Monthly Archives: January 2015

Forgiveness – appreciation of demands guilt

At the evening meal hosted by Simon the Pharisee, Luke 7:36-50, a woman walked off the streets into an assembly where the only women were servants, and where she knew herself a trespasser.  Intently winding among the couches, and hardly able to contain her emotions, she stopped where Jesus reclined.  There she found refuge from protesting male glares.  There, as if by invitation, her reserve vanished, out from her eyes a flood poured, and she bent to wash Christ’s bare feet.  Shamelessly performing a shameful act, she unbound her hair, turned her head and wiped his feet with her long tresses.  Then she cupped his feet in her hands and tenderly kissed them.  Taking a cruse of perfume from the folds in her garment, she poured the contents and gently massaged it ankles to toes.

The Pharisee read transgression of tradition in her behavior; Jesus unconditional affection for guilt removed.  Perhaps Jesus hadn’t known it, but, in the crowds listening, this once anonymous face had absorbed his teaching on God’s forgiveness.  She opened herself to it, and it revolutionized her life.

Sensitive to the many ways people signify a change in life’s direction, Jesus instinctively understood and honored her act.  He used it to teach a great lesson:  we’ll love God to the degree we think he’s forgiven us.  If we have any feeling of goodness, our love will be less.  If we understand that our sins are great, and that Jesus alone makes possible our freedom, nothing he asks in return will be excessive; we’ll seek ways to express our appreciation; anything will be the least we can do for him.

How much sin has Jesus removed from us?  Our response to the demands of discipleship reveals the answer.  Yet…only admitting great sin removed approximates the woman’s act of appreciation.

Christianity – ancient, invaluable, permanent

Gambling mogul Bill Harrah began buying antique cars in 1948 and adding them to his ever-increasing collection in Reno, Nevada.  People at first thought it a joke, but he persevered.  In 1962 he opened his collection to the public, with whopping success.  350,000 came annually by 1983 to view the collection.

Among his vehicles were two of only six Bugatti Royales in existence.  Many collectors would have gladly paid a million dollars for one, and considered it a bargain.  Scarcity, in addition to being the ultimate car, multiplied the car’s value.  Had but one existed, it would have been literally priceless.

Harrah died in 1978.  In 1980, Holiday Inn purchased 6 million shares of stock from Harrah’s estate.  Included were 1,400 vintage cars.  They later sold the largest part of the collection at auction.  They would have sold it all but for the outrage of Reno residents.  To pacify their anger, Holiday Inn donated 175 cars to equip the National Automobile Museum in Reno. (Wikipedia Internet)   Holiday Inn reaped 100 million dollars from the auction.  Car-lovers lost an irreplaceable treasure.

Speaking of ancient, invaluable and permanent treasure, consider Jesus Christ and Christianity.  In God’s sovereign will since Eden, Genesis 3:15, Jesus in his ministry gathered a group of disciples he anointed as apostles on the Day of Pentecost.  The end of that day saw 3,000 baptized people added to the Twelve Original Members of the Christian Church.

We may take for granted certain possession and relationships whose loss would incalculably impoverish us.  Among them are marriage, health and friends.  While we have these blessings, we often carelessly undervalue them.  Only when they’re gone do we understand how important they were to us.  Once lost to us, we’d pay anything to get them back.

One Relationship stands above all others:  our faith in God’s Son, awareness of his forgiveness and eternal life.  To assure us all:  Christ is not going away and Christianity is not going to be parceled out to the highest bidder.  THE FAITH is Christ’s bequest to all believers.  He holds it as a possession from God until, after His Return with angels and Judgment of the world, he submits even the Church to God’s sovereignty I Corinthians 15:27-28.

Now, today God’s invitation to salvation remains.  Come one, come all, salvation’s door is ajar.  Whether we come or not, it remains.  For now.  Until we die or Jesus Returns.  After either, he remains, but we lose it all.  And, after it’s too late, we would gladly pay any price to be saved, even to denying self.  After it can’t be done.  When wrath replaces grace.  Don’t wait to become a Christian.  Do it now.  Don’t let doubts keep you from Jesus.  Accept him, despite them, then LEARN of him.  He will unfailingly educate you in his truth.

