him. If he remains that way, I pray all Christians in the state of Ohio will vote for him…if for no other reason than to stand up for Godly principles in government.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

…about that “Roadmap to Peace”

In the continuing one-sided dialogue between God and the Middle East “Peacemakers”, God once again spoke very eloquently yesterday. In the Palestinian elections – which was pushed very hard by the Bush Administration as a key component to the peace process – God allowed not the so-called moderate political party (Fatah) to win, instead He allowed the most brutal anti-Israel terrorist organization Hamas to achieve a landslide victory…thus throwing the so-called “peace-process” into total disarray.

Hamas has been responsible for countless suicide bombings inside Israel, and has as its core intent “the destruction of the state of Israel”. Now they become the official ruling government of the Palestinian people.

It will be interesting to see what the so-called “peacemakers” try next. They will be best served to realize that the true roadmap to Middle-East peace lies not in their man-driven diplomacy, but in God’s written Bible. The Bible is clear: God is working on His Israel project, and peace with her enemies is not part of the plan: You are destroyed, O Israel, because you are against me, against your helper. (Hosea 13:9 NIV); However before all the anti-Semites get too excited, please note that God has definite plans to restore His nation: Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall…"I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. (Hosea 14:1&4 NIV)

To all the political scientists out there, here is Israel’s REAL roadmap to peace: When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will show myself holy through them in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD." (Ezekiel 39:27-29 NIV).

Aliens...Because of Faith

One of the more common themes that arise out of horrific events in life is the “how could a loving God allow that to happen” syndrome. I usually find it interesting that many of folks who take this position are the same people who claim to have no belief in or regard for God either directly (atheists) or by behavior (the uncommitted fence-sitters). The latter group intellectually believe in the all powerful God, but refuse to bend their knees to Him…which will inevitably occur at a later point either in worship or in unimaginable fear - prior to their final judgment: Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 NLT).

The most disheartening group however who also ascribe to the “how could God…” syndrome described above are Christians, who at least have been exposed to the Word of God. These are the folks who you would think should at least know better. However, at the sign of trouble or calamity (no matter how small or great), they are quick to forget God’s faithfulness at keeping them breathing every minute of every day. A section of scripture that I recently studied I think would be very illuminating for all who at one time or another may fall into this valley of doubt. It comes from the great “Faith” chapter in the New Testament (Hebrews 11): All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. By faith…others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated, the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:13 & 35-40 truncated NIV)

It is clear by the above scripture that God never promised Christians a “bed of roses”. In fact it is obvious that for some of His people, there will be incredible difficulties and loss. However, God is also constantly telling us – if you read His Word – not to seek your comforts and rewards in this world; “aliens and strangers in this world” He calls us. If you are a Christian and have made a comfortable life free of many pains and hardships, then more power to you. But never forget to thank Him for whatever you have. But if as a Christian all you seem to face is difficulties, disappointments and disillusions, don’t despair: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3 NIV).

I would strongly recommend reading Hebrews 11 & 12, to allow God to encourage you greatly if the struggles described in this post is something that you may be living through. May God Bless you tremendously.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Own Sin

So I’m on an airplane looking through one of those in-flight magazines, and I happen to come across an article on a well-known actress. As I’m reading the article I happen to glance over more closely at the picture of the actress, and it is at that point came the epiphany that became this post.

With her dress comes a relatively revealing v-neck, and like a human lapdog, my eyes are drawn to her cleavage, which was (for the times we live in) customarily visible in the middle of her dress.

It is there that I notice just above her cleavage, a cross dangling from a chain. Immediately, my first thought was…this scene just doesn’t add up. What is the religious significance of a cross being displayed prominently a mere inch or so away from the very revealing private area of a woman. My righteous indignation immediately kicked in. It was then that the Holy Spirit invaded my sense of defending His honor with this rejoinder in my ear: “why were you looking at her cleavage in the first place?”. As usual, the Lord had me beat. He was absolutely right; why was I (a bible believing Christian), drawn so quickly to this sinful indulgence? The log in my own eye was itself very revealing.

