April 9-15 Workman Project

Christian Mission Week #3 (April 9-15)
(The first passage each day is intended to be a memory passage.)
Day 1: Romans 6:9, Matthew 28:1-10
Day 2: Romans 6:9, Mark 16:1-13, Romans 4:23-25, 2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Day 3: Romans 6:9, Luke 24:1-12, Romans 1:1-4, Matthew 20:17-19
Day 4: Romans 6:9, John 20:1-10, Revelation 1:17-18
Day 5: Romans 6:9, John 20:11-18, Philippians 3:8-11
Day 6: Romans 6:9, John 20:19-29, Philippians 3:20-21
Day 7: Romans 6:9, Acts 1:1-8, Romans 8:28-30

Workman Plus Week #3
Day 1: Luke 24:13-35, Acts 4:1-12
Day 2: Luke 24:36-49, Romans 6:1-9
Day 3: 1 Corinthians 15:1-19, Colossians 2:8-14
Day 4: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Colossians 3:1-4
Day 5: 1 Corinthians 15:29-38, Ephesians 2:1-7
Day 6: 1 Corinthians 15:39-49, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Day 7: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, Acts 2:22-36

Workman Reflection Week #3
Day 1: Skeptics claim there is no credible evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, yet we have eyewitness testimony which includes large groups of witnesses to the same appearing. Within the first 15 verses of Matthew 28, we read of the two Marys finding the tomb empty and having a conversation with the Angel who was at the tomb. In addition to this we see the conspiracy of the Jewish leadership to pay off the guards. What other evidences of Jesus’ resurrection can be shown from New Testament passages.

Day 2: In Mark’s testimony, as the women traveled to the tomb they talked about how they would manage to move the heavy stone from its entrance. However, upon arrival at the tomb they found the entrance open and the stone rolled away. No further details are provided, other than an angel seated inside the tomb… who do you think removed the stone, and why?

Day 3: In Matthew 20:17-19 Jesus told His disciples specific details about what would occur in Jerusalem. Old Testament prophets were given messages from God which gave details about coming events and the purpose of such prophecy was to show God’s plan and to emphasize God is all powerful. How did Jesus’ prophecy about His death reveal the power & plan of God?

Day 4: John 20 tells of the discovery of the empty tomb. Peter and John (the disciple Jesus loved) ran to the tomb after the women told them Jesus’ body was not there. What did they discover? To discover the significance of what they found, read John 19:38-40.

Day 5: Mary had an encounter with Jesus following His resurrection in John 20:11-18. At first, Mary was so overwhelmed in her grief she did not recognize Jesus. How did Jesus convince her He had risen? There should be great comfort for believers today that Jesus loves us enough to recognize each of us by name.

Day 6: Paul explains the benefit of Jesus’ resurrection for all believers in Philippians 3:20-21. According to Paul, we await something Jesus will do for us; what will Jesus do for us?

Day 7: According to Paul in Romans 8:29, God’s plan for believers has always been for us to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus. What does it mean to be conformed to the image of Jesus? Will others be able to know, if so… how?

April 2-8 Workman Project

Christian Mission Week #2 (April 2-8)
(The first passage each day is intended to be a memory passage.)
Day 1: Romans 5:8, John 1:6-18
Day 2: Romans 5:8, Colossians 1:19-23, Ephesians 2:1-10, Hebrews 2:5-8
Day 3: Romans 5:8, Hebrews 2:9-10, 1 Peter 2:21-25, Matthew 17:1-13
Day 4: Romans 5:8, Hebrews 2:11-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 8:18-27
Day 5: Romans 5:8, Hebrews 9:24-28, Luke 19:1-10, John 12:27-34
Day 6: Romans 5:8, Hebrews 10:1-10, Luke 19:28-38, John 12:35-43
Day 7: Romans 5:8, Hebrews 10:19-25, John 12:44-50

Workman Plus Week #2
Day 1: Acts 9:1-9, 2 Corinthians 11:26-33
Day 2: Acts 9:10-19, Galatians 1:11-24
Day 3: Acts 9:19-31, Galatians 2:1-10
Day 4: Acts 22:1-16, Romans 1:1-7
Day 5: Acts 13:1-12, Romans 1:8-17
Day 6: Acts 14:1-10, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Day 7: Acts 14:21-28, Philippians 1:1-14

Workman Reflection Week #2
Day 1: In 2 Corinthians 11 the Apostle Paul mentions several hardships he has endured; what would possibly motivate Paul to suffer such difficulties? Paul mentions his sufferings and then says he will only boast in his weakness… to what weakness does he refer and why would he boast of weakness?
Day 2: In the first chapter of his letter to the Galatian Church, Paul addressed some men who are ‘perverting the Gospel’, then he defended his own ministry by saying he received his Gospel in a special way. From whom did Paul receive the Gospel message and in what way did he receive it? How does this provide confidence in the reliability of his message for Christians today?
Day 3: Paul retold his interaction with some of the Apostles in Jerusalem and concluded with their approval, stating they recognized his being entrusted with the Gospel. To whom was Paul entrusted as a group to receive the Gospel he preached? According to Luke’s account in Acts 9:19-31, the early Christians were not accepting of Paul… why?
Day 4: Paul’s conversion to Christian faith was difficult to accept among fellow Christians. One Christian man, Ananias, obeyed The Lord by sharing with Paul (Saul) what he needed to do in order to be saved. What can be learned from Ananias’ example? Sometimes, people who seem most opposed to faith in Jesus are actually seeking answers to serious faith questions. Is there are friend or acquaintance in your life to whom you could reach out and share your faith? Following his conversion, Paul was known to establish a large number of Churches in cities & towns throughout the Roman Empire… perhaps the person you reach for Christ could have a significant impact in helping other people become Christians.
Day 5: The Church in Rome was very important to Paul and he loved the Christians there very much. Due to his missionary travels, he was looking forward to a coming time when he could visit with the Church there. Paul prays for the Church daily and looks forward to the encouragement they will share when together. In a similar manner, Christians today share encouragement in faith while we assemble together. How important is the assembly of Christians? Considering your interaction with other Christians, is there a special way you encourage others in their faith? How can you increase in encouraging others?
Day 6: In his first letter to the Church in Corinth, Paul mentioned the faith of the Corinthians in Christ was ‘confirmed’. In what ways could the faith of the Christians in Corinth be ‘confirmed’ or shown? In what way is our faith in Christ ‘confirmed’ today? While in Lystra (Acts 14:1-10) Paul did something very special which showed he was an Apostle… what did he do?
Day 7: In Philippians 1, Paul said his imprisonment has worked to benefit the Gospel… how is it possible for such a great difficulty to benefit the Gospel? Is it possible God can create a positive result from the difficult circumstances of our life? When we are faced with difficulties it is very beneficial to have the same perspective & outlook Paul had in his circumstances of suffering.

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March 26-April 1 Workman Project


Christian Missions Week #1
(The first passage each day is intended to be a memory passage.)
Day 1: Mark 16:15–16, Matthew 9:9-13, John 3:14-21
Day 2: Mark 16:15–16, Matthew 28:16–20, Acts 2:1-13, Mark 2:1-12
Day 3: Mark 16:15–16, Matthew 13:47–52, Acts 2:14-24, Luke 8:11–15
Day 4: Mark 16:15–16, 1 Peter 4:1–5, Acts 2:25-36, Matthew 19:13–15
Day 5: Mark 16:15–16, Luke 8:4–10, Acts 2:37-47, Titus 2:1–8
Day 6: Mark 16:15–16, 2 Timothy 2:1–2, 1 Corinthians 4:14-16, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17
Day 7: Mark 16:15–16, Luke 5:27-32, John 3:1-10, Romans 6:1-7

Workman Plus Week #1
Day 1: Matthew 10:1-15, Mark 6:7-13
Day 2: Matthew 10:16-23, Luke 9:1-6
Day 3: Matthew 10:24-39, Luke 10:1-16
Day 4: Matthew 10:40-42, Luke 10:17-24
Day 5: Matthew 16:21-28, Matthew 18:1-6
Day 6: Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 9:57-62
Day 7: Matthew 19:27-30, Luke 9:18-27

Workman Reflection Week #1
Day 1: Mark’s record of the ‘Great Commission’ cites Jesus command to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.” How do we know Jesus wasn’t just commanding His disciples alone to do this? What does it mean to go into ‘all the world’?

