Sunday, September 30, 2012

One possible sign you're doctrinally obsessed...

"Come on Dad.... it's just a song!"
   My 4 year old daughter was singing again (she loves to sing, and we love her little voice!) and one of her favorite songs is "Jesus loves the little children".  So the second line goes "All the children of the world...";  and of course, I couldn't help thinking:  "All the children?  What about the reprobate?  Is this song Arminian? (Gasp!)  Am I unwittingly teaching my daughter Unlimited Atonement?  Ahhhhh!!!!" How crazy is that?  But of course, I can't stop thinking about it, and after some deep soul searching and intense exegesis of this preschool song, I finally found resolution in the context... "Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in His sight"!  So obviously the writer (Clare Herbert Woolston (1856-1927)) was intending to communicate the wonderful inclusion of the Gentiles, of all races, under the New Covenant, not any Arminian nonsense, right?  Or am I grasping at straws?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mentally abused every Sunday!

     Wouldn't be interesting if the next time you went to church, you were met by sharply dressed men carrying clipboards, whose primary duty was to ensure you signed something like the following before being admitted into the service:
"Initial here, here and here..."
"I, the undersigned, do freely and legally agree to release V.F.* Community Church from all liability for any mental and psychological stress that could result from the following service.  I acknowledge that I have been warned of possible negative side effects which can include, but are not limited to:  low self-esteem, conviction of sin by a Supernatural Being, extreme anxiety regarding a place of eternal punishment, feelings of guilt, humiliation, inferiority and/or inadequacy.  I also understand prolonged exposure to biblical content (without an internal transformation) can lead to narcissism masquerading as depression, acute hardening to and hostility towards Christians and additional content, and a hypersensitivity to rebuke over wrongdoing, real or perceived.  This religious institution is not liable for these or other effects resulting from observation of, conversation with or instruction by individuals with higher moral standards than myself."
      Are you aware that much of the "biblical content" we proclaim can be (and/or most certainly will be) classified as "toxic and abusive"?  Most of you have heard the recent comments of Bill Nye, pleading with Christians not to raise their children with the same backwater, obscurantist denial that they daily operate under.  I've got an atheist coworker who, based on his acceptance of views by the late Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, has accused me of child abuse by religiously instructing my offspring.  And the existence of an eternal punishment likely ranks as the most egregious psychological offense that Christians afflict upon their fellow men.
     So what to do?  Halt these mental assaults immediately?  Obviously to do so would amount to a total compromise and utter uselessness for the kingdom of God;  instead, let's take a deep breath and remind ourselves Who causes us to differ from another (I Cor 4:7).  There's nothing in us that makes us more receptive towards biblical truth... it is God who opens some eyes and shuts others.  Next, don't be shocked by such opposition:  "If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub (or even child abusers!), how much more shall they call them of his household?" (Matt 10:25).  The proper attitude is profound gratitude to suffer for Christ (I Pet 4:14) and careful introspection to ensure any offense originates from the content, not its couriers.

*:  I thought Vanity Fair would be an appropriate locale for all the John Bunyan fans out there!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Are you "afflicted in soul"?

