Wednesday, October 29, 2014

We've gone from ministering and serving to releasing. Yes, words matter

Release the hounds!

The phrase 'release the hounds' comes from fox hunting. Photo source

Release the Kraken!

Release the Kraken! is a catchphrase and image macro series based on a memorable quote uttered by Zeus in the 1981 fantasy adventure film The Clash of the Titans as well as the 2010 3D remake. Despite the dramatic delivery of the line in the reboot, the quote was perceived as unintentionally funny and quickly became a target of image macro jokes on the web.
You've heard the word "release" applied to many different cultural contexts, above are two examples. The word 'release' has also been used more frequently these days in Christian situations. "Release" is a frequently used word. It is a very bad word in Christianity. I don't like it.

Why? It isn't used to say that prisoner Barabbas was released. It isn't used to say that Paul was released from jail. It isn't used in the Old Testament way to indicate a release from debt in the Sabbatical Year (Deut 15:1).

The word 'release' is used as a substitute for ministering or serving. When we minister or serve, we are under someone or under an authority. When we release, it means we have the power over something or someone. Here are some examples.

Compassion International has edited their mission statement to say, "our mission of releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name."

What they are saying is that they have the power over poverty and the authority to release from it the people whom they choose, in this case, 'children'. They are not saying they are serving or ministering to children in poverty. They are saying they have the power over poverty.

False teacher Joseph Prince preaches how to "release the anointing into your situation."

Prince is slyly saying that we have an anointing but there is a trick to releasing it. Most false teachers strive to tell you some kind of secret or action or trick to releasing it. However, this mysterious anointing isn't mysterious and it isn't laying dormant until you learn the secret password to having power over it. The anointing is the Holy Spirit in us, and all Christians have the Spirit. (1 John 2:27, more here).

What Prince is saying is not that we submit to the Spirit, or minister in the Spirit, but that we can obtain a certain kind of power that we wield as we wish, for ourselves, into ourselves.

Word faith false prophetess Joyce Meyer tells us "What words you choose will reveal what you believe and release the power of that belief."

She is not saying submit to Jesus in faith and belief, she is saying we have the power to choose certain words that have power in and of themselves, and moreover, these words can release certain powers over myself at my behest, timing, and choosing.

And so on. There is a big difference between ministering and releasing.

Do we have power to release anointings, blessings, beliefs, finances, health, cures, or anything else? No.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1)

Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10b-11)

To suppose that we have any power on our own is unbiblical.

Now, some might argue that these teachers are not false, that they are saying we are releasing power that God grants us. Not so again. We are His servants ... His slaves. Any power in us is from the Holy Spirit. We submit to that power. We serve that power. We minister in that power. God decides when and where His power in us is released, and to what degree. We do not decide when or how to use His power and certainly NOT for our own ends, like to get a bigger house, or a better parking space.

While the false teachers tell you that you have power over things, power enough to release "into your situations", the truth is actually the opposite. The weaker we are, the stronger we are. God shows His power through weakness. Paul wrote,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).


Be aware of the word 'release' and how it is used. It isn't always used in unbiblical contexts. But more and more often, it is.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Recognizing the Glory of God's Word" by John MacArthur

I read the latest blog essay at John MacArthur's site, the title is above. What a gift to the faith Dr MacArthur is! The Lord raises up good men to encourage us.

Denmark Castle
He posted about how wonderful the Word is, and how despite the plethora of bibles available and translations abounding, we set it aside. Spurgeon said, "There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers."

I am guilty of this myself. I love the word and I benefit from it each and every time I open it. I am blessed, convicted, educated, encouraged, trained, awed, or a million other things. And yet there are some days I simply don't. Paul said,

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:15-20).

My only consolation is that Apostle Paul, who was personally taught by Jesus and personally saw heaven, still had a hard time sometimes doing what is right, then I feel slightly less worse. But it's still no excuse.

Here is a wonderful picture of the bible as envisioned in three dimensions. The excerpt is from the MacArthur essay, in which MacArthur quotes Roy Zuck's picture of the bible as a magnificent edifice. Here it is for your encouragement.
I once read an illustration that described the Bible as a magnificent palace constructed of precious stone, comprising sixty-six stately chambers. Each one of these rooms is different from the others and perfect in its individual beauty. Yet, when viewed as a whole, they form an incomparable edifice that is majestic, glorious, and sublime.

