My wife has an acquaintance who told her they left their church over philosophical differences regarding youth ministry. Her teenager asked the youth pastor why everything they did was always centered on food, fun, and foolishness. Why could they not have some substantive Bible study and instruction? Why is the entire program so grossly focussed on silliness?
His response was disturbing. He said that’s not what youth
ministry is all about. The kids "get their fill" of Bible in plenty of other places. They don’t want to come here for that. They want to have fun. That’s how you build a youth program.
After that, her teenager was told not to come back to the youth group. When she discussed the incident with the church’s pastor, she was told that she just had different ideas about youth ministry so they left and found another church.
Roy Ingle is a blogger who calls himself, “The Seeking Disciple.” He posted a very insightful and introspective blog titled, "Errors I Made In Youth Ministry“ that is really worth reading. In fact, if your church has a youth pastor and you have a teenager, you should read the whole article.
In it he makes this shocking statement. “(one of my failures) in my first stint as a youth pastor was thinking that I could actually preach on holiness, repentance, and perseverance in the faith without offending the adults who merely wanted numbers. The deacon board, of the church I was at, wanted results. The bottom line was money. The lost parents bringing their lost teenagers wanted me to straighten out their rude teenagers without asking any price to be paid by the parents. The church board wanted pizza parties, camps, lock-ins, and retreats aimed at having fun and keeping the parents tithing. So I quit.”
Wouldn’t we all love to have a youth pastor like that? Well, in reality, probably not.
A pastor friend of mine who worked in youth ministry years ago shared a similar concern that he had for some of the rebellious young people in his charge. He said that they were so antagonistic to any kind of Christ-centered ministry that their very presence in the group was destructive and inimical to the spiritual growth of the group. And he found himself spending far too much time and energy “chasing after the chasers” that he neglected the very ones who hungered for solid, biblical instruction.
When he realized the negative affect their influence had on the group, he switched gears, minimized the juvenile foolishness that attracted the troublemakers, and started to focus his ministry efforts on Christ-centered teaching and discipling young people to serve God.
That plan was the beginning of his demise in that church. Several of the parents of the renegade bunch were long-time members with influence, positions, and clout in the church and they wanted their children to be entertained and engaged. When their kids stopped attending church, they blamed the youth pastor. Shortly afterward, he was terminated and replaced by a youth pastor who would cater to their children’s wants rather than their needs.
I read once, that a school principal in New York prohibited the mention of the “EASTER BUNNY” because Easter is a religious word. Instead, they have substituted the name Peter Cottontail. That’s crazy. Everyone knows that Peter Cottontail is a make-believe children’s fairy tale rabbit and they know the difference between him and the Easter Bunny.
This country has gone nuts. And we just seem to roll over at every politically correct effort to secularize our religious holidays. The Thanksgiving holiday is now commonly referred to as “Turkey Day” or “Harvest Celebration.” And in recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the use of the term “T-Day” which is just about as outrageous as removing the name of Christ from Christmas and replacing it with an X.
Because we are afraid to offend anyone when we come to a holiday like “Thanksgiving Day,” we try to express our thankfulness in general without mentioning God in particular. That’s like the child who wrote for a classroom assignment, "The Pilgrims came here for freedom of ‘you know what.’ When they landed, they gave thanks to ‘you know who’ and because of them, we can worship each Sunday, ‘you know where.’”
Concerning Xmas, I’m kinda thinking that God is probably not very impressed anyway, with so many hypocrites who, for a few days each year, pretend to want to keep Christ in Christmas symbolically when they literally reject Him and expel Him from every other area of their lives.
Have you ever really noticed how the holidays are lined up on the calendar? I think there is an interesting narrative of the Christian faith found in the way they are ordered. Think about this!
What we generally refer to as the HOLIDAY SEASON, starts in the Fall with Halloween which has become the biggest holiday of the year in the U.S. More time and money and energy is spent on this holiday that any other. The theme of Halloween is darkness and it is all about evil. From a spiritual standpoint, that is where most of the world is. That is our natural condition so it is understandable that most people are very comfortable with it. The Bible tells us that “men love the darkness because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19). It also tells us that we are “dead in sin” (Eph. 2:1, Col. 2:13). We have no knowledge of God and until the Spirit of God reaches toward us and brings us light, we can’t know Him. But when that happens, He gives us a desire to discover Him and a longing to learn more about Him.
