Tuesday, December 6, 2016

We all look forward to our wages but...

I work in a school system. We're paid monthly, on the last day. It takes discipline to budget a household in a single income where the wages come 28-31 days apart. In December we go on Christmas vacation a few days before the holiday and return in the first week of January. It's about a two week break, something everyone looks forward to since we began school in early August. We all need one by then!

As a kindness, the payroll system works in feverish activity and closes payroll early so we can get paid before Christmas instead of the week after, as the usual rotation would have been. That's the plus. The minus is that it's 50 days in between paychecks. Our wages don't come for about 6 weeks and it's a veeeeeeery long stretch between mid December and the last day of January. It takes a lot of patience to wait calmly and in disciplined manner for that paycheck in January.

We all look forward to our wages, whether they come on the day we worked, or the week's end or the month's end. When we receive that envelope, or open our bank account to view the Direct Deposit, we feel gratitude, pride in our work, and relief.

For the unsaved world, including the false Christians who think they are saved but aren't, the spiritual wages they will receive on their last day will come as a shock. The wages for the sinner have a very long delay, but on their last day they will receive a fat envelope containing a list of all their misdeeds and sins. Their wages will be toted up at the bottom and it will say $DEATH$.

Why is this Romans 6:23 verse an encouragement to me? Deep in sin, Jesus lifted me from the muck, cleansed me with His blood, and gave me eternal life. I accumulated an eternal debt of wages upon wages for all the evil work I had performed before I was saved. I deserve death. He gave me life. Hallelujah!

Praise Him to the Highest. The babe has come, the boy will grow in wisdom and stature, the Man will die, the King will reign!

EPrata photo
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52).

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)

Monday, December 5, 2016

A thorny crown

In Genesis 3, Eve and Adam sinned. They fell from grace, and destroyed the intimate relationship they'd been enjoying with Holy God. God told Adam that because of his sinful action,

cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
(Genesis 3:17b-18a)

Before the Fall, no thorns existed on earth. After the Fall, because of sin, thorns and thistles grew.

EPrata photo
As Jesus was being led to the crucifixion, they mocked Him.

and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:29)

The only reason thorns grew is because of sin. The man sinned and as a result, the ground was cursed, and thorns came. The thorns on Jesus' head are a visual reminder of our sin and the curse of it He came to release us from.

He is a good, good God.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

I was here

Did you ever see the doodle/tag Kilroy was here? It was popular when I was a kid. It was a tag that came out of WWII and was a precursor to graffiti. It continued being popular for a while after WWII, such as my coming up days in the 1960s.

Kilroy tag at Washington DC WWII Memorial
It is generally thought that the origin of the tag was from James J. Kilroy who worked at a Massachusetts shipyard in WWII. When riveters finished their shift would make a chalk mark at the end of his shift to show where he had stopped and the next riveter had started. JJ Kilroy allegedly began tagging uniquely to stop the practice. Dishonest riveters would erase the previous worker's mark and chalk a new mark farther back on the same seam, giving themselves credit for part of the previous riveter's work, as Wikipedia says. The tag grew from there.

Then in the late 1960s and early 1970s spray paint graffiti came about, more tagging. John Naar was the first graffiti photographer. His pictures were published the 1973 seminal book on graffiti, by Norman Mailer and Mervyn Kurlansky's "The Faith of Graffiti". The Amazon description says,
In 1973 author Norman Mailer teamed with photographer Jon Naar to produce The Faith of Graffiti, a fearless exploration of the birth of the street art movement in New York City.
EPrata photo of local train tags
Did you ever see names or initials scrawled in wet cement? I saw this article at the magazine Gothamist,
A gang of tween vandals were "tagging" their names in wet cement outside their school in Middlesex, New Jersey recently when the local constabulary happened upon them. Taking swift action, police collared the young hoodlums, took them downtown for questioning, and finally handed them over to their parents, who signed an agreement to punish the children and paid a $250 fine each—except the father of 11-year-old Kelly Zierdt, who is refusing to pay his daughter's debt to society. And now his little princess is being called before a judge to face justice.
Graffiti and tagging isn't new. The Atlantic published an article about the graffiti on the ancient standing walls and sidewalks at Pompeii, Italy.
From Roman walls to Twitter, humans have a long-standing obsession with leaving their mark. ...The oldest known graffiti at Pompeii also happens to be among the simplest: Gaius was here. Or, more precisely, "Gaius Pumidius Diphilus was here," along with a time stamp, which historians have dated to October 3, 78 B.C. ... So-and-so was here has been one of the messages humans have scrawled, etched, and eventually Sharpied and spray painted onto public spaces for millennia.
From across time and across oceans, the same impulse resides in humans to tag, make a stamp, declare identity, do something that remains. Why? Roger Gastman tried explaining the urge in the same Atlantic article-
"Overall, people want to write on things to be known," Roger Gastman, the author of The History of American Graffiti, told me in an email. "To be everywhere at once yet nowhere at all."
To be known. Man wants to be known, he wants to know that after he departs he won't be lost to the mists of time as his body becomes dust. But he will be forgotten. He will be dust and he will be gone from this earth. Instinctively, he knows this.