Behavior – one political, the other personal

Strange, inconsistent behavior often characterized North and South in the Civil War.  One of the strangest was the “battle of the sexes.”  Northern soldiers repeatedly felt the unmerciful, unladylike vituperation of Southern women.  They spared no vulgar words or gestures, wielded any handy weapon, including saliva, in condemning the disgusting invaders.  New Orleans women became so offensive that General Butler issued his infamous order declaring any southern woman spitting at, or cursing any Federal soldier, would be considered a prostitute.  That stopped the public displays, even as it enraged the ladies.

The women also worked in factories producing weapons and ammunition.  They spied on Federal troop concentrations and sped intelligence to Confederate commanders.  They donated plate and jewelry, managed farms and invented substitutes for imported items.

However, while the girls and ladies publicly, daily and viciously maligned the Federal soldiers, and refused to even acknowledge or address them, except in abuse, once night fell, normal feelings replaced animosities.  With so many Southern men gone to war, and so many Federal soldiers handy and willing, “ardent and unrepentant partisans by day often promenaded by night…arm in arm with dashing lieutenants and captains….”

The shortage of Southern men, and the presence of so many Northern men, may have accounted for it.  More importantly, as in every age, it was “boy meets girl” with the inevitable results.  The change in attitude was also seen in battles between Federal and Confederate troops.  Shooting to kill while in battle, they regularly visited across the lines afterwards to shoot the breeze.

What isn’t as well known, many Southern women considered secession wrong, the War wrong and the South wrong.  They deplored this “awful war” and even publicly denounced the right of secession.  Irrepressible Conflict, 395-397

Christ – turns euphony from cacophony

John Fremont, “The Pathfinder” of the American west in the 19th century, employed a motley crew on his first exploration.  A “civilized” Indian accompanied, two “wild ones” from the mountains, and a Chinook from the Columbia country.  He also employed a mixture of Americans, Germans and Frenchmen.  Four or five languages were spoken all at once; and American, Spanish and Indian dress and equipment mingled and competed.  His entourage represented an international classic for the time.  Fremont’s leadership allowed it to work.

The Lord’s leadership provided an even greater unity.  At a time when religious hatreds, political loyalties and differing agendas fractured Israelite life, he issued a call to unity based on loyalty to him.  He came to reconcile humanity, not just Israel, to God.  Each person’s forgiveness issued in improved, even perfected, unity among believers.  James 2:1-7 reveals that some early Jewish congregations hadn’t mastered the challenge—not unexpected in a nationalistic society.  Acts 13:1 reveals that Gentiles and Jews in Antioch of Syria had—the expected result from a polyglot population.

The Gospel has gone everywhere and, wherever it goes, the kingdom of God still speaks a Babel of tongues and is still represented by innumerable traditions and cultures.  Yet, out of the Babel, one sound:  Christian fellowship.  Out of all cultures a single message:  all who will may come, and whoever comes will always be welcomed.  We all have different educations, talents and interests.  We need not discard them, any more than Fremont’s men discarded theirs.  Like them, under Christ’s unifying banner, we see all differences blending into a kaleidoscope of faith and purpose.

Christ – the greatest of all being servant of all

Joseph Stalin, a monster equal to Adolph Hitler, knew that some men were stronger than he and placated them.  Some were weaker and eliminated them.  Some were equal and used them.  But he always kept in view rising above all to rule them viciously.

His successors never wielded his influence and authority, but they employed his principle of placating, eliminating and using people.  Thus, in 1976 the hard-line Communist rulers fired Prince Norodom Sihanouk, one-time Cambodian monarch, who had served as figurehead of state under their rule.  Officially he simply retired, at his own request.  In truth, he had outlived his usefulness; in truth, he was fortunate not to simply disappear.  A year before, Sihanouk saw his departure coming.  The Communists loved him, he said.  But when they didn’t need him, they would simply spit him out.

