Not Our Home

An old gospel song begins, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.”  Perhaps now more than at any time in the history of the United States, Christians can see truth in this sentiment.

The growing disdain that society shows for biblical Christian beliefs and values shouldn’t surprise us, but it is sometimes overwhelming to observe the pace at which western society has rejected and marginalized traditional ideas.  The United States from its founding was profoundly influenced by Christian values, but in the last couple of decades that history has been denounced, marginalized, and swept away in academia, media, entertainment, and government.  Christians and Biblical ideas are now widely rejected and even hated.  Scripture warns us that believers will face such opposition.  In John 3:19-20, Jesus told His disciples, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”  Later, in John 15:18-21, Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

Absolutes.  The concepts of objective authority and objective truth have been rejected, while personal autonomy and subjectivism rules the day.  Truth is seen as one’s own truth, what one might personally define as truth.  This is held only in a form, for certain ideas are held to be true because, in effect, the social elite say they are true.  Ideas are repeated as truth over and over until they are accepted as true.  Anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is one example of this.  Media has come to simply assume and state it as fact.  Anyone questioning it in any way is ridiculed and rejected.  Science supposedly proves it, and it must be accepted and not questioned, contrary evidence is never given credence, and anyone who doubts is dismissed.

Sexual expression and morality are central in this postmodern rejection of objective truth.  The freedom to fornicate is today’s most prized and cherished freedom.  At a recent Senate hearing to confirm a Supreme Court justice, the nominee was castigated by a Senator for using the term “sexual preference” rather than “sexual orientation.”  The assertion is that we must not question one’s rejection of traditional heterosexuality, it must be accepted that the individual has every right to be identified however they feel oriented and practice accordingly; we must not think of it as merely a choice.  At a recent televised event, Democrat candidate former Vice President Joe Biden offered his support for children to undergo gender transition.  Responding to a question from a mother of a supposed transgender child, Biden said, “The idea that an eight year-old child or a ten year-old child decides, ‘you know I decided, I want to be transgender, that’s what I think I’d like to be, it’d make my life a lot easier.’  There should be zero discrimination.”  This was a stunning statement.  Eight-year-old children often cannot make good decisions about picking their nose.  The idea that a child should be guided on a path to receive harmful hormones and later be physically mutilated is akin to offering a child on a pagan altar.

The ideas of Karl Marx are becoming widely accepted to the Left.  Marx as an atheist and a materialist rejected morality as irrelevant and contended that power is everything.  Postmoderns seem to agree, at least that morality is irrelevant and the quest for a socialist order is everything.  “My object is to dethrone God and destroy capitalism,” Marx wrote.  “Keep people from their history and they are easily controlled.”  Forget history, and of course ultimately forget God.

Secularism simply has no place for Christianity, at least in a biblical form.  Some within broad Christianity have imagined that Christianity can somehow be made acceptable to the postmoderns.  This is an error and a deception.  We will either need to embrace most aspects of their philosophy, which is completely antithetical to biblical teaching, or we will face their ridicule and anger.  It is becoming more obvious by the day that churches and believers who hold to Christ and His gospel are simply unacceptable in today’s environment.  This growing hostility takes many forms.

Churches and Christian institutions have been tax-exempt throughout American history.  It may be a matter of time before this is threatened.  In a piece published in “The Denver Post” on July 12, 2020, columnist Bruce DeBoskey wrote,

“In 2019, 29% of all U.S. giving, $128.17 billion, went to religious institutions. Those donations were tax-deductible, resulting in billions of dollars of lost federal and state tax revenue. Unlike nearly all other nonprofits, however, religious nonprofits are not required to file annual tax returns revealing how the donations were spent.  Those expenditures may include leaders’ salaries, benefits and other perks, property holdings, investments, sources of revenue and other facets of the nonprofit’s operation and management.  Although most of us believe that the majority of the 300,000 religious institutions in the U.S. follow the law and are doing good work in, and provide value to, their communities, there is no way to factually evaluate that claim.”

He continued,

“Moreover, in most cases, religious institutions are exempt from paying property taxes, depriving local governments of badly needed income to provide essential services such as public education, law enforcement, fire protection, etc.  Studies estimate that American churches own approximately $300 billion-$500 billion in untaxed property.  New York City alone loses nearly $627 million in annual property tax revenue because of exempted churches in the city.  The triple whammy of deductions for contributions, exemption from paying taxes, and no reporting requirements, leaves us all in the dark about why these organizations deserve such favorable tax treatment.”

When a church simply teaches the scripture authoritatively, there is obvious conflict with new social ideas regarding subjects like sexuality, marriage, and gender roles.  Insistence that marriage is solely to be between one man and one woman, and all sexual expression is to be confined to marriage is widely rejected in thought and in practice.  The Bible teaches male leadership in the church and in the home, hardly a popular idea today, and a biblical church must hold to that in practice and teach it.  The wrath of those who reject the teaching of scripture will inevitably lead to demands to end any favored status for such churches or institutions.

Internet censorship most obviously seen in the political sphere is sure to come against Christians and biblical ideas.  Breitbart recently noted that

“Wikipedia users are no longer allowed to include “user boxes” on their profile page that express opposition to gay marriage following a discussion where predominantly left-wing editors argued such a stance was “discriminatory” and against site policy. Most user boxes pre-dated a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage and were used by hundreds of editors. This included one expressing a personal view favoring traditional marriage, but advocating for states to decide.”

Beyond the internet, Christian broadcasters are likely to come under pressure.  The airwaves simply cannot be used to promulgate speech that offends.

Christians and Christian ministries are now often attacked with labels of hate and intolerance.  One far-left organization, the Southern Poverty Legal Center, claims to “monitor hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and expose their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement.”  Some of these “hate groups” are well-known for their hateful rhetoric and actions, but others are Christian or nonprofit groups.  The conservative group Liberty Counsel has reported that many Christian or nonprofit groups have been categorized as “hate groups” by SPLC, given this label because each takes a biblical position on marriage.  Simply holding to biblical and historically Christian views, taken from the Bible, is enough to be called a “hate group.”  These groups don’t call for members to express hatred or commit violent acts; they simply hold to a set of beliefs that Christians, and most others in the Western world, have held to for centuries.  The Sunday service at a Bible-preaching church is essentially, to the far Left, a hate group rally, and the sermon “hate speech.”

