In addition to the critique of Jennifer Knust’s CNN “Mixed Messages” article put forth by Dr. Michael Brown on his program, the Line of Fire (click here to listen), Dr. Robert Gagnon penned a critique of the article and published it on CNN as “The Bible really does condemn homosexuality” (note that it was originally titled “The Bible’s surprisingly consistent message on sexuality,” but was changed by the CNN Religion Editor). Gagnon has also written an addendum to the CNN article located here. Gagnon ends his CNN article with the following reflection, which sums it up well:
It is disturbing to read what passes nowadays for expert “liberal” reflections on what the Bible says about homosexual practice.
To gain proper perspective on the issues at hand, watch the lecture below from Dr. Brown entitled “Are We Using the Bible to Sanction Anti-Homosexual Prejudice?”:
[Link to Video]
Posted in News, Scripture Tagged with: cnn, homosexuality, jennifer knust, robert gagnon, sexuality, the bible
- The Hollow Sound of Anti-Israel Protests
- Apalling Grace: A Response to Mark Galli’s “The Scandal of the Public Evangelical”
- What is the Difference Between Holiness and Legalism?
- Cleanse Our Eyes: A Call to Consecration in the Area of Entertainment
- Why Have Jewish People Been So Hated and Persecuted Through the Centuries?
- Missing Link Between Humans and Apes Found?
- God Has a Better Way: Official Statement to the Media
- What Does Turn the Other Cheek Really Mean?
- Hate Crimes Bill Passes House of Representatives
- God Has a Better Way Receives Protest, Praise from GLBT Community
Posted in News, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: articles, evangelicals, evolution, god has a better way, holiness, homosexual agenda, israel, jewish, legalism, the bible
A couple of days ago, atheists from around the country celebrated “Blasphemy Day”. As one website encouraged them to: “…admit to committing blasphemy against all gods. Religion is mythology. Gods are lies. Preachers are liars (yes, all of them), and anyone who believes in magic men in the sky are fools. Please take a moment to commit blasphemy today. Change your status message on Facebook or MySpace to something blasphemous. Wear an atheist pin. Come out of the closet a little more. Make it known… and make it loud.”
Whenever I witness to these blasphemous types (which I have done quite a bit recently), I can’t help but wonder if they will be able to retain their arrogant confidence when facing the rising fog of death as it draws them in to the darkness of an eternity without hope.
You see, death seems to have a way of bringing a solemn hush to the pretentious profanities of self-confident blasphemers. In those final hours and minutes of life, courage cannot be found in the fading flower of the mind and body. Excuses, justifications and intellectual arguments are all exposed as cheap covers, for a deep-seated fear of the grave, that cannot offer one ounce of consolation or power over it.
Thomas Paine was a blasphemous, smug deist. He was known to describe the Gospel as a “fabulous invention”. But his last words were “What a fool I have been. Oh God help me, for I cannot bear to be left alone!”
Voltaire was another deist, infamous for his contempt of the Bible. But on his death bed he exclaimed: “I am abandoned by God and man!”. “Oh Jesus Christ! Oh Jesus Christ!”
Robert Ingersoll’s Father was a Presbyterian preacher who had even filled the pulpit of Charles Finney. But Robert rejected the faith of his father and became a famous proponent of agnosticism and humanism. On his deathbed he cried, “God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul from Hell if there be a Hell.”
Sir Thomas Scott said upon his deathbed: “Until this moment I thought there was neither a God nor a hell. Now I know and feel that there are both, and I am doomed to perdition by the just judgment of the Almighty.”
Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, the French statesman, as he was dying, asked to be drugged, “that I may not think of eternity and what is to come”
Contrast these experiences with the last words of evangelist D.L. Moody. “Earth is receding, Heaven is descending, God is calling and I am going home. Is this death? Why it is not bad, it is glorious. This is my coronation day”.
Or the words of Stephen as he was being stoned: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God…”
When a storm is approaching, many animals will nervously burrow and dig for shelter under the ground. But the eagle is not afraid. He simply spreads his wings, and effortlessly rides the thermals high above the storm. He looks down at it from above and laughs mockingly.
