WELCOME to our July visit. Get a cuppa joe and browse awhile. Come back. Order a book. Write a comment.
Storm sewer theology
Someone wrote to me concerning last month’s blog: “Did anyone rescue the ducklings that fell through the storm sewer grate or were they ‘predestined’ to fall through? Then again maybe it was ‘natural selection’ or ‘survival of the fittest’! Whatever—I hope they are OK. That was very graphic and troubling! You may need to start censoring your blog. I feel I may need therapy after viewing those photos.”
Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset anyone. Just making a point.
The respondent suggested we provide a disclaimer stating: “No actual ducklings were harmed in the creation of last month’s blog.” Or maybe suggest that Tim LaHaye do a book series on “The Ducklings Left Behind.” It would probably carry the same credibility as his other “Left Behind” series.
One of our founding fathers, John Adams, once said: “All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue.”
Virtue, defined by the moral constraints that constitute the substance of character, is rapidly becoming taboo in our culture. Thanks to movies and TV, the Charlie Sheens of America are elevated to stardom and the student who refuses to attend sex education classes where pornography is shown is denigrated as stupid and archaic. Morality is turning over and revealing its ugly side—immorality.
A lake near where I grew up “turned over” every few years—maybe something like a giant hydrous burp. Stuff on the bottom would suddenly come to the top and mix with the clearer water, polluting the whole lake. Tap water for surrounding communities came from there and you could hardly drink it. It tasted awful, even though it was treated. Is that what is happening in America—the trash and putrefying garbage on the bottom of society is rising to the top? If so, wave goodbye to whatever happiness and dignity remains in American life, as John Adams observed.
When morality is booed while immoral filth is praised, the lake of our nation’s culture is turning over. And all the inhabitants have to drink from it to some extent. That is why Apostolics have taken the position that TVs do not really belong in our homes and the movie theaters should never be frequented. And it is increasingly difficult to justify the social media sites on the Internet. There is no virtue found there. Increasingly, little more than voyeurism and prurient interests are appealed to there. The church is the last bastion of any semblance of virtue and righteousness. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). “Blessed [happy] is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).
Was John Adams right? Evidently so. Our national happiness and dignity are history.
The Book of Enoch
Jude, the Lord’s brother, did not mince words when writing about the kind of men who had slipped in among the believers in his day. He compared them to the ancient unbelieving Israelites, rebellious angels, Sodomites, and other ungodly individuals of the past who took the way of Cain, profited from Balaam’s error, and were destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. Judgment would fall on all “that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 15 KJV).
How strong is that? Sounds to me like some ungodliness was going on!
But note that he is quoting from the non-canonical Book of Enoch (v. 14), a Jewish work dated roughly from the third to the first century B.C. If Jude quotes from the book, shouldn’t that make it inspired and worthy to be included in the Bible? Not necessarily. The apostles quoted from secular writers and poets (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12) to drive home a point. Perhaps even Jesus was quoting from Aeschylus in Acts 26:14.
The book is ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. He was a real prophet to whom God did give a startling revelation when he was sixty-five years old (Genesis 5:22,23). When his son who was born that year reached the time of his death 969 years later, a worldwide judgment would come. Many commentators say the best interpretation of the name Methusaleh is: “When he is dead, it [the judgment, the Flood] will come.” Regardless, when he died, the Flood came.
While the writings under Enoch’s name (there is no record of his having written anything during his lifetime) is considered apocryphal and not canonical by most Jewish groups, some Christian churches in Ethiopia and Eritrea do regard it as canon. It is also highly regarded by some segments of Mormonism.
Jude, probably realizing his Jewish readers’ familiarity with the book, quotes from it. He did this not to give it broad credibility but merely to make a point. Although it contains fanciful and legendary material, everything in the Book of Enoch was not erroneous. What was selected from it for the church was accurate.
