The Sanctification of Donald Trump

I’ve been hearing this week about the funeral of John McCain, former Senator from Arizona. Yet much of the rhetoric from the funeral services (that I’ve caught) has been about how much McCain is a patriot, even the uber-patriot, while the present occupant of the oval office is a farce, a sham, a pretender to the throne. The comparison was made that while McCain was suffering in a Vietnamese prison camp, Donald Trump was in the lap of luxury. Surely on this basis, Trump is the villain and McCain the hero. Yet I lived through the 2008 presidential election. I remember the hatred poured out upon the Senator from Arizona who dared to run against the first (actually second) black presidential candidate in history. Why, to vote for McCain was to vote against history!

Something more telling. Do you all remember when Billy Graham passed away and a state funeral was given for him? He up to this time is the only non-government individual to be given such an honor (to my knowledge). Donald Trump was the only President to attend the funeral. By contrast, McCain specifically prohibited Donald Trump from attending, while simultaneously inviting both President Bush (whose policies he denounced during his presidential run) and President Obama to speak on his behalf.

Donald Trump has been decried as a philanderer, a liar, born with a silver spoon in his mouth kind of man. It is said he was born into privilege and so doesn’t know what it’s like to live like a real American (not unlike Mitt Romney), but unlike Mitt Romney, Donald Trump could connect with the common man. And while he has certainly not been a saint, he is getting better.

Many people despise Trump, and they have their reasons. I don’t hate him. I can’t say I like him either, because I’ve never met him. But he seems like the sort of man who did not know what he was getting into, the complexity of the office, the depth of the forces arrayed against him, but one who is learning. Trump is politically inept. That’s why he was elected. He is a straight-forward, plain-talking man who means what he says. He is the kind of man with whom you know where you stand, because he will tell you. He seems like the kind of man who has learned that time is more valuable than anything else, so he doesn’t waste it, not anymore.

Many decried that Trump is not a Christian, that his history is too black, he’s done too many things to be forgiven. And this is coming from Christians. It seems to me that while Trump may not be a Christian (who am I to judge another man’s servant?) he is definitely trying to act like one since he’s entered the oval office. I don’t know if he has been baptized, but then again, I don’t know that George Washington was either.

My point is, while Donald Trump may have been a man who lived for himself when he became President, I believe he has matured. While he still tweets, he doesn’t tweet nearly as much as he did to start. While he still has obtuse remarks, they is more time between them. America elected an outsider to take the fight to Big Government. They didn’t expect any less. And he has not disappointed them. I don’t believe any man knows what being a President is like until he is sitting in the chair. But I believe that Mr. Trump has grown into it, and will continue to mature as he works for the American People.

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Doctrinal Insights from ‘Heaven is For Real’

Several years ago, after I had read the book Heaven is Real, I jotted down these notes. I thought I might share them with you, just to see what you thought about them. If the vision that Colton Burpo received was true, then we might receive these truths about the spiritual world.

  • The Resurrection of The Dead
    • The righteous dead already have new, recognizable bodies with reference to their previous bodies, and know the events following their demise, at least regarding their own family.
    • All the dead, have wings (like angels).
    • Babies who die in utero live on in Heaven. Example: Colton’s unborn sister died at two months gestation. When he sees her in Heaven, she is not a fetus, but a little girl, who has apparently aged. Do babies who die (or are killed) in utero grow into children and later adults in Heaven? She was not named on earth; she has none in Heaven. The Burpos assumed that they would have the responsibility of naming her. (If they had named her posthumously, would she then have a name?)

     

  • Salvation in Jesus Christ
    • Salvation and entrance into Heaven is based solely on faith in Jesus Christ. The particulars and rituals (such as confession, baptism by immersion) are not mentioned (nor do they apply as strictly in Wesleyan doctrine as they do in the Restoration Movement Churches, so the author wouldn’t have made much of them anyway).
    • But, without a doubt, faith in Christ is essential, however displayed, to gain entrance to Heaven.

     

  • The Physical Presence and Reality of Satan
    • Satan’s presence is seen from Heaven.
    • His description is not mentionable by Colton. (Too terrifying?)