My friend, when a man has Christ, he has wings. He need not be afraid of death, for when it comes, he will soar above it and taunt it with the words of Paul the Apostle:
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:55-57)
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: atheist, blasphemy day, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, death, deist, faith, Gabriel Riqueti, Jesus, MySpace, Sir Thomas Scott, soul, the bible, Thomas Paine
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….” -Rom. 12.10-11
From the nation of India decades ago, Amy Carmichael gives us this staggering story:
It was convention week in a hill station in India. The afternoon meeting was just over. A few Christian station-people, some English-speaking Indian friends and the sixty or seventy missionaries who had been listening to the Bible reading were hurrying out to get a cup of tea before the evening meeting. An Indian lady lingered in the empty hall, and the writer, seeing her alone and thinking perhaps she had no friend at hand and might be feeling lonely, sat down beside her. Conversation turned to Bible reading. The Indian lady’s face darkened and she said bitterly, “What is the use of such meetings? You missionaries say one thing and do another!’ It was easy to see she had been wounded and soured, but not knowing her history, I could only urge that meetings were held just because we recognized our need….
But this did not satisfy her, and in quick, eager sentences she began to explain herself. She said that her people had noticed that when a missionary first came out, he was usually warm and loving and keen to win souls. Then gradually, she said, it was noticed that he cooled.
“And who can say,” she concluded, with an intensity that went through the hearer, “…. who can say you missionaries live specially holy lives? We Indian Christians observe. We observe you not only when you are at work but when you are off work too. Is there anything remarkable about you? Are you burning-hot people? We look to you to show us patterns and you are showing us crooked patterns.”
The words scorched. Discount what we may because of some inward hurt or warp; and granted, thank God, that the picture painted thus is not wholly true, there was enough truth left to lay at least the one who listened low down in the dust.
I believe this story is intimately applicable to most American believers. We need to hear the questions of the little Indian woman:
“Do you lead specially holy lives?”
“Is there anything remarkable about you?”
“Are you burning-hot people?”
We sell the our lives short by reducing the faith to a cute and dainty religion that we practice a few times a week. We are supposed to be a burning-hot people, fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord! Our lives are supposed to be separate from the world in a manner sufficient to raise questions in the hearts of our neighbors and relatives, “What is it about those people? There’s a humility…. there’s a moral clarity…. there’s a joy…. there’s a no-nonsense mode of living…. there’s a wisdom…. there’s a reality in their eyes that I have found nowhere else, and their lives testify to it.”
Let us consider the tear-stained exhortation that Amy gives to follow up her story:
Comrades in this solemn fight- this awful conflict with awful powers- let us settle it as something that cannot be shaken: We are here to live holy, loving, lowly lives. We cannot do this unless we walk very, very close to the Lord Jesus. Anything that would hinder us from the closest walk that is possible to us till we see Him face to face is not for us. We need to be sensitive to the first approach of the hindering thing. For the sake of the souls that may be stumbled if we turn even ever so little aside, for the sake of our Master’s glory- dearer surely to us than all else- let us ask Him not to show us whether in anywise we have been showing “crooked patterns.”
Dear reader, what is the temperature of your life? Have you settled into a cool spirituality that is unconsecrated and casual? Have you more passion for entertainment than you have for the Scriptures? Has the Spirit of prayer become foreign to you? Have you left your “first love” and latched onto idols that now sap all of your affections for Christ, and leave you barren and numb at heart? We must return to Him with whole hearts, forsaking the “crooked patterns” that have too long marked the Church in our nation. Let us cry out from a place of brokenness, that He may have for Himself a people no longer “lagging behind in diligence.” A people who are “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….”
He is faithful to respond to the heart that hungers and thirsts after Him! He will fill your heart with new life, and cause His heart to be expressed through you. He will kindle a flame in our hearts that all the schemes of hell cannot begin to quench. He will have for Himself a people.
A people leading specially holy lives, empowered by His Spirit. A remarkable people. A burning-hot people. Amen!
