Christianity 201

March 2, 2020

Breaking the Ten Commandments is all Stealing

“You must not steal.” – Exodus 20:15 NLT

“Will a man rob God?…” – Malachi 3:8a NASB

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. – Romans 1:25 NIV


It’s all theft.

That was the message from a graphic that a friend posted on Facebook earlier today, originating with Bay Community Church in Comox, British Columbia, Canada.

One has to be living under a rock to not realize that the Christian is engaged in spiritual warfare. Still, I think that many “sign up” for the Christian faith without realizing the nature of the family/body/group they are joining themselves to. Consider this:

  • Imagine you are one of the people being sworn in as a new citizen
  • You correctly answer all the questions about George Washington if you’re in the U.S. or Sir John A. MacDonald if you’re in Canada
  • You attend a ceremony where you are officially welcomed as a citizen
  • You’re then told the country is at war and you are needed to serve
  • You’ve been drafted, and you truly didn’t see that coming!

In a way, that’s what happens when someone decides to live their life as a Christ-follower.  When we think of “spiritual warfare” we tend to think that

  • this is something involving angels and demons
  • this is something Pentecostal and Charismatic people talk about
  • this is the stuff of fringe Christian TV channels
  • this references stories of spiritual conflict in places like central Africa or S. America

However, if we go the other extreme, and totally discount the concept of spiritual warfare, we become hard pressed to explain much of what is taking place in our world.

The warfare model proves true.   There are spiritual forces behind a lot of things we take for granted:

Eph 6:12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

But anytime we

  • see the headlines in the newspaper
  • check out the news feeds on social media
  • watch the evening news

we clearly see a conflict of ideologies; where the ideals of Christian people come into conflict with the larger world.  We enter into a situation where up is down, black is white, etc.; and everything else is turned upside down.

So it should be no surprise that the enemy of our souls wants to take the basic Judeo-Christian framework for ethical behaviour — The Ten Commandments — and see us live lives which turn those commands on their head.

I thought it interesting that the same person who posted the above graphic on Facebook had also posted this one just hours earlier, showing how the “voices” both inside and outside us can easily be identified by the type of actions they propel us to.

Truly, the person who doesn’t realize they’ve signed up for a standing army is going to be shocked when the battle comes to their front door and the persecution gets personal.

2Ti 3:12  Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

Unless we hide our personal convictions, or don’t stand up for what we’ve been taught in Church or taught from the Bible, there will come a time when our views will be in conflict with what it seems the larger society believes and practices.

Sometimes the persecution has been subtle, but in North America and Western Europe it is becoming more overt. Our values are being undermined.

It’s all theft.

September 12, 2019

A Christian Nation No Longer: How Did We Get Here?

After a few weeks off, we welcome back Thursday regular contributor Clarke Dixon. I not only get to post this today, but I was able to hear the sermon on which this is based as it was originally given on Sunday. Although it reflects a Canadian context, it’s equally true of the U.S. as well; it’s just that the UK and Canada are further down the road of secularization. This kicks off a series on the book of Daniel.

by Clarke Dixon

Does it feel like we are no longer living in a Christian nation? The influence of Christianity seems diminished compared to just a few decades ago. We, who are Christians, may feel like we are now outnumbered. With the pace of change in Canada, we might feel like we are living in a new and strange land with new and strange values.

How did we get here? Who gets the blame? Who is responsible for the diminished role of Christianity in Canadian society? Should we blame the government for changing laws? Should we blame the people for a lack of interest in Christianity?

Scholars have been pointing to the Old Testament Books of the Bible from the time of the exile of God’s people as a good mirror of our position today. The Northern Kingdom fell in the 700’s BC, while the Southern Kingdom, Judah, fell to the Babylonians in the 500’s BC. Those who were deported to Babylon from Judah, including Daniel and his friends from the Book of Daniel, found themselves living in a new and strange land with new and strange values.

How did they get there? Who gets the blame? Who is responsible for the likes of Daniel and his friends winding up in Babylon? Could they blame the Babylonians for being cruel? Could they blame their own government for defence cuts?

Where the responsibility lies is made quite clear in the Old Testament:

15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.
17 “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18 then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy. Deuteronomy 30:15-18 (NLT)

Long before God’s people were deported to Babylon, covenant promises were made as recorded in Deuteronomy. God’s people were not deported from their land because the enemy was stronger, but because their devotion to God was not strong at all. They refused to listen to God over the course of hundreds of years! God’s people themselves, were responsible for their ending up in a strange land.

