Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Judging "Decisions"



Over the past week---and largely in reference to the Supreme Court's recent "decision," I have been perplexed and disheartened by what seems to be an increasingly and common notion that "Christians," in the name of "love"---and by the mandate of Scripture, should never be about the business of "judging" anyone. 

Of course, this sentiment is just one more symptom of a much bigger problem; that of Christians and even Pastors, who habitually and incessantly insist on interpreting Scripture out of context---and not only out of context, but also interpreting while ignoring the plain and antithetical opinions of Early Church Fathers---both pre and post-Nicene, on the exact same subjects.  Scripture is played with loose and fast---and the orthodox tenants of the Christian faith are completely ignored---both traded for a new manner and means of arriving at Biblical interpretation---namely, their opinion---founded, formed, and flaunted as Gospel, when in reality, it is grossly untrue and dangerously misleading.

Lest some of you arrive at the opinion that I am exaggerating the issue by using adjectives such as “grossly” and “dangerously,” let me assure you that I have seen friendships destroyed and ministries thrown into a state of upheaval, all over misinterpretations concerning the subject of judging.  

I have heard, both from the layman tongue and authoritative pulpit, that Jesus said, “judge not, lest ye be judged...(Matthew 7:1-5).”  These verses are displayed as a badge of honor for those who champion tolerance in every situation and circumstance, but especially in the areas of everything that is an enemy of the Cross---whether it be someone of another faith tradition speaking ill of Christ and His Christians’ or it be someone inauspiciously indicating ill-will toward Americans and their “imperialistic” vice, we are instructed to dismiss all discernment and judgement and welcomingly accept their unfounded and ungrounded sentiments with joy and without comeback, all because Jesus said, “judge not!” 

But what did Jesus really mean and what do the Scriptures actually say about the subject and practice of judging? Well, let’s look at what Jesus did not mean first.  In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus did not mean that one should not or could not recognize the faults of others. If he did mean that, then his meaning would not have been compatible with Matthew 7:5-6 where Jesus indeed speaks of removing the splinter from your brother's eye.  If one were to read the entirety of these verses in Matthew 7 and consequently interpret them in CONTEXT, they would plainly see what Jesus meant; namely, that the Christian disciple who is concerned with the faults of others and ignores his own faults, is committing a serious offense.  These verses are NOT a prohibition against judging rightly or justly.

In fact, the Bible indeed teaches, that we are to judge rightly and justly.  In John 7:24, Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”  In this text, Jesus is talking about making righteous judgments in regard to God’s laws. It is imperative and incumbent upon us to make right judgments in matters of Christian doctrine vis-a-vis the Word of the Living God.  The Church Fathers, along with Bible Scholars today, understand that to not do so, will result in nothing but conflicting opinions about what the Bible means or says---and the result will be disastrous because everyone will be interpreting Scripture to suit their own needs---and indeed they are and do. The Scriptures warn us implicitly about this.  We are admonished to look out for false teachers who will malign the way of truth and in their own greed seek to exploit believers with false words and deceiving doctrines (read 1 Timothy 6, & 2 Peter 2).”  

We are admonished by the Apostle Paul to judge those inside the church (1 Corinthians 5:11-13 and admonished by our Lord himself to judge those outside the church (Matthew 10:14).  

Matthew 18 is clear, that Christians occupying God-ordained, authoritative offices within a local church (namely, Elders), are to judge those in the church who are living in or exhibiting habitual sin(s).  They are not only to judge, but they are also commanded to remove an unrepentant sinner from the congregation if they see fit to do so. Jesus taught them that whatever decision they made on earth in this regard, would be ratified in heaven.  

Paul commanded Timothy to rebuke in the presence of all, those leaders who continue in sin after being warned (I Timothy 5:17-20).  How can such a thing be done without first passing judgment?  

Furthermore, Paul publicly rebuked and corrected his fellow Apostle, Peter, for catering to the Judiazers (Galatians 2:11-14).  Paul also publicly spoke against other men who were in error and did so by naming them (2 Timothy 2:16-17; 4:14-15; 1 Timothy 1:19-20).  The Apostle John, also warned the church by openly naming Diotrephes---and his sinful ways (3 John 9-10).  Paul even told Timothy that he is a “good minister” of Christ Jesus” if he does these things.  The opposite must be true then; a bad minister of Christ does not point out sin, error, and false teaching, if a good minister does.    

These are just a few examples of many that time and space does not allow me to expand upon here. It is entirely sufficient to say that the Scriptures are clear that we are to judge and openly expose error and habitual, unheeded sin, along with publicly disciplining those who resist and refuse repentance.  The propagation of the Gospel, the salvation of souls, and the purity and growth of the church depends on it!  

What about judging those outside the church?  As I alluded to above (shake the dust from your feet), there is Biblical precedent to judge those outside the church (don’t make the common mistake that some make regarding Paul saying we shouldn’t judge those outside the church in 1 Co. 6, because right before that he says that Christians WILL judge the world---remember; context!).  But what about relationships and friendships with unbelievers?  Shouldn’t Christians befriend those who are not Christians for the purpose of Evangelism?  What does the Scripture teach?  Again, let’s answer this question by first answering who we are not supposed to befriend.  

