Monday, October 5, 2015

Why Did I Pick THAT Song For Sunday Worship?

Why Did I Pick THAT Song?

Admittedly, there are several songs that I avoid for use in our congregational singing because of the way they are often used to evoke emotional responses to over-simplified “easy believism.”   I Have Decided To Follow Jesus is one of them.  It has all the apparent elements of music that make it unfit or inappropriate for God-honoring worship -- it uses too many first person pronouns;  it is too simple and repetitive, and it contains no Scripture or substantive doctrinal truths.   Furthermore, it seems to present an Armenian view of salvation. In fact, It was popularized by the Billy Graham crusades and has become inseparable from its use in evangelistic altar calls.

But the story behind the song leads us to a wholly different understanding of the writer’s intent.  It is not a statement about our part in choosing salvation.   It actually stands as a radical call to suffer and die with Jesus.

In the late 1800’s missionaries from many western nations saw an evangelistic explosion in northern India, which was in the grips of the most oppressive forms of Hinduism.  Violent and hostile reactions in the provinces resulted in scores of missionaries being martyred as well as many new converts being killed.  Nevertheless, the gospel made amazing inroads into this previously off-limits area.
In one particularly brutal village in the Indian province of Assam. A husband and wife, with their two children, professed faith in Christ and were baptized. Their village leaders decided to make an example out of the husband. They arrested the family and demanded that the father renounce Christ or see his wife and children murdered.

When he refused, his two children were executed by archers. They gave him another chance to recant.  Again he refused and his wife was also brutally murdered.   When he still refused to renounce his faith, he followed his family into glory.

So what does that story have to do with this song? 

Well, witnesses later reported that when he was ordered to recant or his children would be killed, the man said: “I have decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back.”

And then after seeing his children murdered, he reportedly said, “The world can be behind me, but the cross is still before me.”  Then, after watching his wife being pierced by the arrows, he said, “Though no one is here to go with me, still I will follow Jesus.”

As a result, a revival broke out, and those that had murdered the first converts came to faith themselves. The accounts of the martyred family were so astonishing and widely circulated that most Indian believers were familiar with it. The martyr’s last words were put to traditional Indian music and became one of the first uniquely Indian hymns. 

So, apart from its historical setting, the song can easily be mistakenly presumed to be about free will and our role in choosing salvation while minimizing the sovereign work of God in regeneration.  However, in this context, the word “decided” doesn’t have a minimalistic feel to it, but rather has a once-for-all commitment attached to it; a commitment that the author knew would lead to his imminent death. 

On Oct 1, 2015, just four days ago, Christians were martyred on American soil.  We have all read or heard the accounts – how, one by one the victims were asked, “What is your religion?” and those who answered, “Christian” were executed. 

God is still saving His people for His purpose, which is, ultimately, always for His glory. Choosing to follow Him is no frivolous or flippant thing.  This song of commitment reminds us that a decision to follow after Christ may come with a high cost, even if it means torture or physical death. 

So, that’s why I picked this song.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Pope Is A Fraud

There is only one High Priest and His name is NOT Francis.  

His Name is Jesus.  Anyone else today (including the pope) is a fraud.  He is a usurper.  He is not different from Satan (a created being who elevated himself to the place of God).  He is a false prophet.  He is antichrist.  

" you believe tht men like yourself have priestly power?  Do you think that they can regenerate infants by sprinkling them, and turn bread and wine into the very body and blood of Jesus Christ?  Do you think that a bishop can bestow the Holy Ghost, and that a parish [priest] can forgive sins?

"If so, you are the victim of crafty deceivers.  Your soul will be their prey in life and in death.  They cajole you with soft words, fine vestments, loud pretensions, and cunning smiles, but they will conduct you down to the chambers of death, and lead you to the gates of hell...

"Jesus Christ is the true Priest who can forgive all your sins; go to Him at once, without the intervention of these pretenders.  Make confession to Him!  Seek absolution from Him!  The Holy Ghost alone can cause you to be born again, and the grace of God alone can bring you to glory.

"Avoid ...Romish foxes, for they seek to make a gain of you, nd led you, not to Jesus, but to their Church and all its mummeries.  Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and not in these deceivers."