   One might automatically answer our question "No, of course not!  I'm forgiven by Christ!", so some context might be handy;  once a year in Israel, the high priest would fastidiously prepare himself with prayer and external cleansings, and at the proper time appointed by God, this man would enter into the holiest place on earth, the Holy of Holies, to intercede for the nation and offer a sacrifice to atone for sin.  In Lev. 23:28-32, the priests are given instruction for this holy day to pass on to the people:
"Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves (or your souls; KJV) and present a food offering to the LORD. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.  For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people.  And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people...  It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves."
     So it's readily apparent that being afflicted was not only good and proper, but commanded on the strongest punishment of death!  But Christ has saved us from our afflictions, right?  Maybe it would help if we equate the visible sign under the Old Covenant with the spiritual reality in the New:
                                  Affliction = Repentance 
The spiritual truth behind the Old Covenant ceremonies (which are fulfilled in Christ) is always applicable for God's people and just as importantly, God did not burden His people in ancient Israel (nor in America today) with ceremonies merely to amuse Himself.  So the best question we can ask is "What's the point here?"
     The Day of Atonement was unlike many of the feasts in Israel:  nobody gathered to the Tabernacle, there was no trumpets, no week-long party.  If Passover was the highlight of the Jewish calendar, this Day was the lowlight, in the same way that Calvary was dark:  the sin of a whole nation was placed on 2 animals, both of which died miserably.  Only by the intercession of the High Priest did this blood, these lives placate the wrath of a jealous God, justly enraged by our sin.  So, by their obedient affliction (thru fasting, to clear away any misunderstandings), Israel acknowledged their guilt before God, with weeping, fasting and mourning.  The external signs commanded in Lev. are, in themselves, worthless to God (Isa 58:3), but then and now, God's people are tutored by the Old Covenant to know our own sin, and our own hopeless inadequacy to satisfy God's demands.  So the connection to the divine requirement for repentance (or affliction), then and now, is that only God can provide us with what He requires.  Only He can change our heart of stone into flesh, and grant us the eyes to see our sin as it is, so we can mourn our crimes as we should.  Anything less would be crocodile tears.  John Calvin calls the crime in our text a "profane and intolerable carelessness to omit what was so necessary, and of still greater hardness of heart purposely... to despise it."
     One of the best examples of Gentile repentance in the Scriptures (I'm a Gentile... how about you?) is that infamous king of Nineveh...
"For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:  But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.  Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?" (Jonah 3:6-9)
      So take the time, and think about your guilt, "be afflicted, and mourn, and weep..." (James 4:9), and think about what it cost God to redeem us.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Christian Calendar...

     I've made it into Lev. 23, and that chapter is a comprehensive list of the major holidays on the Jewish calendar;  some we're familiar with and some not so much.  Some were solemn, like Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and some were celebratory (the Feast of Trumpets and Booths).  But it got me thinking as a general principle... how come Christians under the New Covenant don't have holidays prescribed by God?
Charged with impersonating a Christian holiday!
     Now let's not be misunderstood... there are a couple prominent holidays celebrated by Christians in America (one with a fat guy in red and the other with a big bunny) that are attached to New Testament events;  I share my thoughts on one of those elsewhere, and you can apply some of those principles to the other too.  No, what I'm asking is why there's not a chapter in the New Testament with "...and on the tenth day of the ninth month, is the Lord's (fill in the blank)".  Here's the best I could come up with... I don't doubt there's more (and probably better!), but I think these points will help us understand and live out our place in this world:

1.  Type/Shadow vs. Reality:  One of the most important aspect of the Old Covenant is like that big red arrow on most maps in shopping centers ("You are here"!);  the sacrifices, the holiness code, the ritual cleanliness were all physical arrows, pointing to the spiritual realities of the Gospel.  God is really the first one to utilize pictoral representation (sorry, Bill Gates!);  when the Christ and the apostles preached to their first audiences, many of those folks knew and recognized Christ when preached from the O.T. (Acts 7:2ff, 8:35, 17:11, 18:28, etc.) because of the symbolism of the coming Messiah and His work.  The Israelites received the benefit of celebratory dramatizations, teaching spiritual truth, several times a year, but Christians in these last days have the blessing of God directly speaking through His Son (Heb 1:1-2); so no symbolic holiday is needed.

2.  The Temporal vs. the Eternal:  The best verse I could find on this is Heb 9:9-10:
"According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. "
      The realm of the Mosaic Law was the physical:  bodily cleanliness, animal atonement, physical separation from unbelievers, all of these show the tangible "this worldness" of the Law.  The problem is we are not solely physical creatures:  human beings are created in the "image of God";  surely this must include a spiritual component in our makeup, and thus a reckoning for the eternal consequences of our actions.  Those material exercises of the Old Covenant, even the most holy of holidays, were not effective in reconciling us to God.  "A former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect)..." (Heb 7:18-19), and so to continue weak celebrations pointing to something that's already come, or to introduce new ones, is counterproductive at best.