The next holiday on the calendar is Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving is not a multi-cultural celebration about Indians; it’s not even about Pilgrims, pumpkins, or turkeys. In 1621, the Pilgrims had just endured a terrible winter in which scores of children and adults had starved to death. They were ready to give up and were about to return to England when another ship arrived with medical supplies, food, and just enough hope to encourage them to remain in the midst of terrible adversity.
Two years later William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony, said, “Inasmuch as the Father has given us an abundant harvest and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish; and He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship Him according to the dictates of our own conscience; I now proclaim that on Thursday, November 29, 1623, we will render thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings.” Romans 2:4 says, “The goodness of God leads you to repentance.” We celebrate His goodness, His provision, and His care at Thanksgiving.
So then what is the ultimate manifestation of His Goodness? It’s the giving of His Son and we celebrate His birth at Christmas, the very next Holiday on our calendar.
Then there was this guy named Valentine. He was a priest near Rome, during the rule of Emperor Claudius II, who was persecuting and imprisoning Christians for not worshiping the Roman gods.
A few years before the onset of the persecution of Christians, war broke out in the Roman Empire and Claudius began calling for all the able-bodied men to go into battle. Many of the men were reluctant to leave their families or their sweethearts. To remedy that, Emperor Claudius ordered that no marriages were to be celebrated and that all engagements were to be broken off immediately.
St. Valentine, in addition to helping other Christians escape persecution, is said to have begun secretly performing Christian marriages for young couples wishing to marry in spite of the Emperor's ban. Valentine soon had a reputation throughout Rome as a friend of those in love.
When Claudius learned of Valentine's activities, he had him arrested and imprisoned for not renouncing his faith. Yet, even in prison, Valentine continued to minister to those with whom he had contact.
Emperor Claudius was so furious that he had Valentine beaten with clubs and beheaded on February 14, in the year 270 A.D. Valentine was made a saint by the Church because of his commitment to his faith even unto death.
Isn’t that like God’s Love? “God demonstrated His love for us(His Bride) in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
And He did that on the cross, which brings us right up to Resurrection Day (which we call Easter).
I don’t know where on the calendar yours is but after Easter is where I am going to insert my Birthday. There was a time in my life, and yours, when we were born. I was very young when that happened. And then, for Christians, there was another time when God gave us new life and we were Born Again.
Later, on the calendar, we get to a day we call Independence Day. We have been liberated. Likewise, Christ sacrificed His life to free us from the bondage of sin and death. “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). That’s worth celebrating.
Finally, we come all the way back again to the holiday of darkness and death – Halloween. But most of us who are Christians, no longer wallow in that one. We walk in the light and have no fear of death because we will live forever with the Lord.
So there it is. God is sovereign in history and in salvation. But if you want to continue to secularize all the holidays in the name of tolerance and political correctness, you are certainly free to celebrate Spooky Day, Turkey Day, Peter Cottontail Day, and even the jolly old fat man who shows up at Xmas. So, go ahead and knock your socks off!
I’m not talking about Ebenezer Scrooge; I’m talking about that Ebenezer in the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Do you remember the second verse? Here’s the way I remember it:
Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by Thy help I’ve come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.
But here’s the way it appears now in our new hymn book:
Hither to thy love has blessed me Thou has brought me to this place And I know thy hand will bring me Safely home by thy good grace.
So what is an Ebenezer anyway? In 1 Samuel 7:12 we read, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, "Thus far the LORD has helped us."
Ebenezer is a word that derives from two Hebrew words which literally translate to a "stone of help." The stone was placed as a memorial to remind them of God's help. An Ebenezer can be nearly any symbol that reminds us of God’s presence and help: the Bible, the elements of communion, a cross, a picture, a hymn – those things which serve as reminders of God’s love for us, His presence in our lives, and His assistance are "Ebenezers."
What was wrong with the song the way it was written? I guess some revisions are good but the words in this new version don’t even mean the same thing.
There are a couple other revised hymns, though, that really push me over the edge. One of them is Amazing Grace. Of all the hymns, this is probably the most popular and acceptable to the world, mainly because there is not one single reference to God or Jesus in the first verse so it is pretty generic. But there is one glaring problem. It’s the word “wretch.” The author, John Newton, might have been a wretch but today we don’t like to damage our fragile self-esteems. Its a good thing we have these new words that make this great song more palatable to our narcissistic generation: "Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved and set me free.” There, that sounds much nicer.