Yet, even then communism had its admirers in American academe.  Even now, with communism disgraced in every way, it still does.  Liberalism is not subject to reason and fact.  Which could lead me to a critique of critics who attack the Gospels, but that comes later; I have another application to make.

God differently views his erring, sinful, rebellious people.  He longs for us even as we casually brush him aside.  He wants to forgive, though we show no repentance.  He reluctantly chastises us, with a reluctance as deep as his love and mercy.  Only after repeated calls to us, and as many refusals, will the Holy One judge us.  He knows that force accomplishes his will when all other appeals fail, but that those conquered by force have to be perpetually ruled by force.

He’s no bully who has to beat his children to prove his power.  How thankful we can be that he exhausts his longsuffering patience before he resorts to doomsday thunders and lightnings!  He knows he must discipline and punish humanity, but takes no delight when people suffer for any reason, not even when he brings condemnation on their impenitent sinfulness.  He is the secret of his reluctance to judge:  not our goodness, but his nature.

 

Sin – long-hidden eventually revealed

A disastrous fire broke out in the Las Vegas MGM Grand Hotel in November, 1980, claiming 85 lives.  It was the second worst hotel blaze in American history.

Fire investigators later determined that the fire had begun in an electrical wall conduit long before the flames appeared.  It had actually started six years before.  It had grown slowly…inexorably…smoldering to the flash-point, building up tremendous heat until it burst into a blinding sheet of flame travelling 485 feet in 19 seconds.

The sins that brought Israel’s fall in 722 BC and Judah’s in 586 BC had long been festering in the nation.  Before Babylonians incinerated the Temple, sin had burned out Israel’s vitals.  The capture of the city was just the visible expression of the disaster expanding within her over the years.

We often find that troubles seem to instantly appear.  When carefully investigated, however, it’s found that all the ingredients for a recipe of turmoil had existed long before.  They had combined in secret, slow growth that eventually burst into view as division:  in a church, divorce in a marriage, trouble with the kids, being fired from a job, or the fall of a nation.

2015 America began in 1950’s America.  1950’s America began in the war years of 1941-1945.  Not before in our history (a subject covered in the writer’s coming E-book Factors That Have Secularized American Life), had war been such a divisive factor.  Those of us who were young adults in the 1960’s, in graduate schools and preaching, sensed the ominous changes in the country’s values, music, and morals.  With better hindsight of the 1950’s, we could have anticipated the 1960’s.  At least now, with the hindsight of the 40 last years of the 20th century, we can understand the depraved nature in the 21st century.  It’s an ugly sight, but we can see why America is now a past-ripe fruit over-ready to be picked, awaiting only God’s timing to drop it into tribulation.

Of all people, Christians shouldn’t be surprised at the judgment coming to America.  But count on it; many of them will be among the most vocal critics of God’s wrath when he expresses it.

Apologetics – meets challenges head-on

When called to report for duty against the British, the Connecticut militiaman obeyed.  He ate breakfast, saddled his horse and rode off.  As he got almost out of earshot his wife yelled something, and he returned to ask what she said.  He chuckled later that she told him not to get shot in the back.

To a man, God’s Biblical witnesses met the challenges of ministry head-on.  If they were to be wounded or killed in the struggle, it would come from confronting the adversary, not from fleeing him.  They would occasionally remonstrate with God over unanswered prayers, sterile repentance and unmolested depravity.  They might wonder why God allowed wickedness to grow and why he didn’t put a stop to it.  But when called to served, out into the conflict they went, looking for the adversary, ready for battle.

Christians have become defensive about their beliefs.  We honor God’s Word in our services—behind closed doors—but reluctantly declare anything publicly.  We know the opposition we’ll face.  Unlike the Connecticut militiaman, we’re more likely to be shot in the rear heading back to our sanctuaries than in the front assaulting Satan’s strongholds.  This is particularly true where we posit the accuracy of the Gospels.

