Shepherds and Sheep

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? “Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.

Ezekiel 34:1–24, ESV

Ezekiel was a Priest in Judah and was carried off into exile by the Babylonians. Let’s clear up something from the start. Prophets spoke the Word of the Lord to the people of God. Sometimes this Word spoke of future things, as is evident in the above passage. But the Word given had to do with present circumstances. The Lord speaks to Judah through Ezekiel explaining why he has allowed the Babylonians to defeat them, destroy the Temple and Jerusalem, and carry them off to a foreign land. The message is clear. Those who were Shepherds over Israel and Judah, those who were leaders of the people, priests and kings, managed things for their own benefit and not for the sake of the people.

Those who are called to lead the people should be considered Shepherds. “Sheep were domesticated in the ancient Near East in 7000 BC. They are mentioned more than any other livestock in the Bible, indicating their economic importance as a source of food, wool, and hide. With the primary responsibilities of leading and protecting their flock, the occupation naturally lent itself as a symbol for those in leadership and God.(Matthew Montonini, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, 2016.) This description is important because the role of a shepherd was one of self-sacrifice for the sake of the sheep. The reason the “sheep” of Judah are in exile is because their shepherds failed miserably at their jobs. Furthermore, the job of a shepherd was God ordained. Priests were appointed by God from the time of the Exodus. Aaron was the first and the Levites were appointed for the perpetuation of the office.

The people were not innocent of sin. But the head of the people are those who led them into sin by their own sin. Righteous leaders lead righteously. Sinful leaders lead into unrighteousness. Righteous shepherds lead their sheep to safe and bountiful places. Unrighteous shepherds lead their sheep into unsafe places where the shepherds can feed their gluttony and avarice. Righteous sheep demand righteous shepherds, and when they cannot get them, they have the promise of the Lord that he will be their shepherd.

 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  
 He makes me lie down in green pastures.  
 He leads me beside still waters.  
 He restores my soul.  
 He leads me in paths of righteousness  
 for his name’s sake.  
 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  
 I will fear no evil,  
 for you are with me;  
 your rod and your staff,  
 they comfort me.  
 You prepare a table before me  
 in the presence of my enemies;  
 you anoint my head with oil;  
 my cup overflows.  
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me  
 all the days of my life,  
 and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord  
 forever.  
 Psalm 23, ESV 
 

The requirements of God have not changed. Neither has the promise. Today, we have shepherds who are ordained by God to lead us, protect us, and ensure that we can live as sheep are called to live. The most obvious shepherds are pastors, which title literally means “a helper, or feeder of sheep.” Pastors today are given this title to remind themselves and the people they lead that their role is to help them spiritually and to feed them the whole counsel of God. Though pastors do not literally prophesy, they do fill the role of the ancient prophets by declaring the will of God revealed to us in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. There are two major issues relating to pastors that I have seen today. First, there are pastors who sheer the sheep for their own personal gain. Contemporary media has made this easier for them to do, but it has been an issue from the beginning.

Second, there are sheep who resist the leadership of their good pastors. We all, in a sense, are sheep after this description. I don’t believe there is a Christian alive who has not and who does not resist the will of Christ. Paul presents his case plainly in Romans 7 that we are all trapped in this way. The process of sanctification (the process of salvation) is a life-long journey whereby the Spirit of Christ remakes us into people whose primary existence is to glorify God. However, there are sheep who resist on another level. These are the sheep who sit in the pews (or theater seats) demanding to be entertained, uplifted, and basically made to feel good about who they are. This is NOT the purpose or end of the Gospel. The goal of Christ in his work as our Great Shepherd is to make disciples who will obey all that he has commanded. All those things we want, peace, purpose, joy, pleasure, reside in discipleship. All those things are inward developments of disciples and not outward experiences.

Pastors who work for their own glory and ego, who seek to profit from their position, who seek personal gratification or a desire to “climb the ladder of success,” are Ezekiel 34 shepherds. Pastors who yield to the whims of their sheep, who design their services and their sermons to meet the demands of the sheep in order to fill the pews and grow in status are Ezekiel 34 shepherds. May God forgive me for all of these things, and may his forgiveness allow me to continually amend my service until I recognize my sheep are God’s sheep and not my own, but Christ’s, and that I do not determine what is good for Christ’s sheep, nor do the sheep determine what is good for themselves, but Christ alone is the God Shepherd leading his sheep. As a pastor, I have spent decades aware of the traps of ministry and prayed for the Spirit’s direction and help.

There are other shepherds, though. Every elected and non-elected official in government is a shepherd called and ordained by God. In America, our founding fathers wrote a document outlining the purpose of a righteous government. It is to protect the God given inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. None of these rights can be interpreted in the sense of one person’s rights denying another’s. None of these rights are absolute. Rights bestowed by God demand exercise under God’s rule and law. And, in fact, the drafting of the Constitution of the United States took this declaration very seriously.

Unfortunately, Ezekiel’s description describes many of these leaders and many of the people as well. Even though there are people and leaders who do not believe in Christ (though they may say they do), the end is the same. Evil leaders will receive their due from God. So will evil sheep. In the mean while, it is the work of Christ’s disciples to demand righteous leadership and to hold all government officials accountable to the law of God. It is not godly for the Church to avoid politics and it is ungodly for politicians to deny the Church’s involvement yet use the church to advance themselves. I spoke of the latter previously here. Those who think it is somehow dirty or beneath the Church to bring politics into the pulpit know little about the Word of God.

Every aspect of politics is about morality. Every law passed is a moral decision and demands a moral reaction. Abortion, gender reassignment or choice, discontinuance of capital punishment, taxation, debt forgiveness, capitalism or socialism, government “freebies,” and everything else are moral issues and should be topics for instruction in God’s Law. The character of individuals running for office is also a topic for preaching, if it comes from the perspective of God’s Law Word. I believe care should be taken to make sure any information about a policy or individual is correct is essential, for if it is incorrect, the preacher fails to present God’s Word. However, the unwritten rule that you cannot name names when addressing evil is not God’s rule, as evidenced repeatedly by the Apostle Paul. (There are plenty of ministries that should be called out and identified as contrary to Christ.)

