Monday, February 28, 2011

Take All the Rope You Want!

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us." He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the LORD shall hold them in derision. --- Psalm 2:1-4

It's one of those old household sayings common among generations of long ago -- "Give a man enough rope and he will hang himself!" We are witnessing a mass fulfillment of that rather simple homespun proverb throughout our nation and around the entire world in these chaotic times.

The fundamental truth of that statement is not at all universally recognized at the present time. If anything, there would be mass denial that it has any real meaning for us humans in this year of 2011.

Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies right now is that the majority of humans and organized nations with their governments have the rope in their hands, and are running amuck with it, failing to realize that is what they are holding much less the ultimate consequences to be experienced later as history reaches its climax. Take a close look at the statement in Psalm 2 -- nations massively in rebellion against God does not make for a happy and peaceful world -- have you seen scenes from different places in our world that unmistakably bear this out lately?

Almighty God has clearly revealed Himself to the human race. That revelation is seen in three main ways -- through the creation itself -- that is, if a human incorporates the common sense with which he/she is born (evidence is that few choose to do this), then by simply observing the creation one comes to the conclusion that a supreme Power of ultimate authority is responsible for the origin of all that exists! And that all living things derive their life and existence from this supreme Power.

Second, through God's inspired Word, known as the Bible. He did take some time to complete His volume of information. It required about 1,500 years and the use of 40 persons or more through whom the information was recorded that God wanted the human race to know. This would enable us to learn the really important facts as to Who God is, What He is like, What He has done, What He expects of us, and how He is going to bring human history to an end as we now presently experience it. All the basic information is in the book -- all we have to do is become familiar with it and conform our lives to His will and purpose.

Third, God made the awesome choice to personally visit this planet which He had created. A young virgin was chosen to be the human vehicle through whom God would enter the world in the form of an infant. Angelic revelation at the time informed Mary and Joseph that this child was indeed unlike any child ever born into the human race - He would have no human father and further, that this male son would be named Jesus, for He would save His people from their sins!

In creating humans God gave them something that has proved more often than not to result in disaster -- it is called "free will" - the awesome power to choose to do good or evil -- to walk in light or in darkness -- to love or hate -- to be generous in sharing or be filled with greed and lusts -- to relate to and appreciate God or to turn the back on Him and reject His offer of mercy and forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ!

And so, in a sense, God gives the rope to each human -- individually each can take and run with it, and God will give each all the rope that he or she wants. There is always a choice -- to wake up and realize that by taking all that rope and running with it, I will end up hanging myself -- but if I stop and say to God, "It is not good nor is it right for me to do this my way -- here is your rope back -- I want to do things your way and to have your Son, Jesus, live in my life as Savior and Lord -- I want your will for my life to be done each day, whatever that might involve, and wherever that may take me."

But it's not just an individual personal thing about the rope and running with it -- this involves whole nations and their governments as well. At the present time with all the unrest and the violence erupting in so many places, it is obvious that government leaders are also taking the rope and running with it -- and God will give them all they want! We don't have to look across the ocean to see this taking place -- our own leadership at the federal as well as at the state levels provide overwhelming evidence that they are running fast with the rope!

Those who know the Lord Jesus Christ and have been seeking to understand His revealed Word (Bible) recognize that there is coming a time of judgment -- a demonstration with shocking events human language cannot adequately describe in which the human race will experience catastrophic horrors -- a once-for-all witness that the human race cannot ignore the will and purpose of God and survive! Some details are given in the book of the Revelation -- for those who took the rope and ran, the final end is worse than a hanging -- it is existence in a place of unprecedented torment and horror -- but for believers there is comfort in knowing that God will indeed write the last chapter of human history and has great plans for His people with a special place prepared for them in a trouble-free, sorrow-free, and pain-free environment forever and ever! Note Jesus' promise in John 14 -- further comfort for His followers.

You are not still holding on to that rope, are you?

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. --- Revelation 20:11-15

Friday, February 25, 2011

The One Absolute That High Profile Conservatives Are Avoiding!

An internet search will reveal that "conservative" talk show hosts and commentators are a rather large number of persons. Some are very high profile and quite popular among those who claim to be conservative in their view points. Listeners to these persons number in the millions each week. A major problem however is the fact that the Limbaugh's, Beck's, Hannity's, Coulter's, O'Reilly's, Ingraham's, Malkin's, Levin's, and (add your nominee) are missing the main and very critical ingregient when it comes to the restoration of our republic! --- information gathered from a Google search of the internet

The above named persons who are identified as being "conservative" in their philosophy have a multitude and then some of supporters and faithful followers. There are a large number of others who not so well known except in the immediate geographic area where they are located, which is usually a major U.S. city and ranging out for a number of miles from that city or however far their program may reach.