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Amy Carmichael, Church, faith, God, Hell, India, Jesus, missionaries, prayer, Reality, the bible
On August 4th, 2009, George Sodini walked into a fitness center near Pittsburgh, PA and shot 12 people. Three women were killed, and Mr. Sodini himself committed suicide. The day before the murder-suicide, Mr. Sordoni wrote that he was going to “see God and Jesus” soon on his blog, saying:
Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.
The day after the shootings, Dr. Brown addressed the murder and these words on his Line of Fire radio show (the show is appropriately titled “A Once Saved Always Saved Murder?”). The audio is below, and provides a good overview of the situation and the doctrine in question:
Evidently, the gunman had been taught that because he had prayed a prayer asking Jesus into his heart at some point in his life, he would spend eternity in heaven with God, no matter what sins he committed or beliefs he espoused thereafter. Here are some thoughts on the subject I put together in an email shortly after the killings took place, and the news came out concerning the gunmen’s beliefs. I submit them for consideration:
I would venture to say that our life and faith in Messiah is in reality more about an organic, somewhat mysterious spiritual dynamic, than a doctrinal system that has as the main goal avoiding the bad place and going to the nice place upon death.
Of interest may be Richard Dawkins’ article after 9/11 that I reference in my Atheism article: where he says: “religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end.”
Of course, his thesis has major problems philosophically (does not atheism teach the dangerous nonsense that our only punishment and reward are in this life?), but I actually AGREE with him that false and untrue religion is quite dangerous, and for people to blindly believe that they’re going to heaven the second they die, without feeling the need to have a bit of evidence that it’s true beyond the words of a religious teacher, is quite dangerous as well as perhaps a bit crazy.
But then, if as so many believe, we don’t need the tangible, objective, supernatural presence of God, nor as Mark Galli writes, any real difference at all in our lives from non-believers, to know that our particular doctrinal system is absolutely true, why should we expect people to not “misuse” a doctrine such as once-saved-always-saved, or believe a false religion like Islam? They believe what they believe for the same reasons we do, and with the same level of certainty.
All this to say, I wonder if the problem with this shooter was both an unbiblical belief and blindly believing something with no tangible evidence. Perhaps in his case a healthy fear of death and the judgment to come was in order, as well as a healthy skepticism.
If we require nothing of our religion, why should we expect our religion to require anything of us?
Is it any wonder that those of us in the Kingdom of God that are living and dying for the advancement of the gospel, spiritual revival, cultural reformation, and an increased depth in the Church find it so difficult to awake this “sleeping giant” (as Leonard Ravenhill called it), when so many of us in the Church require nothing of our beliefs beyond simply hearing them preached from a pulpit or reading them in a book?
Until men and women start taking seriously the question of why they believe what they believe, not only will they continue to subconsciously resist the leaven of the gospel from infecting their entire lives, but dangerous doctrines will continue to abound.
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: Blogs, doctrine, faith, gunman, Hell, judgment, Leonard Ravenhill, Mark Galli, mass murder, murder, pittsburgh, richard dawkins, the bible, theology
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” -1 Cor. 13.1-3
Of all the passages of Scripture that have been heavily quoted and inadequately considered, 1 Corinthians 13 must rank in the top ten. Of all the subjects that have been watered down, cheapened, and reduced to humanistic wisdom, the subject of love must be at the top of the list.
What do we know of the kind of love that Paul was calling the saints to pursue, and to what degree are we actually walking in it?
Some time ago, I read through a short biography on a man named Robert C. Chapman (1803-1902). Charles Spurgeon called him “the saintliest man I ever knew,” and his life had a profound effect on many souls, not the least of which was the great pioneer missionary Hudson Taylor.
Though I have been engaged in various forms of ministry for more than a dozen years, I was “knocked off of my chair” when I saw the measure of holy love and compassion that was expressed through his life. The man was immersed in a purity and devotion that was heavenly, and the love that burned in his spirit was evident to all who came into contact with him.
Early in his life, he announced that the Lord had called him to proclaim the Gospel, and many of his friends said, “Robert will never make a preacher.” In response, he exclaimed, “There are many who preach, but not so many who live Christ. My aim shall be to live Christ.”