My discussion can go on ad infinitum. And frankly, it should be just a beginning to the Church’s wrestling with the issues in which it finds herself. The bottom line, though, is the hope that Ezekiel gave the people of Judah which remains for us today. God is the ultimate Judge and he has given judgment over to Christ. The ungodly should fear this, and because they don’t, they are fools. The godly do fear this for disciples want nothing less that to be obedient to all Christ has commanded us. These two groups are called by Jesus the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the chaff. Where do I fall in relation to Christ? Where do you?

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A Church?

I confess. I did not watch the Superbowl. I was not tempted to watch the Superbowl. Generally speaking, I do not share the sentiments of the NFL , or most professional athletes, for that matter. I like the sports, but I do not like the pettiness of multimillionaires whining that they don’t get enough play time, make enough money, fail to fulfill their contractual obligations, and the quarterback doesn’t throw me the ball often enough. Its all a little bit phoney to me.

For instance, in football, a human being spots where the ball should be placed, sometimes from some distance away. Yet to determine if it is a first down, sometimes they have to measure to a pole connected to a ten yard chain which was also placed by a human eyeing it to where the ball actually is. Moreover, if the nose of the football comes short of the pole by the smallest of margins, it is not a first down. For me, if your going to eyeball it, then do it, but don’t bring in some kind of measuring system that gives it some kind of objectivity.

This blog post is not about football or professional sports, per se. It is about something that happens because of the Superbowl. The increased importance given to the Superbowl over the past fifty-five years has given us another tradition, Superbowl commercials.

CBS opened the bidding for 30-second commercial spots for Super Bowl 55 at $5.6 million, which was the average cost of the same length advertisement for last year’s game.

https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/super-bowl-commercials-cost-2021/o496m61j4lkn19kxoygv9690a

These commercials are often humorous. They try to be more catchy than normal ones. However, there is a trend that became more the norm than not beginning just a couple of months ago. Commercials right now try to awaken our senses to the need for social justice. Some people have made a joke out of this tendency trying to guess what product is being sold by what is going on in the commercial. Yes, you guessed it, they often fail.

Social justice is an emphasis that will be with us for a long time. My personal problem with those trying to convince me that being white male makes me among the lowest lifeforms on the planet is that by doing so, they perpetuate the same kind of social injustice they are complaining about. All of this is grossly unbiblical. Then again, what does contemporary social justice have to do with the Bible? For instance, Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1, ESV) What does this look and feel like?

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

John 8:3–7, ESV

I am not suggesting that any and all judgments are not to be made. What I do think is that we have no right to judge a human’s soul. Nor do we have the right to harm or kill another human outside of the government acting in accordance with true justice.

Therefore, I submit that modern cries for social justice are from those who should not cast stones because of their own sins. If everyone would observe this principle, there would be room to openly discuss the wrongs and injustices in society and find just answers to deal with them. Our tact now is that those who scream the loudest and the longest get laws passed in their favor. Such laws are often of themselves unjust.

With all of that said, here is my complaint about one Superbowl ad that aired Sunday that baffled me. It is the one where Bruce Springsteen talks about a small church in the center of America (the lower 48). The commercial is a play on our Americanism in an attempt to draw us together. It even ends with the word Re-united States. Why a call for unity? Why now? The clear implication is that now the evil Trump has been ousted, we can re-united and move forward as one nation (under God?). I cry foul. Hypocrisy. Manipulation. And I say that this ad, along with many of the pleas we hear today are not for unity but for uniformity.

Start with this. Why has there been such turmoil for the past four years? Because the Democratic Party acted like a spoiled brat and blocked anything the President tried to accomplish. They tried to void the first amendment right of free speech. They whined that when Trump was elected, the votes were in accurate and the election was stolen. They created a phoney scandal to impeach the President. They supported rioting, violence, and twisted facts into damnable falsehoods. Now that we have a new President, Trumps similar claims are ridiculed and discounted. One news reported did everything he could, badgering his guest Rand Paul into saying there was no fraud in the election.

Paul neither confirmed not denied whether or not there was actual fraud. What he did seek was the right for investigations to take place. The news caster was incensed. Even the courts have ruled there was no fraud he claimed. Paul again tried to bring rationality to the discussion pointing out that the courts refused to hear the cases stating those who brought the suits had no standing. That is far different that proving there was no fraud.

Do I think there was fraud? I personally believe that there is a good chance of fraud in every election since they are conducted by sinners on both sides of the aisle. But again, this is not my point. I want to know how people who saw no problem with defacing church properties, pulling down statues of Christ, and as a mob objecting to everything Christian as racist, can all of a sudden turn to the church as an icon for unifying the currently diametrically opposed sides? Bruce Springsteen can use the most calm and quiet tone in reading his script, but how many times has he been to church in his life? Better yet, has he tried to live a life guided by Jesus Christ and his commands? And what about the others?

How many members of our Federal government regularly attend church? How many take guidance from the Bible? How many seek to have a relationship with godly pastors? I’ll let you answer. As for me, I have a hard time accepting anyone who claims to be a Christian as just and devout who murders unborn babies, who let men play in women’s sports because they feel feminine, or who unjustly enrich themselves. Pastor, church member, non-church member, social justice warrior, whoever, look to the log in your own eye before you try to take the spec out of someone else’s.

The principles of the Constitution of the United States lie squarely upon that which is proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. Free speech is expected to be reasoned speech. Free exercise of religion is expected to be respectful of others who practice a different religion. Freedom of the Press expects that those who report the news report all of the significant facts truthfully without bias. America rests on law that protects everyone’s rights as bestowed by their Creator.

None of what I have written makes any difference for my decision to show the office of President with respect. It makes no difference whether I agree or disagree. I am legally allowed to publish both. However, those who govern are God’s appointed minister’s, and rebelling there (apart from biblical exceptions) is counted as rebellion against God. (Romans 13) But, please do not use the name of Christ or the image of his church as an icon for unity when you are not interested in true unity under Christ Jesus. After all, the commercial (for Jeep, by the way) discounts Catholic, Orthodox, Judaism, Islam, and any other religion not old country church. How unifying is that?

