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beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Feeling a little desperate, I was wondering why God let me endure so much when this thought crossed my mind: “Am I a fair weather Christian?” If I’m a fair weather Christian, perhaps I seem to believe and even honestly think I believe when all is well and then blame God and turn against Him when stormy or bad weather comes into my life. I don’t think that’s true of me in spite of my desperate moment.

There are, of course, Christians of the opposite kind—those that cling to a buoy in stormy weather but float carefree along in calm waters, caring not about their savior when all is well. You have probably heard about Christians like this. They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Sadly, for many years I was this type of Christian; but I think I have grown in Christianity over the years.

The third type of Christian is the kind I want to be and hope to be most of the time. This type is thankful for blessings and turns to God with thanks for all the good things in life. When things sour, they turn to God for direction and when God says, “No” they try to understand; and through all times and all disturbances, no matter what happens, they have the peace of the presence of the Lord in their lives.

Which kind of Christian are you?
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
I briefly attended a church that, every few weeks, would drag a kiddie pool onto the stage, fill it with water and offer impromptu baptisms. One Sunday morning after such a session, the assistant pastor and I talked about their approach to baptism. She said, “We can’t find anywhere in scripture that says you must go through a class before being baptized, so anyone who wants to be baptized gets baptized.”

Are the Catholics, Orthodox and Lutherans, with their ideas of catechesis wrong? Had they just pulled some set of rules of out thin air? Why shouldn’t we just baptize anyone who expresses a desire to be baptized?

My questions lead me to Matthew and the Great Commission. Jesus told the Apostles to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Nope. No catechism there. Except, if we believe that scripture is important not just in what it says, but how it says it, then this short passage merits further attention. The phrase “make disciples of all nations” precedes the command to baptize. The making of disciples implies a regimen of discipleship, of teaching and training regarding both the content of our belief and the application of those beliefs into holy living.

So why did the Kiddie Pool church do it? It took very little research for me to come to this conclusion. Did the leadership of this church just lack the ability to analyze scripture? I know these folks. They’re not stupid. They’re not shallow. What gives?

I think it’s this: the impromptu baptisms were a powerful experience, and that made it right.

Even though I had doubts about what they were doing, I found myself moved by what was happening on stage. I was playing keyboards in the worship band at the time, so I had a bird’s eye view of the action. A young man, the son of a friend of mine, stepped forward. His mother joined him on stage, joined the pastors as they dunked the young man into the pool, watched as he emerged dripping wet, joyful. Mother and son embraced. The joy, like a contagion, spread through the darkened auditorium. The audience applauded. People shouted and wept.

As I reflected on the event, I came to the sad conclusion that the practice echoed a common belief: you can argue with a doctrine, but you can’t argue with an experience.

Or, as the 1960s counter-culture Hippies would have put it, “If it feels good, do it!”

My purpose isn’t to argue for a particular catechism or engage in discussions about whether or not baptism is regenerative, symbolic of somewhere in between. In the context of this discussion, I don’t care.

Our culture places a premium on experience. John Wesley said that that Christianity is an experiential religion and once allegedly claimed, when questioned about how he would approach a discrepancy between his doctrine and his experience that he would have to reexamine his doctrine. The Wesleyan Quadrateral, Wesley’s paradigm (although the phrase “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” came much later) for discovering religious truth, consists of scripture, reason, tradition and experience.

I would argue however that experience has trumped all other criteria for determining faith and practice. Baptism, historically considered to be a Christian’s “birthday’” into the church after a protracted period of discipleship has been replaced by an impromptu kiddie pool, not because our view of scripture has changed (I think it has, but that’s another discussion for another day), but because doctrine, tradition and theology have become dirty words in most evangelical congregations and experience, expressed emotionally, is now the primary criteria for the legitimacy of our practices.

Nowhere has this substitution of rational, historical and biblical practice with emotion manifested itself more prominently than in the substitution of the sacrament of communion with the new sacrament of music. Bryan Spinks in The Worship Mall, examines the contemporary worship movement and quotes blogger Sarah Koenig as saying “Praise and Worship time is a means of coming into close contact with the mercy and love of the Divine – one might even consider it a means of grace. It not only replaces the service of the Table as a primary ordering liturgical element, it also in some sense functions eucharistically for its participants.”

In all fairness to the contemporary worship movement, Koenig’s statement would appear to represent an extreme view, at least in any explicit sense. But even though most adherents of contemporary worship are not as explicit as Koenig, the underlying assumption in the CWM appears to be just that: music, because of its emotional impact, dominates all other possible elements of worship and assumes a preeminent place in our worship.

I do not question music’s power. I do not question that it touches us deeply and profoundly. I question its fitness for shaping us into Christ-like people both individually and as the Body of Christ. I question the idea that raw sensuality is what Jesus had in mind when he said that true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth. I question the idea that somehow drawing people into church with cheap, “sanctified” parodies of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga is going to shape us into the Bride of Christ, without spot or wrinkle.