All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. (Ecclesiastes 3:20).

Will I be remembered? Will my mere few decades on earth carry any weight at all as the press of eternity weighs down the memory of me and as the overlay of other memories of other people rise up, compressing mine to a sliver, and then poof, my wispy remaining presence even as fleeting memory is obliterated completely? Noooo, I WAS HERE!
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. ~Walt Whitman, 'Song of Myself'
My first thoughts about eternity came to my mind when I was in my 20s. When I was teaching school in my twenties, a woman I’d taught with for a few years named Ann retired. A few months after she retired, a phase of life she had eagerly been looking forward to, she died quickly of cancer. It started me thinking of life and death. Is this all there is? To work to live, then die right after you retire, nothing to be gained? What was the point of life? Was there an afterlife? If so, what was the thing that allowed someone in? Do we all get in? When someone close to you dies, these are the thoughts one naturally begins to think. I WAS HERE!

When we turn to Ecclesiastes again, we see that the verse says,

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Therefore, we know there is an eternity. We know that we do not stop when our heart stops. We know there is a God. We know that he is so much higher than us we can't understand all his works from start to finish. We know this, instinctively. It is the urge that pushes us to tag, write, declare, "I WAS HERE."

My friend recently discovered that a High School friend had died. She wrote about the issue of eternity at her blog. What Happens When You Die? Here is an excerpt, please read it in its entirety. It's good.
I do know what happens when we die, and I will share that with you now since I’ve been asking you if you know.  In Hebrews 9:27 it says that it is appointed for men to die once, and then after that is judgement.  For those of us who have believed in God’s Son Jesus, and are placing our trust in His perfectly sinless life, death on a cross as punishment for our sins, and resurrection to life (the indication that Jesus sacrifice was acceptable to the Father, and His power over death) our judgement was taken care of by Jesus on the cross.  So for we who believe and are born again “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8; please click on the link and read the entire chapter).  But for those people who do not believe in Jesus and are not trusting Him to pay the penalty for their sins, they will face eternal judgement and condemnation “and these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46 please read this entire passage)
Our barbaric yawps, graffiti spray, Kilroy tags, claims staked in cement only to be smoothed over by a crushing roller, will dissipate into the ether. All of it. Yet we want to be heard. Mr Gastman was getting close to the truth, 'we want to be known.'

We will be known. We will go on. This is at once either a terrifying thought for the unsaved, or a comforting thought for the saved. Those who are not in Christ, who have not repented of sins and asked Him for forgiveness, will face Him in judgment. He knows you, unsaved person. You are known. The problem is, you do not know Him. Our fists shaken at the sky, our tremulous childish voices yawping into the cosmos are heard and seen by the One who created us.

What happens when we die? Eternity comes in an instant, and we go on as changed beings in hell or in heaven. Will we descend to join the moans and cries of others who declared their own eternity, only to discover that their piteous cries on earth melted into the air almost as instantly as their destination eternity had come? Or will they ascend to glory to know and be known?

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV).

You see, we are known. We are here. Yet here is as temporary as the tag that declares presence. Presence goes away. Eternity remains. Do you want to be known as friend to the One who will save you? Or do you want to be known as enemy to the One who condemns you? Our life is not about I AM HERE, but I am there. Unbeknownst to the unsaved, they have already been tagged.

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15).
Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:3).

This is the ultimate tag. This is where it matters most of all where your name is. Not on a subway train. Not on a ship hull. Not in wet cement. Your tag in the Lamb's Book of Life is where it matters ultimately.