In the book of Genesis, we enter the vestibule and are immediately introduced to the records of God’s mighty works in creation. This foyer gives access to the law courts, the passage way to the picture gallery of the historical books. Here we find hung on the walls scenes of battles, heroic deeds, and portraits of valiant men of God.

Beyond the picture gallery we find the philosopher’s chamber (the book of Job), which leads us into the music room (the book of Psalms). Here we linger, thrilled by the grandest harmonies that ever fell on human ears. And then we come to the business office, in the very center of which stands the motto: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). From the business office, we pass into the research department (Ecclesiastes) before continuing into the conservatory (Song of Solomon), where the fragrant aroma of love greets us. Then, we reach the observatory where the prophets with their powerful telescopes are looking for the appearing of the Bright and Morning Star.

Crossing the courtyard at the dawning of the Son of righteousness, we come to the audience chamber of the King (the gospels), where we find four lifelike portraits of the King Himself revealing the perfections of His infinite beauty. Next, we enter the workroom of the Holy Spirit (the book of Acts) and, beyond, the correspondence room where we see Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude busy at their tables under the personal direction of the Spirit of Truth.

And finally, we enter the throne room (Revelation) where we are enraptured by the mighty volume of adoration and praise addressed to the enthroned King. In the adjacent judgment hall, there are portrayed solemn scenes of doom and wondrous scenes of glory associated with the coming manifestation of the King of kings and Lord of lords. [1]
[1] While various versions of this description exist, it can be found in The Speaker’s Quote Book, by Roy Zuck.

I think that when we get to heaven, and the verse in Revelation 21:4 as we enter the eternal state, that says,

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

I believe are not tears of joy because Jesus would not wipe those away. I believe they are not tears mourning the loss of earthly things, either, because those will have paled in comparison. I think they are tears of shame.

Metropolitan Museum NYC Great Hall
I think as we leave behind the millennial kingdom and the last bits of sin are wiped from heaven and earth, and the devil and his beast and all unrepentant sinners have been cast to the Lake of Fire, that we will mourn our own Romans 7 acts. All the times we didn't read the bible, or all the times we didn't pray, or all the times we could have encouraged a brother in Jesus' name, or all the times we didn't go to church, we will cry over. We will be ashamed, seeing what we traded for bible reading. (Dancing with the Stars?) Or swapped for church (football?). Or substituted for prayer. (An extra half hour of sleep?)

I believe we will be ashamed of ourselves. Jesus will reassure us and wipe those tears from our face. What a good and gracious God He is.

Someday we will no longer mourn the missed opportunities we had on earth to further our relationship with Jesus, because He will be present and we will be away from the pleasure of sin, the power of sin, the presence of sin, the penalty of sin. What a day that will be.

Until then, we go on, not understanding our own actions. I could write more ... but I am going to enter those majestic rooms of the bible, and read it now. Right now.

--------------------------------

Further Reading
"A Fourfold Salvation: From the pleasure of sin, the presence of sin, the power of sin, the penalty of sin by AW Pink

Charles Spurgeon: "The Bible" A Sermon


Monday, October 27, 2014

"Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke"

 

This is an interesting article. It expresses a truth that goes even deeper than the scientists know.

"Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke"
Metaphysical thought processes are more deeply wired than hitherto suspected...
WHILE MILITANT ATHEISTS like Richard Dawkins may be convinced God doesn’t exist, God, if he is around, may be amused to find that atheists might not exist. Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.

While this idea may seem outlandish—after all, it seems easy to decide not to believe in God—evidence from several disciplines indicates that what you actually believe is not a decision you make for yourself. Your fundamental beliefs are decided by much deeper levels of consciousness, and some may well be more or less set in stone.