For the first time in history, we have, via our smartphones and iPods, the ability to listen to just the music we enjoy and escape the music we don’t. And should the unthinkable happen in our Pandora or Spotify playlist, that an undesirable song show up, we can hit the ‘thumbs down’ button and never have to hear it again.

In the church, this has helped produced a culture of preference. Why subject ourselves to a liturgy we don’t enjoy at Church X when Church Z offers just the music we like, a pastor who offers a ‘talk’ instead of a homily and a multimedia smorgasbord instead of candles and incense. Or, as I’ve heard the senior pastor at the kiddie pool church exclaim several times, “Church should never be boring.”

It’s a hard claim to argue with. After all, who gives me the right to decide what is right in worship and what isn’t? Isn’t worship a matter of style and preference? Am I not being judgmental? Maybe what excites one worshipper bores the next.

For me, here’s the problem: the Bible never connects worship to preference. Or emotion. Or music.

What about John chapter four? Doesn’t Jesus talk about worshiping in spirit and truth? Yes, but I don’t think his reference to spirit applies to some vague, emotional sense of interiority. I think our theology of worship is drawn more from popular songwriting over the last few decades than it is good, solid biblical exegesis.



Consider the following:


There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place. And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord
There’s a sweet expression on each face. And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord.

Or perhaps this one:

Holy Spirit you are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord.

Don’t these lyrics imply that the Holy Spirit exists primarily to serve our emotional needs, to “fill us with His presence” thus leaving us with a sense of spirituality? Isn’t worship about expressing our love and adoration to God?

I disagree. Worship is supposed to be the Body of Christ accepting God’s invitation into His life, the Divine Life of God as it is expressed in the selfless and absolute love of God lived out forever in the Trinity. It is supposed to be formative and the experience derived from is meant as a means of grace in which the Divine Life of God is imparted to us, individually and as the Body of Christ.

I discussed this with a friend some years ago. I told her that I get the same emotions from a worship song that I do from my favorite rock and roll song, that there was no difference in the quality of the emotion. She said otherwise, that worship music made her feel “different” somehow. If that’s true, then all of us who advocate for a biblically-based liturgy are just reactionaries living in the past for the sake of the past.

But it isn’t true. There is no such thing as a “holy” emotion. C.S. Lewis claimed just the opposite, that our emotions, because they are so volatile, are susceptible to fostering all manner of abuse. “The higher the angel” he said about our more powerful emotions, “the greater the devil when it falls.”

Our emotions are powerful influences. Scripture encourages emotion as a response to God, His greatness, His glory, His love. But we must recognize that scripture also warns against allowing emotion to be our sole, or even a significant, guide regarding faith and practice. Kevin Watson, in his blog Vital Piety, discusses Wesley’s use of experience. He describes the modern misunderstandings of Wesley’s use of experience and claims that, “Experience is…used to describe one’s encounters with the world around them, which often results in confirming the prevalent perspective of the current popular culture.” And the current popular culture has duped us into substituting the Divine Life of God with a life of raw sensuality foisted upon the church by the likes of Chris Tomlin, Jesus Culture and Hillsong.

What a cheat! What a scam! God wants to give us Himself in our worship. We choose to reject this profound gift and instead engage in the sanctified equivalent of “do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight”.

I’m a musician. I led my church’s worship team for nearly 30 years. I wish I could take it all back; all the rock and roll from the stage, all the outpouring of raw emotion in the name of worship, all the—do I dare use the word?— idolatry.

Idolatry?

Les, aren’t you getting a little out-of-hand, a little judgmental?

Maybe, but I don’t think so. Consider what (not who, but what) is being adored in our contemporary worship. It certainly is not God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the King of Awful Majesty. It is certainly not God’s great saving work celebrated throughout history and in our own lives. It’s our own emotional status, our own emotional wants, our own psychological selves, our own desire for raw sensuality.

Worship is supposed to be about God and for us.

It is about God in that God is supposed to be the only subject and object of our worship.

It is supposed to be for us in that worship is formative, not expressive.

However, the contemporary worship movement has reversed all this and made worship about us, our wants, our feelings, our emotions, and for God.

There is a great deal at stake. What does it mean to be drawn into the Divine Life of God? Is it through the sacraments that we come to know God? Is it through the sacraments that God knows us, both individually and as the Body of Christ? Is it through the church, the corporeal Body of Christ, that I am drawn into fellowship with God and my fellow Christians?

St. Augustine said ““Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised. . . . And man, being a part of Your creation, desires to praise You. . . . You move us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.” We are created for worship. To worship God is not only our highest possible calling, but, according to Jesus, the most important commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…” If this is true, then for our own sakes and for the sake of the world, we need to get this right.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
You can't please everyone

An old fable that has been passed down for generations tells about an elderly man who was traveling with a boy and a donkey. As they walked through a village, the man was leading the donkey and the boy was walking behind. The townspeople said the old man was a fool for not riding, so to please them he climbed up on the animal’s back.

