Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Want To Wish All My Christian Friends A Happy Holiday!

Once again, as happens in every year, Christians are engaged in a nonsensical culture war over the way people greet each other around this season and I REALLY DON'T CARE.  Too many Christians, get all militant in their insisting that people should “keep Christ in Christmas.”  But why should they?  The world doesn’t keep Christ in their everyday lives.  Most people don't allow Him in any part of their lives; they don’t even know Him.  In fact God’s Word tells us that they hate Him. Why would we even want them to feign honor or even pretend to acknowledge Him on Christmas Day?  Besides, God would not be pleased with or honored by their phony lip service anyway. 

 And to what end do we keep beating that drum?  Is it for the purpose of our "witness?”  Do we really think that people might get saved if they would just recognize that “Jesus is the reason for the season?”   That doesn’t work.  That is not evangelism.  It’s not about a baby in a manger surrounded by shepherds, wise men, and a little drummer boy.  True, biblical evangelism must go beyond the manger where “Mary had a little Lamb.”  Legitimate evangelism must point to the second line of the nursery rhyme – “It’s fleece was white as snow.”  That’s the reason He came.  That’s the gospel that has the power to change lives.  The birth of Jesus is meaningless, powerless, and irrelevant without a perfect, spotless sacrifice. It was His sinless life and His sacrificial death on the cross that paid the penalty for our sin. 

 We get our feathers all ruffled when someone wishes us a “happy holiday.”  We even tend to get a little testier when someone writes the dirty little four letter word, “Xmas.” 

Last year my pastor cautioned us to be careful of words we use, especially around this season, because “words mean things.”  The question he asked is, “Do you know what ‘Merry Christmas’ means?”  Or more importantly, “Do you even care?”

 So what does Merry Christmas really mean?  The word “Christmas” is literally the Christ Mass or the annual, unbiblical and unholy Roman Catholic celebration of the death of Christ over and over again.  In it, participants partake of two elements (bread and wine) which they believe turns into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus.  Parenthetically, Catholics believe that every time they partake of the elements, they are “receiving Christ” but I digress.

 Biblical communion observations are periodic reminders that Jesus gave Himself for a sacrifice and shed His blood for the remission of our sin.  In contrast, the Christ Mass is a celebration of the death of Jesus where His body is sacrificed and His blood is shed anew each year.  And, as my pastor so clearly noted, there was nothing  merry” about Christ’s sacrifice.  In fact it was brutal, awful, horrific, and sad (Isaiah 53).   Furthermore, it is not perpetual.  It was “once for all” and never to be repeated (Hebrews 10:11-14).

What about that substitute word, “Xmas?”   The symbol X is the Greek letter “chi” and has been used by real Christians, throughout church history, for the word “Christ,”  In fact, the symbol of the fish was adopted by the early church to identify Christians because they used the Greek word for fish as an acronym for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”   The symbol X in that acronym, represented the word, “Christ.”   So, as I have said before, any Christians who object to the use of X in Xmas, should remove all the fish symbols from their bumpers and business cards just to avoid hypocrisy.  By contrast, Christians should be happy when unbelievers use the term Xmas because it, in a literary sense, really does keep Christ in Christmas.

Do you resent when people wish you “Happy Holidays?”   The word holiday is contracted from the words “holy day” and the biblical meaning of “holy” is akin to the word, “sanctified,” which means to separate from the profane (ordinary) or set apart for a special use.  Certainly most thinking Christians would agree that we “set apart” a day to observe the birth of our Savior and treat it as special or holy.  And it really is a happy time for Christians to enjoy the fellowship of family, friends, and believers as we remember that He came to us in wrapped in human flesh.  So I can’t imagine why anyone would object to the use of the phrase, “Happy Holiday.”  In fact, given all the options, Happy Holiday might just be the most accurate and appropriate greeting for Christians during this holiday season. 

So, for my Christian friends, I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a HAPPY HOLIDAY.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Special Christmas Greeting

To My Liberal Friends:
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the Winter Solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2013, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wish.

