Saturday, June 26, 2010

Whose Fault, Any Ways?

Reposted from one of my earlier blogs at Easter season.

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. (Mat 27:24-25 KJV)
This was the verse that was omitted in the movie ‘The Passion Of The Christ’, or was it? Actor/producer Mel Gibson, when confronted with the very real possibility of anti-Semitic fervor arising from the film elected to drop the subtitling for that particular line. But being a purist, desiring to produce an accurate as possible a portrayal of the last hours of Jesus’ life before His crucifixion, allowed the line to remain spoken. If the average viewer could understand Aramaic, now a dead language, one would be able to hear the infamous words ‘to aima autou kai epi ta tekna hmwn’.

This has sparked a firestorm of controversy amongst the liberal media critics. Their hypocrisy has never been more transparent. They cry, ‘what about the Jews? Won’t this fuel the fires of anti-Semitism?’ The irony cannot be ignored, for it is the same media who continually place an anti-Semitic spin on news reporting from the middle east. Whatever their agenda may be, they may have actually done those of us who believe in Jesus, a great favor! This is a great opportunity to share the Gospel.

Are the Jews responsible for the death of Christ? It’s a fair question. They were there, as was Jesus (Himself a Jew), as was Pilate and the Romans, and the Herodians. The answer, simply put, is yes. The Jews are indeed responsible for the death of Jesus. There. Now it’s said, and I’m not sorry having said it. But before you relegate me to the ranks of racists and bigots, please read on. If after you have finished you still think me prejudiced, then think what you will.

You see, the question lies not in who killed Jesus, but rather, who is to blame. The answer to the first question is nobody. He had taught this to his disciples earlier in His ministry speaking of His life:

No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:18 KJV)
Jesus in a candid moment with Pontius Pilate reveals this fact in a most personal manner:

Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. (John 19:10-11 KJV)
In these two passages, He reveals the truth to both Jew and Gentile. Nobody killed Jesus. He willingly laid down His life. Why would he do this? My wife relates to me that before she was saved, well meaning Christians would tell her, ‘Jesus died for you’. As an unsaved person, this puzzled her. She felt somewhat touched by the sentiment, but until she was saved, she never understood why He would do that. Perhaps you, the reader, share in that confusion.

The answer goes all the way back to the beginning. When God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any tree in the garden save just one, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he forewarned them of the consequence of any disobedience on their part. As we know, they disobeyed and brought death and destruction to the family of man. Death, as we know it seems limited to the cessation of bodily functions, but from God’s perspective, it is eternal separation between Him and mankind. Man’s loss was great. The only solution could be a substitutionary, sinless sacrifice. But God, not to be caught unawares had a plan in mind all along, for he gives a promise concerning the woman, her Seed and Satan:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15 KJV)
This is a scene we see dramatized in the opening scene of the film. Jesus is depicted stomping the head of a serpent. He was on a mission from the Father.

Now back to the question, are the Jews to blame for Jesus’ death? Yes, as are the Romans and the Herodians. All peoples of the world were represented there that day. The Jews were guilty. The Gentiles were guilty. You and I are guilty. It is said that Mel Gibson answered this charge in perhaps his only appearance in the film. In the scene where the nail was placed in the palm of the Savior and hammered to the wood, that was Mel’s hands bearing the iron. It was his way of saying ‘It was MY sins that placed Him on the cross’.

Yet, there is another irony at work here. That controversial verse that was dropped from the subtitling bears closer examination.

His blood be on us, and on our children.
This was shouted arrogantly by the Jewish religious leaders, presumably on behalf of the Jewish nation. This was foolish as well as presumptuous. There were many, many Jewish followers of the newborn Christian faith. In it’s early days, the Church was comprised entirely of Jews. Caiaphas and the other leaders, unwilling to accept Jesus as the Christ, called His Blood down upon their heads as a curse.

But as believers, that Blood is something we want upon our heads and those of our children. For as the redeemed, it is safety, rest, and redemption that we find under that Blood covering, not a curse. We sing songs like ‘O the Blood of Jesus, it washes white as snow’, and many others, because we believe there is ‘Power, wonder working power, in the Blood’. What was spoken so long ago as a curse by evil men, we seek as a blessing. The message of the Blood should never be diminished. It should be pled daily over our lives and the lives of our children.