Do we, as Christians in Canada bear any of the responsibility for the fact we find ourselves in a strange land? Yes, for several reasons.

First, we have watered Christianity down.

We have tried to make Christianity palatable to a people who find the beliefs and values to be weird. By “we,” I of course do not mean all of us, but many of us, too many of us. Many Christian teachers have downplayed the supernatural elements of Christianity, focusing instead on faith as being ‘helpful’. The messaging has been; become a Christian, not because it is true, but because it is useful. However, when we water down Biblical teaching, when we delete the supernatural, Christianity becomes tasteless. Who could be bothered?

The Psalmist tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8 NLT). In many churches you can taste and see that the social club is good, but perhaps not as good as the senior’s centre; the entertainment is good, though perhaps not as good as Lady Gaga; that the celebrity pastor is good, though not as good as Oprah; that the good works are good, though maybe not as good as the cancer society. Church needs to be a place where people experience that God is good. Church needs to be a people who know that God is good. We cannot water down the teaching of God’s goodness and grace.

I recently attended a church where the vision statement was something like “helping people on whatever journey they are on, wherever it leads, thanking the earth for its goodness.” Where did God go? What about Jesus? When Christ is diminished in our churches, don’t be surprised when Christianity is diminished in our society.

Second, we have added unnecessary ingredients to Christianity.

My Mum once tried adding a tin of Heinz baked beans to Kraft Dinner. That did not work. The beans destroyed the Kraft dinner. Likewise there are beliefs and practices people try adding to Christianity that don’t work. These are destructive to Christianity.

By adding in religiosity and making it all about the rules and traditions, we have made Christianity taste awful. When Christianity is all about being religious, and not at all about being in relationship with the living God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then it becomes just another religion. When Christianity is just another religion, don’t be surprised when people choose another religion.

Also, by adding in unBiblical doctrines, we have made Christianity taste awful. I heard of some big-name Christians “de-converting” in recent years. Their faith began to unravel when they realized that what they were taught, that obedience leads directly to blessing from God, just didn’t work out in real life. However, that theology misses the mark with regards to what the Bible teaches. When Christians have trouble holding onto the theology of a church, because it is apparently not how the world works, then don’t be surprised if no one else is interested either.

Third, we have taken away important ingredients from Christianity.

Some people don’t need cream or milk in their coffee, but I do. I have great difficulty drinking coffee without a wee bit of something. Likewise, many will struggle with Christianity without some helpful ingredients.

Here is one helpful ingredient; the possibility of expressing doubts. Christian churches, movements, and even denominations can become subcultures which are based on certainties on practically everything. Doubts are not allowed, often about anything. Leaving out this ingredient leaves a bad taste in many mouths.

Here is another helpful ingredient; the encouragement of thought. Thinking is often discouraged in Christian circles. Christian artist, Marty Sampson from Hillsong, recently expressed his doubts publicly. In his post he listed some things along with “nobody is talking about it.” Actually Christians are talking about the things he listed, perhaps just not in his church. He also said that ‘science has pierced’ religion. Maybe science and faith don’t mix well in his church, but they work well together in ours, and many others. Freedom to be able to think through things, including how Christianity and science interrelate, can be a very important ingredient for many of us.

If thinking is discouraged, if the expression of doubt is impossible, if understanding is not there, then don’t be surprised if people are not there either.

Daniel and his friends found themselves in Babylon as a consequence of their own actions. If we, who are Christians, find ourselves in a strange land, we should not blame the government or the people of the land. We bear some responsibility for where we are. In spurning Biblical teaching we have watered down Christianity so that it has no flavour. In adding in unBiblical rules and doctrines we have added unnecessary, even harmful ingredients, to Christianity, so that it tastes awful. In taking away opportunities for people to express doubts, to think and rethink, and grow, we have taken away important ingredients. Before we call Canadians to repentance, let us look to what we need to repent from.

(This is an introduction to a series on the Book of Daniel called “Outnumbered. The Book of Daniel and Living As Christians In A Not-So-Christian Society.” Watch for the rest in the weeks to come.)

