Don’t try to hide it.

bible.com/72/mat.5.14.hcsb

Again, read this verse a hundred times, but never really thought about it. In the midst of Jesus Sermon on the Mount, you read many short statements like this that stack upon each other and lose their meaning after a while. This is one of them. I get and understand the “light of the world” and this is what most people zero in on. Jesus is the Light coming into the World. He is the One who brings Light into Dark places. By Him we have the True Light. Through Him we can share that Light and fulfill the intent of this passage. We too are the light of this world. We offer illumination to those caught in darkness because the torch has been laid in our hands.

That’s why the second part of this verse is so jarring and unexpected.

“A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” What’s up with that?

Suddenly we are thrust into defensive strategies for hill-top cities. If we can’t hide it, how can we defend it? But the stress here is on the obviousness of a hilltop city. Zion was a hilltop city. It was taken only by extended siege, by the Babylonians and much later by the Romans. The problem of a hilltop city is that you can’t miss it. Either in the day or at night. It stands out.

So why put this phrase right here? Since Christians are the light of the world, He extends and changes the metaphor. Christians are also like a city on a hilltop. They ought to stand out against the background. They ought to be lit up at night (in the darkness) so that people who are looking for them can find them. To add to this, Jesus says such a city cannot be hidden. Think about that.

Aren’t there times you feel like hiding your faith? I’ve felt that way, especially as a Preacher, because people treat you differently when they know you are a Preacher. A few years ago, I decided to start wearing a cross around my neck, so regardless of what I was doing, good or bad, I had that thing in front of me, reminding me of who I am and who I belong to. It’s helped me. Because as a Christian, I am a Christian at church as well as at work, at Walmart and the drug store. At home and at play. I ought to like a city that cannot be hid. So should you. Figure it out for yourself, but find something that will help you remember whose you are.

God bless!

Advertisements

Giving and Receiving of Gifts

When we open up gifts on Christmas morning, we receive things that will eventually wear out, dry up, break down, or get thrown away. But the gifts that God gives us improve with use. Whether preaching, teaching, singing, serving, helping, guiding or giving. God’s most precious gift, His Son, gives us life. His second most precious gift, if only because it is conditioned on the first, is His Spirit. And through His Spirit, we receive all manner of special and unique gifts, specific to us, to help us serve the larger body. Your combination of gifts is unique to you, and no one else can do what you have been gifted to do. Are you willing to use His gifts today?

Do you know that eagerness when you watch someone else open the gift you prepared for them? You know the feelings that run through you. Anticipation, eagerness, excitement, and joy! You look forward to seeing the smile on their face at something you gave to them. As you get older, this feeling becomes more precious. Especially to hear the squeals of delight of little ones shredding Christmas paper. You know the joy of seeing a satisfied recipient, and you probably also know the despair from someone who didn’t appreciate your gift, and cast it aside.

Consider for a moment God’s point of view. He has sent His Son into the world as His gift. Some accepted Him. Some rejected Him. He sent His Spirit into the world as a gift to all that would receive His Son. Some accepted Him, others rejected Him. The Holy Spirit gave gifts to all who confessed Jesus as their Lord. Some accepted those gifts and used them. Others turned their backs, saying the gifts were too hard, or not what they wanted. Knowing how we feel when others open our gifts, can you imagine God’s face and turning away from His?

All of us have been given gifts to use for the glory and growth of the church. This church depends on you. No one of us is expected to do it all, otherwise, only one person would have all the gifts. But each of us has a gift from the Lord. Each of has a responsibility to the whole, whether great or small. As a Christian, you need to discover that gift, and use it, for the church depends on you. Her growth and service depend on you to utilize your gift.

If you don’t have one those gifts yet, because you’ve never committed yourself to serving Jesus, then today is the day to start. Don’t let another day go by without putting your lot in with Christ. Believe in Him, Repent of your sins, Confess His name, and be Baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and the free gift of the Holy Spirit. Today is your opportunity to be a part of the body of Christ. The Savior we serve was born in a manger, but died on a cross for you.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1Co 12:4-11)

Empty Words

bible.com/72/isa.29.13.hcsb

just a precaution today as you go about your daily worship routine, going about telling others “Merry Christmas” and “Have a blessed day!” The Lord despises having His own name taken in vain, where our actions and attitudes don’t line up with the God whose name we have taken, or we use His name in ways contrary to His revealed nature.