Chapman grew into a remarkable demonstration of the nature of God, expressing the most supernatural kind of hospitality and kindness, even to religious antagonists in his own congregation. Though many were gripped with prejudices, foul attitudes, and a lack of respect when he took up the pastorate at Ebenezer Chapel, they would be won over to humility and love by the selfless example set forth in the man, R.C. Chapman.
He would regularly house guests in his home, though he was a lifelong bachelor. Visiting missionaries, new converts, or extremely poor souls, would be graced by his Spirit-empowered hospitality. They testified that his house was simple, without excessive furniture and trinkets, but immaculately clean. He esteemed that which God had given him, and took care of it in honor of the Lord and esteem for his guests. He would rise daily at 4:00 a.m. to engage in prayer, adoration, and Scripture meditation. He would say, “It is one thing to read the Bible, choosing something that suits me, and another thing to search it that I may become acquainted with God in Christ.” The fruit of his life showed that he had become intensely “acquainted with God in Christ.”
In later years he would have breakfast ready for his house guests at 7:00 a.m., following his daily devotional time. The joy that marked his life was contagious, and more than once people testified that after spending only a day with the man, they felt as if they had encountered the Son of God Himself.
What do people encounter in me? What have I really learned of His love? Dear saints, I yearn to come into the same reality that was Chapman’s experience.
Paul said that we may speak skillfully with the tongues of men. We may be supernaturally gifted to speak with the tongues of angels. We may have the gift of prophecy, or know all mysteries and knowledge. We may have enough faith to remove mountains. We may give all of our possessions to the poor. We may even give ourselves to martyrdom for an ethical cause. But according to the apostle, we may have or engage in any of these things and still be totally devoid of the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. This is both astounding and frightening.
I don’t want to be a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” friends. I want to commune with the One whose zeal burns like an unquenchable fire. I want to be touched and singed and transformed by the heat of His selfless love.
In Hosea 11.8, the Lord says to Israel, “My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled.”
O, that our hearts would be turned over, that our lovelessness would be toppled, our hard-heartedness shattered, and our coldness melted by the compassions of God Himself!
O, to love You as you are, to love righteousness, justice, and compassion, and to love human souls as You do! Give us Your own love, Lord. Catch us up in Your heart, and enable us to be an expression of Your Son in this generation, that our sons and daughters might see your majesty.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Charles Spurgeon, Christ, God, Jesus, love, Paul, purity, Robert C. Chapman, the bible, the Gospel
Are you intimidated when so-called “Biblical Scholars” attack the trustworthiness of the Scriptures? To preach the Word of God with boldness requires confidence in its authority and it is upon this authority that our faith rests (Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God). Satan knows that if he can put a wedge under the foundation of our faith he has a better chance of toppling it. In Focus on the Family’s “The Truth Project”, R.C. Sproul says, “If we can establish the existence of God and the trustworthiness of sacred Scripture, 90% of the work of the defense of Christianity has been solved.” No wonder the authority of the Scriptures is constantly under fire by those who seek to undermine the Christian faith.
The Post-Modern, liberal, higher critics that grace contemporary television shows and magazine articles are not the first to attack the authority of Scripture and they surely won’t be the last. In self-conceit, puffed up by the tiny sampling of regurgitated information they have swallowed, they confidently conclude that the Bible is untrustworthy and flawed.
But there is no reason for the faithful to sit by, nervously chewing their fingernails as the higher critics pose clever new attacks on the consistency of Scripture. Their arrogance, which is as old as the Bible itself, has always come to nothing and their arguments have been proven wrong time and time again. In fact, perhaps it is their incessant attacks that are the greatest proof of the supernatural origin of the Bible, because amazingly, in spite of all of it’s critics and enemies, the Holy Bible remains the best selling and most read book of all time. By contrast its many historical opponents and their once-profound arguments lie rotting in the ground together.
In 1776 Voltaire said, “100 years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” 100 years later Voltaire’s home was being used as a distribution point for spreading Bibles throughout Europe* and within 26 years of his death the British & Foreign Bible Society had been founded, sparking an unprecedented era of Bible distribution**.