Charles Spurgeon  (Sword and Trowel tracts, no. 22)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Christian Songs I Love To Hate

Or should I say songs I hate to love?

What do I mean by that?  These are songs I love.  I grew up with them.  I memorized them.  I sang them with passion.  The people in my church love them.  They are songs that raise the human spirit.  They touch our hearts.  They make us feel good.  They inspire us.  The music is pleasant and dynamic.

But I hate them.  They are egocentric.  They are theologically anemic at best and downright errant, heretical, or blasphemous at worst.  Yet, because they are ingrained in our church culture, undiscerning people are filled with false doctrines.

So I hate them; I hate it that I love them.  I hate to love them. 

Here’s one that rears its ugly head every few years.  It was performed at the 9-11 memorial service a few years ago and this week the world thrilled over it once again at the ungodly display of a man in Washington who thinks He is god, hosting another man from South America who thinks He is god, to bring about worldwide peace and love among heathens who don’t care about God.

Let There Be Peace On Earth is a bad hymn.  It is liberation theology.  It anticipates the glorious end of the earth when all people will live in love and perfect harmony and drink Coca-Cola while they
teach the world to sing.

It deifies mankind.  It doesn’t begin with God; it begins with me.  This heaven on earth is achievable because, if every one of us will just dedicate ourselves to the goal, we can make it happen. 

It smacks of universalism.  I hate to break this to you but, God is NOT the father of all men and we are NOT all brothers.  God is the father of His elect and Satan is the father and god of everyone else.  So, as a Christian, I cannot walk together in perfect harmony with unbelievers.

And is this peace really meant to be?  What does that mean?  Who meant it to be?  Was it God?  If so, then why don’t we have it?  Maybe God is impotent and we must do His work for him.  If we don’t do it, it won’t be done.

This song is classified as a Christmas song perhaps because of the phrase “peace on earth.”  But when the angel appeared to the Shepherds and declared “peace on earth; goodwill toward men,” he wasn’t just mouthing a sentimental Hallmark wish.  He was declaring that, because of the coming of the Messiah (God’s goodwill toward men),  we can now be at peace with God.  That peace was achieved; it is a done deal.  And someday, Jesus Christ will return, take his throne, and rule over all the earth for 1000 years of peace.  He will do it; we cannot.  And, no matter how hard He tries, neither can King Obama.

This is a lousy Christmas carol and a terrible Christian hymn but, other than that, it is a really great song.  Please, can somebody write some better lyrics?  Until then, let's keep it out of our churches.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Do It Yourself Salvation

Ask yourself these three questions:

1.   Are you a good person?

2.  Have you kept the Ten Commandments?

3.  Do you think you are good enough to deserve Heaven?

If you answered yes to those questions, you are going to spend eternity in a very hot, dark place of never-ending pain and misery called Hell.  Don't fall for these lies.  Confess your sin to God, repent, and trust only on the merits and finished work of Jesus Christ to save you.

A few years ago I had an opportunity to spend an evening with my Father-in-law, Al while our wives were out together.  During the evening, he initiated some conversation about my faith.  I knew that Al was not a Christian, but he considered himself a fairly good guy, certainly worthy of God’s favor.  I answered several of his questions and then showed him how he could know for sure that he would be in God’s favor when he died.  I carefully pointed out that, according to the Bible, salvation is a free gift of God’s grace and cannot be earned by our merit or our works.  It is given only to those who will accept it by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Al stumbled on that point.  He had been deceived by the teachings of a cult and so It seemed, to him, inconceivable that the reward of eternal life in Heaven in the presence of God could be his without costing him something.

In the end, he concluded that it just couldn’t be that simple.  “You have to DO something!” he argued.

It occurs to me that there are at least three common misconceptions people have about how they can qualify for heaven.

1.   The Rating Game -- Some people think that God will use some kind of comparison system to sort out the good from the bad.  They believe they are basically pretty good, and when compared to so many others, a loving God will certainly see fit to allow them entrance to Heaven.  After all, who wouldn’t agree that Adolf Hitler deserves eternal punishment in Hell.  But surely, by contrast, Billy Graham must have a special place reserved for him in Heaven.   But the Bible makes no such provision; it is clear that we are all sinners and deserving of God’s wrath.