3.  The Purpose of the Old vs. the New

    So if the former commandment is weak and useless to save, what's it good for?  One of my formative influences loves to imagine the response of a young Jew learning the 600-plus Old Covenant laws that were required for righteousness and holiness before God: "Are you kidding?  There's no way that I can do all that!"  And that's the point... we are hopeless and helpless to please God in and of ourselves.  But all men are possessed of a subtle self-deception:  we naturally try to prove God wrong, and attain the unattainable.  The observation of the feasts on the Jewish calendar were, for the self-righteous in Christ's day, just another religious performance for hypocrites.  If anything, we should be thankful that Christ has seen fit to free us from rituals that can be misunderstood as righteousness.

     So in closing, let us celebrate our freedom in Christ, to observe or not observe any day, according to the dictates of our consciences, all to the glory of God.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Leviticus and Mormonism?!?

    OK, I know what you're thinking..."Brett's finally gone off the deep end.  He sees links to Leviticus everywhere!"  So sit back with your favorite beverage and prepare to be amazed as I was when God providentially shows His people the goodness and applicability of His Word.
     I was studying Lev. 22:20 one day recently:
"You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you."
     The upshot is that is that ancient Israelites were banned from using crippled, blind, maimed or otherwise defective animals as sacrifices to God.  To do such would be to grievously insult the Lord by giving Him what we ourselves wouldn't want (Mal 1:8), and more importantly, deface the type (or picture) of the sacrifice in pointing to a spotless Saviour, who alone can please God.
      Good truth, but nothing you probably haven't heard before... then I realized that these deformed animals are a perfect picture of the folly of what's called "Works Righteousness", or trying to please God based on what we do:  W.R. is the basic operating principle of every manmade religion.  It offers up what we think would be wholesome offerings, truly good deeds...but is God satisfied with them?
       So, the very same day, I had finally gotten around to listening to a recorded interview: a brother in the Lord had interviewed a Mormon man for a comparative religion class, and when asked what heaven was like, he responded:
“If it's [heaven] gonna be through all that work here, I think the reward is gonna far exceed all the hard work here. I believe that wholeheartedly. I've seen it here on earth. I just do one little thing, and I get blessed tremendously. And so I think if you take that...kinda that grouping of all the little things that I did on this earth, in the short time we're here compared to eternity, I can only imagine the blessings afterwards.” (Emphasis mine)
      Do you see what I see? This Mormon man had been taught, trained and was truly convinced that his deeds, his self-sacrifice, his human effort and discipline was praise-worthy, good and that he deserves a reward from God. What does Scripture say about this?

      “Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” (Job 41:11) God claims ownership of everything; that includes us! Just as it's tough to pay your rent with your landlord's money, it's impossible to make God our debtor by using what's His. Paul also quotes this in Rom 11:35 to prove God's primacy.
      “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.” (Isa 64:6-7) God's standard on good and evil is not the same as ours... we see only the outward action, He sees and judges the inward motive. Our motives are always self-centered, and are thus unworthy of God's approval.
     And then there is, of course, the spiritual significance of our original text (Lev 22:20); an unblemished animal points to an unblemished, sinless Saviour, “a Lamb without blemish or without spot” (I Pet 1:18) and “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). This is the perfection required to please God, to do justice to His honor and majesty. Do you have this perfection? Does anyone (apart from Christ)? It is not merely external obedience God is entitled to... that would be a crippled, maimed offering. God requires purity of heart, fixated on His glory; what's in yours?
Filthy... just like us
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9)
“ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person...” (Matt 15:19-20)

      Gen 6:5 and 8:21 concur; every act we do, every word we say, every thought we think is tainted, and can only arouse God's anger if offered to Him. If you are trusting in a perfect Sacrifice, Jesus Christ, to reconcile you to God by grace through faith alone, you do well. If however, like this Mormon man, you are trusting in yourself, in your good deeds and hard work, you are fatally deceived. You have every reason to shudder and think of your shock, quickly turning to despair, when you hear Christ's answer for all those who trust in themselves:
On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” (Matt 7:22-23)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Law is good!

