Saturday, November 26, 2011

Three Great Christmas Songs

"...I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD," Psalm 27:6c.

     You can't go very far in the Bible without reading of those singing praises to God.  From Miriam to Mary(the Greek form of Miriam), from Exodus to Revelation, we see the Lord's people continually offering up their hearts to their Master.  In this Spirit, I offer up three tremendous, Christ exalting, Holy Day, Christmas songs and how meaningful they are to me.
     1)  These are in no particular order, but I'll start with O Holy Night.  I quickly get sick of all the non Christ exalting holiday garbage about dancing around Christmas trees and high beamed flying mammals or decking halls, whatever that is.  I can hear a faithful version of O Holy Night continuously from Thanksgiving till Christmas and never grow tired of it!  Oh, this song brings me to tears as we hear the chorus, "Fall on your knees, hear the angels voices, oh night divine, the night, that Christ was born!  This song touches all the bases and is not theologically light in the loafers. 
     2)  Hark the Herald Angels Sing is simply one cascading truth of Christ after another until you are overwhelmed with the truth of the Gospel and the glory of God.  There is almost everything you need to know about the Gospel, in an abbreviated format of course, in this amazing hymn.  Feast on this: "Hail the heav'n born Prince of Peace!  Hail the Sun of righteousness!  Light and life to all he brings, Ris'n with healing in His wings.  Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.  Hark! the herald angels sing, 'Glory to the newborn King."  Staggering.  All of this in a 3 minute hymn.  Man, they don't write them like that too often.
     3)  My favorite newer song is Mary Did You Know.  This is kryptonite to the Catholic soul.   This is one of the most intensely personal songs yet not drippy in its sentiment like so many songs slip into.  Once again, this song is draped with staggering theological truths:  "Mary did you know that this child you delivered will soon deliver you?"  This one was not endorsed by the Pope for sure.  Even more: "The sleeping child you're holding is the great I Am."  An absolutely staggering picture of the the Incarnation, God coming as a man, even a little baby.  He condescended to become one of us so we could be one day have His righteousness imputed to us and God would see His beloved Son when He gazed at us!  He became one of us so the Father would see Him instead of us.  What a mystery, how amazing, it makes me hunger for Him!
    God bless you all and learn, live and love the Gospel.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Get the Desires of Your Heart

"Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart," Psalm 37:3-4.
     Everywhere you turn in the evangelical world, you see/hear them, "Give a tithe every week for 7 weeks and if the Lord doesn't bless your socks off, I'll give you the Lord's money back!  Or, 'just give x amount of your income and expect God to give you back more than you can imagine.'"  There are infomercial hucksters in every corner of the Christian world nowadays that would make a snake oil salesman blush.  We can easily spot the TD Jake's, Benny Hinn's and Ed Young Jr.'s for what they are though.  What about the run of the mill teaching that is prevalent in the Church that intimates God will bless you materially/personally if you are just obedient enough to Him?
     How many times have you heard someone teach that Christ can heal your marriage, your finances, your relationships or hang ups?  God certainly can and may do these things.  He has done some of these things in my life.  Even more, God does want you to seek Him in and through all of these issues, yet the modern approach to ministry, which I believe can be aptly described as moralistic therapeutic deism(Christian Smith coined this term), goes about this in a completely man centered/anthropological fashion.  Wise men once wrote, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."  The mtd approach, seeks to use God insofar as He can help us.  He is a tool to fix our ails, to help us find our significance, purpose or wild heart.  We have issues, so does everybody, so we appeal to them not with the Gospel that confronts our sin and need for repentance in the face of a holy God who sent His Son to die for our sins.  No, the unbeliever is assured that God loves them and that they really need to ask for His help.  He is not angry with their life of willful disobedience and rejection of Him, He just wants to help them with their drinking problem or get them out of bankruptcy and show them financial peace.
     This approach is widespread and deadly.  Too often the unbeliever is never confronted with their evil heart and its attitude towards God.  They begin to follow a bunch of wonderful, biblical advice and their lives change for the better. They may stop accruing debt, stop looking at pornography or they may treat their wife as a precious vase and listen to her more intently.  This is all wonderful and good. There is much wisdom to live according to biblical precepts and we should never belittle them but this is not the Gospel.  We must never confuse good counsel with life saving medicine.  We must never confuse law and Gospel.  That is what so many purpose driven/seeker sensitive teachers have been doing for thirty or more years now and it has made a wasteland of the evangelical church.  It is a form of the Galatian heresy that seeks to bind men to rules and regulations that they can follow instead of unleashing the truth of the Gospel on their hardened hearts.  People find that they can follow these rules and it improves their lives and they find a place where they meet others with the same issues.  Yet they have not repented of their sin and they may be twice as much a son of Hell as before!  The slow doses of poison they have been fed may have built up an immunity against the true Gospel.
     It is interesting that Jesus essentially paraphrases the Psalmist, "If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it will be done for you," John 15:7.  Our joy is in the Lord.  We love what the Lord loves and hate what he hates.  We do not follow the word of God to get God's favor, we follow His word because we love Him and we thirst for Him as a deer pants after water.  As we dwell in His pasture and feed on His goodness, He works on our heart and our relationships change, our attitudes change and our lives are transformed.  We love people and minister to them because of Him.  We enjoy Him, regardless of circumstance, and grace pours through us and people are drawn to Him.  All of a sudden, we find that He is giving us the desires of our hearts.  Friends, whether or not our we have perfect marriages, debt free finances or addiction(sin, lol) free lives, our delight needs to be in the Lord.  Job is a good lesson for all of us when he said, "The LORD gave and the Lord took away, blessed be the name of the LORD."  Can you say that?  Can you delight yourself in Him, no matter what?  Brothers and sisters, let's abide in Him, the true vine and learn, live and love His Gospel.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Deception of Vain Philosophy and the Traditions of Men

