Saturday, March 17, 2018

Living in interesting times

EPrata photo
Praise the Lord, we live in interesting times!*

There is a proverb/curse of alleged Chinese origin, "May you live in interesting times." The implication is that a life lived in interesting times is less desirable than one lived in peace and tranquility. To be sure, the danger and uncertainty and lack and want of these years are difficult to manage sometimes, but surely it is better to live in interesting times than uninteresting. Why? Jesus.

We could change that phrase to "May you live in prophetic times" and it would be better applicable for the believer. For those who are IN the Lord, believers in Jesus and saved by His grace, we know that though difficult, the times that are more "interesting" offer more growth in sanctification than times when everything is going along peacefully.

The tremendous opportunity we have to actually watch God at work in the world in such an interesting and visible way fuels my love for Him and my amazement at His sovereignty. Providentially, He sustains the world and universe in general. Providentially, He specifically ordains each and every breath, event, and movement for all His creatures, human and otherwise. How can we not be satisfied with that, when we know that whatever happens is for our good and His glory?

Yes, a life in a previous time might well have been more peaceful, but less astonishing. And the difficult times offer us the opportunity to grow in Jesus. He is the Potter. He sanctifies us and shapes us through trials and challenges. And my, what challenges these times offer. There is such violence in the world- hate, persecution against Christians and His church. Therefore the growth in Christlikeness would be even greater than when living in uninteresting times.

We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. (Psalm 75:1-3).

*Part of this essay appeared on The End Time in 2012.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Stephen Hawking, coffins, & other thoughts

Noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died this week. He was brilliant, no doubt about that. His nickname in school was "Einstein", and he lived up to name by contributing mightily to the areas of cosmology, particularly in Big Bang Theory and Black Holes.

He died of a rare form of Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) in that it progressed very slowly. He was 76.

 Mr Hawking applied his mind in attempting to unlock the secrets of the universe, its forms and origins, functions and future. Though he made many discoveries, he never discovered the basic truth: God made it. In fact, the further Hawking went along, the more entrenched he became in denying the Designer and Sustainer of life. He made flatly rejecting statements about God and religion, such as these quoted in The UK Guardian in 2011-
The belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a "fairy story" for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said. In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain's most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time. 
"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," Source
'There is no heaven'. This is a true statement- for Mr Hawking- if indeed he maintained his rejection of God to the end.

'There is no afterlife'. This is an untrue statement for Mr Hawking. He is discovering now that he is indeed alive, and further, has been granted a fresh body, albeit one that will be withstanding the fires and punishments of hell for all eternity (if indeed he did not repent at an unknown time.)

Hawking was the smartest man, as smart as than Einstein...seeking the mysteries of the universe all the days of his life- it was only death that revealed those mysteries to him. Sadly, it is too late.

Hawking went the way of all flesh (with a nod to Samuel Butler). The way of all flesh is death, either to resurrected life in glory with Jesus, or to eternal death & punishment apart from Jesus. Answers In Genesis has a sensitive and thoughtful epitaph on Mr Hawking's life, here.

It's times like these, when a famous atheist dies, that one ponders hell all over again. Hell is a monstrous doctrine. Not monstrous as in evil, for God is holy and just and all those who are sent there deserve it. Even those who are forgiven, like me, deserve it. It's only the imputed righteousness of Jesus that diverts us from our fleshly final fiery resting place.

I mean monstrous as in the definition of "extremely and dauntingly large; as in, "the monstrous tidal wave swamped the surrounding countryside".

It's a huge thing to ponder hell, because it is for all eternity. Who can know?

In a similar vein, I saw this photo on Facebook this week.

Some people around here think it's funny, others amusing, others intrigued. I never knew how much the idol of college football was alive and active until I came to Georgia. The University of Georgia Bulldogs' arena is the Temple and the 'Dawgs' are worshiped by thousands of adoring fans.

I don't think it's amusing. I think it's blasphemous. Sure, people, bring your idol with you to eternity. What could go wrong?

When my husband and I were in Puyo, Ecuador, a town then on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest and very remote, we spent a week. There were few industries in this one-dirt-road town. It truly was a frontier town, with one main road, plank sidewalks, a lonely hotel, and a few stores. One industry was coffin making. The people in that part of the South American country loved their highly decorated coffins. They would be made of heavy wood, and at the corners, one or all four, there would be clear glass. Inside the headlight-like small alcove would be blinking lamps, candles, statues of Mary, jewelry, or just lights. Perhaps they thought the lights could aid Charon as he guided the casket across the river Styx to the abode of the dead.

Do you know what I wish? I wish that all coffins would have two pictures on them, one at either end. One, a picture of glory and the New Jerusalem. The other, a picture of the Lake of Fire. That would give funeral-goers something to contemplate. There is an afterlife, and all flesh is consigned to one of them.