Many Christians think that “unequally yoked” pertains---or only pertains to marriage.  It doesn’t.  As a matter of fact, Paul warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers in the context of righteousness verse lawlessness (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).  He says, “what fellowship does light have with darkness---what portion does the believer have with the unbeliever?”  Then Paul straight-up says, “go out from their midst, and be separate from them says the Lord...”  

It is a misnomer to label Evangelism as “befriending unbelievers.”  One might object and say, “didn’t Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Yes, he did, but Jesus also said, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan and a tax collector.”  It turns out that Jesus wasn't speaking very fondly of his pagan "friends," was he?

Jesus was not FRIENDS with tax collectors and sinners to the degree and in the way that some believe and interpret him to have been.  He was “friends” with them in that he was offering SALVATION to them (CONTEXT!). He was not a drunkard with them and he did not participate in their sin or allow himself to be corrupted by them (if that were even possible). He was acquainted with them---he met them where they were in their sin-sickness and he offered them healing (to be free from their sins).  Nowhere in Scripture is it inferred that Jesus was in the HABIT of hanging out with them to the degree that some think Christians should hang out with sinners today.  If you study the teachings of Paul (who God saw fit to write two-thirds of the New Testament), he nowhere teaches that Christians should have intimate or involved friendships with unbelievers.  He actually says the exact opposite throughout his epistles (“Don’t be MISLED; bad company corrupts good morals--1 Co. 15:33”).  

So, for the sake of this post, let it be said that we are to judge those outside the church. We are not only to judge their lives, but we are admonished by Jesus and Paul to be careful not to get so wrapped up with them that our friendship with them begins to corrupt us---or at the very least, cloud our judgment.  

Jesus, and all of Scripture (Genesis to Revelation) teaches us to judge both those inside and outside the church.  We are to do so for all of the reasons mentioned above, as they culminate into one thematic motif; keep yourself from being polluted by the world (James 1:26-27).  Please don’t allow yourself to be polluted by the world, by buying into the ill-conceived and popular notion that Christians’ should tolerate everything and judge nothing.  Nothing is more anti-Christ and nothing is more damaging to your soul.

Pastor Mike

Sunday, October 5, 2014

So, Christian... Are You Reading Your Bible?

I don't pretend to know what percentage of professing Christians are reading their Bibles on a regular basis. And I don't pretend to know all of the excuses that one might propose for why the ones that don't, don't. But here's all I'm saying...

Why wouldn't you read your Bible?

Come, let's reason together from the Psalms.


The Bible promises blessings to those who delight in reading it.


Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalms 1:1-3 ESV)

OK, Christian. Have you no interest in blessing? Have you no interest in an unshakable faith (tree), in being fed with exactly what you need (streams of water), bearing fruit for the Kingdom of Christ (yielding fruit), remaining strong and courageous (leaf not withering), and prospering?


The Bible promises to provide us with the pure words of the Living God.


The words of the LORD are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times. (Psalms 12:6 ESV)

Elsewhere in the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us "...whatever is pure...think about these things." (Philippians 4:8) So, it seems obvious that if we are to obey what the Apostle commands, should we not then go straight to God's word?


The Bible promises to provide us with the truth.


This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. (Psalms 18:30 ESV)

Again, from Philippians 4:8, Paul tells us "...whatever is true...think about these things." Again, if we are to obey Paul, should we not go to God's word?


The Bible promises to provide us with the perfect and sure word of God, which will revive our souls and make us wise.


The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple; (Psalms 19:7 ESV)

I love to read and to listen to sermons and good, solid Bible teaching. The internet has been such a blessing in this regard, all of the bad teaching on the internet notwithstanding. However, we must admit that the best sermons preached by mere men and the teachings taught by mere men are not perfect...so we must, like the Bereans of Acts 17, always "examine the Scriptures daily" to test everything we read and hear.

And which of us, brothers and sisters, do not want to be wise? Or, at least, wiser? For this, there is only one sure source, and that is God's inspired word. Let us resolve to go there often. Or, at least, oftener?


The Bible promises to provide us with firm steps on the narrow path of righteousness.


The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip. (Psalms 37:30-31 ESV)

Which of us would say that we infallibly know what our next step is when faced with so many decisions day by day? Which of us doesn't need guidance for which way we should go? Of course, the Bible itself doesn't give us the minute details: which job should we take? where should we eat dinner when we're headed out on the town? But there is little doubt that the Bible does provide us a sure foundation for the big decisions in our life, answers to the question: "God, what exactly do You require of me?"


The Bible promises to provide us with a means to battle against fear of man.


In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me? (Psalms 56:10-11 ESV)

Dear Christian, have you never been afraid? Of a mere mortal? Jesus our Lord tells us that we should not fear men (who can only kill our bodies), but that we should fear God (who can cast our souls into hell). (Matthew 10:28) So how can we avoid such fears? The Psalmist tells us that we should praise God's word, and our fears will flee.


