Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lighthearted Entertainment

For many years, I often found myself finishing out the day too tired to really "think" about anything with any gravity. I would say my "brain was fried" after the day's events and just needed to "unwind" and "relax". So how did I do that?


Yes, I know, it sounds like I am about to talk about the evils of TV and how no self-respecting Christian, who has honestly evaluated it in light of God's word would ever subject himself to such vain imaginations. But I am not going to do that.

While the above paragraph is true, instead I just want to take a minute and talk about how I view video entertainment now, after careful consideration.

Have you ever said, "There are so many good books to read, and just not enough time?" I certainly have. I have at least a dozen books, with book markers in every one of them marking some place I had to stop because I either fell asleep, or ran out of time and couldn't finish the book.

Laying beside my recliner while I write this blog is a book by William Gurnall, another by Douglas Wilson, one by his wife, and another by Bunyan: all with book marks, and a promise to finish them soon. Oh, and here is a small booklet by J.C. Ryle (I have actually read it before, but am reviewing it again as I need all the Ryle I can get.)

We don't have time for reading, because reading requires us to be "engaged" and we are too exhausted at the end of the day to even grasp a good book, so we opt for something else.

When I watched many of the old classics, and well known  "family safe" movies from hollywood, as well as Fox News, or Alton Brown on the Food network, I felt like I was making the "conservative choice" and was protecting all the various sensory gates such as my eyes and ears.

After taking a plumb line and checking all these shows by the word of God, I began to see them all very differently:
I was seeing unprotected women going out at night unchaperoned, busying themselves in the workforce competing with men, and more often than not, winning at work, and failing to be godly wives and mothers.
I was seeing inappropriate clothing, that I would never let my daughter or wife wear, but was perfectly accepting of what they had on in the show or on the news broadcast.
I was seeing families portrayed on film with zero generational vision, living for the "now", and doing it quiet nicely as I applauded their efforts to become more secular.
I saw men still acting like boys and refusing to accept their God given roles as husbands, fathers and business and church leaders.
I never saw the Bishop of a church sought out for counsel over any topic, I never saw Dad pray with the family or wife over any issue, I never saw repentance toward God for wrong doing and sinful activities, in fact, and please forgive me for slandering such an American Icon, but I saw Andy Griffith telling Opie to "not tell Aunt Bea" something because it would just be better if she didn't know. In other words, lie. It will all work out. And did on the TV.

What happened to our "filter" system that would prevent us from watching something like I just described? How did we get to the point that this is considered "conservative" entertainment?

All one has to do is lay the "conservative" entrainment alongside the really "sleazy" entertainment, and the conservative entertainment looks really, really acceptable by comparison.

Again, we have not used the plumb line properly. Our foundation was wrong. Our standard was ignored. Thus if I use a crooked ruler to attempt to draw a strait line I will ultimately fail.

Until we start comparing our entertainment with an unchanging standard (God's Word) we will always make the conservative choice and still pollute our minds.

So now what? Do we trash our TV's? No, we renew our minds and control the TV instead of it controlling us. It is much like the circumstance that Luther faced when the town council was fretting over how to handle the drunkards in town. One man suggested that they simply "outlaw" any alcohol. Luther's response is classic and speaks to us today on the issue of TV: Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused.  Men can go wrong with wine and women.  Shall we then prohibit and abolish women? The sun, the moon, and the stars have been worshiped.  Shall we then pluck them out of the sky?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

God Bless America??

Jer 7:4  Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these

We are living on borrowed time. I know, every time you hear that statement, it is one of those worn out phrases that we ignore for the most part. But this time, it is true.

My great concern is for the souls of my fellow men, and particularly starting with those in my immediate family, then moving to the church and then beyond.

Are there those within my family ranks who are in need of salvation? To be sure.

What about those who have identified themselves as believers, and joined a local assembly? Absolutely.

And then, those who are outside the church altogether, should we be concerned for their souls? Most assuredly.