The difference is your position on Jesus. If you believe He is your risen God, having trusted in Him as savior and repented of sins which He forgave, you go to heaven. If you have rejected Him and failed to repent of your sins, you go to the Lake of Fire to be punished for your sins. You have committed cosmic treason, which must be justly punished..

Hell is a big subject. So is heaven. We will all have an eternity to contemplate it. After death it is too late to change your location. Repent now, while it is still day

"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all [people] everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31).

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The entertainment-driven church

I love a serious church.

When I attend a worship service on Sunday that has all gravitas, seriousness, and intent to learn about, praise, and glorify the Lord, I am lifted up to great heights.

Our church is a Reformed-doctrine church that adheres to the ecclesiology of a plurality of elders. Our main teaching pastor exposits the scriptures verse by verse, book by book. He is good at it. We also have a confession time, where one of the elders gives us some scriptures to think about as he explains them, and then there's a time of silence to repent or plead with God in any way we need to in order to prepare for receiving the preached word. Our music is doctrinal and Christ-exalting too. We do not pass the offering plate, but instead we have spots around the sanctuary during the service to place our money. Also we can give online.

It's a serious church, all the more remarkable by the fact that we have many young adults (college students, grad students, and folks just beyond college) who are members. Their presence is encouraging. This is because of their dedication to learning the word, speaking the word in Godly conversations, and participation in local and far-off missions. Some of these 'kids' have already gone to Indonesia, South America, Seattle, and to other locations near and far to share the word of God. It's joyous to be around them because of their zeal.

I realize I'm currently blessed, because many churches are not serious. There are things at the pulpit that take place that are far from explaining the word of God, the main reason for a pulpit. There are dances, skits, jokes, comedy routines, feel-good lectures, book promotions, smoke machines, rock bands, concerts that do not look any different from the world's...

For example, from the Museum of Idolatry:

"Villains, Bad Guys and Minions" —series at Church by the Glades

Hillsong, 2015 Vision Sunday
I was speaking with a young student at school. She said she used to go to church before she moved here. I asked about her old church. She said that at her old church they served big snacks. She loved the snacks. Then after a while the church went to smaller snacks, so they tried to find a church that served big snacks. Then they moved here. They haven't found a church with snacks yet. It was all about the snacks. She never mentioned Jesus or anything she'd learned.

I can't fault her for that, she's young. If we attract kids to church on the basis of snacks, then that is what they will associate with church, not Jesus.

Many churches' Vacation Bible School budgets are larger in the snack department than the Bible materials department. Snacks are getting more and more elaborate, and the time to eat them longer and longer, and the Bible time shorter and shorter. Or, the craft time exceeds the Bible teaching time, or the song and dance moves with hand motions are the major part. I long for the old days of Bible Drills, Bible quizzes, and mini-sermons.

I don't know who said it first, but "What you win them with is what you win them to." If you attract people with prizes & trinkets, promises of fun, snacks, entertainment and the like, then you will always have to provide that so they'll stick around. As people become more bored with what you're presenting, you have to go bigger and more elaborate, to retain their attention. It brings to mind Janet Jackson's secular song, "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" The people eventually only want entertainment and not sermons. So many churches are entertainment-driven and consumer oriented, not worship-driven and service oriented.

Charles Spurgeon was a preacher in the mid-to-late 1800s. He is called The Prince of Preachers. His pastorate in London lasted 38 years. During that time he preached numerous times per week, and
founded a pastors' college, an orphanage, a Christian literature society and The Sword and the Trowel magazine. Over 200 new churches were started in the Home Counties alone, and pastored by his students. His printed sermons (still published) fill 63 volumes. Source
His sermons at the Metropolitan Tabernacle and then the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall drew 10,000 people on a Sunday. His work has held up to this time. He seems almost prescient, and that is because he stayed strictly within the narrow road of God's Word, and thus he always seems fresh. Here is something he said-
Within suitable bounds, recreation is necessary and profitable; but it never was the business of the Christian Church to supply the world with amusements. Source
The above from which I'd excerpted the Spurgeon quote is a good one. It is titled, Spurgeon on the Entertainment-Driven Church and goes on with other reasons that a focus on entertainment in the church,
Our Mission Is Not Entertainment
Entertainment Negates the Weightiness of the Cross
Entertainment Attacks the Preaching of Christ
I recommend the article.