     What good is the law anyway?  In a safe, privileged environment like the United States in the 21st century, it's real easy to take for granted the blessings and benefits of a legal system.  We have men with guns, often just a phone call and less than 10 minutes away, waiting to protect us and enforce a largely fair and good legal system, under which we have equal rights and are entitled to legal representation.
     But imagine you live 3500 years ago in the Middle East, where roving bands of armed men couldn't wait to relieve you of everything you had (including your life) and the balance of civilization teetered between a centralized monarchy that brutally enforced oppressive taxes (even in Israel... I Sam 8:11ff) and a frontier-style Wild West (Wild East?) showdown at any moment (Jdg 21:25).
Safety, anyone?
     So as beneficial as a functioning legal system is, the first and foremost purpose of God's Law to Israel was not to make the lives of ancient Hebrews cozy and comfortable, as demonstrated to this word to the priests:

          "They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the LORD who sanctifies them." (Lev 22:9)

     Human laws are defined as good to the degree to which they adhere to God's universal standard of righteousness.  And the vast majority of civilizations do correspond in many ways to God's moral law (in punishing theft, murder, etc.).  The primary purpose of the God's law, both spiritually and temporally, is to save your life.  We, as a race, are a wicked people that are continually looking for new ways to dig our own grave, and so the law works as a powerful common grace (for believers and unbelievers) to show us the holiness and justice of God, and restrain us from heaping up more judgment.
      The best known (and most important) aspect of the God's law is the spiritual, by which God convicts us of our sin and our need for a Saviour.  But the more obscure side is God's gracious use of law here and now:  it's considered barbaric and cruel now, but the prospect of a horrible punishment waiting when one commits a vile crime actually does deter people from following through with our evil intentions...
"And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you." (Deut 13:11)
"And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again." (Deut 17:13)
      Think of all the trouble you would have gotten into if your parents hadn't told you:  "You'd better not or else!"  The law (both God's universal moral law and each country's civil law) is an unappreciated common grace, restraining the effects of sin and making the world a better place.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Richard Sibbes on our worldview...

I'm sure lace was very manly!
     If you know me, you know I love old, dead guys... the deader, the better!  So the first dead guy I'd love to introduce you to is Richard Sibbes;  he lived in the late 16th-early 17th cent. in England and his works were very popular (even while he was alive, which is rare!) among the Puritans.
     So I was listening to a conference lecture on Sibbes' commentary on II Corinthians 1.  The speaker drew out many good points, but the two that stuck with me were the ones that were declared to be foundational to true religion, and essential to a biblical worldview today; so essential that we often overlook them:

1.  God is (or He exists)...

2.  ...and He is true.