This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that “atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.”
We've heard what the heathens say. What does the bible say?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,g in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

Gill's Exposition of Romans 1:19 explains how even the Heathens (as Gill terms them) can have knowledge of God-
there are some things which may be known of God, without a revelation. Adam had a perfect knowledge of him; and his sons, though fallen, even the very Heathens have some notion of him, as that there is a God; and by the light of nature it might be known that there is but one God, who is glorious, full of majesty, and possessed of all perfections, as that he is all powerful, wise, good and righteous:

and this is manifest in them, or "to them"; by the light that is given them: it is light by which that which may be known of God is manifest; and this is the light of nature, which every man has that comes into the world; and this is internal, it is in him, in his mind and conscience, and is communicated to him by God, and that by infusion or inspiration;
All men have knowledge of God. But they suppress it. How do they do this, then? The article demonstrates this very thing by what the author says next:
If a tendency to believe in the reality of an intangible network is so deeply wired into humanity, the implication is that it must have an evolutionary purpose. Social scientists have long believed that the emotional depth and complexity of the human mind means that mindful, self-aware people necessarily suffer from deep existential dread. Spiritual beliefs evolved over thousands of years as nature’s way to help us balance this out and go on functioning.
'If spirituality exists, it MUST have an evolutionary purpose'. See? Not, 'if spiritualism exists in all of us, there MUST be a God." Suppressed!

Since the heathens acknowledge the truth that there is a consciousness of God and they attribute that truth to evolution, not to God, they beg the question, which is, why does man, and only man, have a sentient, self-awareness of his own being? And included in this self-awareness is his position in the universe under some Higher Being. But they do not care to answer the problem of consciousness, and with it the knowledge of a spiritual element to our existence. They simply ignore that and go on to explaining that our evolution must have generated this spiritual element in man to aid our 'existential dread.'

This existential dread has existed in man since the Fall, when we see it rearing up in Cain.

Cain and Abel
Cain had just slain his brother Abel. God is cursing Cain and pronounced the verdict of Cain's punishment upon him: Cain was to be exiled, never more work the ground successfully, and be a fugitive and a wanderer. (Gen 4:12) Cain cried out that this was more than he could bear. To wander meant that his life would be taken. God assured him that vengeance would be upon anyone who would kill Cain, and then Cain went out.

Cain knew that to wander as a fugitive meant that he would be easy prey to the obviously greatly increased population. Why dread fellow man? Why fear that he would be killed? Cain knew man was to be feared. After all, hadn't Cain just slain Abel?

From Cain's line and many that came after Cain from other lines, they knew God but they acknowledged Him not.

Yet the deep need to express ourselves under a Higher Being, or a force, or a spiritual element in our lives still existed. So they took to idols.

Idols are specifically mentioned in the bible first when Rachel took her father's household gods. (Genesis 31:9). But actually the Tower of Babel was man's first attempt to worship falsely. Cain worshiped incorrectly (by offering what he knew to be a wrong sacrifice) but not falsely. The Tower of Babel was about man trying to worship unfaithfully. (Genesis 11:4)
How soon men forget the most tremendous judgments, and go back to their former crimes! Though the desolations of the deluge were before their eyes, though they sprang from the stock of righteous Noah, yet even during his life-time, wickedness increases exceedingly. Nothing but the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit can remove the sinful lusts of the human will, and the depravity of the human heart. God's purpose was, that mankind should form many nations, and people all lands. In contempt of the Divine will, and against the counsel of Noah, the bulk of mankind united to build a city and a tower to prevent their separating. Idolatry was begun, and Babel became one of its chief seats. (Matthew Henry's Commentary)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

How will we each respond to the eternity that is set in our heart? We cannot fathom the unfathomable, as Job acknowledged. (Job 42:3) But we can know what God intended us to know about Him, in the specific revelation of His word. We can also see His glory expressed through His general revelation to all men through His creation.

Idolatry is the ultimate unfaithfulness to God. We all have knowledge of Him in us. The question is, will we rightly attribute that knowledge to His planting of it, or to an impersonal universe evolving in us a mere chemical soup? The answer of course is that greatest glory is to see Him as God, Highest and Mighty. He is El Olam- The Everlasting God!

And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God. (Genesis 21:33)

Public Domain


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Seeing God with eyes closed

I've mentioned on my other blog that I love to play around with my photos using the online photo editors. I think it's cool what you can do these days with a photo by manipulating it into something different or even nearly unrecognizable.