I write this post because I know that there are many Christian men in my same predicament out there everyday. We do our best to refrain from such sinful activity, but we fall victim at times anyway. As the Apostle Paul stated about himself so eloquently in Romans 7: So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25 NIV)

I also write this post because there are many Christian women out there who may be very casual about wearing some of the low cut fashion that is revealing of more than the Lord would have be seen in public. The combination of their weaknesses in this area and men’s weaknesses in the flesh makes for a jovial time for Satan as he rushes to accuse us before God!

But thanks be to God the Father, and Jesus Christ our advocate before him against our accuser, as this passage of scripture represents: Then the angel showed me Jeshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD. Satan was there at the angel's right hand, accusing Jeshua of many things. And the LORD said to Satan, "I, the LORD, reject your accusations, Satan. Yes, the LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebukes you. This man is like a burning stick that has been snatched from a fire." Jeshua's clothing was filthy as he stood there before the angel. So the angel said to the others standing there, "Take off his filthy clothes." And turning to Jeshua he said, "See, I have taken away your sins, and now I am giving you these fine new clothes." Then I said, "Please, could he also have a clean turban on his head?" So they put a clean priestly turban on his head and dressed him in new clothes while the angel of the LORD stood by. Then the angel of the LORD spoke very solemnly to Jeshua and said, "This is what the LORD Almighty says: If you follow my ways and obey my requirements, then you will be given authority over my Temple and its courtyards. I will let you walk in and out of my presence along with these others standing here. (Zechariah 3:1-7 NLT)

So I repented before God for my sin in this area, and I urge each of you to do the same if you recognize these areas of weakness in your own life. And let us all ask God to give us more obedience to His Holy Spirit to avoid these weaknesses as we go forward in His name. Thank you for sharing in this post with me.

Bloggers Note: My wife and I had a very detailed discussion about this post prior to publishing. I would not have published this without her comfort level with this subject matter before hand.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A "Chocolate" Sermon

Why did it seem so ‘natural’ when New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin broke into a “Pastor’s” sermon this week in stating that he wants New Orleans to be built into a “chocolate city”? His oratory, replete with the accompanying “amens” and other participatory responses from his audience however lacked backbone, as Nagin later backtracked from his comments because of public indignation to the racial overtones.

Sermons should never be viewed as a “performance” or theater. When given in the right spirit, it is a heartfelt and earnest attempt at delivering Godly wisdom and insight to the audience present.

That Mayor Nagin broke into this genre with his insensitive and inflammatory rhetoric says something about the effects of the misuse of God’s pulpit in modern American history. I pray that Church leaders will consider the humanistic effects of church becoming performance art, and as a result allowing it to be co-opted by others because of it’s crowd pleasing effects.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"And God Said To Me…"

As a general rule, we live in a world that is made up mostly of people who either a) believe that God exists, but will not submit to his commands as stated in the Bible; b) does not believe that God exists; or c) believes that God exists and have accepted God’s Word as truth. Group ‘c’ comprises the smallest percentage of these three groups and is made up mostly of believers in Jesus Christ. The task that believers have in life is to present their belief to the other two groups in the hope of persuading them to change. Many do so to varying degrees of success, but oftentimes their methods and more importantly their motivation is a hindrance to true evangelism.

One character trait used by some believers that appear to be an instant sign of non-credibility with unbelievers is the utterance of the phrase “…and God said to me” or “God told me to say…” The continuation of any statements after the use of these phrases is usually met with extreme pessimism or ridicule by a non-believing world based on the assumption that God does not talk to people. So where does this motivation come from? Either the believer truly believes that God actually said something to them, or they think God said something to them, or they are attempting to falsely project some kind of special supernatural ability.

A study of the Bible showed that there are roughly 250 instances of the phrase “the Lord said to…” some person. Interestingly however, only 2 times does that phrase occur in the New Testament; and both times it was related to the Apostle Paul – once to Ananias to go tell Paul about God’s task for him: But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9: 15-16 NIV); and once to Paul himself when He was being told about his primary task for God: "Then the Lord said to me, `Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.' " (Acts 22:21). Additionally, the phrase “God said to…” appears 30 times throughout the Bible but none originally during the New Testament.

So what are we to make of this relative silence in the Bible of direct divine communication between God and man after Christ ascended back to heaven during the age of the New Testament? And how does this contrast to the regular suggestion of this type of communication during our lifetimes? The law of averages alone suggests that not all modern Christians who represent that they received direct communication from God is being disingenuous. Similarly, the law of averages as well as carnal human nature also suggests that many probably heard no such thing. I believe the answer lies in the working of the Holy Spirit of God – the oft forgotten or ignored aspect of God’s relationship with man.