What is The Gospel?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Looking at Joanna and Chip Gaines and their church's stance on homosexuality

In February 2016, I'd done a discernment two-part essay looking at HGTV personality hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines. The duo are at this time are hosts of a reality television home decorating and renovation show. Their show has gained massive popularity and widespread influence. In addition, the Gaines' claim to be Christian and are using the resulting platform of popularity from the show to promote their faith.

In light of this increased influence, I had decided to look into their claims of faith, especially when Mrs Gaines issued a Baylor University-produced video of her Testimony.

I wrote the two-part essay looking at Mrs Gaines' testimony, their life, comparing what they said with what they did. These two essays have consistently been the top viewed essays on the blog, bar none. They are linked below.

In August 2016, the magazine Jezebel wrote about the Gaineses and their decorating and impact the couple has had in Waco. Though not a Christian, the author of the Jezebel piece loved the Fixer Upper show and the Gaineses in general. The article was laudatory toward the hosts. Someone in the comments linked to my discernment essays, and from there, hundreds of comments were made at Jezebel about the judgmental Christian hypocrite (me) daring to judge the Gaines'. The essays received thousands of views, on one memorable day, tens of thousands which is not usually the case for my little blog. All of the comments at Jezebel regarding my discernment essays on the Gaineses were negative, yelling with a vitriolic screed the name Jezebel suggests it would, given its namesake. The comments were all in the vein of 'How dare I malign their faith! Nobody should judge anyone else. Typical judgmental Christian hypocrite,' and so on.

Now, this past Tuesday when I read Jezebel again (because hits were picking up and I saw another link), the writer at Jezebel had done an about face on the Gaineses. She had discovered they belong to a church that preaches homosexuality is a sin. O, the horra. Let me just say Jezebel is no longer entranced with shiplap, and there's a whole lotta judging goin' on at her blog.

I knew it would not take long for the homosexual community to put together the fact that Fixer Upper has never had a gay client on that particular show, (though HGTV has featured other homosexual house hunters on other shows) and that the church the Gaines' belonged to preached against sin, all sin, including homosexuality. I knew the issue would alert the LGBTQ crowd and there would be a brouhaha about it. Sure enough, Buzzfeed reported on it. They found out that the Gaines' pastor Jimmy Siebert at Antioch Community Church preaches staunchly for biblical marriage as one man and one woman for a lifetime, and that adultery pornography, and homosexuality are sexual sins which God looks upon with wrath.

The review and update concluded, I want to make two points.

1. Never underestimate the relentless, unbending intent of satan to promote his agenda, no matter what it is. Some of his agenda  in the world is to push temptation, chaos, false doctrine, and homosexuality. Homosexuality is a particular pet of satan's and he will push it with a malicious force we can only begin to imagine. The Genesis 19 passage below gives some idea. When a nation or an individual has succumbed to it, we know they are under judgment, God has given them over. (Romans 1:26-27). Of course God can and does give the grace of the spirit of repentance to nations and individuals to forsake homosexual sin, but make no mistake, homosexuality is a deep sin and satan will do all he can to encourage all to either engage in it or bow down to those who do. (Romans 1:32). The pressure will only increase, and I can only imagine the firestorm of pressure this has created for the Antioch Community Church pastor. I applaud his biblical stance in the face of unyielding satanic pressure (so far). I pray he remains strong.

2. Biblical adherence in one area does not necessarily mean the individual or the local church as a whole is committed to biblical adherence in other areas. At Antioch Community Church, so lauded for its biblical stance on homosexuality, seems to have caved to this generation's demand for female leadership. Today the Antioch Community Church About page under 'Who We Are' lists two women elders and three women pastors. Yet their 'Beliefs' pages states that the church considers the Bible inerrant, infallible and is their authority for all practice.

Antioch Community Church elders and leaders include several women, which is not biblical 

Antioch Community Church lists several women pastors, which is not biblical 
Antioch Community Church's stated beliefs, first paragraph,
says they follow the Bible in practice. But they don't, as noted above.

Friends, the Bible does not give permission for women to be elders at church, nor pastors, which is biblically the same thing. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Women are not qualified as leaders to give oversight. This is what I mean when I tell you to look at what they say, but also look at what they do. The church SAID they submit to the Bible, what what they DID was rebel.

GotQuestions explains about women not being biblically qualified to serve as elders/pastors on the basis of the above verses-

Can women serve as elders in the church?
Can women be pastors/preachers?