Not that new is necessarily better. I learned about heliogravure and collotype which produced stunning photographs and reproductions with clarity, tone, and detail almost unsurpassed by today's digital photos. But I digress.

The colors of fall are spectacular. Once the summer haze and humidity clears out the night sky becomes ablaze with stars and the day sky is a deep blue like a sapphire. Years and years ago, I took this photo of a fall tree in Maine, its leaves having dropped and its bare arms crookedly reaching under an azure sky. I've always liked the picture.

EPrata photo
I monkeyed with the picture and made this:

EPrata photo
I like the altered photo too. Are they the same picture? The same scene? Do they depict the same reality?

They do ... and they do not. By blocking out some tones and colors, it brings forth others. By reversing some aspects, it shows others.

I enjoy reading and studying the first three chapters of Genesis. I spend a lot of time there. In this instance, I was thinking about the moment when Eve and then Adam ate of the fruit.

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:4-7)

Their eyes were opened? Of course we know that isn't literal. They were not blind before, they could literally see. Eve "saw the fruit was good for food". In chapter two of Genesis, God brought the animals to Adam, who obviously saw them before he named them. Adam saw which tree not to eat from, because he instructed Eve likewise after she was created. So they could see.

As Albert Barnes' Notes state,
It must therefore mean that a new aspect was presented by things on the commission of the first offence.
As the two photos above showed, a new aspect of things that had been there all along but now were in the forefront. The happy blue sky is gone, it is now darkened. The glory-white clouds are now ponderous boulders in the sky, scudding ominously. The tree which was of good AND evil, now shows the aspect of evil and ghostly death that the pair could not see before.

Gill's shows us the depth of the loss:

And the eyes of them both were opened,.... Not of their bodies, but of their minds; not so as to have an advanced knowledge of things pleasant, profitable, and useful, as was promised and expected, but of things very disagreeable and distressing. Their eyes were opened to see that they had been deceived by the serpent, that they had broke the commandment of God, and incurred the displeasure of their Creator and kind benefactor, and had brought ruin and destruction upon themselves; they saw what blessings and privileges they had lost, communion with God, the dominion of the creatures, the purity and holiness of their nature, and what miseries they had involved themselves and their posterity in; how exposed they were to the wrath of God, the curse of the law, and to eternal death:

They had been naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25) but also unaware. Now they were aware. Their eyes had been closed to evil and thus only glory filled the lamp of their eye. Upon eating of the fruit (disobeying God) the eye's shutter that had excluded all sin and evil was now opened, allowing its full flow into their eyes, heart, and mind.

When we're glorified, the shutter of our eyes that was opened in the garden will be closed once more. We will never look upon sin again! We will only see the glory of God, unfiltered and fully Bright. As His children with childlike faith, we will see with eyes closed. Did you ever think that our eyes being closed will be a good thing?

Source


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Churching Alone: The Collapse of American Churches

In 2000, an important book was published. Robert Putnam wrote Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

Since the founding of America, we as a nation have always emphasized the importance of a strong and active civil society to the consolidation and perpetuation of democracy. When Thomas Paine wrote "Common Sense" before the American Revolution, people grabbed up his pamphlet and brought it to the tavern to discuss. Taverns and public squares were abuzz with discussions of ideas, concepts, philosophies. A robust public conversation with personal engagement among neighbors was the foundation of democracy.

I grew up in Rhode Island, the 13th state in the American Colonies, a place where there are more pre-colonial buildings still standing than anywhere else in the US. The first American Jewish synagogue is in Newport. (Touro). The first Baptist church is in Newport. A letter written in 1790 from George Washington to the RI Hebrew Congregation, assuring them, citizens of a newly independent United States, of tolerance and freedom of religion. Washington wrote,
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
But back to the old days. Men discussed ideas together in public spaces- taverns, the town square, the general store, front porches. They argued, persuaded, they met, they wrestled with ideas and formed community. It was that wrestling and knitting that made us strong enough as a collective of disparate farmers, millworkers, sailors, and the like, to dare to poke the eye of the mighty United Kingdom, and fight for freedom, including freedom to assemble and freedom to worship.