And then there are these great words by Isaac Watts in the hymn, At The Cross.
Alas, and did my Savior bleed, And did my Sov'reign die? Would He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I?
But in our new hymn book the last line has been changed to, “For such a one as I.”
The old hymn writers knew and wrote great lyrics. Unless they are doctrinally unsound or, because of language translations, are metrically difficult for musical purposes, we should leave them alone. Doctrine should not be submissive to the pressures of political correctness. God isn’t impressed with our self-esteem and I really don’t think He cares much about our sensitive feelings.
We are NOT basically good and there is nothing about us that should merit God’s favor. In fact in His Word, He tells us just how bad we really are. It is only when we understand that we are dirty, rotten, low-life scumbags, that we have no hope except to beg for God’s mercy and then we can appreciate His grace.
So I say, leave the words alone. Wretches and Worms are right and fitting descriptors for us in our fallen, natural condition.
But if you don’t like them and you want a nicer song for your worship, you could always sing the Barney Song, “I love you, You love me. We’re as happy as can be.” That should make you feel really great and, by the way, good luck with that one.
A Google search will bring up thousands of entries on this subject and they ALL seem to have only one context; that is blaming rape or abuse victims for the crimes that are committed against them. But I want to suggest that victim blaming is not just about rape anymore.
I first noticed the shift toward victim blaming in the ‘60s. You might recall those old public service billboards that warned us to, “Help keep a good boy from going bad. Lock your car.” Do you see that subtle message? If a boy becomes a car thief, it’s my fault for leaving it unlocked. And, of course, the other error in the message is the presumption that the boy is inherently good and the only reason he goes bad is because of me. I've got news for you;boys do bad things because they have sin natures and it is up to their parents to correct them and teach them right from wrong.
But, back on topic. I have noticed that police work has fundamentally changed over the last few decades. We used to see the local police as friends and servants when we did good and as law enforcement when we did wrong. Today very few people really believe that most police officers are there “To Protect And To Serve.” Instead they are primarily involved in generating revenue. They are uniformed “Tax Collectors” with open carry gun permits. And that brings me to a couple illustrations to make the point.
I have some retaining walls around my property that often get “tagged” with graffiti. Okay, so vandalism is illegal and the local cops know who the gang bangers are (they tell me that). But they have no compelling interest in prosecuting the criminals. That takes too much time and costs too much money. Instead, in our community, there is a municipal code that prohibits property owners from allowing graffiti to remain. If I don’t remove it within a reasonable period of time, I am in violation of a code that carries a financial penalty. After all, responsible property owners can be easily tapped for revenue.
One evening I was with my wife in a local retail business and I overheard a customer complaining about a newly installed shopping cart retrieval system. The carts are racked and it costs 25 cents to use one. The clerk told her that all she had to do was return the cart when she was through and the vending machine would automatically refund her quarter. Now I think the system itself is not a bad idea for the business owner. But the problem I have is the reason the clerk gave to the customer. The clerk said that new, local codes require that the retail business must pay a fine for each cart that is picked up by code enforcement and returned to the store. So, people steal shopping carts. Stealing shopping carts is illegal. Cops observe the thieves everyday, all over town. But there is no compelling interest in prosecuting or even stopping the criminals. That takes too much time and the thieves can't or wont pay the fines. Instead, it is much easier for the city to penalize store owners for code violations that translates into more revenue for the city.
So if you are a victim of a crime, it's probably your fault. Get out you wallet and be prepared to pay.
Victim blaming helps the local municipality to collect more revenue. Look around your own community and see how you might be a victim of a crime and yet be forced to pay the penalties for code violations. I can think of several more.
I get nervous and skeptical, and sometimes even cynical whenever I hear a pastor preach on unity. It’s not that unity in the Church is wrong; in fact, it is a necessary and biblical admonition.
The problem I have is that we hear more and more demands for unity from church leaders who have adopted modern marketing techniques to attract and include the unregenerate masses in our fellowships. When members see major transitions in their churches and begin to question some of their methods and practices the pastors will often use the sacred desk as a bully pulpit to shame them into submission to leadership with a sermon on unity.
One of my former churches had struggled with internal disagreements among its divided leadership regarding the church's direction and practices. The people were confused by the disunity and began to question their methods. That’s when one of them decided to preach a topical sermon on God’s Desire for Unity.