To contrast with the overwhelming Old Testament occurrences of biblical references to God’s direct communication with men, the bible records virtually no Old Testament account of the Holy Spirit being the initiator of human communication. In fact there are only 3 direct references to the Holy Spirit before the life of Christ. There are however, 90 references to various works of the Holy Spirit throughout the New Testament. There are 5 direct references to people speaking based on the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives: When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! (Luke 1:41 NIV); His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. (Luke 1:67-68 NIV); All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:4 NIV); Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people…" (Acts 4:8 NIV); After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:31 NIV); Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right… (Acts 13:9-10 NIV).

It is not surprising that the communication between the Holy Spirit and man was mostly conveyed throughout the Book of Acts, as this was the historical account of when God started the “Church Age” which is still in effect up through today. I submit that all genuine accounts of people being given special revelation from God through the present time, is by way of The Holy Spirit. But that is rarely how such communication is presented by those affected. As stated at the top, it is common for people to state “God told me…”; very rarely do you hear people say (particularly among a crowd of non-believers) that “the Holy Spirit said to me or revealed to me…” Unfortunately, the ugly history of major sections of the church and their unwillingness to acknowledge the Holy Spirit has helped to build a stigma against such talk among believers. Believers many times don’t want to appear “crazy” to non-believers by talking about some “Holy Spirit”. And the devil would not have it any other way.

The scriptures says in the Book of Hebrews: But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. So, as the Holy Spirit says:” Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:6-8 NIV). Until the Holy Spirit becomes a more visible and audible part of the church culture and lexicon, this problem of getting an unbelieving world to take us seriously when well meaning Christians convey some special divine communication will never happen…and the influence of the Church will continue to be muted.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Dr. King: A Brilliant Man of God

Tomorrow the nation celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King day. It is a fitting memorial to one of the most significant men in American history. By the sheer force of his will, intellect, love for his fellow man and (by today’s standards) an uncharacteristic adherence to the Word of God, Dr. King blazed the trail for the social and economic improvements that African Americans now enjoy. He rightfully should be honored by an entire nation whose sense of self was made better due to his efforts.

As I read the transcript of his 1968 speech “I See the Promised Land” it was remarkable to feel his eloquence and humility as he addressed a public audience for the final time the day before his assassination. His was a movement grounded in the ways of God. His call for social justice for African Americans was based on the spiritual law of God that all men are created equal in the eyes of God, and as such should be treated equally without regard to race. But I am sure that the freedom that Dr. King espoused was not a freedom that gave license to live without responsibility. Not the freedom to live to gratify the desires of your flesh, not the freedom to bring fear to others. Dr. King’s brand of freedom always embraced the scriptures. This was its basis. Dr. King would agree to the freedom God talked about in 1 Peter 2:16-17 - Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Dr. King’s freedom came to serve God, not the other way around. Religion was not a means to a social end. Freedom was a means to serve God’s end. In his last speech, Dr. King used the word “God” 11 times. Civil Rights for African Americans was subordinate to God’s laws.

The modern day people who profess to be leaders of the African American movement (if a single monolith still so exist) could do very well to emulate Dr. King’s subordination to the Word of God. I wonder if their apparent impotence on the national stage is rendered so because they have asserted themselves and their political causes above and beyond God’s Word. I have seen precious little in the way of real Christian authority as the driving factor that lead these modern day version of so-called leaders. Jesus says: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…” (John 15:5 NIV) It is undeniable that Dr. King “bore much fruit”. True Christian leaders tend to do that long after the Lord has called them home.

Dr. King ended his last public speech with these words:

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

On behalf of those who loved Dr. King – to God Be the Glory.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Satan’s Counterfeit World

As one who loves reading God’s Word in the Bible, I find it fascinating to see the ultimate conflict that plays out from Genesis to Revelation between The Lord Jesus Christ and Satan His enemy, for the soul of every human being. Historically, for those who even give this topic any thought, it is usually assumed that God’s direct adversary is Satan, but that is clearly not the case. Satan is God’s indirect enemy, but it is with Jesus where the battle is truly played out.

