THE CHURCH IN THE AGE OF RELATIVISM

Next door to my daughter’s apartment is a prominent downtown church; a rather large one.  She invited me to go with her to explore the possibility of her making it her church home.  There was no one to greet us, only a sign notifying attendees to help themselves to the daily program.

After being seated, I opened the program.  The “service” was “Honoring Great American Feminists; Bella Abzug, Hillary Clinton, Angela Davis, Betty Friedan, Oprah Winfrey,  Gloria Steinem, and a few names I didn’t recognize.  The music consisted of the organ playing; no congregational singing.  The Pastor/Speaker reminded us of a few community activities and then directed those gathered to refer to the program.  His “sermon” started out by reminding us of the “The Day of the Woman.”  So far, we heard nothing about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Nicene Creed, Abraham, Samson & Delilah, or the Virgin Mary, nor was a Scriptural basis used, not even Proverbs 31:10-31.

We had enough so we left …; and a few others did the same.  If I’m not mistaken, we thought we would hear something about Jesus.  Sorry Charlie!

Relativism is the philosophy that truth is only that which stands side by side to each individual’s beliefs and experiences, or more authoritatively, it is “any theory holding that criteria of judgment as relative, varying with individuals and their environments.” [Webster Dictionary]. In English it means: truth is not absolute!  In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet and Rosencrantz are talking: “Since nothing is really good or bad in itself – it’s all what a person thinks about it.”  So there is no truth, it is only what you think about it through your experiences of life.  

Therefore, basic and fundamental truth does not exist according to relativism.  Everything is nuanced.  To be up to date and appeal to the younger crowd, the millennials, the hip Preacher/Speecher, is required to make the Bible “a living, breathing” document, relevant to todays way of thinking.  Forget theology.  Forget thee’s and thou’s.  OK?  Some will say, “Its better to get them through the doors of the church than to force them to stay at the nightclub!”

Activities, music and customs have always changed with the times.  No problem so far.  But wait a minute-wait a minute.  It has only been in the last 50 to 60 years that the Christian beliefs taught in the Nicene Creed have been deleted from our pulpits.  Consequently, most of the younger crowd today know nothing about the Trinity, or heaven or hell or sin.  They may know a little about the niceties of accepting Jesus as their personal Savior, but please don’t make them cry over Calvary or the blood.  If you preach too strongly about repentance and confession of sins, we’ll just go to another church.  We want to hear things that lift us up and make us feel good – “Lord knows how we need to hear some good stuff with all the bad things we see on TV news and besides, isn’t there only one God anyway?   We can be like Ancient Greece with many gods.  Since Christian theology and the Christian belief system has been thrown out the window, we can say that the golden calf, Allah, Thor, Jesus and whoever can be a god to us.  

Trinity?  “Forget it.  I can/t explain it anyway.”

Heaven?  “Do you mean aliens in spaceships?  UFOs?”

Repentance?  “Well, I’m sorry for a lot of things.”

Praying?  “Omg yes. I pray all the time.”

Living a holy life?  “You gotta be kidding.  I’m no monk.  And nobody’s perfect.”

“You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you —keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.”

2 Timothy 4:3-5 (msg)

What is the true church?  Is the church of which Jesus is the founder an organization, an ornate, architectural building or arena or auditorium filled with happy-happy people listening to the latest rock music and a Speecher who stands on stage with one hand in the pocket of his torn jeans wearing sneakers while he make everyone laugh?   Is it a place where you can live like the devil all week long and come to “The Place” or “The Center” on Sunday, get out early for lunch and head for the beach?  Is a great church one that attracts the most people?   What about the music?  Does it truly bring out praises to God or does it simply tickle your fancy? 

God’s holy place of worship is, according to the Word of God, a gathering of those who “testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.”

Acts of the Apostles 4:33 (nlt)

In the early church, the power of the Holy Spirit was upon them all; not trying to be relevant; not trying to make the Word a living, breathing document; no trying to be a late night comedian.  It was so holy that when a man and his wife lied about giving, God struck them dead!  I fear that too many churches today are too busy counting nickels and noses to be filled with the Holy Spirit; to testify powerfully and be a great blessing!

