Tuesday, September 30, 2014

University of New Mexico's 'sex week; Church teaches Harry Potter

Jesus told the disciples at the Mount of Olives the signs of His return. They had learned that the establishment of the Kingdom was not going to happen immediately, as they had thought. So they asked Jesus.

"As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

The 'these things' refers to a statement Jesus had made in verse 2. He said the temple would be destroyed, not one stone left upon another. So there are three questions they asked,

--When will the temple be thrown down?
--What will be the signs of the end of the age?
--What will be the sign of Your coming?

In terms of the signs of the end of the age, and Jesus was speaking of the Tribulation (Mathew 24 is a Tribulation passage, NOT a message to the Church). However there are some general principles we can look at to understand the cycle of depravity in the world.

After the Fall of man in Genesis 3, the first murder occurred in Genesis 4. So did the first case of polygamy and another murder. It didn't take long, did it? By Genesis 6:5,

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually

We went from perfection to utter sin in three chapters. God sent the Flood in Genesis 7-8, and when it subsided in Genesis 9, the nations began to spread in Genesis 10 and by Genesis 11, again, sin. Terrible sin. In Genesis 11 we have the world's first dictator and the founding of Babylon. Here is a rough timeline from Answers in Genesis-











It roughly took only 1600 years for man to be created, fall and be wiped from the earth. It took only 100 years for man to revive from being wiped out to such rebellion that God changed man's language and scattered them from Babel.

What a depraved creature fallen man is! As Christians with the Spirit in them grow fewer and fewer in the world, (though the church will never be overcome) it seems that the sin rising is beginning to appear to be piling up to heaven!

Ezra 9:6,
and prayed: "I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.

Jeremiah 51:9,
"'We would have healed Babylon, but she cannot be healed; let us leave her and each go to our own land, for her judgment reaches to the skies, it rises as high as the heavens.'

Revelation 18:5, of Babylon,
for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

They are metaphors, of course, but the weight of sin upon the world is definitely heavy in these days. Witness two examples,


The University of New Mexico (UNM) is hosting a “Sex Week,” where students can learn “How to be a Gentleman and get laid,” negotiate threesomes, and [other things]. The event, sponsored by the University of New Mexico Women’s Resource Center and the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA), is offering lectures on “How to be a Gentleman AND Get Laid,” “Reid’s Negotiating Successful Threesomes,” “[and other things]".
“[F]or example, when you are having sex with more than one person it can be very challenging to make sure that everybody’s needs are being met and that everybody’s boundaries are being respected.”
According to local news station KOB4, “The events are designed to prevent sexual assault, but organizers have taken a new approach...Instead of teaching students how not to get hurt, they're teaching them how to have safer and better sex.”
Other news articles on the event. Thankfully not all people are happy with this.

Sex Week at UNM has varied reaction among people on campus

Critics concerned about UNM’s first ‘Sex Week’

That is the world's view of the act of sexual union. Here is God's view-

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

What is sexual immorality, exactly, that we should be fleeing from?

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Hebrews 13:4)

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28 )

The sexual union between a man and a woman only is for the sanctified marriage bed only. Anything else is adultery, fornication, and sexual immorality. It dishonors God to do these things. Not only is it bad to do them in secret, but worse is that these things are now openly taught and heartily applauded. Adults are supposed to train up the youth in the way that they should go. Is the way that they should go? Into sexual perversity?

Romans 1:32 says, Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

A heavy judgment awaits those who put such dishonorable and perverse things in the way of children.

Here is a second piece of news. The Berean Times on Twitter tweeted,

"An episcopal church here in Tulsa will start teaching Harry Potter cause the leader said the Scriptures were too hard to teach...no joke."

I investigated and indeed, it is no joke.

"...the children went into a candle-lit darkened room where a witch-like “sorting hat” was placed on their heads, and they were assigned to groups named Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Teachers and helpers dressed in black robes. Crystal balls, owls and jars of magic potions decorated the classrooms. “It was my idea,” said Paula Rule, director of youth ministries who developed the program. “This is one of the things that a lot of our kids have grown up with. They relate to it. They’ve read the books. “We’re exploring the same Christian themes that you find in the Bible — good versus evil, redemption, salvation, love.” The Rev. Kenneth Orsburn, curate at the church, teaches the adult portion of the Harry Potter program. He said Biblical literacy is on the decline, a symptom of a general decline in church attendance across America. “We’re getting folks in here who have been unchurched for 30 years,” he said. “They don’t know these stories. That’s a challenge for us and for the church. The Scripture is very daunting. Harry Potter is easier.
Oh! It's easier. Well that explains it.
Some people in the congregation have questioned the wisdom of using books filled with witches, magic and sorcery to teach the Bible, she said.
Only 'some'?
Lexi Medina, 12, who played the part of a mythical creature, also was happy with it. “I love Harry Potter, for real,” she said. “I think it’s pretty cool, as long as I get to act, like, creepy around people.”
As long as the kids like it, then I guess it's OK. /sarcasm