The Bible promises to provide us with a means to battle against all anxieties.


I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds. (Psalms 77:11-12 ESV)

The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 77 cannot sleep. Why not? His soul is anxious and refuses to be comforted (verse 2). What is his solution? To remember the deeds of the LORD, the wonders of old, all of God's work and mighty deeds in the lives of His people through the ages as recounted in His holy word. There is no surefire solution to anxiety except for recounting the faithfulness of God throughout the ages!


The Bible promises to provide us with healing and deliverance from destruction in the midst of our sin.


Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction. (Psalms 107:17-20 ESV)

Interesting thing about the Bible. It wounds and it heals. For it is the Law of God that reveals to us our sin, and yet it is His word of grace that provides the balm that we need, to receive the Gospel of sins forgiven and righteousness bestowed upon us by faith. And when our sin is revealed - by the word of God and the righteous requirements that He demands - He also, by His word, provides us with the means of deliverance as we turn to Him and obey.


The Bible promises to provide us with guidance to keep our way pure and to avoid sin.


How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. (Psalms 119:9-11 ESV)

Is this not the desire of your new, regenerated heart? To keep your way pure and to not sin against God? Then there is only one solution: guard your way according to God's word by storing the word up in your heart. It really is that simple!


The Bible promises to provide us a means for acquiring strength in the midst of sorrow.


My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word! (Psalms 119:28 ESV)

Jesus was sorrowful even unto death. (Matthew 26:38) Paul was sorrowful many times. The great saints who have gone before us have not escaped the sorrows of this fallen world. It is likely that you, dear Christian, have dealt with an unceasing anguish at one time or another. What will be our comfort? What will be our strength? Yes, again, it will be the word of God.


The Bible promises to provide us comfort in times of trial and affliction.


Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life. (Psalms 119:49-50 ESV)

In addition to our sorrows, this fallen world provides us with trials and afflictions that many times seem to be unbearable, too much for us to handle. Again, what will be our comfort? The promise of eternal life that God has given to us in His inspired word! That is enough!


The Bible provides us with a reason to praise God.


At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules. (Psalms 119:62 ESV)

It is God's word that leads us to praise. It is our theology - our knowledge of God - that leads us to doxology - our praise of God. Dear Christian, does your Bible lead you to worship? Pray that it will!


The Bible helps us to find our true companions in the Lord.


I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts. (Psalms 119:63 ESV)

How good it is when brothers dwell together in unity! (Psalms 133:1) And what, brothers and sisters, unites us in a way that nothing else can? The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 that we are united in: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all! It is our faith that unites us, our faith as derived from God's word! May we be ever more familiar with what we believe that our fellowship with other saints may be enhanced!

Oh, dear Christian! Tell me again: why wouldn't you read your Bible?

Posted by Steve Vinay III

Saturday, September 27, 2014

We are having a food drive to support Sonward Youth Programs which is a ministry run by our sister church New Hope Church in New Kensington. Sonward is a great ministry that reaches the children in the community by teaching them about God's word and by showing them God's love through meeting their practical needs like fellowship, providing a safe place to hang out and of course food! If you want to donate some food bring it to church with you the next few Sundays. If you don't attend Abiding Grace you are welcome to visit - we would love to see you, or you can contact Pastor Mike (412-600-4720) or Pastor Wayne (412-225-9894) to arrange a time to drop off your donation. Let's get behind this great ministry!

Here is the list of food they need:
Items needed - factory wrapped, single serving

Fruit snacks
Fruit strips
Crackers
Peanut Butter cracker sandwiches
Chips
Raisins
Pretzels
Cheese Its
Trail Mix
100% Juice pouches and boxes
Boxed milk that can sit on a shelf (soy, rice, almond, and coconut milk in quarts is okay)
Cookies, rice crispie treats, etc
Granola bars
Cereal bars
Beef jerky

Jars of peanut butter
jars of jelly
ziplock sandwich bags
brown paper lunch bags

If you want to check out Sonward Youth Programs:

https://www.facebook.com/SonwardYouthPrograms

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Philosophy of Our Changing Times

In the 20th Century, Relativism became the biggest threat to Christianity and to Christianity's "moral absolutes."  The "spirit of the times," aligned itself with Pontius Pilate and asked the age-old question; "What is truth (John 18:38)?" The Bible, the Mosaic Law, the widely accepted absolute truths that had been rooted in a Judeo-Christian Ethic---and accepted by most in the 20th Century, now came into question. Moral absolutes that had been defined as the standard for hundreds of years, with little question, were now being replaced by an opinion rooted in Relativism.

People began to search for an Ideal that they could live by that was not grounded in the "oppressive" and "archaic" Biblical method.  The new "Intellectual" refused to enslave himself to the antiquated dogmas, traditions, and institutions, that had become incompatible with true "human liberty."  A "liberty of the mind" had become their Mantra. Autonomous Man; the "Creator of his own destiny" had become their Utopia aim.