Romans 3:9-11   What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Romans 3:23    For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;

2.   The Balancing Act -- Then there are those who believe that God is like the statue of the Blindfolded Justice that symbolizes our judicial system.  He simply weighs our lives in the balance.  Holding the scale in one hand, he systematically sorts all our good deeds into one basket and our transgressions into the other.  If the good outweighs the bad, we get our pardon. 

Psalm 14:2-3   The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God.  They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Isaiah 64:6

Isaiah 64:6     But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteous acts are as filthy rags;

Genesis 6:1-8      And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them, wives of all which they chose.
And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.  And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

3.   The Merit Badge -- Finally, some are convinced that they will earn heaven the way a Boy Scout earns a merit badge.  They believe that God has some religious requirements and a few suggested options that, when completed, will entitle them to the reward.  

    Wouldn’t it be great if God had just outlined the requirements for salvation on a simple checklist so that we all knew exactly what was expected and we could chart our own progress? 

    Think about it.  A suggested checklist could be comprised of three sections.  In section one God could have included all the basic requirements like baptism, church membership, and communion and, as each of those events were completed, we could simply place an X in each item’s corresponding box.  Section two could give us some optional ways to accumulate additional points.  We could earn points each time we completed a reading through the Bible or by attending a reasonable number of church services each year.  And then in section three, God could have allowed us to choose from a list of optional service electives that could accrue to our benefit in the event that we might fall slightly short of the other requirements.  In this section we could record the times we spent working in charity rummage sales or singing in the choir.  Or we could earn extra credit for the money we gave.  With a clear description of the minimum requirements and a simple method to calculate points, we could go to work at our own individual paces and we would know when we qualified for our final rewards.

Isaiah 64:6     We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

The problem with these misconceptions is that they have roots in the same presumptions that my friend, Al, had.  They assume that we, by our own efforts, can gain favor with God.

Ephesians 2:7-9     That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Most people will agree that Billy Graham, in comparison to other people, is certainly worthy of God’s favor and the rewards of Heaven.  But on this very subject, he was very careful to ensure that no one misunderstands how he qualifies.  Listen to his words: 

“I'm not going to heaven because I've preached to great crowds of people.  I'm going to heaven because Christ died on that cross.  None of us are going to heaven because we're good.  And we're not going to heaven because we've worked.  We're not going to heaven because we pray and accept Christ.  We're going to heaven because of what He did on the cross.  All I have to do is receive him.  And it's so easy to receive Christ that millions (Just like my friend, Al) stumble over its sheer simplicity.

And this from Pastor/Teacher, John Piper   -   

       "This is my confession
I was born into a believing family through no merit of my own at all.  I was given a mind to think and a heart to feel through no merit of my own at all. I was brought into the hearing of the gospel through no merit of my own at all.  My rebellion was subdued, my hardness removed, my blindness overcome, and my deadness awakened through no merit of my own at all.  Thus, I became a believer in Christ through no merit of my own at all.  And so I am an heir of God with Christ through no merit of my own at all.  Now when I put forward effort to please the Lord who bought me, this is to me no merit at all, because:
…it is not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

…God is working in me that which is pleasing in his sight. (Hebrews 13:21)

…he fulfills every resolve for good by his power. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

And therefore there is no ground for boasting in myself, but only in God’s mighty grace.

Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:31)

Apologist and theologian, Paul Little, often reminded us to “Put the cookies on the bottom shelf.”  In other words, we should be careful to present God’s Good News in simple terms.  The night the jailer asked the apostles, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” their immediate reply was simply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” 

And it is that simple.  In fact it is so simple that people not only get tripped up over it, but many consider it to be pure foolishness.  The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth explained that he was not called to baptize but to preach the Good News.  His fear was that our religious works might obscure the simplicity of the Gospel and render it ineffective.  In 1 Cor. 1:18, he wrote,   “I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God.”

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Eileen F. Petersen Memorial Service

Last month My mother passed away.

Here she is (#5) in or about 1942.