To All My Conservative Friends:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 2014.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Santa Claus is Not the First Person of the Trinity

A few years ago a friend told me about an incident that occurred in his church. His wife was the church organist and one Sunday morning, while she was softly playing underneath the prayer of the pastor, she smoothly transitioned into a very slow, soothing rendition of “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” Because the tempo was so slow, no one even noticed.

We laughed about that at the time but I was puzzled about how that could even happen without notice. I was convinced that something like that would not happen in most churches and could never happen in my church. However, secular music is not unusual in a lot of churches today.

From start to finish, usually every element of a church’s worship service is carefully planned to accomplish a purpose. But the important question is, “What is the purpose?” The answer to that question determines what a congregation will or will not tolerate.

There are two opposing ideologies about the purpose of corporate worship services. One idea is to market the event to be attractive to a broad spectrum of unchurched and unregenerated “seekers” in hopes of engaging their emotions and tastes with the goal of eventually exposing them to the personal benefits of Christianity. In that model, entertainment and familiarity are key environmental factors to entice them in and much of the content is focused on the participants.

On the other hand, biblical worship is intended to make God the center of all attention. All worship is to Him and for Him. Any element that could detract attention from God to anyone else is avoided. Anything designed for the entertainment of the congregation is inappropriate.

You can tell a lot about a church’s philosophy and purpose by observing what they do in their “worship services.”

During one Christmas season I attended a church service where the opening music, the Call To Worship, was a Christmas medley. The titles of the songs in the medley included “Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” “Deck the Halls,” “Up On The Housetop,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Jingle Bells” and others.  I'm not kidding!  This was in a (self-proclaimed) conservative Baptist church.  I don't go there anymore.

It was very clear that the music in that church that morning was intended for entertainment; not for worship. It focused everyone’s attention on a mythical, fat old elf in a red suit instead of the birth of the Son of God who was born to die so that He could save His people.

We should remember that, as much as some people would like to think that God should give us lots of good stuff just for being good, Santa Clause is NOT the first person of the

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hooking Up For Jesus

The museum of Idolatry once posted several examples of some new, evangelistic outreach ministry ideas at Flirt To Convert at A Little Leaven. Think about it; Christian young people can fulfill the Great Commission by "hooking up" with unbelievers in order to share the Gospel. Hot looking young Christian women have an advantage in the work of evangelism because of their looks.   

Really?  An advantage?  Where does it say that in the Bible? 
Actually this isn't new new at all.   I have a relative who often bragged to me about his many sexual conquests. He boasted about how his favorites were the single “Christian” women who really believed that they could be a “witness” and “minister” to him until, in the height of emotion and the heat of passion, their “testimonies” were destroyed and their professions were mocked.

This is “Relational Ministry” run amok. This is the inevitable end of “Friendship Evangelism.” This is the result of well-meaning but disobedient Christians who think they know better than God and ignore His command to be separate from the world.
Look, I know some are going to be really angry with me for what I am about to say BUT there are always inevitable consequences of every action. They may be good, OR NOT, but there are always consequences. When you drive down a road you will end up “down the road.” When you dive into a pool you will come up wet. And when you sleep with pigs you will wake up stinking.

"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." James 4:4-5

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing"
II Cor. 6:14-17

first published 8/14/08

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Why Public Education In America Is In The Tank.

Some of you might be old enough to remember, a long time ago, when we had something called teachers.

Do you wonder why kids today graduate from high school and can’t add simple numbers or write a complete sentence?

Well take some time to listen to the kind of blather that flows out of the mouths of the elitist, pin-headed "educators" who are responsible for filling your child’s head with oatmeal?

I’m sorry but I regretfully admit that, whenever they get together and begin to try to impress each other with their eduspeak, I have no idea what they are saying.

It seems to me, educators waste too much time evolving developmentally appropriate technologies and targeting developmentally appropriate learning styles. They insult regular people with their boring, non-stop iterations of multidisciplinary alignments, their visions of child-centered curriculum integration, and their shameless exploitations of holistic methodologies.

Rather than further extending constructivist action-items, transitioning into real-time learning, reinventing site-based instruction, and plotting benchmarks for learning-intensive goals, it seems to me that they would all do a much better job of facilitating efficient infrastructures if they would just teach these kids how to read and write and count and think.