a security God?
    Both points are hotly contested in the public discourse of our society today;  first, the ambient relativity makes it difficult to convince others of a personal, real God who has revealed Himself definitively and can be known through what He has said.  The concept of God is instead a warm, fuzzy blanket, unique for every individual, that can be very comforting, but usually the mature and educated are encouraged to quickly dispose of said blanket in favor of a universe where they call the shots, and are accountable to no one.
     Second, the liberals of the last century have done a remarkable job of assaulting the reliability of the Bible, muddying even the clearest texts.  The most biblically ignorant folks know exactly how to dodge the authority of Scripture (and therefore, the conviction of sin);  one person I spoke to recently was convinced the Bible was a product of solely human origin, and that many books were left out of the New Testament for political reasons (the gospels of Thomas, Peter, etc.).  It turned out he had never read these rejected books (!), but had been swayed by a "conspiracy theory" mentality ("what are they trying to hide?").  And nobody who's even marginally familiar with the Bible can question the effectiveness of a smear campaign that enables people in America today to think that God condones homosexuality as an alternate lifestyle.
I can't hear you!
     Everyone taught by God (Jn 6:45) instinctively knows the truth....God exists.  The first verse of the Bible doesn't seek to prove, or present evidence, or persuade folks of this reality.  Moses just takes it for granted:  God exists and everything comes from Him.  The further our society consciously, blatantly ignores God, the more He will judicially blind us to His existence.
     And a couple of those "clearest texts" are Hebrews 6:18 and Titus 1:2... God just can't lie.  He not only tells the truth, He is the Truth and our doubt of Him is like doubting the nose on our face.  "Let God be true, and every man a liar" (Romans 3:4).
      These pillars are the only realities we can base our lives on in this topsy-turvy world... everything else will fall and "great was its ruin".

Monday, September 10, 2012

Locked up under the Old Covenant!

     This might not be the exact topic you think it is very popular for professing Christians to reject the symbolic restrictions of the Mosaic Law, and to loudly proclaim "We're not under the Law, but under grace!"  But plenty of much better men have corrected those excesses, and I want to expose you to just one literal case of confinement under the Old Covenant:
Lev 21:12  "He shall not go out of the sanctuary, lest he profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him: I am the LORD."
"Nobody knows the trouble I see..."!
     Moses refers to the serving High Priest in context (Aaron at this time), and confines his movements for the time of his term (till the end of his life, I think!) to the immediate proximity of the Tabernacle (later the Temple).  This is another perfect example of fuel for the fire of our misconceptions of the Law as harsh, restrictive, and useful only for cultivating thankfulness we don't live in ancient Israel!
     But God is smarter than that (a lot smarter!), and wouldn't be foolish enough to inscripturate ("record as Scripture") something useless for the vast majority of its readers, and then contradict Himself ("All Scripture is profitable..."?).  So we must ask:  why would the High Priest be confined to the sanctuary?
     So what would happen if the High Priest wandered away from the sanctuary, took a vacation, or just happened to be speaking at a bible prophecy conference in Toledo (I Kings 18:27)?  God's people would be without a mediator, bereft of the intercession that is required for sinful people to commune with a holy God.  For that reason, Numbers 3:38 places the residence of the High Priest right next to the Tabernacle, and the Temple included rooms for the priests.  So that answers why this would be necessary in Israel... how about us?  Most, if not all, of the regulations of the Old Covenant have a typical aspect regarding Christ (meaning they are a symbol that points to a full reality).  Some are well known:  the passover lamb looks to Christ's intercessory work, the sacrificial animal's spotlessness mirrors Christ's, etc.  Clearly, an ever-present High Priest displays an ever-present Saviour...
"...who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life...Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."  (Heb 7:16,25)
     Since Christ is always "on duty" at the Father's right hand, we always have ready access to God, for communion, forgiveness, and our needs.  This is the reality Leviticus points to, and that we enjoy today.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Grace of the New Covenant in... Leviticus?!?