Enoch evidently spoke the first direct prophecy recorded in the Bible (Jude 14), and it concerned the same event as the last prophecy in the Bible (Revelation 22:20)—the coming of the Lord. That ought to be our resounding message also: “Behold the Lord is coming with thousands of His holy ones….”
An ethical question
Christian Post (christianpost.com) reported that the Rev. Creflo Dollar (right), pastor of World Changers Church International, scolded people who were wanting to join his church after their pastor, Bishop Eddie Long (left), pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, was accused by several young men of having homosexual affairs. A nice gesture, in a way. But he alluded to their “hypocrisy” and accused them of acting as if their own lives were “flawless.”
My question: Was Dollar right to call the transfers hypocrites because they wanted to attend a church where there was no moral mark against the pastor? Should such a person be accused of hypocrisy on that basis alone? Was such a move signaling that they considered themselves flawless? What do you see in Dollar’s attitude? Have you ever witnessed a similar situation in our own movement? What should Dollar have done differently, if anything? I would like to hear from you on this question—anonymously if you prefer. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(PS: Dollar himself was cited by a U.S. Senator for highly suspect behavior concerning his own ministry’s finances.)
There’s a new world coming, folks. The twenty-first century will see a lot of changes in the way religion is practiced in America.
We are accustomed to government agents, government overseers, government officials of all stripes. But not government preachers. However, our world is full of them. In Russia, the Orthodox priests are government certified. Ministers in some European countries, in the Middle East, and other countries have to have government approval. Some even receive stipends from the government. Even Protestants in Nazi Germany were under the heel of the ruling party. In Switzerland the Catholic and Swiss Reformed Churches are financed by an official taxation, making them ultimately accountable to secular authorities. That is part of the residue from the Middle Ages when the church and state were basically one.
Are we on the cusp of “government approved” preachers in America? The president’s government financed, faith-based initiatives may be a way to gradually assume control of the churches. I am in the process of researching this phenomenon. If any of you reading this, including missionaries in other countries, have information relative to it, I would appreciate your feedback and observations.
King Ahab had 450 prophets that were “licensed” and controlled by him. America is on a slicky slide to socialism in order to attain total control from the top down and all across the board. Personally, I don’t want to ever be in hock to the bureaucracy in Washington.
Remember: freedom is not free.
Jack van Impe has walked away from his 23-year run of programming on TBN. When he pointed out how Rick Warren was accommodating Islam and how Robert Schuller was spewing psychobabble, it was too much for Paul and Matt Crouch. They drew the line at naming names. I wonder—can you name sin there? Or God? Probably not.
Does Southern California have a nutcase magnet down there? Every state and major urban center has its share, I am sure, but there must be a collection point down there so all kinds of stuff slide off into it. (A thousand pardons, my good SoCal brothers.) Click on the link. It is worth reading.
You have your pet peeves—I have mine. One is the Dalai Lama. He is criss-crossing our country promoting Buddhism and his brand of internationalism. Now students are listening to him at universities all across America spread his anti-Christian and anti-American philosophies.
He speaks of inner peace through meditation and Eastern religious practices. However, he laces his talks with politics. Recently, at the University of Minnesota, he told students that “as far as socio-political beliefs are concerned, I consider myself a Marxist.” He went on to say, however, that he wasn’t a “Leninist.” Who would turn around for the difference as it relates to America? We already have too many Marxists in our current government bureaucracy!
While I support religious freedom, even for him, when he begins to regurgitate Marxist political philosophy to the Americans who have helped him in a thousand ways while he waits for his native Tibet to be freed from the Chinese communists, we should draw the line and tell him to hit the road and peddle his poison pills somewhere else. The undermining of this republic by foreign visitors should not be rewarded.
Speaking of “meditation”…
There is meditation, and then there is meditation. The meditation encouraged in the Scriptures is when—having read a verse or passage from the Bible—you sit back for a few moments and think about it. You ponder its meaning and its application. It sinks into your consciousness and becomes a motivation for improved behavior.