Day 2: Matthew’s Gospel, as well as Mark’s account, mention baptism in conversion & disciple making. Both directly quote Jesus and reveal baptism is a part of the disciple making process. Who can baptize a person who wishes to become a Christian?

Day 3: When Jesus said the Kingdom was like a dragnet, what is He saying? What does the rest of that passage in Matthew 13:47-52 reveal about the types of fish caught in the net?

Day 4: 1 Peter 4:1-5 speaks of a former way of life (before we became a Christian) and the response of some people to our new life. From this passage, what should a Christian expect from those outside Christian faith? What does this passage cite as the reason for being treated so harshly by others?

Day 5: What did the seed represent in the parable Jesus told? What do the various soil types represent? The ‘good soil’ is representative of what type of person?

Day 6: Paul said (1 Corinthians 4:14-16) he was the father of the Corinthian Christians… what did he mean by that? Why should the Corinthians Christians imitate the Apostle Paul?

Day 7: According to Luke 5:27-32, to whom did Jesus come to call to repentance? For Christians involved in making Disciples today, how should we be encouraged by what Jesus said in this passage?

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A Christmas story by Chip (age 49 1/2)

Christmas red gift box with gold ribbon and bow - top view vector illustration. Glitter glow on red background.

Glitter… the gift which keeps on giving.

Thus far, my 2016 Christmas season has been both joyful & triumphant. Joyful because I have yet to hear any version of ‘Last Christmas’ in any retail venue, and triumphant because I was able to find exactly what I wanted to give my sweet wife as a gift.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy Christmas music. You know, real Christmas music… the kind which features Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, or Ella Fitzgerald. Problem is, it is almost impossible during this time of year not to be exposed to what other people think is Christmas music. And don’t even get me started on the multiple, painfully awful, covers of the Christmas song. Shopping centers are the worst for song selection with the exception of Hobby Lobby. I like Hobby Lobby. Generally speaking, they have cool stuff for people like me who still enjoy the large box of crayons which features the sharpener in the back. (Regularly priced at Hobby Lobby for $5.99 but if you use their weekly 40% off coupon you can snag them for $3.60 plus tax. What?!) It’s no secret, I have always loved Crayola crayons… especially the 64 count box. I have a very discriminating palate which appreciates the finer qualities of Crayola brand over those knock-off types. You know, the kind which substitute brick dust and hog fat for wax. Trust me, over the years of my childhood I have tasted several brands and find Crayola to be most enjoyable.

Now, Hobby Lobby has an interesting type of music featured in their stores which is designed to enhance the shopping experience. I think it is intended to get you to impulsively drop cash on a purchase but in a way which makes you think the Holy Spirit was leading you to that item. As you shop you suddenly find yourself humming to a catchy tune which you almost recognize as ‘Quiet, Lord, my froward heart‘ but you’ve never heard it played on synthesized keyboard. ‘Yup… that’s it.’ you say to yourself, smiling, as the irony of the moment is lost in the shuffle. For my non-Christian friends, this music is kind of the religious counter to hearing your favorite 80s rock ballad played on an obscure instrument over a cracked speaker. Kinda like hearing ‘Jump‘ played in Walmart on an accordion.

Music aside, Hobby Lobby is the ‘go to’ place for holiday decorative stuff for my wife and I enjoy it except for the ‘Borg‘ of Christmas. Yes, I am speaking of that bane of my existence and device of Satan against which I shall always stand and fight… glitter. It simply isn’t possible to go near a Hobby Lobby without being covered in glitter. As I type this, I can say with confidence, if I were to look in the mirror right now I would find at least one speck of glitter on me. This, in spite of the fact I have showered, shampooed & shaved many times since my last trip to the glitter fest. We have a decontamination chamber for glitter as you enter into our house which features special vacuum devices, multiple shower heads, decompression and an ultraviolet light inspection before you’re allowed to be robed in the paper jumpsuit for the mandatory 48 hr period which follows a trip to HL… aaaaaand, I still found glitter while eating a banana for breakfast this AM. Glitter and fruit is not natural.

Which brings me to the ‘triumphant’ portion of this saga. Since I was able to find exactly what I was looking for as a gift for my sweet wife, I envisioned the box sizes needed, and the theme I would employ as I wrapped her packages. Three boxes would be required and I already had two but needed to purchase one of those really cool craft paper colored boxes at the Lobby. Found it! Now, on to the theme. Rita’s tree is kind of a country elegant… Christmas country chic… with flowers and fancy stuff expertly placed. So, her packages had to have some bling-like qualities, but in an understated manner, in keeping with her tree theme. Like finding a diamond in a chicken coop… the finished product looks great but you never envisioned your wife hanging it from a tree in your house.

Anyway, I began my pursuit of the perfect wrapping paper. It needed to be a craft paper color/texture but feature a quality of uniqueness so as to catch her eye. Fortunately, although the Christmas paper selection did not fit the bill, I was able to find just what I needed in the birthday section. My selection featured an elegant Victorian styled print in black as a contrast to the craft paper upon which it was printed. Now, off to the flower section. As a substitute for the bow I wanted a crafty looking flower to match her tree. A burlap rose, paired with slightly lighter colored burlap flowers with little black dots… one set for each package… were placed in my basket as I began my pursuit for ribbon. With all items soon acquired, I rushed home to wrap before she arrived. Not to brag… but I can wrap a gift. My OCD kicks in and every pattern must perfectly align on the gift before it is neatly folded at the edges and taped… no slouch job here. As a foundation for the finish, I chose a wide silver ribbon, upon which a narrower black ribbon with rhinestone looking dots would be placed. When I opened the silver spool it happened. A glitter bomb exploded all over our dining room. The nice, silver ribbon was, in fact, glitter ribbon and I was standing in the epicenter of a glitterpocalypse. Having just come home from the funeral home, my black slacks looked like something Elvis, or Liberace, would wear and my good, black ostrich boots were likewise covered in the festive fungus. Too late to back out now! Christmas gift wrapping is not for the weak… so, I pressed onward.

Fashioning the ribbon in a cross like pattern over each package, I now proceeded to the task of putting the flowers together for the bow and fastening them to the ribbon on each package. At Hobby Lobby they sell a florist tape which is what I decided would work best for the task. As it happens, it comes in various colors and I chose silver because it would blend into the ribbon better. Upon opening the tape I realized it is also covered in glitter. Of course it is! Nevermind, I must complete the goal for the perfect package. By the way, apart from using industrial strength construction adhesive, there is no way to fasten burlap flowers onto glitter ribbon. In retrospect, I could have used duct tape but, to be honest, I panicked in the fray of glitter which encompassed my person, and it never even occurred to me as an option until I finished. To make it even fancier, I went with the old standby… curling ribbon. Not one color, mind you, but two… black and silver. Sure, I could have just purchased a couple of the pre-curled ribbon sets for each package in both colors but, truly, how hard is it to curl ribbon? Listen to me. I confidently speak to all you who can curl ribbon and make it look so easy anyone can do it when I say I hate your guts and livers. Everyone who can’t curl ribbon hates you but because we have to tolerate people now, and we need you to do our packages, and we have the gummy residue of glittery floral tape on our fingers we will allow you to stay but we aren’t taking any of your condescending ‘I can look the other way and talk to my friend while I curl ribbon all day long’ attitude so don’t push it. OK? Just curl the ribbon and slide it over to me without making eye contact and no one gets hurt.