The Gospel.  In 1 Peter 4:1-5 we read,

“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.  For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.  In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.  They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

Ultimately, the real issue at the root of the conflict today is the Gospel.  Unbelievers do not want their sin exposed by the message of Christ and his Word.  They prefer to live in a society where their conduct is praised and accepted, rather than accept the truth that they are sinners in need of a Savior and creatures in rebellion against their Creator who need to turn from sin and turn to Him by grace and faith.  The Gospel is at the center of the church, the central theme of the Bible, the very center of Christian teaching.  The Gospel is Christianity; it is the message that the church has been commissioned to proclaim.  The message of the gospel is the good news of God for everyone who believes, but it starts with the bad news that we are all sinners and deserve the wrath of God, and that is a message people do not want to hear.  Throughout Scripture, God is shown to be a God of love and mercy, and many postmoderns are happy to accept this concept.  But He is likewise a God of holiness and justice, and people are less inclined to accept this.  He loves people, but he also calls all to repent of their sin.  Allowing people to remain lost in sin without warning them of the judgment to come is a disservice to them and an affront to God.

American believers are deeply patriotic.  We love our country, love our history, and are deeply appreciative of our prosperity and of our liberty, even as Christians face growing intolerance and hate from the culture.  We are becoming aliens and outcasts from society in our own beloved earthly country.  The last line of the first verse of that old gospel song reminds us, “And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

1 Peter 3:14-17 –  “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

John 14:2 – “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

A place prepared as our home. Our eternal home.

More Than 700,000 Served

The local suburban weekly newspaper featured the headline, “More Than 700,000 served.”  The opening paragraph noted that the local school district’s food program “will take a break for a week or two next month after a busy spring and summer.”  The accompanying photo caption began, “Cars line up at Northglenn High School July 17 to collect three days worth of meals,” and noted that the school district food service had been providing the meals to students and their families since schools in the area closed due to COVID-19.  The photo showed three late-model SUV’s lined up as they approached the tent to receive the hand-out meals.

“We went from giving out cold sandwiches in March, blended in April and May with hot entrees served daily and now we’ve gone to frozen meals they can finish at home,” said an administrator.  Later, the article noted that “Families line up drive-through style, picking up several meals per person–lunch for two days and breakfast on Mondays and Wednesdays.  They pick up more meals on Fridays, enough to get each student through the weekend.  They’ve even added a mobile option, with a bus leaving each high school headed to more remote areas.”

I was incensed.

A few months earlier, I had a similar reaction as local television featured similar stories, one showing busses heading out to hand out lunches, another a woman and her kids standing at the door of what appeared to be a comfortable home receiving meals.  I might have a different reaction if this were merely for several weeks during the virus shutdown, but that is not the case.  Months earlier, before the virus shutdown, the school district’s “mission creep” had included expansions of their feeding program.  Full-day kindergarten had been mandated by the state and introduced at the beginning of the school year.  Always more taxpayer-funded programs, always a bigger role for the government and the government schools.

The school district never seems to have enough funding, asking for more property taxes almost every election cycle.  Understanding that much or most of the funding for the massive food giveaway is from taxes the Federal government has taken, not just taxes from local property owners, one still must ask why government handouts have to be the source of food for every lower- and middle-economic class family.  When I was growing up, we were far from wealthy, but I took a sack lunch TO school every day.  I ate breakfast and dinner at home, and during the summer there was no school food program.  Dad, and later Dad and Mom went to work to provide for our needs.  They taught my brother and I by example how to be responsible, how to provide for our own needs, how to work and save.  Our children did not go to the government schools, but did not go hungry – my wife and I worked to provide for them.

Children resident in the United States should not go hungry.  America is an exceptional nation, divinely blessed with a favorable climate, almost limitless natural resources, millions of square miles of arable land, and an economic system unequalled in history.  We have the capability to produce far more food than we consume.  But what kind of lesson is being taught to children when the government and school district become their source of every basic need?  Why do productive people bother to work, send increasing amounts of their earnings to government, only to have government redistribute it to others purely at the whim of government?  If one wants more, just riot and demand more; this has become the understood message that is increasingly accepted.

Wealth is productivity – productivity brings wealth.  This is true of individuals, it is true of nations.  People cannot look to government as their source of material goods; it will ultimately bring poverty, loss of freedom, and ruin.  Individuals must use whatever opportunities and advantages that may be available to them and become productive.  The American system offers tremendous opportunity.  This concept has been lost; far too many with a sense of entitlement and aggrievement look to government to provide for their needs.  No need for personal responsibility, no need for marriage and family, no need to work and save, just demand more from government; this has become widely accepted in society.  That philosophy will bring ruin.

The Bible is filled with exhortations as to the responsibility to work, to be productive, to provide for one’s own needs and the needs of family.  Compassionate giving, sharing with those in need – absolutely; that is the spirit of Christianity.  But it is not at all compassionate to facilitate dependence on charity or on government.  It is ruinous – to the individual, and to the nation.

Wealth, Productivity, Riots, and Demands

The Bible has much to say about work, material wealth, and prosperity.  In the Ten Commandments, God clearly affirms personal property rights.  “Thou shalt not steal.”  “Thou shalt not covet.”  What is mine is mine and not yours; what is yours is yours and not mine.  We are reminded repeatedly in Scripture of the importance of hard work and personal industry.  Proverbs 14:23 tells us, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”  Throughout Proverbs we read of the importance of personal responsibility, work, saving and investing, providing for family, and doing so honestly.  Colossians 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”  Elsewhere Paul reminds, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need (Ephesians 4:28).”

          

My father grew up in poverty.  He was born in a small town in Nebraska, the youngest of four children, and I don’t recall him talking about his childhood much.  His grandfather who homesteaded land in Nebraska was from a line of ethnic Germans who had lived in Russia and eventually migrated to the United States. My grandfather was an alcoholic; he didn’t want to farm and so sold whatever land he inherited, even as other relatives became successful farmers.  My grandmother had mental issues and likely suffered from schizophrenia.  Dad remembered that as a child he had picked up coal along railroad tracks to burn for heat at home, and his family had lost electric service on occasion for failure to pay the bill, and was even evicted a time or two.  Dad didn’t finish high school.

My mother wasn’t much better off.  She grew up on a small farm in the next county north, on land that her grandfather had homesteaded after the Civil War.  My parents met and married when Dad was working with a crew laying brick pavers in the streets of the town where Mom lived.  They married months after Mom finished high school, and Dad worked for a short while at an armaments plant leftover from the Second World War era.  The facility closed, and employment opportunities in the area were limited at best.  Dad’s sister and family had moved to an area just north of Denver, and with some promise of a job from my uncle, my parents moved to that area.  They secured a tiny rental home – better described as a “shack,’ of perhaps 500 square feet.  The hoped-for job didn’t materialize.  Dad got a job in a parking lot in downtown Denver behind a department store, where he worked when I was born.  He eventually secured a position working in a warehouse where he worked for more than two decades, even as physical maladies made it difficult for him to be on his feet all day on a warehouse floor.  The folks were able to buy a better house, all of 750 square feet, shortly after the birth of my brother.  It wasn’t much by today’s standards, but it was theirs.  Dad went to work – every day.  He lived within his means.  We never went hungry.  Mom stayed home with us when we were small, and eventually went to work for J.C. Penney for a number of years.  The family’s standard of living rose, and by the time of their deaths the folks owned their home and left an inheritance for my brother and me.  We sold the little house after Dad died.