BUT, all this huge gang of conservatives has a common thread of neglect when it comes to what is really needed to get our republic back on track -- to get the economy "fixed" -- to get away from big government and its growing control of the many facets of our lives -- to regain the vision possessed by our founding fathers when the republic was born.

You cannot construct an arch if you omit the keystone - you cannot light up a home at night if you cut off the electicity or have no candles on hand -- you cannot make a delicious home-made cake if you leave out the eggs -- you cannot grow a beautiful flower if you do not give it water -- and you cannot go anywhere in an automobile if it doesn't have an engine to provide power!

So what is this "missing link" -- this absent "absolute" -- in all the conservative talk that goes on endlessly day by day? It is found in one rather simple word which is rare in its usage today and at times intentionally avoided. It is the word "repentance!" Yes, it has a distinct religious connection, which is why it is so critically important.

Almighty God, Who has plainly revealed Himself to the human race in a number of ways, has issued the call for the citizens of this nation and their leaders to make repentance a top priority issue in their experiences. It requires soul searching, honesty, deliberate choices, and a 180 degree turn in which God is sought in a spirit of remorse (for offenses committed) and humility. Honest confession in which each individual, no matter who that person may be, admits to being guilty of sin against God and one's fellow human beings. Further, the willingness to receive Jesus Christ into one's life as personal Savior and Lord and be committed to obeying Him on a daily basis. After all, Jesus' purpose for coming to this world 2,000 years ago was to sacrifice His life and satisfy the demands of divine justice on our behalf -- literally, He took upon Himself every sin of which every human being is guilty of committing in a lifetime! Forgiveness is freely offered, but one has to repent in order to experience it -- that is, confess known sin and indicate a desire to no longer continue to live in sin.

Simply put - repentance is intellectual (I realize and understand that I am a sinner and guilty before a holy God); emotional (I am very much troubled as it dawns on me that I am under condemnation for my sin); and volitional (I will no longer continue in my sinful way of life) -- I will turn my life over to the control of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

The mass number of "conservatives" omit this ingredient in all their talk about what needs to be done to get our republic "fixed." There would be objections to this by suggesting that it is not their business to bring a religious issue into their discussions. So, what's the use of wasting time -- it would be like giving a dying cancer patient an Advil tablet and a bandaid and telling him he'll be OK!

To Glenn Beck's credit, he has at times made reference to God and does so in his book, "Broke," but never really comes to grips with the issue of repenting from sin -- it is more in generalities, not in the specifics of the need to recognize sin and get rid of it. With all the "conservative" talk about our nation and its many problems, it is nothing more than an exercise in futility, if repentance from sin and turning to God are not highlighted!

Now then -- I have been around long enough to know that of the few who read this, most will conclude that this is just another rant coming from a religious fanatic and not to be taken seriously.

But I have done what my Lord put on my heart and conscience to do -- and I am in pretty good company -- better men than I will ever be -- the kind for whom I am not worthy to open a door for them to enter or leave a room -- but they sounded out a message in their times which warned of God's judgment if there was not extensive repentance from sin. And for the most part, that call to repent of sin was rejected -- what followed some time later was not at all pleasant. A classic example is seen at the time in which a man by the name of Noah lived!

Have you ever seriously thought about what the consequences will be of the massive shedding of innocent blood over decades (killing unborn children), rampant sexual immorality, entrenched idolatry, the misleading of our young regarding origins, the literal trashing of the day of the week that was intended for rest and the worship of God, and the growing hostility being shown against the Christian faith?

Maybe it is time we begin to give thought to the very real possibility of judgment at the hands of an angry God! But don't expect such a subject as this to be mentioned, even in a whisper, by those who claim to be "conservative" on their programs -- they might lose too many sponsors!

"For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered to do all these abominations'?" --- Jeremiah 7:5-10

Friday, February 18, 2011

'Tis the Season for Mockery!