So, here I am, finally, with three packages wrapped for my wife now placed neatly under the tree. In my mind they looked better than they turned out, which is more coop than diamond. Just before she arrived she called me to let me know she was on the road. When she called I was in the delusional condition of kidding myself into thinking glitter can be cleaned up. Sweeping, using a Swiffer broom, dust mop and steam mop only serve to relocate glitter, and make it wet. Our dining table is oak and has a lovely grain in the wood surface within which now reside bajillions of glitter. You can’t get rid of the stuff. I scrubbed, used Clorox wipes, wet dishcloths, and even Endust to no avail. At least the table looks festive. ‘Look honey, I decorated for Christmas!’

When she came home she was all sweet and excited about the packages and even asked if she could open them. That was the moment in the conversation where an awkward death threat which was supposed to just be in my head, somehow, slipped out of my mouth. I smiled, and distracted her with the glitter, and everything was OK but, trust me, it took me HOURS to wrap those things and they are NEVER getting opened now. NO! My wife is caught in that difficult place of being notoriously honest, yet sensitive to people in the truth. She is the type who lovingly offers you a breath mint, and urges you to try it because they taste really good and she doesn’t want to come right out and tell you your breath is the death. So, upon seeing the packages she was enthusiastic and told me how pretty they were. In her mind she had to have been saying ‘Bless his heart’ in that Southern kind of ‘he ate too many crayons as a child’ sort of kind way.

Christmas memories of my childhood flood in as I approach the 2nd Christmas as a ‘Big Papa’ to my precious granddaughter. As for Christmas gifts, I remember a few from my childhood but I mostly remember the family gatherings. Mom’s chili, my Aunt’s fudge and my Grandi’s home made chocolate pudding while it cooled on the window sill… and her molasses cookies. I know, most of my memories involve food but they are also deeply tied to a lot of laughter, hugs and love which I cherish today. Nana & I have pink packages under the tree for our little princess but I don’t intend to allow the stuff, like glitter, to be the thing which sticks to her. My hope is we are able to show her the kind of security and love which can only be found in a loving family. Lipstick kisses from Nana and tickles from Big Papa, or playing princess tea time is what I will be doing over the days I have with my kids. All of which is tempered with the understanding of how very blessed I am to know The Messiah, and to experience the daily joy of celebrating the purpose of His arrival here and the hope which can only be found in Him. That is what I wish for you, and for my baby girl, this Christmas season… glitter and all.

Merry Christmas!

Small gift boxes wrapped in tan paper with a black victorian print. Each packages has a bow made of silver, glitter ribbon and features a bouquet of burlap flowers with a burlap rose in the center. The packages are neatly placed under a Christmas tree with lights twinkling.

Glitter Bomb wrapped gifts.

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Mending Fences

Barbed Wire Fence

Howie Homestead Fence Line.

Following the past election cycle, (2012) I saw something in myself which concerned me. No doubt, many of my gracious friends and family have known this about me for a long time but I am sometimes (believe it or not based on my body profile) a little slow at coming to the table. Prayerfully, I decided to break away from my typical outspoken, opinionated, arrogant self to remain (almost) silent over the past few years about political ‘things’ while interacting on social media. My ‘absence’ was unannounced (funny how silence works that way) and is not significant enough to have made any difference, truly I am not so arrogant as to think it was even noticed by anyone, but I have been quiet on social media so I can just observe. For now, I will break the silence long enough to share (for what it’s worth) my observations but I will do my best not to tread on things of a specific political view. So, from the ‘for what it’s worth’ corner of my square brain, I offer the following observations.

I’ve noticed there are a lot of people who have not honed the skill of critical reading. (I have theories as to why this is the case but I won’t share them so as not to bore the two or three who may read this post in entirety.)

Many people sift through ‘information’ to find a tid-bit or nugget to prop up their preconceived theory or position while ignoring the greater context.

Intellectual integrity, in my opinion, is greatly shown in the measure of graciousness one affords for a differing view.

Absolute truth is cast away, with absolute certainty, by some for the oft touted ‘sophisticated’ idea of truth as fluid and changing.

The thoroughbred of genuine, intellectual discourse and debate, is almost lost in modern society and has been traded for something of far lesser pedigree.

For some folks, feelings are everything.

Social media is an interesting experiment. It is my observation, a lot of people (myself included) have become far less ‘social’ over the past decade. Restaurants used to have an ambiance about them which allowed social interaction and conversation with folks as they enjoyed a meal together. Not so much anymore. Many restaurants blare music in order to ease patrons from the burden of conversation and even offer wifi to allow people to stare at their phones and ignore the persons with whom they are seated so they can post a picture of toast online.

One more observation. Our great nation suffers from a serious division which must be healed if our Republic is to survive. I’m not speaking about political division… American politics wield division as a sword to leverage a particular agenda. The division of which I speak goes far deeper than political party affiliation and carries a longevity of impact far greater than election cycles. Our nation suffers division because the only bastion of genuine hope in this world has, in large measure, faulted in its purpose.

Christians (in general) have missed the mark of our calling and the signs are all around us. Over the past 8 years it has become clearer to me than ever… people are seeking hope and are tired of their circumstances. Many cannot articulate why they are driven by this pursuit for hope and, sadly, the Church has allowed the carpetbaggers and drummers of the political arena to sell ‘hope’, something they know precious little about. Lots of folks misplaced their trust, and lest you think I am speaking of ‘them’, let me be clear… a whole lot within the Church are guilty of this as well. While lots of Christians have been preoccupied with things of no eternal value, the hurt of people around us has been compounded by those who know nothing about binding up wounds or genuine healing. It breaks my heart to see some Christians further compound the hurt of others by employing behavior & speech which creates deeper wounds and then celebrate it as a victory while the wounded limp away from them.

During the American Civil War our nation suffered a very similar divide and, likewise, faced a similar moral & spiritual dilemma. Nearly all of the major denominations of Christianity suffered division during this period because Christians lost clarity of their spiritual calling. The Restoration Movement suffered almost no division during this era simply because they were driven by truth and remained focused on their eternal purpose.

Christians… for healing and restoration to occur we must wake up! With this in mind, and based on my above mentioned observations, I humbly suggest the following for consideration.

If ‘your’ candidate won, don’t gloat. From a purely non-spiritual perspective, we are all Americans whether we agree on all things or not. Be the gracious person and reach out with genuine friendship to others whenever possible. Keep in mind, for some of you this will require taking off your hat and extending a sincere apology for acting in an ungracious and unbecoming manner. We are still required by Christ to be humble, aren’t we?

Focus on the ‘main thing’. People need Christ because genuine, sustaining hope is only found in Him. Political promises are worthless but the promises of Christ are reliable beyond measure. Share the hope of Christ and act as if you know what you’re talking about.

Allow your speech (or social media posts) to be seasoned with the grace of Christ and use words with caution. Sensationalistic and brash behavior may win a few high fives but in the broader audience they tear at credibility and seldom show the true spirit of Christ.

Mending fences is a tiring and unending task for the rancher… but it is necessary. Mending fences is humbling because you feel the pull of the line and realize you aren’t as big as you think you are. Sometimes the wire is beyond repair and needing replacement in sections and most of the time it is a tangled up mess at best. At the end of the day, as you look down the row and see a nice, taught and straight wire, you have a sense of accomplishment couched by the perspective of only a small staple or wire tie holding the integrity of your labor in check. Fence mending is tough work but it makes for much better neighbors. It’s time to do the hard thing, the humble thing, the necessary thing… and mend the fences which have been long ignored.