In the Book of Matthew, Satan knowing Jesus’ reason for being born into the world tries immediately to subvert him with three temptations (Matthew 4). Each time, Jesus rebuked him with the phrase “It is written”. Where is it written? In the Word (the scriptures). Who is the scripture? The disciple John answers this question in the Book of John Chapter 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus rebuked Satan by referencing himself: The Word.

One of the sad things to see is how Satan deceives men by duplicating the things of God, and in an earthly sense with much success…if you judge success by the degree to which men are ensnared by his counterfeit efforts.

One such area is with religious worship and fervor. I find it interesting how overtly committed many people appear to be to non-Christian religions, such as the Muslims who annually make their pilgrimage to Mecca or in their perceived humility as the submit in prostate daily during their prayers to Allah. Jesus said in Matthew 12:30 – “He who is not with me is against me…” (Matthew 12:30 NIV) These people are not 'with' Jesus, so therefore they are against him, which by definition means they are 'with' Satan. And they worship with such devotion and vigor. To be certain there are many who ascribe to non-Christian religions and who are just as lukewarm and non committal to those religions as some Christians are to theirs, but how often do you see Christians willing to pray overtly to God publicly, outside of the hidden privacy of their Church or homes? God bless the Christian who may be in the supermarket when a conversation with an acquaintance yields the need for prayer, and that Christian is willing to stop everything and pray with them – right then and there in the supermarket!

An ominous recent development that underscores this worship battle between Satan and Jesus is with the developing nuclear standoff with Iran. The new Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is on record as saying Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth. Mr. Ahmadinejad is evidently a passionate believer in a coming messiah as this excerpt below explains:

Thanks to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, a new word has entered the political vocabulary: mahdaviat…Not surprisingly, it's a technical religious term. Mahdaviat derives from mahdi, Arabic for "rightly-guided one," a major figure in Islamic eschatology. He is, explains the Encyclopedia of Islam, "the restorer of religion and justice who will rule before the end of the world."… When addressing the United Nations in September, Ahmadinejad flummoxed his audience of world political leaders by concluding his address with a prayer for the Mahdi's appearance: "O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace." - Ahmadinejad's Mission and Mysticism By Daniel Pipes

But the messiah whose appearance Mr. Ahmadinejad “prays to hasten” is not the Messiah Jesus of the Bible. It is a counterfeit version. So it naturally stands to reason that for that “messiah” to return, the people of the real Messiah (the nation of Israel) must be “removed from the face of the earth”. Iran being led by Mr. Ahmadinejad is working feverishly towards developing nuclear capability. As stated he is on record as wanting Israel “removed from the scene”. Anyone can put two and two together and see a coming clash in the near future.

Finally the book of Revelation states that the ruling system during the last days on earth will be comprised of another anti-God counterfeit system: Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon…He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666. (Revelation 13:11, 16-18 NIV). Though the Bible is not definitive on this issue, many biblical scholars suggest that the code 666 refers to Satan’s coming counterfeit trinity (Satan, The Beast and The False Prophet), which contrasts against the true Biblical trinity of God-the Father, God-the Son and God-The Holy Spirit. Whatever the case however, the Book of Revelation is clear that this counterfeit triumvirate will lead millions to death and an eternity in hell: The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 NIV).

I urge everyone not to be deceived by the master of counterfeit. Despite what the world may tell you, the truth is absolute. There are no shades of gray. Remember Jesus’ word: “He who is not with Me is against Me.” You will either worship the real God or you are automatically worshipping the counterfiet. Everyone's life displays their choice.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

God Uses a Fortune-Teller

I did a post on God’s Holy Spirit a few weeks ago and received a very interesting email from one reader:

“Wow This is Deep...I know all of this sounds good but if you really want to change yourself or someone important to you. If you need online tarot in your life. If You can say no to all this (tarot reading weblink deleted)...I am changing the way I live today ...Think it and believe it... You can Change Your Life and Start Living Your Dreams Today…(tarot reading weblink deleted)”

Signed Anonymous

I must say I’m not terribly surprised that this particular post generated this particular response, given that the Holy Spirit is in fact the power that is at work here on earth in the lives of God’s people, and is the restrainer that God uses to hold back the complete work of the devil. The Apostle Paul wrote about this struggle in 2 Thessalonians: Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction…And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow…The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 6-10 truncated NIV)