In it, he attempted to scold the people into silence with general platitudes like, "We should be like-minded, we should have the same love, we should be in one accord, we should have one mind," and "God desires unity."
In a subsequent sermon, designed to promote the agenda of the majority, another pastor followed up with statements like this, “…unity is the glue of a healthy church (he co-opted that phrase from Rick Warren’s church growth plan book).” And he said, "(When we are)…in one accord, God can move a church forward,” and “Disunity will weaken and destroy a church.” And, in a statement obviously meant to quiet the objectors, he warned them, “Disunity divides and gives Satan room to destroy a church.”
His solution to the disunity problem was to encourage them “to be ‘like-minded’ which meant, according to him, “to think the same way.” “To be of ‘one mind,’” he said, “means to be united in purpose.” He asked, “Could we have an effective team if everyone was going in their own direction?”
Of course, you might argue that Jesus prayed for our unity. But that was not intended that we should be hammered into silent submission over questionable methods and practices. Any unity around programs, styles, opinions, marketing plans, or church growth schemes is a false unity.
I once asked my pastor, “Does anyone care about doctrine anymore?" His inability to look me in the eyes and give me a direct answer confirmed the answer I already knew. People are more concerned about what the church can do for them than they are about the truth. And so, he conceded, increasing our church’s attendance was being accomplished through clever marketing and interesting programs.
Frankly, I think when church leaders are united on biblical orthodoxy, they will be united on biblical orthopraxy (practice follows doctrine) and, on those, true believers can all agree.
On that subject, Charles H. Spurgeon offered this warning: “To remain divided is sinful! Did not our Lord pray that they may be one, even as we are one? (John 17:22). "A chorus of ecumenical voices keep harping the unity tune. What they are saying is, ‘Christians of all doctrinal shades and beliefs must come together in one visible organization, regardless… Unite, unite!’ "Such teaching is false, reckless, and dangerous. Truth alone must determine our alignments. Truth comes before unity. Unity without truth is hazardous. Our Lord’s Prayer in John 17 must be read in its full context. Look at verse 17: ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth.’ Only those sanctified through the Word can be one in Christ. To teach otherwise is to betray the Gospel.”
My wife doesn’t understand the nature of the TEA Party movement. But she is not alone; most people who are not part of it don’t get it either. In order to understand it, it is helpful to understand the Boston Tea Party of 1773.
In the 1760’s King George III piled on the American colonists with numerous tax acts and ever-increasing controls. It was his attempt to tax tea that finally pushed the colonists over the edge.
The colonists had refused to pay the levies of the Townsend Act claiming that they had no obligation to pay taxes to a Parliament where they had no representation. Even though Parliament felt pressured to retract the Townsend Act, in an effort to show the colonies that they still maintained control and the right to impose taxes, they retained a tax on tea.
And then they concocted a clever plan. Just like congress is wont to do today, they established a monopoly on the importation of tea to the colonies. The only importer they allowed was a struggling enterprise; The East India Company. And then, and this is the clever part, they drastically reduced the import duty tax on the tea so that the colonists would then be able to purchase their tea at much lower prices than ever before. Parliament’s underlying motive, however, was to entice the colonists to continue purchasing tea and paying the taxes, thereby cementing its right to tax the colonists.
For the colonists, tea was a staple of everyday life. It was like our addiction to coffee. Parliament presumed that they would rather pay the taxes than do without their tea. Parliament was wrong. Shipments arriving in New York and Philadelphia were not allowed to land. In Charleston, they were able to dock but the colonists confined their shipments to warehouses where the tea was stored for three years.
When three tea-laden ships arrived in Boston in 1773, about 7,000 colonists were incited to an angry protest. At a mass meeting, it was decided that the ships should leave their harbor without the payment of any duty taxes. But the Crown’s Collector of Customs refused to allow the ships’ leave without collecting the taxes. Later that evening about 200 men, some disguised as Indians (if this offends you, refer back to Q), boarded the three ships and tossed their entire payloads into the harbor.
The colonists sent a loud and clear message back to Parliament: "Take Your Taxes and Your Tea and Shove ‘em!"
Parliament’s reaction was to enact the Intolerable Acts, which, among other measures, shut down all commerce in the Port of Boston.
So, the Boston Tea Party was the beginning of the American Revolution.
Today there are many politicians and pundits who still don’t get it. They have misread the will of the people and they comfort themselves under their delusion that the TEA party is over.