Save

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No Substitution for Truth

A recent announcement by a high profile leader within the Independent Christian Church/Church of Christ has rocked our brotherhood. Since the late 1970’s this man has been at the forefront of planting new congregations as well as providing spiritual insight & instruction through articles and speaking engagements for many ministers who serve ‘in the trenches’, even as serving as editor for one of the major publications within the Restoration Movement (RM). His announcement of a lifelong struggle with gender dysphoria was made public via social media outlets and his personal blog. Sadly, this admission included the revelation he is choosing to ‘integrate’ male into female, and has already begun to identify himself as a woman, which is truly heartbreaking as it identifies a desire to intentionally rebel against God’s Word.

Scripture condemns a man denying his masculine traits by participating in feminine behavior, mannerisms, or even dressing as a woman.

A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 22:5, NASB’95

Such condemnation is not simply focussed on a woman putting on a pair of slacks, or even a man wearing a Scottish kilt. Condemnation comes when someone desires to present themselves as a gender other than the gender with which they have been created. Modern culture has enabled the concept of an individual identifying a gender based upon how they feel, or think heir gender ought to be. Such is the case with ‘Gender Dysphoria’.

The coming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) includes a revision from the forth edition 1. with the new identification of ‘Gender Dysphoria’ (formerly ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ 2.) as follows:

… people whose gender at birth is contrary to the one they identify with will be diagnosed with gender dysphoria. This diagnosis is a revision of DSM-IV’s criteria for gender identity disorder and is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults. 3.

To be clear, ‘Gender Dysphoria’ encompasses more than simple gender non-conformity as it involves a level of  distress for the person which is clinically recognized as significant. The DSM-IV identified the disorder by a different name (Gender Identity Disorder) and justification for the change in DSM-V is offered as follows:

DSM-5 aims to avoid stigma and ensure clinical care for individuals who see and feel themselves to be a different gender than their assigned gender. It replaces the diagnostic name “gender identity disorder”with “gender dysphoria,” as well as makes other important clarifications in the criteria. 4.

Mental illness often carries a social stigma, and public admission of a mental illness or disorder is not often the path chosen due to the potential social impact upon the person. For some, the impact of public admission is so stressful it compounds the distress already being experienced. Living in a fallen world, racked with illnesses of all manner, we must remind ourselves illness is the enemy the patient, is not. Compassion is called for in such circumstances. Unfortunately, many in today’s culture have confused love and compassion with acceptance of a behavior, and grace has been replaced with ‘tolerance’, a buzz word for complete agreement.

How should Christians respond to those who have embraced ‘lifestyle’ choices which are outside the acceptable boundaries of Scripture?

Truth

First, we must recognize the Scripture as the only rule for acceptable practices. Nothing has changed in God’s expectations for mankind, nor have moral values ‘evolved’ to become more sophisticated or relevant.

Second, it is important to note these ‘choices’ are nothing new, but have been in the world since the beginning. The Old Testament gives account of cultures given to all manner of immorality and the Apostle Paul, as recorded in the New Testament, also lived in a culture saturated with sexual immorality. His disciples ministered in this same cultural context and Paul wrote letters (now contained in the New Testament) to Christians and congregations from within this culture. Yet, led by the Holy Spirit, he never endorsed or tolerated immorality. In fact, the Apostle was very bold in his writing as he called people from a life of sexual immorality to a life of purity in Christ. He called offenders out by name. He referenced specific and public circumstances of immorality. He even called for Christians to pull away from those calling themselves ‘Christian’ and living in unrepentant immorality. None of this made him popular among men.

Modern American culture seems to be very similar to the 1st century culture of Paul’s day. Open promiscuity is the expectation of even the youngest of students. Couples choose to co-habit rather than commit to marriage. Marriage as ‘traditionally’ known is being assaulted by those who desire not simply to ‘redefine’ but to eradicate. Immodesty is so common it has become a powerful tool for advertising. Pornography and all manner of deviant sexual behavior is not only accepted but actually able to leverage penalty upon those who dare to disagree.

Impact of such cultural changes are also bearing upon the Church, and it is not along strictly generational lines. More and more people, identifying themselves as ‘Christian’, find moral boundaries within Scripture as no longer applicable for modern people. In fact, Scripture has endured many assaults from both within and without the walls of the modern Church.

Finally, Christians must be cautious not to isolate themselves from those involved in embracing immorality. Although Scripture cautions not to embrace evil, living as aliens & strangers in the world, we are also expected to live as ‘salt and light’ in a world which desperately needs Christ. Christians must never condone, nor enable immoral behavior, and Scripture is clear in response to a professing Christian who continues, willingly, in such immoral behavior… such a person is to be shut out from fellowship. (See 1 Corinthians 5:1-13)

Our challenge as Christians in modern culture does not lie in the ambiguity of Scriptural instruction on the matter for such ambiguity does not exist. Modern Christians face the same challenge Paul faced in the 1st century… holding to truth, and expressing the love of Christ to those outside truth. While maintaining the delicate balance of love without acceptance of sin, we must condemn immoral behavior, urging repentance by the individual toward restoration.

 

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“Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” otherwise known as “The Gospel of Glock”

Over the years, certain topics resurface and find popularity in arenas of debate. Christian faith is not exempt from such recycled discussions, with even well meaning, sincere Christians getting caught up in passionate appeals for a particular view. One such topic gaining popularity in the current religious environment is capital punishment with a close cousin being the question of whether or not a Christian should “bear the sword”, even in matters of personal defense, or in terms of military service. No doubt, this is a very emotional topic, making it difficult for individuals to wade through the emotion and allow Scriptural testimony and Apostolic model to establish precedent. Adding to the muddy waters is the trend of “emergence” and “relative truth” wafting through many congregations with ill equipped pulpits and lack of Biblical instruction on such matters further plaguing believers.

I do not profess to be an authority in Scriptural studies, nor do I submit this as an exhaustive handling of the topic. Rather, I submit the following for consideration in the midst of what I consider to be a dangerous trend of passivity overtaking the Church.

Please allow me to establish my position. I find no prohibition in Scripture of a Christian employing deadly force in personal defense or in defense and preservation of innocent life. Likewise, I am resolved in my belief the Scripture allows for, even commands, the use of capital punishment as proper response for a number of scenarios. Further, although I do not delight in the idea of having to use deadly force, I am not only proficient in the ability to use it, but am equipped on a daily basis should such a need ever arise. It is also necessary to point out the Bible does not mandate “taking up arms” as a means of evangelism, nor do I, although many objectors will continue to accuse me of doing so by my holding to this position. Such statements are purely based in emotion, and have no logical consideration as I reject the use of force as a method for evangelism, have never issued a weapon to a convert, nor would I ever assert Christians must own weapons.

A number of objections have been presented by well meaning believers in opposition to my position, some of which, at the very least, reveal ignorance of Scripture. I will list some of the more prominent objections now, and deal with them individually so as to provide proper instruction, and quell these voices.

Objection #1: “The Sixth Commandment prohibits killing.”
Nearly every conversation I have with folks who hold to passivity or non-resistance, involves their invoking this statement as though it were a trump card, all the while they fail to see the argument simply exposes their illiteracy of Scripture. Exodus 20:1-17 records the commandments for us. Commandment #6 is “You shall not murder.” (NASB’95, emphasis mine) This commandment has been improperly understood since the King James mistranslation of “Thou shalt not kill” (KJV, emphasis mine) as the word employed (ratsach/raw·tsakh) is not translated to mean killing in general, rather it is “to slay”, contextually used to communicate the idea of murder rather than general killing. This mistranslation lends itself to numerous misapplications and poor theology as one must, somehow, resolve OT killing and God’s command for utterly destroying regions… men, women and children… while maintaining God prohibits killing as a whole. The clear understanding of Scripture allows a distinction in types of killing, providing some types and circumstances as justified, while others are condemned by God. Under the proper application and translation of the word employed in the 6th command, no conflict exists in God’s character nor in Christian faith, with proper translation of the language solving the supposed conflict. As for personal defense, Exodus 22 answers the question by allowing personal defense. The Bible, simply put, does not condemn the use of deadly force except in malicious acts. Some might object by citing Romans 12:17-21 as support for non-resistance, which although it does provide a boundary of restriction for actions of personal vengeance, no restriction of personal defense is implied in the passage.

