Saturday, June 27, 2009

Isolate and Destroy

The tales of two politicians who are professing Christians yet engaged in extra-marital affairs have one thing in common: personal isolation. From what I have read in news accounts, it appears that Nevada Senator John Ensign's wife would not join him in Washington, D.C. This in no way excuses Ensign's behavior, yet it is possible that her presence with her husband could have averted the situation. Either she should have joined him in Washington, or to safeguard his marriage, he should have either removed his mistress from his staff or resigned his office. Mark Sanford sought isolation to act in secret. He often told his staff and security detail to remove themselves from his presence. Different circumstances, but the same strategy of the enemy of our souls. Our enemy tries to isolate us from accountability to others, or make it appear that we are out of sight of scrutiny, and then we feel free to engage in whatever secret sin we have been indulging in in our thought life. All Christians can seek accountability partners, even politicians. In their case, they should agree to have Christians on their staffs to help protect them from the snares of the enemy. The politician ought to agree that these staff members ought to report to someone in the Church whether or not personal accountability is being maintained and if it is not, at some point, this failure ought to be made public. Does this sound practical or not? I hate to say it, but I have been a Christian for 23 years and 95% of my attempts to seek accountability partners have failed. Almost all the people who I have approached have refused. Right now, I have no such person to keep me accountable. This does not speak well of the present Church.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Post # 150: Passing on a Heritage: A Father's Day Sermon

Originally Published on 6/15/08

Watching television one day, I saw a news story on Steve Forbes; Forbes was running for President that year. Part of the story featured a party for friends on the Forbes yacht. One would think that multi-millionaire (or billionaire?) Forbes would hire the best in terms of food and service. Yet who waited on the guests? All five Forbes daughters, from the oldest to the youngest (who was not yet a teenager). The reporter asked the girls whether or not they resented waiting on guests. Not one complaint. The older girls comment was that they had been performing this task for as long as they were able. In other words, from an early age, these girls were trained to forget their wants and wishes for an evening to serve others.

Hearing their answer reminded me of Communist China's Chairman Mao's assertion: "Give me a child at five and he is mine forever." Twentieth century communists knew this principle well. Whenever they gained control of a nation, they took children away from parents living in the conquered territory. These children would be indoctrinated into communist thinking so that they would no longer identify themselves with the culture they were born in, but they would think of themselves as communists. The rationale for this was to prevent the conquered nation from even wanting to throw off the yoke of oppression once the next generation came of age. Also, the communists wanted to identify the best and brightest of these children so their talent could be denied to their homeland and people. This tactic was not invented in the twentieth century; it is as old as man, and we can see this tactic employed by Israel's conquerors in the Old Testament.

In Daniel 1:1-8, we can read that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, captured Israel after God gave it into his hands. The King ordered a portion of Israel's young male population to be brought to Babylon. Who were the males the King was seeking? "...young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans." (Dan. 1: 4) These young males went through three years of training so that they would be able to serve the King. They were given Babylonian names so that they would lose their Hebrew identity. Four young Israelites, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were renamed Belteshezar, Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-Nego. (Dan. 1: 5-7)

The Babylonians were purposeful in their attempts to remake Israel's youth into Baylonians. But Daniel had purposed in his heart not to participate in training that dishonored God and His Law, risking death for his obedience to God. (Dan 1:8) Where did this courage originate from? Fortunately, Daniel's parents were just as purposeful as the Babylonians in training a child. The most quoted Old Testament scripture in Ancient Israel was Deut 6:4-12 :

"Hear O Israel:The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. So it shall be when the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant-when you have eaten and are full-then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."

This verse taught the Israelites to engage in purposeful child-training. Children were to be taught from an early age the Law of God. Daniel would not have known that the training the Babylonians were going to subject him to (Dan 1:5) violated God's Law for Israel if his parents had not taught him what is lawful. But God didn't expect Israel to learn His Word for the sake of knowledge only. The knowledge was a guide to action and attitude, that no matter what circumstances Israelites would find themselves in, they would never forget to honor and obey God and His Law. (Deut 6:12)

The world understands the value of this principle, the purposeful training of its children. The Church ignores this principle to its detriment, placing the next generations of Christians in danger of losing their souls. The goals parents should strive for are set by God and He has outlined the goal and how to achieve it in His Word. His Word is not just knowledge we are to know and teach. The Word is to guide our actions. The book of Proverbs was not just helpful advice on how to get along; Proverbs teaches us how to engage in SKILLFUL LIVING, the way to become what God wants us to be in a hostile world. When we train ourselves and our children in God's ways as outlined in His Word, when we do this IN FAITH, the Holy Spirit transforms us and our children and empowers us to live a life that pleases God.