Christian you have an incredible responsibility to show others what God is like through your words and deeds. If there ever has been a worse charge laid at the feet of Christians than hypocrisy, I don’t know what it is, simply because we are the hands and feet of Jesus. And we are accountable to Him as such. You don’t get “time off” from being a Christian.

But good news, we don’t have to do this on our own. We have the Holy Spirit living within us, guiding and assisting our our souls. He helps us to live as we have been called. We serve and enjoy serving the One who calls us because we have been called by His name. So let us praise and worship the One who called us today. Let us sing and rejoice because we have been found worthy in His sight to speak His Name. Merry CHRISTmas everyone!

0101 – Source Code 5 -Why Parents Still Matter

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exo 20:12)

This fifth commandment is familiar to most, though its counterpart in Deuteronomy is perhaps less well known.

“‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Deu 5:16)

Notice the additions (I have in bold) that add just a little bit to the original commandment, both the reinforcement of the original command with the authority of the Lord, but also an additional blessing of not only long life but a good long life, conditional upon obedience to this command. The Apostle Paul quotes from this second iteration in his letter to the Ephesians.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Eph 6:1-3)

When I started this series, I started with this commandment in mind, thinking that in all of us, there is a need for our parents. In my initial post on the subject, “Source Code” I wrote the following on Bart Millard’s conversion story, “I Can Only Imagine”.

“That moment also got me to thinking about father-son issues, in which this movie traded heavily. Even if our parents, mothers or fathers, treat us horribly, even if we hate every fiber of their being, every breath of their body, there is still a part of us that cares. There is still a part that longs for reconciliation, even if it’s no longer possible. That’s why this moment is so powerful in the movie, because it resonates. Everyone has a father, and everyone desires approval from that father. We all want our fathers to be proud of us because it is built into us to care what our fathers think of us.

“We can’t explain it, because it isn’t part of the intellect. In fact, it defies the intellect. It is part of what I liken to “source code”, or more exactly, that code that a computer has burned in to its motherboard that tells it how to read a hard disk, before it ever loads the first bit of the operating system and everything its ever learned. It’s the BIOS of the human psyche. It is built into us as human beings to have a relationship with our parents. When that relationship isn’t “right” it leads to a host of other problems, “daddy issues”, psychological syndromes and traumas later on. As described in the movie, Bart couldn’t have a close relationship with his girlfriend until he resolved his relationship with his father. How many people labor today in horrible marriages, live-in situations even same-sex relationships because that one aspect of their being was wrong?”

And that’s what’s intriguing about the whole “source code” concept. I counsel a host of people who have trauma issues, family issues and and problems in relationships. I also live in an area where the roles of parents and children are in distress due to the prevalent drug culture. I see grandparents laboring to raise grandchildren, even great-grandchildren even when they are physically unable. I see adults ignoring their responsibilities and children who don’t even know who they are and are desperate to figure it out.

It is as if when children do not know who their parents are, they can’t define themselves either or that task becomes a great deal harder.

While the scriptures counsel us against pursuing “endless genealogies” (1 Tim 1:4) they do tell us to mind our elders, and respect our parents. Let us give respect and honor to those ancestors that we still see alive, rather than pursue the dead. There is some importance to knowing where we came from. For we either align ourselves with the traditions of our ancestors, or we set ourselves intentionally against them, saying, “never again!” The legacy of drug and alcohol abuse is certainly something to resist. The legacy or womanizing, divorce, abuse and the like are other things we might stand and say, “not in my generation!” But legacies of faith, honesty, and leadership, are qualities to be admired. If your grandfather was a minister, or a soldier, or an honest man, those are qualities to emulate. Service never goes out of style. Honesty is always valued. Integrity is respected.

To walk into a place and tell someone your name, and then to be automatically credited with respect, that’s not something to cast aside. The so-called “white privilege” is what those who don’t have this kind of history complain about. If your father or grandfather (or for that matter, your mother or grandmother) were recognized and respected in your community, “white privilege” is afforded to children and grandchildren. The children of the honorable and respectable are automatically extended that same respect (and always have been throughout history). By the same token, the children of the dishonored and infamous are afforded that same level of suspicion.

If your life is to “go well with you” and God promises, then we ought to follow the good choices of our parents and grandparents. Savings ourselves for marriage (to avoid unwanted pregnancies and complicated sexual entanglements), using our finances responsibly, raising our own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Those who fail to heed the lessons of our parents (some learned the hard way), Will be forced to learn those same lessons. God’s word describes the family as a husband, a wife, and children. That is the core unit of the family. Yes, life happens and interrupts even God’s perfect blueprint. But that doesn’t mean the blueprint is invalid.

