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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Suffering for suffering's sake? Think again!

My last desire—
When the time comes for me to die,
To-morrow, or some other day,
If God should bid me make a reply,
“O God, thy world was great and fair!
Have thanks for all my days have seen;
Yet grant me peace from things that were
And things that might have been.”
Thomas W. Hazen Rolleston

Dear Friends, prayer and financial partners,

We Pentecostals, "bless our little pea-picking hearts," as Ernie Ford used to say, have yet to scratch the surface on the value inherent in suffering.

Now, I am not talking about self-inflicted suffering like the Flagellants (from Latin flagellare, to whip) who beat themselves or are nailed to a cross in the Philippines and elsewhere by misguided fanatics, either. No, I cannot find anywhere in Scripture that we are expected to suffer just for suffering's sake. 

What I have in mind is the type of suffering that many of our Christian brothers and sisters are experience in the Middle East right now. Entire Christian villages have been overrun by fanatical jihadists who often time behead the men, women and children to shock the rest who are lucky enough to survive and thereby get them to convert to Islam.

Is it happening? Sure, it's happening. Has been, and will continue to happen, too!

Read your Bible. This is precisely what the false prophet in league with the beast will, and has done for centuries. That aside, however, since you might look at history and the Bible differently on this subject than I do. So, please understand, I am not one to argue the matter. But, I am one to sound the alarm.

Indeed, the time is short.
So, it is with the backdrop of all that is going on around us that I write this brief essay on suffering. Paul, for one, thought that a suffering Christian was helpful in that it identified us with the suffering of Christ and give us an opportunity to emulate his character with the sole purpose of shaping us into the likeness of Christ. All things work together. All things, not just some things. So, suffering must be included.
Sound too Catholic to you? Well, it shouldn’t. It’s Bible. Need I reference that? If so, for starters may I suggest Romans 8:28-29 and Colossians 1:24. Here, let me print them for you:
First Romans 8:28-
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son … (NIV)
Now, Colossians 1:24
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (NIV)
Now, let’s not just stop there. Think with me for a moment. Do you see how beautifully these verses all blend together in one Divine plan? It is obviously plain to me that firstly uninvited suffering of any sort serves to change us into the image of Christ if we are willing; and secondly, how we handle the suffering can act as a Christian example of purity and mentorship to encourage others to respond similarly.
Complicated? No, not really. Here read what the poet Patricia Persons, a cancer patient had to say:
If you believe in the Word of God
You'll know trials only make us strong
And in Christ anywhere you are in life
Is just where you belong
Take time to read the Book of Job
And you will plainly see
That God will never leave you alone
He's always been there for me
It's not what you are going through friend
It's how you stand the test
Just put your hands in the hands of God
And let Him do the rest
I go through life with a made up mind
I know God has my back
I'm not the one for a pity party now
I pray and get on the right track
I am a living testimony
For all the world to see
And I want the whole wide world to know
I have cancer…..cancer doesn't have me
© Patricia Persons 2014
So, take courage. A lesson well learned is a lesson well kept. Take courage, therefore, and cherish Christ's promise to never leave you or forsake you. Life is not without purpose.

Yours in the journey,

P.S. My latest book on Islamic jihadism was published and is available. 

The Islamic State Revealed
Click Cover to Buy!
The Brotherhood of Death

The latest book on Kindle $5.99


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A foolish misunderstanding ...

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. – Psalm 14: 1 NIV

Dear Friends, prayer and financial partners,

One thing about the Bible. It calls it like it is. Not a place to go if you are looking for political correctness. Sexual perversion is labeled as such, and they writers didn't scurry around trying to make God look good by filtering every imaginable abomination under the sun through His love. My Bible tells me that—
The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation. (Numbers 14:18 NIV)
So, apparently He hold grudges (call it righteous indignation if you please) and will divvy out punishment, as it were, to the third and fourth generation. Notice, however, it says for the sin of their parents; meaning, of course, that sin has consequences that extend well beyond the perpetrators. And, of course, we cannot deny that bad parents by example can, and most often do, warp their children’s minds so terribly that the child not only imitates them, but many time far exceeds that  parent’s rotten example.

This is not always the case, but it is a strong possibility.

Conversely, also just the opposite is also true, as Billy Graham once remarked—
“The influence of a mother upon the lives of her children cannot be measured. They know and absorb her example and attitudes when it comes to questions of honesty, temperance, kindness, and industry.”
Makes good sense, doesn’t it?

Good parents are essential for a good society; and vice versa. So, the first culprit that we should look for when a child goes astray is usually a parent. Not always, but usually.

I like the way the American Standard Version addresses the issue. It reads—
Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 ASV)
Well, in what way, are we to train a child? Spare the rod and spoil the child? Tell that one to Child Protective Services if you inadvertently leave a bruise behind. Spanking I have found is not always the answer, so why chance it? I know, I know. Spare the rod and spoil the child is not in Scripture; and for good reason I might add. And, yes, I also know that the Scripture does say that we must correct our children, but not brutally so. 