Advertisements

PROSPERITY

NOT OFTEN DO I AGREE WITH STUFF ONLINE (sometimes, not even my own stuff), BUT I READ AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED BY CRUX that addressed the issue of THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL, which traces its origins to the United States in the late 19th century, views wealth and success as synonymous with true religious conviction and consequently, sees “poverty, sickness and unhappiness” as a lack of faith.

This idea of “send ME your seed” and you’ll be healthy, wealthy, and wise is a hoax.  Don’t fall for it!  The idea that you can pursue the American dream by sending money to someone who lives in luxury doesn’t make Biblical sense.  This idea of affluence associated with Christian theology crawls with the snake that deceived Eve.

By the way, those same positive speaking guys and gals, although making us feel good, cannot “heal” everyone; maybe no one.  If we simply say that God can heal you, no one would ever die.  Spiritual vitality is far deeper than anything physical.

Evil is always parasitic!  As with Eve, the Evil One will always appeal to those areas of life in which we are most vulnerable; sex as pleasure – lust,  money to bring self-gratification – greed, having a physical god – idolatry, pride and arrogance or anything that replaces the goodness of God.  Evil resides in our will, our choices.  There is nothing in this world more powerful than the power of our free-will.  When we give in to those destructive things, those attitudes toward base desires, sin occurs.  Sin is much more than holding your little bow and missing the bullseye.  Sin was so destructive that it created within the human being a toxic, poisonous mental and emotional stew causing terrifying consequences.  It is so bad that it put Christ on the cross!

To consider serving the Lord God a celestial vehicle for prosperity is the height of selfish greed.

God is not a plaything.  His church is not to be “used” to satisfy greed.  And for sure, the poor and unsuspecting should not be used to purchase someone’s Gulf Stream IV.  Oh I know, we have considered old fashioned the idea of Christian theology …; “its boring.”  But you know what?  It would be wonderful to hear the powerful Word of God preached so that “heaven came down and glory filled my soul.”  Most of the time, however, we …  “tell [our] spiritual leaders, ‘Don’t bother us with irrelevancies.’  They tell their preachers, ‘Don’t waste our time on impracticalities. Tell us what makes us feel better. Don’t bore us with obsolete religion. That stuff means nothing to us. Quit hounding us ….’”

Isaiah 30:8-11 (msg)

No wonder the popular thing today is a church Rock concert with a “Speecher” telling us how good we are and how we deserve to “think and grow rich.”  Oh, and this is after we went shopping in the church mall buying our Starbucks and picking up the latest T-shirt that says, “Don’t Blame Jesus if You Go To Hell” with a big yellow happy face on it.   Or another approach is to scare the living daylights out of us predicting when Jesus will come followed, of course, by an exhortation to “give and you’ll get!”

CITIZENS OF ETERNITY

WHEN WE STEP ON THE PROPERTY OF THE AMERICAN EMBASSY IN A FOREIGN LAND WE STEP INTO AMERICAN TERRITORY, OWNED LOCK, STOCK AND BARREL BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – but there is an exception; ownership is by agreement. According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 Embassy property is owned by the sending state and is agreed to in Article 21-22:

Article 21

The receiving State shall either facilitate the acquisition on its territory, in accordance with its laws, by the sending State of premises necessary for its mission or assist the latter in obtaining accommodation in some other way. 2. It shall also, where necessary, assist missions in obtaining suitable accommodation for their members.

Article 22

The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.

Therefore, we can state with confidence that when we step on Embassy property of the United States, we have entered America. As it is now spiritually, we are living in a foreign land, but our homeland is in heaven. Philippians 3:20 encourages us to rejoice because “we are CITIZENS of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.”

 

What’s Your Story?

EVERYONE HAS A STORY. THERE ARE GIVERS AND THERE ARE TAKERS, the gave-uppers and the overcomers. There are those who suffered great tragedy, those who committed great sin, but through their tears and broken hearts they held on just one more hour.

God told Moses to lead, but he was a stutterer and had killed a guy.