In this paper, the Daily Life of the American Colonies: The Role of the Tavern in Society Noon Inn Barroom, we learn of the importance of a citizenry discussing ideas together,
In the century or so leading up to the Revolution, colonial taverns and inns were an essential part of the community. Horses need frequent rests, travel by coach and horseback were far from comfortable. In Massachusetts on the roads leading to Boston, taverns and inns were spaced about every eight miles, which worked out to a reasonable journey in the winter cold before a person needed to warm up, inside and out.

The main reason for the importance of the colonial era tavern was as a social hub. Issues of the day were discussed and hammered out here, in fact, often in official settings. The City Tavern in Philadelphia, was the site of the first continental congress. The Virginia legislature met in the taverns of Williamsburg. And the initial investigations of the Salem Witch trials were supposed to be held at Ingersoll’s ordinary, [a name for a small tavern] though it was in the end was too small for the crowds.

To the common man, the tavern was where you learned the current prices for your cash crops. It was where you could find a newspaper, often read aloud for those who couldn’t read. It’s where local issues were debated and local governments met. The colonial era tavern was the link to the outer world for those in rural areas, and a place where you could meet your neighbors for conversation, games and diversion.

Entertainment included gambling; on horse racing, cockfights as well as cards. Actually the colonists were known to gamble on almost anything, including guessing the weight of pigs, a practice eventually outlawed on Long Island as it led to too many fights. The tavern also served as courthouse, where you learned of new business opportunities and worked out trades with your neighbors.

The tavern also served as post office. Originally the practice was to put your posts on a table, which travelers would then take along the route with them. It was commonly accepted that the travelers had the right to read your mail, providing a bit of entertainment along the way. Mail arrived in the community in the same way that it left, eventually becoming more organized and efficient.

In addition, recruitment and deployment of the militia took place in the taverns. Prior to the battle of Lexington, the militia organized and fortified themselves at Buckman’s tavern, before marching out onto the Lexington Green and into the history books.
In Newport RI, where our family would often drive on a Sunday, the White Horse Tavern still stands. It was constructed before 1673, is one of the oldest tavern buildings in the United States. It is located on the corner of Farewell and Marlborough streets in Newport. We used to eat brunch there. I'd sit in one of the many small rooms, with small fireplace blazing, hardwood floors and ladderback wooden chairs, and wonder about the Colonists who lifted a tankard in debate as to whether to separate from England.

In Wikipedia it is stated,
“In the first half of the 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville had observations about American life that seemed to outline and define social capital. He observed that Americans were prone to meeting at as many gatherings as possible to discuss all possible issues of state, economics, or the world that could be witnessed. The high levels of transparency caused greater participation from the people and thus allowed for democracy to work better.”

White Horse Tavern, Newport, in 2009. Wikipedia
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42 KJV)

If the foundation of a democracy was forged by citizens together in community, discussing things of import, ideas traded, dispensed with, held onto; how much more should those behaviors be replicated in the church? Where do the community of Christ's members gather, discuss, flesh out biblical ideas, knit ourselves together in His name? Where are the robust discussions, healthy praises to Jesus, songs and fellowship? Because it's not in church. And increasingly, it's not in homes, either. Forget the public square, if a gathering occurs, say at Cracker Barrel, the talk is rarely biblical. Other times, Christians are prevented from speaking of Jesus in public.
Public domain

Corporate worship is extremely important. In this sermon by Phil Johnson called A Foretaste of Glory Divine. Pastor Johnson explains the verse from Psalm 122.
Notice the plural pronouns in the first two verses: "I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD." Our feet are standing Within your gates, O Jerusalem." One of the distinctive joys David is writing about here is the corporate nature of this worship experience. He had spent much of his youth alone on the hills tending sheep and meditating on the truth of God in solitude and that's certainly a good and valid exercise. But it cannot take the place of fellowship and public worship with the multitude of God's people. That is why the feasts were so important in Israel. Verse 4: "The tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD--An ordinance for Israel--To give thanks to the name of the LORD."
And,
There's a sanctifying influence in the gathering of believers that you will not benefit from if you think watching a church service on TV or streaming church on the Internet is a valid substitute for real live participation in the public worship of God's people. Hebrews 10:24-25: "Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
There are two problems in today's 'churching alone' era. One is that people increasingly satisfied to stay at home and watch someone on TV or streamed online. The second and the greater problem is that when people do attend church for any reason at any function, rare is the talk of doctrine. We might sing some 'me-oriented' songs, listen to a (too-short/self-help/topical) sermon. And then when the last 'Amen' is said, people are out the doors, never to speak of Jesus again until next week.