My parents inherited – nothing.  They were handed – nothing.  Dad and my aunt paid on an insurance policy for years so that there would be money to bury my grandmother, who they had brought to Colorado.  When the area where they grew up offered limited opportunity, they moved to another area.  They never collected any government assistance.  They never received any charity.  “Welfare” and “food stamps” were epithets, terms of derision in our house when I was growing up.  They worked, saved, and lived within their means.  They married, before I was born, and remained married until death.  Starting from nothing, they provided a good life for themselves and for my brother and me.  They made lemonade out of the circumstance of lemons they had to work with.

A few months ago I participated in a memorial service for an elderly lady.  Her life story is fascinating.  She was born in Silesia, then at the southeast corner of Germany, shortly before the Second World War.  When the war ended, the area was annexed to Poland, and her family was given hours to simply vacate their house.  With only what they could carry, they eventually made it to the western zone of occupied Germany.  She met a young man coincidentally from her home region, who had been drafted into the German army.  They eventually married and came to the United States.  They became successful and raised a family.  They too made lemonade out of lemon circumstances.

A friend of my wife’s mother has a similar story.  A young girl when the war ended, her ethnic German family became refugees.  They came to the United States with nothing, but took advantage of opportunity.  This woman and her husband, also an ethnic German, raised a family and successfully operated a small business.

What are the common threads here?  Seeking opportunity and working to overcome circumstances.  Relocating to a place of greater opportunity when necessary.  Willingness to work.  Personal responsibility.  Marriage and fidelity to marriage and family.  These things produce success.  None of these people viewed themselves as victims.  They didn’t have time to grovel in their circumstances; they were too busy working.  I don’t have confidence that my Dad ever became a Christian, and don’t know that all of the others referenced here did either.  But the life pattern that they followed was rooted in Christian principles and brought them success.

I got a job the summer after my junior year in high school.  It did not require any great genius, but I merely had to get up early, go to work, and do my job.  I was able to return to the job, summers and on Saturdays, throughout the rest of my educational career when I was in-state and at home.  My brother also worked various jobs during his youth.  We both funded much of our own college expenses.  We developed a work ethic that enabled both of us to have successful careers.  Today, too often suburban males spend their adolescence “working with their thumbs” playing video games, watching their cellphones, or watching movies and sporting events.  I have observed that the landscape crew for my HOA is staffed by Spanish-speaking adults, likely Mexican or Central American nationals.  During my youth, those landscape crews were staffed by American high school or college-age youths.  A summer or two, my brother had a brutally hard job for a small concrete contractor, handling large panels assembling and disassembling forms for basement and foundation pours.  Today, those jobs are largely staffed by immigrants.  In many inner city areas, youth are both unemployed and unemployable.  They are too often the children of unmarried teenaged mothers who themselves were born to unmarried teenaged mothers and have no understanding of any sort of a work ethic.  They are easy recruits for those who would incite them to riot and destroy and demand more taxpayer benefits while never actually doing what it might take to secure employment and progressing to a better life.

          

Wealth comes from productivity.  Wealth is not created by governmental redistribution nor is it created by government fiat, by government creating money out of thin air to give away to perceived victims.  American prosperity comes from the fact that Americans are the most productive people on the planet.  The best form of government recognizes personal and property rights, fosters opportunity, and furthers productivity.  Our system of capitalism and free enterprise does that and has done it well.  But for significant portions of society, that work ethic has been lost..

Property rights are absolute and are key to developing personal prosperity and furthering prosperity in a society.  I have no right to destroy the property of others or to destroy community property.  Exodus 22 explains this principle under the Old Testament economy.  We all have a responsibility to work and provide for ourselves and our families.  My ancestors worked brutally hard – farming in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was no picnic.  My Dad performed manual labor.  My career has required me to perform not manual labor but intellectual tasks, and I have saved throughout my career and now have modest savings in various instruments that provide capital to companies that employ people and provide necessary goods and services. Scripture enjoins us to provide for our children, and to teach them a trade, or by extension in our era, to provide for education, to set a positive godly example, and if circumstances allow to provide capital for their use.

          

As Christians, we are above all called to use our means for the honor and glory of God.  We are to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.  Wealth is not to be hoarded, and we are not to find our satisfaction in amassing material wealth.  We are to give.  We are to consider ourselves as stewards of whatever we may possess and give of our resources in submission to the lordship of Christ.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.   (Matthew 6:25-33)”

Paul wrote of our proper attitude toward “things.”

Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world,  and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  (I Timothy 6:6-10)”

 

Old Books

I have an old set of the “World Book” encyclopedia.  I remember that my mother bought it at a second-hand store when I was a kid.  It was published just after World War II, and I have no idea why my parents bought it, probably because they could not afford a new set of encyclopedias.  It was long obsolete even then, and likely neither I nor my brother ever used it much.  I also have our old set of the “Funk & Wagnalls” encyclopedia.  If I recall correctly, the grocery store where Mom shopped used these as a promotion, featuring a new volume every few weeks for a nominal cost.  I’m missing a couple of volumes; we likely didn’t need groceries those weeks.  With way too much stuff, I have considered throwing out these books.  My kids will never want them.

But given recent events, I think I’ll keep these books.  For reference.  To pick up and read an entry here and there.  To perhaps donate to an educational institution that might value them.  Recent events feature people with no knowledge of history, no understanding of economics, no understanding, frankly, of much of anything, seeking to destroy and tear down the society.  Burning books.  Defacing monuments.  Pulling down statues erected to honor people that they know nothing about.  Violent anarchists and people who constitute angry mobs likely don’t spend much time reading, at least studying anything of objective truth.  They are not interested in books – only in burning them, literally or figuratively.  Cancel culture is a goal and a mantra.

A book published in the 1950’s “Fahrenheit 451,” describes a society intent on burning books in order to erase history (titled for the temperature at which paper burns).  Even at that time, the author feared that the United States might eventually turn away from truth and true history.  Destruction of books, statues, and historic sites, obliterating the remembrance of history, is anarchy leading to totalitarianism.   Remembrance and respect for history, even the bad aspects of past events, is vital to a society, essential to a freedom-loving people.