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Filed under Gospel, Love, Racism, Truth, World View

Who Are You?

But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”” (Acts 19:15, ESV)

The answer to the question is of great importance today. Why? Because we are being told that we can be anyone we want to be. We can choose who we are. Unless, that is, we want to defend our choice. Then we can claim we were “born” that way. Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again, but I don’t think he meant that we can choose to be reborn as whatever we want.

Genetic testing has become very popular. You send off a sample and a chunk of change to some lab that will send back to you how much of what area of the world you are from. I have loved watching the You Tube videos of people trembling as they open their results and their sudden dejection in discovering they are primarily European. People want to be African, Hispanic, Asian, anything other than white. White is the new group against which Americans hate. After all, it was whites who enslaved blacks. It was whites who formed America as a racist nation. It is whites who have all the advantages today.

I am white. I am not ashamed of being white. I don’t need a genetic test to prove it. My mother’s parents were born of Norwegian immigrants. After taking a trip to Norway in 2000, I have become rather pleased at this part of my heritage. My father’s parents were born of a long line of English that arrived in America before it was America. I’m happy about that too because my family participated in the American Revolution fighting for liberty. Whether or not any of my relations were involved in the purchase or use of slaves may be a part of my history, but it is not a part of who I am. It is the same about those whose name I bear who courageously fought to form an Independent nation. If I have any courage, it is not something genetically passed to me.

However, because I am white, I am naturally the object of racist oppression. I doubt I need to offer evidence for this because it is freely accessible on the internet, in universities, in news reporting, on television, in professional sports; this prejudicial mantra is everywhere in America. Why, even our Vice President, who is Jamaican/white and Indian claims she is black. One of the candidates for President claimed to be Native American when she was nothing of the sort. And recently, on her AppleTV program, Oprah demonstratively said that if you have any white blood at all, you have an advantage over everyone else. I guess Kamala had an advantage?

Race is not the only place people try to claim what they are not because they are ashamed of who they are. Gender is another. Bruce Jenner decided he was Katlin because he felt that way. He took the ultimate rout undergoing surgery to make his dreams come true. Yet they didn’t. Why is it that genetics matter so much with race but not at all with gender? My education taught me that science was objectively based on controlled experiments consistently producing the same results. Science could be trusted. Weeeelllll – not really. The scientific method can only confirm male and female genders. It cannot confirm any deviation from these two options. That is because there is not other option. Everything passed off today as LGBTQ+ falls under the realm of behavior, not identity. (I know that this is not popular to say, but facts can’t be manipulated in a universe of Truth).

Same sex (meaning gender) marriage is a cultural acceptance of a deviant lifestyle. To make such things culturally good has only two purposes. First, it allows people to do whatever they want and second, it allows them to feel good about it. I have laughed and cried over those who call others who oppose this behavior as haters, Nazis, and Fascists. Then they apply fascist tactics to force them to comply with the new morality. Just ask the baker who was not allowed to practice free enterprise and choice when baking wedding cakes.

Fascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a form of far-rightauthoritarianultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Fascism

…a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascism

The point in all of this is that who you are is not who you choose to be. It is who you are, and no one can claim superiority or inferiority because of it. However, who you are has become confused with what you believe and what you do.

Acts 19 presents the truth. Imposters attempted to advance their reputations and their pockets by attempting an exorcism in the name of “Jesus who Paul proclaims”. There is irony in the fact that it is an evil spirit who calls them out on their charade. “But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”” The exorcists wanted to be something they weren’t. What they missed is that not even Paul claimed any special power. “And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,” (Acts 19:11, ESV). Paul was not performing miracles, God was. Paul knew who he was, a vessel used by God for the establishment and furtherance of the Kingdom of Christ.

What you do comes from what you believe. Despite what the world says, there are only two possible belief systems, faith in Jesus Christ or faith in yourself. The latter, by the way, is what John called anti-Christ. Right now, there are those who object to any white legitimacy and every effort is to gain advantage, power, and control over them. This is racism. And it is the same way many deny Christ. They will do anything to present Christianity as illegitimate, a false religion needing to be expunged from society.

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

1 John 2:18, ESV

Many antichrists had already come in St. John’s lifetime. Many exist today. What a shame when so many people are looking for one individual to call antichrist as a prelude to the end of the world. The end of the world has come. The world that passed away was the world of the Old Covenant. It was replaced with the New Covenant (see Jerimiah 31). The new world is the Kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem. “He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”” (Matthew 13:33, ESV) The Kingdom is being worked by God throughout the world.

Who are you? An enemy of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? or a child of the most high who is blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1)? Remember, even the demons and evil spirits know.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,  
     the world and those who dwell therein,  
for he has founded it upon the seas  
     and established it upon the rivers.  
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  
     And who shall stand in his holy place?  
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,  
     who does not lift up his soul to what is false  
     and does not swear deceitfully.  
He will receive blessing from the Lord  
     and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  
Such is the generation of those who seek him,  
     who seek the face of the God of Jacob. 
                                                                         (Psalm 24:1–6, ESV) 
 

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Narrative

The idea of narrative has become a central focus in politics, social justice, education, and opponents to changing the narrative. What exactly is narrative all about?

NAR´RATIVE, a. [Fr. narratif.] Relating the particulars of an event or transaction; giving a particular or continued account.

Noah Webster, Noah Webster’s first edition of An American dictionary of the English language., 2006.

Narrative relates to story telling. There is a fairly recent school of theology called Narrative Theology. In essence, narrative theologians want to focus on the meaning of the story and not on the particulars. Another way of putting it is, narrative theology does not believe that propositions, principles, or laws should not be deduced from the text. The story of Scripture is to teach us how to have a relationship with God.