When they came to the next village, the people said the old man was cruel to let the child walk while he enjoyed the ride. So, to please them, he got off and set the boy on the animal’s back and continued on his way. In the third village, people accused the child of being lazy for making the old man walk, and the suggestion was made that they both ride. So the man climbed on and they set off again. In the fourth village, the townspeople were indignant at the cruelty to the donkey because he was made to carry two people. The frustrated man was last seen carrying the donkey down the road.

We smile, but this story makes a good point: We can’t please everybody, and if we try we end up carrying a heavy burden. Well-meaning Christians may offer us advice, and much of it is valuable. But when we try to do everything other believers want us to do, we can easily become frustrated and confused. That’s why we need to remember that the One we must please above all others is Christ. And we do that by obeying God’s Word. Carried any donkeys lately? You don’t have to if you’re trying to please Jesus.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
The Book Of Esther And God’s Providence


In the Book of Esther, God’s name is never mentioned, but you can clearly see the fingerprints of God’s sovereignty throughout the book.

Queen Vashti Rebels
The Book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God by name. It doesn’t matter because you can see God’s divine fingerprints over everything that happens. Maybe that’s the point; when we see no evidence of God moving in our life, and it seems we’re on the brink of catastrophe, God moves in history and time to do what He purposed to do long ago. It’s not so much history occurring as it is “His-story” unfolding.

The fact that the Jews fasted presumes belief in God, and prayer must have been a priority because they were in danger of annihilation, so the Book of Esther begins in the days of “Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the citadel” (Esther 1:1-2). This was one powerful king with a huge kingdom.

When the king commanded that they “bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at” (Esther 1:11), “Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs”(Esther 1:12). The king responds by seeking out a new queen, and that’s where Esther enters the picture of history, or His-story

Esther Crowned Queen
It must be remembered that Esther may have had no choice but to wed the king. Some who criticize her for this don’t understand that the Jews were subjects of the kingdom and the king, like everyone else, so she probably had no choice. Besides, Esther never intentionally sought out the crown, but rather, it was God’s divine providence that brought her there. Providence basically means to see head of time: Pro for “look ahead” and videre for “to see.”

In the Bible it often refers to God’s provisions that are made beforehand. In this case, God provided a queen for the king, and a Jewish queen at that, and she, being the queen, could seek an opportunity to speak to the king. Later, this would prove to be most convenient for the Jews. When Mordecai uncovered a plot to murder the king, he told Queen Esther who told the king. This may have saved the king’s life (Esther 2:19-23), but for some reason, Mordecai’s discovery went largely unnoticed and unrewarded. Much later, all of that would prove to be very important.

Haman Plots Against the Jews
When Mordecai refused to kneel before Haman, as all were commanded to do, Haman became so incensed that he plotted to exterminate all the Jews in the kingdom (Esther 3:5-6), so Haman comes to the king and accuses the Jews of breaking the king’s laws, saying, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them.” (Esther 3:8).

To entice the king to go along with the plot, Haman says, “I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business, that they may put it into the king’s treasuries” (Esther 3:9). The king agreed but for the wrong reasons. Haman had tricked the king into signing a law that would wipe out all the Jews in the land. Thankfully, Mordecai discovered the plot and came to Queen Esther to have her intercede for the Jews.

Mordecai said, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:13-14)? Queen Esther’s told Mordecai to declare a three day fast among all the Jews, and then gave a legendary reply; “Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16b). There were three possible outcomes for Esther; she could perish when she went before the king; she could perish when Haman’s plot was fulfilled; or…she could get the king to amend the law and stop the coming slaughter of the Jew

Insomnia Saves a People
Here is where we being to see God intervention. It must have been near the end of the Jews three-day fast that there was a “night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king” (Esther 6:1). That would surely put anyone to sleep, but the king discovered that Mordecai had uncovered a plot to kill the king, but he was never recognized or reward for it (Esther 6:3). That’s when the king asked Haman to “Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor’”(Esther 6:9), and that man, to Haman’s great dismay, was Mordecai. When Queen Esther tells the king what Haman was about to do to her people (the Jews), the king was outraged, and they hanged Haman on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.

Conclusion
Still, with no mention of God, God saves the Jews through His divine providence. He even used the enemy’s work (Haman) against him. Queen Esther’s bravery, and the Jews willingness to afflict themselves before God, was all part of God’s providence to do what He had planned to do already. Nothing has ever occurred to God. God is never caught by surprise. Even a bad case of insomnia could be used for much good. That’s often how God works, using evil for good (Gen 50:20; John 3:16)…or even a bad case of insomnia.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
This life is not all there is…

Do not despair at the speed

With which life dashes away

For someday you’ll be where an eon

Is just like a single day;

Just turn to our Lord for guidance;

His staff is ever in view

You can walk with Him with assurance

There’s a heavenly home for you.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
What if in your sleep tonight


Jesus is calling


The call of Jesus came

And you hadn’t found the time

To be baptized in his name?

Wouldn’t you be sorry then

That you thought you could wait

However long you wanted to

And still avoid your fate?

Oh friend, please turn to Jesus now;

The moment is unknown

When both of us, both you and I,

May hear the call “Come home.”