It is such a shame that the priest/pastor person does not see that a "30-year unchurched person" is a lost person. They need the scriptures, not the culture! But of course that is exactly why they do not understand. Their minds are blinded to the truth. So the church dumbs down the Gospel, or in this case, excludes it completely and puts in its stead the exact things that God said He hates.

Here is what God says about sorcery, divination, and witchhraft-

“A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:27)

“You shall not permit a sorceress to live." (Exodus 22:18)

Oh dear, that's pretty harsh. Surely the 'Lord of Love' has softened His stance on the sorcerers, diviners, witches by the New Testament's arrival. Jesus isn't that harsh.

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:20-21)

I guess Jesus is that harsh. His love doesn't exclude His wrath upon the ungodly.

Isolated events like fornication, and wayward behavior in apostate churches have always been present on the earth. What I am seeing is that these behaviors are becoming systemetized by the power structures such as Universities and Churches, and presented as normal. They are codified: "to put (laws or rules) together as a code or system."

No longer is it the one or two aberrant person, but a system of depravity or sinful behavior that is presented and applauded. Romans 1 says this would happen.
  • First they deny the truth (a truth God has made plain to them).
  • Then they refuse to honor Him.
  • Next, their thinking became darkened and futile.
  • Then they began to worship creeping things.
  • Now it goes faster. God gives them over, and their hearts full of impurities act out the perversions in it.
  • Last they live in a debased mind that not only lives in perversity but also all the other sins blossom, such as malice, envy, insolence, haughtiness, etc.
  • Finally, they turn to others and applaud their degenerate descent into dishonor. (Romans 1:18-32)
And that is where we are. Verse 32.

Do not be surprised when the world acts like the world. More and more people, cities, organizations, Universities, and churches are adopting sin wholesale and then promoting it heartily. This is very bad for the people individually, and in the cities, organizations, Universities, and churches but it is an opportunity to be the Light we are called to be. We always strengthen ourselves in prayer, staying in the word, and worshiping in spirit and in truth.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Paul said he learned to be content in whatever situation he finds himself, (and he was in jail at the time) because he knows God will strengthen Him. (Philippians 4:13). It is our Savior's strength we need in these dark days, and the more we submit and rely on Him, the brighter our light will shine in these dark places. Until the Day...

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)


The rainbow in my avatar

Some people have asked about my avatar on Google Plus. Here it is.


Every month, blogger and book reviewer Tim Challies posts free wallpapers for Christians. One month several years ago this was one of the choices. I downloaded it and decided to use it as my avatar.

I wanted the cross in my avatar. In this scene, I liked the colorful aspect of it. Often times avatars with crosses are drab. The rainbow reminded me of the covenant in Genesis 9:8-17.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

God spent a great deal of time explaining the covenant and the rainbow. It's important.

But now comes Jesus Christ, "High Priest of a Better Covenant" (Hebrews 8).

There is another scene with a rainbow that I enjoy thinking of. Revelation 2:4-6,

and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.


It is a powerful, powerful scene.

The rainbow in the avatar also reminds me of life. The life blood coming from Jesus and how He brought life to all flesh, if they repent and believe. It also reminds me that Jesus is alive, He is a living God.

The rainbow has nothing to do with the homosexual emblem. Don't think culturally, think biblically. Don't be afraid to take back and boldly use, or 'proudly' declare, the things of God as the things of God. The gay lobby can drive the cultural narrative all they want, but they cannot have the rainbow. That was given to believers by God and the gay lobby cannot have it.

So that is the story of the avatar. I'm astounded that over 12 million people have looked at my profile on Google plus. If several have asked then no doubt others have also wondered. Here is the answer. :)


Monday, September 29, 2014

The Sin of Discontent

Everything was perfect. The Garden was perfect. The two humans were perfect. The animals were perfect. God declared His creation "very good". The humans' relationship with God was perfect.

source
We do not know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden but no matter how long it was, there was absolutely nothing to be discontent about. Adam and Eve had full run of the Garden, the animals were submissive, they had plenty to eat, they were neither hot or cold.