My old encyclopedias are obsolete.  They do not contain the most recent scientific data.  They do not document more recent events, but they document facts and much real history to the point that they were published.  They precede the Leftist textbooks and far-Left teaching in the educational institutions of recent decades.  They record historic truths in a variety of fields that have been denied or ignored.  They record much vital and important information, minus Marxist bias.

When one understands some of the information in these books, one can begin to understand why many of us believe in American exceptionalism.  We come to understand that the American Revolution wasn’t fought just to make a bunch of old rich white guys richer as some today claim, and that the causes of the Civil War were complex.  We come to understand that the “Noble Savage” myth is just that, a myth, and aboriginal societies were not exactly ideal.  We come to understand that character, principles of personal responsibility, deferred gratification, and free-market capitalism bring prosperity to both an individual and a nation.  We come to understand the progression and flow of history.  We come to understand the basis of true science.

I have many hundreds of books.  I’ve asked that if I should die before I move them along, at least an attempt be made to donate them to a Christian institution.  I’ll add these old encyclopedias to that request.

While many of us are concerned for our nation and its fate, I am even more concerned for the fate of the church.  We have an ancient Book – the Bible – that, unlike my encyclopedias, has no degree of obsolescence.  It is timeless and completely true.  And yet sadly it has lost its importance to much, maybe most, of the perceived faithful church.  A “cancel culture” of ignorance, neglect, and denial has invaded the church.

Months ago, a seminary that once may have been the premier seminary among Bible believers featured a chapel speaker who is a graduate of that school.  He is a well-known megachurch pastor in the southeast, a gifted motivational speaker, but no preacher of Scripture.  He is noted for his almost disdain of the use of the Old Testament and exhorted the seminary students accordingly.  Surely seminarians must be well educated in a variety of fields, able to deal with and relate to people and understanding the society in which people live, able to help people deal with the difficulties they face each day.  But at the very foundation of the education a faithful pastor must be – the Bible.  He must know systematic and biblical theology.  And he must be able to teach and preach scripture, in its entirety, to confront people with the gospel and all of its ramifications for the lives of believers, to help them gain an understanding of scripture and develop a thoroughly Christian worldview and philosophy of life.

That is being forgotten throughout evangelicalism, to an almost stunning degree.  “Cancel” the truths from scripture that might offend someone.  In effect, “cancel” the gospel.  Give people a more acceptable, up to date concept of Jesus.  People are advised as to how to “achieve their dreams,” how to “follow their hearts.”  People are given life lessons and motivational speeches, advice, formulas for success.  Congregations (obsolete word, I know) are exhorted to develop a personal vision, to follow a vision, to have some sort of encounter with God.  Self-esteem is big; God is “crazy about you.”  God wants you to be prosperous, or successful, or feel good about yourself, or know your true self, or realize how special you are.  Create your own reality through positive thinking.  Unbelievers are affirmed in their sins, told that they are “awesome,” told that they are “special,” advised to, in effect, add a little Jesus to their life.  Church has become a raucous rock/pop concert followed by such a “talk.”  One wonders how that can even be considered a “worship service.”  Is it really to be compared to hearing from God’s Word, of singing truth from the scriptures, of considering Who God is and what He has done for us in Christ?  Did Jesus die to atone for our sins, or to make us feel good and make our dreams come true?  Disney message, Disney music, a Disney version of Jesus.  “Cancel” all of that absolutist, doctrinal stuff.  Help people feel good and learn to be tolerant.

We live in a decaying and dying culture that is in desperate need of truth.  Recent events remind us of that.  The Gospel is essentially all that the church has.  Found in both Old and New Testaments, God has given us the truth that we need both for life in this world and for eternal life.  We dare not forget that.  When society crumbles, people do not need anything so much as they need the timeless truth of scripture.

That puts a burden and a great responsibility on us as believers.  It is not enough to hear a sound sermon and sing a few true doctrinal hymns on Sunday.  We cannot merely lament decline.  We may have to separate from churches that do not hold to Scripture and preach Christ instead of culture.  We must become disciples and students of the Word.  We must study it and read it, and we must live it so that we might relate it to the people around us.

In the Old Testament, there is an account of young Josiah coming to the throne in Judah, the southern Jewish kingdom.  Israel, the northern kingdom and apostate from God, had already gone into captivity.  Judah survived, sometimes apostate, sometimes knowing a time of revival.  In II Kings 22, it is recorded that

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.  . . .  And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.  Now it came to pass, in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the scribe . . .  to the house of the Lord, saying:  “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money which has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have gathered from the people.  And let them deliver it into the hand of those doing the work, who are the overseers in the house of the Lord; let them give it to those who are in the house of the Lord doing the work, to repair the damages of the house—  to carpenters and builders and masons—and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house. . . ” Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.  So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, “Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the Lord.”  Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.  Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes.  Then the king commanded . . . , saying,  “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”

The ancient Jews forgot God.  They forgot His Word.  It brought calamity.  When the ancient scrolls were discovered in the time of Josiah, it brought some degree of revival and postponement of ultimate judgement.  It brought life and hope to another generation.  As a nation, we cannot forget the truths found in the Old Books.  The church dare not forget the truth found in The Old Book.

Tell your children about it,
Let your children tell their children,
And their children another generation.  (Joel 1:3)

“Breaking News”

I basically gave up on watching local television news early in the virus panic.  I previously referred to the local newscasts as “The Giggle News” due to the typical on-air banter.  We used to joke about the nightly lead story of “Breaking News” from an area suburb, where there always seemed to be a shooting or policing event.  But with the virus coverage, I finally quit watching for the most part.  We might tune it to the news to check the weather at a quarter past the hour, but simply don’t care about big hard-hitting stories about the staff at The Daisy Hill Puppy Farm knitting hundreds of masks to donate.  I don’t care about people howling or barking at a particular time each evening to supposedly recognize medical professionals, presumably those treating virus cases and not the ones who were idled by the imposed shutdown.  I don’t care about pandering newscasters observing social distancing by sitting on opposite sides of the set, or people doing their segment from home.

Long ago I gave up on the broadcast network national news broadcasts, regarding them as generally Leftist propaganda, watching only occasionally when there might be a major disaster or weather event such as a hurricane.  I continue to receive the local daily newspaper, noting the sources for articles, picking and choosing what to read, sometimes little of it, sometimes when I’m in the mood for “opposition research” reading more of it.  Nevertheless, looking at a variety of sources, I consider myself well informed, just careful and thoughtful of what I might accept as fact.

Just as in matters of faith, understanding culture and current events requires discernment.  Check sources and evidence.  Look at and analyze source data.  Not everything in a newscast or the newspaper is true.  The internet is full of “fake news.”  Analyze.  Consider data carefully.  Even good and correct facts can lead to incorrect conclusions when the facts are considered out of context and out of the context of other data.  The human-caused climate change debate is famous for this.