A simple personal illustration to the absolute power of the Blood covering is this: My family and I had decided to take a day in the country and have a picnic. We drove not far away to the mountains where there was a nice little park with a picnic area and a playground. We arrived, got our things spread out and was enjoying ourselves. Another party of picnickers arrived at the space next to us. Within minutes, the peace was shattered. They were loud, obnoxious, and obviously inebriated. The language and filth that issued forth from them was discomforting and embarrassing. To make matters worse, they had the car stereo cranked up playing some new-age chant music. This went on for perhaps ten to fifteen minutes, while they very methodically got out all the accouterments of picnicking. Needless to say, I was seething in one of my more fleshly moments. Wives are often the wiser creatures in such situations. She simply, quietly began pleading the Blood of Jesus over us. That would have been sufficient, I believe. But not to be outdone, I actually pled the Blood over them. It was as if the woods were suddenly ablaze. Without any spoken agreement, they literally threw their belongings into their vehicles and bawled their tires getting out of there. Something supernatural took place that day.

If God cared that day enough for us to preserve our peace and tranquility, to answer a plea for the Blood, how much more does He care for the weightier issues in life. He cares immeasurably about the things that overly concern us, health, well being, yes even wealth. He cares the most about our spiritual well being and our eternal future. It was the focal point of His Son’s mission to earth. The problem is, we often forget the Blood, and fall prey to the petty arguments of petty people seeking to divert blame to the Jews. We are all to blame, but paradoxically, we who believe have access to blessing because of the blame.

As we head into the Easter season, let us reexamine the roots of our faith. Let us daily renew the plea for the covering of His Blood. Let us lavish in it. It is there for us, and it never runs dry.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Legacy

This is a post I made on another blog about 6 years ago. It has been reposted in a number of other places. I felt it to be just as appropriate today as I did when I originally wrote it. Please enjoy, "A Legacy".
It’s Father’s Day. As I contemplate, memories come unbidden. In the fall, I turn 42, and have had the honor of fathering two sons and raising a third. I can remember hospital waiting rooms, diapers, bottles, walkers, bikes, skateboards, video games, more things than I have the room to mention. Like my Uncle Fred said, when he unknowingly gave my mother the name for her book, “There are hard times, but no bad times.” As I sit and ponder on what it means to be a dad, I am prompted to examine the legacy that my own father left me.

No reflection is complete without a trip through the past. I was born during the days of the Cuban missile crisis. Dad was in the Air Force Reserve. He had completed active duty, and was subject to call up. Mom was very pregnant with me. I later remember him saying that his biggest fear was that he would be called away to war and possibly never see his baby. Thankfully, he was not recalled, and the crisis was resolved without war.

I remember very little about my youngest days. I suppose a lot of people are like that. However my earliest memories are of us as a family spending lots of time together. We frequently took trips together, picnicking, whatever. As a young boy, I don’t remember the first time we went fishing. It seems like something I’ve always done. Growing up, I suppose we were poor by the standards of the day. There were many of the finer things we did without, due to the tightness of money. Dad worked full time at the newspaper, mom did sewing at home for people. In our spare time Dad and I did odd jobs and light hauling with an old pickup. We cut and hauled firewood to heat the house during the winter.

I don't mean to portray the old dirt-poor, walk 5 miles to school in the snow, barefooted, uphill both ways, scenario. We were far from that, but what is striking to me is how they seemed to make happen just what needed to be done. It seemed that everything was done with careful planning and deliberation. It just had to be that way. Now, at my age, with kids of my own, I have a full appreciation of what sacrifices my folks made. In addition to keeping my sister and me alive, feeding, clothing, and housing, they wove into our everyday lives a rich heritage, that I carry with me to this day.

Was it all rosy? No. There were times of discipline. Dad was strict, and no mistake about it. His word was law in our home. There were many times I thought him unfair and I even resented him and chafed under his authority. There were many times when I had transgressed the law that I was even afraid of him. I did not understand at the time that that fear could be channeled into forging character for myself. Unbeknownst to me, he was shaping me, forming me into the man that I would become. Was it perfection? Surely not, but now I also understand the dilemma he must have faced. Raising kids of my own, I often agonize over the decisions that I must make, whether they are understood or not. He must have done that too.

Of all the examples that dad set for me one stands out above the rest. In this day and age, marriages are entered and abandoned without much thought being given to the implications thereof. Mom and Dad have been married now for 42 years. There was never a time when my sister and I were kids that we had to look at the prospect of living without one of our parents. This is not to say that Mom and Dad were never challenged in their relationship. Many trials confronted them. But after all was said and done, they were determined to keep our family together.