Mr. Anonymous’s response to the truth of God’s Word on His Holy Spirit was to mock the text and invite fellow readers to “improve” their lives instead by absorbing the dark art of tarot reading. To be quite frank, this is a thriving business in today’s society. They exist conspicuously in many towns and neighborhoods throughout this country. However God is very blunt and repetitive in His command to people to stay clear of this activity; here are a few examples: “…do not practice divination or sorcery." (Leviticus 19:26); I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people. (Leviticus 20:6); Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD… (Deuteronomy 18:10-12 NIV); for rebellion is like the sin of divination… (1 Samuel 15:23 NIV); …they practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. (2 Kings 17:17 NIV); …He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. (2 Kings 21:6 NIV); When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? (Isaiah 8:20 NIV)

Ironically, I’m pleased that this person had an opportunity to read some of God’s Word in order to respond in any way. The Bible says that “God’s Word will not return void”. As such, the Lord has plans for this reader. In fact He has already used him to allow me to respond and perhaps alert other people to the extreme perversion of fortune telling. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Fear of a Theocracy

A television interview with a Jewish Rabbi last night highlighted a growing fear among many in the United States of the possibility that the US government may be moving ‘dangerously’ towards theocratic rule – where religious fervor (of the Christian bent) becomes the dominant form of public policy. This ‘fear’ harkens back to the pre-US era where migrants fled religious persecution from colonial Europe to make a home of freedom from government-imposed religion in the United States.

The new concern stems primarily from the rise of red-state dominance in recent US politics particularly during the administration of George W. Bush and the resulting influence of Christian oriented groups such as James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. The interesting note here is that groups opposed to religious influence in society are having difficulty defeating such influence at the ballot box. Rank and file Americans (those in inconsequential fly-over country) don’t seem to share their concern about the vestiges of a theocratic rise in political governance. To be certain, this phenomenon is simply the backlash against the alternatives to Godly ideals - that being the moral wasteland of pop culture and secular humanistic policies so embraced by the opponents of religious influence. Over the last 50 years, the pendulum has swung so far away from basic moral standards, that regular folks have had enough.

The good news for this Jewish Rabbi, Liberal Christian leaders and the anti-religious masses is that the fear of theocratic rule is largely exaggerated. Fear not…when it comes to truly embracing what a true theocracy represents, Americans will find it hard to live without their “Desperate Housewives” every Sunday night. “WWE Raw” and their demonically themed commercials no longer available for our children to be cultured by? No way! Theocracy? "You know what you can do with your theocracy" will be the battle cry from flyover country and beyond.

There can be no theocracy with human beings running our governments. God says about man in Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Man is too bound by the lusts for his own power and his own adulation to cede to theocratic rule. Theocratic rule by definition means the subservience of all things human to the authority of all things divine. God rules. His way rules. Not our way of what I would call “theocracy-lite”. Not the ways of the mega churches and their Lincoln Navigators in the parking lots or people hawking miracle water on Christian television. The theocracy that is feared is actually a theocracy-lite that is “the rage” among today’s Christian community. Trust me, that is nothing to be feared.

There is however a real Theocracy coming. I suspect however those in fear of it will not be around to be subject to it. The Book of Isaiah promises: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be calledWonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV). This will be the true Theocracy.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Pat Robertson Effect

This week’s controversy regarding Pat Robertson’s comments about Ariel Sharon has exposed a very pervasive problem among us Christians as it relates to the compassion and respect or lack thereof that we show to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We (myself included) are oftentimes no different than non-believers when it comes to embracing the impulse to vilify others with whom we disagree, and to do so with far reaching and negatively influential consequences now that we live in an Internet-driven mass communication world.

Was Pat Robertson’s statement theorizing about the reason for Ariel Sharon’s stroke compassionate or loving? Certainly not! To some it could be construed as being almost hateful. But to be fair, there was a Godly context in which it was being made, and from this writer’s point of view, the weight of Godly context must at least be given credibility and equal time amid the “bashing” of the speaker.