When believers gather these days, too often it is not really to worship God but merely to entertain one another. ~Phil Johnson
What are we losing by 'churching alone'? What are the effects on the church when its members forgo social intercourse, fellowship, and good discussions and praises to the Lord? Wikipedia summarizes Putnam's book,
Putnam surveys the decline of "social capital" in the United States since 1950. He has described the reduction in all the forms of in-person social intercourse upon which Americans used to found, educate, and enrich the fabric of their social lives. He believes this undermines the active civil engagement which a strong democracy requires from its citizens.
iPhone wallpaper
When we 'church alone,' whether at home or alone as an island at church, our biblical lives are not enriched. When we are not educated in biblical literacy, we weaken. When we are weak, the scarlet thread of our lives that should be evident when we gather with others isn't connected. And the Preacher said in Ecclesiastes 4:12,

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

If Putnam's notion of social capital is an investment in social relations with expected returns in the marketplace, then in the church world, social capital is investment in spiritual-social relations with expected returns in the church. In Acts 2 we see the priority of fellowship, and along with that came praise for the Lord. (Acts 5:42)

It seems clear that the more we meet in His name, breaking bread, having fellowship, and discussing His doctrine, then the more we have glad hearts, generous spirits, and praise for Jesus on our lips. It stands to reason that the opposite is true too; less we get together, the fewer times we discuss His doctrines, break bread, and have glad hearts, and thus we praise Him and proclaim Him less.

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, (Acts 2:46)

And truth be told, if we do get together, how often do we really discuss His doctrines as the verse in Acts 2:42 states the first church did? Not a lot.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. (Proverbs 18:1)
Yet personal engagement at an all-time low. The previous networking availabilities in church, such a personal visits, dinners on the ground, home gatherings, have gone the way of the dinosaur. People don’t do that anymore. We do not 'continually devote ourselves to... fellowship.'

More often than not, the way this generation engages today is via social media online. Visiting in person is a relic from the past.

What do colonial times in the 1770s to 1800 have to do with today's church? Cut to 100 years later, the 1900s. There was still a public square. Before television, before the internet, people sat and talked. They had coffee. They visited. They had Sunday suppers. They sat by the pot bellied stove at the feed store and talked. People played bridge, gathered for parties, told stories. They discoursed.

The iconic Andy Griffith show reflected this reality- front porch sitting was a favored past time.
It was a time when people were invested in each other's lives. They know when someone wasn't feeling well. Or wasn't themselves. They knew when someone was struggling. They celebrated victories and pitched in during hard times.

We have lost that.

We're "crazy busy" now.

Yet the youngsters don’t know any other way of engaging except what they see online or through their parents or other trusted adults. They think fellowship is gathering at a google hangout.

I'm not saying anything that is unknown to anyone living in the year 2014. It's old news that we do not socialize anymore. Here is the new news. New, at least to me.

We are forgetting HOW to socialize.

The influence of personal cellphones and texting have infiltrated our psyche to the extent that front porch sitting, passing the time, just being with someone is a lost art.

If people socialize at all in person now, it includes a phone interruptions and texting, looking at email, or a myriad of other things that distract from looking fully into someone's eyes and listening to what they are saying with full attention.


This is my favorite episode from Andy Griffith. A business man in a hurry breaks down in Mayberry on a Sunday. Initially chafing at the slow pace of life and the almost uniform commitment by its inhabitants to the priority of fellowship on the Lord's Day, the man eventually succumbs to the love shown to him- and he slows down.