Here’s what Proverbs 23; 13 has to say about the matter—
Don't fail to discipline your children. They won't die if you spank them. [NIV}
So, where do we draw the line between a good spanking and child abuse? Well, let me answer that this way, there is no line, there are only people—a child and a parent, and if love is missing in either, then discipline is futile.

Any parent, football player or ghetto mother, anyone for that matter, which takes their frustrations out on a poor child, misbehaving or not, is just downright wrong—worst yet, sinful. The same goes for a husband that beats his wife. This is totally inexcusable, and if they are a preacher, they should be defrocked before sunup tomorrow morning.

How shameful our country has become. We must wait for Budweiser to threaten to remove their sponsorship before the NFL gets serious about removing the brutes who beat their wives and children from the league is morally reprehensible. Think of it, a beer company has to be the one to step in and call foul! Where in the name of commonsense are the owners, and others in responsible positions?
Thank God a few hardy souls were willing to speak out and the fans began to turn their Ray Rice’s jerseys in, so not all is lost.

Now, back to the theme of this diatribe; and that is,
The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. – Psalm 14: 1 NIV
Well, Jim, you say, in what wonky way does that Scripture fit what you have to say?

I would say in this way, any fool that doesn't care how they act, until they get caught, of course, is in for a rude awakening come judgment day. For me, there is not one iota of difference between what is commonly referred to as a Christian agnostic, and an outright heathen.  

Yours for the journey,

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When history ain't really history . . .

A reasonably unreasonable conclusion …

“All that an insane person has left is his reason”– G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936

All reason is circular. That’s a fact. False premise, false conclusion. True premise, true conclusion. It is just as simple as that. The theorems of science are presupposed to be factually true, and reliable once tested and proven as such; however, science at its best is only a blueprint on how we are expected to investigate reality.

The truth is, however, much of what we believe to be true—reality, as it were,  is just a matter of opinion, sometimes an educated guess at best. I have no quibbles with science. What I do have problems with, however, are the invested prejudices found embedded in much of what tries to pass itself off as pure science regardless of the disciple under consideration—be that, theology, history, or something else.

Purported truth, therefore, must be checked against the facts. Church history as a disciple is no exception, either. As any student of Church history knows, such history is loaded with outright forgeries, and revisionism is defended on the principle of throwing a better light on the subject at hand. By ‘a better light’ I do not mean a fairer assessment, or necessarily changing the facts— although, this is always a possibility— I simply mean this, that history is often filtered through the sieve of today’s standards, particularly as it pertains to the politically correct ‘hot issues’ inherent in contemporary society like racism, sexuality, egalitarianism, or social or financial inequalities. Scripture, for example, can, and is, often twisted to fit the mores of a convenient contemporaneity.

Sadly, however, this has been a reoccurring standard throughout history, above all is it evidence in sacred history. History is not just retold, it is retold with a theological slant in mind. Collins Dictionary, as a matter of fact, defines sacred history as “history that is retold with the aim of instilling religious faith and which may or may not be founded on fact.” Which illustrates, at least to me, that it is a reputation well-earned considering the fact redactors down through ecclesiastical history have felt justified to change entire passages to suit their fancy.

Further, what I have in mind is a reductionism that does not just try to simplify a certain passage or translation to say essentially the same thing, but to change its meaning entirely by injecting an acceptable orthodoxy into the text to comply with some perceived or otherwise real standard.

Rufinus Aquileiensis, a nemeses of St. Jerome who quibbled with him over the orthodoxy of Origen who to prove a point spent considerable time redacting much of the Early Church Father’s work to make him sound more in line with the theology of Rome—i.e., Pope Anastasius I (399-401). Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, part of which he also translated was redacted considerably, etc.

These are well-known fact, attested by William A. Jurgens, as well as Mark Vessey, from Cambridge another  well know scholar of the period.

Nor does it stop there. Take for example, Jacques Paul Migne (25 October 1800 – 24 October 1875) a French priest who took on the task of publishing volumes of theological works, encyclopedias and the texts of the Church Fathers, with thought of providing books to train young men for the Catholic priesthood. Problem is, he rushed these translations through at such a rate that he left a trail of questionable documents. Not that they were all wrong, but it does take some of the enthusiasm out of reading them because one is not sure of when on certain occasions something is bogus or not.
Protestants do the same thing. Need I go into that? Well, there is not a whole lot to go into prior to the 1500’s.

So, although I shall continue to read, I have sadly come to the conclusion that I cannot base my faith on history, it must have a firmer foundation than that.

Of course, we all know what that foundation is, it is the foundation of all truth—that is, the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).