We must be ready on that day

We are summoned by surprise,

So if you desire salvation

To wait is so unwise.

Jesus asks you often;

But you always tell Him no;

Won’t you please say, “Yes,” today;

No one knows when they must go.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Is Being “Spiritual” as Beneficial as Being “Religious”?


An increasing number of people say that they are “spiritual but not religious.” That is, they don’t participate in any organized religion, but they do have their own individual, personal “spirituality.” Is that private, interior spiritual sensibility the same, for all practical purposes, as a religion? Can the increasingly-recognized benefits of religion be found also in those who are just “spiritual”? A new study suggests not.

Psychology Today reports on research that has found that those who are “spiritual but not religious” have significantly higher incidences of depression than those who are “religious.” The speculation is that religions entail interactions with other human beings, which is good for us. Just being “spiritual,” on the other hand, is solitary. It also concentrates on the inwardness and scrutiny of the self, and we know how depressing that can be.

From “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Associated With Depression:

In about 25 percent of people, spirituality was stronger than religious belief, whereas religious belief exceeded spirituality in about 75 percent. Interestingly, there weren’t large differences in spirituality versus religiosity as a function of age, gender or ethnicity. However, spirituality clearly predicted increased depressive symptoms over the decades of the study. The risk of depression was over a third greater than for those in whom religious belief was higher than spirituality, showing a meaningful difference between religion and spirituality as a protective factor.

Why would this be the case? The survey data did not estimate specific factors related to depression, so it is only possible to speculate. While religion represents deeply rooted belief and practice, usually coming from family and cultural background, spirituality represents a departure from that traditional, familiar support.

People seeking spiritual answers may be coming from a position of distress, searching for answers or looking for relief from mental suffering.

Such folk may be more vulnerable, leading to a failure of religion to prevent depression. In either case, this could create a self-selected higher risk spiritual-but-not-religious group. Those who have lost or abandoned traditional faith may have additional risk factors for depression, potentially connected with problems growing up, directly related to religious institutions or family practices, which may have led them to move away from religion.

Study author Vittengl suggests that, compared with religion’s structured and socially-supported ways of thinking and constructing meaning, depression and spirituality may share similar cognitive patterns, based on increased self-focus. For example, self-directed internal searches for meaning, ruminations about life, and a sense of an unending search may characterize both spirituality and depression; spiritual people therefore “may be engaging in a ‘lonely search’ for answers to their ultimate questions that, if unsatisfied, increases risk for depression.”


I find this interesting, and yet I am always suspicious of efforts to focus on the “benefits” of religion. The issue is not whether a belief system makes us psychologically feel better but whether the belief system is true.

There is much in Christianity that is not supposed to make us feel better. If we had the dose of Law that we need, we may well be depressed. To be sure, the Gospel brings a deep joy, and “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). And yet, the Christian life also entails cross-bearing (Mark 8:34) and “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials” (Acts 20:19).

In a strange ways, though, the joy and the trials come together. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2).

At any rate, I agree that the communal dimension of involvement in an actual church is important, both to our faith and to our well-being in general. We are supposed to love each other, and that is hard to do when you are purposefully by yourself.

And being the only member of your religion, which you have made up for yourself, is not likely to give you much help when you need it.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Will you live today?

I woke up today,
And I saw my Lord.
He was standing there
And He asked me this question.
“Will you live today
The way I would?
Or will you laugh at me
In front of the world?”

In the car today,
I turned on the radio.
I started dancing to
A pretty cool song.
Then my Lord again,
He asked me His question.

Will you live today
The way Jesus would?
Or will you laugh at Him,
In front of the world.

And at school today,
I found myself,
Lookin’ at those girls,
And thinkin’ those thoughts
Then my Lord again,
He asked me His question.

And at the movies,
Sitting in line.
I couldn’t decide whether
I really should watch it.
Then my Lord again,
He asked me His question.

Then my Lord, He said to me.
That, it’s hard to live like He would.
But He said, “it’s worth all the pain,
For in heaven, you’ll receive your reward.”
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
“The Lord is King for ever and ever.”

Psalm 10:16

Jesus Christ is no despotic claimant of divine right, but he is really and truly the Lord's anointed! “It hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” God hath given to him all power and all authority. As the Son of man, he is now head over all things to his church, and he reigns over heaven, and earth, and hell, with the keys of life and death at his girdle. Certain princes have delighted to call themselves kings by the popular will, and certainly our Lord Jesus Christ is such in his church. If it could be put to the vote whether he should be King in the church, every believing heart would crown him.

O that we could crown him more gloriously than we do! We would count no expense to be wasted that could glorify Christ. Suffering would be pleasure, and loss would be gain, if thereby we could surround his brow with brighter crowns, and make him more glorious in the eyes of men and angels. Yes, he shall reign. Long live the King! All hail to thee, King Jesus! Go forth, ye virgin souls who love your Lord, bow at his feet, strew his way with the lilies of your love, and the roses of your gratitude: “Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him Lord of all.”