June 23, 2016

Freedom of Religion & Ezekiel

Clarke Dixon continues his series on Ezekiel. Before posting this, I spent a minute pondering Clarke’s tag line on his blog, “Preaching, not because I can, but because He called.” Food for thought. But also very humble; Clarke’s a very good preacher. You can read this at source at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

•••by Clarke Dixon

You can make a case that God given values as taught in the Bible are great values to build a society upon. In fact you can make the case that Western society has been positively influenced by these values, though increasingly not so much. Therefore, should we be compelling all Canadians to hold Christian values? Should we be forcing the Christian viewpoint on everyone?

God’s calling of Ezekiel to prophesy to His people in captivity provides an interesting parallel for us to consider. God’s people of Israel have rebelled against God and the time has come for something to be done about it. Is Ezekiel called as a prophet to enforce the law? Will his role be to crack down on the lawbreakers by force? Let’s take a look:

16 At the end of seven days, the word of the Lord came to me:17 Mortal, I have made you a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. (Ezekiel 3:16-17 emphasis mine)

Ezekiel the ProphetEzekiel is called, not to be a “religious policeman,” nor a “ruler,” but a “sentinel,” or as some translations have it, a “watchman.” While we normally think today of defending a nation, back in antiquity they thought rather of defending each individual city. Part of a city’s defence was to have watchmen who would stand on tall towers or walls watching out for an approaching enemy. The role of a watchman was to make the leaders and people aware of the facts. What happened after that was up to the leaders and the people. In calling Ezekiel in his role as prophet to be a watchman, God was calling him to state the facts: “you shall give them warning from me.” Ezekiel was required to do no more, nor no less. This responsibility is made clear in the verses that follow, for example:

18 If I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you give them no warning, or speak to warn the wicked from their wicked way, in order to save their life, those wicked persons shall die for their iniquity; but their blood I will require at your hand. 19 But if you warn the wicked, and they do not turn from their wickedness, or from their wicked way, they shall die for their iniquity; but you will have saved your life. (Ezekiel 3:18-19 emphasis mine)

Ezekiel was called to warn, to state the facts, but not to force or enforce.

When we look at the apostles in the New Testament we see them acting like watchmen. We see this in Peter in his first sermon on the Day of Pentecost:

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation’.” (Acts 2:40 NIV)

As we read through the New Testament we find that the early Christians were never interested in arranging a political coup. They were not looking to create a political entity or to seize power from the current political entities. If anything, there was a call to pray for and respect the prevailing civic powers. Christians instead were calling individuals to repentance, giving warning about the consequences of a broken relationship with God and making the invitation to be reconciled to God through the grace of Christ. They were stating the facts, very important facts, and with great urgency, like any good watchman would do.

We can note here that the beginnings of Christianity with an implicit separation of Church and State is quite different from the beginnings of Islam. Muhammad claimed to be a prophet, but he became in fact a political leader and a military commander which has had implications for what fundamentalist versions of Islam look like today. The leaders of the early Church were neither political nor military leaders. Many people hoped Jesus would become a political and military leader in hopes that he would lead a revolt against Rome. Rather than pick up a sword, Jesus picked up a cross. The followers of Jesus were committed to following the example of Jesus and the “Great Commission” of Jesus:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20)

Jesus said “make disciples”, not laws. Jesus said “make disciples”, not Christian nations. The early Church in new Testament times kept its focus on making disciples without any thought to armed action. We must admit, however, that a clean division between Church and State has not been kept through every era of Church history and in every place. We must also point out that the separation of Church and State also does not mean that Christians cannot have a voice in politics. The Bible does point us, however, toward being sensitive in our politics to the fundamental human right of freedom of religion.

That Ezekiel is to give warning and not force a decision is further highlighted in the concluding verse of the chapter:

But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God’; let those who will hear, hear; and let those who refuse to hear, refuse; for they are a rebellious house. (Ezekiel 3:27 emphasis mine)

Ezekiel is to give free space for response: “let those who will hear, hear; and let those who refuse to hear, refuse”. The response is not Ezekiel’s responsibility. A watchman gives the facts. What people do with the facts after that is not the watchman’s responsibility. As the people of God we are not called to force the hand, we are called to direct the eye. The watchman says “Look,I see the enemy army over there!” The Christian says “Look, we see signs confirming that God is real”, and “Look at how far you are from God because of sin and rebellion”, and “Look, you can see clearly God’s love and grace at the cross, reconciliation and life with God is possible through Jesus.” We do not force people to accept our viewpoint, we point people to the truth and invite them to see for themselves.