Throughout recent months, induced fear has been everywhere in our society.  The run on products like toilet paper and other consumer staples showed the widespread fear. Recently I was on the road over Loveland Pass, at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet.  At a parking area, few people were around, on a sunny day, with some wind blowing as it always does there, I noticed two little girls, perhaps early elementary age, get out of a car.  Both had on masks.  Statistically, the coronavirus does not affect children, adolescents, or young adults (yes, there are exceptions).  Not my business, they are free to wear masks, but I noted that they would have had to make an effort to get within 10 feet of anyone.  While there, well away from others of course, I sneezed without so much as raising my hand or arm to my face, just for the sheer joy of it.  I’m tired of the whole distancing thing.

People have lost businesses and jobs in the shutdown, others have lost educational opportunities, others have suffered postponement of needed medical procedures.  Economic loss and financial disaster are all too real.  The recent civil unrest and riots have arguably been as bad or worse than the virus shutdown.  Fear – legitimate fear – is everywhere.  Fear for the life and health of loved ones.  The fear for one’s own life, health, and well-being.  The fear of the early-stage dementia patient, seeing no one except a staff person or two in a mask and medical garb.  The anxiety of an aging person unable to visit with anyone face to face.

“Cases” (positive tests).  “Outbreaks” (two or more positive tests in a facility, group, or place of employment).  An athlete or celebrity tests positive for the virus; not actually ill, just a positive test.  “Surge.”  “Spike.”  “Emergency.”  Somber tones.  Mass death.  Panic.  Despair.  Be afraid.  But maybe some fears are induced, overblown, and unnecessary.

A few weeks ago, I ran across an article by Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, a journalism professor at Cardiff University (referenced in the monthly devotional booklet “Turning Points” from David Jeremiah’s organization).  The article is titled “Feeling Panicked About Coronavirus?  Media Coverage of New Epidemics Often Stokes Unnecessary Fear.”  In the piece the author writes,

“New contagious diseases are scary. They frighten us because they’re unknown and unpredictable. The ongoing outbreak of the novel coronvirus COVID-19 has received extensive media attention — coverage that can tell us a lot about how uncertainty in the face of such an epidemic can all too easily breed fear.

For about a decade, I’ve been studying the role of emotions in journalism, including in the coverage of disasters and crises. Media coverage is vital to our shared conversations and plays a key role in regulating our emotions, including fear. While fear is an emotion that we frequently experience as individuals, it can also be a shared and social emotion — one that circulates through groups and communities and shapes our reactions to ongoing events. Like other emotions, fear is contagious and can spread swiftly.

Media coverage sets the agenda for public debate. While the news doesn’t necessarily tell us what to think, it tells us what to think about. In doing so, the news signals what issues merit our attention. Research has consistently shown that when issues receive extensive media coverage and are prominent in the news agenda, they also come to be seen as more important by members of the public.”

Further,

“Research on coverage of earlier disease outbreaks show a similar emphasis on fear. In the case of the SARS epidemic in 2003, a study by historian Patrick Wallis and linguist Brigitte Nerlich found that “the main conceptual metaphor used was SARS as a killer.” Along the same lines, media scholars Peter Vasterman and Nel Ruigrok examined coverage of the H1N1 epidemic in the Netherlands and found that it was marked by the “alarming” tone of its coverage. Like the coronavirus, these historical outbreaks were characterized by uncertainty, breeding fear and panic.

To put these observations into perspective, it is instructive to compare them with coverage of seasonal influenza, which is estimated by the World Health Organization to kill 290,000 to 650,000 people around the world every year. Since January 12, 2020, world newspapers have published just 488 articles on the seasonal flu without also mentioning coronavirus. In sharp contrast to coverage of this novel coronavirus, fewer than 1 in 10 stories about flu (37 of 488) mentioned “fear” or similar words or phrases.

The prominence of fear as a theme in reports of the coronavirus suggests that much of the outbreak’s coverage is more of a reflection of public fear than informative of what’s actually happening in terms of the spread of the virus. Franklin Roosevelt probably overstated the case when he famously said that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But at a time rife with misinformation, fake news, and conspiracy theories, it’s worth remaining alert to the dangers of this contagious emotion in the face of uncertainty.”  *

In Hebrews 12:27-29, Paul wrote,

Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”

Commenting on this passage, Charles Spurgeon (updated by Alistair Begg) in his “Morning and Evening” devotional, wrote,

“We have many things in our possession at the present moment that can be shaken, and it is not good for a Christian to rely upon them, for there is nothing stable beneath these rolling skies; change is written upon all things. Yet we have certain “things that cannot be shaken,” and I invite you this evening to think of them—that if the things that can be shaken should all be taken away, you may derive real comfort from the things that cannot be shaken and that will remain. Whatever your losses have been, or may be, you enjoy present salvation.

You are standing at the foot of Christ’s cross, trusting alone in the merit of His precious blood, and no rise or fall of the markets can interfere with your salvation in Him; no breaking of banks, no failures and bankruptcies can touch that. Then you are a child of God this evening. God is your Father. No change of circumstances can ever rob you of that. Even if by loss you are brought to poverty and stripped bare, you can still say, “He is still my Father. In my Father’s house are many rooms; therefore I will not be troubled.” You have another permanent blessing, namely, the love of Jesus Christ. He who is God and man loves you with all the strength of His affectionate nature—nothing can affect that. The fig tree may not blossom, and the flocks may dwindle and wander from the field, but it does not matter to the man who can sing, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His.” Our best portion and richest heritage we cannot lose.

Whatever troubles come, let us play the man; let us show that we are not like little children cast down by what happens to us in this poor fleeting state of time. Our country is Immanuel’s land, our hope is fixed in heaven, and therefore, calm as the summer’s ocean, we will see the wreck of everything earthborn and yet rejoice in the God of our salvation.”

David the Psalmist wrote, in Psalm 37,

Do not fret (worry) because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.

Do not despair because of evildoers – racists, rioters, Marxists, destroyers.  Do not worry because of diseases, disasters, disappointments.  Do not worry – it only causes harm.

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.

 

* https://www.niemanlab.org/2020/02/feeling-panicked-about-coronavirus-media-coverage-of-new-epidemics-often-stokes-unnecessary-fear/

 

 

The Importance of History To A Nation And To The Christian

I recently read “The Pioneers,” a new book by noted American writer and historian David McCullough.  Subtitled “The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West,” the book recounts the story of early settlers in Ohio following Britain’s ceding of the Northwest Territory lands and the adoption of the Northwest Ordinance by the American congress in 1787.  At the end of the book is a short section called “Why History,” an excerpt from the acceptance speech McCullough gave for an award in 1995.  He remarked,

“We, in our time, are raising a new generation of Americans who, to an alarming degree, are historically illiterate.