Big deal, you might say. Or you might even be persuaded to laud them for that. But Dad gave us more than he ever had as a kid. He never got to know his dad, until he had started a family of his own. His folks divorced when he was a small boy. Dad was raised by an abusive step dad. He was physically, mentally, and emotionally abused. As soon as he was old enough, he joined the Air Force and left home. Seems a pretty dismal genesis for a soon to be husband and father. But things took an unexpected turn. A fellow airman invited Dad to church one day, and Dad agreed to go. In short, Jesus came into my father’s life at a young age. Involved in church as a new convert, he soon met my uncle who was stationed nearby with the Navy. They soon became best friends, brothers in Christ. Mark soon introduced Dad to his baby sister. They corresponded through the mail. He was stationed on Okinawa. When Dad shipped back over stateside, he made his way directly to my mother, and soon after, they were married. Almost a year and a half later, I was born.

The greatest single thing I can say that Dad did for us, was he gave us Jesus. For as long as I can remember, he always strove to put God first. Our household was a sanctuary, a Godly place to live and grow, and he defended it staunchly, sometimes even from us. There were many things we were not allowed to do, and we never missed church. Mom and Dad were involved, and taught us to be involved too. There were many times I chafed at this. I didn’t always want to go or to participate. But they were faithful. They raised us by the principle:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Pro 22:6 KJV)
This has proven true in my life. As a younger man, I am shamed to say that I strayed from the faith and the things I was taught. But the things of God had been so deeply ingrained in me that I could not help but return to Him. In fact as I sampled the things of the world, I always knew I would return. When I did, Mom and Dad were there, not judging, but welcoming me back. You see, they too knew I would return, they had God’s promise.

As a child I never understood what a struggle Dad had raising us. He never had much of a father figure to relate to. It is a problem that is common to us all I suppose. We tend to relate to God as a Father, in much the same way we relate to our natural fathers. It must have been immensely difficult. But there are always hidden blessings. God always makes a way. My Mom’s Dad was a Godly man, and had ministered the gospel for many years. When Mom and Dad married, Granddad took my Dad under his wing and mentored him as he would have, and did, for any of his four other boys.

Granddad led by example. He was an early riser. He was often up before dawn, studying his Bible and praying. He prayed for each of his children and their spouses, grandchildren and great grandchildren, naming all by name. What a blessing he was for us all. He went to be with Jesus in 1991. Dad was so influenced by that example that he has taken up the mantle. He rises early, prays and studies. I know he prays for his progeny, because we have discussed many matters between us.

I share so much of my family’s history because I know that there are many men, fathers, who feel like giving up. Some have already given up and turned away from the responsibilities God has given them. Perhaps much damage has been done. But God transforms lives. He took a boy that had been beaten and belittled and made him the patriarch of a family of Godly people. Both of his kids and all of his grandchildren are Christians and are heaven bound.

A final illustration of the power of God is this. Dad was able to forgive his step dad and become burdened for his soul. He prayed for his step dad and all of his unbelieving relatives back home. This impacted the family so much that they have almost all come to Christ. The hateful step dad that treated my Dad so cruelly, passed away several years ago, but not before being redeemed. He is now waiting for us in heaven. What a legacy!

If you are discouraged, thinking about leaving your wife and kids, men, it’s not too late. God, the perfect Father, has the power to change lives. He can take your situation and turn it into a rich legacy for your future generations. Turn to Him. Seek Him. Ask Him to make you the Dad you were meant to be. I can promise you the payoff is priceless.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Love: The Best Way

He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends. (Pro 17:9 MKJV)
Quoth the wisest king, Solomon.  As one who has walked this sod for nearly a half-century, this is a lesson and a missive that I strive to keep in the forefront of my thinking all the time.  We are immersed in  a society that is out for number one, even if it means selling out others, even our friends.  But the wisdom of God, speaks out through the voice of the king, reminding us of another way.

This phenomenon also seems to find it's way into and amongst believers.  We Christians are too often known for pointing the finger at others, even if only with the intent of 'fixing' things.  Often these criticisms are not well received and strife is born.  It has been said that the church is the only army in the history of the world that shoots it's own wounded.  I think this is a sad, but mostly true indictment.  I have been guilty myself, and I repent before the Lord for it.