Now that was fun! I composed this using a handy little gizmo called an educational jargon generator. If you are a teacher, try it; you’ll like it. And then you'll be able to impress all your other educator friends.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How Is Your Church At Scratching Itches?

I heard a story about a man rescued from a small, uninhabited island after being all alone for eight years. When the rescue crew landed they saw three little grass shacks on the beach.

“Who else is here with you?” asked the Captain.

“No one, I'm all alone.” replied the castaway.

The captain was puzzled. “Well I see that you live in this one but what are those other huts for?”

The man pointed up the beach and explained that he built that one to use for his church.

“Oh,” said the Captain, “what is that other one for?”

The castaway explained, “That’s where I use to go to church but I didn’t like it there.”

There is a lot of pressure today to make our churches more felt needs-oriented. Somehow, we think we need to respond to whatever people think they want. We design programs to present religion in neat little packages for every separate segment of contemporary society. We even have organized churches for special interest subcultures. I once read about a church that was designed just for surfers.

Although the church today has become increasingly willing to respond to the buttons that people push in their pews, there now seems to be a growing movement back to a more traditional, historical faith. Many people are finding that having their needs met is not nearly as important to them as just meeting God, and frankly, I doubt that He is really all that interested in the noise of our contemporary clamoring anyway.  Like a dog that can't seem to get anywhere because he keeps stopping to scratch his fleas, I wonder if we are so busy scratching where everybody itches that we aren't taking anybody anywhere significant.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Clear Trumpet Sound

In the past two decades there has developed an increasing interest in the subject of aging and spirituality. That topic has emerged to the center of attention by elder specific service providers and publications and in the field of academic gerontology. It is appropriately recognized that people are multi-faceted in essence; beyond the physiological, there is the emotional, the psychological, and the spiritual.

The stated mission in our residential facility for the elderly is to minister to the entire person. We recognize that people have spiritual needs as well as physical and emotional needs. So I am especially interested in the concentrated attention this subject is receiving. As good as that sounds though, it raises some concerns.

In most disciplines of human study, there are certain bodies of truth that are generally accepted by mainstream scientists and practitioners. We know what is healthy and what is not, and we know what is normal and what is problematic.

So it seems reasonable to assume that there must be some truth or absolutes in spiritual matters also. The questions must be answered, “Does God exist?” and if so, “Has He absolutely and authoritatively revealed truth?”

Answers to those questions would certainly impact the way we address spiritual needs. Apart from God, treatment of the spiritual being remains very subjective and experiential. There is no foundation in truth. We are left to flounder within ourselves in search of personal truth that can only be validated by our feelings. That results in all sorts of subconscious, unconscious, and intuitive activity. The goal becomes self-realization or self-actualization (whatever that means). Meditation is focused on inner voices (the spirit within). Faith is thought to be virtuous or even therapeutic but it has no real object. Each individual’s personal experience is legitimized. Everybody is right; nobody is wrong. No wonder people are confused.

The Apostle Paul warns us in I Corinthians chapter 14. When it comes to spiritual matters, we are to speak in words that make sense. What value is there in words that no one understands? In verse 8 he asks, If a trumpet call isn’t clear, how would you know to get ready for battle? He concludes by challenging God’s people to be clear in speaking forth God’s Word so that when others hear, they will know that they are sinners and will bow down to God with understanding.

One of our desires when dealing with our elderly residents is that we give a clear sound in matters of spirituality. Do you ever question the meaning of life or wonder how to get to heaven? Do you get confused by many voices, philosophies, and ideologies? Do you want to have the assurance of eternal life in God’s favor? Most people do.

Well there really is a God and He has spoken. And because He has spoken, we understand that we are all sinners in need of a savior. And we can also know that God has provided a savior for us in His Son, Jesus Christ. In John 14:6 Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes unto the Father, but by me. God’s good news is clear and simple; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” He is God’s only provision for our salvation. There is no other way.

first published in May 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rick Warren's "Relationships" Will Not Hold A Church Together

According to Rick Warren, “Relationships are the glue that holds a church together.”