Eileen Frances Petersen, age 91, of Hesperia, CA, died at Desert Valley Hospital on Sat., Aug. 8, 2015, of natural causes.

She was born March 8, 1924, in Odessa Township, South Dakota, to the late Henry and Alvina Schubert.  She was married to her late husband, Henry (Lee) Petersen on June 20, 1947, in Culver City, California.

Eileen is survived by six of her seven children; Ralph, Janice, Cathie, Bradley, Gregory, and David, as well as grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and many other relatives and friends.

A memorial service was held at 10:30 a.m., Mon., Aug. 31, at High Desert Church,  in Victorville, CA where she had been a member for 37 years.  Pastor Tim Wheeler officiated.

Here is the audio recording of 
mom's memorial service.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

So That's How I Met Brad Dacus

 It was 1997.  I was newly employed as CEO and administrator for a non-profit Christian home for the elderly.  That’s when I received the first notification from the Fair Housing Council of Riverside County.  They were bringing civil actions against our organization for three counts of unlawful discrimination in housing.

There was, in fact, no actual discrimination.  There were no complaints from real people.  The only “evidence” they could produce to make their case was a single ad in the Yellow Pages of our local phone directory.  The directory ad had been in print for several years before I was employed and had run without objection.

But there were three politically incorrect phrases that were deemed illegal by some volunteer, left-wing lackey, who had never visited our home or known anyone else who had, whose only function was to search through newspapers, brochures, and telephone ads in search of implied discriminatory language or images.  Local Fair Housing Councils are self-appointed discrimination “watchdogs” who extort considerable revenues from businesses by imposing fines under threats of lawsuits.  Most businesses cave under the threats and just pay their demands.

In our case, they were not only demanding monetary penalties, but corrections and retractions, and an audit of all our advertising copy.  I knew that, had I responded, my short fuse, yoked together with my sharp tongue and my propensity for sarcasm, would irritate them and would not go well for us.  So I did the next best thing.  I did what every self-respecting, freedom-loving, conservative would have done – I tore up the certified notice and filed it #13.

A few weeks later I received several, more forceful certified letters.  The Fair Housing Council of Riverside County was suing me, our Board of Directors, and our non-profit ministry.  And, the State of California was “piggy-backing” on the suit.  I learned, some time later the federal government was also monitoring the outcome and, if the council prevailed, we would, no doubt face federal prosecution.  

So what were the three politically incorrect phrases that merited that kind of tyrannical bureaucratic strong-arming?
1.  “Christian environment.” 
2.  “Active living.” 
3.  “Family atmosphere.”

Here are the accusations (according to the council) and our brief, summary rebuttals:

A “Christian environment,” they argued, would tend to make non-Christian people feel unwelcome.  We rebutted that foolishness with the facts of our actual occupancy census and with our published mission and purpose statement.  We viewed our ministry as our service to God in declaring our hope to a lost world.  We welcomed non-Christians with the same attitude of the Savior who, with arms outstretched, invited "Whosoever will, may come."

“Active living,” they said, is a euphemism for nonhandicapped.  It implied that we would not accept people who were not ambulatory or who might require wheelchairs or other mobility devices.  Here again, our actual census proved otherwise.  The fact that we were a licensed assisted living facility that, by state law, was required to employ a full-time “activities director,” post a full, monthly calendar of state approved varied “activities,” and, ensure that every resident was monitored and encouraged to remain “active,” didn’t much matter to the self-appointed PC cops on the council.

The phrase, “family atmosphere,” they explained, might discourage widows from applying for residency.  And, once again, I argued, and the evidence proved, that 99% of our residents (average ages-85-95) were, (wait for it) WIDOWS.  Why?  Because at that age, most people are widowed and any similar organization that would not accept widows, would soon be out of business.  I mean, seriously, how long could an ice cream truck driver stay in business if he refused to sell ice cream to children?

The situation seemed bleak.  We were facing corporate and individual board member penalties that we couldn’t afford, loss of our State License, eviction of over one hundred residents, revocation of my administrator’s license, and the possibility of criminal charges all over some nonexistent political correctness nonsense.