[ii] Mark Vessey, 'Jerome and Rufinus', in Frances Young, Lewis Ayres and Andrew Louth, eds, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, (2010), p325 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Love as Primal Knowledge

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8 NIV)

Primarily, we understand that primal knowledge is first of all revealed or intuitive, a priori knowledge, though not contrary to reason, faith is nonetheless superior to reason. Reason apprehends faith, not the other way around. God makes no apologies as to who he is; but simply states, “I am that I am.”—thereby affirming, his self-sustaining existence. However, because of His generous grace and love toward us, he by revelation makes himself known unto us. This act of grace, though unmerited, is nonetheless a necessary grace in as much as it is an expression of His divine nature. God is love, and in him is no shadow of darkness within him. Thus, we can count on the transparency of his love to clearly reveal his inwardness by his outwardness. So, we therefore understand that his inwardness and outwardness are one and the same, but not in that order.

Love is foundational to his outwardness. Faith, therefore, is based on the outwardness of his inwardness to assure us of the perfection of his inwardness. We who depend on his outwardness to understand his inwardness clearly understand that now abide these three: faith, hope, and charity; but the greatest of these is charity. Each of these, however, do not stand alone, as they are but the natural consequences of the foundational principle of love. Without love there is no hope—for all may end in naught, and, therefore, confidence is lost. Also, we may easily understand that without love there is no charity—for there is no reason for charity. Furthermore, it can also be safely said that “perfect love castes out fear, for there is no fear in love [1 John 4:18].”

 We, therefore, are securely anchored in love by hope with full confidence in His promises to us through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior [Hebrews 6:17-20].

Monday, September 08, 2014

Your priorities say a lot about who you are . . .

What occupies our time tells a lot about us. So, let me start off by taking some of your's and boring you at the same time to make a point. 
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), the average working mom and dad’s day is so harassed that with keeping up with the kids and the Joneses there is little time left for any down time of their own. And, of course, we all know what that means. That’s right. Our souls are left arid and dry.

Unlike David, however, while stranded in the Judean longing for God like a deer pants for a stream of fresh water [Psa. 42:1] about all we get time enough to long for is a good night’s sleep.

That goes for preachers, missionaries, and laity alike.

So, all of us need to take time out, not just to tank up on sleep or take a busy vacation, jumping from one hurried event to another, but time out to reflect, meditate, get our spiritual bearing lined up and get headed in the right direction.

Sadly, most Christians would rather skip church than to skip a little down time to catch up on sleep or a game of golf, or whatever their recreational fancy is.

Proof of that is reflected in statistics, too. However, I am not convinced that the slack in church attendance is as much a lack of priorities as it is sheer boredom, or simply not having their spiritual needs met once they get there. In any event, the average weekly church attendance is roughly 37% per cent in Evangelical circles. Then, I must admit as I mentioned above, one wonders how much Gospel these 37% per cent get with all the "user friendly" mania that seems to have possessed our churches. This is, of course, flies in the face of the latest surveys which show that people want to go to church, not to some barn with everything but the Ringling Brothers Circus going on inside with some slap happy clown cracking jokes in between the lines of his or her feel good sermon. 

Please, give me a break. 

The truth is, the old devil will steal at least half of the time you are there for the hour or hour and a half anyway. If you are like me, you’ll spend a good deal of that time trying to figure out the words to some newfangled chorus that has about as much theology in it as the list of ingredients on a soda cracker box; or why the pastor decided to travel from Dan to Beersheba and take you along on his journey to get his point across. No, I am not an old curmudgeon, but I must admit that there are times when I feel like saying, Okay enough already.

No wonder our altars are empty—there're none left except in the store room to create a more "user friendly" atmosphere.

Therefore—considering all of this, I have taken an inventory of my priorities, and suggest that if you have done so recently that you also do so.

Here are som
e of my findings:
1.     At my age, I refuse to attend a church that is not feeding me the unadulterated word of God. None of this politically correct stuff for me, that's for sure.
2.     Music must be not only uplifting but glorifying, and above all doctrinally sound.
3.     Social concerns are also important, especially for those in in the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10)
4.     I refuse to give to a building program that architecturally looks more like a barn than a church. I want to go to church, not a barn dance.
5.     The demographics of the church's outreach and ministries must be for all ages, not the select few.
6.     Worship must be sacred, and the sanctuary treated as such. Donuts, coffee, popcorn, what have you is at best for the foyer, certainly never the sanctuary.
7.     Worship services must be kept decent and in order. A hallelujah hoedown may work for some, but not for me. Fleshly exuberance may be alright dancing before the Ark of Covenant, but once it enters the Holy of Holies, it's time to sober up. This does not rule out a move of the Spirit. Most certainly, the Upper Room and Peter's trance on the rooftop have their place, but God must initiate the action not some organ or drum roll that kicks it off.

Well, this is just some more of my ramblings; however, I must say, serious ramblings. To God be the glory!