When did Eve become discontent? John MacArthur said in his sermon "The Fall of Man,"
"She falls rather innocently into the conversation and the solicitor's strategy is progressively deceptive. It begins with what appears as this very innocuous question by just this interested observer. Here's just an animal in the garden like a lot of other animals and this animal comes up and says, "Indeed, has God said you shall not eat from any tree of the garden?" This is the first question, by the way, in the Bible. Before this there were only answers. There weren't any dilemmas because there was nobody to introduce a dilemma. And the question is designed to start Eve on a path, a path of questioning God, a path that leads from questioning God to doubting God, to distrusting God to disobeying God. It's a very clever plan and it's the essence of all sin. All sin follows the same pattern. You have a right to question God, you have a right to doubt God, you have a right to distrust God that leads to disobedience."
Along came satan, and here we find the first question in the bible. "Hath God said?" by that question released into the world...and it is this deadly force, the assumption that what God said is subject to our judgment."
Source
Once that assumption that we have the right to judge what God hath said, and Eve entertained it, it turned Eve's mind in a new direction. With every human afterwards, in sinful flesh, born into a cursed world, we make room for discontent. We must cling to God in order to squeeze out the disgruntledness we tend to feel. Abel was content, and he was close to God. How do I know? Abel sacrificed rightly. God accepted Abel's sacrifice. Cain was not close to God and he offered a wrong sacrifice that God did not accept. His discontent was expressed in his incorrect sacrifice.

With Eve and Adam though, what was there to be discontent about? Nothing. So how does a person go from complete contentment to utter sin in just a few moments? Drift from God's word, that's how.

Source
The Hebrew word for pleasant in verse 3 is 'avah', or 'taavah' and it means "exceedingly, greedily, lusting." There is a parallel event in the bible that talks about lust of this kind. The parallel is in Numbers 11:34, 35; 33:16. The place is named Kibroth-Hattaavah. It translates to "the graves of lust." The graves of lust, one of the encampments of Israel in the wilderness, where the wandering Israelites desired to eat flesh for their sustenance, declaring they were tired of manna. God became angry, and He sent quails in great quantities; but while the meat was in their mouths, God smote so great a number of them. So many were killed, that the place was called "the graves of those who lusted." Sin always leads to death.

Psalm 78:30-31, a series of verses to warn mankind against the sin of discontent, also records the historical incident and presents the warning in its title "Tell the Coming Generation":

he rained meat on them like dust,
winged birds like the sand of the seas;
he let them fall in the midst of their camp,
all around their dwellings.
And they ate and were well filled,
for he gave them what they craved.
But before they had satisfied their craving,
while the food was still in their mouths,
the anger of God rose against them,
and he killed the strongest of them
and laid low the young men of Israel.

What was it that the coming generation needed to know? Do not be discontent with what God has provided. Trust His word, His promises, and do not look elsewhere to satisfy any earthly craving.

1 Corinthians 10:5-6 repeats the warning. The heading to this set of verses in the New Testament is "Warnings from Israel's Past"-

Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

Desiring something different than what God promised or is already delivering is evil. It is rebellion against Him. It is the sin of discontent. Discontent will bring us to "the graves of lust".

source
The evil that Eve did was exactly that- discontent. She didn't want this fruit, she wanted THAT fruit.

The Israelites didn't want this manna, they wanted THAT quail.

Paul taught us to be content no matter what, with whatever the Lord is doing in our lives.

for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12b-13)

Jesus Himself is the source for all the strength we need to persevere, to resist sin, to rejoice, to be content.

From whence does the sin of discontent arise? It arose in Eve the moment she separated from God's word. Eve had a relationship with God, we presume. We know she had a relationship with His word. She repeated His word to the serpent. She was fine with standing on His word until the serpent came along.

So it is the serpent's fault? No, he was just a vehicle. The sin in Eve began the moment she failed to adhere to God's word, and in that little sliver of separation, the serpent got in and widened and widened it and widened it, until the sin inside her was manifested in the action she took, bringing on the Fall.

Eve had a moral choice, she could have said-

"Who are you and where do you come from?"
"Adam, what is this serpent really saying?"
"Yes, God said that, now please leave me in peace."
"[Falling to her knees in prayer] God- help! I need to understand and the best Person to help me understand You is You!"

Eve did none of those. And her discontent grew with each subtle and crafty comment of the serpent.