It is not a political party. It is not Left or Right. It is about regular, patriotic, freedom-loving American citizens who have been Taxed Enough Already. It is a grassroots movement among the people to take back their constitutional government, elect representatives who will listen to them, and reclaim their God-given freedoms and rights.
The TEA Party is NOT OVER. It is a sleeping giant. It may be silenced for a while, but it is deadly. In the past two election cycles, TEA Party patriots have gained elected seats in both houses of congress, chosen conservative governors and have made progress in many local elections. There will be more elections and American Patriots will not continue to allow their elected representatives to ignore them, suppress them, overtax them, over regulate them, and control them. The smell of the Second American Revolution is in the wind.
"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
It is only 26 words. It is direct, brief, and forceful. I don’t know how any half-witted citizen, like it or not, can possibly not understand, “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.”
Our former president, His Majesty Barack Hussein Obama, was allegedly, a Constitutional attorney and He doesn’t get it. He must be a real dimwit or else He is willfully ignorant.
Apparently, the misunderstanding of what constitutes a “well-regulated militia” is the main reason for the confusion. But that confusion can be easily cleared by just reading the words of a few of our founding fathers. They told us exactly what they meant SO YOU CAN'T MISS IT!!
Richard Henry Lee, an American statesman, wrote in 1788, “To preserve liberty, it is the essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”
Did you see that? Lee didn’t say we needed guns for hunting or sport. He said it was TO PRESERVE LIBERTY. An armed man is a citizen. An unarmed man is a subject. Gun control is not about guns; it is about the government controlling the people.
George Washington, the first President of the United States said, “Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence…from the hour the pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to secure peace, security, and happiness, the rifle, and pistol are equally indispensable…the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.”
General Washington led The American Revolution which could never have happened with gun control.
When you remove people’s rights to bear arms you create slaves. That’s not just my opinion. George Mason was a co-author of the Second Amendment. During Virginia’s Convention to Ratify the Constitution in 1788 he went on record with this statement, “I ask Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
And there were others. John Adams, president from 1797-1801, said, “Those who trade liberty for security have neither.”
Thomas Jefferson, president from 1801-1809, said, “Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.”
Can it be any clearer than that? Not only did each of those men understand the importance of an armed citizenry, they insisted on it so that citizens could protect themselves from a tyrannical government. Only a government that is afraid of its citizens tries to control them.
The woman in this video gets it right. The government's encroachment on her Second Amendment rights cost her the lives of her parents. While anti-gun Senator Chuck Schumer squirms, she explains, “The reason for the Second Amendment is so that we (the people) can protect ourselves from all of you (the government).
It doesn’t matter that I used the words “death” and “hell” in the theological context of eternal judgment. It doesn’t matter that I used the word “gun” in the context of the Second Amendment and gun control. And it apparently doesn’t matter that I used the word “dead” in juxtaposition to the word “living” to make a distinction between the saved from the lost.
The whole idea that my blog gets a rating of NC-17 makes me puke (oops, puke is another word that earned me this rating).
I am going to post this rating symbol on my blog as a warning to immature and educationally challenged people. If you are one of them (i.e. liberal), you may want to avoid reading anything on my blog or be prepared to be offended May I suggest you visit the Sesame Street site instead.
Queer is another one of those once perfectly good words from our language that has been demonized, vilified, and stricken by political correctness.
We don’t have to look back very far in history to see what the word has meant and how it has been most commonly used in our vernacular. I looked in the 1992 edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Here are the definitions, as they existed then:
1. Deviating from the expected or normal; strange: (a queer situation).
2. Odd or unconventional, as in behavior; eccentric.
3. Of a questionable nature or character; suspicious.
4. Slang. Fake; counterfeit.
5. Feeling slightly ill; queasy.
6. Offensive slang. Gay; homosexual.
So as recent as just 23 years ago, the normal and most prevalent uses of the word queer was not gender related or offensive although it had made its way into the derogatory world of offensive slang.
But today, everyone seems to be afraid to utter the word. It is often considered “hate speech.” Instead we use alternate words like “gay” in reference to homosexuality (by the way, most people are reticent to use the word “homosexual”). In fact even the meaning of the word “gay” has changed beyond its original definition so that no one ever uses it anymore to describe cheerfulness or merriment. Political correctness, as a tool in the hands of the ignorant, is a dangerous and destructive weapon. I decided a long time ago to purposefully avoid the use of PC language and just be content with the language the way I learned it. That makes a lot of people uncomfortable or even angry, but it is liberating and it makes me gay happy.