I want to encourage you today to take a serious look at your family. What are the good things you remember about your parents? Those are things you want to emulate and give respect to. What were the bad choices they made? Those are things you want to avoid in your own life. How can you improve on what has come before you? Every parent wants their child to be better than they were. To learn from their mistakes and have a good name.

How are you doing?

God bless!

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!

image

So comes the call ringing down through the ages. From the voice of Isaiah the prophet through to the raspy preaching of John the Baptist, so goes out the call. Are you prepared for the Savior?

Why is it that we are aware of NEED only around Christmas time? Because this is the one time of year when people feel like giving. So much good is done in the name of Christmas, from giving to the hungry, to buying presents for poor children, to dropping a few extra coins in the kettle. And many have appropriated Christmas as their prime giving season, with names like the Salvation Army, the Angel Tree, the Toys for Tots, and so on: so many people doing so many good things, and so much need to be filled. However, year after year, it seems like there is more need than the last. In working with the needy, I’ve learned that they fall into two camps, the truly needy and the greedy.

This problem of NEED reminds me of a verse in Proverbs: “The leech has two daughters: Give and Give. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, “Enough”:” (Pro 30:15) The leech is a loathsome creature, and far be it from me to compare the current problem of poverty, homelessness and need with the leech, but the Proverb makes a peculiar point, using the leech as an example. Do those that are needy ever say, “enough”? You can usually spot those that are needy from those that are greedy with this one question. The needy are grateful for what they receive, while the greedy always want a little more.

But the greedy aren’t found merely in the soup kitchens or the welfare offices. They can often be found behind a desk, or in a shopping mall, or anywhere goods can be bought and sold. Christmas tends to make the greedy a bit more obvious, with people fighting over dolls on black Friday, or taking back gifts they didn’t like the day after Christmas, just to get their money back.

So I have to ask, are we preparing for the Savior? Or for a cornucopia of Christmas bliss on December 25th? Christmas bliss is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t last. Christmas cheer is fleeting. But joy in Jesus is eternal. Would you rather enjoy 25 days of Christmas cheer, or an eternity of joy in Jesus Christ? For the Christian, Christmas isn’t just a holiday that comes once a year, but it is a forever joy that instills every day with peace, love, and cheer for the Christ who has come to give us these great gifts, whose Father sent Him “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:7)

Are you prepared for the Savior this Christmas?

Fallout

Fallout is defined as the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. It is the consequences of the unleashing so much raw energy after such a powerful event. I was wondering today about the fallout after an abortion.

What I have seen on the Facebook is the accusation against Pro-Life Christians to the effect that Christians, who are pro-life, ignore the plight of poor, hungry children whose parents can’t afford to feed them. That Christians are all for the saving of the unborn, but are apathetic to the plight of poor and under-served children. The narrative goes like this:

Our typical seeker of abortion (we will call her Roshanda, since abortion disproportionately affects the black community) goes to the abortion clinic. She is going because she already has six children and simply can’t afford to have another. Yet the Christians who intervene convince her to have this seventh child. After the child is born, where are the Christians who will help her raise this child, help pay for medical bills, make sure baby number seven has enough to eat? The question is: Why are Christians pro-life until the baby is actually born? Where did the Christians go? Isn’t it better just to let Roshanda have her abortion?

Let me express my imperfect and under-informed opinion for the pro-choicers. The Pro-Choice movement expresses that Roshanda ought not to burden herself with that seventh child, and encourage here to “terminate the pregnancy” (i.e., kill the unborn child) so that she won’t have to suffer. They would want Roshanda to go through with the procedure.

Roshanda instead goes to the abortion clinic. She is told that she wouldn’t want to burden this child with life and that she should just terminate her pregnancy. Roshanda has some misgivings, but the nurse convinces her that she is doing the right thing. She then meets the nurse in the procedure room who preps her for surgery. The doctor flies in, doesn’t talk to her, because he is just going room to room as fast as he can, and quickly begins the procedure. But he cuts an artery (or something else equally significant) and she starts to hemorrhage, and Roshanda is rushed to the ER via ambulance.  Roshanda spends a couple weeks in the hospital recovering from a botched abortion procedure by a doctor that shouldn’t be practicing medicine and an abortion clinic that is not subject to the standards and protocols that EVERY OTHER clinic and hospital is subject to. Now Roshanda not only has an ambulance transportation fee, but a long list of hospital bills, lost wages, money spent now on legal bills because she “abandoned” her other six children while she was in the hospital. Why? Because Child Protective Services noticed there was no parent in the home.