In 1778 Voltaire, boasting of himself said, “It took 12 men to start Christianity; one will destroy it.” That was the very year that he died*.
Robert Ingersoll said, “In 15 years I will have this book [the Bible] in the morgue.” Fifteen years later, Ingersoll himself was in the morgue and in his estate sale a preacher bought his desk and spent his life writing sermons on it*.
In the late 1800’s a scholar named General Lew Wallace, a Territorial Governor and former U.S. Senator, set out to disprove the Bible. His quest led him to discover the wonders of Scripture and he ended up becoming a devout Christian and writing Ben Hur; a Christian novel, widely considered a true classic of American literature**.
Another scholar, Sir William Ramsey, had a similar experience. He traveled to Asia Minor on a mission to find geographical and archeological evidence that would disprove the claims of the Bible. Instead he was amazed to find that the Bible was remarkably accurate and was ultimately so convinced of it’s authority that he himself became a believer and biblical scholar**.
Today, in spite of many generations of opposition, by countess assailants, the New Testament has been translated into 1,168 languages***. It is by far the most popular and widely circulated printed material of all time. Even today, it remains a best seller and is printed in so many languages, translations and versions by so many publishers that it is literally impossible to calculate how many millions, if not billions have been printed and circulated.
Its critics and opponents along with their books and institutions have proven to be about as formidable as a gnat battling a hurricane. The contemporary voices that arrogantly rail against scripture will soon be as cold and silent as the grave, as are all those that came before them. But the voice that spoke the worlds into existence will still be thundering through history to every nation and generation through His revealed Word, “Thus says the Lord”.
All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD STANDS FOREVER. ~ 1 Peter 1:24-25
* Dr. Del Tackett in “The Truth Project” by Focus on the Family (http://www.thetruthproject.org)
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: biblical scholars, christianity, conceit, focus on the family, liberal, post-modern, rc sproul, the bible, the truth project
“…. no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of the human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” -2 Pet. 1.20-21
Please hear this remarkable word from Nathaniel West:
In the hour of affliction we learn more of God’s word, and God’s way, than in a whole age of sunshine and prosperity, and it is well to remember that the prophecies were spoken first in that moment when Israel’s night was the darkest. Paradoxical indeed, it was then that the light was the brightest, the promise the sweetest, and the devotion the deepest. So will it be again. Israel will be able to say, when emerging from the last great tribulation, as when returning from Exile to build the Temple:
“The Lord hath chastened me sore,
But not abandoned me to death.
The Lord is God. He hath given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords,
Even to the horns of the altar!”
Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.
(Nathaniel West, The Thousand Year Reign of Christ; Kregel Publications, p. XVI)
It is often said that we form our theologies and interpret the Scriptures based on the lens through which we look. Depending on the stream of our religious upbringing and our experiences in life, we often interpret passages with our own particular presumption and bias.
It is also said that we often interpret the Scriptures based on the level of willingness we possess to truly hear what they require and promise. In other words, we find in the Word what we want to find, and discard that which demands a higher call to the death of the self-life. We see what we want to see, and no more.
Nathaniel West wrote that “Affliction, Light, and Consecration” are the greatest and most necessary helpers for a true interpretation of the Scriptures.
What do we know of affliction? West is speaking of Israel’s affliction under judgment and exile, but is there an affliction that we willingly give ourselves to, and that would make way for a better interpretation of Scripture? I believe, in at least one aspect, that our self-made value systems, bumptiousness from familiarity, and “know-it-all” attitudes must be afflicted before the Light of interpretation can be opened. We’ve got to crucify our own wisdom, and lay our souls low before the same Spirit that moved the prophets. Are you reading the Scriptures categorically and robotically, or are you turning away from your own frozen knowledge and facing the burning bush that the Scriptures constitute?