     Now that I've gotten politics off my chest, we can proceed to the real reason I want to blog... to discuss the magnificence of God's revelation to us in the Bible.
     Everyone thinks of Leviticus (at least, those who do think about Leviticus!) as a monotonous list of obscure rules and oft-ridiculed punishments (like "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.").  But I've run across gem after gem of applicable truth, and now I have an outlet to pass them on!  I guarantee you'll be surprised at what God revealed (and is still revealing) to those with ears to hear, even in ancient Israel.
     The first shock I have for you is the transparent grace in the 3rd book of Moses;  I've been studying in Lev. for 6 months, so rather than try to remember that far back, we'll just pick up with what God has shown me this week:
Lev 20:26  You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.
Lev 21:8  You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.
     Do you see it?  The twin themes of human responsibility and divine supply?  If not, a Hebrew lesson might help (from a guy who knows about 10 Hebrew words!).  What we translate "sanctify", "holy", or "separate" all come from one root word (qadash, Strongs' H6942 if you must know).  So we're commanded to return the same service to God (or His high priest in context) that He first performs for us.  Sound familiar yet?  Here's the same concept in chronological order:
"And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,  that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God." (Ezk 11:19-20)
    So the same distinction that Paul, James, and others make between faith and works, and yet their intertwined relationship (the divine gift of justifying faith produces God-pleasing works) is seen in the earliest parts of the Bible.  Isn't that incredible?  I've often wondered how "new" the New Covenant really is...  the same gospel Christians preach today (enabling grace predicated on intercessory, justifying sacrifice) is what comes through in the word preached by Moses.  All praise to Jesus ("God saves")!

Friday, September 7, 2012

The post my wife wants to see... pt 2

     If you're like this gal and appalled that I'm questioning the unspoken golden rule of Christian politics (vote REPUBLICAN!!!), here's some more reasons that might convince you to put away the pitchforks and torches (for now, at least!):

Ohh, the humanity!!!
     1.  A vote for anyone but Romney is a vote for Obama? Even though Christians live in this world, our view and choices are to be motivated and informed with the next world in mind.  This is in direct contrast to a fundamental pillar of the modern philosophy of our culture.  To put a name on it, pragmatism:  a thing is good, successful, right, etc. if it works.  And the degree a thing is good is the degree to which it works.  It's truly disheartening to consider the overwhelming role this philosophy plays in our unconscious decisions, and even in American evangelicalism (big rabbit trail there, but I'll save it for another day).  I can't deny that, from our human perspective, a vote for a third party candidate is unlikely to work (to get that candidate elected).  But we know from Scripture God often does things that seem foolish to men:  using the uneducated to be His spokesmen (Amos 1:1, Acts 4:13), picking the small and the weak to be His most prominent leaders (Ex 4:1,10, I Sam 16:7, Jer 1:5), etc.  Our first and highest goal is to be living examples of how radically different it is to pursue God and His pleasure; not achieve conservative hegemony and dominance in America.  Our vote can be a powerful testimony in that vein.  Ask yourself please:  does Mitt Romney, his background and his policies glorify God?
     2.  I am skittish about my last point, but we must deal with it... can we vote for a Mormon?  First off, I don't want to be misunderstood:  Romney clearly has the right to run for any office in our land.  Article 6 paragraph 3 of our founding document states:  "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."  Our nation is a secular one (along with modern-day Israel... again, another day!), and the accurate intent of "separation of church and state" is to ensure our country does not become a theocracy.
     That said, our question is better framed as "what part should a candidate's religion play in our decision?"  Tragically, in our society, religion is largely seen as a minor factor in a person's private life, separate and inconsequential to public life (hence the common cowardly response to abortion:  "Privately, I'm against it, but publicly, a woman has a right to choose"!).  But Mitt Romney is an exception to this:  I previously assumed he was a rank-and-file Mormon, and as such, not intimately acquainted with what his church teaches.  I was dismayed to learn Romney held the post of "Ward Bishop" (equivalent to pastor) and so not only endorses Mormon beliefs, but teaches them. So clearly, a person's religious beliefs are a fundamental part of their worldview and we should weigh them as a factor (not THE factor) in giving them our support.  Conceivably, if there were only 2 candidates in a race, and if the Mormon one had a strong record of support for issues in line with biblical morality, I believe a Christian could cast their vote for said Mormon with a clear conscience.  But neither of these "ifs" apply to the 2012 election;  as demonstrated previously, Romney is compromised in his record on the issues, and Virgil Goode (the Constitution Party candidate) identifies himself as Baptist and attends Pleasant Hill Methodist Church.