Then, after Roshanda returns from the hospital, she is faced with debilitating depression. Why? Because her hormones, originally gearing her up for motherhood are now flooding her with guilt. Yes, GUILT. She has to go into therapy. Who is paying for her therapy sessions? Who is paying for her hospital bills? Who is paying for her legal bills? And who will pay for her children’s upbringing if Roshanda commits suicide because of her post-partum depression? This one choice has cost her thousands of dollars. Is this equal if not greater than the amount of money most people estimate for the cost of raising a single child? Will the Pro-Choice people step in and help pay for any of these things? Where are the Pro-Choice trust funds for survivors of botched abortions? For the children of those survivors?

Pro-Life Christians promote adoption. Christians promote and run homes for children. We used to call them orphanages. Any child who is left at a fire department, ER, police station, etc. will be placed in foster care. Foster Care is not perfect, but isn’t it better than death? Is there evidence that some Christians abandon some children after they are born? I’m sure you can find some. But is there any evidence that the Pro-choice people help with the survivors of abortion and their families when things go wrong? I don’t know much, but I doubt it. I believe you will find that Pro-Life Christians in general support and assist children in far greater numbers than the Pro-Choice folks do for those that have an abortion.

Just my thoughts on the subject.

God Bless!

Poking the Bear In the Name of Love

I noted on Facebook on Thanksgiving that Macy’s pre-show for their annual Thanksgiving Day Parade (featuring Santa Claus kids!) included a lesbian kiss. Later I discovered this was not an accident. The show was a vignette of a broadway musical about a high school prom in rural Indiana that refused to allow two girls to attend as a couple. The couple was a same-sex couple, not just two girls who couldn’t get dates. So the story went that the whole community got involved. The School Board refused while the Community pushed to allow the girls to attend as a couple. If you have more information about this case, please comment below. Regardless, the musical, based on this story, featured prominently in Macy’s pre-show, and by some necessity included the two stars, the actresses playing the two girls, sharing a kiss.

I commented on Facebook that this was inappropriate for this time slot and for the expectations of both adults and children, especially the children. This was my chief gripe about the incident, not necessarily a statement about the moral value of the kiss itself. It seems to me that Macy’s could have picked any of 100 shows in New York that could be featured in this way. They didn’t have to pick any shows at all. The other show that I saw given some of this spotlight was “My Fair Lady”. I have yet to hear Macy’s give an apology for the kiss, so that tells me that the whole thing was intentional. My objection is to the appropriateness of the “kiss” in its time slot for an event likely watched by prepubescent children. I didn’t think such “inclusion” was necessary for this age group, a likely demographic for the parade, which included giant balloons of carton characters.

But now I have been accused of poking the bear, and that two girls ought to allowed to kiss. This is a free country, and two girls have as much right to kiss as any other two consenting adults. I must be the one in the wrong for pointing this out and I ought to be ashamed of putting shame on the love of two young people. Really? I don’t have as much right to freedom of expression as two lesbians in downtown New York? They offended me.

One attempt to discredit my accusation is that we have had to put up with plenty of Christianity over the centuries, what difference does one kiss make? To which I could reply, “I have eaten plenty of healthy meals in my life. What difference does one drop of poison make?” This attempt makes the assumption of moral equivalence which simply doesn’t apply here.

Biblical Christianity espouses a culture of morality and ethics. I use the phrase “biblical Christianity” with intent, since there are many kinds of Christianity and not all of them are good. Pointing back to the Bible seems to me to be the best option. You may not agree but Christianity as practiced has done far more for morality, ethics, business and government than any other theory of human behavior. Biblical Christianity agrees with observed (not theoretical) science, every time it’s tried. Biblical Christianity assumes that all people are lost before they accept a Savior. Biblical Christianity does a far better job explaining why people do bad things than anything put forth by Freud, et. al. Biblical Christianity as a moral framework, especially as it is taught in the New Testament, has done far more good than anything man has devised. And Biblical Christianity advocates for the unity and preservation of families, which is where it directly opposes Gay culture.