If they believe that to be true, your church leaders will not hesitate to resort to his methods and “use all kinds of events to build relationships within our church family (supper clubs, sports, game nights, picnics, etc.)” to ensure the cohesion of the church body by creating false unity, artificial love, and superficial relationships around special interests.

But where in the Bible do we see that? The true church is the body of Christ and has no need of gimmicks, activities and programs to keep it together. Our relationship with one another is not dependent on us; it is a fact as a result of our being placed and kept in the body by Christ.

So what is it that holds the body together? The answer is found, not in Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox, but in God’s Word.

And He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; Colossians 1:15-20

If Rick Warren will not be convinced by God’s Word, maybe he can learn something from the science of molecular biology. The real glue that holds the body together is not relationships – it is laminin.

Check this out! This is a truly amazing illustration of God’s intricate design in creation and salvation.

first posted 6/25/08

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Good News; Bad News

In July of 2008, my family got some really good news. Our then seven year old granddaughter had grown ¾ inch and gained about 6 pounds over the previous 60 days.

So what? you might ask. What made that good news? All kids grow; that’s just what they do.

Well, her growth was only good news when one fully understands the bad news. At age 3, Madi nearly died of a cancerous brain tumor. Over the next year, she had several operations, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. It had been about two years since the cessation of treatments but since then, Madi had not grown at all. The treatments to save her life came with their own risks, new concerns, and possible consequences.

There was the likelihood of permanent damage to the pituitary gland which is responsible for the manufacture of growth hormones. And simultaneously there was some concern of accelerated growth of cancer cells if growth hormone therapy was employed.

On the other hand, there was the probability of a permanent cessation of growth without hormone therapy. And the consequences of that would mean the early onset of puberty.

That really was BAD NEWS. So then the growth and weight gain was GOOD NEWS.

So, it is bad news that gives good news meaning.

Good News really doesn’t mean anything until we are faced with bad news. And the Good News of the Gospel doesn’t make sense either, apart from the Bad New.

Some well-meaning Christians are very quick to try to give people the Good News; “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” And then they wrap it all up in an attractive little package with some kind of easy little “repeat after me, this simple little phrase that will change your life and get you a free ticket to heaven,” prayer.

Rick Warren's version of the good news goes like this:

First, believe that God loves you and has a purpose for your life.
Second, receive Jesus into your life as your savior.

Where, in that, is there any understanding of BAD NEWS?

By contrast, a more responsible proclamation of the Good News can be read here. In it, John MacArthur is careful to explain the facts of God’s requirement for absolute perfection; our sinful condition and total inability to merit His mercy; His righteous judgment against us and the prospect of eternal torment and punishment in hell. That really is Bad News. And then he presents the Good News of Salvation; Jesus suffered the wrath of God and died a horrible death for us that, according to Scripture, whoever trusts in Him shall be saved.

That really is GOOD NEWS when we know the BAD NEWS.

first published 7/20/2008

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christless Evangelical Christianity

"Judging by its commercial, political and media success, the Evangelical movement seems to be booming, but is it still Christian?

The Bible is mined for quotes but largely irrelevant.

God is used as a personal resource rather than known, worshiped and trusted.

Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior who already achieved it for us.

Salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God Himself.

The Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to be all we can be."

Dr. Mike Horton, Westminster Seminary California

From “Christless Christianity And the American Captivity of the Church” at WhitehorseInn.Org

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Come Just As You Are To Worship?

"I would like to see a re-emphasis of awe and reverence in worship and a disappearance of "feel good religion." People who arrive in heaven in their blue jeans and short shorts are going to be struck suddenly by the necessity to fall down prostrate before the throne. We dress up for our employers from Monday to Friday, but come Sunday morning, it's only the Lord of the Universe, so anything goes. It's not so much formality, but a recognition of our place before God. I recognize that the prodigal son didn't put on a tuxedo to come back home. But once back, he bathed, shaved, and shed his "pig sty" appearance. It seems to me that meshing rigorous, biblical exposition is increasingly hard with a "feel good" mood in the congregation. The preacher is at a disadvantage when everything else, including the nature of the music and the frivolity, connotes a club meeting rather than entering into the sacred presence of a thrice-holy God who is a consuming fire."