Naturally, problems quickly arose; when there is an absence of method and a liberty of the mind, there is by default, a deluge of conflicting opinions.  Conflicting opinions about what is right and wrong---and what should and should not be. They liberated themselves from one yoke of slavery, only to espouse another.  Man was in constant contradiction with himself.  In order to stay true to his new ideology of Relativism, man desperately attempted to harmonize opposing, but "equally valid" opinions.  This cannot however be done.  Why?  Because all men have an innate desire to prove that their way is the "right" way---hence, the massive contradiction to Relativism---and, the perpetual betrayer of man's so-called, but severely deluded, harmony. Harmony flies in the face of autonomy---and autonomy flies in the face of Relativism.

Despite the above defeating contradiction in the Relativistic mind of 20th Century man, humankind will stubbornly stick to it's script---no matter how incongruous it might be.  Despite his dogged determination, autonomous man must still deal with the problem of his contradictions---especially where morality is concerned.  Just because 20th Century man had declared himself the creator of his own destiny---and the jury and Judge of his own ideology, does not change the fact that his quest for non-absolutes will still be challenged by some.  What does 20th Century man do when he is challenged?  He throws temper tantrums!  That's what he does!  He says things like; "I have tenure!" and "I'm being victimized!"  He rails at his opposition; "you are a bigot and a racist!."  "You are a homophobe' and fundamentalist!  After his colorful tirade, Autonomous Man also quickly voices his disapproval of an invitation to "dialogue" and "reason" about his little personal Utopia. He maintains that his challenger is "irrational" and "unreasonable" and as such, he refuses to waste his time debating someone who obviously is going to bring their Puritan, subjective, and outdated presuppositions into the discussion.

So then, the 20th Century came to a close with Autonomous Man, having sworn off the oppressive Judeo-Christian moral absolutes that had denigrated our society and enslaved the minds and actions of millions of people.  Man has smugly and condescendingly touted his liberty of the mind from the narrow, repressive, tyrannical ways of the Moral Absolutes that have robbed us of our freedom to chose that which makes us happy.

20th Century man still however, came into the 21st Century with those fundamentalist, Moral Absolutists nipping at his pant leg like a tenacious dog in heat.  His attempts to ward off these pests with their archaic ideas and methods, have largely been successful---but they are still there---rearing their ugly heads from time to time.  Because 21st Century man refuses to dialogue and reason with these opponents to humanity's liberation, they go along their merry way---using their University classrooms as beachheads for spouting off sermons to their students about Utopian Socialism and Communism.  They quietly go about their business as Medical Researchers habitually destroying Embryonic Stem Cells.  They spend millions funding the political campaigns of politicians who will fight for "Women's' Health"---which is the nomenclature for a woman's right to chose to terminate a baby's life in her womb (after all, why carry it to Term and give it up to one of the millions of couples in the world that have desperately tried to have children of their own, but can't---why give it up to a good home with them and give it a great life when you can just kill it right now)? Relativistic, Autonomous Man also goes about the board rooms and conference rooms of Wall Street, hedging educated bets that when won, perpetuate the love of money as the root of all evil---their mantra; he who dies with the most toys wins!

Given the dilemma above for the Moral Absolutist---you know, the guy who thinks the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are a great guide for a society to live by---that guy. What has he largely done in the 21st Century thus far, with the "liberating" ideologies of Autonomous Man?  Has he fought to spur the University Professor onto a debate?  Has he used his money to promote the political campaigns of those politicians who truly are for the sanctity of all human life?  Has he taken the money he has made on Wall Street and used it to advance the Kingdom of God on earth.  Well, to be fair, some have---but most have not.

 Most, have no desire to "study to show themselves approved---a workman that needeth not be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15)" so that they can successfully refute the moronic ideology of the College Professor.  They have refused to volunteer for the political campaigns of  those local men and women who they know can make a difference for morality in Washington.  They aren't interested in civilly and quietly protesting across the street from an Abortion Mill.  They aren't interested! They have become largely apathetic!

The Body of Christ in America is in trouble---as evidenced by her apathy and neglect.  Her Members have largely retreated into their Christian Subculture and have no real interest in evangelically engaging anyone in the name of Christ. This is so true and undebatable that I'm not going to waste anymore time on it. The statistics are legion---look them up! Let's instead, talk about what will happen next---about what is actually happening as you read this.

Apathy has given way to Desensitization.  In the first paragraph I said that the one thing that can be coined about the 20th Century as being true, is the problem of Relativism.  Well, I have a newsflash for you; Relativism isn't the biggest problem that the Church has in America today.  The biggest problem the Church has today is the fact that persistent Relativism, over such a long period of time (20th Century), has led to Desensitization in the 21st Century.  Desensitization of what, you ask?  A Desensitization to Moral Absolutes---to Truth in general.  When an entire Generation allows apathy toward Relativism to take root, the next Generation will have to face the consequences.  The consequences of allowing Relativism to eradicate Biblical Moral Absolutes in a society, is the Desensitization to Relativity.  When a Relativistic Spirit of the Age, is allowed to permeate our schools, local and state governments---when it's allowed to saturate the minds of our children vis-a-vis films, video games, and TV shows, the next Generation becomes Desensitized to it. Our kids and teens have become Desensitized to violence, the sanctity of courting and marriage, prayer in the public square, and the sacredness of the traditional family unit and its responsible and influential place in our society.