God is consistent throughout the Bible in condemning those who maliciously use force, who plot murder (as in the 6th commandment for not murdering) and who exercise vengeance of their own accord… however, none of these are the same as someone defending themselves or others. The account of the Samaritan is interesting to consider. If he were present when the robbers beat the man, would he have stepped in to stop them, or simply waited until they were finished and then play the role we read in Scripture? It is interesting to me that our culture has a “Good Samaritan” law which cites culpability upon a citizen witnessing a crime of violence and doing nothing to stop it. By my estimation, it is as dishonoring of life to allow a violent criminal to continue living as it is to commit the act of violence.

Objection #2: “Christians should have learned something from the Crusades, namely, violence does not work.”
First of all, I am not suggesting violence as a means of evangelism, nor of propelling the Gospel. Christianity is not Islam. Secondly, the Crusades simply prove my point. When men step outside of the Biblical model or its instruction, or are Biblically illiterate or rebellious, men will fill the void with traditions, practices and false teachings. To employ the Crusades as an argument against personal defense is laughable at best, as there is no resemblance of the two issues. The crusaders were so superstitious and walked so far outside Scriptural instruction, they only serve to evidence one cannot determine the teachings of any faith on the basis of the behavior alone of the professed adherents of said faith. Rather, one must understand the authoritative teaching of said faith. A similar mistake is made by those who argue Islam is a “peaceful religion” by appealing to the “friendly Muslim neighbor/friend/co-worker, etc” they know down the street. Violence is inherent in Islam, although some Muslims do not follow Islamic teaching as they ought… they may be “peaceful” and ignorant of Islamic teaching of waging violent aggression against non-believers. One cannot read the Koran without recognizing the violence inherent in its doctrines, so the behavior of Muslims is a secondary consideration at best. Likewise, numerous people profess Christian faith, yet they do not live according to the instruction provided in Scripture, therefore, the lives of many professing “Christians” as a model for faith and practice is equally invalid.

Objection #3: “Jesus commanded believers to turn the other cheek.”
True, and He also commanded His followers (moments before His arrest in the garden) to sell their coat and buy a sword to carry. (Luke 22) In likewise fashion, some protest by saying “Jesus condemned Peter when he pulled a sword and struck out by saying ‘he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword’, thus Christians cannot bear arms.” Actually, Christians have historically read into the text a chastisement, however, it is simply not recorded. There is no indication of Jesus raising His voice in condemnation of Peter ever using the sword, He simply prevented him from continuing to use it in that situation, citing the arrest had to be allowed in order to fulfill prophecy. (Jesus did not seem shocked at Peter carrying a sword, nor did Peter seem unfamiliar with it’s use, nor uncomfortable in showing it in the Lord’s presence.) Luke’s account indicates Jesus commanded Peter to “Stop!” saying “No more of this” in response to the current situation, not as an overall condemnation of force or resistance. It should also be noted, Jesus never commanded Peter to throw down his sword, rather, to “Put your sword back into it’s place.” (Matthew 26:52) If Jesus intended Peter to never use his sword again, wouldn’t He have commanded him to throw it down or away, rather than re-sheath it, which implies its future accessibility for use? Perhaps these same Christians are unaware of Jesus’ statement as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel… “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34, NASB’95) The text in Matthew 26 also establishes Jesus had twelve legions of angels at His availability, but His purpose for refraining from calling them into action was the fulfillment of prophecy.

The phrase “turn the other cheek” has been very poorly applied in our culture due to lack of maintaining context as established in the passage. First, we must look at the use of “eye for eye” as found in Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 21:19. The Exodus and Leviticus passages deal with personal injury or loss, but, ultimately, they underscore the value of human life. Keep in mind, the Hebrews were going in among nations which held no regard for human life and God is calling His people out to ensure they will maintain proper regard and reverence for life. Odd as it sounds, the only way of preserving the value of this life is by the taking of the lives of those who treat life with ill regard. As further impression, the text in Deuteronomy underscores certain social indicators for capital punishment which include malicious rebellion, and disregard for authority, among others. Each of these serve as a prime consideration when approaching the concept of personal use of defensive deadly force, deadly force in regard to preserving life, and capital punishment as a cultural form of maintaining civil authority and harmony. With this context, Jesus is not doing away with the Old Testament teaching, if anything, He is enforcing it by pointing out how the law had been misused in His day. Jesus’ points out the need for “turning the other cheek” in the sense of personal insult… not in terms of physical, bodily threat, nor as a prohibition against protecting others. The practice of “striking the cheek” in the Jewish culture was employed as a means of further insult and was not an all out brawl or fist fight, as some inflect upon the passage. The context of the Gospel passage is further qualified in the illustration of providing your shirt, in addition to the coat (Luke 6:29) as collateral demanded by another. This is speaking of a legal agreement, and the ultimate idea presented by the Lord is for believers to make their “Yes, Yes” and their “No, No” by being reliable and trustworthy. These passages do not provide credible grounds for opposing deadly force.

Another passage which seems troubling to non-resistance advocates is Luke 22:36-38, where Jesus instructed His followers to purchase a sword to carry. Incidentally, although this instruction was under the law, and given only moments before Jesus’ arrest, it is an instruction for things to come in the time from the Old Covenant forward. In fact, a consistency is shown in both Old and New Testament teaching. Both John the baptizer and Paul addressed this theme. John, encouraged soldiers to be honest, not to steal and to be content with their wages in his conversation as recorded in Luke 3. In 2 Timothy, Paul used a “good” soldier as an example or model for Christians to follow. I have yet to have a pacifist provide a sound answer when I ask why Paul (inspired of the Holy Spirit) used such an example if Christians were not to respond to some situations with force. It would seem to me, if Paul understood military service as inconsistent with Christian faith, he would have stated so. If, as pacifists state, a Christian cannot use force (something a “good” soldier must do) then, Paul’s example would be as invalid as if he had used a prostitute as an example.

In similar fashion, Jesus had conversations with soldiers and never once is He recorded as condemning their military service as sinful… although He knew they carried a sword. In fact, He commended the Centurion for having great faith. In Matthew 24, Jesus used the example of a thief breaking into a home as an allegory for His unannounced return. He said in vs. 43 that if the head of the house knew the hour the thief would break in, he would have been alert and not allowed the thief to enter. Certainly, being “alert” and “not allowing” the thief to enter would (at least) imply the ability of the man to protect his home..? Any number of illustrations could have been employed by Jesus, yet He chose the thief and home owner, placing the obvious wrong doing in the thief’s hands and, at least by implication, allowing for the home owner to use force to protect his home. Was Jesus acting outside acceptable means when He braided the whip, overturned the tables, and drove the money changers from the temple? Was He motivated only in anger, or with personal vengeance, or is it possible He was motivated by love? Someone once suggested the use of force is only allowed when it involves a place of worship, or stealing from God. (wow)

Objection #4: “Paul’s use of military figures of speech indicates we are in a spiritual battle, and is not a call to arms, rather an apt analogy. It does not imply anything either way about the use of physical violence.”
One pitfall of Scriptural interpretation suffered by many is the “spiritualization” of a passage when a common understanding is provided by the text. Paul’s writing does address spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10ff), however, it does not ignore the use of the illustration as a valid example for a Christian. Paul was not addressing spiritual warfare, per se, in 2 Timothy when he urges believers to “… suffer hardship as a good soldier of Christ…” (2 Timothy 2:3-6) or when he speaks of becoming entangled in civilian affairs. The emphasis is upon pleasing the commanding officer, and the ethic and dedication of a soldier, as traits of commendation for the believer. Although the text says nothing about the use of force, one need not stretch the imagination to understand the business of a soldier, which Paul could have condemned, yet, he did not.