"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ," Colossians 2:8.

     A little over 100 years ago, the Freudian revolution swept through the western world, promising to replace the so called myths and superstitions of Biblical thought with a new understanding.  The new revolution promised a revival of empowerment through the wisdom of men by exploring the mind, the psyche and the emotions, unshackled from the supposed tyranny of revealed, God given truth.    The new priests would be psychiatrist's schooled in phrenology, medicine, eastern/pagan traditions and they would emancipate us from our shame and empower us.  We would be free and not held bound by superstition.  Well, how has that worked for us?  We live in a day and age where everything is a disorder, disease or phobia.  We allow doctors to prescribe drugs for disorders which cannot even be detected physiologically.  Our emancipation has closed in on us and we are boxed in all sides.  We cannot run in any direction from the onslaught of ism's and phobias.  We are all nuts now!
     While this has happened in the wider world, Christendom is slowing succumbing to the same madness.  There are two places at least where this has happened: scoffing at a literal six day creation which is clearly laid out by Moses and in the issue of what is called, the synoptic problem, specifically concerning the order of the Gospels.  I think the issue concerning creation is of far more importance and is a hill I am will to die on, but I have dealt with this issue before.  The second issue is the one that concerns me today and is important but not something to be dogmatic about.
     It has been postulated in the last 100 years especially, that the order of the Gospels in the New Testament is not the real order of their origin.  Most, even evangelical scholars, believe that the correct order is not Matthew then Mark and then Luke and John but more like Mark, Luke, Matthew and John.  They base this on their belief that the internal testimony of the Gospel's indicates that Mark was written first.  One of their main evidences is that Matthew and Luke contain almost everything in Mark.  They also believe that Mark is shorter which is evidence that it is sort of a blue print, a template for the other Gospel writers to expand upon.  It is not my intention to dig deep into this argument and it is more complex than all that I have presented here but my issue is this: why do we believe that scholars who lived 1800-1900 years after the Gospels were written are authoritative over the men who were first hand witnesses and/or within a couple of hundred years of their writing?
      I believe that this is an example of vain philosophy polluting the scholarship of the Bible and specifically the New Testament.  For example, I was reading through the account in Matthew concerning the paralytic who was healed and forgiven by Jesus.  Matthew's account was sparse and does not include the rich imagery and details that the Gospel of Mark does.  Matthew does not mention the friends of the man in a personal way as Mark does.  Matthew does not share how they lowered the man through the roof nor how crowded the house was that Jesus was preaching in.  It would seem that, if anything, Matthew's account was a blue print/template for Mark's richer and fuller account.  This would place Matthew back into his place, historically speaking.  I just find it hard to believe a bunch of pointy headed scholars, two millenia removed, have a better understanding of the proper sequence of the Gospel's than the men who were there(or far closer to there) at the time!
     The passage in Colossian's, quoted above, explains how we are to be rooted in Christ and the doctrine of His word.  We are to subject all of our thoughts and philosophies to the Gospel of Christ, His word, and allow our thoughts to be sifted out if they are not obedient to Christ.  Furthermore, verses 9 and 10 of Colossians 2 tells us of our immense wisdom and power in Christ!  We are not dependent on every silly whim of man regarding either the things in the wider world like phsycotherapy nor the intrusion of vain traditions into the study of our beloved word.  "We must take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ" as Paul told the Corinthians.
     I will wrap this up with a quote from John MacArhtur, "The traditional view that the Gospel writers were inspired by God and wrote independently of each other-except that all three were moved by the same Holy Spirit- remains the only plausible view."  Good words from Pastor John, now, lets learn, live and love the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Outrage at Child Rape is Dependent Upon a Biblical Worldview