Ultimately, what happened? Eve and Adam went down to the graves of lust.

We are commanded not to covet. Coveting is a sin. Why should we covet? We have no reason to!

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17).

What He gave Adam and Eve was good and perfect. What He gives us is good and perfect. Why not be content with that?

Just remember, satan was successful in instilling discontent into Eve by separating her from God's word. Learn to be content in whatever circumstance you find yourself in by reveling in His revelation of Him self to us. Whatever circumstance you find yourselves in, (even in persecution - Paul was writing from jail) know He is working, (John 5:17) and know that this work He is doing is for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28).


source

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Breathing out milkweed

EPrata photo
I think milkweed is pretty. I'm tickled by how ephemeral it looks, shining delicately in the sun, and then, poof, the next day the threads are all gone.

Milkweed is an apt illustration of the temporary nature of our days on earth. We usually look to the James verse to make the point (James 4:14) but I got stuck on this Isaiah verse this morning.

Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem? (Isaiah 2:22)

All the puffs we've already breathed are gone. The next breath is not promised. We only have the breath that's in in our nostrils now.

What will we do for Christ?

How will we live for Him?

Don't take too long to decide.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Angels rejoice over repenting sinners!


EPrata photo

Red Raider Monument: How God uses persecution

Last night I posted an essay reporting a new controversy that had erupted yesterday in our county. The public became aware that two anti-Christian groups had challenged the location (on school grounds) of a recently installed, privately donated sports monument because it contained two scriptures. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association separately had been contacted by local resident(s) and alerted to the alleged Constitutional infraction. The FFRF and AHA contacted our Superintendent of Schools with threatening letters insisting on immediate removal or modification of the offensive (to them) monument. The story I wrote is here:

The scripture laden Madison County Red Raiders Monument and the Humanist Association who wants it gone

Christians, wake up...
The TV news stations have already pounced, the newspapers are picking this up, and the county residents are inflamed- both ways. In Georgia, sports and Jesus are dearly held.

Persecution comes in various flavors. Hard persecution involves jail time, torture, physical violence or death. Apostle Paul knew all of those, first as the persecutor, then as the persecutee.

Other kinds of persecution involves social persecution. Early Christians were excluded from the guilds (and thus from employment). Christians can be marginalized or excluded. The Pharisees used this kind of persecution by throwing people out of the synagogues. (John 7:13, John 20:19, John 16:2). Mocking, bullying, shunning, legal threatening...all are a kind of soft persecution.

It is still early days, but I have been thinking of all the ways Jesus will use this Red Raider Monument issue for His glory, something I mentioned in the essay I linked to above. I'd like to spell out some specific ways I know He is already at work, and ponder some ways I suspect He is already at work.

Satan is god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). He walks up and down upon it, (Job 1:7, Job 2:2) seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8). Not even heaven is immune from satan's presence, (Revelation 12:10), though satan has a leash beyond which God will not let him go.

So what makes anyone in the Bible Belt states think there can possibly be one nook or cranny on earth where we would safe from satan's attacks? He will persecute. Everywhere. Since Genesis 3 he always has, and he always will, until Revelation 20:7 is finished.

1. One way the Lord seems to be using this controversy is to remind us of that fact. Perhaps He is shaking us out of our complacent, casual Christianity. This would be a good thing, and to His glory.

2. He seems to be using this controversy is to make us face the possibility of persecution, and with that, to internally prioritize our potential response. I've been thinking over the last day, do I care about this monument? Would I fight for it? Do I want to use my energies or finances to expend on a legal battle? If not, then what would I fight for?

I think of Peter before the Council in Acts 4. Peter and John were arrested. They submitted to the arrest. Remember Peter fighting with his sword when they came for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? He lopped off the ear of one soldier. Jesus miraculously put it back on. This time, with the Spirit in him, Peter submitted to the arrest humbly. He didn't fight. The Spirit used the opportunity to present the Gospel through Peter to all the Council of Jerusalem, a crowd that needed it more than anyone and yet a crowd that otherwise never would have heard it. God used the "bad" situation for His glory. and made it good.

Chinese Soldier,
Painting by William Alexander, 1793
Yet when the Council commanded Peter to leave but not speak the name of Jesus any more, Peter drew the line at submission to authorities. Peter knew just how far to go in that balance of submitting to earthly authorities but not infringing on his duties as a Christian witness with God as his ultimate authority. He said,

So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20)

3. How far will I go to submit to ruling authorities and at what point would I rebel against them because I claim God as my Highest authority? Thinking these things through with scriptures to solidify a foundation for biblical action prior to persecution's arrival is a good thing that is happening already.