Objection #5: “Evidence from history indicates little or no military involvement by Christians from ‘the end of the New Testament period to 170-180AD'” (according to Yale historian Roland Bainton)
One fact is overlooked in citing this as evidence for Christian non-resistance or passivity… Christians were a persecuted sect within Rome in this period. For a Christian to enjoin military service would involve, at best, a hiding of faith, most likely a renouncement of Christian faith altogether. Further, since Christians were being persecuted by Rome it would be a violation of conscience and Christian ethic to participate in the death of brothers and sisters in Christ. Roman law exempted Jews from military service in the times of Christ. Certainly, given the number of traditions found difficult in the NT era for Jewish believers to abandon, it does not go without reason to see merit in the possibility of Christians not enjoining military service in a mistaken perception of a conflict of faith due to their Jewish heritage. Further, due to persecution and the urgency of the Gospel commission, Christians were scattered abroad and more concerned with survival and evangelism than a military career, given the first century expectation of the imminent return of the Lord. Since Rome, and, subsequently, Rome’s army, were pagan, there would have been a number of practices found within the army life which would have been unappealing to Christian life values. This is not to say it would have been impossible for a Christian to be in the military without violating matters of faith and conscience, rather, it is to note the great difficulty with which a Christian could maintain faith in such conditions. Without doubt, given our cultural dynamic, the same could be said of American military service, yet, many Christians serve with distinction while remaining untarnished by such immoral practices. I suggest a number of factors would have reduced the probability of Christians serving in the military in early Christian history, however, the use of deadly force would not have been a reason for their exclusion of service. Although it may be true there is little evidence, especially presented by historians, for Christian military service in early history, there is likewise little condemnation by early historians for such practices. And, again, early historians are non-inspired and non-authoritative in terms of faith and practice.

In a further appeal to history for passivity and non-resistance, an article by Don Murphy (Spirituality Today, Spring 1986) entitled “Can a Christian Be a Pacifist?”, cites several examples of early century historians. However, the careful reader notices flaws in such an appeal as a final basis for sound understanding of Christian practice. Murphy’s article is available for download as a pdf copy by clicking HERE. Although early practice of believers is good to know, we must be cautious not to place undue authority in their practice alone. Many well meaning believers were caught up in practices and traditions in early Christian history which are not to be perceived as an authoritative model for practice. The final authority is Scripture.

I find no prohibition in Scripture for the use of deadly force as means of protecting or preserving life. Silence in Scripture is not a prohibition, nor is it, necessarily, a license for participation. Sufficient Scripture in both Old and New Testament provide for the use of deadly force, especially in light of no prohibition being employed against such use. In fact, when Paul and Barnabas appealed to the Apostles on behalf of the Gentiles, the prohibitions placed upon the believers as “essential” (as provided by the Holy Spirit) were to “… abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:28-29, NASB’95) Although this is not an exhaustive list of prohibitions, exclusions or acceptable practices for the believer, it is noted as yet another opportunity to condemn deadly force or military service as immoral… yet, no condemnation exists.

Corresponding to this topic is the question “What establishes the right of one person to take the life of another?” A more common way for this to be voiced is “Who gave you the right to play God?” Although it will make many squirm, the answer to this question is God Himself has given this right, and it is not to “play God” as some assert, rather, it is to cooperate with God in respecting life.

Consider the “10 Commandments” with me for a moment as they reflect this value of life and establish the God-given right to defend it. Each of the commandments (excepting the Sabbath observance) are a moral law or code of conduct, and, as such, are universal. To violate any of these commandments is first a violation against God, and secondly a violation against man. The New Testament agrees with this in that each commandment is repeated in form within the New Testament, excepting the Sabbath. Jesus Himself did not disagree with the commandments in any way, He further underscored their significance in man to man interaction and their direct impact upon an individual’s standing before God. In fact, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus further emphasized the impact of responsible human interaction by stating “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it (or did not do it) to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it (or did not do it) to Me.” Matthew 25:40, 45, NASB’95

So clear is this moral foundation, and so universal is its application that the founding fathers of America rightly recognized the commandments as the only structure for right government and the establishment of law.

Woven well throughout this universal moral law is the unmistakable value of humanity, such that to violate a fellow man in terms of covetousness, deceit, stealing, disrespect, false testimony or malicious violence is to invoke the wrath of God. Romans 13:1-5 rightly establishes government as bearing a sword which is designed to preserve the integrity of cultural moral fiber in respect to these matters. Additionally, the individual person is endowed with an ability to preserve and protect both person and property, as God established in the giving of His law. For any individual, or government, to cross these moral boundaries and violate anothers property or person is to violate God, and disrespect human life. Recompense is not only reasonably expected, it is demanded as a preservation of the balance of human dignity. In this we find one pitfall in the current American penal system… a lack of respect for law and a general disregard for human life because just penalty is not enforced upon the offender. To allow such disregard to continue is to expect further degradation of society.

This moral code is not only for the individual, it stands for kings and governments as well. God denounced the immoral actions of King Ahab in 1 Kings 21:15-19 for his committing murder and also taking possession of property which was not his. Ahab’s family suffered for his actions which further underscores the significant need for maintaining the law. When the law is disregarded, individual rights are repressed or human life is dishonored, God takes it personally and will respond accordingly. Our founding fathers understood the responsibility of each man to respect his fellow man, and further endowed American citizenry with the right to bear arms. This 2nd Amendment right is not for sake of shooting sports or hunting, as some today assert, but, rather, it is entirely to maintain a balance between the citizens and our government. The Constitution simply agrees with what God has already stated in His universal moral teaching with regard to human life. No one, not even government, has the right to violate the person or property of another. When such an offense exists there is an inherent, and God given right for the offended to protect themselves (and their property) even to the extent of ending the life of the offender.

So, who gives me (and you) the right to defend person and property with deadly force? God does. Anyone so violated by one who steps outside the moral law by aggressively violating them or their property, has the right to stop the perpetrator with any means at their availability. Exercising this God-given right, however, is under the sober discretion of the individual.

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Faith in the Bleachers

My father was exceptionally athletic. I remember the first time I saw him ice skating and I was amazed at his speed and dexterity on the ice, especially when I attempted the ice for the first time. Oldest of six boys raised in Newfoundland, Canada, my father cut his teeth on a hockey puck, and was no slouch with a baseball either. At one point, dad was even offered an opportunity to play professional hockey, which he turned down because his life plan to become a Catholic priest left no room for hockey. He hung up his skates and donned the habit, entering the monastery. (Obviously, he did not become a priest.)

As I said, my dad was a great athlete… I am not. I was always the kid who liked playing kickball, but loved shooting my bow or a .22 rifle more. In fact, if given an option, I’d rather hunt rabbits or crows than play baseball any day. For me, a quiet day with my bow was valued much higher than a day in a neighboring pasture playing baseball. Let me clarify, I’m not opposed to sports, and enjoy a live baseball or basketball game, and I love watching hockey, but I’m not a fanatic. I liked the idea of sports, but didn’t possess the desire, drive or ability to pursue sports with passion.

For the 2011 season thus far, I’ve watched a grand total of two UK basketball games, both post season tournament play, and one of which (UK -vs- UNC) I recorded on my DVR and missed the final 2 1/2 minutes due to improper programming. (And my life didn’t end for missing the final moments of the game.) I don’t know all the players, and cannot quote their stats, in fact I didn’t even know their standing going into the tournament. But, I would consider myself a UK fan, or at the least a fan of life in the bluegrass state. I confess my heightened interest with UK now in the Final Four, and I will probably be watching the game with UCONN on Saturday night… probably.