Next, there is the element of light. When our own wisdom has been afflicted and set aside, then we are postured inwardly to receive the Light of God through the Scriptures. We must receive Light from the Spirit of God, or else the Bible is an impossible book to engage, enjoy, and receive from. If the same Spirit who rested on and moved the prophets does not rest on us, we will not gather from the Scriptures what the Lord has desired to give. We must ask the Spirit to come with His own Light, otherwise we will not be reading rightly. Therefore, dear saint, we ought to pant for the presence of the Spirit in the midst of our reading, so that Light may come, and our reading may itself become an act of Communion with God.
Lastly, the element of consecration. If we come to the Scriptures with no true intention of consecrating our lives to the Light that He gives us, we are not likely to come into a true interpretation. The Scriptures were not merely given for the formulation of eschatological ideas, the constructing of Doctrinal charts, or any such thing. They were given so that the Eternal God, and His great purpose, would be exposed to Israel and the nations, and that men would come into the reality of what He has always intended; namely, the revelation of Himself, and the glorification of His ways.
If we are unwilling to consecrate our lives to the Light that He gives, we will invariably miss what He is speaking. But if we come to the Scriptures in the same Spirit by which they were written, all the glories of His nature and will become intensely available to us.
“Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.”
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: affliction, Christ, communion, consecration, God, judgment, Knowledge, Nathaniel West, prophecy, prophets, Reality, sacrifice, the bible
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org
As our great country accelerates its slide into economic and moral Hell, be careful whom you blame. The present boldness of liberals and timidity of conservatives are only the secondary causes. Much of the blame can be placed at the foot of the church.
When I say the church, I don’t mean an institution like the Roman Catholic church, but the entire body of believers—those from all denominations who believe that the Bible is true, that people are sinners, that God sent the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from our sins, and that we are charged with spreading that message and reforming society.
Believers are God’s ambassadors here on earth, called to be salt and light in the world and to the world. When we follow our calling, individuals are transformed and societies with them. Our country is failing because too many believers have abandoned this calling.
They began abandoning it in earnest in the 1920’s. That’s when an anti-intellectual movement called fundamentalism led believers to separate from society rather than reform it, and to bifurcate life into two separate spheres—the sacred and secular. Reason was given up for emotionalism, and only activities that directly saved souls were deemed sacred. Everything else was considered secular. Careers in clergy and missions were glorified at the expense of everything else. That led too many believers to leave public education, the media, law, and politics in the hands of the unbelievers. Is it any wonder why those areas of our culture now seem so Godless? Take the influence of God out, and that’s what you get.
Secularizing public education has been the key to our nation’s moral demise. Once public education went secular, the rest of society eventually did, especially when the products of that system became our leaders. As Abraham Lincoln once observed, “The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”
The philosophy of the schoolroom is atheistic. The question of God’s existence—the most important question regarding how we should live—is not studied or debated in our public schools. Atheism is just assumed to be true and with it moral relativism. That’s a major reason why immorality dominates our schools and why our kids know more about political correctness than truth. It’s also why we have a new generation of voters more enamored with “hope and change” than defending our changeless rights from an overreaching government. G. K. Chesterton’s observation about Russia has come true here, “Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.”
How did this happen? In the early 1960’s, the Supreme Court, consisting of newly trained secularists, banned devotional Bible reading in our schools (apparently, for the 180 years before that, people just didn’t understand the Constitution!). That decision, and several others, has stifled virtually any mention of God or the Bible in our public schools. In effect, the most influential book in the history of the world is ignored in our educational system. What kind of a quality education is that? It’s certainly not what the folks who settled this land had in mind for public education. In fact, the first public school in the new world began as a result of the “Old Deluder Satan Law.” That 1647 Massachusetts law established the school to teach kids how to read the Bible so that old deluder Satan could not deceive them.
Likewise, most of our first universities were established to teach and propagate a complete Christian worldview. Harvard’s charter read, “Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning.”
The founders of Harvard knew that all truth is God’s truth. There is no bifurcation between the sacred and the secular. According to the Bible, every vocation, every discipline, and every person is sacred. Nothing is secular. In sharp contrast, those running our country now say that everything is secular. That’s a long way from our founding.
“So what?” you say. “Who cares about morality and God?”