Now, there some consequences to changing to a narrative hermeneutic. First is the loss of propositional reasoning and logic, especially in terms of God. It is not so much that God planned to create and then spoke creation. The story of creation is to teach us about living within the creation, living with one another, and living with God. Second, narrative theology has opened the door to individual interpretations of biblical material. There is no absolute truth, only what this means to me. Traditional Bible studies have shifted from discerning what the Word says and how I feel about the text. Much of what is called Spirituality today is a result of this approach. Third, the Word of God ceases to be positive Truth, but all metaphor. If the Bible is narrative, then so is theology, church, and basically traditional Christianity.

The kingdom is explained in metaphors, similes, images, and pictures. It is impossible to put all the images into one simple, rational definition for a dictionary. You can’s codify these descriptions or contain them in a neat box. Jesus’s words point, open, and suggest rather than conclude and define. This idea of the kingdom of God is filled with imprecision that can’t be pinned down; it invites us to risk entering a world we may not be able to control or manipulate for our own needs (like going through the wardrobe into Narnia). This may be frustrating; it may create consternation in those demanding precision; but it invites us to risk having our imaginations invaded by the God who is endlessly elusive. … Scripture does not so much define reality as invite us onto a journey in which we discover the world God is creating. … Entering the missional waters is not about strategies or models; it is about working with the currents that shape our imagination of what God is doing in the world.

Roxburgh, Alan, and Boren, Scott; Introducing the Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Become One; Baker Books, Grand Rapids,, 2009; pp. 38-39.

The above quote is typical of the movement in theology in the 21st century. Traditional interpretation is characterized as simple, uninviting, pinning down God, and manipulative for our own needs. The narrative has already changed because every theologian from antiquity forward has been wrong. In 2015, Tod Bolsinger published a book titled, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territories. Here is how Amazon describes the book (mostly taken from the back cover):

Explorers Lewis and Clark had to adapt. While they had prepared to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean, instead they found themselves in the Rocky Mountains. You too may feel that you are leading in a cultural context you were not expecting. You may even feel that your training holds you back more often than it carries you along. Drawing from his extensive experience as a pastor and consultant, Tod Bolsinger brings decades of expertise in guiding churches and organizations through uncharted territory. He offers a combination of illuminating insights and practical tools to help you reimagine what effective leadership looks like in our rapidly changing world. If you’re going to scale the mountains of ministry, you need to leave behind canoes and find new navigational tools. Reading this book will set you on the right course to lead with confidence and courage.

https://www.amazon.com/Canoeing-Mountains-Christian-Leadership-Uncharted/dp/0830841261

I can barely take missional church language anymore. Narrative has destroyed Truth and reason. How many Presbyterian Churches or Denominations still hold the Westminster standards in high regard. They are in our Constitutional Book of Confessions, but few members have studied them or read them. They aren’t narrative. Of what use is the Heidelberg Catechism or the Belgic Confession if no one teaches them or preaches them any more? It’s ok, though. We don’t need such old, dusty books because we are climbing the mountains without a map and we don’t really know what we get where we are going because we don’t know!

Changing the narrative is how the church has been able to change historic church doctrine. God didn’t really mean homosexuality is an abomination. God loves everyone, and don’t even try to define what that means. God didn’t really become human and the death and resurrection of Christ are just stories. When narrative theology dominates, there is no longer any real meaning to anything. Just go with the flow. It’s ok because we’ll get wherever it is we are going.

When God fails to be the ground of all meaning, there is no ground for any meaning. Lack of meaning in the world results in humans creating their own meaning and where has that gotten us? The world needs a specific, identifiable God. Without him, all we have left are millions of people trying to be god. Are we surprised that our national history is being erased? We can no longer rejoice in the wisdom of the Declaration of Independence because some “god” wrote the “1619 Project,” and it is no longer about facts. It is about the trajectory of America according to “The Fight Over the 1619 Project Is Not About the Facts.”

I remember when the comment, “Don’t confuse me with the facts,” was part of a comedy routine. No longer. We must forget the past and look to the future. And because we are existentialists (actually little gods), we can make it into anything we want it to be. Since there is no absolute God with absolute morality, we can lie, cheat, steal, manipulate, force whoever we want to come out on top and get our way. Don’t worry about some judgment of God after you die; it is only a metaphorical narrative.

So, what do we do? Jump into the river and flow? How can we possibly fight the current political power that is not based upon any facts? The only way Christians are called to respond and called to live. Die loving our enemy. However, the love we are called to is not the romantic ethereal love that makes everyone feel good. We are called to the kind of love any of us would naturally display when we see our three-year-old going into a busy street. Grab them and bring them back.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Jude 20–23, ESV

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…

Ephesians 6:10–18, ESV

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The Law of Laws, part 10 of 10

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Exodus 20:17, ESV

Webster defines the word covet:

1: to wish for earnestly 〈covet an award〉

2: to desire (what belongs to another) inordinately or culpably verb intransitive: to feel inordinate desire for what belongs to another

Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary., 2003.

So, the first thing to note concerning the word covet is that it can be a good sense or it can be in an evil sense. In the Creation story we see it in both uses. When Man is placed in the garden, God’s work is described, “And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:9, ESV) The Hebrew word translated covet in the tenth commandment is here translated “pleasant.” The addition of “good for food” makes us aware that the “pleasant” creation of vegetation is to be desired, even strongly desired.

However, once the first couple are in the garden, they are instructed not to eat of a certain tree. Yet, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6, ESV) Here, the Hebrew word is translated “to be desired.” The problem is, how did Eve know that the tree would make one wise? Only by listening to the chief of liars, the serpent. And here is the conflict. Eve was told she should desire every other plant and tree. But God said not to eat of this one. Who was right, God or the serpent?

Before we answer too quickly, I present this dilemma to illustrate the difference between good coveting and evil coveting. By listening to the devil, Eve began to desire the forbidden fruit. This desire became so powerful that it drove her into action. She ate the fruit ignoring what God had said. If anyone thinks choosing to listen to any voice opposed to God is good, then they are in serious trouble. Someone may say, “But just listening is not really bad.” It is, though, because listening to falsehood plants a seed of desire in one’s heart that will eventually grow into action. So, God commands us to not covet, and he lists a number of things to not desire: anything that belongs to your neighbor.