GotQuestions also explains about women being biblically unqualified to serve as pastors, yet Antioch CC lists three. So they MIGHT be strong on homosexuality as a sin (we'll see) but they are not strong on other aspects of clear doctrine and sadly, seem to be in rebellion.

The discernment lessons here are:

1. Do not let down your guard against satan because his energy is unflagging and he is a predator looking for prey, all the time (1 Peter 5:8). We relax. Satan doesn't.
2. Do not let down your guard against false doctrine in church, look at both what is said and what is lived in all areas, not just one.


Further reading

My original two articles about the Gaines' version of Christianity from Feb 2016-

Looking at HGTV's Fixer Upper Joanna Gaines' testimony: Christianity, or Prosperity Gospel?

The hypocrisy of HGTV's Chip and Joanna Gaines of 'Fixer Upper'
No matter the celebrity, or perhaps because of celebrity status, we want to make sure of who we are touting and promoting. What brand of Christianity do they adhere to? Do they live what they say they live? The Bereans said they would listen to Paul but then go back and examine what Paul taught (Acts 17:11). Paul welcomed transparency to examine his doctrine, and he was the biggest Christian celebrity of his time. Later when Paul's integrity was attacked, he defended his lifestyle, because integrity in life mattered as much as the doctrine he taught. (2 Corinthians 5:11–15).
Therefore, my examination of the Gaines phenomenon will be two parts. Part one examined Mrs Gaines' testimony, the doctrine portion. The second part looked at their lifestyle.
The current news on the HGTV hosts Joanna and Chip Gaines as follows-

By Marsha West at Berean Research-
Fixer Upper hosts under fire for attending evangelical church
If it turns out that they share their pastor’s beliefs on homosexuality, powerful LGBTQ activists will go to great lengths to destroy the couple.  Their pastor, Jimmy Seibert, holds to the biblical view of marriage — one man one woman for life.  He doesn’t happen to share the PC view that homosexuals are born that way; his opinion, which he’s entitled to, is that homosexuality is a "lifestyle."  Moreover, he believes homosexuality is a sin against God
Us Magazine: HGTV, Pastor respond to same sex marriage controversy

Even Snopes got in on the action, writing this- Were Fixer Upper stars Joanna and Chip Gaines outed as anti-gay?

Up above, when I said satan is relentless with unbending intent to protect his doctrine of lies? look at the below photo and see if it doesn't shock and move you. Then see if it doesn't worry you. As Christians, the Muslim community, the homosexual community, or the pagan community in general will become just as rabid as you see they have in this article and in the Genesis scripture below. The scene of rabid, maniacal slavish devotion to satan will demand similar responses from his minions here in America in times to come.

Muslims Rally against Christian Governor, citing alleged blasphemy against Islam
The capital of the world’s biggest Islamic country was the scene Friday of the latest in a series of mass demonstrations by Muslims demanding that the Christian governor of Jakarta be punished for "blasphemy."
And speaking of satanic frenzy, don't think this can't happen here in America,

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” 6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, 7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. (Genesis 19:4-9)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Kay Cude poetry: Christ crucified

Kay Cude poetry. Click to enlarge. Used with permission

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Worshiping the Creator of creation

I like natural history. It's God's creation. I like thinking about how He has created everything from nothing with just a word. I see the intricacy of His creatures and flora and fauna and I'm just amazed. But reading natural history books is a two-edged sword. Most are written from a secular point of view, and at some point the pricks of the constant lies within such books grate, and I abandon the endeavor.

Only to try again later, lol.

I wrote recently about the Victorian craze for seaweed collecting. This was a craze in which mostly women who were constrained by cultural pressure not to collect the more seductive looking plants participated. It was based on an original article at Atlas Obscura, which is a secular magazine. My article was to look at the issue through a biblical lens.

One of the natural history books mentioned in the Atlas Obscura article was a seaweed journal by Margaret Gatty. AO wrote of her,
One of the best known and most dedicated of these so-called seaweeders was Margaret Gatty, a children’s book author who took up the hobby while convalescing in Hastings, on Britain’s southeast coast, in 1848. Gatty’s crowning work of algology, British Sea-Weeds, is an exhaustive compilation of local seaweeds, fully described and illustrated in 86 colored plates.
These are selected plates of her seaweed drawings,

Selected plates from Margaret Gatty’s “British Sea-Weeds.”
I love those colored plates from natural history books from the 1800s. I own two rare books,

A popular history of the mollusca : comprising a familiar account of their classification, instincts and habits and of the growth and distinguishing characters of their shells, by Mary Roberts, 1851; and

Popular British conchology. A familiar history of the molluscs inhabiting the British Isles, By George Brettingham Sowerby, 1854.