We can see this principle work in the family of John the Baptist. Luke 1:6 tells us that his parents, Zacharias and Elizebeth, "...were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Both certainly felt honored when God chose them to produce the one who would be the long prophesied herald of the Messiah. However, their son would just be the herald; he would one day be overshadowed by the one he proclaimed to the world. Yet the scriptural evidence indicates that neither parent felt any jealousy toward the one their son would be a herald for. When Elizebeth was visited by Mary, the mother of the Messiah, this was her reaction:

"Now Mary arose in those days and went to the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizebeth. And it happened, when Elizebeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizebeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke with a loud voice and said, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the MOTHER OF MY LORD (capital letters added for emphasis) should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.' " (Lk 1:39-45)

Had not Elizebeth walked blameless before the Lord, then she might have reacted differently to Mary's greeting. She could have thought to herself, "I have walked blameless before the Lord all these years; I am the wife of a priest! Yet my offspring must serve the child of a young girl who has not yet been married? This is not fair!" But since she walked all those years before God blameless, she became one who wanted what God wanted to come to pass. She had no envy of her young cousin or her unborn child. Neither did her husband, Zacharias. In Lk 1: 76-79, the father of John the Baptist celebrated the son's mission to herald the Messiah. The focus of his words were on Jesus' mission of saving mankind from their sins. Again, there was no envy in the father of John:

"And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our way into the feet of peace."

As both Zacharias and Elizebeth walked before the Lord blameless, so they trained their son to do the same. When he undertook his mission, he was followed by crowds. He was the son of a priest. He was older than his cousin, Jesus. There were no question about who John's father was. Yet when he saw the Spirit descend like a dove and remain on Jesus, John declared for all to hear: "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29) When Jesus began to gain more followers than John, John felt no remorse, envy, or jealousy. "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn 3:30) John was truly more than the physical son of his parents; in that he followed the way in which they had trained him, he was their spiritual heir as well.

The same dynamic of training and obedience in Gods Word leading to Holy Spirit formation and transformation is available to all of Christ's followers and their families. God doesn't just hope we seek this dynamic, He demands it of us, both as disciples and as parents, training our children to be disciples. Both parents are important, but on this Father's Day, this message is for you fathers. Your importance in forming your child's spiritual development cannot be over estimated. Studies show that if a father refuses to attend Church, that father's children will likely follow his example, even if the mother does attend and bring the children when they are young. Some Christians think the Evangelical Church has been looking inward at the expense of the rest of the world through the Church's focus on fostering healthy, two parent families. Yet it is the two parent family that brings the stability that makes the ills of society less likely to occur. Government programs have fostered a culture of "fatherlessness" and have caused society much pain and instability. It is interesting that some within the Church have condemned movements such as Promise Keepers for creating a "militant male" syndrome among Evangelical men. Yet these groups want nothing more than for fathers to fulfill the role ordained for them by God.

Fathers, if you will learn and obey God's Word, and if you will raise your children to not only know Scripture but follow its commands, DOING ALL IN FAITH, then your children will rightly consider you one with that "cloud of witnesses" Hebrews 12:1 speaks of, whose example inspires all of Christ's disciples to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12: 1-2)

(All Quotes from Scripture are from the NKJV)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Morning Devotions

Jn 7: 1-9 "After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for he did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, 'Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that you are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.' For even His brothers did not believe in Him. Then Jesus said to them, 'My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. You go up to this feast, for my time has not fully come.' When he had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee." (NKJV)

At first glance, this may seem to be an odd passage to choose for a devotional piece. Yet reading this passage one day, the truth that God can transform anyone was brought home to me again. And what does this passage have to do with God transforming lives?

This passage states that Jesus avoided Judea because of threats against His life. Yet His own brothers, who did not believe in Him, encouraged Him not only to travel there, but to show Himself openly. Surely they were not ignorant about threats to their brother's safety in Judea. They had to know what would happen if He did as they suggested. If this was indeed the case, then why did they want to place their own brother in jeopardy?

It would not have been easy being the brother of Jesus. After all, Jesus did indeed testify against the world, that its deeds were evil. He labeled the religious establishment "a brood of vipers." He chased the money changers out of the Temple. He healed on the Sabbath. He claimed the Father and He were one. For these things, the religious leaders sought to kill Him. The Pharisees in Jerusalem sent out agents of inquiry to question Jesus Himself. Surely they must have investigated His family as well. This must have put pressure on His brothers. After all, being a relative of one labeled a threat to the establishment could make one feel threatened. Fear can cause relatives to turn on each other. If the brothers of Jesus could permanently remove Him from the scene, their lives would have not only returned to normal, but they could have gained the favor of the religious leaders. So they tried to convince Jesus to expose Himself to mortal danger.

This is speculation to be sure. Yet I believe that even though the text does not explicitly declare the brothers' intentions were murderous, nevertheless, their murderous intentions are strongly implied. Just think of it. Christ's brothers were closer to Him in terms of blood than Judas, yet they were as ready to deliver Jesus to His enemies as Judas was.