Many individuals might believe that if they "treat their neighbors kindly, don't physically kill anyone, and don't steal, I might just make it into heaven. Surely haters, murderers and thieves won't make it!" 

So if that were true, what would be the purpose of the multitudes of verses declaring that salvation is of the Lord, not of man. 

Folks pass over the fact that in His love, God sent his only Son as the one way of salvation for the world: John 3 and John 14. 

By ignoring the Scriptures, men will reach false conclusions about the exclusivity of Jesus. 

In the text above, there were false prophets who were telling folks that since the Temple of the Lord was in Jerusalem, and since they were Jews, God would not judge them or allow nations to trample them underfoot. Very similar to our false notion that all we need to do is say, "God bless America" and all will be well. 

The nations that forget God are the nations that are in trouble, regardless of what our national anthem, Pledge and coins say. 

Yes, the Lord chose Jacob to be a holy nation in Exodus 19, but the covenant was clear: Failure to keep His covenant would bring exile! Deut. 28.

Having the Temple in their midst guaranteed them nothing if they were in rebellion, no more than a rabbits foot brings good luck. (Think about the luck of the rabbit for a minute, walking around on crutches!)

Do I pray that God would bless America? Certainly. But only as America conforms to the teachings of God's word and repents and believes the Gospel, can we have any hope. 

May we take a 2 Chronicles 7:14 approach to our prayers for America and truly, then, and only then can we say, God bless America, not as a magic talisman, but as an honest statement of truth!

2Ch 7:14  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Is it wrong to suggest that Mormonism is NOT Christian in their beliefs?

For a long time now, several folks I know personally have protected certain Mormon friends that they have, and have defended them as being of a Christian Sect, that still believes in God and Jesus Christ, but have different orthopraxy. 

I am not bashing the Mormon's in this brief post, but wanting to say, simply, "They do not view the Evangelical Christian as "right" either."

Without apology, I am going to tell you, "they are wrong." At the risk of sounding harsh, Mormonism is a cult, without any legitimate claim on Christianity. It is at the very least a sour perversion of the true religion,  and at the worst satanic. 

Yes, that is strong, and yes that is the truth. 
In the LDS (Mormon) scripture, The Pearl of Great Price, we find passages in which Joseph Smith recounts his alleged "first vision" of God and Jesus Christ, who are two separate being and therefore, according to Mormon teaching, two separate Gods. 

(Just a note: They deny the Trinity)

Smith's account gives us an early idea of what Mormons think about "other" Christians-a view never renounced by the Mormon Church:

“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt.”

Evidently Smith believed that Christianity as existed at the time he had this vision was wrong. In fact, there were no groups out there who were right. It was not safe to join any of them. 

I am not sure there is really more to say about this, except this: Mormon's are outside of Christ, and are in need of Salvation. We must evangelize them with the same zeal we would any unbeliever. We must pray for them with the same fervor as we would any lost man or woman. May God be glorified in all things. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

WORK, an ethic of the past

Okay, WORK may not be considered an "ethic" by itself, but the philosophy, and particularly the moral philosophy of work is one that is on the decline. 

John Cotton

According to Colonial New England’s leading expert on childrearing, Rev. John Cotton, a child should enjoy some “lawful recreation” until the age of seven. Then more serious pursuits should replace games and toys, and an occupation should be chosen by the age of twelve. In keeping with the Puritan ideals of duty and industry, on the Brainerd farm, laziness was considered a sin. Even little boys were expected to do their chores and show an obedient, helpful attitude in the home.
Ranelda Hunsicker, David Brainerd, (Bethany House Publishers: Minneapolis, MN, 1999), 14.

 Can you imagine? A child at age 12 knowing what he was going to be doing for the rest of his days? 

That is simply unheard of today, as many college graduates "need" a year or so to jaunt around Europe to decide what their real calling is before launching into a career. 

Sorry, but I don't see it. In fact, we have lost the true meaning of vocation. 