Bruce Lockerbie

Dr. Bruce Lockerbie is Chairman and CEO of PAIDEIA, Inc. (pie-day-ah), a team of consultants working with schools, colleges, seminaries, churches, and other public interest institutions. He is also Chairman of the Olympus Group, which offers counsel on sports-entertainment events and programming. He holds two degrees from New York University and for thirty-four years served on the faculty of The Stony Brook School in Long Island, New York. Upon leaving the school, he was the Thomas F. Staley Foundation Scholar-in-Residence.

Lockerbie is author, co-author, or editor of more than three dozen books whose topics range from aesthetics and biography to family living and popular theology. His most recent volume is Dismissing God: Modern Writers' Struggle Against Religion. A frequent lecturer, he has also contributed hundreds of articles and essays to various publications.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Feel Good" Worship

When my father told me, before he left for work, “Son, today I want you to take out the trash,” I understood two things about that imperative.

First, I knew exactly what he meant. There was no language barrier or misunderstanding about the precise definitions of the words he used when he gave the command. This is a very important point - WORDS MEAN THINGS. It would not have been acceptable for me to go out to the garbage can, reached inside, remove all the trash, and spread it around on the driveway even though, to do so, some might argue, would have been a technically accurate interpretation of the directive, “take out the trash.” He knew that I knew exactly what he required. He expected me to place all the weekly household refuse at the street for pickup. There was no problem with his communication.

Second, I knew exactly what he expected. I knew how he wanted it done because he had given me detailed instructions in the past so that I was without excuse. He expected me to systematically empty every wastebasket in the house. He wanted the contents of those baskets placed in the large outdoor trash containers and he wanted those containers placed in the proper position at the curbside before the garbage truck arrived. I did not have the freedom to reinterpret his directive or exercise my ingenuity, variety, cleverness, or creativity. It was not my prerogative to decide to burn the trash, bury the trash, or recycle the trash. I could not decide to defer the chore for another week because the cans were not filled.  I could not delegate the responsibility to my younger siblings or pay one of the neighbor kids to do it for me. I was not at liberty to put our refuse into a neighbor’s can. My father gave me explicit instructions on what he wanted me to do and how he wanted it done. I understood that anything more than that or less than that, even if my intentions had been good or sincere, would not have been acceptable; it would have been disobedience.

So what, you might be asking, does taking out the trash have to do with worship?

Worship is something that God has commanded and therefore it is incumbent on us to understand the command. We are not at liberty to invent our own ideas of what worship should look like or sound like.  It is not for us to decide what God should be pleased with. That is what Cain did and regardless how sincere Cain was, God was angry at him because he didn't bring an offering according to God's instruction. 

Worship is not about our emotions, or feeling the warm fuzzies. And it is not about our music or our entertainment. In fact, the worship wars in most churches, over styles of music would end if we understood that God is the audience and the object of our worship. It is not about our personal preferences or tastes. It is not about entertaining unchurched and unregerate "seekers." It is not for our edification or for providing a venue for us to showcase our talents. It is for God's glory. He has given us plenty of instruction regarding the elements and content of our collective worship and He expects us to do it His way.

It was Thomas Watson who penned, “This Divine worship God is very jealous of; Divine worship must be such as God Himself has appointed, else it is offering strange fire" (Lev 10).

In its most common usage in Scripture, the definition of worship is to “bow down and obey.” Real worship has little to do with "experiencing" God. Real worship occurs when we humbly recognize and submit to God’s authority and lordship, and then obey His commands. Cain should have just brought the sacrifice God required rather than disobey the command and bring the best of his own works. It seems ludicrous that we think we can “go to worship” on Sunday mornings with our sincere offerings of euphoric music and "feel good about me" happytalk and then return home to spend the rest of the week unrepentantly continuing in our sinful habits and activities. It would be far better to skip the “worship services” and just recognize God's lordship and live in obedience to His commands.

"Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD," 1 Samuel 15:22-23


first published in May, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2014

Who Am I To Judge?

I was called up for jury service a few years ago but I really didn’t expect to be selected. I had been there before and every other time I was dismissed when the attorneys asked me where I worked. “Christian” was part of the organization's name and that is an automatic trigger that usually results in my dismissal. This time was different. Somehow I managed to make the cut.

The defendant was charged with two misdemeanors and one felony. The judge estimated the trial would take one day and that the jury deliberations would also take only one day. This was going to be easy, I thought.

After all the evidence was introduced and the defense was through, we were ushered into the jury deliberation room. The jurors selected me to act as foreman and, again, I thought we could wrap this up in about an hour.

We started with the two misdemeanor counts. Both verdicts were “no brainers.” The Deputy D.A. presented overwhelming, indisputable evidence for which the defendant’s attorney had no reasonable arguments. I called for a show of hands on count one and all twelve jurors voted guilty. That was done. Then I called for a vote on count two. “Guilty,” they all agreed. Things were going great. We had selected a foreman and decided two of the three charges in the first ten minutes. By my calculation, I figured I would be back to work in time for lunch.

I was wrong; it took us two full agonizing days to finally reach an agreement on the last charge. Our job was to consider only the evidence and testimonies presented and then come to an objective conclusion about the facts. We deliberated the first two charges quickly because there were no real or meaningful consequences for the perpetrator’s actions. But because a guilty verdict on a felony charge would result in a stiff penalty, the jury fell apart.

Some of the jurors became too emotional. They started wondering about the defendant’s family. They empathized with her and imagined how she must feel. The idea that someone might have to suffer some harsh consequences for her own illegal actions was more than they could bear. The material facts of the case were eclipsed and became irrelevant in their arguments.

Other jurors seemed to have no fundamental understanding of their responsibility to decide “beyond a reasonable doubt.” They insisted on being utterly convinced beyond a “shadow” of a doubt or beyond “any” doubt at all. So we suffered through hours of incredible and inane hypothetical speculations about how anything beyond reason might have been possible. No amount of evidence could be sufficient enough to convince them so they concluded that we just cannot know for sure.

And then there were some who, citing Matt. 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” actually raised moral questions about our right to sit in judgement of others.

I often find myself in situations where I am called on to hear conflicting stories, attempt to sort out truth from deception, and then draw reasonable conclusions. So how should we determine whom and what to believe?

First, we need to understand that Christians do have a real responsibility to discern truth from error. Refusing to judge based on Matt. 7:1 out of its proper context is a gross misunderstanding and misapplication of Jesus’ instruction. The passage, along with others in the New Testament, instructs and compels us to make righteous judgments.

Second, we should evaluate all the objective evidence on both sides. I have found that it is easy to get all fired up after hearing one side of an argument and discovering, later, that the other side of the story is also compelling. I recall a parent once, who said, when considering a dispute between his child and a teacher, “Well, I have to believe my kid.” That parent just simply refused to hear any other testimony because to do so, in her mind, was tantamount to betraying her child. That is insane.  A proverb tells us, “it is a fool who decides a matter before he hears it.”

Sometimes after hearing both sides, we are still confused. While arbitrating a difficult issue recently, I was asked why I chose to believe one person over another. This is where the reputation, character, and credibility of both parties must be considered. On the one hand, I had an employee whose reputation for honesty was impeccable. The other often lacked credibility.

In the end, reasonable evidence is usually sufficient evidence. We are not God and we cannot know everything but He does require us to exercise discernment with wisdom and then trust in His providence.

And finally, we should understand that there are and must be legitimate consequences for wrong actions. That is not my idea; it is God's decree. When I became a father, I began to understand what my dad meant when he used to preface my spankings with the statement, “Son, this is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you.” We may not feel good about necessary discipline but, real love does what is right and not just what feels good. Any attempt on our part to protect people from those consequences is to interfere with God’s process to bring people to repentance and obedience.