The meditation promoted by Eastern religions is altogether different. There one stops, becomes silent, assumes a particular physical position, breathes rhythmically, “empties” his mind and communes with his higher self. The same is basically true with the meditation techniques of the ancient Catholic “desert fathers”—hermits and mystics—who left populated areas and went into seclusion to meditate and pray. Convents and monasteries were later built to partially provide for this activity. Some Catholic dogmas were developed and honed in such settings.
Journaling has become popular in Christian circles. There is no problem with maintaining a diary or keeping a record of prayer times. But the journaling that is being promoted includes the written record of what is “heard” when in deep meditation and altered states of consciousness. These thoughts, considered by some to be as authoritative as Scripture, are then shared in confessional sessions called “divine listening.” This new wave of contemplative spirituality has invaded many Christian institutions of higher learning. It is interesting to Google “meditation,” click on “images” and see what comes up. It will not be the Bible’s view of meditation!
Well-known contemporary Catholic mystics such as Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and popular authors like Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have promoted these experiences. The Emergent church leaders have also come out in favor of “spiritual formation” practices. They are “spiritual” practices, but they have nothing to do with biblical spirituality. They make it easier to lead the practitioners into deeper error. Google “spiritual transformation” (a term colleges and seminaries love) and see how many websites are out there promoting shamanism and New Age practices.
We should confront these practices when they come among us. That is why this brief article is in this month’s blog.
An entire Episcopal church in Maryland—including its pastor—has decided to convert to Catholicism, the first in the United States to make the move under new Vatican rules meant to appeal to disaffected Protestants.
“It feels fantastic,” said Patrick Delaney, a lay leader. “It’s like correcting 500 years of history.” Correcting?
Who’ll be next to scoot back to Mama? Of course we all know Episcopalians were never very far from home, anyway.
Nation’s largest denomination faces decline
NASHVILLE — Baptisms fell to their lowest number in 60 years among Southern Baptists, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. In 2010, Southern Baptists baptized 332,321 people, or 17,416 fewer than in 2009, according to a report released by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. This marks the eighth time in 10 years that baptisms have declined and it is the lowest number of baptisms since the 1950s.
Church bus ministries
If your church has a bus ministry, you might want to check out the latest news about possible government regulations concerning emissions. Get info here:
A recent article in the Houston Chronicle spotlighted the technology mogul who founded PayPal and is part owner of Facebook. His current deal: he will pay you $100,000 not to go to college. He is looking for bright young people who are not tainted by what they might be taught in college—whether in the classroom or through the total experience of “higher learning.” He wants fresh minds in his entrepreneurial world, unvarnished by the skewed ideas of tenured college professors.
“The prizes come at a time when debate over the value of higher education has become heated. New graduates mired in student loan debt are encountering one of the toughest job markets in decades. Rising tuitions and diminishing prospects have led many to ask whether college is worth the time and money,” the author of the article stated.
I am not offering a judgment on his ideas about a secular education. But regarding Apostolics with a call on their lives going to a non-Apostolic college or seminary to earn a degree in theology or psychology, sociology, or similar disciplines, I do have thoughts. I have seen too many return with doubts, with their minds blurred by humanism, false doctrine and heresy, to sit still and say nothing. I am sure they figured to come out untarnished, but most do not. This is primarily how religious movements become liberalized. Others also see this, but many are too threatened by marginalization and misunderstanding to speak about it. So they bite their tongues and turn their heads while we fill our pulpits and classrooms with ministers who have been exposed to so many theories and concepts that they are unsure of what truth really is.
For young people to go to college to learn a trade, to develop personal skills needed to earn a living is a great thing. Theoretically, it is a slam dunk. There would be no problem if that is all that goes on in college. It is the fruitcake philosophies, wrong-headed socio-political garbage, and professors with a liberal agenda that threaten our Apostolic young people and the American way of life. Too many courses are tainted with anti-Christian, anti-American propaganda. For every believer that comes out of college unscathed there are three that come out either faithless or seriously compromised. It is the perfect environment to jettison one’s Christian upbringing.