We may first note that the forbidden fruit of coveting is property. Everyone has a right to their own property. (Do not be confused in regard to a man’s wife. It is not the woman per se that is property but the love and devotion which was vowed to him in marriage.) Unfortunately, the American culture is deeply rooted in coveting. You may not end up actually stealing from your neighbor, but to “keep up with the Jones'” is to covet a lifestyle based not in what is good, but what is mere appearance. The result is often serious indebtedness from which many cannot recover. Yet we approve of this behavior by giving the person in debt and easy out with bankruptcy.

Now, some may think that this is the fault of Capitalism. I think the fault lies within our sin nature, thanks to Adam and Eve. Socialism is the system based on covetousness and envy. No matter how it is presented, the root of socialism is that it is wrong for people to have too much property because then those who are poor will have less. This, then, is second. The desire to have because others have is erroneous thinking. That some people are extremely wealthy and others are not is not the economic system, but only he envious desire to be like the rich. However, it is far more than that because the desire mutates into thinking that says, “If I can’t have what you have, they you can’t have it either.” This results in theft and harm done to your neighbor.

This is exactly the same as our representative parents faced in the garden. If God has it, so should I. A Socialist economy has failed wherever it has been implemented. So why do politicians play the envy card so often? Because if they say it long enough and loud enough, people will begin to believe it. When people believe enough, they elect and re-elect people to office. These elected officials work hard to gain control over you and me. An example? Under the guise of helping the poor, they decide to redefine healthcare. Now, in principle, no one should be turned away from the care they need because they don’t have the money to pay the bill. Everyone must have the same access to healthcare. So now, the government controls what healthcare costs and who can receive what care.

Third is that Socialism is founded on a wrong view of wealth in the world. The presupposition is that there is only so much wealth in the world and everyone deserves equal access to that wealth. On the face of it, such an idea seems wrong. How can it be that there is more wealth in America today than there was 100 years ago? In contrast, a free market allows anyone access to wealth and the world will not run out of it. The issue comes when the conditions to gaining wealth in a free market are more stringent than in Socialism. To get rich takes diligence over sloth, work over sitting around in a city park spending the free money that is handed out on liquor, Cigarettes, and drugs.

I do not deny that there are people who have become trapped in the endless cycle of addiction, mental illness, physical limitations, and more. All of these people and more need help, but that is where charity (not charities) comes in. How can real charity be done when one third or more of your income is taken by the government and redistributed to the “needy” without accountability? Giving money is not charity. Giving life is, and that can only be accomplished through building authentic relationships with others. The good Samaritan knew that there was no government program that would take care of the wounded stranger. He knew that he had to act. Nobody forced him into it. And the money the Samaritan used to care for the man was not watered down by government administrative costs, corruption, or just plain waste. All that he gave was useful and effective.

As I mentioned earlier, power and control are the name of the game. The government forces control over you by claiming your property for “the common good.” The government wants control over how much you earn and how much they take from what you earn. The government lays claim to all of your property, all in the name of “the common good.” How does the government create a populace willing to accept this illegitimate right of theirs? Covetousness.

Covet that which is good. What is good? There is only One, Jesus Christ, the Word of God. Covet a righteous relationship with him.

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The Law of Laws, part 9 of 10

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Exodus 20:16, ESV

The big question I have with this commandment is, what does it mean? Is it only in reference to my neighbor? Or, its it about lying in general? Years ago, when I attended a Christian College, we had a required course where the textbook was “Situation Ethics,” by Joseph Fletcher. It has been a long time since I read the book, but what I remember most is that Fletcher attempted to define ethics in terms of the context and that there are no absolute values.

WEEELLLL – not really. For Fletcher, there is one moral absolute, namely, that of brotherly love. Even my uneducated mind recognized the moral relativism being applied to God and the Bible. However, like all claims to moral relativity, there is still a need for at least one absolute. Fletcher chose for his absolute brotherly love, a very Christian sounding ideal. But what exectly is brotherly love? How do you define brotherly love (yes, I recognize that in today’s language this is misogynistic)? Jesus made very clear who our brother is in the parqable of the good Samaritan. Yet, pinning down a definition for love is much more difficult.

You may be thinking, “What does this have to do with the nineth commandment?” I suggest that the greatest violation of this commandment is the way love has been defined as social justice, and that Jesus’ ministry was all about social justice. This interpretation of the gospels is a good example of eisegesis (reading a passage in terms of a preconceived position). And I propose that interpreting Jesus’ ministry this way is bearing false witness against him.

The only one who has a right to interpret Jesus’ ministry on earth is Jesus and the Father. Jesus performed many acts that we might consider as examples of brotherly love. Take healing, there are many who would say this is what Jesus meant by love. Such people carry over that idea to universal healthcare. In other words, if we want to love like Jesus loved, we need to have those who have money use it for those who do not. The same goes for the homeless and hungry poor people. Now, I am NOT suggesting that we don’t have a responsibility to help where we can. But the good Samaritan did not have someone force him to help the injured man. No one said he had to pay for a night’s lodging. The good Samaritan was good because he chose to get involved.

There are other problems with the false rendering of Christ’s earthly ministry. Jesus did heal many people. However, he did not heal every sick individual. Nor did he every say that if individuals would not be charitable, that they should be forced to be charitable by taking their money or property to provide for these needy people. In truth, the exact opposite is the case. In Matthew 25, at the end of the chapter, Jesus speaks of the judgment to come. At that time he said he would divide all humanity into two groups, the sheep and the goats. What was the basis of this division and the final estate of each group? The willful choice of the individual to be charitable to those in need.

I do not believe that forcing people to be charitable is real charity. As history has shown, all of the programs the govenment has established to heal the sick, house the homeless, or feed the poor have only created more people who are sick, more people who live on the streets, ans more hungry people. Therefore, to say that Jesus was a social warrior by our terms and definitions results in bearing false withness against him.

How many Evangelical churches have changed the gospel into some kind of justification of forced charity? I will not judge, but Jesus will. And, I can point to a passage that denies that Jesus came to help the poor, etc. John six relates the event where Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 people by the Sea of Tiberius. After the meal, the people with full stomachs sought to make him king.