"You have become guilty by the blood which you have shed, and have defiled yourself with the idols which you have made. You have caused your days to draw near, and have come to the end of your years; therefore I have made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery to all countries. Those near and those far from you will mock you as infamous and full of tumult. Look, the princes of Israel: each one has used his power to shed blood in you. In you they have made light of father and mother; in your midst they have oppressed the stranger; in you they have mistreated the fatherless and the widow. You have despised My holy things and profaned My Sabbaths....." --- Ezekiel 22:4-8

The republic of the United States has fallen upon very difficult times. Actually, this has been building up steadily since the early '60's when defiance and giving Almighty God the infamous obscene gesture became quite common occurences throughout our culture. It has been seen through the mass media, the prevailing attitudes in government and court decisions, business and corporation affairs, the entertainment industry, educational institutions, and drastic changes in the basic social building block in our culture that is known as the family.

It has been a negative toboggin slide since those years of the early '60's although there were very negative influences in active play since the early 1900's. It was within the professing Christian church at large that seeds of doubt and skepticism were being sown which would over time impact all segments of U. S. culture. The basic seed of poison was the idea that the Bible is not a totally trustworthy book and using our intelligence coupled with the ability to implement the powers of human reasoning we then could have a correct understanding and interpretation of the holy Scriptures!

Much of the skepticism centered on the Person and accomplished work of Jesus Christ. Satan is very smart and knows that if he can get us to doubt the integrity of the Scriptures with the added bonus of doubt concerning the identity of Jesus, His miracles performed, the purpose of His death, and His victorious resurrection, then he has easily won the battle. The result is a professing Christianity that is as impressive as a fish out of water and flopping helplessly around on land!

And what is God's response to this ongoing defiance that is expressed in countless ways over the decades as time marches on?

First, God will convey messages of warning through a very unpopular group of persons known as prophets. These are people who will never grace the cover of Time magazine as the "person of the year." They will never win a popularity contest. It is not uncommon for these to be ridiculed, mocked, violently persecuted, and at times put to death. Scriptures in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament confirm clearly that this is how it is now and how it was for those through whom God issued warnings and the appeal to repent and return to Him.

Second, God begins to launch a series of calamities of various kinds upon the people who have claimed to be a people "under God," but have chosen to reject His standards which make for a sane, serene, sensible, secure, and sovereign state! As these actions are taking place, it is appropriate to say, "Things are not going well for our nation, its people and their leaders, politically and religiously!"

Third, God works in an unusual way in the world with those people who claim to be His people but who abandon the standards He has put in place that distinguishes the nation as one that truly fears and respects God. God declares that He will make them a mockery in relation to the other nations of the world.

Rodney Dangerfield, the comedian, had a very familiar saying which was used repeatedly in his stand up routines -- "I get no respect!" And so God arranges through events that a nation of people will get absolutely no respect. In the past the United States was a nation highly respected throughout the world and there was a time when the flag of the U.S. was respected wherever it was flown. Perhaps the peak for this was during and at the end of WW II. Such is no longer the case. It is not that unusual any longer to see the flag torn down, trashed and burned!

Will it dawn on our elected officials and our church leaders that the pressing need at this moment in history is for our nation to truly repent of its many sins and abominations and turn back to God? And this has to be done on an individual level as well as at the corporate level? At this point in time there is no indication that repenting is an act to be taken seriously and if anything, masses feel they "haven't done anything wrong!"

Mark it down -- God has much more in His inventory of "chastising tools" -- and if that doesn't work, then He brings out another plan of action - it's called judgment! None of us will want to be anywhere within the boundaries of the 50 states that make up the republic of the United States when that happens!

And a PS - note the claim that the Creator of this mighty universe makes in regard to His authority and power to establish a nation or tear it down and bring it to nothing, depending on critical choices made by the people and their leaders -- it is detailed in Jeremiah 18. And because I am in a very good mood at the moment, I'll let you look it up and read it for yourself! Something to sleep on tonight - pleasant dreams :-)

Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land." --- Daniel 9:3-6

Monday, February 7, 2011

For Grieving Steeler Fans - A Bit of Perspective on this Super Bowl Thing!

Super Bowl XLV - Green Bay, 31 -- Pittsburgh, 25

Yes, it's sort of like the fabled poem about a super baseball player named Casey -- all the fans were certain he would hit the home run and win the game -- but the poem ends on a very sad note -- mighty Casey had struck out!

In western and central Pennsylvania for days after Pittsburgh clinched the AFC championship, the excitement grew with lots of publicity and pep rallies held all over the place. Black and gold were the prominent combination of colors in our region. And finally the evening of February 6th arrived with high pitched frenzy as the spectators gathered in the stadium while millions were glued to their TV's with snacks and beverages in hand.