     

  • The End of Days
    • There is a War in which women and children watch the men battle the forces of evil with swords. (The book states unequivocally that such a war takes place in the future, but Colton sees it already happening, so while the author may believe it is in the future, it may already be occurring. On the other hand, Colton’s insights are rarely, if ever, symbolic. He describes things as he sees them, not as images which point to something else.)
    • More importantly, Colton describes his father is already fighting, which means that if this is a reference to the end times, they are within the lifetime of the author.

     

  • Trinitarian Doctrine
    • Jesus is a physically recognizable presence, who sits at the right hand of God the Father, and loves children, especially. He also goes up and down (without wings). Jesus hears our prayers and directs the answers. He also receives the dead.
    • God the Father is a physically imposing presence, huge to behold.
    • God the Holy Spirit is perceived as a blue aura, but He sends power to His servants in a visible way, to empower them for ministry to others.

For the rest of Colton’s visions, the greatest objections to them stem not from whether they agree with the Bible, but our doctrinal interpretations of it. The book passes the same tests we apply to the gospels, in that is written in the lifetime of the people mentioned in it, so that it is verifiable. If there were any serious objection to its facts, the book has been out long enough to have been rebutted several times (the events themselves occurred in 2003).

Reflection (written 8/28/18):

However, Colton is not and has not been considered an apostle, so, there’s that.  I have no doubt that Mr. Burpo said he saw all the things that he saw. That much is recorded history. Whether his father had a hand in massaging his son’s story or not, I cannot know. The fact that Colton had an accident, that he nearly died (or did actually die on the table) are facts that have been repeated by many, and thus not exactly rare. We could go back to the hospital Colton was treated in and probably find all these things corroborated.

However, the testimony that Colton shares does have troubling insights. How much of what is above agrees with Scripture? With revealed testimony from the prophets and apostles? And with whom do we agree? I hate to say this, but Paul says it better:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal 1:8-9)

I cannot fault Mr. Colton, but I can fault those who would seek to use his testimony to undermine Scripture, using the testimony of the dead (or briefly so) and make some extra bucks. The book, written by his father, became a movie not long ago, and I’m sure did very well. But his father stated that he is a minister himself. Would he not have know that his son’s testimony could be used by some to alter and even disregard the statements of Scripture. If Faith in Jesus was enough, why do so many of the apostles insist on baptism? If all who die in Christ become angels, then what makes angels special in the Bible? Are they dead people too? As the three-fold presence of God is described, does that support or undermine trinitarian thinking?

When Paul went to the “third heaven”  he knew enough to say this:

And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. (2Co 12:3-4)

Maybe Paul saw some of the same things that Colton did. Maybe not. But Paul wisely chose not to reveal these things, even as an inspired apostle, to his readers. Is it possible that people would be far more interested in what awaits us in heaven, and ignore the responsibility of inviting others to it?

When it comes to books like this one, books which some call, Heaven Tourism, I feel it comes dangerously close to necromancy, that is, to consult the dead (or briefly so) to get insight into the future. The Bible strictly forbids this. Because even the Devil can masquerade as an angel of light and lead millions to Hell.

Forgetting What is Behind

Recently I commented back to a individual who asked about Christians attending a same-sex wedding. It’s under the post entitled, “The Gay Blade Cuts Both Ways” if you want to see it. A tougher question, and one that I’ve been pondering since I gave the initial comment, is about whether its OK to attend the wedding of someone who was divorced.

I’ve had several friends that I’ve met over the years, many of them good friends, who at some point “needed” to divorce their spouse. One recently mentioned that her husband, the man she married in place of her prior husband, had died. This is what prompted this post. Because I found myself not knowing how I should feel. I knew her first husband and felt we were friends. I don’t know all the details, but he and she divorced and then she married again to the man who has now recently passed. I believe her previous husband is still alive and I wonder if she hadn’t divorced if she would be mourning today.

I gave advice to a hurting wife years ago that she took as an encouragement for divorce. I still cringe when I recall the situation. I never heard from him, but she went on about how he was gone all the time, never spent any time at home and barely did anything together with her. I realize now that I was far too hasty, and ought to have encouraged her to try and work things out, to talk with the two of them together before I said anything, because let’s be honest, divorce is devastating. The only people who benefit from divorce are lawyers, and those who have been cheating on their spouse. I am not saying she did, but it seemed a very short time before she was married again. I never saw the husband, and I wonder today how I must have hurt him unintentionally by giving unwise advice.