Will you visit someone this week? Will you sing with them, or speak of the glories of our savior, or read the bible together? Will you linger at church for a while afterward and praise the sermon and flesh out some of its points- coming to happy agreement with a fellow believer? Let us not "church alone." The foretaste of glory divine Mr Johnson was preaching on is the corporate gathering of believers on earth being the glad foretaste of the gathering in praise of all of history's saints at the end of time. What a true foretaste- glorying in the Lord together, never alone forevermore.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)




Man in a Hurry- full episode

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Being cheerful and confident amid the collapse of cultural Christianity

I read two things today that encouraged me. Though they are on separate topics, they are kind of the same topic.

First up is a great essay at 9Marks. It is titled:

Cheerful Confidence after Christendom

It is apparent to even the most casual observer that cultural Christianity is dying. I've used the term "cultural collapse of Christianity" and others speak of 'post-Christian era' and 9Marks essay author Timothy Larsen says "dissolution of Christendom" but it all means the same thing, the end of an era. Mr Larsen explains it well and encourages us to relish the time such as this in which the Lord in His plan and wisdom put us. Being joyful and confident and triumphant in a time of evil and darkness and uncertainty will be an anomaly to one and all. Here is a short excerpt from Mr Larsen's essay:
THANK GOD FOR GRANTING US NOW

God has granted me the privilege to live now—in my own times. To wish otherwise is not only pointless, it is ungrateful. It is also self-defeating. Every season of life has its own joys. Foolishness is to want to have the joys of adulthood when still a teenager or the joys of adolescence when middle aged and so on.

Likewise, there are unique joys, privileges, and opportunities for serving God in each generation. We are called not to hanker after a different age, but rather to jump in with relish to following Christ at this moment. There is an old Puritan saying: “If you would make the greatest success of your life, try to discover what God is doing in your time, and fling yourself into the accomplishment of his purpose and will.”

YES, THERE ARE UNIQUE CHALLENGES

Our times, of course, have unique challenges. We are witnessing the dissolution of Christendom. Christendom was a long period of time in the West when Christian commitments and beliefs were buoyed up by political and cultural supports. In Christendom, there were worldly incentives to at least pretend to believe Christian doctrine and to observe Christian practices. To do so was good for one’s professional and social success.
The other item that was encouraging was another of Phil Johnson's sermons on the Psalms. It is an exposition of Psalm 122. The sermon is titled "A Foretaste of Glory Divine"

So many Christians moan and groan about life, because they either do not study the prophetic scriptures to know what's coming, or they don't have an eternal perspective, or both. Mr Johnson expertly and beautifully opens the Psalm to us and eloquently describes the manifold and unspeakable glories to come. Here is but a taste: (and it is much better heard than read, but if you have connection problems a transcription is available.)
What Jerusalem was to David, the church is to you and me. It is the dwelling-place of God. It is a living, breathing, holy convocation of God's people, who gather to worship Him in unison. It is the very same fellowship of saints that will one day culminate in a heavenly convocation. It is a place of safety from the evils of a decadent world. It is a place where God's authority is acknowledged and submitted to with gladness. It is an oasis of divine grace in a desert of corruption. It is quite literally a foretaste of glory divine.

The greatest joy in heaven the centerpiece of it all will be the unspeakable glory of God. God's full glory will be on permanent display, and you will be able to see it with an unhindered view: examine it, and bask in it, and reflect it in all its perfection. You will be able to stand in the resplendence of that glory without any sense of guilt or shame. You will have a pure love for God that exceeds any love you have ever known. And the natural, inevitable, joyous response of your heart will be pure worship.

Please do take these two items as a matched pair. Be encouraged that you were placed here by the wisdom of God for just such a time as this, and that we have unspeakable joys to look forward to...SOON!

Public Domain




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Swastikas appearing in the news more frequently


In the Western world, the swastika since the 1930s has mostly been associated with
the flag of Nazi Germany and the Nazi Party.
Because of its use by Nazi Germany, the swastika since the 1930s has been largely associated with Nazism and white supremacy in most Western countries. As a result, all of its use, or its use as a Nazi or hate symbol is prohibited in some jurisdictions. Because of the stigma attached to the symbol, many buildings that have contained the symbol as decoration have had the symbol removed. (Source)
The swastika is an ugly symbol. It will be forever associated with hatred of Jews, Hitler, and the gas chambers. Hitler was actually a prototype of the Antichrist. The coming Antichrist, AKA Beast, will fulfill prophecy as the most sinful man in the history of the earth. He is called "The Man of Perdition". (2 Thessalonians 2:3). He will embody the worst of the worst that man can be.