Moreover, our Lord Jesus is King in Zion by right of conquest: he has taken and carried by storm the hearts of his people, and has slain their enemies who held them in cruel bondage. In the Red Sea of his own blood, our Redeemer has drowned the Pharaoh of our sins: shall he not be King in Jeshurun? He has delivered us from the iron yoke and heavy curse of the law: shall not the Liberator be crowned?

We are his portion, whom he has taken out of the hand of the Amorite with his sword and with his bow: who shall snatch his conquest from his hand? All hail, King Jesus! we gladly own thy gentle sway! Rule in our hearts for ever, thou lovely Prince of Peace.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
This is the hour of prayer for me,

The hour I go on bended knee

And before my Father bow my head

To prepare for going to my bed.

I need not know what I should say

If I but take the time to pray.

The prayers that I have not yet said

Or even formed within my head

Are to my Father known as well

As any prayer my tongue can tell.

If I have a heart for saying prayer

I need not list my every care;

I only need my heart to show

My Father all He needs to know—

That I his servant seek His peace

And into His hands my soul release.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Biblical Warnings About False Prophets

The number of false prophets has exploded in the last few years, so to prepare you for their deception, here are some powerful Bible verses about false prophets.

Warnings
In Matthew 7:15 Jesus warned us to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves,” and Jesus prophesied that prior to His second coming, that “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” (Matt 24:11), and we know that these wolves love “Sheep in a Can” because they can shear the sheep and fleece the flock without their even knowing it. Their goals include these three things (at least):

#1 Money

#2 Absolute Power/Authority

#3 Unquestioned Teachings

Jesus knew their hearts and warned us to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt 7:15-20).

Question: What about 1 Samuel 16:7 which says that humans look at the outward appearance but only God can know the heart?

Answer: The truth is, bad fruit is easy to spot because it’s fleshly fruit, and includes things like, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19-21). Paul’s advice for all of us is to “watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve”(Rom 16:17-18)

A Rise in False Teachers
In addressing what the Bible says about false prophets and teachers, the Apostle Peter wrote that “false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet 2:1).

Jesus Christ also prophesied that “false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matt 24:14). The Apostle Paul writes about the true source of these teachers, some even claiming to be apostles of Christ, that: “such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Cor 11:13-15).

In a striking parallel, Jeremiah wrote of Judah’s false prophets what could be written today, saying, “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes” (Jer 5:30-31)? The truth is that “such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve” (Rom 16:19), so we had better recognize that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Tim 4:3). Indeed, it appears that time has come.

Guard Yourselves
Jude wrote, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:3-4).

The Apostle John writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). God warned Judah through Jeremiah to “not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jer 23:16), and “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds” (Jer 14:14)

Conclusion
Perhaps the greatest test of self-anointed and self-proclaimed prophets is that they are not allowed to be wrong…even once! Deuteronomy 18:20-22 states that “the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’

And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”
It’s not like baseball where you’re allowed three strikes and you’re out. You can’t be wrong and be called a prophet of God. For false prophets, it’s one and done!
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Dear Lord,

My birthday is a gift from you,

So Lord, guide me the whole year through.

This year Lord, may I sin less

And each time I err, at once confess.

May I follow the Bible as best I can;

May I learn to live by your good plan,

For Lord, I want to always be

A good steward of the years that you give me.

In the name of Christ Jesus, I pray. Amen
 

beensetfree

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Generous Asset
Do Sexual Minorities Benefit from Hatred of Christians?


There has been a hurricane of changes over the past decade or so as it concerns acceptance of sexual minorities. It was not that long ago that acceptance of sexual minorities was not very strong in any sector of our society – except among those sexual minorities themselves. Now all the information I have seen indicates that such acceptance is growing in all sectors of our society.

Because this change has happened so fast, I am not sure we have done an adequate job of looking at why attitudes towards sexual minorities have changed so fast. I suspect that the reasons for these changes are multifaceted. Clearly as individuals met more sexual minorities, this humanized them in critical ways and persuaded individuals to be more sympathetic to them.

It is also likely a factor that acceptance of sexual minorities grew because cultural elites began to accept them more easily and began to spread their ideas about acceptance more broadly. Finally, acceptance of sexual minorities can be seen as the natural evolution of a trend of accepting groups that have previously been marginalized (i.e. racial minorities, women).

I do not deny any of these possible reasons for the growing acceptance of sexual minorities. But I want to offer another possibility. A recent article of mine will supply some data to support my theory. My contention is this: that some of the growth of support for sexual minorities has emerged due to the strengthening of hatred towards conservative Christians.

When I say strengthening I do not necessarily mean increasing since another recent article of mine indicates that the level of Christianophobia in our society has not dramatically increased. But that work also indicates that Christianophobia has increased among cultural elites. This strengthening of anti-Christian animosity among the most culturally powerful in our society may also translate into support for sexual minorities.

The reason why this relationship of sexual minorities support/hatred of Christians may exist is conservative Christians are known for their unwillingness to support sexual minorities. If someone hates conservative Christians, then they may also disregard how those Christians feel about an issue such as acceptance of sexual minorities.