While enjoying the game Sunday night, I couldn’t help but think about my dad. I’ve already mentioned his athletic abilities, which were impressive, however this was not what immediately came to mind during the game. For whatever reason, what came to mind about my dad was his intense passion for the Gospel. My dad was one to jump in with both feet in whatever he did, he wasn’t just committed to something… he became what he was committing to. Nothing has ever made an impression upon me like my father’s conversion to Christianity, specifically (redundantly) his commitment to Jesus. When my dad was converted, it was full sail. In fact, mom & dad made their confession of faith together and that night my father was immersed, and in response he immersed my mother. He understood the call of Christ and for the first time, shedding the traditions he had known all his life and embracing Scripture alone, it made perfect sense to him. What he had earlier committed to (with regard to priesthood) left him empty and confused because he was told to teach tradition and not Bible. He told me of many occasions of discipline for reading to children from Scripture, rather than teaching tradition. This disillusionment caused him to leave Catholicism, but he just couldn’t abandon faith. When a young preacher encouraged him to study the Bible, my dad suddenly had a whole new world open up before him and his focus, priorities and purpose was restored.

From the time of my dad’s conversion forward, I cannot remember a single morning when he wasn’t seated at the kitchen table first thing in the morning reading his Bible. My father was consumed with a passion for the Word. At the time, I was not a Christian, although I considered myself a believer. For a number of months my dad faithfully and patiently led a life of faith and witnessed to me as much as was productive to do so. Our minister frequented our home and became a good friend to me and my family. Eventually I began attending services and listening a little closer as it became apparent my father was not participating in a passing fad, but undergoing a transformation of his life and a renewing of his mind.

The UK -vs- UNC game Sunday night, began at 5PM, and our evening services are at 6:00PM. For some congregations, and some Christians, this would pose a very real dilemma… which shall I choose, to stay home with the HD quality programming of NCAA tournament play or participate in the assembly? Certainly, there is nothing wrong with watching a ballgame per se, so long as it does not impose upon my ability to edify another Christian, or impede my availability to His Word. Some would argue attendance on a Sunday evening as unnecessary, especially if they faithfully attend morning services. Perhaps, but I do tend to believe such thinking reveals something about us. Allow me to illustrate my point.

My wife is my best friend and I enjoy her company, so much so that I am often distracted by thoughts of her through the day and truly long to be with her again. When we have to be apart, it is bearable only in the thought we will be together again and our commitment to one another remains strong in spite of the temporary separation. I cannot imagine “skipping out” on an opportunity to be with her, even if it should only be for a brief while. My wife trusts me and knows me better than any other person alive. Such trust strengthens our relationship through difficulties or challenges. Therefore, should I choose to go out with friends, or some other activity within the bounds of our vows, my wife would be OK and have no doubts or concerns. Concerns could creep in, however, should I choose to neglect her, or avoid her, show less passion or become apathetic toward being with her. Love for my wife constrains me to prioritize my activities and interests in such a manner as to build her up and strengthen our marriage. Again, so long as my priorities remain in cooperation with my vows to my wife, everything is good.

Similarly, Christian faith requires commitment and priority, it demands cooperation of action and words.

Empty stadium seats with a man alone

James mentions faith and action, a faith which transcends the lip service of shallow “belief only” and bears the grit of substance. Such faith is evidenced by action. Recently, I was referred to as “zealous”, a comment intended to be taken as a punch. In context, it was an argumentum ad hominem employed to silence my disagreement with a prospective change to a city ordinance. Its implication being I am limited in my view and “close minded”. I, however, have an advocate which speaks for me… my actions.

How does this relate to the NCAA tournament? I guess it just got me to thinking of an opportunity to share the Gospel. No doubt, Monday morning was filled with a number of conversations about the game. What a wonderful opportunity Christians have when asked about the game to “open the door” by sharing they didn’t watch the game on live TV because they were occupied by something more exciting… participation in worshiping God. I firmly believe our convictions bear out in our actions, and as a Christian I never want to fail in assembling with the body of Christ if at all possible.

As a preacher, I get teased quite a lot about the length of my sermons. There are always a few jokes about cancelling or shortening services when a big game is on, accompanied by a wink & laughter. Here at Union City, it is understood comments about sermon length which are intended to jibe me a little are not to be taken seriously. Our attendance Sunday night made me very proud of our congregation and my opportunity to serve such a spiritually focused group. Granted, most folks didn’t linger long following the service, however, they were active and present and would never have considered skipping out of the assembly for any reason short of illness or another serious family concern. They chose to participate in the assembly, enjoy opportunity to commune with one another and to increase their faith by studying Scripture. No wonder I thought about my father upon seeing such a strong attendance.

I love assembling with the saints!

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The American conviction of Truth

I have always enjoyed American history… really, history in general. One of my favorite classes in High School was South Dakota history, and I loved every history course in college. My passion for history has thrust me into the category of fascination with historic facts often ignored or intentionally overlooked. My TV remote is seldom used to navigate from channels like History or the Military channel. However, I am bothered by the once subtle rewriting of history which has recently transcended into an aggressive and intentionally biased presentation of history against Christian faith.

Statue of Liberty under colorful sky

It has always been interesting to observe the tactics of such critics, which have become so predictable. Challenge the event or present doubt in its authenticity. Then, if this does not provide the desired results, turn against the figure of history or the authors involved in preserving the account. Recently, charges have been made against Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and even Abraham Lincoln. Everything from sexual immorality, drunkenness and slave ownership have been thrown out against them… even purporting that Lincoln was homosexual. And there’s no shortage of “history experts” who share this taint of bias to exploit their claims and sell books in the shadow of their fleeting 15 seconds in the limelight.

As mentioned, one of the tactics of the “higher critics” of history is to attack the character of historic figures. It must be noted with no doubt such character bears impact upon the event, however, even if a historic person’s moral fiber is not of highest quality it does not remove their place in history. To attack the moral character of prominent figures in American history is almost always a smoke screen tactic employed to distract the common public from the moral standards these same figures embraced as a whole. I suggest it is entirely possible to have moral failings and, yet, not embrace those moral downfalls or try to justify them. Certainly, every leader in human history (with the only exception being Jesus) have had personal flaws. The current trend of culture is to exploit those failures or flaws into something they are not, to wield them as leverage against such individuals in an attempt to excuse modern moral failings or suggest such leaders would support these same behaviors.

Perhaps no greater charge has been made against American history than that against the influence of Christian faith on the founding and structure of this Republic.

Many have falsely claimed America as a “melting pot” of religious expression, and yet, our founders never intended such. In fact, our founders were quite unabashed about their contempt against other religions.

1796 Farewell Address of President George Washington:

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.

Washington’s Farewell Address

Notice Mr. Washington’s statement toward the end of the above quote:

With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.

He is, of course, speaking of the Christian faith. How is it possible our founding fathers could have “intended a culture embracing a melting pot of religious expression” while Mr. Washington celebrates the common faith? You see, American history nor the writings of our founders do not support the melting pot concept. In fact, they condemn other religions by pointing out the highest moral value of Christianity. Those who would suggest the melting pot concept have also twisted the “Church and State” concept presented by Mr. Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association to mean absolutely no Christian influence in American politics. The hypocrisy of such a position is easily shown in the climate of “political correctness” toward our “friendly Islamic” neighbors.

Modern social commentators love to call America a “melting pot” or “mosaic” of cultural and religious expression. However, such a description is not fitting America’s founding principles, nor is it supported in her history.

Simple put, America has the unique founding principles of a nation defined by Christian faith. Our model for justice comes directly from the pages of Christian Scripture, as is so prominently evidenced in the engravings upon nearly every federal building and monument in our nation’s capitol. Our founding fathers provide a wealth of material in support of their entire support of Christian faith, and the establishment of a wall of separation which prevented the government from imposing a particular form of religious expression upon the people. Even founders who have been redefined by history as “unbelieving” or “deist” have printed works which impress their support of Christian faith.