So should we be forcing Christian values and beliefs on everyone? We respect the freedom of people to make up their own minds; but remember, they are not free to do so until they have all the facts. The leaders and people of a city are not free to make good decisions until the watchman shares what he knows. People do not have the freedom of religion until we share the facts. That means sharing Jesus!

(All scripture references are taken from the NRSV unless stated otherwise)

 

July 1, 2015

Praying For Your Children

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
  Psalm 103:13 NIV

praying boy and dogEven if you’re not a parent, you might be a grandparent, Godparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, teacher, Children’s ministry leader, etc. Or perhaps you can use this as a checklist to see how you measure up yourself! This is a return visit to the blog Into The King’s Garden by Angel Koerner Bohon. Click the title to get the source for this and think of someone who has children in their sphere of influence you can send it to. (The text in each section alludes strongly to scripture passages you will recognize, but if you want to study them further, copy and paste into BibleGateway.com)

Virtues to Pray for Your Children

1. Salvation — “Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (Isa. 45:8; 2 Tim. 2:10)

2. Growth in Grace — “I pray that my children may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18)

3. Love — “Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to live a life of love, through the Spirit who dwells in them.” (Gal. 5:25; Eph. 5:2)

4. Honesty and Integrity — “May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection.” (Ps. 25:21)

5. Self-Control — “Father, help my children not to be like many others around them, but let them be alert and self-controlled in all they do.”
(1 Thess. 5:6)

6. Love for God’s Word — “May my children grow to find Your Word more precious than much pure gold and sweeter than honey from the comb.” (Ps. 19:10)

7. Justice — “God, help my children to love justice as You do and act justly in all they do.” (Ps. 11:7; Mic. 6:8)

8. Mercy — “May my children always be merciful, just as their Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

9. Respect (for self, others, and authority) — “Father, grant that my children may show proper respect to everyone, as Your Word commands.” (1 Pet. 2:17)

10. Biblical Self-Esteem — “Help my children develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:10)

11. Faithfulness — “Let love and faithfulness never leave my children, but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts.” (Prov. 3:3)

12. Courage — “May my children always be strong and courageous in their character and in their actions.” (Deut. 31:6)

13. Purity — “Create in them a pure heart, O God, and let that purity of heart be shown in their actions.” (Ps. 51:10)

14. Kindness — “Lord, may my children always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” (1 Thess. 5:15)

15. Generosity — “Grant that my children may be generous and willing to share, and so lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age.” (1 Tim. 6:18-19)

16. Peace-Loving — “Father, let my children make every effort to do what leads to peace.” (Rom. 14:19)

17. Joy — “May my children be filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thes. 1:6)

18. Perseverance — “Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to run with perseverance the race marked out for them.” (Heb. 12:1)

19. Humility — “God, please cultivate in my children the ability to show true humility toward all.” (Titus 3:2)

20. Compassion — “Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassion.” (Col. 3:12)

21. Responsibility — “Grant that my children may learn responsibility, for each one should carry his own load.” (Gal. 6:5)

22. Contentment — “Father, teach my children the secret of being content in any and every situation, through Him who gives them strength.” (Phil. 4:12-13)

23. Faith — “I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children’s hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them.” (Luke 17:5-6; Heb. 11:1-40)

24. A Servant’s Heart — “God, please help my children develop servant’s hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, as if they were serving the Lord, not men.” (Eph. 6:7)

25. Hope — “May the God of hope grant that my children may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)

26. Willingness and Ability to Work — “Teach my children, Lord, to value work and to work at it with all their heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” (Col. 3:23)

27. Passion for God — “Lord, please instill in my children a soul that ‘followeth hard after thee,’ one that clings passionately to You.” (Ps. 63:8)

28. Self-Discipline — “Father, I pray that my children may acquire a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair.” (Prov. 1:3)

29. Prayerfulness — “Grant, Lord, that my children’s lives may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers.” (1 Thess. 5:17)

30. Gratitude — “Help my children to live lives that are always overflowing with thankfulness and always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:20; Col. 2:7)

31. A Heart for Missions — “Lord, please help my children to develop a desire to see Your glory declared among the nations, Your marvelous deeds among the peoples.” (Ps. 96:3)

 

August 28, 2013

God’s Default Design for Marriage

With so much discussion taking place these days about marriage, it is important for believers to be firmly grounded on this subject when it arises. This appeared at the blog Faithviews; as always you’re encouraged to read at source.