God hates divorce, and He is far better glorified in a hurting marriage that is reconciled than in legal separation, divorce proceedings, and custody hearings. Now I know there will be those who say, “Well, you just don’t know my circumstances! If you did, you would know I needed a divorce!” Christians, if we are going to be hard on same-sex marriage, then we ought to be equally hard on marriage after divorce. There may be a thousand good reasons for divorce, but the Scriptures only suggest two, and these are merely permissions, not commands to divorce: 1) infidelity, and 2) an unbelieving spouse who decides to divorce you.

For the first, infidelity is a powerful reason for divorce, but it is also a powerful reason for forgiveness and reconciliation. Husbands and Wives, to look on anyone who is not your spouse and even to imagine sex with them is Infidelity. I may even add it is possible to commit emotional infidelity, if you close yourself off to your spouse and confide on an emotionally intimate level in another individual of the opposite gender. He who is without sin, cast the first stone.

For the second, note that the Christian spouse does not initiate the divorce, but the unbelieving spouse. So that it is the unbeliever who says, “I’ve had enough of your Jesus!” and leaves the marriage, NOT the Christian spouse who says, “I’ve had enough of you!”

So when I go back through my friends who have divorced, and church members and others I’ve known, I know infidelity is often cited. I cannot sit here and tell you I know everything that happened, because I don’t. We all make mistakes, even when it comes to the person we marry. And I’ve married people who were previously divorced, so I am as much a hypocrite about this as anyone. I know some churches are very adamant about refusing to marry divorced people. And yet I think we all need to practice forgiveness in this area. But would refusing to attend the wedding of a divorced friend be wrong? Or would it be standing on conviction?

This calls for understanding and discernment. It seems to me that if you know the situation well enough to decide whether or not the divorce was biblical, you are informed enough to decide to attend or not. I think that the Christian who divorces their spouse for reasons other than the ones mentioned above, needs to spend a great deal of time and effort working on their own lives and Christian walk before bringing someone else into their lives again as spouse. A Christian ought not to make the same mistake twice, especially when it comes to whom they choose as a partner in their walk with Christ.

So I’ve probably offended most of you by now. Trust me when I say I don’t know what to say either. I know many whose second marriages were truly blessed compared to their first. And I rejoice with them. But if we are to be consistent, then we ought to look our our own marriage practices just as hard as we do to those who marry within their sex. If that isn’t biblical, then are we truly doing it right either?

Keep Your Fork; The Best is yet to Come

This another one from my archives. It is a sweet story, and may even be true.

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There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things “in order,” she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.

“What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply.

This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say. That surprises you, doesn’t it,” the young woman asked.

“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.

The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and from there on out, I have always done so. I have also, always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming … like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie; something wonderful, and with substance!” So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder ‘What’s with the fork? Then I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork … the best is yet to come.’

The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled. During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her.

The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right.

 

 

Friday, December 26, 2003 CompuServe: EBRUN1234

0100 – Source Code #4 – Keeping the Sabbath

Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exo 20:9-11)

One of the longer commandments, the command to observe the Sabbath Day has been the cause celeb for more than one denomination.  For example, the Seventh-Day Adventists make the observance of the Sabbath Day the center of their faith, even to distinguish themselves and be so named. They take their cue from the Law, the Old Testament Law, which they believe is still binding on Christians today. While that would be an interesting rabbit trail to pursue, I would like to take a different tack today.

The statement on the Sabbath Day is based on the historical fact of the latter half of the commandment, one which often gets ignored. God commands His people to observe this day of enforced rest because He took a day of rest after creating the Universe in six days. Why would you think this is important to God?

Did God need to take a day off? Was He in some way diminished after the Creation of the Universe? Was God tired? Did such creative power drain Him? The answer we should already know is “of course not.” God does not change. He is neither strengthened nor diminished by anything He does. He is immutable. So if God did not need a day off, why does He tell us to take a day off?