In fact, they may figure that if conservative Christians do not accept sexual minorities, then those Christians must be wrong. They may also conclude that a society where there is high acceptance of sexual minorities may be a society that is more toxic to conservative Christians. Thus their antipathy towards conservative Christians may provide them with motivation to support sexual minorities.

But this is just speculation unless there is some data to back it up, and there is that data. I apologize if these next two paragraphs are a little technical. In my article, I used a national survey that asked respondents to rank, on a 0 to 100 scale, how much they like gays, the transgendered, Christian fundamentalists, Christians in general, Muslims and Jews.

I determined whether a respondent’s score was either a standard deviation above or a standard deviation below the average of the ratings of all the groups the respondent was asked about. I then used regression analysis to see the relationship of these attitudes on a variety of different measures of questions about the rights of sexual minorities.

The basic accepted explanation is that people who are sympathetic to sexual minorities develop hostility towards conservative Christians because those Christians do not support sexual minorities. Indeed I found that the most powerful consistent predictor of support of the rights of sexual minorities is whether someone has positive feelings towards them.

But even when I control for the rankings of sexual minorities, the respondents’ attitude towards fundamentalist Christian is still a significant predictor towards support for the rights of sexual minorities. This tells me that there is more than sympathy towards sexual minorities that is shaping support for them. In addition to that sympathy, hostility towards conservative Christians also seems to matter and it matters even when I controlled for how much the respondents like sexual minorities.

Let me see if I can show what this looks like with less technical statistical measures. I created a sample of individuals who ranked sexual minorities (gays or transgendered) lower than their average rankings of all the groups. So we have a group that is not especially sympathetic to sexual minorities. In fact to varying degrees, I would argue that this is a group of respondents with some degree of disregard of sexual minorities.

In that group I separated those who ranked fundamentalist Christians a standard deviation lower than the average ranking of all groups (let’s call them anti-fundamentalists) and those who did not. Among the anti-fundamentalists who are not sympathetic to gays, 53.9 percent of them supported same-sex marriage. Among the others not sympathetic to gays, only 30.2% supported same-sex marriage.

This difference was also reflected when I looked at other measures of the rights of sexual minorities. For example, when looking at whether businesses should have to serve same-sex weddings, 47.1 percent of the anti-fundamentalists would exempt businesses from serving those weddings, while 74.8 percent of the rest of the subgroup would exempt those businesses. As it concerns transgendered individuals and bathrooms, 41.2 percent of the anti-fundamentalists contend that individuals should use the bathroom of their birth while 74.4 percent of the rest of those who did not rank the transgender higher than average believe that transgendered individuals should have to use the bathroom of their birth. There are two other measures of the rights of sexual minorities, as you can see in the article, but the results are basically the same as these three measures.
My results indicate that even among those who do not particularly like sexual minorities, they are more likely to support their rights if they do not like conservative Christians. What is interesting is that this was not the case when I looked at the respondents’ attitudes towards Muslim or Jews. Not liking Muslims or Jews is not related to supporting the rights of sexual minorities. These results are uniquely tied to whether or not the respondents do not like conservative Christians. So the idea that these results are due to a general antipathy towards religion simply does not hold up.


These results also do not seem to be due to some other factor as I controlled for other social and demographic measures. Feel free to look at the article to see what other measures were controlled. It is always possible that there is some other variable that I should control but either could not or did not include. But I am pretty confident that this unique finding of animosity towards conservative Christians, but not other religious groups, is connected to support of sexual minorities.

Perhaps there is an alternate theory that explains my findings. But until I hear that theory I am sticking with the story that there are some people who because of their hatred of conservative Christians, support the rights of sexual minorities. It is not the most powerful explanation of support for sexual minorities, but neither is it insignificant. I think this finding is significant because it offers a new possible explanation of support for same-sex marriage – one that previous researchers have ignored.

One of the implications of this research is that it is very possible that sexual minorities benefit from animosity aimed towards conservative Christians. Of course sexual minorities also have to endure extra problems because conservative Christians are the subpopulation less supportive of their lifestyle, but there is a real possibility that they benefit more from their social conflict with conservative Christians than they lose. Usually social conflict is costly to both groups that are fighting each other. But it is possible that one group can benefit from the conflict if they can use that conflict to gain other allies. I believe this is what has occurred in the culture war to the benefit of sexual minorities and to the detriment of conservative Christians.

This explanation can also be used to understand some of the efforts to punish Christian businesses, schools and organizations that do not subscribe to the new sexuality values. Much of the new fights in the arena of the rights of sexual minorities seem to be less about granting those individuals their rights and more about making sure organizations, including those run by conservative Christians, actively support sexual minorities. The political libertarian basis for sexual minority rights has given way to a more aggressive stance towards dissenters from the new norms of sexuality.

This movement away from a “live and let live” perspective makes perfect sense if a significant portion of support for sexual minorities is tied to an antipathy towards conservative Christians. This antipathy can lead some individuals to look towards using the new freedoms granted towards sexual minorities to punish conservative Christians. My work on Christianophobia indicates that those with this type of religious bigotry tend to have an unrealistic expectation that conservative Christians are trying to set up a theocracy. Thus, a significant minority of those who support sexual minorities may want to use that support to control Christians as a measure of perceived self-defense.