Out of desperation, I began writing letters.  I wrote to our State and Federal representatives, conservative talk radio personalities, and I wrote to several legal organizations that specialized in defending First Amendment cases.  Out of all the letters I wrote, I only received one response by phone.  It was from a young attorney, in California, who was the west coast representative of the Rutherford Institute.  His name is Brad Dacus and he wanted to take our case – pro bono – that means “FOR FREE.”

That was the answer to our prayers.  We had several phone conferences over the next few weeks and I supplied multiple documents and statements at his request.  Then the communication suddenly ceased.  I learned that the Rutherford Institute was undergoing a change in its focus and decided to close down the West Coast operation.  Brad Dacus was unemployed.  We didn’t know what to do.

A few months passed when, one day, Brad called to tell me that he was starting his own law firm, on the West Coast, to defend the constitutional rights of Christians, churches, and parents of school children in First Amendment cases. And he assured me that he was still going to defend us.  Ours was the Pacific Justice Institute’s first case.  Today PJI has over 1500 affiliated attorneys on the west coast.

Several months later, Brad called me to present a settlement offer from the Fair Housing Council.  Among a list of other things, they wanted to review and approve, quarterly, all of our advertising copy.  And they insisted that I attend their political correctness, anti-discrimination, sensitivity training program. 

HA!  That was never going to happen.  I admit that I am NOT sensitive, but I refuse sensitivity instruction.  It would be far easier for Nancy Pelosi to teach six dozen liberals some common sense than to teach me sensitivity.  I rejected their settlement offer.  Eventually the council gave up, dropped the case against us, and went on to harass and extort other, easier targets.  Shortly after that, we changed the name of our home from Casa de Verdugo to Valley Christian Home.

So that’s how I met Brad Dacus.  We became friends and our non-profit Christian ministry provided budgeted monthly support for PJI for several years.


Monday, July 27, 2015

There Are Two Cultures. Laws Apply To Only One.

This story is approximately 10 years old but, for political reasons, I could not write it then.  However, now I am retired, our non-profit corporation is dissolved, and no one can be damaged by irritated bureaucrats, so here it is.

Our organization was a Christian home for the elderly; we provided low-cost semi-independent and assisted living facilities for up to 145 residents.

For several years, we benefitted from the kindness of an organized group of retired Christians who donated about one month of labor each year.  They are called RVICS which is an acronym for Retired Volunteers In Christ’s Service (There are other similar national organizations).   Here’s how it works:  These retired people usually work in teams of 6-8 couples.  They travel in recreational vehicles to churches, Christian camps, and other non-profit Christian ministries where they set up temporary camp accommodations that are pre-arranged by the hosts.  The men work about 30 hours per week and the women work about 20.  They paint, clean, build, remodel, landscape, type, file, or do whatever projects need to be done FOR FREE because it is their MINISTRY.  They will not accept any pay, gifts, or food because they are determined to have no fiscal impact on the ministries they serve.  All we were required was to provide the parking spaces for their RVs, power and water hookups, and pumping or waste disposal as needed. 

We had a great relationship with these groups and they provided about 300 hours of free, skilled labor every year until it was abruptly ended by CODE ENFORCEMENT.

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED – Because we did not have sufficient space, our teams parked in a large, undeveloped parcel adjacent to our property.   They were neatly lined up, side by side, outside our fence and out of view of the street.  We had the permission of the property owner, who was friendly to our ministry (in fact he was a resident for a while and one of his son’s served on our board of directors).  This, we did for about 5 years.

The last year, code enforcement showed up and ordered them off the property for violating a city ordinance.  The violation was camping on a vacant lot in the city limits (remember this because this story gets really good).  We tried, in vain, to make a defensive argument but, in the end, we complied with the order and dismissed our guests.

Two weeks after they broke camp and left the property, we found a breach in our fence near the back of our property.  Outside the fence, we discovered a new homeless camp under the shade of one of our trees.  The weeds on the property were high so the camp was not visible from the streets or neighboring parking lots.  There were a couple mattresses, several bags of clothing and blankets, a stolen shopping cart and some other items.  The reason the missing fence boards was that the campers, who were sleeping approximately ten feet from the private doors of our elderly residents) were coming onto our property to use our water spigots for washing themselves.