Should we be complicit in cover-ups for the bad behavior of others?  I don't think that is what the writer implies. Rather, it seems to embody that old saw that our mothers taught us at her knee;  "If you can't say something good about someone, then say nothing at all".  Yet we seem to find this concept supremely difficult to put into practice.  Questions from others, awkward moments, silence, and innuendo literally scream out to be answered, and we say something that should not be said.  This often strays across the lines of common decency and becomes gossip.  And that, my friends, is the enemy of peace, harmony, and love.

Relationships are then sacrificed upon an altar of flesh.  We see this happen all the time.  Many have left the church, pulled back, or have perhaps left ministries, hurt and wounded because of these types of things.  Then as if it weren't enough, they become attacked by the very people who should be reaching out and restoring them.  Lord please forgive us!

In my prayer and meditation about this recently, the Holy Spirit brought to my remembrance the words of our Lord; "The poor you will have with you always."  This was striking, given the context of my thought train and line of prayer at that time.  But to God, poverty is not measured by what's in a person's bank account.  That is to say a person isn't poor because they lack personal wealth.  Rather they suffer lack because they are poor.  Poverty is a spiritual condition.  Pain, offense, and regret inhibit a person's growth and create spiritual lack.  To put a practical spin on this, we don't just kick a homeless man in the slats for being poor.  Neither should we be un-charitable to someone who is struggling spiritually.

The apostle Peter puts it like this:
And above all things have fervent love to yourselves, for love will cover a multitude of sins. (1Pe 4:8 MKJV)
As I have come to realize at this stage in life,  not every situation needs to be commented upon, discussed, or repeated to others.  Even in the name of 'prayer'.  Given the choice between an awkward silence, or giving cause to strife in the Body, I choose silence.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

An Ordered Existence

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and He delighteth in his way. (Psa 37:23 KJV)
I was recently fascinated and amazed to discover that despite decades of scientific, mathematical, and statistical research that researchers have failed to find true randomness. What's the big deal you say? For cryptology experts, it is the holy grail. With a way to generate true random numbers, they could create the first un-crackable cypher. Many scientific research projects rely on psuedo-random numbers in order to proceed in testing. Similarly computerized gambling machines could never be figured out with a true random number generator.

The problem is this: Any algorithm used to generate random results is still based in an ordered algorithm, thus creating non-random results. To get around this, they use computers to create huge volumes of these pseudo-random numbers, in order to get a small usable slice. It all leads to an uncomfortable conclusion for nihilistic scientists; The universe has order.

This presents many, many problems for modern cosmology and the origin of the species, so to speak. The lack of randomness wreaks havoc with all of these theories that underlie modern thought. Yet man-millenia of research continues grinding along to no avail.

We are immersed in a world where these junk values are passed along in the culture as factual, or at very best is taken for granted as such. Take the concept of luck or fortune for example; We toss the dice and hope for the best. We make life decisions in much the same way. Yet the scripture has this to say:
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. (Pro 16:33 KJV)
And that has been in there all this time! There really is no such thing as random! Do you mean that God controls the very roll of the ole knuckle bones? According to the scripture He does.

I always used to wonder at Godly men back in the old testament resorting to casting lots to determine the will of God in situations. It seemed odd to me to use seemingly random methods to determine the will of a very precise God. Apparently these ancient sages had no concept of luck. Everything that happened was causative, and that cause was God. We do well to meditate on this and follow their example. Not that I am advocating the use of devices in order to seek direction in life, we have the Holy Spirit for that in this age.

When I look around at the world and see the low station it has been brought to, It is comforting to look to the scriptures and be reminded:
The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. (Psa 16:5 KJV)
No matter how crazy things may look on the outside, I can truly say along with Horatio Spafford, It is well with my soul. No matter what happens, the future of His own is assured. Let me leave you with one final verse of solace:
A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. (Pro 16:9 KJV)
Afraid to take a step? Fear not, rejoice, for the steps of a righteous man are ordered of God. He will lead. He will direct. He will keep. His word is on it, and that's priceless.

Friday, June 4, 2010

How Long?

Reposted from one of my other blogs.

And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? (Rev 6:10 KJV)
How long O Lord? It’s a question often uttered by all saints at one point or another in this life. We get weary in well doing, weary in our work, weary in our lives. Someone once said, “The problem with life, is it’s so daily...” It’s true. We become so wrapped up in the mundane aspects of life, we often miss many of the more important issues. We are assailed on every side, it seems by the wickedness of the world. It wears us down.

John the Revelator penned the words in the verse above some 2000 years ago. The cry of ‘How Long?’ is voiced by those believers martyred for their faith. It tends to put into perspective the hardships we face. In America we as believers have not faced the intense persecution of the folks portrayed in this peek into the future. We have not had to endure the hardships of our forebears, when first century Christians were hunted down and murdered, simply for professing Christ.

Yet my mind ponders another aspect of the question. How long, O Lord will you suffer the evil of our generation? Be sure that although God is patient and longsuffering, there are very definite limits to His forebearance. He gave The nation of Canaan approximately 400 years before He ordered the children of Israel to eliminate them. Indeed when God’s own chosen, Israel fell into the same wickedness, judgement was sure. It came after many, many years, but it was as inevitable as a juggernaut.

It may be alarming to those who are unaware that there are parallels between the wicked societies that exixted in that day, and our own modern cosmopolitan times. One of the most abhorrent practices that God punished Canaan for was causing their children to “pass through the fire”. (Lev 18:21, Deu 18:10, 2 Ki 16:3, 17:17, 21:6, 23:10, 2 Chron 33:6, Jer 32:35, Eze 16:21, 20:26, 20:31) Without being unnecessarly graphic in it’s description, this refers to the ancient practice of offering one’s own children up to an idol by burning it alive. The ancient Canaanites were notorious for it. Worse yet, the Israelites later fell into this practice. You can check the above scripture references for yourself.

What has that to do with us today, you might ask? We are living in a time when infants have been slaughtered by the billions. Are they being offered up on a flaming altar to a pagan deity? Perhaps the mechanics differ, but the dynamics are the same. There is little difference between burning alive, and dismembering alive. Is the altar of self or convenience any more acceptable in God’s sight than the altar of a pagan god? I submit to you that He is a sickened by it now as he was then, and that His sure judgement is on it’s way. The shedding of innocent blood has always demanded justice.

Another case in point is that old familiar story of God’s judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no real mystery as to the sin of the Sodomites. The very name has been preseved in our modern language to describe practitioners of homosexuality. Their level of defiance of God’s law was such that the men of that city actually tried to rape two angelic visitors when they came to warn Lot of impending judgement. It indicates that they were so morally depraved that they would not only commit this abomination, but that they would force those unwilling around them to accede to their ways.

Sound familiar? There was a time in America when debate as to whether homosexual marriage is acceptable or not, had no place in the public arena. Don’t be fooled. This issue is not about love and acceptance, it’s about a small group of morally bankrupt activists trying to force us and our children to legitimize their chosen lifestyle. Sadly, they have enjoyed success. God has forbidden this type of behavior many times in scripture. There is no law, whether legislated or adjudicated, that can ever legitimize it in God’s eyes. Judgement is surely on it’s way.

Do you feel despair for our nation? I do to at many times, but for the hope that God himself gives in his Word:

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. (2Ch 7:14 KJV)
Did anyone catch that? If my poeple humble themselves, and pray. Whoa! Wait a minute! We’re not the ones practicing all that evil! Why do we have to humble ourselves and repent from our wicked ways? The scriptures are replete with examples of Godly men repenting on behalf of the nation. God hears and answers these cries. We can never stem the tide of evil by chaining ourselves to the doors of abortion clinics. We cannot stop sexual perversion being force fed to us and our children by activism alone. But prayer changes things. With God, all things are possible. I can actually see a day when Roe vs. Wade is overtuned. I can see a day when a constitutional amendment is a reality, defining marriage as a union between on man and one woman.

How do we do it? First, we get on our knees and cry out in repentence on behalf of a wicked and perverse generation. We pray for our leaders. God requires it of us, and we are remiss in our duties if we neglect to do it. Vote. God has given us this nation where we have the freedom to choose our leaders. Many have died defending that freedom. It is our duty to vote. Perseverence. Don’t quit. Don’t succumb to the weariness and merely cry out, “how long?”

Too many times, Christians ask, “how long?” In reference to the rapture of the church. Make no mistake, He’s coming, and soon. But in the meantime, we have work to do. We do not have to cede all territory to the enemy before He comes. Remember, He is coming for a “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, (Eph 5:27 KJV)

How ought we behave? Remember, like Christ, love the sinner, hate the sin. We do not hate or disabuse those that have commited the sins of abortion or of homosexuality. We have all been saved out of sin. How then can we judge the souls of those who have yet to make that decision. If you know someone who is chained in these sinful lifestyles, love them as Jesus does. And above all, Pray. Pray. Pray!