"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." John 7:24

first posted in May 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Going Home

The year was 1956 and I spent the summer on my uncle Anton's farm in South Dakota. My cousin, Lloyd, hitched the horses to the wagon early one morning and we headed to the hay fields. The horses must have sensed, probably from past experience, the hard day that was in front of them because, no matter how hard Lloyd tried to drive them, they only had one pace; SLOW.  We probably only drove two or three miles but it seemed to take forever.

Once we arrived, he hitched the horses to the hay rake. The team sluggishly dragged the rake over several acres gathering the freshly mowed hay and we pitched it into huge haystacks. It was a long, hot, summer day and the work was hard for all of us, especially the horses. By the end of the day we were all weary but our work was done and we were going home. We hitched the horses to the wagon, loaded our gear, and headed for the barn. But the return trip was different.

Lloyd didn’t have to drive them home. Instead, he wrapped the reins tightly around his powerful hands and stood with both feet firmly braced against the wagon’s bulkhead. With all his massive weight and strength he struggled to maintain some control over the powerful force of those horses thundering down the road at breakneck speeds. But as hard as he pulled, he could not slow them down. We all hung on tightly as the wagon jumped and bounced over the rutted dirt road. It was a short but thrilling ride. Those horses always knew when they were going home.  They knew the way and they were anxious to get there.

Life is often tough; the labor is hard and sometimes the difficulty seems unbearable. But, as Christians, we labor and suffer more joyously knowing that our way lies toward heaven. We are on the trip home and anxiously anticipating our final rest in our Father's house.

“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” Matt. 5:12

Friday, November 28, 2014

My Post-Thankgiving Letter To Our New King

Date:    November 28, 2012

To:    His Majesty, Barack Obama
         The White House
         1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
         Washington DC

Your Majesty

I trust Your Highness had a wonderful Thanksgiving Turkey Day with the Royal Family. 
Congratulations on Your recent successful conquest of the Constitutional republic formerly known as the United States of America.  I know that archaic and bothersome constitution and those pesky, high-minded idiots in Congress stood in the way of progress but now that You have successfully rendered them impotent, You are free to act unhindered to "fundamentally change" the country. 
It is my humble desire to bring to Your attention, the state of affairs in my part of Your kingdom.  Please forgive me but I believe there is an invasion occurring here, that may pose a serious threat to your Sovereignty.  I reside in the southern portion of the state known as the People’s Republik of Kalfornia.  I don’t know how things are in the rest of Your realm but, with all due respect, Your Majesty, things aren’t going very well here.
If I may be so bold, Sir, please indulge me as I list the following observations that have been reported in the L.A. Times.
1.     40% of all workers in L A. County ( L. A. County has 10.2 million people subjects) are working for cash and NOT PAYING TAXES. This is because they are predominantly illegal immigrants working without a green card.  (I’m sure You will want to dispatch Your IRS thugs on this because, after all, the sovereign state needs our money more than we do.)
2.     95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens.
3.     75% of people on the most wanted list in Los Angeles are illegal aliens.
4.     Over 2/3 of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on Medi-Cal, whose births were paid for by taxpayers.
5.     Nearly 35% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally.
6.     Over 300,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles County are living in garages.
7.     The FBI reports half of all gang members in Los Angeles are most likely illegal aliens from south of the border.
8.     Nearly 60% of all occupants of HUD properties are illegal.
9.     21 radio stations in L. A. are Spanish speaking.
10.     In L.A. County,  5.1 million people speak English, 3.9 million speak Spanish. (There are 10.2 million people in L. A. County .)
In addition, fewer than 2% of illegal aliens are picking our crops, but 29% subsist on public welfare benefits.  Over 70% of the United States' annual population growth (and over 90% of California , Florida, and New York ) is attributed to immigration.  29% of all inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens.
Please pardon me, Your Highness, I don't want to upset you with bad news but I wanted You to know these things because it would be foolish (not that I am suggesting You are a fool) for any king to allow this kind of threat to His Kingdom to continue unchecked.
Respectfully, your humble servant,

Ralph M. Petersen

P. S.  I hope you don't mind; I took the liberty to post this photo of You because I know how much You enjoy having Your image posted in front of the world.