I called the police department.  I called code enforcement.  I got no satisfaction about the public nuisance.  They said there was nothing they could do about it.  I reminded them that, only two weeks prior, they ordered my team of volunteers off the same property.  That didn’t matter.  I eventually took matters into my own hands.  We removed the rubbish to our dumpster, returned the cart to the grocery store, and we repaired the breached fence.

The point of the story is this:  There are two distinct cultures in most communities.  Laws and codes apply to only one of them. 

There are responsible, law-abiding working people who own property and pay taxes.  Those are the ones who pay fines and penalties for code infractions (which are part of the city’s revenue stream) so they are the ones who are targeted by code enforcement.  If violators don’t pay, the city has the ability to seize their assets with interest.  And that is the incentive for good citizenship.

Then there is the sub-culture, the street people, and the homeless.  Almost everything they do is a code violation, a quality of life crime, or a property crime and they know it.  But they also know that code enforcement and law enforcement will generally do nothing.  They won’t or can’t pay fines or penalties and they know there are no real consequences.  Therefore, there is no incentive for the city to write citations and there is no incentive for violators to be respectful of private property or laws.  

This particular incident may be old news but the violations of the subculture, are rapidly escalating, current events that are a blight on our once clean, quiet, and pleasant community.    

I say this all in love,

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Singing About The Wrath Of God

The doctrines of sin, judgment, and the cross have become unpopular and rejected in much of our contemporary theology.  But there is nothing that irritates liberal Christians more than the idea of divine wrath.

In 1934, Richard Niebuhr wrote a book titled, The Kingdom of God in America.  In it, he described liberal Protestant theology, which was called “modernism,” in one famous, concise sentence;  “A God without wrath brought man without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

The text for our pastor’s sermon, last Sunday morning, was Romans 1:24-32.  The subject was “understanding Our Sin-Sick Culture.  As is my custom, I attempted to select songs for our worship, that support the sermon.  There are very few Christian songs on the subject of God’s judgment or wrath.

One of them “In Christ Alone,” is probably the best-loved and most often used contemporary song among Christian churches in the past several years.  And most of you are familiar with it.   

Recently, that song became a major point of controversy among Presbyterians.  A PCUSA denominational committee voted to exclude the contemporary worship song from their new hymnal.

Although most Presbyterians wanted to include it because of its popularity, they just couldn’t allow it for one short line in the second stanza.  

The committee wanted to change the song’s lyrics from “Til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied" to 'the love of God was magnified.“

Well, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, the authors of the hymn, insisted on the original wording so the committee vote to discard the song.

Interestingly though, Presbyterians were not the only, nor the first denomination to find the line problematic; It seems that some of us Baptists balk at the subject too.  Unbeknownst to the songwriters, the alternate lyric had already been published by the American Baptists in a 2010 hymnal.

So what about it?  Is God angry?   Well, consider these verses:

Psalm 7:11 - "God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day."

Nahum 1:6 - "Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger?  His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him."

Romans 1:18 - "For the wrath of god is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."

Revelation 14:18-20  "And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.  And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs."

You might argue that "God hates the sin but loves the sinner," but that is a false and unbiblical statement that is found nowhere in Scripture.  In fact, the Bible makes it very clear that God is angry at, not only sin but also sinners.

And He has revealed His anger at the sin of mankind many times; He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. He wiped out the entire world, except for Noah, his family, and a few animals, in a universal flood.  He poured out His wrath on His Only Son who bore our sins on the cross of Calvary.   The book of the Revelation foretells a time when God will bring terrible judgments during the Tribulation.   And finally, at the end of the age, God will display His wrath against all the unrighteous at the great white throne judgment.

But now, one of the main points of our sermon indicates that we may be observing God’s judgment and wrath on our own nation as He abandons us to the consequences of our own reprobate minds.   

Words mean things and the words of our Christian music are especially important.  The practice of debating doctrine in the lines of hymns is not a new thing and it is not always a bad thing.  But, in this case, if we fail to recognize God’s capacity for wrath, we, in effect, trivialize His sovereign power.  It’s true that God is Love.  That’s one of His attributes.  Wrath is not one of His attributes, but it is a function of His holiness and justice; without His wrath, there is no need or appreciation for His mercy.