The Divine Pattern of Marriage

By Nancy Eskijian

Nancy Eskijian is Senior Pastor of Bread of Life Foursquare Gospel Church in Los Angeles, California, and author of Restoration NOW!, nominated for 2012 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year. Her latest book, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex and Gender and the Bible, What’s Hot and What’s Not According to Scripture, deals with the issues of same-sex attraction, abortion, gay marriage and other issues affecting today’s culture.  Along with being a pastor in an inner city church, Nancy worked for several years as a lawyer in the position of Vice President and Senior Counsel for a major Southern California corporation. Visit www.RestorationNowMinistry.com for more information.

marriage         Much has been written about the Supreme Court of the United States opening the door for same sex couples to marry. While any nation may pass civil laws and call same sex unions “marriage,” enabling rights and privileges under the law, such unions have little in common with the Biblical significance, intention and definition of marriage. For those of us who believe in the God of the Bible as the originator and Creator of life, then we accept that everything flows from Him, and all relationships have a spiritual dimension, especially marriage. In the beginning God created man in His image. Genesis 1:27 – 28 (NKJV) states: 27So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Let’s ponder that statement for a moment: gender is part of the very image of God, and that is why it is so important and non-negotiable. We also see that God blessed them, male and female, as individuals and as a unit, with the charge to be fruitful and multiply. There are many things we can have and be in this life, but not everything is blessed. In the scripture, we see God blessed their individual identity and unity, releasing them to multiply and exercise dominion, as the rest of the scripture goes.

In Genesis 2:23, the creation of woman and the origin of marriage are described further and merged together.  God put Adam into a deep sleep and took a rib out of Adam’s side.  Genesis 2:23—“23And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man 24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”   That’s why husbands are to love their wives for no man hates his own flesh.  The oneness means that she is physically part of him. It’s now personal—the woman is taken out of his side.

Jesus Himself reiterated the Genesis scriptures in Mark 10:6 – 9 (NKJV) 6But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ 7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Here are a few important points that express God’s order, intent and revelation in marriage from a Biblical perspective:

1.  From the beginning of creation, God created male and female, and He physically designed them to be joined together and they reflect His image. He blessed their gender and unity as “one flesh,” forming a new creative order. Similarly, when we come to the Lord we merge with His body spiritually through the Holy Spirit and become a new creation, His body, and bride, under the new covenant, taken out of His side, the second Adam.

2. The married couple leaves family of origin to start something new. The Lord sets out a personal governmental order, the family unit, with husband and wife, mother and father, if there are children.  The man departs from one home to create another governmental structure with himself and his wife.  As believers, we leave an old life to be merged in Christ for a new life under a new headship.

3.  As the man cleaves to his wife, neither is to be self-identified any more, but instead identified with the new family unit. This is an important spiritual point, too, as we enter into Christ. We are no longer just self-identified, but part of Him under the new covenant.  Marriage reflects the divine purpose of God to form a new covenantal order.

4.  The family unit is where the Lord sets out human sexual order, because it unites God-ordained and God-designed creations, for sexual relations, and to be fruitful and multiply.

5.  Reproductive order:  A new creation has occurred (man and woman as one) to give birth in the natural to other new creations (babies), just as Christ is married to His church, (a new creation), and that union expands His family (spiritual babies).

6.  God’s stamp of approval is on marriage because it reflects a divine pattern of Christ and His church. So, the union reflects a divine order.

In short, the human covenant of marriage, as revealed in scripture, expresses a deeper spiritual pattern. It has roots in heaven just as other profound realities in the Bible. God’s relationship to His covenantal people, Israel, is described in the Old Testament of the Bible as marriage. The relationship of Christ and His church is described in terms of marriage.  There is the marriage supper of the Lamb. The New Testament instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. The mystery of marriage is the mystery of Christ and His church:  Ephesians 5:31 – 32 (KJV) 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” That doesn’t mean that marriages are perfect. It just means that the pattern is perfect, expressing something on earth as it is in heaven.