David was just a kid when he became a hero.  But as king he let his hormones get the best of him and had the husband of the object of his affection killed.

Hosea the prophet happened to marry a prostitute.

Peter cut a guy’s ear off.

Paul went around killing Christians.

O, BUT THAT WAS A LONG TIME AGO and in the Bible to boot, you say. Nevertheless, that was their story. What’s your’s?

I’M NOT FREE TO REVEAL a name, but I know of a prince-of-a-man, friend of my dad, who was born of a prostitute under a bridge in the early 1900s before there was a system in place to take care of him. Some Christian people, members of a little clapboard church found him when he was 6 years of age, and took him to Sunday School.  He gave his heart to Christ. They nurtured him along the way. He grew up, went to a Christian college with no money, could not pay tuition, and slept on the lawn for three days. The college authorities had compassion, gave him a job as a plumber; he graduated and became a leader in his church denomination. So what is your story?

A CONFUSED MAN stumbled into our little church located on a dirt road in a rather poor part of town. We gave him a job at $5.00 per week helping to clean the church. He couldn’t read or write. He came forward to accept Christ as his personal Savior. With him, he brought his two little daughters or maybe they brought him. What a sight that was; kneeling in front with his little 7 year old daughters as they hugged him, all three with tears streaming down their cheeks. They lived in a little house built with soda pop signs picked up along the dirt road. The floors were swept clean – made not with hardwood, but dirt. The first time I visited them the little girls were sweeping the dirt floor with weeds. It was clean as a pin. I saw them grow and learn as they came to church, hair combed and clean, excited to learn more about Jesus.  That’s their story. What’s your’s?   🎼🎶🎹

“Keep holding on, just one more hour

May bring to thee the promised pow’r;

Keep holding on, thy Lord doth care,

He’ll not forget to answer prayer.

“Keep holding on, keep holding on,

The victory will soon be won;

The longest day will soon be gone,

Keep holding on, keep holding on.

“Keep holding on, Christ knows thy need,

He doth the hungry sparrows feed;

Keep holding on, He’ll hear thy cry,

Thy Lord is watching from on high.”

(William C. Poole)

“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”

Matthew 25:23

LOVE!

LOVE! THE TRUE MEANING HAS BEEN PERVERTED FOR SO LONG  BY HOLLYWOOD USING SOUND AFFECTS, PICTURES and PLATITUDES disguised as profound until we’ve essentially resorted to making it entirely physical.  A good example is the 1970 movie with Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw, LOVE STORY.  A memorable line is, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  [O how sweet!]  Not too many people can define LOVE. Our culture, philosophy, education and experiences all influence the way we think of LOVE.  

I guess Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald defined and sang LOVE this way:

“I’ve got the world on a string

I’m sitting on a rainbow

Got that string around my finger

What a world, what a life; I’m in love.”  (Ted Koehler)
In the 1960’s our culture redefined LOVE to mean a whole list of decadent behaviors.  Our American “enlightenment” has proven The Scriptural statement:  “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7 (kjv))  Using the ’60s definitions & behaviors, one could do anything, act any way, and as long as its called love, all is OK!  I think the 60s is when the innocuous statement got started, [gotta sing it] “luv yeew.”  No you don’t and I don’t!  But as long as we kind of sing it, it legitimizes it. True LOVE goes beyond and above.  LOVE is willing to go to the mat, make any sacrifice, lift any load, go the second mile, and do all this without complaining. 

 Do I have the ability to define LOVE apart from the Word of God?  No!  But the Apostle Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,  penned one of the most memorable, declamatory and eloquent chapters in the Bible writing to the Corinthians.  

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t LOVE others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t LOVE others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t LOVE others, I would have gained nothing. LOVE is patient and kind. LOVE is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. LOVE never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But LOVE will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and LOVE —and the greatest of these is LOVE.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (nlt)

“Because of His great LOVE for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—”

Ephesians 2:4-8 (niv)

“May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the LOVE of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.”

2 Thessalonians 3:5 (nlt)

“Greater LOVE hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13 (kjv) 

🎼🎶🎹

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

“Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure—

The saints’ and angels’ song.”