The irony is that, after the PC police vilified the word “queer” and effectively banned it from our language, the homosexual community co-opted it for their own use and now, unabashedly, wears it as a badge of honor. However, they do not want anyone on the right to use it. That’s just like the “N” word that the black community cannot stand to hear from any white lips, but they use it freely and commonly among themselves. The “N” word, by the way, is more PC nonsense. We can’t say the real word without fear, but we have universally replaced it with an acceptable substitute that means THE SAME THING.
So I still use the word “queer.” I guess that makes me queer because my use of the word is certainly a strange deviation from the normal. I guess I am also gay because I am cheerful and happy about my freedom of speech that is not hindered or controlled by political correctness.
It seems to me that the letter “Q” is a “queer” letter in itself although I wouldn’t call it a “gay” letter. Do you realize that, out of 26 letters in the English language, it is the only one that cannot be useful unless it is followed by the letter “U?” So it’s not a gay letter; it can’t be very happy. It is severely handicapped and it cannot stand alone or function without the help of a crutch. Why do we need Q anyway? We could do nicely without it. We could easily replace the letter Q as used in words like queer, queen, quit, quack, and torque, with the letter K as in kweer, kween, kwit, kwack, and tork. But this is all digression.
I wish people would just leave our language alone. The whole PC thing makes me sick; I think I’m feeling a little queer.
Okay, so you know the words; you hear it or sing it at sports events BUT do you really know what it means? This is a story every American should hear. It's the story of how our national anthem came to be. It's only about twelve minutes long but I'm sure you will find it worthy of your time. Save this so you can review it from time to time. Play it often for your children and grandchildren.
And there is more than one verse. In this video clip, a retired Marine veteran sings a very touching and heart-felt "second" verse (which is really the fourth verse).
Here is the full text as written by Francis Scott Key: Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep, Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam, In full glory reflected now shines in the stream: ‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion, A home and a country should leave us no more! Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave: And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved home and the war’s desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
After you listen to the story of this great anthem, you might want to listen to one of the greatest renditions of this song ever, performed by Sandi Patty. In this stunning version, she sings a new verse that has recently been penned by Claire Cloninger.
In Obama's new Amerika, there is a lot of chatter about changing our national anthem. "It's too hard to sing," they say. "Not many people have a sufficient vocal range for it," they say. "The words are archaic and unrelatable," they say. If you are inclined to agree, these short videos might change your mind. The Star-Spangled Banner is the right anthem for our freedom-loving constitutional republic.
There is a fast-growing phenomenon in contemporary American Christianity that I find disgusting. That is the prevalence of base, vulgar gutter language in modern preaching.
I have encountered a plethora of information and examples of vulgar, potty-mouthed preachers on the internet who are actually quite proud of their “hip,” “cool,” or otherwise “culturally relevant” shock talk.
I know! I know! I’ve heard all the inane arguments of sincere, well-meaning, but seriously flawed thinking that reasons, in order to reach the unchurched, we have to be relatable to them. But that doesn't mean we should grovel in the gutter with them.
That reminds me of the last line of this old song.
"One evening in October, When I was one-third sober,
An' taking home a ‘load' with manly pride;
My poor feet began to stutter, So I lay down in the gutter,
And a pig came up an' lay down by my side;
Then we sang ‘It's all fair weather When good fellows get together,'
Till a lady passing by was heard to say:
‘You can tell a man who "boozes" By the company he chooses'
So the pig got up and slowly walked away."
("The Pig Got Up and Slowly Walked Away", 1933 song by Benjamin Hapgood Burt)
I once heard a sermon preached by a youth pastor who must sincerely think that, if he talks like them, the kids will like him better and they will get “plugged in” or “involved,” or “connected” in the youth group. I think he tries too hard to be their buddy. But they don't need another buddy, they really need him to be their pastor.
About three minutes into his introduction, he used the phrase, "...I would have been pissed..." There might have been some substance to his sermon but at that point I was disgusted ("pissed!" to use his word), and distracted enough that I missed the rest of his sermon. I won't be listening to his preaching anymore.