What has homosexual culture given us? Now there are many individual homosexuals that have given us fantastic drama, art and music. I have no argument with that. Others I have no doubt have given us inventions and other significant social contributions. All good. But what has the culture given us? When two men come together, or two women, what happens to the world around them? Before modern times, the two had to hide. They may have been married, or in ministry, or had some high public office. But the threat of being outed forced them to a form of blackmail if they were ever discovered. Tell me, what kinds of bad decisions could possibly come from this? And what about these:

Homosexual culture can result in Child Predation/ Molestation

Tell me that the inclusion of homosexual priests in the Catholic church hasn’t been a bad idea. Tell me that a whole generation of Catholics hasn’t been soiled in abuse, a church whose reputation hasn’t been marred, or individual Catholics who have stopped trusting the Church’s judgment. Suffice to say that placed in such positions, these self-confessed homosexuals have not been able to handle the temptations involved and have destroyed many children in the satisfaction of their lusts. (Biblical Christianity respects the boundaries of sexual behavior as that between a committed husband and wife in a marriage (Heb 13:4). All other sex is forbidden)

Homosexual culture promotes Slavery

If I may define slavery for just a moment. Slavery is compulsory work done by an individual without his consent. That may be a narrow definition, but if you can order someone to work for you who does not want to, and they no choice but to do it, then that is slavery. Consider the bakers and florists who are confronted by homosexual couples and ordered to bake a cake or arrange flowers for their wedding. The bakers and the florists are now presented with a choice, if they are Christians, of either being forced to do the job against their conscience, or to quit being a baker or a florist because it is too expensive to defend themselves in court and still keep their business. There are numerous cases like this now. (While Biblical Christianity acknowledges slavery as a reality, it never promotes it or advocates for it. Rather it says that if a person who is a slave can be free, he ought to pursue freedom (1 Cor 7:21).)

Homosexual Culture promotes the Abolition of Free Speech

And what about free speech? If a person says anything about gays that isn’t politically correct, doesn’t that person get ostracized? A person can’t even comment about two women kissing without getting shoved aside and called “judgmental”. (Biblical Christianity actually promotes the idea that Christians ought to expose the “deeds done in darkness” (Eph 5:11) and to expel immorality from its midst. (1 Cor 5:11))

Homosexual Culture promotes the destruction of the Traditional Family

Since coming out isn’t a big deal anymore, tell about the families who discovered that Daddy won’t be coming home anymore, because Daddy has a boyfriend. Tell about the wives who feel cheated, if not devastated. Tell me about the husbands whose wives have gone off to live with another woman. Tell me they haven’t been affected in the least. Tell me that there hasn’t been any collateral damage because a person “ought to be free to live their dream!” Individual homosexuals may have left bright contributions to the world, but homosexual culture is one of broken relationships and broken families. Every homosexual has a context, two parents, brothers, sisters, some even spouses and children. Going off and coupling with the same sex causes division within families, questions about whose “side” you’re on, uncomfortable dinner conversation. And to be homosexual is not a hard and fast rule, since many go from straight to homosexual relationships and back again. It becomes very fluid and very confusing. (Biblical Christianity present a family as a trinity, with a Husband, a Wife, and children, with rules for each in interaction with each other (Eph 5:21-6:4). The Bible also condemns any sex outside of the marriage relationship, and does not accommodate people’s sins for their happiness.)

So to say that Christian culture and homosexual culture are morally equivalent displays a horrible lack of understanding of the issue. What difference does one kiss make? By itself, very little. But this issue isn’t about a single same-sex kiss shared on a street and viewed by millions on television. This is about a culture of people who claim moral equivalence for a lifestyle that has proven over and again to be destructive both to individuals and to American Culture, which has its foundation in Biblical Christianity.

You will rightly note that Christianity has been guilty of some of the most horrendous crimes in history. I don’t argue with that. Many churches today are guilty of psychological abuse, financial abuse and outright deception. But that doesn’t mean that the Bible is wrong. To quote G.K. Chesterton, “Christianity hasn’t been tried and found wanting. It has never truly been tried.” Many have tried Biblical Christianity and found it to be completely satisfying, and many well-adjusted people have come from it.

I may come off to you as judgmental. That’s ok. This was not intended to take a “middle-or-the-road” approach. You may be offended. That’s ok too. That’s what the comments are for. But I want you to know that I see homosexual culture as preeminently destructive. I’ve met too many to find it any different. I also find that many homosexuals get very defensive with this kind of talk. No doubt many will read this and say that I’m wrong, and that homosexuality is a very fulfilling lifestyle. I can’t prove that it’s not. All I can point to is the damage it has caused for the sake of happiness. A lot of other’s happiness has been damaged or destroyed for the sake of the one. Do we have the right to be happy in this life? Well, that’s the subject of another blog post.

God bless you today.