It is good to sing songs about the judgment and wrath of God.  They are direct reminders of His mercy toward us.  And this song is one of the great ones;

“…Til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied. For every sin on Him was laid, here in the death of Christ, I live.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Tyranny of Political Correctness

I made a decision, several years ago, to NOT succumb to PC speech.  I deliberately use politically incorrect words because political correctness is stealing or revising our language.  Perfectly good words have been redefined and in some cases (like the word “Niggardly”) have been banned.  And what the PC police say is correct today, is certain to be changed tomorrow.

For example, just look at the evolution of PC terms for a dark-skinned person. 

The word, Nigger, is a noun in the English language.  It originated as a neutral term referring to black people.  The word derived as a variation of the Spanish /Portuguese noun, negro, a descendant of the Latin adjective niger which referred to the color black.   

Throughout most of the world, it was not considered to be disparaging until the middle of the 20th century.   Then its usage had become unambiguously pejorative and directed at black people, particularly in the United States. 

Instead, the term colored became the mainstream American English alternative to negro (and all its variant terms).   The opprobrious character of the word “nigger,” was chosen in the South precisely because it was more offensive than "colored."  The term, colored, served us well until it, too, was deemed to be offensive.

That was all before institutional political correctness affected our speech.  Nevertheless, we changed and it was for the good.  I was around when the change occurred; most people, I knew, were uncomfortable with the old pejoratives and were sympathetic to the feelings of black people.  I remember how they sensitively and cautiously uttered the new noun, “negro” (which was, really, the same old word before it became slang).  And everyone was happy -- until they weren’t.  

Negro was derived from negroid just as caucasian was derived from Caucasoid.  But negroes didn't like that so we were forced to change to "black" (in Spanish the word for black is negro).  Okay, I get it – White people are called “white” people so it follows that black people should want to be called “black” people.  That lasted just long enough to get everyone retrained and then, BAM! --black was out.   What was wrong with black?   I don't know; I don't get offended when someone calls me white.

Now it's African-American.  I refuse to use hyphenated designators.  Not all dark-skinned people derive from Africa and not all of them are Americans.  And a lot of Africans are white but, when they emigrate to the U.S., we don’t call them African-Americans.  

Most recently, the African-Americans’ newest descriptor of choice is "people of color." Tell me, why is that acceptable and "colored people" is racist?   A "wealthy person" and a "person of wealth" is the same thing.  A "notorious person" means the same thing as a "person of notoriety" so the distinction is nonsense.  And besides, white is a color.  Why are we not all “people of color?”

Fiddling with the language can be frustrating but forced political correctness can be tyrannical.

For example, now, the whole black community has suddenly decided that their race owns the word, "thug." They say that when a white person uses the word, we imply that only black people are thugs, and, therefore, we are racists.   

White colored American people from Africa are not allowed to say, “thugs" but black colored African-Americans can?  Go figure.

So I still call thugs, thugs. If dark, colored people act like thugs, I call them thugs. If light-skinned people act like thugs, I call them thugs. I am indiscriminate in my use of the word and I refuse to let only dark-skinned thugs (whether clad in dark hoodies or cloaked in the garb of jack-booted  PC Nazis) deprive me of a perfectly good word.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

An Open Letter To Homosexual Supporters of Same-sex Marriage and the Unlawful Actions Of The SCOTUS

Now that you got your way, I want to get one thing straight right at the outset; SAME SEX MARRIAGE WAS NEVER ABOUT YOUR EQUAL RIGHTS TO THE BENEFITS OF A MARRIAGE CONTRACT.

You wanted the right to intimate expressions of love with your partner just like the rights that straight people enjoy.  Well, guess what!  Sodomy laws (as well as laws against adultery and all kinds of other sexual activities) have been largely ignored, unenforced, or even decriminalized for years so you can be equally as perverse as can straight people.  Nobody is policing your bedroom.

You wanted hospital visitation rights, you said.  But restrictions on hospital visitation ended decades ago.  You can go into any hospital and sign in to visit anyone. 