At this point, fellow Christians, we need to reach an understanding.  We believe that the life and ministry of Christ are faithfully and correctly recorded in the Four Gospels.  The problem is:  we have faith primarily in our subjective belief:  we believe because we believe.  We lack objective evidence that proves the Gospels’ integrity to any unbeliever, critic, and unconvinced seeker.  Christians need to understand that we must marshal unimpeachable evidence that challenges the skepticism and denial of the unsaved.  For only if Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, and the Gospels are authentic records of his life and ministry, can Christians proclaim him as God’s one and only answer to humanity’s needs.

The writer’s book Their Own Best Defense, available on Amazon.com, offers just such evidence.  The multiple-volume series studies each chronological text of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, surfacing evidences of its integrity, proving it an accurate record of Christ’s activity.  Volume I covers the life of Christ from John the Baptist’s birth through Christ’s Early Judean Ministry.

 

This writer has no interest in attack for the sake of being negative.  But, as some of his blogs have shown, where anti-Christian doctrines, beliefs, and practices exist in society as an acceptable alternative to Gospel truth, attack is the only authentic answer.  I will gladly defend the Gospels against any adversary.  If I can’t do it skillfully enough, I’ll recruit others who can.  God’s Son in God’s Word must be defended; and if his sworn believers won’t take the time to do so courageously and convincingly, we will face Satan’s increasingly effective assault on God’s Word.

Immigration – alarming facts about

A story in last week’s Union-Tribune revealed the alarming fact that at least 180,000 illegal aliens live in San Diego County.  Similar numbers in other counties country-wide prove the idiocy of immigration policies that have soared out of control since the 1980’s.

A quarter of those illegals own homes.  Question:  how did they get loans?  Seventy-seven percent of them are from Mexico.  One-half of the 180,000 speak little or poor English.  Most are 25 years and older, fertile child-bearing years.  And 80% of them are protected from deportation by inane Federal laws.

Consider some of the implications of these figures, not necessarily in order of importance.  First, we have sacrificed the rule of law for political correctness.  No society based on law can survive if it changes from its laws to political correctness.

Second, failing to protect our southern border from lawbreakers insults the immigrants who have come here legally and paid the price of becoming citizens.  How can liberal politicians disgrace law-abiding immigrants by giving equal rights to those who flout our laws?

Third, liberals have moved the problem from a rational to an emotional issue.  They clamor, “how can we punish innocent children, even those born in this country of illegal parents?”  We will never reach a rational decision so long as we make the issue emotional, based on what happens to innocent children.

The AIDS activists have made the same appeal when Bible-believers denounce homosexuality.  They say, “How can we condemn the homosexuals when children born to infected mothers are innocent?”  Idiocy surpasses stupidity in such responses.  The children born here of illegal immigrants have citizen’s rights.  But their parents do not.  And the parents need to “man up” to their illegal activity and take their children back home with them.

Interestingly, we never impose the “innocent children” argument when referencing the kids of alcoholics, drug addicts or criminals.  We understand that parental offenses against the law necessarily bring adversity to children.  Except when it comes to issues favored by liberals.  Then all rules must be changed.  Not likely!

Fourth, American policy continues to provide a safety-valve for the failed economics of successive Mexican governments.  Indeed, by allowing illegal immigration to thrive through the years, and now in increasing numbers, we have allowed Mexico to continue the corruption endemic to that society.  U.S. companies thought to plug some of the gaping holes in Mexico’s always-backward economy by transferring their operations there, hiring thousands of Mexican workers.  Which drained millions of dollars from our economy and employed thousands of Mexicans.  But it hasn’t kept endless streams of illegals crossing our border looking for the northern Eldorado.