So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

John 6:13–15, ESV

To say he was the Prophet was to identify him as the Messiah. In this judgment, they were correct. So why did Jesus depart and go to the mountains by himself? Because he did not come to fill bellies. He came for a very different reason.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16, ESV

Jesus is the Christ. But the role of the Messiah was not to rule by might, but to save by his sacrifice. When the twelve disciples bickered about who will be the greatest in the Kingdom, Jesus recognizes that they have the wrong idea of his Kingdom. Using a child, he taught that the one who is like a little child shal be the greatest. He was speaking of humility. Before Pilate, Jessus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The issue centers around Christ’s mission to die for the sins of his people and to establish the seeds of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Until we can learn the humility that Jesus spoke of, until we quit trying to define Christ, we will violate the nineth commandment. Situation ethics or not, submission to the truth of Christ and the truth of the Word, do we really need to ask other questions. And, by the way, love is defined in both Old and New Testaments by obedience to the commandments.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth...and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

1 John 3:8, 18, 22-24

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The Law of Laws – Thou shalt not steal, reprise

Having spent a week reflecting on the 8th commandment, I think I have more to say. I hope it is not a waste of time.

Many years ago, I would watch “judge” shows. I know, they may be real cases but there is nothing on TV that is not in some way fake. Nevertheless, there is one episode that has stuck in my mind and I cannot let go of it. Judge Joe Brown was explaining ownership to a defendant by saying that you (in the broad sense) don’t own your car. The pink slip is nothing more than permission for you to use that car exclusively. I have some problems with this.

First, if I don’t own my car, why am I paying so much money to the bank every month? Why do I have to have insurance? I pay an annual licensing fee to use the vehicle on public roads, but aren’t those other things the responsibility of the owner?

Second, if I don’t own my car, who does? If anyone has trouble answering this question, let me give you a clue; it is the government. I believe that the changes we are seeing in government these days are because thee governing individuals and groups actually think this way – for us. This is the heart of Socialism. I am not saying that the government does not have the right to levy certain types of taxes. We do have to pay for things we want like police (though it seems that is on the chopping block), fire departments, rescue, and paramedics. However, the thing I want to take issue with is the arrogance of local, regional, state and Federal government all operate on the principal that the government owns everything, and we own nothing.

Think about it. How many people have turned down a pay raise because moving up to the next tax bracket would mean that getting the raise, they take home less than they had been. Who can do remodels on their house without having to get multiple permits from multiple agencies. Where I live now, if you want to build on your land, you have to pay for someone to come out and see if you have a certain bush growing anywhere. Why? Because pocket gophers like those plants and someone decided they were an endangered species. But it is the property that a family purchased. They own it. The true test of ownership is whether you can do what you want with it or not.

This is theft. In these cases, the government steals things you own and holds them for ransom. The list of what we are told we do not own involves land, buildings on the land, income, buying almost anything and again when selling. You get taxed when you live, and heaven help us, you get taxed when you die. Why should anyone benefit from the property someone spent a lifetime to gain other than the heirs? Why does the government think it owns your inheritance? All of this, and more, have been, and continue to be stolen from us. And we have reached a time when at least half of the citizens in the country want the government to take it all because they want the government to take care of them.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

(1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV)

I don’t want to over-generalize things, but I believe most people are willing to work for what they get. And they work hard for themselves and for their families. Children need to be cared for. When to eat, what to eat; when to sleep, how long to sleep, etc. As children grow and mature, they begin to seek more and more independence (however they still want mom and dad to pay for it). Mature women and men eventually leave their homes to make their own way in life. (I am not speaking of going to college because that is quite a sheltered life as well.) This is part of taking responsibility for self, and also for their possessions.

There is a growing desire for the individuals to want the freedom to do what they want, but they want someone else to take the responsibility of taking care of them. We should have seen this coming when we found more and more “kids” living in their parents homes in their twenties and thirties. They are not there to take care of their parents who are by now aging. No, they still want to be taken care of. It’s a scary thought that you need a serious job to pay for your life.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness…If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.

(2 Thessalonians 3:6–11, ESV)

Now is a time that needs mature men and women to stand up and show others how they steal by wanting everything for free. It is time that mature women and men get back to telling our children and our government that there is nothing in this world that is free. Ok, salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ is free to those who are called. Property rights need to be restored so that those who do not work, lose their unpaid for property, but those who do work and pay for their property be allowed to use it in whatever way brings glory and joy to God our Father. It is time that we reclaim the right of our history teaching our children the self-sacrificing act that millions in our country did so we all could claim ownership. Where the commandments are violated, judgment reigns. I think our judgment is that God gives us what we think we want, not what good things he wants for us.

It is a sad state of affairs that so many who recently ran for office sought to win by dividing the people. They won, but we have not lost because Christ is our light, not the government. Change can be accomplished by positive action and loving our neighbor. I may possibly get worse before it gets better, but then that is what todays prophets have been teaching. Poppycock! The Lord God makes things better wherever he reigns. Don’t cry out “Come quickly, Lord” if you cant see that he has come already and he is not coming again until his kingdom is ready to receive him.

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

(2 Thessalonians 3:13–15, ESV)

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The Law of laws, part 8 of 10

“You shall not steal.

(Exodus 20:15, ESV)

If you think about it, theft of some sort is involved in each of the other nine commandments.

  • You shall have no other gods before me. – Theft of God’s place as the only God.
  • You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God… – Theft of God’s rightful worship.
  • You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. – Theft of God’s name (identity, character, nature).
  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…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. – Theft of God’s creation and his rule over it.
  • Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. – Theft of the respect due to those whom God has given authority over you.
  • You shall not murder. – Theft of life.
  • You shall not commit adultery. – Theft of one’s present or future spouse.
  • You shall not steal. – Theft.
  • You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. – Theft of one’s reputation.
  • You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s. – Theft in the heart.