The earthly relationship of marriage is a reflection of a divine pattern, for unity, fruitfulness, fulfillment, responsibility, and a divine covenant. In fact, all of creation and redemption (God’s act of love to give us a new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) is reflected in the marriage relationship and covenant.  This simply cannot be altered by men and women in black robes or by popular vote.

January 30, 2013

Standing Firm in the Day of Evil

Today we return to our friends Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at Daily Encouragement where this appeared as, When You Wonder ‘What’s The Use?‘.  (There are a number of additional resources at the source for this article.)

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12,13). “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13).

On Friday Brooksyne and I, along with several hundred thousand others, participated in the March For Life in Washington DC. It was very much a heartfelt and memorable experience to take a visible stand for something good and so vital to our Christian heritage. In the midst of an evil spirit dominating Washington we were pleased to join other ambassadors in that powerful city standing up for a righteous cause.

When standing for a just and righteous cause against a tide of evil we may wonder, “What’s the use?” This is true at all levels so we hope today’s message will be a special source of encouragement to those who are weary of their ensuing battle and might be saying to themselves, “What’s the use?”.

“Put on the full armor of God” In Ephesians 6 the Apostle Paul urges Christ’s followers to “put on the full armor of God.” Putting on the full armor of God is a daily exercise for believers in every generation. It is never optional for the Christian who desires to be effective in their Christian witness and to live in victory over the enemy.

“So that when the day of evil comes”  We all face the day of evil and in so many ways it seems our young people face degrees of evil that my generation was never exposed to. Of course our parents could say the same thing to us, but it seems that the outflow of sin has greatly accelerated in our lifetime. I read an article about the extent of sexual perversion that is actually being taught and affirmed as “good” in schools and of course this evil is spreading. A state university here in Pennsylvania now has vending machines distributing … (too vile to place in this point in the message, see below [at source] for link but please read our message first).

Godly parents, students and ministers who seek to take a stand against evil are reviled by the powers that be. Good is called evil and evil is called good. I really wonder if we are entering the period known as the great apostasy (see 2 Thessalonians 2).

“The day of evil” is something that believers of all ages, beginning with the original recipients of Ephesus, could identify with. However Paul may also have had in mind a specific day of evil that sure seems to describe our age with confusion abounding concerning two fundamental elements to God’s created order; life and marriage. This confusion is unique to our age. Indeed there have always been perversions to both but now it is asserted that these perversions are good and opposing them is bad. Oh, may God send a revival, a worldwide revival! It’s our only hope for turning the evil tide that has swept through our land and around the world.

“And having done everything, to stand firm.” For many years I have been intrigued by the final phrase in our daily text, “and having done everything, to stand firm.” We must, by God’s grace and the appropriation of His appointed armor, stand firm and unwavering in the midst of false teaching and the resulting sinful behavior. We will most certainly encounter adversity and it will increase as more and more people reject God.

The Life Application Bible notes speak to this: “With false teaching and loose morals comes a particularly destructive disease – the loss of true love for God and others. Sin cools your love for God and others by turning your focus on yourself. You cannot truly love if you think only of yourself.” Aren’t we seeing more and more people who live only for their own desires and don’t care about the pain they inflict on others?

Today we pray for each of you, however old you are or wherever you may live, to have a holy boldness in appropriately standing up for your faith. It’s especially hard when you’re dealing with those in your own family who come against you in your stand for righteous living. Yet I find depth of wisdom and a nod of agreement to Scripture in this popular quote, “Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.” Indeed, let us all courageously stand up for Jesus and remember His sobering words, “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Daily prayer: Father, I want to be vigilant in equipping myself today as I battle the spiritual forces of evil. Though I wage war in this present and evil generation I have a body guard in the presence of the Holy Spirit who gives me power over the enemy of my soul. Today, I stand against the devil’s schemes because I take on the full armor of God; the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.  As I prayerfully cover my vulnerable self with godly armor I am fully equipped with the necessary provisions to overcome discouragement, disappointment and seeming defeat. Instead I am an enduring conqueror who stands triumphant by Your grace, through our Lord Jesus Christ in whose name I pray!  Amen.

~Stephen and Brooksyne Weber

April 22, 2012

Chuck Colson Quotations

It seemed appropriate today, in light of the passing of Charles (Chuck) Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, to include some well-remembered quotations from his writing…

“The dynamism and freedom that characterizes the West is the product of Christianity’s reforming itself and moving forward culturally. … The ascendancy of the West is the story of the difference that Christianity makes, and it’s a story we can’t let our culture forget.”