I hope this research provides more insight into the nature of the culture war dividing our society. That war appears to have concluded with the victors being those seeking to promote progressive sexuality and the losers those attempting to defend traditional notions of sexuality. If that is true, then my research indicates that among the victors are those who are motivated more by anti-Christian hostility than affection for sexual minorities.

Update: I wondered if I should do this update but to say the oblivious, it is not a sound rhetoric strategy to rebut the existence of Christianophobia with anti-Christian dehumanizing stereotypes. Come on people, have at least a modicum of self-awareness. As to the study what has to be explained is why the relationships of anti-Christian hostility and support of sexual minorities persists even after controlling for affinity towards sexual minorities. Thus explanations based on sympathy towards sexual minorities due to the mistreatment of Christians does not hold water. Complaining about how awful Christians are, even if those complaints are accurate, do not address the fact pattern of the research. There must be some other explanation and I think my argument of symbolic hostility makes a lot of sense.
 

beensetfree

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“All the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.”

Ezekiel 3:7

Are there no exceptions? No, not one. Even the favoured race are thus described. Are the best so bad?—then what must the worst be? Come, my heart, consider how far thou hast a share in this universal accusation, and while considering, be ready to take shame unto thyself wherein thou mayst have been guilty. The first charge is impudence, or hardness of forehead, a want of holy shame, an unhallowed boldness in evil.

Before my conversion, I could sin and feel no compunction, hear of my guilt and yet remain unhumbled, and even confess my iniquity and manifest no inward humiliation on account of it. For a sinner to go to God's house and pretend to pray to him and praise him argues a brazen-facedness of the worst kind! Alas! since the day of my new birth I have doubted my Lord to his face, murmured unblushingly in his presence, worshipped before him in a slovenly manner, and sinned without bewailing myself concerning it. If my forehead were not as an adamant, harder than flint, I should have far more holy fear, and a far deeper contrition of spirit. Woe is me, I am one of the impudent house of Israel.

The second charge is hardheartedness, and I must not venture to plead innocent here. Once I had nothing but a heart of stone, and although through grace I now have a new and fleshy heart, much of my former obduracy remains. I am not affected by the death of Jesus as I ought to be; neither am I moved by the ruin of my fellow men, the wickedness of the times, the chastisement of my heavenly Father, and my own failures, as I should be. O that my heart would melt at the recital of my Saviour's sufferings and death. Would to God I were rid of this nether millstone within me, this hateful body of death. Blessed be the name of the Lord, the disease is not incurable, the Saviour's precious blood is the universal solvent, and me, even me, it will effectually soften, till my heart melts as wax before the fire.
 

beensetfree

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Commitments.


Let’s talk about commitments, commitments to some of the Christian disciplines. My first commitment was to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It took a year and a half before I made another commitment. That commitment was to pray each day. Jesus says that, “men ought to always pray and not faint.”

It took some time, several years but I made a commitment that I was going to be at church for services whenever I was not providentially hindered. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Eventually I became convicted of the need to spend time reading, studying and memorizing God’s Word which, was another commitment. Jesus tells us in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

It was during a revival service that I became convicted of my need to be a better witness. In Romans 1:16 we are told, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth….”

Commitments by themselves do not a Christian make. But can there really be a Christian without any commitments?



Read more: http://www.inspirationalarchive.com/858/commitments/#ixzz5EHunYCNB
 

beensetfree

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“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God.”

Psalm 139:17

Divine omniscience affords no comfort to the ungodly mind, but to the child of God it overflows with consolation. God is always thinking upon us, never turns aside his mind from us, has us always before his eyes; and this is precisely as we would have it, for it would be dreadful to exist for a moment beyond the observation of our heavenly Father. His thoughts are always tender, loving, wise, prudent, far-reaching, and they bring to us countless benefits: hence it is a choice delight to remember them. The Lord always did think upon his people: hence their election and the covenant of grace by which their salvation is secured; he always will think upon them: hence their final perseverance by which they shall be brought safely to their final rest.

In all our wanderings the watchful glance of the Eternal Watcher is evermore fixed upon us—we never roam beyond the Shepherd's eye. In our sorrows he observes us incessantly, and not a pang escapes him; in our toils he marks all our weariness, and writes in his book all the struggles of his faithful ones. These thoughts of the Lord encompass us in all our paths, and penetrate the innermost region of our being. Not a nerve or tissue, valve or vessel, of our bodily organization is uncared for; all the littles of our little world are thought upon by the great God.

Dear reader, is this precious to you? then hold to it. Never be led astray by those philosophic fools who preach up an impersonal God, and talk of self-existent, self-governing matter. The Lord liveth and thinketh upon us, this is a truth far too precious for us to be lightly robbed of it. The notice of a nobleman is valued so highly that he who has it counts his fortune made; but what is it to be thought of by the King of kings! If the Lord thinketh upon us, all is well, and we may rejoice evermore.
 

beensetfree

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Struggling with sin


There are two poems here about my personal struggles with sin. I believe that there is no way to completely eliminate sin from the life of a human being, but it is incumbent upon us to do our best and then rely on the grace of God for the rest.