The situation is serious and sad.  And it is quite real, let there be no mistake.  It has been coming on for a long time, like a creeping disease, eating away at our national memory.  While the clamorous popular culture races on, the American past is slipping away, out of sight and out of mind.  We are losing our story, forgetting who we are and what it’s taken to come this far.” . . .

“Everywhere in the country there are grade school and high school teachers teaching history who have had little or no history in their own education.  Our school system, the schools we are responsible for, could rightly be charged with educational malpractice.” . . .

“History shows us how to behave.  History teaches, reinforces what we believe in, what we stand for, and what we ought to be willing to stand up for.  History is–or should be–the bedrock of patriotism, not the chest-pounding kind of patriotism but the real thing, love of country.”

To the extent that education occurs in the government school systems today, there is a critical failure to emphasize important academic subjects such as literature and language, civics, and history.  Professional and technical subjects are often the focus; we hear much of STEM–science, technology, engineering, and math.  Other liberal arts subjects are often thought of as not interesting to today’s students, not relevant, not practical to their daily life.  The study of history has increasingly been replaced by all sorts of studies thought to appeal to aggrieved groups and that in reality are nothing more than the advancement of progressive agendas.

The loss of an understanding of and an appreciation for American history has brought us to a dangerous point.  American exceptionalism is denied and even ridiculed by many, if not most, in academia, the media, and in the political sphere.  The brilliance and heroism of the Founders is ignored and denied.  The founding documents of the nation are not appreciated for their unique value and the wisdom they contain.  Our national heroes are dismissed for their perceived imperfections.  Recent immigrants often seem to expect immediate equality of outcome, attributing failure to achieve overnight success as racism, rather than understanding that America has never guaranteed and cannot guarantee equal outcomes, only a degree of equivalence of opportunity.  My own ancestors, descended from legal immigrants from Europe in the early nineteenth century, benefited from the Homestead Act as they moved West, but otherwise knew nothing of guaranteed outcomes or public welfare.  They and their descendants endured failure and backbreaking labor for decades before achieving any degree of success.  But they enjoyed the benefits of freedom and opportunity.  The United States has many blots on its history, not to be ignored or minimized, but that does not change its exceptional role in the world.  One notes that immigrants continue to seek entry into the country, but few choose to leave.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.  Recently he wrote,

“In their radical progressive view—shared by billionaires from Silicon Valley, recent immigrants, and the new Democratic Party—America was flawed, perhaps fatally, at its origins.

Things have not gotten much better in the country’s subsequent 243 years, nor will they get any better—at least not until America as we know it is dismantled and replaced by a new nation predicated on race, class, and gender identity politics agendas.

In this view, an “OK” America is no better than other countries. As Barack Obama once bluntly put it, America is only exceptional in relative terms, given that citizens of Greece and the United Kingdom believe their own countries are just as exceptional. In other words, there is no absolute standard to judge a nation’s excellence.

About half the country disagrees. It insists that America’s sins, past and present, are those of mankind. But only in America were human failings constantly critiqued and addressed.

America does not have to be perfect to be good. As the world’s wealthiest democracy, it certainly has given people from all over the world greater security and affluence than any other nation in history—with the largest economy, largest military, greatest energy production, and most top-ranked universities in the world.

America alone kept the postwar peace and still preserves free and safe global communications, travel, and commerce.

The traditionalists see American history as a unique effort to overcome human weakness, bias, and sin. That effort is unmatched by other cultures and nations, and explains why millions of foreign nationals swarm into the United States, both legally and illegally.

These arguments over our past are really over the present—and especially the future.

If progressives and socialists can at last convince the American public that their country was always hopelessly flawed, they can gain power to remake it based on their own interests.”

Partly as a result of a lack of appreciation of our past, American society is in decline, dangerously so, and is deeply divided.  Professor and author Walter Williams noted in a recent article in “The Daily Signal” that

“A society’s first line of defense is not the law or the criminal justice system, but customs, traditions, and moral values. These behavioral norms, mostly imparted by example, word-of-mouth, and religious teachings, represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error.  Police and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct.  At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society.  Today’s true tragedy is that most people think what we see today has always been so.  As such, today’s Americans accept behavior that our parents and grandparents never would have accepted.”

                                                                                  

Remembering American history is critical to our nation.  Perhaps more importantly, we as Christians need to remember our history.

It has been suggested that the evangelical church needs to “unhitch” from the Old Testament.  We need more of the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount, nothing of the Ten Commandments, it is argued.  Increasingly, evangelical churches feature TED talks and motivational speeches referencing a Bible story or verse in place of preaching and teaching from Scripture.  Many churches no longer talk of doctrine and eternal truth, emphasizing topics like relationship advice, achieving prosperity, success, love, acceptance, and affirmation.  Church services feature contemporary entertainment in place of distinctively Christian congregational singing of music that centers on doctrine, sin and salvation, Who God is and what He has done for us in Christ.  Children are entertained and taught benevolence and environmentalism, not the Bible.  After all, the church needs to be “relevant.”  We must give people what they want and think they need if we are to attract them and help them to have a better life.

But for the church to truly be the church, to do what we have been commissioned to do, to present the gospel and disciple people, to teach them how they should live in light of the gospel, we must systematically preach, teach, and adhere to the Bible.  All of it.  And that of necessity is a study of history.

The Bible, though recorded over several centuries by a number of human authors, is a unified story of the Divine plan for humankind from creation to the end of time.  The Bible tells us where we came from; it teaches us about creation and our origin; it answers the questions as to the meaning and purpose of life.  It teaches why God created us and it shows us Who He is to the extent that we can understand Him.  The Scriptures tell us of the origin of sin, God’s offense and righteous anger at our sin and rebellion, and help us to understand why things are the way they are in a world after the Fall.  The Scriptures explain the necessity of salvation and tell us the story of our redemption, the unfolding of the divine plan for human salvation from the Fall through the centuries culminating in the Cross.  And it tells us how we can each individually enter into eternal life through the atonement Christ has made for our sins.  He did not live merely give us a lot of really good philosophy and advice.  In space and time, in history, God in Christ entered into the world and endured torture and death on a real Roman cross and bodily rose from a real grave as the One perfect and acceptable sacrifice for human sin.