(Frederick M. Lehman)

SKEPTICS AND THE SUPERNATURAL

NATURAL LAWS ARE FIXED!  THEY ARE DECLARED IN ADVANCE. 

They are foreseeable, calculable and certain.  They are constant and consistent.  The only force or Person who can alter, reconstruct or overrule those immutable, permanent laws is some cosmic force way out there in the somewhere, OR … we know Him as The Supernatural, Almighty, Ontological, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omnicient Creator GOD!  He is supernatural.  He is the miracle-producing God.  He is here and everywhere.  He is out there and in here.  His power cannot be calculated and His love is beyond intellectual understanding.  When God overrules natural law we know it as … supernatural!

When you believed by faith in the saving mercy of God through Christ Jesus, when you gave your heart to God, you entered the world of the supernatural.  You were brought from death to eternal life.  There is physical death and there is spiritual death.  Only by the supernatural can physical death defy the law of nature.  Only by the supernatural can a spiritually dead human being be snatched from the jaws of eternal death.  

Most of us are natural skeptics. The Bible is filled with illustrations of skeptics. In the Gospel of John chapter 11, 

(1)  Lazarus died in the town of Bethany while Jesus was beyond the Jordan River.

(2)  Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus sent a message to Jesus notifying him that Lazarus was near death.

(3)  Jesus didn’t answer.

(4)  After two days, he told his disciples that they should go back to Bethany.

(5)  His disciples warned him that he could be killed there by the bad guys in Jerusalem.

(6)  He went anyway.

(7)  He was met by Martha, the skeptic, saying: “You’re late and its your fault.  Lazarus is dead!”

Jesus answered Martha’s skepticism assuring her that Lazarus would live again, but her anger kept her from believing.  In the two verses (vv. 25-26) following this skeptical exchange, Jesus uses the word believe three times.  Then, Mary showed up with a bunch of wailing people, probably blowing their noses and shouting their anger.  Jesus was deeply hurt;  indignant and deeply troubled.  In the only time in recorded history it says that “Jesus wept,” the shortest verse in the Bible.

The religious leaders stood on the side expressing their skepticism.  “He healed that blind guy, why couldn’t he keep Lazarus from dying?”

Then Jesus said, “You do something first and then I’ll do something.  Roll the stone away; the one right there in front of the cave!”  Martha, holding her nose, shrieked, “Eew, its gonna stink!”  Jesus answered, “But didn’t I tell you that you will see a wonderful miracle from God IF YOU BELIEVE?”  Holding her nose, Martha directed a bunch of guys to roll the stone away.

Almighty God in the flesh, Jesus of Nazareth, defied nature and called for Lazarus to come forth, and sure enough, out comes this guy wrapped in white stuff (I think) and Jesus ordered the people to unwrap him.  

Guess what?  It was Lazarus.  It was a supernatural act of God, a miracle.  I’ve never seen that happen, but I believe it.  And, I believe him.  When I believed, it was a miracle, supernatural! 

  🎼🎶🎹

“Once I was bound by sin’s galling fetters;

Chained like a slave, I struggled in vain.

But I received a glorious freedom

When Jesus broke by fetters in twain.

“Glorious freedom!

Wonderful freedom!

No more in chains of sin I repine!

Jesus, the glorious Emancipator!

Now and forever He shall be mine”

(Haldor Lillenas)

BEHIND THE SCENE

FOUR GOOD OL’ BOYS FROM THE “PORE” PART OF TOWN TEAMED UP BECAUSE THEY HAD LEPROSY.

They were kicked out because leprosy scared the living daylights out of people. It was contagious and lepers stanketh.

The Syrian army had come into Israeli territory cutting off the city and well nigh starving those city folks.  The Syrians we’re camped outside the city slowly squeezing the life out of the Israeli’s. Then the Lord showed up!