To make matters worse, parents, through everything from guilt to a desire to vicariously live out their dreams in the lives of their kids, will not only allow their kids to espouse a "Situational Ethic" under the guise of Relativism, but they will also discourage their kids to become or stay Desensitized to a position.  I would be completely amiss if I didn't cite examples here. When I was a kid, we ate dinner as a family at 5:00 PM---no matter what---there were no exceptions! Dinner was a sacred time for mom and dad to set examples of unity and discipline in conversation in front of their children sitting at the table. It was a time for them to teach their kids about how to navigate through this game of life with as little bruising as possible.  The table was also the place where Johnny and Susie were able to tell mom and dad about their day---their hurts, fears, and successes.  It was a place and a time in their day to learn, adjust, belong, and become stable emotionally and spiritually. The baseball coach knew that if he scheduled practice or a game for 5:00 PM, no parents and their kids would show up. Why? Because just about everyone ate as a family between 4:00 and 6:00 PM.  It was an absolute of the masses in our society.

Then what happened?  Well, somewhere along the way, coaches and parents started scheduling games during dinner times. Why? Divorce was drastically increasing and families with single parent homes could no longer eat together due to longer work schedules and logistics. That sacred time of exchanging mutual love through conversation at the dinner table was over.  Dad lived elsewhere. Mom was always working.  Johnny had to either walk to the ball field or get a ride from the parent of a friend. My purpose here is not to get into the problems that ensued in our society as the above played out over the years.  My purpose is to show you how that which played out above led to a deeper sense of Relativism and a rejection of morality in our society---thereby, bringing us where we are today as largely, a Desensitized country and even a Desensitized Evangelical Community.

When my kids were young (from around 1986-1998), the above description had evolved. Not only did a sense of Relativity increase, but a larger sense of Absolute Morality was on the decline. The two go hand in hand in this regard.  The breakup of the traditional family unit and subsequent fallout (practicing baseball at 4:00 PM instead of 6:30 PM) were plainly now the norm in society.  A Desensitization developed by way of a resignation that was unavoidable. The resignation was, "we don't eat as a family anymore and there's really nothing we can do about it and so we resign and resolve to make the best out of our new way of life, albeit, far from optimal."  The Desensitization to what was once the moral norm (much less divorce and subsequent change) took place by default.  But it not only Desensitizes one to the current situation, it also opens the door to accept further Relativity and Desensitization down the road.  For example, when I was a kid, all the way up to when my children were about 10 years old, playing organized sports on a Sunday was unheard of.  It was not only unheard of, but it was not an option.  It was never even discussed as an option when I was a kid.  But, as time went on and again, the breakup of the two-parent family increased, so did the willingness to shed off what was always the absolute moral thing to do (not play sports on Sundays).  Why? Single-parent families were much busier.  Their time was much more limited and so they were far more willing to adopt a Relativistic view of something that had been largely unheard of till this time---playing sports on Sunday.  For my family, it was an easy decision.  When we were told by the soccer coach that many of our practices and games would now be on Sunday mornings, we sat our kids down and said, "they are going to start playing games and practicing on Sunday mornings---we go to church on Sunday mornings and so you are not playing soccer anymore---period."  Our boys understood, and surprisingly did not give us a hard time about it.  However, because the majority of the parents said "yes" to soccer on Sunday mornings, it stuck, and now is the norm. People became Desensitized over many years to the fabric from which the moral tapestry was woven, even through the soccer field.  The scissors came out and cut the tapestry at that place in the fabric whereby it ran through the moral design, that had been in place for so long.  Why did parents accept the eradication of the moral norm, adopt the relativistic option, and subsequently, why will they become Desensitized to future changes in moral norms? Apathy. If enough people refuse to take a stand against Relativity, then Relativity will punch Moral Absolute's lights out.  And when that happens, everyone becomes Desensitized to the light---the light is wounded---it's dim---it flickers in a fading fashion---struggling to shine---to no avail---and then it goes out completely.  The worst part about this process is that once the light goes out, it cannot be lit again.  We will never get rid of soccer games on Sunday mornings now.  We will never reverse the high divorce rate.  We will not ignite sensitivity to morality in the already-Desensitized people who wallow in apathy.

Jesus, Paul, and Peter, were not kidding when they warned that the world would become exceedingly wicked in the last days.  There will be no long-lasting, sweeping, great Revival like some say.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the notion of a Revival the way we define it today, is not Biblical.  It's not even historical.  I can write an entire additional post just on the fact that most "Revivals" were small and short-lived.  Many of them resulted in schisms and church splits---in hard feelings and discontent.  Most of them were born out of emotion---which is why they didn't last long. Am I saying that no Revival has any validity?  No!  Am I saying that there aren't revivals taking place anywhere in the world?  No, I'm not.  What I am saying is that legitimate Revival is not the norm---and it never will be, because the Bible teaches that it won't be.  What is the Biblical norm then Mike?  The Biblical norm is that "hearts will wax cold" and hard---impostors will continue to come---people will continue to be led into Apostasy because they will surround themselves with false prophets that tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.  That is what's Biblical (Mt. 24:24; Eph. 5:14-21; 2 Thes. 2:3-10; Tim. 4:3-4; etc...).