4. Pastors and Bible teachers are preparing themselves for persecution. Mature Christians and spiritual Leaders know it is coming. It is the last days. Trouble in this world was promised to us by Paul, Peter, and Jesus. Though mature Christians always have their armor on, the mature Christians in our county are now tightening their belt of truth, adjusting the strap on their helmet of salvation, raising their sword of the Spirit a bit higher. Christians are on a battle field in a battle. Although a sentry is on guard, when long periods go by with nothing to report, their guard slackens a bit. If the sentry hears a gun cocking, his adrenaline rushes and he is suddenly on high alert. The letter from the AHA and FFRF were the sounds of the gun cocking. We are now all on high alert once again. This is a good thing.

The Golden Calf, watercolor, James Tissot, ~1900
5. Many pastors and bible teachers are already discussing this event with their congregants or students. They are preparing them in wise counsel and advising them in an appropriate behavior. This has given us opportunity to mindfully and biblically prepare a response in case of further persecution.

6. The controversy is causing people to speak up for Jesus. This is always a good thing.

7. It is causing people to search their hearts to see if what they believe is faith in the living God, or an idol.

8. It is causing fervent prayer on behalf of our leaders. I consistently pray for my spiritual leaders, but I admit I am slack in praying for our county and other government leaders. Yet we are called to do exactly that:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

I'm glad this came up so I could be confronted with my sin of failing to pray for government leaders.

Before I was saved, I was just as deluded as Ms Miller. I was stumbling along in the dark, rejecting Jesus and dwelling in my own depravity. I found out someone had been praying for me for a long time. I discovered this after I was saved. Now it is my turn to pray for the deluded, sinners, Christ-rejecters. It is a privilege.

Red Raider Monument unveiling.
Madison County Journal Facebookpage
Some ways the Lord may be using this event:

1. He may be preparing us for a harder persecution that is coming. No one likes to think about oppression, jail, or physical violence against Christians, but this may be the first volley to strengthen us for a next volley that will be harder. Through trouble in this world, we grow. Persecution always results in His glory. Through trials, HIS glory rests upon us!

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14).

As faithful Christians, we must learn to recognize the value of persecution and even to rejoice in it, not in an ostentatious way, but quietly and humbly because persecution has great spiritual value. Source
I remember the shock of September 11, 2001 and the four planes that were used as bombs on our buildings and our people. It was a shocking attack the nation has never recovered from. Who knows what is planned for tomorrow? On September 10, 2001 I never suspected for a moment that the terrorists were going to slam into our buildings and change us forever on the very next morning. Today's little foray into a soft persecution might be the first step in the Lord's preparing us for more trials to come. And they will come, the verse above says they will. I will be thankful that I had advance opportunity to prepare, by praying, reading pertinent scriptures, and encouraging others even as I was encouraged by my pastors yesterday.

2. Jesus may be working toward an upcoming salvation through all this! What price is a monument when a soul comes to the Lord! Wouldn't that be wonderful if all this controversy somehow caused a person to look into their heart and come to the cross and be saved forever! What an exchange, a few dollars spent on an out-of-the-way rural sports monument that isn't going to last anyway, in exchange for a glorious soul brought to Jesus forever! I hope that happens.

3. He may be using this controversy to rid our country of an idol.

4. Other ways I can't even think of! In Isaiah 55:8, God said, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD."

Jesus is always at work, as the Father is always at work. He uses any and all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. I can't even imagine all the ways He will use a tiny controversy such as a scripture-laden monument on school grounds, but He is endlessly creative and His glory endures forever. It will be enhanced by this, not diminished.

Here is one last thought ... satan. He is using this for his own purposes, too.

He is already causing some to be thrown into confusion and others to doubt.

He is using bible scriptures out of context, like he did to Jesus at the Temptation and like the ones on the monument.

He is causing arguments, anger, and division among brethren.

He is causing some to stumble in their Christian witness.

He is the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10).

Don't let him.

Godly brethren, adopt a wider perspective and think on the good things that God is doing through this.

As always, pray, read your bible, and by all means, tighten up your Spiritual Armor! We are not excused from the battle just yet. Do not be surprised it has come to our door. Certainly, don't let the surprise be your reaction to it.