     I believe this puts the nail in the coffin... with a Christian (according to his professed beliefs) candidate with a much more biblical stance on virtually every issue, the only reason to vote Romney is that he's more popular.  Christians are equated to sheep in Scripture, but not because we follow the crowd... we are to follow our Shepherd, Jesus.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The post my wife wants to see...

     T (my wife) and I were talking the other day while doing something I loved and she hated:  watching the Republican National Convention.  I am riveted by politics because (as I told her) the politics of today is the history of tomorrow... this is what our grandchildren will learn in school (if the Lord tarries).  She is, at best, inconvenienced by politics because political coverage on TV causes her to miss her favorite shows.  But we got to talking about the Bible and how a Christian should vote, and she felt very strongly that I should be more public with my views... i.e. go hold a sign on a street corner, run for office, or something like that.  So in the season when many Christians (they are the 99% ? Haha!) are explaining why they are voting for Romney, let me share why you shouldn't feel obligated to and why I'm not:
     1.  There's never only 2 people running for President:  we as Christians are obligated to honor God by voting for the man who most honors Him.  I have been convinced for years the party that most supports a biblical worldview morally, socially, and economically is the Constitution Party;  if you favor saving the lives of the unborn, keeping government small, and sticking to the intent and scope of our nation's founding document, your choice is clear.  I would challenge anyone for a coherent argument that the Republican Party is the most biblical one.
     2.  Romney has a spotty (at best) record on abortion and can only be described as a recent convert to a pro-life position.  In his last gubernatorial campaign, he responded to Shannon O'Brien in a debate:  "I am not going to change our pro choice laws in Massachusetts in any way ... I will preserve them, I will protect them, I will enforce them. Therefore I am not going to make any changes which would make it more difficult for a woman to make that choice herself."
     3.  Romney's view on socialized medicine (a.k.a. "Romneycare") is simply "Obamacare Lite";  their similarities are well known, and even Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg used Romney's work in MA to justify the constitutionality of Obamacare.
     To be continued...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Unintended Critique of the Megachurch... What's your fix?

     What happens when unbelievers shed light on dangerous trends in evangelicalism?  We listen! (Prov 12:1)  I don't normally browse "Seattle Weekly", but occasionally, folks leave it on the bus, and I look for societal/religious/political insight into folks I might be talking to.  This story is a great example... how do educated pagans view Christian services and worship?  In this example, church is a drug, a drug that needy Christians take to "get a fix" and make it through their week.
     The key to this scenario is the kind of churches the researchers chose:  the uniquely American invention of the megachurch.  "Megachurches, defined as having a weekly congregation of more than 2,000 people, are a relatively new phenomenon, and they have become staggeringly popular. There are now more than 1,500 Protestant megachurches in the United States, at least 50 of which boast weekly attendance figures from 10,000 to 47,000. More than half of all churchgoers attend the largest 10 percent of churches in America." (Emphasis mine)  As you might guess, the article is not overly positive of this type of church... my question is "Is it justified?"
     The charges leveled at these megachurches are they are "glorified rock concerts" that "master the art of creating a welcoming, non-intimidating ethos and aesthetic."  This spitwad that sticks disturbingly well to the megachurch that seeks to replace the preaching of the gospel with a man-centered methodology. Rather than humbly trust God to apply His truth to those who have ears to hear (who did that?... oh right! Jesus!), "a megachurch sermon can create an "Oxytocin cocktail" in your brain that includes other neurotransmitters and hormones. These combine to build a "sense of recognition, trust, and a reduction of stress.""
     It is truly a sad day when we seek to replace God with a light and sound show; but the most piercing arrow of judgment into the futility of doing God's work man's way comes from the conclusion these UW researchers draw about these megachurches and their message:   "The megachurch message is more positive about being good or different people," Corcoran says, comparing modern megachurches to the fire-and-brimstone preachers of old. "The pastors are not generating horror and terror and fear of the afterlife, but really positive sentiments."  Ancient Israel had pastors like this... they said "Peace, peace", but there was no peace.