Fifth, our cultural mania for tolerance overlooks the centuries-old myth of Roman Catholic integrity.  In every nation since its inception in the sixth century, the Catholic church has degraded, not uplifted, its people.  As in dominant Islam, poverty, ignorance and illiteracy have prospered wherever the Catholic church has been the dominant religion.  That’s because the Roman Catholic Curia sees its small oligarchy as the Church, with the major benefits accruing to them, not to the people.  The best example of difference between Protestantism and Catholicism is a Protestant-driven America being the desire of millions from Catholic-dominated countries.  Because Protestantism recognizes individual rights and Catholicism only subservience of the populous to a religious hierarchy.

In conclusion, so long as we reward illegal immigrants with benefits they do not deserve, and should not have, so long will the problem cancerously grow.  It will become The Issue demanding severe surgical decisions by our political leaders.  We cannot solve the problem by declaring all illegals here legal!  As this writer wrote when Congress passed the Amnesty Law under President Reagan, it was the worst possible decision.  I stated then that the continuing flow of illegal immigrants would necessitate further Amnesties.  To stop this insanity, anyone breaking the law by illegally entering our borders must be punished, not pampered.  They must be deported from our frontier and kept out.

That’s my opinion.  What do you think?

 

Discipleship – spoon-full and ladle

Billy Bray, a Cornish miner in the 19th century, became a great Christian witness after his conversion from drunkenness and profligacy.  He lived so happily in Christ that it amazed and, sometimes, exasperated people around him.  He’d dance happily before the Lord.  He frequently shouted aloud about his faith.  On one occasion he attended a church where the people told of their many trials and difficulties.  Billy jumped up, smiled, clapped his hands and testified that he too had experienced trials, but that he had known far more joys.  He had taken both vinegar and honey, he told them.  But the vinegar had come to him by the spoonful while the honey had come by the ladle.  Deeper Life Experiences, 178.

Israel’s prophets somberly described the sorrows to come for her continued rejection of God.   But God wouldn’t stop with punishment.  After the discipline would come restoration to his presence, and in that time they would forget the sorrow experienced.  If vinegar had been theirs by the spoonful, honey would be theirs by the ladle full.

God’s goodness always shines brighter in us than sorrows darken our soul.  His love for us is always greater than his anger with us.  While we always remember our great sins, he refreshes us even more with an intuitive appreciation of his forgiveness.  Belonging to God means he must sometimes punish, for we oftentimes sin.  But in belonging to him we have mercies greater by far, and they last always and ever, while his anger lasts but a moment.

There are always people counting their stripes; alas, many are Christians.  But God has many others who prefer to count their blessings; who realize that, whatever sorrows afflict, joys in greater abundance excel them.

Consistency – the elusive trait

A Southern California brush fire in 1982 leaped fire lines cut to contain it and burned 5,000 acres before being extinguished.  It caused $250,000 in property damage and cost $350,000 to fight it.  Seven hundred firefighters fought the blaze for two days, during which it consumed 700 structures and several cars.  Investigators traced the origin of the blaze to none other than the community Fire Chief.  He had burned trash in a homemade incinerator, with an opening in its side.  Sparks and hot ashes blew out and ignited the nearby grass, which spread to a catastrophe.

Highly inconsistent behavior, all would agree.  Which is probably our greatest failure.  Jonah certainly suffered from it.  He served as a prophet, whose goal was always repentance of his subjects and forgiveness by God.  Until God ordered him to preach in a community he didn’t like to people he loathed.  He refused because he knew his preaching would convict them and God would forgive them.  Imagine a preacher regretting baptisms from listening to his sermons!  Since Jonah felt that Nineveh’s destruction was necessary to teach Israel a lesson, he didn’t want the job.

If only we could be consistent in our life, attitudes and ideals.  But, like Jonah, we often find ourselves at the mercies of prejudice, loves, dislikes or carelessness.  Knowing all the right things, and delighting in their ideas, we still imperfectly practice them.  Lurking within is the humanity that can better instruct ten people how to live than be one of the ten taught.  It would be easy to criticize Jonah and the fire chief if we didn’t suffer equally bad faults and sins.  It’s a lot harder to remember the counsel of Jesus in Matthew 7:3-5, but applying his teaching will make us more patient when others fail, not so ready to judge, and always ready to forgive