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around  his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea," Matt. 18:6.
     The events that have transpired this week at Penn State University have caused much outrage and stirred much discussion.  A lot has been written about this horrific, alleged tragedy but there is one area that I have not seen given much if not any analysis and I will focus my attention on it.  In this area of the world, the Omaha/Lincoln Nebraska area, we have a radio celebrity who often likes to claim that, "you cannot legislate morality."  This comment is self refuting, ridiculous on its face, yet this host has been outraged by the alleged immorality of many of the people involved in the Penn State fiasco.  My point is this: his outrage must be based almost completely on the foundation of a Biblical worldview.  It is only supportable from the presupposition that child rape/molestation/pedophilia is wrong.  This my friends, is not a universal belief among the cultures/religions of the world.  In fact, it is an anomaly as we take even a cursory look at how most cultures view this detestable practice.
     "He(prophet Muhammad) stayed there two years or so and then he married Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consummated that marriage when she was nine years of age," Bukhari vol. 5 book 53, ch. 43, no.236, pg. 153.  It is uncontroversial outside the western world among Sunni Muslims that Muhammad married(you can't marry a six year old!) a six year old girl and had sex with her at nine.  This is child rape and Muslims around the world practice this in many Muslim countries and export it to the west.  They follow their leader.  The Koran also instructs instances where child rape is allowed.  Lest we impugn only Muslims, we must concede that pagans around the world have little to no issue with this practice.  I recently read an account of a Nobel prize winner partaking in the pleasures of little boys as was the practice in the pagan land he was living in.  The comments on the blog were indicative of a relativistic understanding of law and many commenter's considered the issue of child rape to be a cultural issue.  I was always struck by the undercurrent of child perversion found in Greek mythology as well when I studied it in high school for mythology contests that I used to study for and enter.  Even in my pre Christian days this habit for child molestation by the Greek gods deeply troubled me.
     As Christians, we must point out the hypocrisy of those who claim to not want to, "legislate morality" and then get outraged at "immoral behavior".  It seems they want to "legislate moronity" instead.  It is a sin against God to rape a child.  It is a sin, period, to have sex outside of marriage and raping a child certainly falls well within this construct.  The Old Testament teaches us this much and it is amazing how relevant our culture can be to the Word of God when we just take a moment to ponder where we get these ideas about morality/immorality. 
     This is where the law and the gospel are so important.  Romans 1 tells us that people are without excuse, wherever they are, they have knowledge of right and wrong.  We must never tire of standing up for God's law and not allowing foreign ideologies to give outrage at sins that fall inside the parameters of their licentiousness.  We must call them on their hypocrisy, share with them their sinfulness and evil and direct them to the perfect One who fulfilled all of the law that they have flaunted all their life.  We must tell them that they have to surrender themselves to Him whom they have pierced and repent of their old way of life.  Oh, we must always live in light of His glorious gospel and be generous in proclaiming it upon every occasion wherever we go.
     Friends, lets learn, live and love the Gospel.