Lord Make me a Better Woman

I ask you Jesus, please help me
Be the best woman I can be.

I cannot shake my ingrained pride
My patience is too often tried.

Sometimes I’m angry and unkind
To the needs of others, often blind.

I know I should be following you,
Be Christian in all things I do.

Yet I struggle with my will
And day by day keep sinning still.

So Lord, please help me every day
To fight against sin’s deadly sway.

I need your Holy Spirit near,
Always whispering in my ear,

To guide me forth from sin and shame
And make me worthy of your name.

In Christ’s name I pray. Amen
B. Killebrew

_____

My Sinful Nature

How Sinful can I be?
Not one thought can be sin free!

I say a prayer for sins I’ve done,
And immediately commit another one.

God’s grace alone will take me home
I’d never make in on my own.
 

beensetfree

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Is Sin, Sin? Is All Sin The Same?


Have you heard someone say, “Sin is sin?” Is that true? What does the Bible say?

It Only Takes One
Sin is sin. You’ve probably heard that from some Christians when speaking about a certain sin someone or they committed. To begin with, the Apostle John tells us what sin is, writing that “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), but thankfully, Jesus Christ “appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5).

For certain, “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death” (1 John 5:17), however all unforgiven sin leads to death since that is what the wages are (Rom 3:23a). Of course, that’s totally unnecessary because we can be “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). Sin, even one sin, would be enough to condemn a person to hell, but God “presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith” (Rom 3:25). That not only takes one sin away…it takes them all away.

Degrees of Judgment
When you read the Old Testament, you can see that not every sin or crime had the same punishment. A person who stole could pay restitution to the victim (Ex 22:1-4), but for someone who murdered another person in cold blood, restitution would be impossible; therefore, they must pay with their own life.

Even before the Mosaic Law, God said, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen 9:6). This shows us how much God values life, so not all sin is equal. Some sins are infinitely worse and deserve a more fitting judgment. In the theocracy that Israel lived under, stealing from fellow citizens was considered a punishable crime, but not requiring death, but restitution.

Stealing is breaking one of the Ten Commandments, but stealing is not as bad as adultery or worse, murder. One sin is not equal to another, therefore, sin is not sin, but each sin is different, although many may be related to the same thing. If I sinned and stole my brother’s pen at church, and then the next day, stole his car, can we really say about these two things, “Sin is sin?” Absolutely not! One can be rectified; the other may land me in jail.

Missing the Mark
The thought that, “Sin is missing the mark,” is fairly accurate because our standard of entering the kingdom is perfection. The Apostle John was told to “not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” and to “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy” (Rev 22:10-11). Jesus says, “I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (Rev 22:12), so trusting in Christ is essential.

Why? Because no unrighteousness person can ever enter the kingdom, so what do we do? We must trust in Christ for our perfection, and it is so, as the Apostle Paul writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). God supplies what He demands…and that is righteousness of Christ. Jesus Christ is our righteousness, and that’s why it’s good news, because in the kingdom, “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life”(Rev 21:27). One sin is enough to spot our garments, but Jesus’ blood washes that all away. Like the old hymn says, “Even the vilest offender who truly believes, That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.”

Obvious Sins
Even though Christians may feel that there are a lot of grey areas, there are sin’s that are plainly listed in the Bible. Paul shows us what the obvious fruits of the flesh are, including “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these,” but then Paul adds, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19-21).

It is not my personal opinion that “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9-10). Many are still battling these pulls of the flesh, but they have put their trust in Christ. You cannot wait to “get right” and then come to Christ. You must come to Christ with your burden and find your rest in Him. We can’t do anything at all without Christ (John 15:5), and I have discovered, “nothing” is not a little something.

Conclusion
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not judging anyone. I am too busy judging myself. God’s Word judges and He alone will bring everyone into account for everything done and idle word. I am no better than anyone on earth, saved or lost. I am only better off, but even that is due to God’s grace and not anything I did (Eph 2:8-9). Gifts are not earned…they are freely given, so who can boast (1 Cor 4:3-4)? I can’t.

Today, if you will hear His voice, put your trust in Christ. Today is the best of days to be saved (2 Cor 6:2), because Christ may return at any moment, or death may come, and then there will only be judgment (Heb 9:27; Rev 21:12-15). My pray for every unsaved person reading this is that they would repent and be saved, and would enter the kingdom of heaven as perfect as Christ Himself. Then, not even death itself can separate you from God (John 11:25-26; Rom 8:38-39).
 

beensetfree

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Rating: +5 (from 7 votes)

Have you felt the Holy Spirit tugging at your heart?

Oh, tremble lest you turn the Lord away.

What a sad lost chance if you resist and the Spirit must depart.

Oh, tremble lest you turn the Lord away.
 
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