That’s exactly the problem: Who does care? When the church separates from society, it takes its moral influence with it. But respect for the moral principles upon which out nation was founded—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—is essential to its survival. Our founders knew this.
Following the Constitutional convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government he and his fellow founding fathers created for the nation. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Franklin knew that freedom must always be defended; that the unalienable rights for which our founding fathers pledged “their lives, fortunes and sacred honor,” were never secure unless an informed electorate held their representatives accountable to uphold those moral rights.
Recognizing that only a religious and moral people will maintain a good government, George Washington declared in his farewell address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.” His successor, John Adams, wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” In other words, even the best Constitution cannot prevent immoral people or politicians from destroying a nation. That’s why the church cannot abandon its calling. But it has.
So if you’re a believer who is upset that life is not being protected; that marriage is being subverted; that judges routinely usurp your will; that our immigration laws are being ignored; that radical laws are passed but never read; that mentioning God in school (unless he’s Allah) results in lawsuits; that school curriculums promote political correctness and sexual deviance as students fail at basic academics; that unimaginable debt is being piled on your children while leftist organizations like Planned Parenthood and ACORN receive your tax dollars; and that your religion and free speech rights are about to be eroded by “hate” crimes legislation that can punish you for quoting the Bible; then go look in the mirror and take your share of the blame because we have not obeyed our calling.
Then start over. Reengage at every level of society. Treat every job and every person as sacred. Be a beacon for Christ and truth in whatever you do and wherever you are. There is hope if you act. After all, we believe in redemption.
Posted in Culture Tagged with: America, Church, Frank Turek, morality, roman catholic, sacred, satan, secular, society, supreme court, the bible, TownHall
Excerpted from Michael L. Brown, “Jeremiah,” in the revised edition of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Tremper Longman and David Garland, editors (forthcoming, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), used with permission, with thanks to Zondervan Publishers.
Entering the World of Jeremiah
According to Jewish tradition, after the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah chose to go into exile with his people, marching with the captives as far as the Euphrates, at which point he decided to return to his homeland (or, was directed by the Lord to return) in order to offer comfort and help to those who remained behind. When the exiles saw that he was about to leave them, they wept bitterly and cried out in a loud voice (cf. Ps 137:1), “Our father Jeremiah, are you also abandoning us?” He answered them: “I call heaven and earth to witness, if you had shed a single tear when you were still in Zion, you would not have gone into exile” (Pes Rab 26:8). That simple anecdote, the creation of tradition and yet conveying so much truth, plunges us straight into the world of Jeremiah, a world so tragic, filled with disappointment and pain, and a world in which the lonely prophet towered above his contemporaries.
Of course, it is often easy for us to read millennia-old accounts that describe death and devastation, misery and grief, suffering and tears, and to remain unmoved. After all, the written text can seem so impersonal and distant, and we do not actually hear the cries of the wounded and dying – in reality, the people involved are complete strangers to us – nor do we smell the smoke rising from the flames of destruction. And when it is scripture we are reading, the tendency to remain unmoved is potentially greater, since we become familiar with the biblical stories, demonizing the villains, lionizing the heroes, and seeking primarily to gain theological or practical insight from the (sometimes) stern dealings of God with his people, forgetting that these were real people too, with very real hopes and dreams and all too human disappointments and hurts.
This is not the case, however, with the book of Jeremiah, a book which makes it almost impossible for the reader to escape unscathed, both emotionally and spiritually. Jeremiah the man is all too real – from his daunting call to a be a prophet while still in his youth to the internal agony he often felt; from the difficult message of judgment he proclaimed for more than four decades to the categorical rejection of his message by kings and princes, prophets and priests alike; from the years of loneliness he endured, commanded not to marry or have children and with precious few real friends, to the heights and depths of his relationship with God, ranging from almost indescribable joy to absolute despair, at times even cursing the day of his birth and feeling utterly betrayed by the only One he could really trust. Through these prophetic pages, this ancient, historical figure becomes strangely contemporary, removed in time and culture and yet so near, jumping off the pages of the OT and making his appeal to us, sharing his burden, his sorrow, his agony, yet somehow offering hope.