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Further reading


Sermon: Persecuted for Christ's Sake, part 1

Essay: How should Christians respond to persecution?


Friday, September 26, 2014

The scripture laden Madison County Red Raiders Monument and the Humanist Association who wants it gone

I had planned to write today about the wonder of butterflies. The local news has prompted me to pray, research, and write in another direction.

You undoubtedly have heard of the various anti-religion groups who make charges of infringement whenever a Christian scripture verse or Christian icon appears on or near a public building.  At graduations, we read about ceremonies that are challenged when the valedictorian or adult official led a prayer or used scripture in their speech. Prayer before, during, or after high school football games, as well as banners with scripture emblazoned on them, have been subject to challenges that make the news. Scriptures on government buildings such as courthouses are not immune from challenge either. At Christmas time we usually read in the news about Nativity scenes displayed on public property being challenged by such groups. We read about Christmas songs on the school musical program being quashed. And so on.
Local Nativity Scene. EPrata photo
There are several groups at the forefront of these kinds of confrontations. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association are two. The American Civil Liberties Union is also behind many of the challenges of public display of religion. It is usually just the Christian religion that seems to raise their ire, it should be noted.

We in Georgia are considered the Bible Belt, but the world hates the bible because it is the Word of God. The world hates Jesus, who IS the Word. So the challenges have increased here in our state lately. We're not immune.

Last August,
A Georgia high school football program may have God on its side, but not the Constitution, according to critics who say prayer and proselytization have no place in the playbook. Football coaches at Chestatee High School in Gainesville are accused of quoting scripture on team documents and pre-game banners and regularly leading the War Eagles in prayer in a religious blitz the American Humanist Association (AHA) declares unconstitutional. “There’s really no defense for doing this,” AHA attorney Monica Miller told FoxNews.com. “It’s not even solely student prayer — it’s teachers and coaches praying with students. And we have reason to believe it’s not an isolated event.”
Well, the football team is an extra-curricular activity occurring after school hours and participated in by club volunteers who choose to be there. But I digress.

In a release by  the American Humanist Association, we read,
"When a teacher or coach leads or participates in prayer with students, the prayers become sponsored by the school," said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in a news release. "The cases make clear that public schools must not even give the appearance of taking a position on religious belief, yet in this program we see ongoing biblical verses and references to religion. This evidences a complete disregard for the First Amendment rights of all students."
That Monica Miller sure is busy. Well, our little county, a sweet place nestled in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, has had a challenge exactly like the one in Chestatee High School in Gainesville, an hour away. It is from the same people, the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the leader of the challenge is the same woman as mentioned in many of these challenges the AHA have lodged across the country, Monica Miller. Here is the short article from our local newspaper.

Groups aim to have Red Raider monument removed over Christian references
Two groups are seeking to have a Red Raider football monument with Christian references removed from the Madison County High School campus.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association have written the Madison County School District protesting the approximate two-ton monument that was placed on the MCHS campus between the new field house and the football field in August. The monument quotes Romans 8:31: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” The base of the structure is also inscribed with Philippians 4:13. Madison County football players have started a new tradition this year of touching the privately donated monument as they take the field on Friday nights.

In a Sept. 25 letter to the school district, the American Humanist Association states that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause “commands a separation of church and state” and the group writes that the government cannot “advance, promote, affiliate with, or favor any particular religion,” or “favor religious belief over disbelief.” “This letter serves as an official notice of the unconstitutional activity and demands that the school district remove the monument immediately or at a minimum, remove the religious references from the monument,” wrote Monica Miller of the American Humanist Association. “In the meantime, we ask that you cover up the monument until such removal takes place. We kindly ask that you notify us in writing within two weeks of receipt of this letter setting forth the steps you will take to rectify this constitutional infringement. Thank you for turning your attention to this important matter.”
Madison County School Superintendent Allen McCannon said officials are speaking with their attorneys on the matter. “We have discussed the situation with our attorneys and are in the process of responding to the entities and forming a plan to deal with the situation,” said McCannon Thursday.

Monica Miller again. I have to give her credit for pursuing what she believes is the right approach to good living. According to their website, the organization exists to "strive to bring about a progressive society where being good without a god is an accepted and respected way to live life. She certainly is vigorous in that regard.

I wish a lot of Christians were as single-minded and as diligent pursuing good as Ms Miller is in her pursuit of evil.

Because, rebellion against God is always evil. It is sin. This isn't said to be mean or hateful, it is a simple fact that God is God- He deserves glory and worship because He is holy.