A useful example to Christians regarding the ‘proper’ way to relate to Christian leaders (which the secular world ascribes to Pat Robertson), can be found in the Old Testament of the Bible in the relationship of King Saul and David. David was personally anointed by God’s messenger Samuel to be the next king of Israel, and by today’s standards would appear to have the legitimate right to say and do anything to Saul who was saying far worse things about him in public than Pat Robertson has so far uttered, yet David’s response was remarkable in reflecting God’s message to all future believers: “…then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe. Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." (1 Samuel 24:4-6 NIV). Despite the awful things that Saul had said about him and the fact that Saul wanted to kill him, David acknowledged his sin of simply cutting off a piece of Saul’s robe because Saul was a king that God had permitted…a fellow brother in the Lord. David went on to this say about Saul: May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, `From evildoers come evil deeds,' so my hand will not touch you. (1 Samuel 24:12-13 NIV).

Now I’m sure to most of his critics, Pat Robertson is not one of God’s anointed. So therefore his comments and character is fair game for repudiation and ridicule as befitting a common hypocrite. However, the facts suggest that God has allowed him to be the leader of an expressively Christian enterprise for over 30 years, which has in the process brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands if not millions all over the world. I make no claim to know his true heart as a believer, however evidence suggests that God has anointed his work in many ways (and I don’t use financial gain as the benchmark). The kingdom of God has been increased as a result. As Christians, that is our sole purpose for living is it not?

As it is the cacophony of criticism among fellow believers causes no distinction between us and the secular world. In that the cause of Christ is diminished if only because non-believers see us as being in lock step with them in the cause of vilifying a fellow believer. About this God says to his believers in Romans 12:2 - Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…(NIV)

Can we disagree with Pat Robertson’s comments if we are so inclined? Absolutely. But in doing so, it is useful for us to keep God’s word in mind: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:1-3 NIV)

Friday, January 06, 2006

US Navy vs. In Jesus Name

As of today, Navy Chaplain Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt has been under a hunger strike for 18 days because the US Navy will not allow him to pray officially with the concluding “in Jesus Name” salutation with his prayers. Mr. Klingenschmitt indicates that he will fast with only intakes of water until death if necessary unless the Navy changes their policy. Pretty heavy stuff for a pretty heavy cause.

However why does anybody pray? Presumably to God the creator who by definition has control over all things. But if God has decreed certain “rules” governing how He will accept prayer, it seems foolish and counterproductive to ignore these rules. In the end you are simply talking to yourself. A position that Atheists think you are taking when you pray anyway. Lets have a look at what God decreed as it relates to approaching him in prayer: Jesus said in John 16:23-24 “…I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (NIV). The skeptics may say: why should we listen to Jesus, we are praying to God! But look at what God said concerning Jesus: Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" (Mark 9:7 NIV). To further put closure on this issue from the biblical perspective: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well...(John 14:6-7 NIV)

Since 1998, the Navy has issued a “pluralism” policy governing the behavior of Chaplains, which in summary decrees that you cannot pray to your God, you have to pray to the “civic god”. What or who is the civic god? If the Navy’s position is that the civic god is the God of the Bible which I suspect it is since the Navy Chaplain’s uniform bears a cross on it, then from where are they getting their guidelines on which their prayer directive is based? It can’t be the Bible. This is simply another example of modern day culture proving God’s word prophetic when He indicated how men would be in the last days: “…having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (2 Timothy 3:5 NIV).

Here’s hoping that God will use Lt. Klingenschmitt to show the US Navy and America themselves. I think the full text of the previous scripture says it most accurately: But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV)

The Navy finally relented on Saturday 1/7/06 and now allows Lt. Klingenschmitt to officially pray "in Jesus name". Amen!

Ariel Sharon and Biblical Consequences

This week’s news that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has suffered a massive stroke which has left him in critical condition and unlikely to return as Prime Minister has created another the opportunity for a Pat Robertson initiated controversy in the United States. During a broadcast of his The 700 Club program, Robertson indicated that Sharon’s stroke was a “punishment from God” because of his decision to partition Israel and give the Gaza strip to the Palestinians in a “land for peace” deal. (See related post dated 1/2/06 – which was written before Mr. Sharon’s stroke).

Not surprisingly, virtually all of the major media in this country has vilified Pat Robertson for his remarks, with some calling on the President to repudiate him.