I applaud our Apostolic institutions when they stand for truth and righteousness, training men and women to continue the work of our spiritual forefathers. I also give them kudos when they respond to mid-course corrections when they are called for. I have been involved in Christian college administration and recognize the on-going necessity for close supervision and oversight. They need more than yes-men and big donors on their boards and committees. They need the prayers and involvement of all of us in the movement to which they are accountable.
Just so you’ll know
Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, in his book Time for God, has a mathematically calculated schedule which compares a lifetime of “three score years and ten” with the hours of a single day from seven in the morning to eleven at night.
If your age is:
15, the time is 10:25 a.m.
20, the time is 11:34 a.m.
25, the time is 12:42 p.m.
30, the time is 1:51 p.m.
35, the time is 3:00 p.m.
40, the time is 4:08 p.m.
45, the time is 5:16 p.m.
55, the time is 7:34 p.m.
60, the time is 8:42 p.m.
65, the time is 9:51 p.m.
70, the time is 11:00 p.m.
Then this…none of Einstein’s ideas have so fascinated the public and provoked such controversy among physicists as the so-called “clock paradox.” The paradox is based on the assumption that time passes more slowly for an object in motion than one at rest. Thus, if Einstein is correct, an astronaut traveling at extremely high speed—say to a distant star and back—would age less during his trip than a twin brother who had remained on earth. Depending on the length of his mission, the astronaut could, upon his return, actually be years younger than his twin.
No actual test of the theory has yet been done. But I wonder…if you go far enough fast enough, could you come back before you were born? Other questions are evoked: Does time actually speed up or slow down depending on the number of syllables a preacher squeezes into a long, 10-second breath? Does it slow down if you are waiting in line for driver’s license renewal or baby-sitting a two year-old? Does it speed up when you are enjoying a double-dip Marble Slab cone?
Ah, sweet mysteries of life.
A word to our recent graduates (and other readers)
Above all, keep spiritual things in your focus. In a world filled with twitty tweets, mindless Facebook chatter, and the constant siren calls for self-indulgence, remember the One you serve. He comes first in your life. Not your education, your relationships, or your career—HIM!
Look around. Find a hurt and heal it. Find a need and fill it. Find something broken and fix it.
Don’t take life too seriously—or yourself. Stop and smell the flowers. Take fifteen minute vacations.
Walk with a light foot. Take a little bit of honey on life’s journey. There will be grief and pain enough, so take advantage of the sweet moments along the way. Laugh a lot, especially at yourself.
Don’t try to carry the world on your shoulders. You are not the only pillar in the temple of the universe. Save the guy or girl next door before setting out to save the world.
Concentrate on what you can do something about. Make a difference in your own sphere of influence. Brighten the corner where you are. Bloom where you are planted.
Don’t learn all of life’s lessons the hard way.
It’s so dry in Texas that the Baptists are starting to baptize by sprinkling, the Methodists are using wet-wipes, the Presbyterians are giving out rain-checks. We’ve seen all that before, but when the Catholics start praying for their wine to turn back into water…now that’s dry!
Jesus, The Ultimate Ology
by Johnny James
This new 351 page book from Dr. James, known as “the Walking Bible,” addresses the topic of Oneness in a unique style that only he possesses. Just to read his way of lifting up Jesus is worth the price of the book. You haven’t seen a treatise on Oneness like this. Apologetics may be boring to some, but nobody ever accused Johnny James of being boring. You will laugh a little, shout a little, make copious notes, and will probably use something from this book in your next Sunday’s sermon. Get your copy today!
Only 16.95 from advanceministries.org or call 936-856-3419 or 936-537-0250.
Check out all of our great books at advanceministries.org/store.
Never drink and paint
When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith. – Abraham Kuyper