As for the AHA and their pursuit of 'good without 'a god'," Christians know there is no good without God. Isaiah 64:6a says,

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)

The people behind the FFRA and the AHA will find ultimately that their lives had been pointless and their pursuit will be fruitless. It will never go anywhere except toward sadness, grief, and then hell. For any monument taken down, any prayer silenced, any Christian activity quelled, the pagans may celebrate victory but it is a temporary victory, very temporary. Jesus has already won, and He will call those who reject Him to account. We can and should have a great deal of compassion for these people, and show them love in the face of their hate of Jesus.

For local people who are up in arms about this issue I have a few thoughts to share. Some of these thoughts will not be popular.
Facebook Red Raider Photo page
The monument has a sword embedded in the top. This is a reference to (unwitting or not) to the pagan myth of the King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone, the sword being Excalibur. Wikipedia says,
In Arthurian romance, ... Arthur obtained the throne by pulling a sword from a stone. In this account, the act could not be performed except by "the true king," meaning the divinely appointed king or true heir of Uther Pendragon.
Christian scripture and pagan myths do not mix.

Second, the scriptures chosen for display on the monument are a tragedy in themselves. There are two,

--Romans 8:31,“If God be with us, who can be against us?”
--Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” which had been shortened on the monument to read "I can do all things", and, "strengthen me"

I am not impugning the motivations of the anonymous person who created this fine gift to our county. I like that he or she thought of gifting us with a strong monument with the holy scriptures on it. Any time the bible verses get into the public sphere it is usually a good thing. However, the choice of scriptures, in the context of placement on the field, seems to indicate that God is with us ... in the football game. But the verse is actually talking about His sovereign election and predestination of His elect! A weighty matter that should not be trivialized in the context of a game field and leisure-sports entertainment.

The doing all things through Him who strengthens us verse is about the fact that because believers are in Christ He infuses them with His strength to sustain them until they receive some provision. In the context, Paul is talking about having nothing to eat or plenty to eat and knowing how to be content in all situations in which he finds himself. However, these verses are used frequently in stadiums and on sports monuments. Ben Irwin wrote earlier this year about the Philippians verse in the context of football. In his essay, Five Bible Verses you need to Stop Misusing, he said
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, New Revised Standard Version) What happens when we treat the Bible as a random collection of freestanding verses? Well, for one thing, as Tyndale House Publishers editor Keith Williams told Christianity Today, “Philippians 4:13 is going to refer to an athletic performance rather than perseverance through need.” For some, “I can do all things” means scoring touchdowns and clearing the bases. But that’s not exactly what Paul had in mind. Paul was sharing that he’d learned to be content no matter what his circumstances – rich or poor, hungry or well fed, in prison or out. What Paul was saying is not so much “I can achieve anything,” but “I can endure anything” – which, in his case, included prison.
And again, because it bears repeating,
As Dr. Eric Bargerhuff writes in The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, “[Philippians 4:13 is] not really about who has the strength to play to the best of their abilities in a sporting contest…. This verse is about having strength to be content when we are facing those moments in life when physical resources are minimal.” - Source
Worse, when the football players rush out of the field house before a game, they touch the monument for good luck. This behavior is idolatrous. In Georgia, football is already an idol, and to include a scripture-laden monument on the field used as a near-altar of stone hewn by human hands where people touch it 'for luck' is idolatry. Pure and simple.
Compelling Truth explains idolatry,
What the Bible categorically condemns is the use of superstition to gain the favor of God or any deity to bring fortunate results. Religious rites to draw luck from a pagan god are useless, as pagan gods don't exist and, therefore, can't act on behalf of anyone. And God so hates being manipulated by worship practices that He'd rather we abandon those traditions He put into place and worship Him from the heart than obey Him for the sole purpose of gaining favor (Amos 5:21-24). 
Compelling Truth again, explaining superstition
A superstition is a belief that an action, object, or circumstance can affect a situation even if they are in no way related. The cause and effect have no natural link, but are believed to be connected through magic or chance.
11Alive News
The power is not in the hewn stone, but in the word of God carried by the Spirit! Remember the story of Dagon, god of the Philistines. When the Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant, they put it in their temple next to the fish-god Dagon. Overnight, God tipped Dagon over so that when the Philistine priests arrived the next morning they saw Dagon face down before the Ark of God.

They righted the Dagon statue and went on with their day. Overnight again, the LORD tipped Dagon over, this time severing his hands and head. Only the body remained. God is serious about idols!