The only problem that I see is because of his history of sometimes reckless statements, anything Mr. Robertson says will immediately be written off as the ranting of a religious lunatic, but amid the noise, the possibility of his statements actually being valid will be totally missed. That I suppose is a burden that Pat Robertson will have to carry, but from my viewpoint, his motivation for wanting to preach the truth of God’s Word boldly before a lost and dying world will actually be looked on favorably by God – who after all is the only judge that matters.

So let’s look at the background behind Mr. Robertson’s statement regarding Mr. Sharon: In the summer of 2005, Mr. Sharon suddenly changed his historically firm stance against negotiating with the Palestinians and adopted the US sponsored view that the Palestinians had legitimate claim to parts of what is now modern Israel. As a result, Mr. Sharon forcibly removed Israeli settlers from their homes in Gaza (located in southwest Israel), and turned the land over to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians are also claiming that East Jerusalem is another patch of Israeli property that belongs to them, and Mr. Sharon’s recent moderate stance on Israeli partition suggests that additional annexing of Israeli land could be forthcoming. Then came the two strokes – a minor one in December 2005 and the second debilitating one this week. Mr. Sharon has suffered what his doctors describe as “irreversible brain damage” and is not expected to recover sufficiently to be leader of Israel anymore.

Pat Robertson referenced the biblical book of Joel as evidence that God was exacting punishment on Sharon for dividing “God’s land”. In Joel I did not see any specific verses of scripture that spoke directly to the Sharon situation, however there is one particular section of scripture that has what I would consider indirect relevance: I will gather all nations…I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land. (Joel 3:2 truncated NIV). Here is a clear example where God speaks of clear judgment against those nations that “divided my land”.

Despite no clear scripture speaking to Mr. Sharon’s tragic turn, I actually agree with Mr. Robertson’s general line of argument that there will be judgment on those who divide the land of Israel. Unfortunately, to the politically correct crowd in 2006 as well as the masses who don’t take the Bible literally, nor study it for that matter (both mainly being part of the same grouping), Mr. Robertson’s remarks is nothing more than fodder in the ongoing culture war.

If nothing else however, Mr. Robertson does serve the purpose of bringing awareness to the specter of God’s hands-on relevance in the affairs of this world and with Israel in particular. This issue regarding Israel’s giving away of land to the Palestinians for peace is still in play. Gaza is now occupied by the Palestinian Authority, and as new Israeli leaders emerge, it will be very interesting to see what happens to those who keep to Sharon’s direction of negotiating for peace using God’s land as a bargaining chip

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Coal Miner’s Error – What Kind of God?

The unspeakable tragedy that was endured by the families of the men who died in the coal mining tragedy in West Virginia will undoubtedly expose their faith in God to ridicule and scorn by some unbelievers, and may even shake the faith of some believers. How could a loving God allow the chain of events to occur in such a cruel way where the families were led to believe that their loved ones were alive only to find out that all except one was dead?

This has to be one of the mysteries of God that is hard to figure out. However what kind of faith would we have if we are to turn on God because we don’t understand?

Man has an enemy in the devil who is trying to destroy us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. His relentless attacks never cease. Yet by and large we get though each day unscathed! We do so only by the hand of a loving, protecting and faithful God.

Always remember, man is what is wrong in the world, not God. We are directly or indirectly responsible for the tragedies that occur in this world, not God. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 NIV). King David of Israel shows us a great example of how we should approach this reality: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity…Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:1-4,9-10 NIV)

I ask God to show His mercy to the families of the victims. To let them not lose faith, but to renew their faith as an example to a skeptical and unbelieving world. To remind them that all of their lost family members who truly believed in Jesus is now at peace with Him. As the apostle Paul said: to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Israel's Land For Peace: God's View?

In the summer of 2005 Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (with the encouragement of President Bush) agreed to forceably withdraw Israeli citizens from the Gaza strip and turn the area in southwest Israel over to the Palestinian Authority as part of the state of Palestine. This was hailed by many governments as a critical step towards ending the war between Palestinian militants and Israel. "Land for Peace" was the slogan of choice.