Someone asked me last week at what age should they start putting their son to real work. I don't know how to define real work for them. I know what it means to me, so I had to investigate further. Real work, and false work are genuine issues in today's society. There are those jobs that physically tire you, or mentally tire you and they are real work. There is tomfoolery, and you get tired doing that too, but it is not real work, it is false work. 

A boy on the football field comes in tired, but he has not worked, he has played. (oh sure, you have worked a  work, but what have you produced?) Scoring a TD is not putting food on your table unless you happen to be Joe Flacco. Last year there were 1696 Pro-footbal players in the United States compared to the total population of over 316 million...the odds of your little tyke becoming one of the less than 2000 is pretty slim. So, I would think "more stable work environment" if I were you. And besides, the Lord's day would be pretty much out the window for the football season anyway. 

I remember being a lad (just a few years ago by the way, like 35 or so years ago!) and my Dad having me dig some holes for fruit trees. I thought it was going to be fun! Digging holes in the yard was previously forbidden, and now I get to do it several times! (Dad had an issue with his grass, and still does)

The fun stopped pretty quick after the first 20 min. The hole had to be dug a certain width, a certain depth, and no one mentioned chert. Yes CHERT! In the south, red clay is not the only thing that lies beneath the surface. Chert in the south is this mixture of clay and broken up pieces of limestone and flint rock, often times just inches under the surface but extending down a couple of feet, or miles it seemed in my case...believe me.

My hole digging episode was miserable, as it took me the better part of a week to dig 10 holes the size my dad wanted. After they were dug, I had the pleasure of being told, "Son, I am not planting those trees there, so fill the holes up." 

No one has ever told me if it was a rue to keep me busy that week, or some form of sordid punishment, but I learned how to dig a proper hole, and to this day, I know how to use a shovel, which type of shovel I need for particular jobs, why my dad wore gloves when he worked, and why you see many road side workers "leaning" on their shovel. Now, I dig holes often on my own property and am thankful every time I do for my experiences years ago. 

I never hated work, but I often times tried to figure out how to get done "quicker" and spent more time trying to invent a way to do it faster than I did actually doing the work. I could have been finished often times much sooner had I just "done the work" rather than scheming trying to figure out how to circumvent the time element in the work. 

Scripture is replete with references concerning work, and a helpful place to start is in the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiasties, and then the Apostle Paul's view of work in his epistles. 

Solomon instructed his son by telling him in Proverbs 18:9 He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.

The new testament calls the "great waster" the Prodigal. In fact, that is what the name means. And we all know about the Prodigal son and his demise. 

Solomon continues in Ecclesiasties by encouraging us to make sure we work while we have opportunity, and don't think tomorrow is when we will "make it big" but be faithful today to the task at hand, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)    

Paul's take is cut and dry: For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

That is a bit different than our present social programs meted out from the government administration that has subjugated the churches functions: (however, honestly, the church abdicated their responsibility long ago.)

But we work, not because it is the curse from the garden, but rather it was established before the curse. Adam was given dominion over the creatures, he was to dress the garden, it was his work. Eve was given to him to complete him, come along side and aid him in doing his work. 

When sin entered, the work became difficult as now part of dominion is pushing back the thorns and thistles, battling with sweat, blisters, fungus, disease, mold, bugs and yes, death. 

So Paul echo's Solomon when he reminds us 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12  That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

Let not work become an ethic of the past, but a present reality that glorifies God as he designed it for our good and His Glory. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Amazing story of Bass Rock and the Covenanters of Scotland

Bass Rock from the coast

Scotland's struggle from the tyranny of wicked men

After the castle was converted into a State Prison during the reigns of Charles ll and his brother James Vll, a number of Covenantors were imprisoned there at a time of tyranny and persecution. The Covenanters rebelled against Charles's obsession for a change from Presbyterianism to his Roman Catholic style religion. After a violent struggle against the crown the Covenantors were finally defeated at the Battle of Sheriffmuir when 1,800 of them were brought to Edinburgh to stand trail. A section of Greyfriars graveyard was used as their prison when hundreds were deported and over 130 executed. About forty were incarcerated in the dungeons of the Bass Rock at different dates, varying from a few months to upwards of six years. 