You see, our trajectory since the Fall in the Garden has been leading up to this. Man fell and within moments it seemed, the first murder. The first polygamy. And down it went, until just before the Flood, we read in Genesis 6:5-

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

EVERY inclination
ONLY evil
ALL the time.

That's total depravity- expressed.

We're all totally depraved, but not all of us express sin to the fullest all the time. Hitler was not an anomaly. However what was an anomaly not the level of depravity- we all have that in us, but the level that was outwardly expressed. The period just before the Flood was such a time when they did. The Tribulation will be such a time again, when people express all their fullest sin, all the time. In the Tribulation, Hitler will look like an altar boy.

Between the cessation of the flood and the rapture has been a time of increasing sin. Mankind has gotten worse and worse. Part of that worsening is the hatred we're seeing for Christians. Accompanying that hatred is a rise in Jew-hatred.

Seeing a swastika is always shocking. It is an emblem of hate and shame and appalling depravity. It is associated with white supremacy, Anti-semitism, and war. That is why I notice more and more news articles about the swastika. Here is a sampling just from the last two weeks.

Maine:
Vandalism of Collins campaign signs with Nazi symbol being treated as hate crime
This sign in Farmingdale is one of a number
of campaign signs throughout the state spray-painted with swastikas over the weekend.
Connecticut:
Swastikas Found Outside Yale University Freshman Dorm
Three swastikas were found chalked outside a Yale University freshman residence hall late Sunday night, The Yale Daily News reports.

Ohio:
Avon police searching for suspect who chemically burned swastika on Avon lawn
When Avon resident Sam Tippy went out to mow the lawn of his Ambridge Drive home on the morning of Oct. 5, he discovered that someone chemically burned a large swastika into his front yard.

Jerusalem:
Assailants deface Temple Mount with Star of David equating swastika
Unknown assailants spray-painted an anti-Semitic image equating a Star of David to a swastika at the Temple Mount, passersby discovered Sunday morning.  Police opened an in investigation in to the incident.

New Jersey:
Kean University student feels threatened after apparent swastikas drawn outside dorm room
When Kean University senior Nathaniel Sietz came back to his dorm room one night earlier this month, he found something unexpected on the whiteboard next to his door: what appeared to be swastikas smeared into the text. Sietz, who is Jewish, said he's not sure if the marks were left out of hate or as an ill-advised joke, but said he feels threatened either way. "I don't want to wear my Jewish star on campus," Sietz said. "I don't want to wear anything that has Israel on it or any connection to Judaism at all. I don't want to have a target on my back."

Nazi regalia is becoming more popular. It's not just the swastika, but other Nazi regalia are suddenly seen as cool.

Russia:
Russian Social Media Site Takes Down 'Miss Hitler' Competition
A Russian social network has removed a page that was running a Nazi beauty contest, dubbed "Miss Hitler," but the existence of the competition highlights troubling levels of anti-Semitism in the region, the Anti-Defamation League warned Tuesday.

Controversial Shirt Sports SS Logo in 'Lightning Bolt' Pattern
A shirt design has caused more than a fashion faux pas, Channel 10 revealed Saturday, after similarities were drawn between the pattern printed and the symbol for the Nazi SS. Mango, a popular European women's brand, has debuted a shirt covered in tiny lightning bolts reminiscent of the SS logo.

"and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” (Revelation 13:4b)

Eventually, they will receive what they ask for, a man of perdition a thousand times worse than Hitler. This time near the end as we are, I suspect, is seeing a rise of a beastly side of mankind. Day by day, week by week, the beast-attitude rises in man, and the brutality that is within us is coming to the fore.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Already the world has clamored for a strong leader. Someone who will solve the problems. Some have even called for a Hitler-type. Soon, they won't just be crying out for just Nazi regalia, they will cry out for the antichrist. The Lord will oblige, a beast will be given authority to rule. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, then.