That style is not unusual in Neo-evangelical and Emerging Churches. They try to build up their church rolls with programs and marketing techniques that appeal to the natural man rather than simply depending on the exposition of the absolute, authoritative Word of God that has power to change lives.
When we use those kinds of man-centered techniques to build it, we will have temporary club members as long as we can keep them amused; When God builds it, He builds a strong, healthy, eternal body of regenerated believers and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
I will concede that if we attract enough of the sin-sick world into our churches, some, by the grace and power of God, will get saved by exposure kinda like one catches the measles. But the church will become sicker with their diseases.
So dear Pastor, please stop the profanity and vulgarity, and show us some reverence.
In June of 2007, David Howard, a member of Anthony Williams’ staff, was pressured into resignation for his use of a perfectly good word. Anthony Williams was the Mayor of Washington DC. In a private staff meeting, Howard utttered the word “niggardly” and set off a national outrage. The majority of blacks and many, ignorant and foolish, whites demanded Howard’s apology and removal. Oh, did I mention that Howard was a white man and Williams was a black man?
Neither the definition nor the origin of the word had any racial connotation whatsoever. And, as a matter of fact, Howard's use of the word had no racial connotation either. Nevertheless, the country wanted desperately to be OFFENDED and so they piled on. Howard lost his job and the English language lost another good word to political correctness. And I know that some will, no doubt, be offended by my even mentioning this account. Shame on me!
I posted a little personal rant a couple years ago about how OFFENDED I am by people who are too easily OFFENDED. I think most conservatives can relate. Conservatives can laugh at themselves; liberals just get offended.
It is especially annoying when Christians use the Matthew 18 hammer to pound those who might make someone “feel” offended. So for this post today, it is appropriate to review what constitutes real offenses rather than illegitimate offenses.
Too many weak people want to feel offended about almost everything. Unfortunately the contemporary definition of the verb, offend is, “To hurt somebody’s feelings, or cause resentment, irritation, anger, or displeasure.” But that is NOT what Jesus had in mind when He talked about offenses. Our contemporary definition is NOT the biblical definition of the word “offend.” When Scripture warns us about offending a little one or a weaker brother, it always refers to actions that cause them to sin, to depart from the truth, or to weaken their faith.
John Wesley commented this way, “…see that ye offend them not; that is, that ye turn them not out of the right way neither hinder them in it” (emphasis is mine).
That kind of real offense, either by our teaching or our liberty, has the affect of doing great and sometimes irreparable damage to the faith of an immature person to the end that it may cause relational difficulties with God, result in judgment, or may even result in terrible, adverse consequences (like eternal damnation). For that reason, Jesus said, of the offenders, that it would be better for them to be publicly executed.
So with that perspective, I will suggest that there are several practices prevalent in many churches today that really, really, REALLY are offensive. Here are a few:
Easy believism. It is offensive when we encourage people to repeat a simple, anemic, unrepentant prayer to ask Jesus into their lives and then attempt to convince them that they are saved and safe and eternally secure when there has been no real new birth.
Cheap grace. It is offensive when we allow people to believe that they can be positionally right with God while continuing in their sins without consequence; that Jesus paid the penalty for all their sins without telling them that God expects them to stop sinning.
Unscriptural or irreverent worship. It is offensive when people are led to believe that God is pleased with them just the way they are and that they can approach Him with mindless, “touchy-feely” emotionally stimulating expressions of so-called worship without a reverential fear of His sovereignty and apart from obedience which is His requirement for true worship.
Ecumenical accommodation. It is offensive when we do not identify and separate ourselves from false doctrine and false teachers but join hand-in-hand as we skip down the ecumenical happy trail of brotherly love singing “Kum Ba Yah” with religious legalists, apostates, modernists, and liberals.
These are real and serious offenses to those who are unregenerate or immature in the Faith. They are truly stumbling blocks that could result in their falling away or missing salvation altogether.
In the matter of saving faith, there is no mutual discussion or agreement between God and man. It is a complete work of God and our standing before Him is not something for which He will bargain. Saving faith is not flexible; we cannot design a relationship with Him according to our own ideas or desires. It is not up for grabs or open for discussion. It is not a contractual agreement based on what we bring to the table or what we promise to do. It is not a simple act of deciding to accept Jesus or invite Him into our hearts. It is a One-sided covenant agreement made by God and completely dependent upon His work and His power.
In the opening verses of his first epistle, John alludes to at least Seven Essentials of the Faith that are non-negotiable, absolute requirements for biblical salvation.