I love the hand colored plates of the plants or animals they carefully drew. I also have several books by Harvard University paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (secular guy, sigh). There's French poet-philosopher Paul Valery in his engaging meditation on the aesthetics of the seashell, as Amazon describes his work. Anne Morrow Lindbergh's musings on shells in her famous Gift from the Sea. And so many other books. I guess now that I'm thinking of listing them, my library contains quite a few natural history books. Rachel Carson, Farley Mowat, John Hay, Abbot & Dance...

In this article I enjoyed from the New York Times Review of Books, I learned from this article "What the Trees Say,"

In 1664 John Evelyn, diarist, country gentleman, and commissioner at the court of Charles II, produced his monumental book on trees: Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees. It was a seventeenth-century best seller. Evelyn was a true son of the Renaissance. His book is learned and witty and practical and passionate all by turns. No later book on trees has ever had such an impact on the British public.

I love trees. Maybe I'll get that book. Hmmm. Maybe you'll get those books.

As much as I love reading about the creation from scientists of various kinds, there's nothing like reading the Bible, God's actual account of His world. As poetic as Lindbergh was, as witty as John Evelyn was, as precise as Sowerby or Roberts was, the thrill of reading about the creation from God Himself never fails to thrill me. As familiar as these verses are, they still ignite a reverent awe at His power:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6And God said, “Let there be an expansea in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7And God madeb the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. (Genesis 1:1-8)

Nature displays God's glory. The best place to read about that is His word, what He, Himself, has declared.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. (Psalm 96:11-12)

We are glad because as Job 12:10 says,

In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

Is there any better place to be, if you're saved? In His hand? Is there any worse place to be, if you're not saved?

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

Read of His creation. The essays, poems, philosophies of the secular writers and scientists is fine, also good are Natural History books on the Bible such as The Scripture Alphabet of Animals by Mrs. Harriet N. Cook, 1842; The Plants of the Bible by John Hutton Balfour, 1885. But the originator of it all is the one to be worshiped and the best place to do that is read of Him in His word.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable. (Isaiah 40:28)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Offensive words from Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, and Perry Noble

Let's compare some statements of kings in the Bible who spoke offensively.

and the king answered and said, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?" ~ King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 4:30.

Grabbing God's glory is never good. In Nebuchadnezzar's case, the Lord gave him a declaration that his sovereignty had already been stripped from him even as Nebuchadnezzar's words were still in his mouth. God said Nebuchadnezzar would be driven from mankind and live like a beast eating grass for 7 years. God was gracious to Nebuchadnezzar, because the time of beast-like living and insanity only lasted 7 years and when Nebuchadnezzar came out of it, he repented and gave God the glory for everything under the sun.

This next one is King Herod.

On the appointed day, Herod donned his royal robes, sat on his throne, and addressed the people. And they began to shout, "This is the voice of a god, not a man!" Immediately, because Herod did not give glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts 12:21-23).

In this second case where someone was stealing God's glory, God employed His perfect judgment upon Herod, and did not allow him to repent. Herod was killed immediately for speaking like a god in God's place. Grabbing His glory is never good.

This third case is a modern one. It's Perry Noble. Noble was the pastor of the largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention, NewSpring Church, located in Anderson, SC. He was fired for alcohol abuse, Perry's posture towards marriage, other unnamed behaviors, and a refusal to be corrected.  Since his firing, it turns out in news this week that Noble has decided to become a church consultant. He issued a letter explaining this, and in the letter he outlined his skills.
"What separates you from other church consultants," you ask.
Simple - I’ve actually planted and built a great church
The Bible says something about planting and growing-

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:7).

God surely is gracious. Noble is receiving a reprieve so far, because he has not been turned into a grass eating beast nor has he become a worm-eaten sack of flesh. But remember, grabbing God's glory is never a good thing.

For, "In just a very while little, He who is coming will come and will not delay." (Hebrews 10:37)


Further Reading

Perry Noble fired from NewSpring Church