The events recorded in both Old and New Testaments are real, historic events.  They happened in space and time, and it is important to remember this and consider the context that this gives to all that Scripture teaches.  The Bible is not merely a book of musings, a collection of inspirational writings.  We are not asked to empty our minds in esoteric contemplation or meditation; we are asked to fill our minds with Scripture, thoughts and words rooted in history.  The Old Testament gives us an important context for understanding the life of Jesus and his teachings.  When we understand the Judaism of Jesus’ time and the history of the Jewish people, we can better understand the New Testament.  When we remember these things and understand something of the Roman empire and the world in which Jesus and the disciples lived, we can better understand the books of the New Testament.  The New Testament and the Old Testament are writings inspired by God, and they are also rooted in history and record events that really occurred.

The pastor of the church I attend preaches Scripture, systematically, in context.  He does not deliver motivational speeches propped up with out-of-context passages from the Bible, designed to appeal to a particular demographic, designed to attract people looking for something inspirational and relevant to their perceived needs.  Currently, he is preaching an extended series on Sunday mornings, preaching the book of Isaiah.  But while he is preaching the book, he is not merely teaching a course in history.  He is teaching vital truth, relevant to the timeless needs we all have.

The ancient Jewish prophet Isaiah wrote some eight centuries before Christ.  During Isaiah’s lifetime, the apostate northern Jewish kingdom of Israel with its capital at Samaria was conquered and destroyed.  Judah, the southern Jewish kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital, was repeatedly threatened, and knew periods of decline as well as periods of revival and faithfulness to God.  In the background was the ancient superpower of Assyria, who conquered Israel as well as other kingdoms in the region and repeatedly threatened Judah.  If one is a typical prosperous American looking perhaps for a little religious inspiration, entertainment, or life coaching, the response might be, “So What?  Who Cares?”

But the book of Isaiah contains much that is completely relevant to the real, timeless needs that we all have.  The divinely inspired prophet Isaiah spoke many prophecies that were fulfilled in his lifetime, prophecies that were fulfilled in the following decades, and prophecies of the Messiah that were fulfilled centuries later in Christ.  We learn that we can trust Scripture when we observe these fulfilled prophecies, and we understand that just as these events happened exactly as Isaiah predicted, so will events still future be fulfilled just as Isaiah foretold.  We learn that God is sovereign, ultimately in control in the affairs of man, and we thus learn that we can trust Him in our life.  Isaiah warned the kings and people of his day against sin, exhorted faithfulness to God, and reminded them of the results that would follow; and just as he foretold, repentance brought deliverance, sin brought judgement.  We would be wise to learn and heed this principle.  Isaiah warned Judah against alliance with surrounding kingdoms in a bid to stand against Assyria, and records both the pronouncement of doom and the fall of those kingdoms.  Even powerful Egypt suffered defeat at the hands of Assyria, confirming the words delivered by the inspired prophet.  We would do well to remember that our hope is not with the petty solutions and worldly wisdom that might appeal to us, but when an overwhelming circumstance threatens us, our help comes from the Lord.  Old Testament history records an amazing deliverance by God when an Assyrian army threatened Jerusalem.  Tens of thousands of the invaders died in their sleep; the surviving army was forced to return to their homeland.  The Assyrian empire ultimately fell just as Isaiah prophesied, replaced by Babylon just as Isaiah prophesied.  Judah ultimately was unfaithful to God and fell to Babylon, just as Isaiah prophesied, Babylon rose and fell just as Isaiah prophesied, and the Jewish remnant returned to Jerusalem, just as Isaiah prophesied.  God preserved the Jewish nation through whom Messiah would come; God was faithful to His ancient promises.  Secular history confirms and aligns with these events recorded in Scripture.  The accounts and sermons of the Old Testament prophets are powerful, timeless, and supremely relevant.  Keep the motivational speeches and inspirational talks and entertainment; I prefer to listen to the timeless lessons of Scripture that are firmly rooted in verifiable history.

When Jesus bodily rose from the grave, he taught his followers for some forty days before ascending into heaven and declaring that one day he would return.  His disciples began to declare the gospel to their world; the story of Christ and the gospel began to spread and was widely believed.  Luke, Paul, John, and others under inspiration penned the New Testament books, which record verifiable history that helps give context to the theology, doctrine, and teachings conveyed in those writings.  For some two thousand years, the gospel has been declared, shared, believed, studied, and loved by millions.  The world has been completely affected by Christianity and by Christians who have been transformed by the gospel.  History confirms this.  The sacrifice of martyrs–from the Twelve and other early disciples to those in our day who still give their lives–to those who have lived under persecution or who still live under persecution, are the historic heritage of the faith.  Some heroic, most anonymous and ordinary, history tells us of countless individual Christians who have lived their faith and left us stories of great inspiration and example.  We do well when we study the history of the church.  It is our heritage, and we profit from knowing it as surely as Americans profit from knowing, appreciating, studying, and learning from our national history.

Development of a Christian worldview is supremely important, and we do that through knowing and understanding the Scriptures.  They are our foundational documents.  The Scriptures record for us the truths, doctrines, philosophy, and the timeless information God has given us for life.  In churches and individually, we must be committed to the Bible.  It is “malpractice” and worse when a church does not teach Scripture.  It is sin when believers do not read, study, believe, and practice the teachings of the Bible.  Through the Bible, we are inspired, comforted, challenged, instructed.  The Scriptures are “the words of life,” giving us the gospel and giving us the plan and purpose of God for our lives.  We cannot fully understand the Scriptures until we understand that they are true in total, recording real events, and we are prepared to learn from that history.  We must constantly remember them as our founding documents, and remember above all our allegiance to Christ the Founder of the historic orthodox Christian faith.

 

 

Abortion, Conscience, and the Church

I recently read an editorial page piece in my local newspaper, reprinted from The Washington Post.  Titled “When I Needed It, Abortions Weren’t Illegal,” the author shares, “I had an abortion in Alabama when I was 14.  If the state’s laws had been the same then as they are now, my whole life would be different.”  The article was written in response to recent pro-life legislation in that state and at least two others.  The author relates her story of that abortion experience, aided by her mother and an aunt who “wanted to inform and empower me,” although it was opposed by her father.  Of the abortion experience, she notes, “The doctor was kind. While taking the ultrasound, he said that I could look at the screen if I wanted to – that, in fact, it might make me feel better. I’d had little in the way of sex education and could barely conceptualize what was happening in my own body. Was there really a baby inside me?  What I saw was gray and cloudy, a barely perceptible swirl of cells. That simple encouragement has stayed with me to this day. The doctor knew that an abortion was a routine medical procedure — he wanted to reassure me, to give me a sense of normalcy, to inform me about what was happening in my own body.”