Given that Israel was established by God as documented in the Old Testament of the Bible, I wondered what God would think of this arrangement brought about by modern day wisdom. Some history would be useful here: When Joshua (the leader of Israel) was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, "You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites: from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite (the territory of the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron--that of the Avvites); (Joshua 13: 1-3 NIV)

The Lord took the land from the Philistines (the ancient Palestinians) and gave Gaza to Israel, and no human being can attempt to change that and expect a peaceful conclusion. Modern day Israeli politicians along with most other world governments are assuming they can diplomatically change what God has decreed. As this headline from Gaza on Christmas Day 2005 suggests, "No God/No Peace":

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ordered the army to enforce a no-go zone for Palestinians in northern Gaza to try to end rocket attacks on Israel. It is part of a series of new measures Israel says it will take to stop Palestinians firing missiles...A Palestinian official rejected the plan outright. - BBC News

America claims to be a Christian nation, and some government officials boldly declare their Christian allegiances. Sometimes I wonder, what Bible are they reading?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A Generational Slide Into Oblivion

When I was a brand new Christian and first studied the Book of Revelation one section of scripture jumped out at me as being very odd – in a book full of very unusual situations: The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. (Revelation 16:8-9 NIV) Here was God pouring out his wrath on mankind during the last days on earth, after repeatedly judging them with twelve previous plagues and yet they still cursed him rather than bow before Him to ask for forgiveness. At the time I found this behavior quite inexplicable because I thought how could people be so obstinate and rebellious in the face of obvious displays of God’s reality and power? It's not like they could argue anymore about the actual existence of God!

Over the years I’ve pondered how the heart of man could get so hardened to get to the point described above, and I think I may be seeing the answer. Over the past 100 years with each passing generation, the heart and attitudes of people appear to grow colder, courser and less respectful. The generation born after 1940 (commonly referred to as the Baby Boomer generation) seemed to be the first to depart significantly from their parents as it relates to respect for things beyond themselves. Their focus on self-fulfillment, which reached its maturity in the turbulent decade of the 1960s, really marked a culture shift away from the humility and respect of earlier generations.

Uninhibited sexual gratification, financial greed and a rejection of any accountability to God’s Word opened the door to all kinds of social ills and moral relativism that quite naturally were passed on to their children’s generations. The slide toward oblivion only increased as each successive generation felt more and more comfortable in living solely to satisfy their feelings and desires. As a result since 1950, millions of children have been aborted, most of them because they were inconvenient. The majority of children are now sexually active and promiscuous before age 21, bringing with it unwanted pregnancies (at least the ones not aborted), sexually transmitted diseases, and psychological trauma over broken relationships. Young adults are now raised in a “me first” or “look at me” culture with any dissenting opinions or corrections being a reason for a barrage of curse words, beatings or drive-by shootings.

We are now at the generation that has little or no respect for themselves or anyone else. Tattoos are now the identification signal of choice across all socio-economic and ethnic groups which is not surprising given that God said: Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves…I am the Lord.(Leviticus 19:28 NIV) More and more children are born into single female households (at least the ones not aborted), due to the explosion of casual sex where commitment is an after-thought. The children from these unions then enter into a culture where they are not raised with the balance that a two-parent household provides, so in turn they inevitably produce more children with less moral standards because their parents had little or none to offer. This is definitely the road that would eventually lead to the generation described in the first paragraph.

So as a parent today what do you do to counter the tide, and at least give your kids an opportunity to avoid being sucked into this wash? God provides some clear guidelines throughout the Book of Proverbs: Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death. (Proverbs 19:18 NIV); Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15 NIV); Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death. (Proverbs 23:13-14 NIV); The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. (Proverbs 29:15 NIV). There is an obvious common denominator throughout these passages of scripture and that is the need for discipline over children. This has been incredibly lacking in the rearing of the generations over the past 50 years, and as the Lord predicted, the lack of it has produced the culture that we have today.

As a parent, you must discipline your child with the “rod” as God puts it, when necessary. Nowadays it is not the politically correct thing to do, but that is what you will get from a largely Godless society unwittingly intent on eventually producing anarchy. No responsible parent wishes to resort to corporal punishment over their children. It should be used as a last resort. To minimize and eventually avoid this practice altogether the Lord advises: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) Train them from infancy in the ways that are correct. By reinforcing your values consistently at a young age, the need for corporal punishment will generally be greatly reduced. Either way, as a responsible parent, always heed God’s Word over that of the secular culture.

A God who sends people to Hell?