“I’ll tell you one of the most wonderful things about being a Christian is that I don’t ever get up in the morning and wonder I’m not doing anything today or if what I do matters. I live everyday to the fullest because I can live it through Christ and I know no matter what I do today, and it may just be in my prayer time, I’m going to do something to advance the Kingdom of God. Now does that make you fulfilled? You bet it does! And it gives you joy about living.”


“May the Christian church never be regarded as a special interest group. We’re here because we love our neighbor.”


“In every action we take, we are doing one of two things: we are either helping to create a hell on earth or helping to bring down a foretaste of heaven. We are either contributing to the broken condition of the world or participating with God in transforming the world to reflect his righteousness. We are either advancing the rule of Satan or establishing the reign of God.”


“The Bible- banned, burned, beloved. More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history. Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it; dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it. Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it is more powerful than their weapons. Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints. Pieced together scraps of Scripture have converted whole whole villages of pagan Indians.”


“The church does not draw people in; it sends them out.”


“We should always pray with as much earnestness as those who expect everything from God; we should always act with as much energy as those who expect everything from themselves.”


“We are not looking for power, … We are not looking for prestige. We are here because we care very, very deeply about the nation. … We love God, we love our neighbors and we act out of a love of God and love of our neighbors.”


“Christians need to take the lead in educating people that children are gifts, as my autistic grandson most surely is. By going down the path we’re currently on, we might one day get rid of genetic diseases, but only at the cost of our own humanity.”


“If our culture is to be transformed, it will happen from the bottom up – from ordinary believers practicing apologetics over the backyard fence or around the barbecue grill.”


“The church has been brought into the same value system as the world: fame, success, materialism and celebrity. We watch the leading churches and the leading Christians for our cues. We want to emulate the best known preachers with the biggest sanctuaries and the grandest edifices. Preoccupation with these values has perverted the church’s message.”


Sources: Christian Quotes, Quotes Daddy, Thomas George, NutQuote, Daily Christian Quote, Quoteland, Quoteopia

December 23, 2010

A Sand in the Gears Tour of the Internet

Author Tony Woodlief is the author of the new book, Somewhere More Holy (Zondervan) and offered this today on his blog

…Perusing the interwebs, I see all kinds of disagreements about Christmas. There’s the smug atheist crowd, proud of themselves for sussing out that pagans had a winter solstice before Christmas arrived on the scene, which is something every schoolboy once knew, but which now we’re supposed to take for a Dan Brown-esque expose of the dirty underbelly of Christianity.

It’s not theft of a pagan holiday, it’s an efficient use of marketing leverage. Besides, if you want to stand shivering around a snowy tree stump, giving thanks to Gaia for rationally self-generating so you can be in touch with the Inner Wonder of You, the fact that I’m going to church to sing “Silent Night,” doesn’t impinge on your revelry one little bit.

Then there’s the whole “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” kerfuffle. Some non-Christians are offended when wished the former, as if the sentiment conveys a desire to dunk them in holy water. Some Christians are offended when wished the latter, as if Christ Himself went around wishing people “Merry Christmas,” and any deviation from the Sacred Greeting during this holiest of holy holidays is anathema. I think the best solution is to lock all these insufferable people into a gymnasium until Christmahanakwanza is over.

And now a word or two about the season’s worst pharisees, the Jesus-was-a-soup-ladler-and-you-should-be-too crowd. I find they come in two strains, militant atheists and militant Christians. Ironically, they share the same politically self-indulgent vision of Jesus, differing only over whether He actually emerged from the tomb.

The atheists don’t give one whit for anything Christian, except insofar as their caricature of Jesus can be used to pummel Republicans. The actual Christians do give a whit, often two or three or four, but they’re so caught up in their social justice vision that they can be taxing when the eggnog goes unpoliced. It’s one thing to make a donation to Habitat for Humanity in lieu of a Christmas present, and decorate your door with a wreath hand-woven by little orphan Mexican children, and sign all your emails with “Peace.” It’s another to get up in my business because I want a lower tax rate and haven’t volunteered half my time this past year, especially when one of the reasons I don’t volunteer and want lower taxes is because I’m supporting the four kids who will need to be gainfully employed to cover the retirement you haven’t bothered to save for.