The 20th Century which can tout it's greatest accomplishment as the permeation and saturation of our society in Relativism, has given way to the 21st Century where Relativism has given birth to Desensitization.  These two children of Autonomous Man, as the Creator of his own Utopian Destiny, has reared the ugly head of the moral decline that the writer's of Scripture have warned about so many times.  So what should we do?

We should be more cognizant of the Devil and his Schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). In addition, we need to know what the Lord expects of us.  We will  learn what he expects by studying his Word.  He expects us to keep apathy at bay---and to live by the Absolute Moral Truths he has established---and in so doing, guard ourselves and our children from Desensitization.   We may not be able to reverse the damage that has been done globally, but we can reverse it in our own lives and in the lives of our children, if our societal and monetary position allows it.  I promise you; it will not kill  you in the United States of America to be in the minority because you chose what was right over what was wrong.  You will not die in this Country---yet!  But you may hasten a martyr's death on the morrow, by not making the right decisions today.









Sunday, August 10, 2014

Judge Not! Really?


In the past few months, I have been perplexed and disheartened by what seems to be an increasingly common notion within Evangelical Christianity.  More specifically, the presumption by some Christians in the name of tolerance, that the Bible teaches that we are not to judge anyone
Of course, this sentiment is just one more symptom of a much bigger problem; that of Christians and even Pastors, who habitually and incessantly insist on interpreting Scripture out of context---and not only out of context, but also interpreting while ignoring the plain and antithetical opinions of Early Church Fathers---both Pre and Post-Nicene, on the exact same subjects.  Scripture is played with loose and fast---and the orthodox tenants of the Christian faith are completely ignored---both traded for a new manner and means of arriving at Biblical interpretation---namely, their opinion---founded, formed, and flaunted as Gospel, when in reality, it is grossly untrue and dangerously misleading.
Lest some of you arrive at the opinion that I am exaggerating the issue by using adjectives such as “grossly” and “dangerously,” let me assure you that I have seen friendships destroyed and ministries thrown into a state of upheaval, all over misinterpretations concerning the subject of judging.  

I have heard, both from the layman tongue and authoritative pulpit, that Jesus said, “judge not, lest ye be judged...(Matthew 7:1-5).”  These verses are displayed as a badge of honor for those who champion tolerance in every situation and circumstance, but especially in the areas of everything that is an enemy of the Cross---whether it be someone of another faith tradition speaking ill of Christ and His Christians’ or it be someone inauspiciously indicating ill-will toward Americans and their “imperialistic” vice, we are instructed to dismiss all discernment and judgement and welcomingly accept their unfounded and ungrounded sentiments with joy and without comeback, all because Jesus said, “judge not!” 

But what did Jesus really mean and what do the Scriptures actually say about the subject and practice of judging? Well, let’s look at what Jesus did not mean first.  In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus did not mean that one should not or could not recognize the faults of others. If he did mean that, then his meaning would not have been compatible with Matthew 7:5-6 where Jesus indeed speaks of removing the splinter from your brother's eye.  If one were to read the entirety of these verses in Matthew 7 and consequently interpret them in CONTEXT, they would plainly see what Jesus meant; namely, that the Christian disciple who is concerned with the faults of others and ignores his own faults, is committing a serious offense.  These verses are NOT a prohibition against judging rightly or justly.

In fact, the Bible indeed teaches, that Christians are to judge rightly and justly.  In John 7:24, Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”  In this text, Jesus is talking about making righteous judgments in regard to God’s laws. It is imperative and incumbent upon us to make right judgments in matters of Christian doctrine vis-a-vis the Word of the Living God.  The Church Fathers, along with Bible Scholars today, understand that to not do so, will result in nothing but conflicting opinions about what the Bible means or says---and the result will be disastrous because everyone will be interpreting Scripture to suit their own needs---and indeed they are and do. The Scriptures warn us implicitly about this.  We are admonished to look out for false teachers who will malign the way of truth and in their own greed seek to exploit believers with false words and deceiving doctrines (read 1 Timothy 6, & 2 Peter 2).”  

We are admonished by the Apostle Paul to judge those inside the church (1 Corinthians 5:11-13 and admonished by our Lord himself to judge those outside the church (Matthew 10:14).  

Matthew 18 is clear, that Christians occupying God-ordained, authoritative offices within a local church (namely, Elders), are to judge those in the church who are living in or exhibiting habitual sin(s).  They are not only to judge, but they are also commanded to remove an unrepentant sinner from the congregation if they see fit to do so. Jesus taught them that whatever decision they made on earth in this regard, would be ratified in heaven.  

Paul commanded Timothy to rebuke in the presence of all, those leaders who continue in sin after being warned (I Timothy 5:17-20).  How can such a thing be done without first passing judgment?  