You parroted the lame argument that you should have the same rights, that married couples have, to access medical information and consult with your “partner’s” doctor.  Well, that’s a non-existent argument.  Under current HIPAA laws, I cannot discuss my wife’s medical condition with her physician without her written consent and, by the way, my wife can give consent for her physician to discuss her medical conditions with anyone she chooses and so can you so that’s a bogus argument too.

Was it the right to adopt children?  Is that what you wanted?  Nope.  Not that either.  Unmarried people have been able to legally adopt children for years so pitch that one into the bogus file also. 

So what else is there?  Oh yeah, the old, “we want the right to enjoy the contractual benefits of marriage just like straight couples have” argument.  That’s the worst argument ever.  Without legal same-sex fake marriages, you already have the right to enter into any contractual agreement with anyone you choose.  You can own property jointly; you can borrow money; you can adopt children, and you can do all of that with legally binding civil contracts. In fact, the only conceivable benefit of a marriage contract is that it is the easiest of all contracts to break.  You don’t even need the permission of the other party to divorce.  Divorces are cheap and simple; you can be irresponsible and literally break all your promises without consequences.

Unless you are looking for an easy way to end your relationship, skirt your responsibilities, and break your promises without consequences, a real marriage contract is unnecessary.  Admit it.  We both know that the argument was never about the contract.

So now that we have eliminated all your fake arguments, what is it that you REALLY wanted?  Well I’ll tell you what is but before I do, if you are reading this post, I know that you are going to dislike me; in fact you might even hate me.  If you are homosexual, you are going to hate me because I am a Christian.  You hate my God so, naturally, you will hate me.  And you probably think I hate you.  I really don’t, but frankly that doesn’t matter.  My personal feelings about you are irrelevant.

And if there are any biblically illiterate Christian sypathizers reading this, I already know that they are going to criticize me but that's okay; I’m used to it.  They (and you) will call me unsympathetic, unkind, untactful, unfair, intolerant, unloving, unaccepting, or any other of a myriad of “un” or “in” prefixed adjectives. But I really don’t care. Their feelings about me are also irrelevant.

But let's get back on point; the plain and simple fact of the matter is that you want me (and everyone else who thinks like me) to shut up.  You don’t want my tolerance; you want my approval.  You want to force my engagement and participation in a lifestyle which God calls sin.  You want me to act contrary to the dictates of my conscience, violate the convictions of my faith, and denounce my God.  You will never be satisfied to live in a world where others disagree with you.  You want to criminalize all speech, ideas, thoughts, and doctrines of homosexual marriage that are contrary to yours. In short, you want to destroy the very principles of our constitution and the bill of rights that guarantees every citizen's basic, God-given freedoms. 

And I get that but if you have been reveling and rejoicing recently over the ridiculous and irrational reasonings of five robed, self-righteous, unelected reprobate judges who, without any authority, unilaterally changed language, culture, theology, and law, you are grossly misinformed.  But more importantly, your perceived victory is a myth and you are in serious danger.  You should be very afraid.

Do you not realize that when you vilified the conservative Christians in this country, you declared war against the only real true friends you have?  It’s not that we approve of your lifestyle; we don't.  But we really do love you and whether we agree about same-sex marriage or not, we want to protect your real constitutional rights and your freedoms. 

On the other hand, do you understand that there is a real threat from the left to destroy our entire political and legal systems and then subject us to Sharia Law?  Do you have any idea what that might mean to you?  Under Sharia Law, your chosen lifestyle will come with a huge price tag.  Muslims really do hate queers.  And if you have already altered you Facebook picture with the colors of the rainbow, you have identified yourself to them.  At least Christians aren’t fixated on separating you from your head.

What the Supreme Court did last week was unconstitutional; that means it was illegal.  In our constitutional republic, our laws are written by our representatives in Congress and enforced by the President.  By magically creating new law, the court has recklessly plunged this country into chaos.  The nation is in critical condition.  Stop and think about what that means to you.  An out-of-control, criminal government that can suddenly take away my rights to speak and to believe and to exercise my faith can also, by one simple executive order or illegal decree, take away yours. That’s why I say you should be afraid.  That's why you should be troubled by the action of the Supreme Court.  That’s why I believe that you and I should be allies; not enemies.