1. The Person of Jesus Christ – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life - the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us. (1 John 1-2)
Real saving faith begins here. The Bible declares His deity. And there are other doctrines about Jesus Christ that are equally not negotiable (His virgin birth, His sinless perfection, His resurrection). Jesus was more than a good teacher, a martyr, or a spiritual guide. He is God in human flesh, fully God and fully Man. And He is all that the Word of God declares Him to be; nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. If the Jesus you are worshipping and trusting is NOT the Christ as He has revealed Himself in scripture, your faith is in a false Christ. (ref. Gen. 1:1, John 1:1, 1John 2:13)
2. The Blood of Christ -… the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7b). God is absolutely righteous and He demands absolute sinless perfection. Anything short of that merits and requires His Justice. His righteous verdict is guilty and His sentence is final, “The wages of sin is death”(Rom. 6:23). That means someone had to die.
Modern evangelicalism is woefully anemic, but preachers used to refer to “the crimson thread that runs through the entire Bible from the beginning to the end.” That crimson thread is the blood of Christ for, “…without the shedding of blood, there is no remission for sin" (Hebrews 9:22)
3. The Cross of Christ - And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 J n. 2:2). Propitiation means satisfaction. What God did to His own Son was far worse than just the physical pain and suffering. He punished, crushed, and slaughtered Him to execute His just anger and wrath on Him instead of us. Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross satisfied the justice of God because it was there where God poured out all His wrath against our sin.
The cross is the means by which God can be merciful and gracious because of the sacrifice of His own Son. Lots of people think that a loving merciful God will never allow anyone to go to Hell. But that kind of thinking misses God’s greatest act of love that was demonstrated at Calvary; God’s justice cannot be compromised. Propitiation or satisfaction is obtained by faith (ref. Rom. 3:23-27). Either Christ’s blood has washed you clean and God is satisfied or you remain filthy and will face His righteous wrath.
4. The Guilt of Sin - If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us (1 Jn. 1:8-10). We are all guilty of sin and just in case you need to be further convinced, consider this, “There is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10), or this, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We are sinners by nature, by choice, and by practice. There are no innocent people.
Back in verse 7 John tells us that it is the blood of Christ that cleanses from sin. We cannot clean ourselves up through good deeds, good living, or self-help programs. We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God by our sincere determinations to reform ourselves. “All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). If Christ does not make us clean, we cannot be clean. Our sins are on us, we are responsible for them, and we will pay the penalty for them.
5. The Fear of God - This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 Jn. 1:5). Do you think you know me? You do not have any idea how bad I am. And I don’t know you, either. We may be able to hide our wickedness; in his Gospel, John says that, "men love the darkness because their deeds are evil" (Jn. 3:19). But we can’t hide from God. He knows everything about each of us. There is nothing that escapes His attention. He knows every private sin and every little thought; pretty scary, huh? And remember, He is the Righteous Judge and He is absolutely just.
Judgment day is coming and everyone will appear before Him to give an account. That should put some real fear in us. A person who does not fear God does not know God. And a person who rejects God is condemned already.
6. The Necessity of Repentance - …if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another (1 Jn. 1:7a). God never invites us to accept Him; He commands us to repent. Repentance is a change of mind about sin; a determination to stop, turn around, and go the opposite way (ref. John 3:19). The verse says that God is in the light. We were in darkness. When the light of God shines on us, our eyes are opened so that we see the sin in our lives as something that condemns us to Hell. Real saving faith includes a turning from that sin and turning toward God (1 Thess. 1:9-10, 2 Cor. 7:10-11). There can be no forgiveness without confession (agreeing with God about sin) and repentance (a change of direction).
7. The Necessity of Holiness - My little children, these things I write to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous (1 Jn. 2:1). To be holy means to be set apart unto good works as opposed to evil works. It is not a self-effort; it is an act of God. This can be a real self-examination to see if you really are “in the faith.” The evidence of the indwelling Spirit is that He convicts us of sin and He produces fruit in our lives.
“The difference between a Christian and non-Christian: When a non-Christian is convicted of sin, he sides with his sin. When a Christian is convicted of sin, he sides with God, against himself” (John Piper).
If you are never bothered by your sin, you probably do not have the Spirit of God living in you and, therefore, you do not possess salvation. Those who are really born again do not fall away from the faith and revert back to a life of sin and unbelief.