Furthermore, Paul publicly rebuked and corrected his fellow Apostle, Peter, for catering to the Judiazers (Galatians 2:11-14).  Paul also publicly spoke against other men who were in error and did so by naming them (2 Timothy 2:16-17; 4:14-15; 1 Timothy 1:19-20).  The Apostle John, also warned the church by openly naming Diotrephes---and his sinful ways (3 John 9-10).  Paul even told Timothy that he is a “good minister” of Christ Jesus” if he does these things.  The opposite must be true then; a bad minister of Christ does not point out sin, error, and false teaching, if a good minister does.    

These are just a few examples of many that time and space do not allow me to expand upon here. It is entirely sufficient to say that the Scriptures are clear that we are to judge and openly expose error and habitual, unheeded sin, along with publicly disciplining those who resist and refuse repentance.  The propagation of the Gospel, the salvation of souls, and the purity and growth of the church depends on it!  

What about judging those outside the church?  As I alluded to above (shake the dust from your feet), there is Biblical precedent to judge those outside the church (don’t make the common mistake that some make regarding Paul saying we shouldn't judge those outside the church in 1 Co. 6, because right before that he says that Christians WILL judge the world---remember; context!).  But what about relationships and friendships with unbelievers?  Shouldn't Christians befriend those who are not Christians for the purpose of Evangelism?  What does the Scripture teach?  Again, let’s answer this question by first answering who we are not supposed to befriend.  

Many Christians think that “unequally yoked” pertains---or only pertains to marriage.  It doesn't.  As a matter of fact, Paul warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers in the context of righteousness verse lawlessness (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).  He says, “what fellowship does light have with darkness---what portion does the believer have with the unbeliever?”  Then Paul straight-up says, “go out from their midst, and be separate from them says the Lord...”  

It is a misnomer to label Evangelism as “befriending unbelievers.”  One might object and say, “didn't Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Yes, he did, but Jesus also said, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan and a tax collector.”  It urns out that Jesus wasn't speaking very fondly of his "friends," the tax collectors and sinners that so many Emergent Church Pastors today like to tout as Jesus' "partying buddies."

Jesus was not FRIENDS with tax collectors and sinners to the degree and in the way that some believe and interpret him to have been.  He was “friends” with them in that he was offering SALVATION to them (CONTEXT!). He was not a drunkard with them and he did not participate in their sin or allow himself to be corrupted by them (if that were even possible). He was acquainted with them---he met them where they were in their sin-sickness and he offered them healing (to be free from their sins).  Nowhere in Scripture is it inferred that Jesus was in the HABIT of hanging out with them to the degree that some think Christians should hang out with sinners today.  If you study the teachings of Paul (who God saw fit to write two-thirds of the New Testament), he nowhere teaches that Christians should have intimate or involved friendships with unbelievers.  He actually says the exact opposite throughout his epistles (“Don’t be MISLED; bad company corrupts good morals--1 Co. 15:33”).  

So, for the sake of this post, let it be said that we are to judge those outside the church. We are not only to judge their lives, but we are admonished by Jesus and Paul to be careful not to get so wrapped up with them that our friendship with them begins to corrupt us---or at the very least, cloud our judgment.  

Jesus, and all of Scripture (Genesis to Revelation) teaches us to judge both those inside and outside the church.  We are to do so for all of the reasons mentioned above, as they culminate into one thematic motif; keep yourself from being polluted by the world (James 1:26-27).  Please don’t allow yourself to be polluted by the world, by buying into the ill-conceived and popular notion that Christians’ should tolerate everything and judge nothing.  Nothing is more anti-Christ and nothing is more damaging to your soul.

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why do we live like tomorrow is promised?

 from Leon Brown at Reformation21.org

http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/08/why-do-you-live-like-tomorrow.php

Learning from Bodies

 An incredibly powerful column from Nora Calhoun at the Firstthings.com website on the importance and value of life.