What really caught my attention were two statements later in the article.  She goes on to note, “Today, I live in Texas with my three children, where in my spare time, I volunteer to drive people seeking an abortion to and from their appointments,” and later, “From my own experience, having two more abortions after I became a mother, and from my volunteering, I know the reality of the procedure.”  Although I know that this attitude is commonplace, I was stunned at the almost celebratory and militant attitude toward the subject.  The article, obviously, remained in my mind, enough so that I was moved to pray for this woman, and her living children, when I prayed the next few mornings, rather than being merely angered.

Later, I happened across a piece entitled “The Epidemic of a Seared Conscience” on the internet site News With Views, authored by Dr. Mark Spaulding, a Calvary Chapel pastor, a portion of which reads,

“What has happened to a great number of men and women in America is that their conscience has become seared. Their mind is in a state of depreciating ability to grasp morality personally and interpersonally. They have become incapable of moral reasoning and logical analysis that lead to guilt or shame related to their thinking and behavior. They are being turned over to the darkness they crave and prostitute themselves to and on behalf of.

Depending on the severity of the behavior, psychologists call this psychopathic or sociopathic behavior. The difference between the two is that a psychopath has no conscience remaining. The psychopath’s conscience is completely seared and devoid of any emotion of shame or guilt associated with their behavior. Ironically, Hollywood glamorizes this behavior, giving tacit approval to the violent and murderous results of psychopathic people.

The sociopath has a small amount of conscience remaining. This person might still feel a twinge of guilt but not enough to stop their evil behavior. Both the psychopath and sociopath are dangerous to others with which they interact and especially those with whom they disagree.  Courtrooms across this nation are filled with cases involving the egregious behavior of people with little to no functioning conscience.

All of the examples above demonstrate varying states of the inability to reason morally. America is well down the path of being wrested from its moral foundations by psychopaths and sociopaths whose faculties have been impaired by evil. What can be done to correct this development? We must first understand what we are dealing with.

The late J.I. Packer said concerning conscience that:

“An educated, sensitive conscience is God’s monitor.  It alerts us to the moral quality of what we do or plan to do, forbids lawlessness and irresponsibility, and makes us feel guilt, shame, and fear of the future retribution that it tells us we deserve, when we have allowed ourselves to deny its restraints…Satan’s strategy is to corrupt, desensitize, and if possible kill our consciences.  The relativism, materialism, narcissism, secularism, and hedonism of today’s Western world help him mightily toward his goal.  His task is made yet simpler by the way in which the world’s moral weaknesses have been taken into the contemporary church.”  (J.I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness)

Packer identified the real crux of the issue. Conscience is a God-given warning system that has been deliberately turned off today in a large number of Americans. An alarm cannot warn of danger if it is not connected to a power source.

Slowly and over time the innate ability of Americans to determine right from wrong has been strategically and with malice corrupted. The constant drive to remove and even erase Christianity from the public mind and memory has borne the rottenest of fruit culturally speaking.

How can a culture sustain moral uprightness from generation to generation when even the Church, that instrument of God meant to inform and when necessary, correct culture, begins to emulate the culture? When a society becomes seared in conscience, when a critical mass of people begin to think and advocate for evil under the guise of good, and exchange light for darkness, their minds become seared as with a branding iron and the resultant scar tissue renders them incapable of returning to correct thinking and behavior absent a radical surgery.

The Church is meant to be God’s scalpel, guided by His hand to make perfect incisions to remove the cancer of evil, the scar tissue of a seared conscience, and in so doing, restore right thinking and behavior to all individuals. When the Church refuses to do that mass deception is allowed to congeal and that environment creates hostility toward the truth of man’s precarious condition and toward the only solution to his dilemma.”

The woman in the editorial is a demonstration of the observation that “When a society becomes seared in conscience, when a critical mass of people begin to think and advocate for evil under the guise of good, and exchange light for darkness, their minds become seared as with a branding iron and the resultant scar tissue renders them incapable of returning to correct thinking and behavior absent a radical surgery.”  Again, I was moved to pray for her after reading her story.  She needs to believe the Gospel and come to Christ by faith and repentance, just as all humans do.  She needs to realize her true guilt, as we all do as part of the human race in rebellion against God, and find freedom from that guilt and sin at the Cross where Jesus died as the One Perfect Sacrifice in atonement for the sin of all who would believe.

There is no moral social consensus currently concerning abortion.  Some states have recently passed legislation to make abortion legal at any stage of pregnancy, even suggesting that if a late-term abortion results in a live birth, it is permissible to let the child die without medical attempt to save the child.  The Empire State Building was lit up in celebration of the passage of New York’s extreme abortion bill.  Statistics tell us that repeat abortions, abortions after a mother has already had an abortion, are common.  It is regarded merely as a form of birth control, a minor medical procedure, almost akin to having a tooth pulled.  The New York legislature is, meanwhile, considering legislation to stop the declawing of cats.  The ancient prophet Isaiah wrote, in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness: Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

I am ardently pro-life, and perhaps only somewhat comprehend the complexity of the issue.  We have two adopted children whose birth mothers could have, I suppose, chosen to abort them.  We were recently blessed by the birth of a granddaughter, who we saw for the first time via ultrasound before her birth.  I understand that situations are different, and many women with unplanned pregnancies agonize over their situation.  An unplanned and unwanted pregnancy can be devastating.  Recent legislation in at least three states is solidly pro-life; I have no doubt that the progressive left judiciary will not allow these laws to stand.  Without a societal consensus, legal restrictions on abortion will have only minimal effect.

The American religious community in many ways fails to effectively address this issue.  Some pro-lifers do not realize that threats of violence and hateful rhetoric do not aid their cause.   Liberal progressive denominations not only do not oppose abortion but in many cases support it.  The Evangelical community broadly is ineffective in addressing moral issues as well, sometimes through silence, but perhaps more importantly by diverting away from emphasizing the need for believers to grow in their faith and develop a truly Christian perspective so they can effectively live out the Gospel.

Evangelical churches in twenty-first century America often seem to be caught up in post-modernism and focus on attracting adherents through motivational speeches and pop psychology and prosperity theology and trendy contemporary entertainment and love and acceptance without mentioning sin and forgiveness.  But when the Church fails to rigidly adhere to Scripture and the consistent teaching of the Gospel and its ramifications for all of life, it will not have an impact.  Churches must be committed to the job of “equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12)” so those mature believers can effectively minister to people and have an impact on their communities.  Again quoting Dr. Spaulding, “The Church is meant to be God’s scalpel, guided by His hand to make perfect incisions to remove the cancer of evil, the scar tissue of a seared conscience, and in so doing, restore right thinking and behavior to all individuals. When the Church refuses to do that mass deception is allowed to congeal and that environment creates hostility toward the truth of man’s precarious condition and toward the only solution to his dilemma.”