Yet also think on this. The very same brothers who wanted Jesus dead were with their mother Mary and the Disciples praying in the Upper Room, praying with one accord after their brother's Ascension. (Acts 1:14) And at least two of those brothers, James and Jude, not only became disciples of Jesus, but shepherds of the Church flock, writing pastoral advice that would one day become part of God's Word. James, who once felt the pressure from being the brother of Jesus, would counsel others on how to endure trials and temptations as a follower of Jesus. And Jude, in his magnificent benediction, could write of Christ's ability to present His followers faultless before the Father. After all, his own brother lived in his own heart through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This indwelling transformed Jude from a fearful brother into a faithful follower. And Christ, if He lives in you through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, can transform you as He did His own brothers. That is, if you exercise your faith to let Him transform you.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Clouds Of Witnesses: The Church Under Communist Domination

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This is a review of "The Gospel's Triumph Over Communism" by Michael Bourdeaux. Time: 7min., 56 sec. You will hear a couple coughs as I am getting over a cold. Audio entries do save time, yet my entries are still a bit awkward. From now on, even if the posts are not written down beforehand, I need to practice the delivery before I record the entry.

"Clouds of Witnesses" in the title above refers to a continuing series on this blog focused on the Church under persecution and biographies of saints past and present. It doesn't appear as much as it should, however, that is going to change. Soon articles will appear on such Christians as Brother Yun, Watchman Nee, David Wilkerson, Ann Judson, John Wesley, John Fletcher, Henry Martyn, Amy Charmichael and Phoebe Palmer, among many others.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Video Confession

Click here and listen to the confession of Dr. Bernard Nathenson, the last surviving founding member of The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). This video demonstrates that even the most committed pro abortionist can change his/her mind.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Monday Morning Devotions

Ps. 34:17- "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles."

From the beginning of time, man has thought of God as residing somewhere so far away from mankind that it is inconceivable God (or the gods) could know about the distresses of earth's inhabitants. Nor would the mysterious deity care what happens to individuals; a mere man or woman would be so insignificant to this deity that it would not care if they perished in their personal turmoil.

This is not so with the Triune God. Jesus said that not a sparrow falls to the ground unless the Father allows it to happen. Jesus assures us that if the Father is mindful of the sparrows, then the Father will watch over us. "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of of more value than many sparrows." (Matt. 10: 30-31) Think how LIBERATING it was to those in the ancient world who first believed in the God that both HEARS AND DELIVERS! At best, their old gods were supposed to act in way beneficial to their worshippers when their worshippers performed the correct rituals or said the exact right words. The words or rituals were meant to manipulate the gods to do what their worshippers wanted them to do. Still, there was no guarantee that the gods would listen and come to the worshippers' aid. This created a life of fear and doubt among those worshippers. But when these same worshippers discovered the true God, the God they could place their trust in, they gladly cast off the life of ritual and fear.

Still, even those who profess to believe in the one true God can still treat God as if He can be manipulated. When in trouble, they believe that just the verbal act of calling on His name will cause God to act on their behalf. Yet read Ps 34:17 again. The Lord does not just act on behalf of anyone who calls upon His name; He acts on behalf of those who are righteous. Verse 18 states that He is near those who have a broken heart and contrite spirit (the repentant ones, the humble ones). In other words, only to such people does God manifest His presence, only such people will experience His deliverance. Those that do evil, God will turn His face from them. (Verse 16) Earlier in Psalm 34, God paints a picture of what righteous conduct looks like: those who keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit. (Verse 13) In other words, those who obey God's commands experience deliverance. Not the ones who use God's name as a magical incantation. Jesus delivered this very same message to His followers: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of MY Father in Heaven." (Matt. 7:21) The Lord will deliver all those who call out IN FAITH IN HIS NAME. If God delivers you, then you are undoubtedly one of the righteous ones. You are an obedient child of the Father and you have faith in His character that He will deliver you as He promised in His Word.
(All scripture quotations are from the NJKV)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Global Christianity

The following are agencies that I find worthwhile to follow in ascertaining whats going on with the Church world wide:

Center for the Study of Global Christianity.
Operation World.
U.S. Center for World Missions.
Open Doors.
Voices of the Martyrs.
Lausanne World Pulse.
The Christian Telegraph
China Aid
Rainbows of Hope

I would like to include individual missions organizations in which many of my friends belong, but some of these agencies deal with high security risk regions, so reluctantly, these will not be listed.

Other sites of Interest:

The Center For Early African Christianity
All India Christian Council
Centerpoint International : Focusing on the African nation of Liberia.
Here are some excellent secular resources:
BBC News.
Christian Science Monitor.
Hudson Institutes Center For Religious Freedom
Freedom House

This list shall be periodically updated.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Brothers And Sisters In Need

Dr. Andrew Jackson posted this one sentence article on his blog, , on May 17th:

"By 2025, 70% of all Christians will lack access to basic needs of food, water, shelter and medical care (Source: )