The baby in my arms lacks the majority of his brain. He was born just fifteen minutes before this moment, and he is likely to die before another fifteen minutes pass. He has taken no first breath and will give no first cry. He cannot see. He cannot hear. He does not feel the warm weight of my hand as it rests on his chest and belly. I quietly weep and pray as the last gift of oxygen his mother’s body gave him dwindles and his rosy newborn glow fades to gray. His soul gently slips out of his body, and his life ends.
Ability is not what makes death significant. At birth this baby had capacities below that of a healthy fetus at ten weeks. Holding his body, living and then dead, proves to me that it doesn’t matter how early the human heart beats, how early it is possible to feel pain, or when the senses develop. No ability or strength confers human status—not being viable or sentient or undamaged or wanted. Being of human descent is enough; you cannot earn or forfeit your humanity. If this baby’s death does not matter, no death matters.
I have not always seen this so clearly. A gut repugnance and horror of abortion, which I felt from the time I first heard of it as a nine-year-old, kept me from ever being fully pro-choice. But even after my conversion to Christianity at eighteen, I didn’t want to express full opposition to the opinions of almost everyone I knew, my family, teachers, and friends. I wanted to avoid the taboo of “judgmentalism,” widely imputed to those who oppose abortion, and to maintain credibility among the feminist friends I cherished.
I might eventually have reasoned my way into truths about life, death, and human dignity—perhaps, given the right information and friends and graces, but probably not. A jumble of allegiances, caricatures, arguments, and fears dictated my opinions. But bodies speak a different language; they teach in different terms. The images and touch memories of the small body of that severely damaged baby boy whom I held as he died only minutes after being born could not be explained away, caricatured, ignored, or debated.
The flushed, grunting woman whose face I cradle in my hands is pushing out her baby. She has rocked and groaned her way through sixteen intense hours, and now the baby’s head is crowning. She had stood and swayed while I massaged her back, squatted while I supported her weight, sweated while I wiped her brow, hummed and sighed while I whispered encouragement. Her hair is wild, her eyes half shut, her attention completely inward. Now she reaches down to touch her baby’s emerging head, and with a shout of surrender and welcome she releases him to the midwife’s waiting hands. As she gathers her son in her arms, she croons, “My baby, my baby, oh my baby!” She is exultant.
Her body tells a bold truth: Women don’t need to be rescued; they are strong far beyond society’s imagining. They don’t need to be protected from the children conceived within their bodies; they don’t need doctors to violate their wombs in order to “save” them from the “burden” within. Women are not so weak that they can handle the rigors of motherhood only if the conditions are perfect, the correct products purchased, careers neatly arranged, the approval of those in power secured. Women are not so fragile that they can delight in their children only when their own needs and desires are entirely satisfied.
Birth is a momentous occasion, a radical change in state. In the moment a child separates from his mother’s body, a profound physical and personal unity ends. We do not need to be afraid of acknowledging and even proclaiming the unity of a mother and her unborn baby. Insisting on the autonomy of the unborn requires a willful blindness to the physical reality and lived experience of pregnancy and birth. But more than that, it capitulates to the idolatry of autonomy, both as the primary criterion of personhood and the elusive prize worth killing for.
These truths became undeniable to me after being with many, many women as they gave birth. Certain turns of phrase common at my intensely secular, feminist university suddenly sounded discordant. Ways of thinking about gender that I had previously accepted unquestioningly began to seem, basically, silly. Birth, experienced over and over, asserted itself as the fundamental truth, and those ideas that did not conform to this living reality stopped having power over me.
At the same time, as I began to attend births regularly, I also began to spend time with the elderly and dying. That also changed me.
She is ninety-eight, an amputee from diabetes, senile. We speak quietly together, and though there is no logical thread to the conversation, it follows the rhythms and intonations of an intimate discussion: “I just want . . . this . . . just lying here like a bagel . . . not anymore.” To the emotion I hear behind her words, I reply, “I know, you’re so tired. It’s all right. You can rest soon.” She hates her adult diaper and constantly plucks at its waistband. She is small, frail, worried, dying. We hold hands. I stroke her hair and give her sips of water from a straw. She gets her pain medications and drifts off into a nap.
As the body and mind deteriorate, the dying are not less themselves. Dementia steals the faculties for expressing the self—language, memory, personality—but the self remains, albeit largely inaccessible to others. The experience of actually being with the demented and dying is one of watching someone move farther and farther away, out of earshot and eventually out of sight. It’s wrong to think, “Because I cannot access something, it does not exist.” Being with someone who is near death undermines such nonsense.
If people are as much themselves when there is no chance of further accomplishment, activity, or self-expression, then the fact that the unborn may grow up to great accomplishment, activity, or self-expression is irrelevant. That a precious child with Down syndrome may some day compete in the Special Olympics is irrelevant. Another precious child with a different genetic abnormality will spend all his days in a state that most of us will inhabit only at the end of our lives, if ever: incapable of communication, incontinent, compromised in language, memory, intellect, and personality. The compassion we show to the dying is not earned by the things they “used to be” any more than it should be earned by the things that the unborn might become. We will all end up in a state of total incapacity and inaccessibility, some for a long time and some only briefly.
I have now spent a lot of time with other people’s bodies—very old bodies and very new bodies, severely disabled, sick, or just plain worn-out bodies, bodies in labor, bodies that are well and strong, and the bodies left behind by death. Looking back, I realize that changing my mind about abortion was actually one of the least significant steps toward becoming truly pro-life. There are things that can be learned—can be said—only in the language of bodies. There is a specific wisdom to be gained through the experience of being with actual people: their actual pregnancies, illnesses, births, and deaths. And many of the lessons that bodies teach can barely be translated into words.
We stand to gain so much by learning those lessons. Having a big family, or living with our grandparents, or working in hospice, or being a doula or doctor or what have you, is not necessarily everyone’s calling—but the corporal works of mercy are open to us all. We need to draw on the ­experience of spending our time and energy on the care of other people’s bodies. If we confine ourselves to ideas that are best suited to legislation, picket signs, and the combox, we will lose the richest vocabulary of human dignity, one better expressed in embraces and diaper changes than in words. If we let bodies speak to us in their own language, by being present to them and offering the gifts of touch and physical care, we can learn what is truly at stake and why it matters.