Granted, this is a broad stroke. Yet it does place theft as greater than simply not swiping pencils from work. Stealing is for everyone a difficult sin to break. At work, without even realizing it, we steal our employer’s time with irrelevant conversations that do not enhance our productivity. Maybe you think that is not theft. Instead, it is enhancing the work environement so production may improve with improved moral. Rationalizations like this infect every sphere of our lives. Moral is not about feeling good about where you are and who you are with. Moral in the workforce resutls from “six days you shall labor.” It comes from “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:17.)

Small rationalizations lead to larger ones. In our country we rationalize killing human beings because the “right to choose” is greater than the gift of God in procreation. We rationalize free and uncommitted sex because our fleshly desires are greater than God’s created order. We irrationally rationalize at the end of our public prayer when we say, “May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace, peace in our families, peace across this land, and dare I ask, o Lord, peace even in this chamber. We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘God’ known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.” (see here)

Sorry to characterize this prayer with words I normally don’t like to use, but, it was foolish and stupid. The government of the House of Representatives allowed this man to publicly denounce God and blaspheme his name calling him the “monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘God’ known by many names and many different faiths.” Yes, the is one God. No, he is not Brahma. No, he is not known by many names and many different faiths. The one true God is YHWH. He gave Moses his name to use so that being sent, he was sent with the authority of YHWH. The battle between Moses and Pharaoh was not about the two of them. It was all out war whereby God ridiculed and humiliated the many gods of Egypt, because there is only ONE GOD, the maker of heaven and earth, and ruler of all that is.

Sorry for shouting. I became aware of the prayer’s ending from news outlets criticizing Representative Cleaver’s prayer ending with “Amen, and Awomen.” Ok, that was stupid too. As has been pointed out, the word Amen comes from the Latin? No. It comes from Hebrew:

אָמֵן (ʾāmēn). adv. verily, truly, amen. Used in statements of affirmation in which the speaker accepts the truth of a statement.

Aaron C. Fenlason, Lexham Theological Wordbook, 2014.

It was transliterated in other languages later. Latin came later in history than Hebrew. The issue, though, is not about making a word that has nothing to do with gender into a word that only has to do with gender. Words now do not have meaning. Words mean what we want them to mean when we want them to mean whatever we want them to mean. And if you found that last sentence to be confusing and hard to follow, welcome to America in 2021. You may also reconsider leaving your children in public school.

Theft of a word is embarrassing. Theft of the knowledge of God is damning. I do not really blame our politicians for this hubris. As a pastor, I have lay the blame at the doorstep of the Church. In our culture it is impossible not to hurt someone’s feelings. So we let people believe whatever makes them feel good, and Calling God “Brahma” must feel good. However, no one with any sense or education should be able to see that the God of the Hebrews would have nothing to do with some mythical creature who created Hinduism. I have been to a Hindu Temple and out of respect, I asked the doorkeeper if he objected to a Christian entering the temple. He told me that Hinduism accepts Christianity and that the two are not that different from each other. I wasn’t there to proselytize but to learn, so I let that one go.

Hindus may accept Christians, but only those Christians who are willing to deny their faith and the teaching of Scripture for the sake of getting along and having fellowship. Why has the Church stolen the authority of God’s Word? Words, sentences, paragraphs have been twisted and manipulated the very meaning of God. Culture may change but God does not. He created two genders designed for marriage and procreation. Why is this all of a sudden bad doctrine? Because we don’t want people to leave the church. Parents with openly homosexual children place their need to be loved over and above their call to love.

Many years ago, Keith Green was recorded preaching a sermon. He wanted to illustrate the calling of the Church to evangelize so he asked if anyone present would not stop their child from running onto a busy highway. His point has been lost over the decades. Today, we are telling our children to have fun playing and ignoring the danger to life. If we don’t care, who will?

We are sinners who love to steal. We are sinners who need to repent. There is only one God who is in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You cannot serve him and play with the devil too. The hope our world needs is not feeling better but turning to Christ Jesus. He is not Brahma, and he is not a god known by many names. He is God known to those who bow before his majesty, repent, and seek forgiveness offered through his sacrifice. He may have various names in the Scriptures, but none of them embrace the foolishness we have seen lately.

God, forgive us for trying to steal from you rather than to receive freely what you offer. Amen.

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The Law of Laws – part 7 of 10

“You shall not commit adultery.

Exodus 20:14, ESV

What can one say about the seventh commandment to a world steeped in adultery? The issue goes to the heart of the current view on the law in general. Adultery covers a multitude of sins relating to unfaithfulness. In the Old Testament, God judged Israel for being an adulterous nation.

My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore.

Hosea 4:12, ESV

Reading the prophets, there is no shortage of accusations of adultery. The nation was called the “wife of God.” When the leaders and the people strayed from obedience to God and took up idolatry (with all of its resultant sins), God sought to divorce Israel (not every individual Israelite was adulterous; many lived faithfully as servants of God).

Today, the heart of our nation has become unfaithful to Christ. The church is not excluded from this accusation. What has happened? The beliefs of our founding fathers were rooted in God’s morality as given in his Law. However, the morality of our nation, in general, has been eroded by faithlessness. One of the blows to morality came from Darwin. If man came by chance, and if survival is by the fittest, anything that provides for one’s survival is morally right. For this to occur, Godly morality must be eradicated first. This is precisely what occurred in the early 20th century. Two books by Richard Weikart documents this moral journey: From Darwin to Hitler and Hitler’s Religion.

The move away from a Judeo/Christian morality based on the Scriptures was supposed to be preserved, and our fathers attempted to do this in the Constitution. There are two problems with Constitutional law today. First, many (if not most) of the citizens of the United States don’t know anything about it. The public educational system has failed to teach civics and U. S. history. For example, the only history course I remember from High School was Native American history, and the main text was “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” Worse yet was my college U. S. History course, which textbook listed Gerald Ford as the elected President following the single term of Richard Nixon. Either an error or a bold attempt at revisionism, I would say. Nixon was elected twice, first in 1968 and then in 1972. He did not resign until August of 1974, when his then Vice President, Gerald Ford, became the President.