One need not look very far to realize the undercurrent of such a trend. To “dumb down” or remove faith from the pages of history simply opens the door wider for immoral living.

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A Convenient Excuse

In nearly 30 years of Christian faith, and 25 years of professional ministry, I am still amazed at the ease with which people make excuses for not actively fellowshipping with a Christian assembly.

Recently, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation ending the death penalty and commuting the 15 inmates presently on death row when the law takes effect on July 1, 2011. As justification for the move, Quinn cited potential errors in the system, also chanting the ever popular mantra of racism, citing death sentences “may be imposed on minorities and poor people more than on the wealthy, white defendants.” The AP pointed out that, although Quinn commuted the death sentences of the current 15 inmates, they will still serve life in prison with no hope of parole. “If the system can’t be guaranteed 100 percent error-free, then we shouldn’t have the system;” Quinn said, “It cannot stand.” You can read the AP article by going here.

America is one of 58 nations employing the death penalty (if we may borrow that term) according to Amnesty International, along with China, Thailand, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Japan.

Interestingly enough, Illinois death penalty inmate Gary Gauger is quoted as saying “The death penalty is a throwback to a time when society did not have the ability to hold homicidal maniacs for the rest of their lives.” To add further consolation to the families of victims killed by these inmates, Governor Quinn offered the “family of Illinois” was with them.

It would seem Americans would grow tired of being treated as less than intelligent by elitists in legislative positions. A simple review of this account reveals a number of shocking “ideals” held by these same elitists which are not commonly held by the average American. Let’s review what is really being said by this move, shall we?

Governor Quinn, in commuting 15 death sentences, has essentially pruned the judicial branch from the American system of government. In his defense, this seems to be a popular trend of late, and however wrong it may be, he is simply parroting our narcissistic culture of relativism. In one fell swoop, Governor Quinn has silenced the voice of “peers” who served as jurors over the trials of these criminals. Additionally, he has removed the penalty for such violent actions by lifting the responsibility of sentencing from our judicial branch and promptly placed it under the subjugation of the legislative branch. It must be noted the elites love to use the sliding rule of government to their advantage, making adjustments between the Judicial & Legislative branches as it suits their agenda, paying no heed to true justice or the protection of the American citizen.

A comparison of the nations which employ the death penalty is deviously cited as more than a simple comparison. It is, in fact, intended to communicate an association with non-progressive thinking. Apart from the United States, Japan is the only other “developed nation” on the list. Such an association adds punch to their position by the absurd conclusion the US judicial system is similar to that of Iran, Iraq or Thailand, and, as such, mutually exclusive to progressive thinking. Ask any of these same legislators if they would prefer to be indicted under charges in the US or one of the other 57 nations and they would not hesitate in choosing America. Why? Because, imperfect as it is, the American judicial system is still better than any other system in the world… or at least it has been until now.

Another subtle tool employed by such civil engineers is to appeal to the masses. I’m going to get on a soap box here, people, so be warned. It really fries my biscuits to hear otherwise intelligent people refer to America as a “Democracy”. Our founding fathers structured America as a Republic, not a Democracy. As a Republic, we depend upon responsible representation of American ideals in government… not the mentality of the majority ruling. Just because the majority wants something, it does not mean it is the most responsible or beneficial thing. Who really cares if more people want violent criminals locked up for life rather than face death as retribution for their crimes against humanity? It still doesn’t make it right. In such an environment, injustice reigns and no culture can stand in an environment of anarchy. I for one am growing increasingly tired of these “wards of the state” and recognize the only way of reversing this downward slope is by imposing greater penalties, not loosening the belt and providing room and board.

I do value human life, and, as such, must impress the ultimate punishment for those who do not.

The “100% Guarantee” can never be implemented in any system by man, nor should it be expected in any other area, yet it is often presented as justification for radical social changes. Similar to “throwing the baby out with the bath water”, power hungry elitists love to use this 100% concept while ignoring the facts regarding actual death penalties. Certainly, there will be mistakes made in the judicial system of criminal penalty; however, in light of the exceptionally small number of executions, they are essentially non-existent. One recent report by the Death Penalty Information Center mentions “mistakes” in their 2010 year end report, however, no citations of such mistakes are offered.

Subjective “moral standards” are neither a standard, nor moral.

Such is the appeal of the “informed” who force radical change upon the common citizen under the plea of enlightenment, tolerance, open mindedness, advancement or whatever rhetorical catch phrase is in season at the time. And, in answer to the argument against the death penalty due to “racism inherent to the system” I must say “give me a break”! No other nation in the world has provided a greater voice for minorities than the USA. This is not a skin color issue… it is a moral issue. Large numbers of minorities are presently incarcerated precisely because of the type of moral flip-flop in our culture. Groups which honor and venerate cop killers, gangstas, drug pushers and civil irresponsibility as a whole will naturally comprise the larger representation within the criminal system. It isn’t because “the man” is holding them down, and it is not exclusive to any single ethnic group.

Please do not misunderstand me to think human life, even of the criminal, is not of value. Au contraire, I do value human life, and, as such, must impress the ultimate punishment for those who do not. It is offensive to think the appeal made by such change is the nobler, honorable, moral high road of valuing human life. In fact, it is just the opposite. What is actually being said by such legislative positioning is the life of the “homicidal maniac” (to quote the aforementioned convict Gauger) is valued above the victims of his mania. The fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees “Due Process” under the law… where is the due process in this legislative move? It is truly absurd to consider such positioning would be tolerated by the American citizen. And yet, it is. Why? Because America has (in large) surrendered her values and abandoned moral standards for the sake of convenience.

Subjective “moral standards” are neither a standard, nor moral.

At this point, you may be asking “What does Illinois have to do with Christian involvement in the assembly?” Well, consider the following.

Governor Quinn’s “100%” appeal is the same ol’ worn out excuse used by the unbelieving, as well as lazy, uncommitted Christians today. Namely, “I don’t attend Church because I’ve known too many Hypocrites who go to Church.” or “I’ve been hurt” or “I’ve seen too much evil” or “I’ve known Churches who have split” and on, and on, and on they go. Are you serious? In an age of “enlightenment”, let’s employ a little logical thinking with this excuse and see how well it holds up.

  • Should you stop eating because you’ve noticed gluttony, obesity, eating disorders or waste of food?
  • Should you stop driving because you’ve seen too many people violating the law, engaged in rude behavior or driving recklessly?
  • Have you sworn never to enter a romantic relationship due to the high rate of divorce, spousal abuse or unhappiness you’ve witnessed in others?
  • Have you stopped breathing in a statement against air pollution, the possibility of airborne disease, or in taking a stand against lung disorders?
  • Should you have your teeth pulled as a protest against tooth decay, your hair pulled out in a plea against baldness and refuse to see a doctor due to medical malpractice?

Shall I continue? To appeal for the “100%” rule demands consistency in all areas.

You see, the proper response to injustice, civic unrest or anarchy is to raise the bar of responsibility, not lower it. Criminals must be punished, severely in certain cases and entirely in others for those who have, by their actions, shown no regard for human life.

Unfortunately, folks who claim to be Christian often succumb to the same tactics employed by culture in an attempt to exempt themselves from active faith. This only underscores our struggle against self, or lack of struggle as the case may be. First of all, we do not “go to Church” anymore than a fish goes swimming. We are the Church and we gather together at a building, or another meeting place. People do not “do Church”, rather… we are Church. Secondly, the contemporary concept of “Church should meet my needs” is completely bogus. God is worthy of our worship, even if we should “get” nothing out of it… the simple truth is we receive much out of true worship offered to God. Honestly, I don’t care so much about catchy songs as I do about honoring God, being challenged to spiritual growth, greater service, stronger faith and edification of someone else.

Bottom line, be honest enough with yourself to admit why you really choose not to actively assemble with the Church. It just isn’t as high of a priority as other things.

You can check out another topic along the lines of Democracy by going here.

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