"A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for." (1 Peter 2:8)

We know God is using this for the good of those who love Him. I don't know of course, but maybe God is removing an idol, for our benefit and to His glory. Something to think about.

Next, this is a 'soft' persecution. We should not be surprised. The Bible Belt is not immune to any challenge or marginalization of our religion. In these late days of human history, it is to be expected.

Christians are persecuted every day by being killed, tortured, maimed, or jailed. That is hard persecution. In America we have - so far - escaped hard persecution for our religious beliefs. But soft persecution exists here. People have to close their business or be forced to do something that violates their Christian belief. They go bankrupt in legal defenses of their religion. They can't get a job or are fired from their job for their Christian beliefs. They are socially marginalized or ostracized. Children are bullied. Christian Clubs or churches are booted from their rental properties.

"These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

John MacArthur preached a great pair of sermons about the persecution in Acts, and how God used it for His glory. Especially when Peter and John were hauled before the Sanhedrin, and the Sanhedrin men asked Peter questions, Peter gave them the Gospel! The men of the Sanhedrin never would have heard such an exposition of the scriptures otherwise, and God used Peter's arrest for His glory! So all things work to the good and God is using this right now for His glory.

Well, as one of my pastors said today, perhaps this religious confrontation is to awake us, and energize us to speak His name in the public sphere. Or perhaps it is to apprise us that we in Georgia are not immune from challenge by the atheists who hate God.

Today in our county Jesus is all the talk. The local newspaper, which normally gets 3-10 comments on any given article, maybe 30 on a hot topic, so far has 140 comments on this article, and the number is climbing.

Whether it is removal of an idol, sparking us out of a sleepy Christianity, energizing us to prayer, or to cause a discussion, there are a myriad of ways God can and will use this for the good. We can't even possibly think of them all!

In any case, the words on the monument are written on my heart. WE ARE THE MONUMENT! We, His children, are His witnesses and His ambassadors. They can take away that monument and it would not make a bit of difference in my Christian walk. I was a strong Christian before the monument went up and I am a strong Christian now and I will be a strong Christian if it is ever covered up or taken down. My faith does not rest in stone. I know His word and I know Jesus. I am supposed to be the living monument testifying of His grace and mercy because He is the Living God!

Our reaction to this issue is very important. We must submit to our leaders. We are blessed with godly leaders, and conscientious lawyers who are looking out for the greatest good and adherence to the law. Our Superintendent is a most Godly and kind, humble, professional and intelligent man. He is good. We have good people here. They will do the right thing. In addition we need to be gracious to each other in our discussions, be kind to those who persecute us (give them the other cheek!) and pray for our leaders, for the enemies of God, and for each other.

Finally, please think about this. Monica Miller is leading the charge with her association, the American Humanists. She is very young. She is in a great deal of spiritual pain, look what her bio says in part-

Monica is also an attorney for the Nonhuman Rights Project, working to obtain common law personhood rights for nonhuman animals.

Her mind is not right, OK? Isaiah 44:18 says this

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.

Romans 1:28-31 says it too

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Ms Miller is dedicating her life to rebellion against Jesus, and is in league with satan as his agent. The bible declares her foolish, ignorant, deluded, evil, a hater of God and is destined for eternal punishment.

Her world is very dark, very. Let's be compassionate! She deserves it more than just about anyone I know! She is not the enemy. The Freedom From Religion Group is not the enemy. Satan is.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

The senior pastor of my church wrote,
Don't lose sight of the fact that Jesus has already won. Pray about how we, as His followers, respond to those who oppose Him. It is God they are hostile toward and He forewarned us that this would happen. Matthew 5:16,44. What a great opportunity to show the world what Christianity is truly about! The love and grace of God.
John MacArthur preached about persecution, hard and soft recently. He said,
If you live a godly life in the world, you will be confronted, and you will likely be persecuted. Submit to that with a gracious attitude. Don’t retaliate. 

Know our leaders will handle this rightly, submit to the government and courts, have love and compassion for those who are challenging us, and trust the LORD to make it all work our for His glory and our good. Is your faith in a stone monument? Or is your faith in the Living God who sees all on the earth?


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Further Reading

Large Crowd Attends Ceremony for Remade High School

From "The Friendly Atheist" At Patheos:
How Did This Christian Monument in Front of a Georgia High School Get There in the First Place?

Red Raider Monument Facebook page

When Jesus joins the huddle: Groups challenge mix of football and religion at Georgia high school