Ford is the only person to have served as both vice president and president without being elected to either office by the Electoral College.

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Gerald_Ford

The second problem with Constitutional law comes from the way it is interpreted. The founding fathers made it clear in the Declaration of Independence that there was an objective standard for morality (what the law is always about). “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” For them, it was “self-evident” that 1) there was a Creator, and 2) that mankind has been given” “unalienable rights” by the Creator. For them, the government was about preserving those rights for all. This is no longer the case.

Our present legal crisis has its roots in Darwinism’s demolition of natural law. The legal positivists believe that it is impossible to go back to the old eighteenth century belief in Nature as a kind of substitute for God, a Nature with hard and fast laws of its own making. Both reason and experience lead modern thinkers to agree substantially with the present Supreme Court. Law is the developing, intelligent, and reflected experience of the people of the state as expressed through the court.

Rousas John Rushdoony, Law & Liberty, (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2009), 31.

This makes law relative to human experience. Because of this shift in understanding, we have seen the erosion of marriage, family, community, sexual standards (which began with the ease of divorce and adultery), church, and more. The people say children should be murdered, and the court agrees permitting abortion. The people say homosexuality is part of a person’s identity, so the courts order same-sex marriages to be performed. I say “order” because, in our new moral system of law, traditional marriage and traditional family values are forced to support “gay” values even to the degree that the new morality replaces the old. The church has been no help here either. The ordination of openly homosexual individuals to the office of the Word and Sacraments supports the popular view at the expense of Biblical truth.

The pride of Israel testifies to his face; Israel and Ephraim shall stumble in his guilt; Judah also shall stumble with them. With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord, but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them. They have dealt faithlessly with the Lord; for they have borne alien children. Now the new moon shall devour them with their fields.

Hosea 5:5–7, ESV

It is easy to condemn. It is a part of our sinful nature to dwell on the negative. But there is a positive to which we should turn. This is Jesus Christ. We may turn to him in repentance and follow him in full obedience. The nature of discipleship is to be taught “to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:20

Over 50 years ago, Rousas Rushdoony wrote:

Clearly, this is our present direction. The democratic consensus is best known, we are told, by the experts, who can best tell us what we should favor and believe. In short, when we deny God as our God, then we make men gods over us. The answer to natural law and to legal positivism is revelation. “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1).

Rousas John Rushdoony, Law & Liberty, (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2009), 31. (Originally delivered as a series of radio addresses in 1966 and 1967. from the forward)

Our country is in a tough spot because opposing God is a high-risk business. Whether change comes in the form of judgment or slow internal repentance is anyone’s guess. I lean toward the latter because that is what the Church exists to do. When she succeeds, culture flourishes. And she will succeed, for even the gates of hell cannot stop her. Prayer for our leaders is required by God. Living in obedience to God’s law is also required. Yet to live by faith, we are not left alone. The Spirit of Christ rests upon and within every Christian man, woman, and child.

If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.” And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.”

Joshua 24:20–24, ESV

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Peace and Joy

Merry Christmas Eve! and Merry Christmas!

These are words that have been progressively pushed out of our culture. How sad it is that in a land in which so many have lost their lives to purchase the right to speak openly and freely, that the words merry Christmas have become such words of disdain.

The truth is, there would be no holidays if there had not been Holy Days. Our civil calendars have borrowed from the ancient Church calendar celebrating the Christ, Jesus our Lord. The yearly cycles tell the gospel story from a humble birth to a glorious crowning as King of kings and Lord of lords. The world views dominating culture today all take from the truth of Christ and use it for their own ends.

Those who embrace their Creator, his life, death, resurrection, and ascension are, by their faith, declared righteous and promised everlasting life. Why? So the glory of God shines forth as he determined it should through his creation. We human beings are the highest of that creation. This is not because we have earned it or deserved it, but because God ordained it. All who reject their ordained purpose make God a liar and a fraud. He is neither of these things.

Christmas should be merry, full of celebration, and joy. The coming of Christ in the flesh is a momentous event, one that has forever changed the world. To us the change is new. To God it is a change back to the original. However you look at it, giving gifts, eating banquets, decorating festively, and worshipping Christ with joy, music, and laughter are all appropriate for the season. We can be merry because of Christ. If anyone doesn’t like it, they have made their choice. Part of our Christmas celebration should and must be to pray for them. We must seek God’s mercy for them and his judgment upon their rejecting hearts.

The church has been doing things differently for three quarters of 2020 due to a pandemic. Some have rebelled against shut-downs and limitations. Others have remained closed and tried to worship through videos, podcasts, of vlogs. The difficulty for me is that the church is much more than mere communication. Liturgy requires real presence, not electronic connections. A good, short introduction to the concept of Christian Liturgy can be found in Liturgy and Psalter from the Theopolis Institute. In any case, churches, families, and individuals will be celebrating Christmas in disparate ways. The hinderance to celebrations should not stop us from observing the Holy Day.

My church is very small. We do gather on Sundays to worship, but we have been careful to follow the mandates of the state of Washington. Though the people may be limited in number, it is not limited in heart, faith, and creativity. One of the members created a video by going to various members’ homes and filming decorations, carols, and Scripture readings. I recorded a short Christmas Eve message at the end. I invite anyone interested in viewing this video to go here. This was our attempt to gather the family together as best as we can. In the church, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Nevertheless, for a few minutes this Christmas Eve, we will make the best connection we can.

No matter how you choose to celebrate Christmas, do so with a heart of joy and gratitude. Don’t prevent the celebration just because you cannot gather in large groups. Don’t allow football, basketball, or any non-Christmassy activity to hinder your celebration. May the Spirit of Christ be with you all this Christmas Eve bringing peace and quiet anticipation. May he be with you Christmas Day with the joy of the promise fulfilled. The birth of Jesus was the beginning of the gospel’s realization of all God’s promises to his people. The coming of Christ Jesus to us is the assurance of the ultimate perfection of God’s ordained creation marked by the New Jerusalem.

Merry, merry Christmas!

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Filed under Christmas, Faith, Gospel, Love