Most of them men of culture and learning, of unimpeachable loyalty and charged with no offence but that of preaching the gospel and worshipping according to their own consciences. These included John Blackadder, minister at Tragueer in Dumfries. Blackadder died on the rock in 1687 and is buried in the Churchyard at Kirk Ports. Among the other Covenantors imprisoned on the Bass by the Duke of Rothesay, then Lord Chancellor were Alexander Peden, Thomas Hogg, James Fraser of Brea, Robert Traill and John McGilligen, all of them ministers. Sir Hugh Campbell of Cessnock, and his son Sir George Campbell; Robert Bennett of Chesters and Alexander Gordon of Earlston. 

The barbarity of life in the State Prison was beyond credibility. The prisoners unable to support themselves were kept on a diet of dried salt fish and only the guards had barrelled fresh water. The prisoners depended solely upon rock puddles for water so putrid that for a little more palatability they sucked it through porridge oats. In bad weather they starved until calmer seas allowed boats to land provisions and at the whim of the governor, a hated prisoner was confined in the lowest dungeon which was deathly cold from continuous sea spray. Those who did not perish in its vile and stinking cells suffered and died later from lung infections, fevers or rheumatic type ailments as freed men. 

One who did survive was the minister Gilbert Rule whose imprisonment was brought to an end by the Revolution of 1688 and later was appointed Principal of the University of Edinburgh. Whitekirk Hill overlooking the Bass Rock was the site of a Covenantors Meeting on Sunday 5th May 1678 when a crowd of over one thousand assembled for the worship of God. The governor of the Bass, Charles Maitland, with sixty soldiers from the garrison, marched to attack and disperse them. As the soldiers approached, James Learmont a chapman or travelling merchant from Haddington exhorted the people to stand firm and defend themselves if attacked. The soldiers ordered the crowd to dismiss in the King's name; where upon they replied that 'they honoured the King, but were resolved to hear the word of God when preached to them.' A scuffle ensued and the soldiers were surrounded and disarmed, one of them being shot dead. Five of the Covenantors were apprehended and tried before the Privy Council in Edinburgh on 11th September 1678. James Learmont was found guilty and executed in the Grassmarket on 27th September 1678. He was guilty of nothing but worshipping the God of his fathers according to his conscience and his treatment at the hands of the arbitrary tyrants who then oppressed the country, outraged the population. 

Small cottages today on Bass Rock. 

In 1688, most of the Covenantors were released when James VII was relieved of his Crown and William of Orange was proclaimed King. The majority of the country continued to be faithful to James until the Battle of Killiecrankie, after which the only Jacobite stronghold was on the Bass Rock. Where a handful of Jacobites held out for two years under the pro-stuart Governor Charles Maitland until they were starved into submission in 1690. The following year it was the Jacobites again who turned the tables on their captors when the new Governor, Fletcher of Saltoun was absent, by locking out the guards while they were unloading coal at the jetty. The guards had to be taken off by boat; the Jacobites - just four of them initially - managed to hold out for four years. 

During this period various attempts were made by the Government of King William to retake the fortress, but in vain. Friends in France and in Scotland kept them supplied with food, and as they had plenty of ammunition, they defied all comers. It had been found that a man called Trotter was secretly supplying them with provisions. To terrorise them, preparations were made for hanging Trotter on the shore opposite the island. The defenders, however would not stand this, and a few well aimed cannon balls promptly dispersed the would-be executioners, and Trotter had to be hanged elsewhere out of sight. In 1694, William dispatched two warships, aided by smaller vessels to cut off all supplies to the rock and the little garrison capitulated in April. They had saved some bottles of the best French wine and these, along with some fine biscuits, led the commissioners to believe that they had provisions for years to come. Thus the rebels - eventually 16 in all - were able to negotiate good terms and were finally granted an amnesty.