Phillip J. King, in his Archeological Companion to Jeremiah, noted that, “From the methodological point of view, dissecting an ancient text and excavating a tell are quite similar experiences” (xxiii), and in many ways, this is quite true. Both the archeologist and the exegete seek to uncover different layers, the one, of earth, the other, of meaning; the one, of successive settlements, the other, of textual history. But in other ways, excavating a tell and dissecting the biblical text are quite different. One is silent; the other cries out; one is dead, the other is alive; one lies hidden beneath the earth, waiting to be discovered; the other beckons to us, calls us, urges us, challenges us. Certainly that is the case with the book of Jeremiah, as the prophet himself speaks again with passion and power as if he was standing in our midst today.
But he is not the only one who comes alive to the reader of the book that bears his name. Other figures come alive with vividness and clarity: Jehoiakim, arrogant, insecure, and downright wicked; Zedekiah, weak-willed, double-minded, and enslaved by fear; Hananiah, the very image of a false prophet of shalom; the Judean remnant in Egypt, urged on by their wives, and to a person, it appears, more defiant after judgment than before; Baruch, obedient and faithful but despondent; Ebed Melech, a rare hero, determined to save God’s servant from the miry pit.
The tragic events that unfold in this book are also hauntingly real: the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, inspiring terror as they make their approach; the starvation of a city under siege; the exiling of the people from their ancestral land; the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple; the slaughtering of the sons of David and the blinding of a king from David’s line; the weeping women teaching their daughters how to mourn. And this is just a sampling. In this prophetic book, one actually does hear the cries of the wounded and dying and one does smell the smoke rising from the flames.
Against this bleak and burning backdrop, the extraordinary faith of God’s prophet stands as a soaring, unshakable monument, as he never backs down in public and never refuses a divine commission, speaking words of ultimate hope instead – including wonderful promises of restoration and a new covenant – even making a personal investment in Judah’s future, buying his uncle’s field as a down payment on his nation’s coming restoration at a time when its destruction was only moments away. Something sacred transacted between God and his servant, and that sacred transaction was profound enough to carry Jeremiah through a terribly turbulent era and a very difficult life, ultimately producing an extraordinary book with an extraordinary message for the ages.
A pivotal moment in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is striking in its relevance, taking us behind the scenes into the heart and soul of a very public and influential leader:
By January 1956, with the Montgomery bus boycott in full swing, threatening phone calls, up to 40 a day, began pouring into King’s home. Though he put up a strong front, the threats unsettled him. One midnight as he sat over a cup of coffee worrying, the phone rang again, and the caller said, “Nigger, we are tired of you and your mess now. And if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow your brains out and blow up your house.” King later described what happened in the next few minutes.
“I sat there and thought about a beautiful little daughter who had just been born. . . . She was the darling of my life. I’d come in night after night and see that little gentle smile. And I sat at that table thinking about that little girl and thinking about the fact that she could be taken away from me any minute.
“And I started thinking about a dedicated, devoted, and loyal wife, who was over there asleep. And she could be taken from me, or I could be taken from her. And I got to the point that I couldn’t take it any longer. I was weak. . . .
“And I discovered then that religion had become real to me, and I had to know God for myself. And I bowed down over that cup of coffee. I never will forget it. . . . I prayed a prayer, and I prayed out loud that night. I said, ‘Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right. I think I’m right. I think the cause we represent is right. But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now. I’m faltering. I’m losing my courage. And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak, they will begin to get weak. . . .’
“And it seemed at that moment I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo I will be with you, even until the end of the world. . . .’ Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared.” Christian History 65 (Vol. XIX, No. 1), 40.
Only God knows how many times Jeremiah reached that same breaking point, although his laments and confessions proclaim loudly and clearly that he was no stranger to such moments of private anguish. And only God knows exactly what happened between the Lord and his servant at such times. But this much is certain: Jeremiah ultimately withstood each test and took his stand again and again, and because of his perseverance he, being dead, yet speaks (Heb 11:4b), continuing to impact us by his words more than 2500 years later.
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