And Santa Claus. Look, reasonable people disagree about whether to propagate the myth or not. But you’re not traumatizing your children to entertain the fantasy for a while, any more than you traumatize them by leveling straight out of the shoot that St. Nick, while he was a heretic-jackslapping saint, doesn’t come down the chimney. Many of you know my own point of view, which is that I’m a firm believer in encouraging all kinds of fantastical thinking. The world is filled with holy magic, after all, and we learn this in part through fairy tales.

Finally, lawn decorations. I went ballistic on this years ago, which I hesitantly link here. If you don’t want to read the original, then suffice to say this: one baby Jesus per yard, please.

I wish you a blessed celebration of the birth of the world’s only Savior, the Incarnate Christ, fully God and fully man, born of the Theotokos, the Mother of God, herself a virgin, and He begotten of the Father, not made, coming to this earth not just so that a few would be saved, but that all might be liberated from sin and death.

How’s that for offensive?

~Tony Woodlief

November 11, 2010

Told To Be In The World, Though Not Of It

Today’s post is from Trent Griffith, senior pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Granger, IN.   It appeared on his blog in March of this year, and is also repeated in the Our Journey devotional booklet this month as the reading for November 17th.   Trent and his wife Andrea served for 15 years as conference speakers with Life Action Ministries.

John 17:16-18 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

“Come quick, Dad! You have to change the radio station. Their singing about dancing naked!” That was the exclamation of my six-year old daughter who recognized our home was being invaded by an influence that was not consistent with the values we hold as family.

The Bible has a very specific name for that influence—“the world.” What is “the world”? It is a prevailing system of beliefs that stands in opposition to the authority and of God and His word, which reduces life to the reason and impulses of the human mind yet fueled by demonic spiritual forces. Jesus used the word eighteen times in his prayer for his followers recorded in John 17. He knew the influence of the world would tempt us to stray into unbelief and disobedience. Knowing this, Jesus prayed for our protection before he departed physically from the earth.

Christians are those who have been called out of the world to live a life distinct from the world. Our values, attitudes, and lifestyle should stand in contrast to the world. We are continually being sanctified (or set apart) from a world that doesn’t understand why we live to please a God we cannot see with our eyes. As we are sanctified by his world we should expect the world to hate us just like it hated Him.

But sanctification is not so much about getting out of the world as much as God getting the world out of us. Jesus specifically says “I do not ask that you take them out of the world.” (John 17:15) In fact, he prays, “I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) Why? Those whom Jesus has called out of the world are sent back in for the purpose of calling more out…to be sent back in. There is a cyclical balance to living as a “called out”, “sent in” follower of Jesus.

We are not to be of the world but we are to be in the world. We are to separate, but also penetrate. We to should spend time alone with God but also spend time conversing with godless people about God.

Why does God leave us in the world? He has sent us in to a world to show them that knowing Jesus is more fulfilling and brings more joy than anything the world has to offer…even dancing naked.

• Does the world hate you? If not, why not?
• In what practical ways do you need to separate yourself form the world?
• In what practical ways do you need to embrace the call to be sent in to the world?

– Trent Griffith

Green letter Bible? Occasionally — not every time — on this blog you’ll see scriptures in green. To me it serves as a reminder that God’s word is life!

October 25, 2010

Core Values Determine Our Actions

This is borrowed from David Fisher at Pilgrim Scribblings, who in turn got it from a church web page in Belfast, Northern Ireland.    I like this.  I think it has the potential to say more than the “statement of faith” kind of thing we’re all familiar with…

Our Ethos can be summarized by the following core values:
  • Each Individual is of immense value to God
  • The primary agent for change in an individual’s life is the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God.
  • Authentic, loving relationships are at the heart of true fellowship.
  • Our acceptance with God and with one another is based on the grace of God, not on how well we perform.
  • True holiness lies in our attitude of heart to God rather than in the observance of rules and regulations.
  • Total devotion to Christ and to His cause in this world is the normal way of life for every believer.
  • God has uniquely designed and equipped each member of the church to serve one another.
  • Everything we do should be done as unto the Lord, in faith, to the best of the abilities he has given us.
  • The church must be culturally relevant while remaining doctrinally pure.
  • The church needs godly leadership by those with leadership gifts and accountability for all in leadership.

James 2:18 —  But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  (NIV)

…related… This post reminded me of another one on this blog from April of this year.