Another article about trinkets and winning people to Christ (though not entertainment) caught my eye. I've been involved with the Christmas Shoeboxes at a previous church. It is a well-intentioned mission where people fill a shoebox with "stuff" for disadvantaged or impoverished children in Third World countries, along with Gospel tracts and/or Bibles. Operation Christmas Child (OCC) boxes are shipped through Samaritan's Purse. The items OCC recommends items to put in the shoebox are
quality 'wow' item such as a stuffed animal, soccer ball with pump, or clothing outfit that will capture the child's attention the instant he or she opens the box. Operation ShoeBox
At the GilandAmy blog, we read that Amy has some thoughts about Operation Christmas Child, prompted from some experiences a Tanzanian church planter shared with her. Thoughts such as,
"What happens when the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ is associated with dollar-store trinkets from America?" and, "...we don't see in the Bible this model of 'gift giving' being used for disciple-making and planting churches," and "So I started to wonder: Do we want children to expect toys at Christmas? Has that tradition produced good fruit within our own culture? Is that a Christmas tradition that Americans want to export to the rest of the world?" (Source)
Instead of skits at the pulpit, its own smaller way, have we paired games and entertainments with the Gospel in a shoebox?

We need serious church.

John MacArthur has some thoughts about the necessary gravitas for serious church:
We should be characterized by the worship of God. It should be lofty. It should be exalted. It should have a gravitas, a seriousness about it. Christ should be constantly being exalted. It ought to be Christ-centered, not man-centered. It’s not about you, it’s about Him. Here we should be engaged in endless praise. We should be learning, so that the knowledge of divine truth is increasing. We should be pursuing holiness and serving with joy. That’s how heaven comes down. That only happens in the church, the ordinary church. I love the church because it is heaven on earth.
I began these thoughts with Spurgeon about the need for seriousness of worship and in church and I'll end with him. These words are true today as when he uttered them 150 years ago:
A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.
If you have to give a carnival to get people to come to church, then you will have to keep giving carnivals to keep them coming back.
An unholy church! It is useless to the world, and of no esteem among men. It is an abomination, hell's laughter, heaven's abhorrence. The worst evils which have ever come upon the world have been brought upon her by an unholy church.
I pray you as well as I are mindful of the gravity and privilege of worshiping the Great and Holy God in truth. He made Himself known to us in special revelation, and it's His due to be worshiped seriously, intentionally, and as purely as possible, according to His word.

Paul wrote of church services:

But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner. (1 Corinthians 14:40)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Grace, grace, grace

"IT is a curious fact, that there is such a thing as being proud of grace. A man says, "I have great faith, I shall not fall; poor little faith may, but I never shall." "I have fervent love," says another, "I can stand, there is no danger of my going astray." He who boasts of grace has little grace to boast of." ~Charles Spurgeon

Lord, let grace pepper and permeate my life in every facet. Never let me forget who makes me stand, lest I fall. Have a great morning! Your graceful adornment to this world is no accident.

EPrata photo

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

New mercies every day

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

I was thinking about that this many mornings as there are, the Lord's mercies are new every day. Any fresh day that comes, His mercies are new to go along with it. Such a sign of His infinity and everlasting-ness. That is so good because I need His mercy every day!

I think of the humble tax collector, But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13)

Jesus said that man went home justified, as opposed to the Pharisee who pridefully listed all his accomplisments for God. I need to remember the Tax Collector's humility and position before our Great God.

I'm praising Him for His infinite mercy and the days upon days we as His children are privileged to experience it.
Mercy is at the heart of redemptive ministry. Mercy is to extend to all without regard for race, or status, or gender, or age. And mercy is to be offered patiently toward those who are ignorant in unbelief. And by the way, Micah 7:18, "God delights in mercy." And He'll delight in you if you are a merciful Christian. John MacArthur, sermon, A Mission of Mercy
The Trinitarian God of the Father-Son-Holy Spirit is highly exalted. May He be blessed and praised.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Still Speaking

Amon, Asherah, Bel, Dagon, Molech, Artemis, Zeus, Ganesh, Mot, Pele, Gok Tengri , Tekkeitsertok, Auseklis...

These are false gods. Every culture from Inuit to Polynesian, European to Mongolian, has created a god of their own making. There are many more false gods than just those few listed.

Yahweh the True and Only God created man and gave him imagination. Sadly, using his God-given imagination, man rejects Yahweh and formulates gods of his own creation. The creature creates gods, how absurd.Yet these gods abound.

These gods do not speak.

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. (Psalm 135:15-17).

They have never spoken, and they never will. These gods do not exist.

God is the only God. He is the only deity who speaks! More than that, He is an involved God. He listens and He hears. See below the rapidity with which He responds at times!

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." (Matthew 17:5).
While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. (Daniel 9:21)

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. (Acts 10:44).

While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, (Daniel 4:31).

It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24).

What a great God we have, who is so involved with us. He hears, He listens, and in His timing he even responds while still speaking! While. Still. Speaking.

Our glorious God is involved, compassionate, and interested in His people. Praise Him in thanks.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Kay Cude poetry: Broken

Poetry by Kay Cude. Used with permission. Click to enlarge

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12)

Living in interesting times

EPrata photo Praise the Lord, we live in interesting times!* There is a proverb/curse of alleged Chinese origin, "May you live in ...