First, it could simply be to keep up from making work an idol. We are built to be satisfied by working and bringing jobs to completion. When I see a freshly mowed yard, and newly finished house, and project that I’ve been working on finally finished, I am pleased with myself. I tell myself, “I did that” with a smile on my face. We are built to be happy when we complete a task, or at least to feel better, relieved at having accomplished something. Telling us to take a day off forces us to shift our focus from pride in our own work and make room for God.

Second, it could be God’s way of saying that there is nothing so important that we do that we cannot take a day off. The logic goes that if God took a day to rest from all of His labors creating the Universe, then there is nothing so important about what we are doing that we cannot also take a day to rest from our own labors. Again, our focus is shifted from ourselves to God.

However, I think another option may be at work here, pardon the pun. While both of these aspects certainly have meaning and could preach, I might suggest another option. God calls us to rest on the seventh day. Why? Because He rested after creating the World. Why is this significant?

It seems to me that over time, we lose our sense of wonder. Jesus said:

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mar 10:15)

Children have the amazing ability to conceive of literally anything, especially the inconceivable, since they have not been taught the laws of reality. They imagine dragons and wizards, magic and princesses. Deus Ex Machina is not in their vocabulary, but certainly in their play. They don’t think about rules or what is supposed to happen, but more about the what if, and the imagination of possibility.

Christians are often accused of not accepting reality, but believing in a fairy-tale, because we believe in a God we cannot see, hear, taste or touch. We believe in a Creation of this Universe 6000 years ago from nothing, by a God we cannot see, and told in a book whose origins we barely understand. We believe in a Savior who we say is alive today but no one today can prove. We accept things by faith. Like Children, we believe in a world we cannot prove.

As we get older, have jobs to hold down, and bills to pay, our sense of wonder erodes in the face of reality. There is no fairy godmother who is going to pay the light bill for us. No Knight in shining armor who will whisk us off to live in his bright and shiny castle, or even help us with rent. As adults, that world was lost in our childhood in the face of work and the drudgery we have committed ourselves to in order to take care of ourselves and our responsibilities.

No I believe there is a third reason that God tells us to rest on the seventh day, and it is to regain our sense of wonder. But instead of an unguided play-time where we invent and imagine, it is a wonder based in the truth that God created the world around us. This invisible, unseen and untouched God created the natural world. This same God loves us and calls us according to His purposes. This God’s Son died for us and gently leads us. We are called to observe this day of rest to restore our focus, or sense of priority, our sense of wonder at God.

IMG_1106I get this every time I look into the sky, especially on a beautiful sunset evening. I am struck with a sense of awe. God did this. Don’t get me wrong. I understand the interplay between air pressure, water vapor, light and dark, that complex ballet of science that takes place every time I look up, but maybe it is the complexity of it, the incomprehensible mechanism of nature itself that draws me to the throne of grace. My God made that. That the God who made all of this calls me His child.

Dealing with the futility I am faced with every day, despite the fact that I gain some pleasure from completing tasks, I need that. I need that awe that is a reminder of God’s presence. It opens my heart to hope and to possibility. Maybe even to wonder.

God commands us to take the seventh day to rest, not because He needed to, but that we needed to be reminded of His work. We need to pause and acknowledge the wonder of what He has made. We need to remember that there is something beyond paycheck to paycheck, beyond the day-to-day, that one day will call us home.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Php 1:21)

How to Stay Safe

This is another piece from my archives. Funny, because its true.

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In light of foreign wars, terrorist threats, and violent crimes, many are wondering if any safe places exist anymore for themselves and their families. I received the following informa­tion recently on “How to Stay Safe in the World Today.”

1. Avoid riding in automobiles because they are responsible for 20% of all fatal accidents.

2. Do not stay home because 17% of all accidents occur in the home.

3. Avoid walking on streets or sidewalks because 14% of all accidents happen to pedestrians.

4. Avoid traveling by air, rail, or water because 16% of all accidents involve these forms of transportation.

5. Of the remaining 33%, 32% of all deaths occur in hospitals. Above all else, avoid hospitals.

You will be pleased to learn, however, that only .001 % of all deaths occur in church worship services, and these are usually related to previous physical disorders. Therefore, logic tells us that the safest place for you to be at any given point in time is at church! Bible study is safe too. The percentage of deaths during Bible study is even less.

FOR SAFETY’S SAKE -Attend church and read your Bible…IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE!