Saturday, November 29, 2014

***Going Home

The year was 1956 and I spent the summer on my uncle Anton's farm in South Dakota. My cousin, Lloyd, hitched the horses to the wagon early one morning and we headed to the hay fields. The horses must have sensed, probably from past experience, the hard day that was in front of them because, no matter how hard Lloyd tried to drive them, they only had one pace; SLOW.  We probably only drove two or three miles but it seemed to take forever.

Once we arrived, he hitched the horses to the hay rake. The team sluggishly dragged the rake over several acres gathering the freshly mowed hay and we pitched it into huge haystacks. It was a long, hot, summer day and the work was hard for all of us, especially the horses. By the end of the day we were all weary but our work was done and we were going home. We hitched the horses to the wagon, loaded our gear, and headed for the barn. But the return trip was different.

Lloyd didn’t have to drive them home. Instead, he wrapped the reins tightly around his powerful hands and stood with both feet firmly braced against the wagon’s bulkhead. With all his massive weight and strength he struggled to maintain some control over the powerful force of those horses thundering down the road at breakneck speeds. But as hard as he pulled, he could not slow them down. We all hung on tightly as the wagon jumped and bounced over the rutted dirt road. It was a short but thrilling ride. Those horses always knew when they were going home.  They knew the way and they were anxious to get there.

Life is often tough; the labor is hard and sometimes the difficulty seems unbearable. But, as Christians, we labor and suffer more joyously knowing that our way lies toward heaven. We are on the trip home and anxiously anticipating our final rest in our Father's house.

“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” Matt. 5:12

Friday, November 28, 2014

My Post-Thankgiving Letter To Our New King

Date:    November 28, 2012

To:    His Majesty, Barack Obama
         The White House
         1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
         Washington DC

Your Majesty

I trust Your Highness had a wonderful Thanksgiving Turkey Day with the Royal Family. 
Congratulations on Your recent successful conquest of the Constitutional republic formerly known as the United States of America.  I know that archaic and bothersome constitution and those pesky, high-minded idiots in Congress stood in the way of progress but now that You have successfully rendered them impotent, You are free to act unhindered to "fundamentally change" the country. 
It is my humble desire to bring to Your attention, the state of affairs in my part of Your kingdom.  Please forgive me but I believe there is an invasion occurring here, that may pose a serious threat to your Sovereignty.  I reside in the southern portion of the state known as the People’s Republik of Kalfornia.  I don’t know how things are in the rest of Your realm but, with all due respect, Your Majesty, things aren’t going very well here.
If I may be so bold, Sir, please indulge me as I list the following observations that have been reported in the L.A. Times.
1.     40% of all workers in L A. County ( L. A. County has 10.2 million people subjects) are working for cash and NOT PAYING TAXES. This is because they are predominantly illegal immigrants working without a green card.  (I’m sure You will want to dispatch Your IRS thugs on this because, after all, the sovereign state needs our money more than we do.)
2.     95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens.
3.     75% of people on the most wanted list in Los Angeles are illegal aliens.
4.     Over 2/3 of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on Medi-Cal, whose births were paid for by taxpayers.
5.     Nearly 35% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally.
6.     Over 300,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles County are living in garages.
7.     The FBI reports half of all gang members in Los Angeles are most likely illegal aliens from south of the border.
8.     Nearly 60% of all occupants of HUD properties are illegal.
9.     21 radio stations in L. A. are Spanish speaking.
10.     In L.A. County,  5.1 million people speak English, 3.9 million speak Spanish. (There are 10.2 million people in L. A. County .)
In addition, fewer than 2% of illegal aliens are picking our crops, but 29% subsist on public welfare benefits.  Over 70% of the United States' annual population growth (and over 90% of California, Florida, and New York ) is attributed to immigration.  29% of all inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens.
Please pardon me, Your Highness, I don't want to upset you with bad news, but I wanted You to know these things because it would be foolish (not that I am suggesting You are a fool) for any king to allow this kind of threat to His Kingdom to continue unchecked.
Respectfully, your humble servant,

Ralph M. Petersen

P. S.  I hope you don't mind; I took the liberty to post this photo of You because I know how much You enjoy having Your image posted in front of the world. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD (Thanksgiving Fare, regurgitated)

For Thanksgiving, I am reposting this from a few years ago.

One of the most painful aspects of ministry to the elderly residents of our Christian assisted living facility was the inevitability of death. And it was on those occasions that my staff often participated in sharing their feelings of loss and their fond memories. I had come to realize that, for my employees, it was a ministry of love. And their ministry was reciprocal; many of the folks we served had made immeasurable impacts on the lives of those who were serving them.

Over the course of my seventeen years serving the residents, there were many times when the holidays had been especially hard; those seemed to be the times when we lost an unusual number of long-time residents.

In my fifteenth year, we lost one of our residents on Thanksgiving Day. She had gone out with her daughters for a family Thanksgiving dinner. Late in the afternoon she began to feel nauseous and complained of stomach and back pains. They took her to the emergency room at the hospital where she was diagnosed with flu symptoms and discharged back to our care by early evening. My staff monitored her every thirty minutes through the evening.

About 12:45 AM they found her unresponsive and called 911.  By the time I arrived the paramedics had already pronounced her "dead on arrival." I called her pastor and the two of us spent the next few hours comforting and praying with her daughter until the funeral home reps arrived to remove her mother.

Through the years, our resident pastor kept very busy conducting about 30-40 funerals a year. One year, he had seven services in one week. That certainly takes an emotional toll on residents and staff alike. Those are always hard days for caretakers as, typically, the death rate rises significantly following Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

As emotionally difficult as those times were, I am aware that others have experienced far more in terms of loss.  In 1636 there was a pastor who buried 5,000 of his parishioners in a single year. That averaged about fifteen a day and it happened during the Thirty Years War, one of history’s costliest in terms of casualties, epidemics, and economic devastation. He endured some of the worst conditions and experiences that life could dish out.

His name was Martin Rinkert and in the middle of that terrible time of incredible loss, he wrote a table grace, for his children, that has come to be one of our most loved thanksgiving hymns:

Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, In whom His world rejoices;
Who from our mothers' arms Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts And blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills In this world and the next.
All praise and thanks to God The Father now be given,
The Son, and Him who reigns With them in highest Heaven,
The One eternal God, Whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, And shall be evermore.

One contemporary pastor, Joel Gregory, referring to Martin Rinkert as "The Unlikely Thanker" asked, “If I'd spent the year holding 5,000 funerals for the people I served, could I write a song of thanksgiving for my children?”

It is interesting to note that many people who, seemingly, have the least to thank God for are the very ones who thank Him the most.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

****Good Character Is An Archaic and Unappreciated Virtue

If you are a business owner or manager, chances are, you have had to recruit new employees. When you do, you hope to find good ones. So it is frustrating that labor laws actually make the process very difficult if not impossible. The legal system would have us believe that experience and education are the only relevant qualifiers and standards by which we may evaluate an applicant. I think that’s insane. Most employers prefer to hire people of good character. For Christian ministries, it is more than just a preference; it is a crucial necessity. But it is nearly impossible, if not illegal to attempt to obtain insightful information regarding the backgrounds, private lives, or morals of potential employees.

It wasn’t always like that. In the past our examination and evaluation of a person’s character for the work place was expected because good character was a valued virtue. How did we get to the place, in this nation, where character no longer matters? We have amoral (and sometimes even downright immoral) lawmakers and political leaders that we have elected and learned to tolerate. So it is no wonder we now have laws to protect people’s personal lives from public scrutiny.

When our founding fathers set about to create constitutions for the colonies, two conflicting fundamental approaches to civil government emerged for public debate. One approach assumed that by passing good laws, we would fix civil problems. The other approach suggested that if we elected the right kinds of people, they would do the right things.  

John Locke was a proponent of the first approach. He proposed that good, sound laws must be written. He believed that if laws are good, it really doesn’t matter who is elected to office. They will be bound by the good laws.

In contrast, William Penn believed that good men should be elected. He said that good laws may lack good men but good men will never lack good laws and will never allow bad laws. If the elected men are good, the government cannot be bad. If the men are bad, their government will never be good. So it really doesn’t matter how good the laws are, it matters how good the leaders are.

William Penn’s approach was founded in the biblical Proverb, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”

One of the most popular textbooks in America’s history was written in 1812. It was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln and was used in public education for many years. This is what it taught about character; “Public character is no evidence of true greatness, for a public character is often an artificial character. If you want to know what a man is really like, you should watch him when he thinks no one is looking.”

Throughout the years, others have expressed that in similar ways. You may have heard some of these:
  • “The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” - Lord Macaulay

  • “Character is what a man is in the dark.” - D.L. Moody

  • “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” - John Wooden former UCLA basketball coach

  • And here’s an amusing old English one-liner: "A gentleman is one who uses the butter knife when he is alone." In other words, it's what someone does when no one's watching that indicates the true person. - J. I. Packer
The textbook goes on to illustrate the point by using a real-life example. The man was a Brigadier General in the Continental Army and a patriot leader in the American Revolution. He was a war hero of the battle of Saratoga, the battle that turned the war. Those were his public credentials and they were quite impressive.

But he also had a private life. He was the General who was responsible for dispatching food and supplies to General Washington’s troops at Valley Forge. He sold wagonloads of supplies on the black market while Washington’s men were freezing, starving, and dying. Later, he sold out West Point to the British for money.

His name was Benedict Arnold and he was tried and convicted for treason. His private life was a better indicator of his true character than his public life. The textbook closed with this statement: “…it is in the private life that we are to look for the man. Private life is always real life; that’s where a man is always sure to act himself.”

It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that our nation started entertaining the notion that a man’s private life is irrelevant in the political or public arena. Robert Ingersol espoused that, when selecting leaders, they should be elected on their public competence alone and their private lives should be disregarded. And we have bought it. We accept immoral behavior from our leaders and we have allowed our lawmakers to hinder our ability to discover good people of moral character for the workplace. If Benedict Arnold lived in contemporary America, he would not only be employable, he might be a very electable candidate for public office.
(some of this historic information was derived from David Barton)

***Fred Blom Was A Scumbag Just Like Me

Fred Blom was an immigrant from Sweden early in the 1890s and he served as an officer in the Salvation Army in the city of Chicago. Later, he went on to pastor a church.

But his life took a radical downward turn around 1915.  Through circumstances that are not quite clear, he had fallen into sin and a life of crime and was eventually sentenced to prison. It was there, sick in soul and body, that he turned to Christ.  That’s when he wrote the words of this song.  It was his expression of joy in the fact that God had “healed his backsliding” and forgiven all his sin.

         Love divine, so great and wondrous,   
                 Deep and mighty, pure, sublime,
         Coming from the heart of Jesus.   
                 Just the same through tests of time!

         Like a dove when hunted, frightened.    
                As a wounded fawn was I;
         Brokenhearted, yet He healed me.    
                He will heed the sinner's cry.

         Love divine, so great and wondrous,    
                All my sins He then forgave;
         I will sing His praise forever,    
                For His blood, His power to save.  

         In life's eventide at twilight,    
               At His door, I'll knock and wait;
         By the precious love of Jesus,   
               I shall enter heaven's gate.

         He the pearly gates will open,    
               So that I may enter in;
         For He purchased my redemption  
               And forgave me all my sin.

The message of this song is simple. It is about God’s saving grace in the life of one who has gone astray.  Because of the love of God expressed in Christ our sins are forgiven, our lives are changed and we look forward to the day we make a joyful entrance into heaven.

It is said that Fred Blom was never released from prison; he died in the custody of the law.  While the gates of prison did not open for him, he knew that heaven's pearly gates would be swung wide for him by his Redeemer.

Was Fred Blom really saved before his fall or did God save him while he was in prison?  I don’t know.  But I do know one thing; I am no better than Fred Blom.

I am thankful that God is strong enough to destroy my will, my desires, and even my miserable life because left to myself, I would never have chosen Him. 

When I was running away, He sought me.  He bought me; He owns me; He keeps me, and He cleanses me.   He does whatever is necessary to bring me to repentance and make me fit for heaven. 

It was all His doing.  I had nothing to do with the transaction.  I am saved by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone and not by any effort or merit of my own.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Ministry Of The Christian School

Most Christian schools were originally established on the scriptural principle that Christians are responsible to educate their children consistent with and based on God’s Word.

Therefore they were never intended to be in competition with public education. They were not designed to provide a nicer, or safer environment for Christian children to receive a comparable education. The difference between Christian and secular education is foundational. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 1:7

Nor should Christian schools be perceived as places where children are sheltered from the real world. In fact, as a friend of mine has articulated so many times, “The real world is the world that includes God rather than legislating Him out of existence. A student given an education that does not include God has no idea what the “’real world’ is” Ron Livesay, Christian school administrator). Consequently, that student cannot be adequately equipped to survive in the real world.

Christian schools start with God because He exists, He has spoken, and His Word cannot be ignored. He created us; He is the center of life and He will accomplish His sovereign purpose.

By contrast, secular schools start with the premise that there is no God, that the Bible was written by man and that there is no moral authority higher than ourselves. The universe and life as we know it came about over billions of years by chance and we are masters of our own destiny.

So then it seems incumbent on us that we should not look to the world for the qualifications of school administrators and teachers; we must look to the Word of God for the qualifications of appropriate stewards for this kind of ministry.

They must hold the biblical conviction that a God-centered education is an absolute necessity. They should be full of godly wisdom, scripturally qualified, spiritually gifted, called of God, and adequately experienced for the important ministry of guarding against the influences of an ungodly world and training children according to a Christ-centered world view.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Death Of A Christian School

The news article reported; a Christian School operated by a Baptist Church in Southern California was closing its doors after 36 years.

The school was a ministry of the church and therefore under the authority of the church leadership.  The church’s pastoral staff made the difficult decision to close the school.  According to the leadership, enrollment had steadily declined for several years.  Their current enrollment was about 120 students fewer that it was about 5 years earlier.  No doubt the current national and local economic and jobless conditions played a major part in their decision.  These are extremely tough times for many businesses and Christian ministries are not exempt from hardships.  Tuition is very expensive and, when times are tough, people must make sacrifices or find other options to survive. 

According to the church spokesman, the Christian school ministry had not been financially viable for at least seven years, as the cost of operations had adversely impacted the church’s budget by several hundred thousand dollars.  In spite of austere and cost-cutting measures in the past, they simply could not outlast the recessive economy.

And that, my friends, is the objective, unspun story as it can best be known from direct, verifiable sources even though some of those sources no longer exist in print because the news report was substantially changed overnight.

Once the decision to close became public, news of the school’s problems began spreading like wildfire, as current and former students began posting comments on Facebook.  Within hours an organizational structure began to form, from parents, students, and the community, to garner support to save the school.

Of course, that is heartbreaking and tragic news to the students, parents, and teachers.  And I understand the personal, emotional reactions; the prayer meetings, the tears, and expressions of frustration that manifest themselves in a myriad of ways.  I get it; you have my sympathy.  However, the obvious manipulative slant from the press (evidenced by its own printed revisions) and the strings of misguided and ignorant comments on the internet are troubling for the church. 

So, as a former church and Christian school business administrator, a parent of two Christian school students and the grandfather of Christian school students, a former member of a Christian school board, the husband and father of Christian school teachers, and a supporter of Christian school education for over 35 years, I want to proffer a few random observations from a Christian church’s biblio-centric ministry perspective.

·        The Church is not an organization of human origin.  It is an organism comprised of the regenerated (born-again) believers that form the Body of Christ in this world.  The local Christian church is an assembly of member believers formally joined together for specific and limited ministry purposes that are mandated by God in Scripture.  Those purposes are to preach and teach the Word of God, to care for the members, to build them up in the faith, and to prepare them for the work of spreading the Gospel throughout the world.   As such, the church must be free from any external pressures or alliances that may compromise its mission.  This principle understanding of the nature and purpose of the church is foundational to every other comment that follows.

·        The local church is free to develop a framework of programs that it deems expedient to accomplish its  biblically mandated purposes.  A Christian school can be, and sometimes is, one of those structures only insofar as it is and remains effective to teach the Truth of God’s Word, present all truth in all subjects from a God-centered and biblically sound worldview, and ensure that every student hears the good news of the Gospel and is instructed in righteousness. 

·        One commenter suggested that the church’s priorities are misplaced because it allocates resources to ministries other than the school.  Another questioned how the church could claim to be in financial stress and then send the pastor on a mission trip to Africa.  But a church has multi-faceted ministries just as a body has multiple functions and all of those ministries must be evaluated from time to time for effectiveness and then, either eliminated or supported.   The church’s mission is never to be determined or prioritized by outsiders (non-members), the local community or the “marketplace.”  When an outside group attempts to usurp the control or direction of a ministry, that church is in trouble. 

·        One very harsh comment was critical of the pastor for his teaching and preaching about honoring commitments and yet, letting everybody down by dishonoring the commitments made to teachers and students.  That was immature, uninformed, and irrelevant.  Most Christian schools operate on a year-to-year basis.  Teacher contracts are renewed each year and, unlike government schools, most of them understand that there is no tenure and no guarantee of future employment.  But then, most Christian teachers trust God, and not the State (or the church), to supply their needs.  At least they should.  And most of them are very emphatically certain, at the time of hire, about how God “called them to this ministry” so it would seem reasonable to trust that He is now “calling them elsewhere.”  As for the students, tuition is paid and enrollment is established on an annual basis.  It is a "fee for service"agreement and if you get all the class instruction for which you paid, and a report card documenting your earned grades, the church’s commitment has been honored.  They owe you nothing else.  Sorry!

·        The church should fire their attorney.  According to the press report, Jimmy Mettias, the school’s attorney, in direct contradiction to the church’s leadership, said (the school) is “financially self sustaining and sufficient” and the move by the church may lead to litigation.  He also said, “The way the church handled this situation was shameful.  You don’t let people go like that.  It’s a haphazard way of doing things.”  He has planned meetings with parents, teachers and staff in order to discuss the possibility of relocating the school, independent from the church.  He has recklessly created doubt and concern regarding the well-being of the children by stating, “The school is being run by eight teachers, which is a very serious safety concern for parents,” and saying, “They are exposing themselves to significant liability.”  At best, it sounds like his interest in his client is conflicted.  In my opinion, it certainly seems unethical.

·        Finally, because of creeping liberalism, outside influences, and market pressures, most Christian ministries naturally decline. I don’t need to expound on this point here; I have written extensively on this subject in another post.  But as an example, let me point your attention to an organization with which everyone is familiar (or maybe not).  The Young Men’s Christian Association.  No doubt about it; it was a social ministry started by serious, well-meaning, committed Christians for the purpose of reaching boys with the good news of the Gospel.  Years ago they changed (shortened) their name to their initials, YMCA.  Today it is mostly known as the “Y.”  The “Christian” part of the ministry has been successfully obscured or totally lost but the social aspect is still in existence.  Sadly, that downward trend threatens every aspect of Christian church ministry, whether schools, music, missions, youth, or anything else.  And so churches must evaluate them from time to time.  When a church’s “programs” lose sight of their original biblical mandated purposes, the church should turn them back or turn off the lights. 

(The original internet news source for this post has been removed)

originally posted 3/8/12

Indigenous People's Friday Is The Biggest Shopping Day Of The Year

This year my wife's boutique will be open on the Friday of Color.  For those of you who might be wondering what that is; it is the day after Thanksgiving.  If you didn't know that, then you are probably racist.

You may be aware that it is politically incorrect to use the adjective "black" to describe some people. The correct phrase is "people of color."

Therefore, shouldn't it logically follow that the day after Thanksgiving should be called "The Friday of Color?"

Just wondered!

So we will be open on The Friday of Color.   Unless, of course, our sales are low and our business remains "in the red."  Then, we will be open on  "red Friday" "Indigenous People's Friday."   Either way, we will be open on that Friday for your shopping convenience.

Political Correctness means always having to say, "I'm sorry."


revised.  Originally posted Nov. 2009

Friday, November 21, 2014

The First American President Is Not Who You Think

You probably thought that George Washington was the first president.  Well you might be wrong!
Barack Hussein Obama is the First President to:

apply for college aid as a foreign student, then deny He was a foreigner.

obtain a social security number from a state he has never lived in.

preside over a downgrade of the credit-rating of the United States.

violate the War Powers Act.

be held in contempt of court for illegally obstructing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

require all Americans to purchase a product from a third party.

spend a trillion dollars on “shovel-ready” jobs when there was no such thing as “shovel-ready” jobs (or even a shovel).

abrogate bankruptcy law to turn over control of companies to his union supporters.

by-pass Congress and implement the Dream Act through executive fiat.

order a secret amnesty program that stopped the deportation of illegal immigrants across the U.S., including those with criminal convictions.

demand a company hand-over $20 billion to one of his political appointees.

order a CEO of a major corporation (Chrysler) to resign.

terminate America’s ability to put a man in space.

cancel the National Day of Prayer and to say that America is no longer a Christian nation.

use an auto pen to sign a law without being present.

arbitrarily declare an existing law unconstitutional and refuse to enforce it.

threaten retaliatory actions against insurance companies that publicly speak out on the reasons for their rate increases.

dictate to a major manufacturing company as to which state it is allowed to locate a factory.

file lawsuits against the states He swore an oath to protect (AZ, WI, OH, IN).

withdraw an existing coal permit that had been properly issued years ago.

actively try to bankrupt an American industry (coal).

fire an inspector general of AmeriCorps for catching one of His friends in a corruption case.

appoint 45 czars to replace elected officials in His office.

surround himself with radical left wing anarchists.

hide his birth, medical, educational, and travel records.

be endowed with a Nobel Peace Prize for doing NOTHING.

go on multiple “global apology tours” and concurrent “insult our friends” tours.

go on over 17 lavish vacations, in addition to date nights and Wednesday evening White House parties for His friends at taxpayers' expense.

have personal, taxpayer funded servants for His wife.

retain a dog trainer for $102,000 a year at taxpayers' expense.

employ and transport a personal fitness trainer from Chicago at least once a week at taxpayers' expense.

Quote the Holy Quran and tell us the early morning call of the Azan (Islamic call to worship) is the most beautiful sound on earth

side with a foreign nation against an American state (Mexico vs Arizona).

suggest that our military personnel should pay for their own private insurance because they “volunteered to go to war and knew the consequences.”
allow the enactment and enforcement of an illegal law written by His wife,

suggest that the members of the military were UNPATRIOTIC for balking at the last suggestion.

However, He is NOT America's first black president.  Bill Clinton claimed that distinction for himself but he was wrong.  Before Bill, there were at least four black presidents (look it up).  But B. Hussein Obama might be our First Gay Imperial Muslim Monarch.


some of this content was accumulated by Philip Jennings

Guarding Against "Protestant Popery" and "Spiritual Abuse"

Are we, who are Christians, to submit to the authority of our pastors? Of course we are. Hebrews 13:17 commands us, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."

But that authority (or rule) is not absolute or unlimited. Pastors who demand unquestioning submission are guilty of abusing their power and authority.

Singer/Songwriter, Bible Teacher, Reformed Apologist and Evangelist, Steve Camp wrote;

"It is significant to note that a pastor of a church possesses no inherent authority over the church by virtue of office alone; it is only through that which Scripture affords him that gives him a position of authority. Where Scripture exhorts, he may exhort. Where Scripture calls for obedience, he is to call the church to obedience. Where Scripture edifies, he is to edify. And where Scripture commands, he is to command. But where Scripture is silent, he cannot be vocal and has no inherent authority. He may pray for the flock, he may give wisdom when weighing the facts or circumstances of a particular situation, he may counsel from the principals of the Word, but he possesses no authority. He, in other words, is to guard against spiritual abuse, by faithfully honoring and submitting to the Word of God by which he is thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). And then in response to that truth, humbly serve the flock of God as an under-shepherd of Christ."

Hypocrisy And Dissimulation: More Abuse of Pastoral Authority

I posted a lengthy item Titled Church Leaders: The Abuse of Power and Authority that I want to reemphasize here and expand one very important point on that subject.

“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I (Paul) withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.

But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Galatians 2:11-15)

Here in this text, we find Paul publicly rebuking Peter for two actions—his HYPOCRISY and DISSIMULATION. Even though these two words are very similar and sometimes translated as the same word, they are not synonyms. So what exactly was the problem?

Peter, who was a Jew, lived like a Gentile but then he attempted to compel the Gentiles to live as Jews. That is hypocrisy. It is the act of insisting that people live or act in one way when, in fact, you walk contrary to your talk. Most people understand that.

But the word, “dissimulation” seems to be more sinister and sometimes even difficult to identify. And, frankly, it is appropriately applicable to church leaders who abuse their positions or authority in order to manipulate people to protect their own interests or accomplish their own agendas. It means to pretend to act from one motive when, in fact, an action is really inspired by another motive.

Although bad enough on its face, Peter attempted to disguise and justify his hypocrisy by pretending that his motive was loyalty to the Law of Moses whereas really, it was fear of the Judaisers. And what is worse is that Peter was an apostle of Christ. Peter represented the pastoral leadership of the early Church of God. He had apostolic authority as one who spoke the Word of God. God expected that His church would listen and submit to His apostle’s authority. Peter abused that authority when he demanded allegiance to his words rather than God’s Word.

So how does this passage translate into relevance for the contemporary church? The issue then (and now) as it applies to the church is about the authority and direction of pastoral leadership. It is the act of church leaders not being "straightforward with the truth;" It is pretending to have “spiritual” or “biblical” or "pious" justification for their actions when the truth is, they are acting out of fear, preferences or feelings. That is an abuse of authority and a sinful act of DISSIMULATION.

And Paul says about that, "I withstood him to his face," and then he rebuked him ..."before them all." This had become a public matter resulting in many of the congregation, including Barnabus, being carried away with Peter's sin and so Paul exposed it publicly for the good of the church and for the glory and reputation of God.


Church Leaders And The Abuse of Power and Authority

God has established order and authority in His Church. He gets to design the organizational chart, He is the one who has determined its mission and purpose, and He appoints His leaders.

One of the dangers in leading the Church of God is that the people are, for the most part, defenseless and lack wisdom and discernment. That is why they are compared to sheep in need of a shepherd (pastor). So shepherds have an incredible responsibility for the feeding, guiding, guarding and protection of the sheep for which God will hold them to a high degree of personal accountability.

On the other hand, the sheep are not excused simply because they are dumb. Every Christian is personally responsible for whom he follows and what he swallows. Blind, unquestioning loyalty to pastoral leadership is one of the marks of a cult and any pastor who insists on it is probably a hireling and not a true undershepherd. That is an abuse of pastoral authority.

God’s Word is absolutely clear; church members are to obey and submit to the LEGITIMATE authority of church leadership. And I emphasized that word, legitimate, because that leadership authority is scripturally identifiable, limited in scope, and must be discerned by the members.

Who are the shepherds? In the first book of Samuel in chapter 16 is the account of how God provided a king to replace Saul. He instructs Samuel to go to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse because, “I have provided me a king among his sons (vs. 1).” As Jesse proudly paraded the best and brightest of his sons in front of Samuel, the Lord instructed him with these words, “Look not on his countenance or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him (vs. 7).” Then, one by one, he brought his other sons before Samuel. Samuel rejected every one of them because none of them was the one God had chosen. In this account, it is evident that God ordained and provided His man to lead His people.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul makes this statement to the church at Ephesus, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). Here, again, we see that it is God who gives His leaders to His Church. Everything we need, He supplies.

It doesn't much matter how much we like a man.  And it is not our privilege to choose or reject men for church leadership based on their abilities, education, experience, charisma, appearance, or style. It is our responsibility to identify God’s ordained man whom He has given to us for His purpose. And His man is objectively identifiable by these scriptural qualifications; and these, and not by our feelings or personal preferences.  And that means ALL of the scriptural qualifications; not just some or most.  

I recently heard of a man who has been accused of some serious impropriety.  Because he aspires to be a pastor and his church leaders are "grooming" him for ministry, they were attempting to cover up his sin.  But the problem is that, if he is guilty of the charge, he is already unqualified by God's standards.  A church must be very careful to not reject the men whom the Spirit of God has appointed.  By the same token, the church must not accept a man who is clearly not called of God. And that Spiritual discernment is not something ethereal or elusive; it is revealed in black and white on the pages of Scripture.  If he doesn't meet ALL the qualifications, he does not qualify. Period.  End of discussion.

Are there limits to pastoral authority? The foundational basis of a pastor’s authority is his calling and his scriptural qualifications. Christians are to submit only to those who give plain evidence that they are called by God and qualified by His Word.

Hebrews 13 instructs Christians to submit to those who have spoken the Word of God. Church leaders do not have authority in themselves; their authority is only in God’s Word.  Even the apostle Paul limited his authority when he said to the Corinthian church, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). Any decisions, directions, actions or directives of the shepherds that cannot be justified by God’s Word cannot be imposed on the sheep.

In chapter 5 of his first epistle, Peter exhorts the elders about their primary responsibility as shepherds. It is to feed the flock of God and not to be lords over them. Here Peter reminds them that the church is not their property; it is God’s. They do not comprise the corporate head of the church; Jesus Christ is. They are not to decide or define the purpose of the church; the Word of God has. They do not have the authority to cast vision; they must reflect the vision of Christ. Their responsibilities are to gently and humbly care for and lead the flock by example and always mindful of the fact that they are undershepherds who will give account for any abuse of the sheep.

Should members question the legitimacy of leadership? Wise discernment is not an option; it is a duty of every Christian. 1 Thess. 5:21 says, “Prove ALL things; hold fast that which is good.” Not even church leaders are above the reach of this directive and according to Proverbs 14:15, it is a simple man who blindly believes everything a church leader says. The apostle Paul commended the Bereans because they carefully examined his words and compared them to The Word before they believed him and followed him. 1 John 3:11 commands us, “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.” Some things are to be followed and some are not. It is our responsibility to discern the difference. In order to obey this command, a Christian must carefully evaluate every situation in the light of Scripture, regardless of its source.

How should the members deal with elders who abuse their authority? Paul instructs Timothy regarding this matter, “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. THEM THAT SIN rebuke before all, that others also may fear” (1 Tim. 5:19-20). The apostle is NOT prohibiting the act of receiving accusations about sinning elders; he is giving instructions about how it must be done. Sometimes church leaders are wrong and they are not above correction and discipline. Paul’s instruction here is not unlike the instructions from Jesus in Matthew 18 about a sinning brother. The order is the same. First, the matter should be addressed individually. Paul cites an example of this, (Galatians 2:11-15), when he says about Peter, “I withstood him to the face because he was to be blamed.” But Peter was guilty of hypocrisy “insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.” That word, “dissimulation” used here means to pretend that one’s action is from one motive, where, in fact, the action is really inspired by another motive.  Since Peter’s hypocrisy had become public, Paul rebuked him publicly.

If the matter cannot be resolved privately, accusations about an elder must be brought by two or three witnesses. If the sinning elder will not be corrected, the matter is to be brought before the church. Ultimately, the responsibility for all church discipline, up to and including excommunication, lies with the congregation. 



Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Who Do You Say That I AM?"

Graffiti found on a wall of St. John's University:

Jesus said unto them: "Who do you say that I am?"

And they replied: "You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the kerygma in which we find the ultimate meaning of our interpersonal relationships."

And Jesus said:

How To Identify Contemporary American Christians

Almost everyone in America is a Christian today (unless they aren't). Even Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump claim to be Christians.

If we are going to use labels to identify Contemporary American Christians it would be good to properly define the terms.  So here they are; I hope you find these useful.

CHRISTIAN- Anyone who believes in the Easter Bunny.

CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN- Anyone who believes in God.

LIBERAL CHRISTIAN- Anyone who is willing to give away everything other people don't own.

RADICAL CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN- Anyone who uses the name “Jesus” in casual conversation, and in a non-expletive form.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Alliterated Sentences

In two of the past four years I wrote 26 blog posts in the month of April for a "Blogging From A To Z" challenge.  The object was to write a post each day for every letter of the alphabet, starting with A.  In 2012 I took the challenge one step further; I wrote long alliterated sentences for the titles for each post.  That was more difficult that the actual writing of the articles.   I won't be doing that again.

Here they are in order and they link to their respective posts:

A is for - Angry Abortion Advocates And Amoral Activists Are Always Anxious to Avow Any Anal Arguments for the Assassination of Amorphous Anthropoids.

B is for - Barack O’Bama’s Banal B-man and Big time Bloviater, Biden, Belches a Buffet of Bloopers, Blunders, Boners, Boo-Boos, and other Blustery Bozo-like Blurbs of Bunk, Balderdash, and Buffoonery.





Saturday, November 15, 2014

What Will Happen When Conservatives (and Christians) Don't Vote?

There is no question that many of us conservatives are often disappointed that some of the Republican candidates in our presidential elections are NOT the ideal conservatives. In fact, some of us don’t consider them to be conservative at all. Nevertheless, all we have is whom we have.  That's it and we must support them in the general elections.

Dennis Prager is one of the most articulate, intelligent, and reasoned conservative political thinkers and philosophers on talk radio.

In 2008, he posted an important article on  titled, “Why I Support John McCain.” Every conservative who ever considers not voting or casting a vote for a third party or write-in candidate should read it. We all want the ideal candidate and the ideal presidency but we cannot afford to act in a way that, in effect, says, "if we can't have what we want, we are willing to destroy what we have.
The choice then, was between John McCain or Barack Obama but the future would find us in a similar contest between Obama and Mitt Romney.  Dennis Prager made several, very compelling arguments and clearly described the unprecedented potential for the serious damage that most likely would occur in our country as a result of the first leftist presidency in our nation’s history.

Here are some excerpts from his post:

“Conservatives who will not vote for McCain are well-intentioned utopians.”

“…given how active most liberal judges are, it won't matter much if the country has some conservative epiphany and then elects a Republican president and Congress. Because even if the Congress and the president will not pass liberal legislation, a liberal Supreme Court will. On almost any social issue that matters -- the right to bear arms, late-term abortion, the definition of marriage, capital punishment, and many others -- a liberal Supreme Court will rule on these issues, and there will be nothing that a post-Obama Republican president, even with a Republican congress, will be able to do about them.”

“However noble their intentions, conservatives who do not vote for John McCain will be morally complicit in what happens to America during an Obama presidency.”
Dennis Prager
As it has played out, Dennis Prager was right.  But I would go even further.

I would suggest that Christians who do not vote for Republican candidates because they are not conservative enough, are not only morally complicit in the degradation of our republic, they are, in fact, guilty of the sin of failing to do what is right.  They are personally responsible for and deserve the ungodly leadership we have.  In a representative republic, Christians who neglect their civic responsibility, cannot claim no immunity for the evil actions of their government.  It represents us yet, in the last few decades, the number of eligible Chiristian's that actually voted, was under 40%.  You had a chance to vote and you didn't.  In a sense, you had a talent and you chose to bury it and hoped that God would be pleased. 

Please read Dennis Prager's post in its entirety here.