  1. The four good ol’ leper boys were sitting on a little cliff kinda looking down on the Syrian army.
  2. The first leper said, “Hey boys – we’re gonna starve if we stay here.”
  3. The second leper chimed in with, “Well, we’ll starve if we go back into the city.”
  4. The third little pig … – sorry, that’s a different story –  the third leper was so discouraged he told the others that they probably ought to just go out and surrender.
  5. The fourth guy piped up, “Look, I’d rather get killed than die a slow painful death from starvation. Why sit here til we die?”
  6. So they agreed to climb down the rocks and ask for some food. The  closer they got they could smell the porridge and lamb chops, but they didn’t see anyone so they ate til their tummies were full.

What they didn’t realize was that when God goes to work, you may not always see what He is doing behind the scenes.

“The Lord had caused the [Syrian] Aramean army to hear the sound of chariots, horses, and a large army.  The Syrians said to each other, “The king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” So they got up and ran away in the twilight, leaving their tents, horses, and donkeys. They left the camp standing and ran for their lives.”

2 Kings 7:6-7 (ncv)

My friend, stay true, stay strong even if you think you’re gonna die because God has things going on behind the scenes for your good and His glory! Hallelujah!

II Kings 7:3-8    🎼🎶🎹

“Encamped along the hills of light,

Ye Christian soldiers, rise,

And press the battle ere the night

Shall veil the glowing skies.

Against the foe in vales below

Let all our strength be hurled;

Faith is the victory, we know,

That overcomes the world.

“On every hand the foe we find

Drawn up in dread array;

Let tents of ease be left behind,

And onward to the fray.

Salvation’s helmet on each head,

With truth all girt about,

The earth shall tremble ’neath our tread,

And echo with our shout.

“Faith is the victory!

Faith is the victory!

Oh, glorious victory,

That overcomes the world.”

(John H. Yates)

UNSEEN, BUT KNOWN

MULTIPLIED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS – $$$ – have been spent by your government on listening for communication from outer space and investigating the possibility of extraterrestrial creatures. It took our illustrious scientists and academics thousands of years to discover DNA.  We still have not discovered a cure for the common cold.  Just think, electromagnetic and radio waves were not discovered until the 1870’s.  X-rays weren’t known until the late 1800’s and computer technology until the 1930’s.

Suppose, just suppose …

ALTHOUGH THERE IS AN UNSEEN-WITH-THE-NAKED-EYE SPIRITUAL BEING roaming the earth, nevertheless, the evil one is a person. We can rebuke his negativity in our lives, his filthy temptations, his accusations, his attempts to discourage us and his coming  to us as an angel of light.  Yes, an angel of light, and at the same time dragging us into low self esteem or pushing us into arrogant pride. God’s plan is for us to  “submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
James 4:7 (niv)

Right now, regardless of your circumstances, El Shaddai (The Almighty God Who Can), YAWEH (The one who says, “I AM!”), The Christ of Calvary, is as close as your heart.  “HE is here, hallelujah! HE is here AMEN!”  Do you want to “see” Him? GO.TO.HIS.WORD!  Submit yourself to Him!  “Listen” to your heart!

“No one can see God, but JESUS CHRIST IS EXACTLY LIKE HIM.  He ranks higher than everything that has been known, made or discovered.
“He was there before anything was made, and all things continue because of him.”
Colossians 1:15, 17 (ncv)

To the scientists and governments of this fallen world, I am saying, “Your huge disks on top of the mountain will not find Him.”

“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:6-9 (kjv)

“You must give your whole heart to him and hold out your hands to him for help.”
Job 11:13 (ncv)   🎼🎶🎹
“Into my heart, into my heart.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today, come in to stay.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.”

On the Wings of Angels

A FEW YEARS AGO – actually, it was over 40 years ago, but the older I get “ain’t it funny how time slips away.” So, over 40 years ago I went to Los Angeles, maybe Costa Mesa, to a wedding; a small one.  Pat and Debbie Boone were there. Pat’s secretary was getting married. No huge pipe organ.  No big choir.  No marching down the aisle. No train following the bride. Suddenly, but softly Pat and Debbie began to sing,

🎼🎶🎹
“Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can hear the brush of angels wings.
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.”

There were no strobe lights, no acid rock music, and no blonde bombshells prancing across a stage yelling into the mic. But guess what? The Holy Spirit showed up.  Some may not understand the metaphor, but all of us there that day heard the flutter of angels wings.