After the highly respected national anthem was violently assaulted -- I didn't get the word, did it eventually die in the ER -- the game got underway. It was not a rout, but certainly at times it looked like Green Bay was going to rack up a score that would say so!

And so as excited fans in Green Bay eat tons of cheese in celebration and fans of the Steelers grieve a bit, why not look at this in larger perspective from a historical point of view.

There have been 45 Super Bowl events starting in January of 1967. Green Bay won the first two, back to back. Green Bay's grand total of participation in Super Bowls over the years has been five -- they won four and lost one.

Pittsburgh has participated in eight Super Bowls over the years. They have won six and lost two.

It was said of Pittsburgh from the mid 70's into 1980 that they had a "dynasty" and those were the years of the famed "Steel Curtain." They won Super Bowls in '75, '76, '79 and '80.

Now, grieving Steeler fans, think on this past record a bit -- Green Bay cannot match that -- there was never a time they had what was referred to as a "dynasty" nor successive Super Bowl wins such as accomplished by the Steelers.

And remember, there is a difference between 4 and 6 is there not? So Green Bay, as do other Super Bowl winners, has some catching up to do, right? Now then, if you get into intense discussion with a Green Bay Packer fan, just encourage that person to look at the whole record over the years -- which team has the most impressive record overall? I rest my case. BTW this is not written by a "dyed in the wool" Pittsburgh Steeler fan. Sometimes in my work as a pastor, I try to comfort those who are in grief, which is what I have attempted to do with these remarks :-)

Oh, just one more thing, as Detective Columbo was often heard to say -- less than 100 years from now Super Bowl XLV won't amount to the proverbial "hill of beans" -- there will be other matters of greater significance over which to be greatly concerned!

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. --- 1 John 2:15-17

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jesus and United Methodism's "Holy Conferencing!"

Every person is a child of God. Always speak respectfully. One can disagree without being disagreeable. --- Opening statements of report on "Guidelines for Holy Conferencing - What God Expects of Us" as published in 2008 Official Journal of the Western PA Conference of the United Methodist Church - p. 566

The Western PA Conference of the United Methodist Church a while back published in its annual journal what was referred to as "guidelines" for holy conferencing.

This is an effort to get all parties with conflicting views to sit down at the table and get those conflicts resolved without what is termed "acrimonius debate and parliamentary maneuvering."

The guidelines begin with a massive statement of error -- "Every person is a child of God." Biblical references note explicitly that such is not the case! There are those who are clearly identified as children of the Devil. See statements in 1 John 3 and Acts 13:9, 10 for examples. Even Jesus indicated that this reality exists when, in heated conversation with some persons, He referred to them as being of their father, the Devil. (See John 8:42-47). So much for "holy conferencing" on that occasion!

For some time the tactic of holy conferencing has been employed in an attempt to bring together those who profess to believe God's revelation regarding sinful human behavior and relationships and Jesus' power to redeem from such sinful behavior and relationships and those persons who reject God's revelation regarding human sin in behavior and relationships.

One of the main areas of conflict is over the practices of sodomy and lesbianism with some persons opposing it on Biblical grounds and others who are supportive of such practices on grounds of their "interpretation" of Scripture and the human experience of commitment and "loving, monogamous relationships."

It is often cited by the supporters of same-sex relationships and sexual activity that Jesus never made reference to sodomy or lesbianism. No, not explicitly, but He certainly did implicitly when He said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." (Matthew 5:17, 18). Sexual offenses are detailed in the moral law -- all the bases are covered.

Recently a group of retired United Methodist bishops issued a statement calling for removal of the statement in the United Methodist Book of Discipline that declares the practice of homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching.

Shortly after this the Council of Bishops issued a statement calling for the need to do "holy conferencing" among other things. It is all dressed up in very pious language with the goal that everyone will finally come to the place where sexual immorality, in whatever repugnant form it appears, will be accepted as being "normal" and good by loyal United Methodists. To object, especially on Biblical grounds, is to incur the wrath of the holy conferencing crowd and be labeled as a hate-monger, homophobic, and very unloving.

Those who engage in such activities as fornication, adultery, or incest can employ the same line of reasoning to justify their conduct as do those who attempt to justify sodomy and lesbianism -- "We love each other and are committed to each other."

Holy conferencing will have a lot of heavy hitters promoting it as we approach General Conference 2012.

What about Jesus in all this? He really isn't too well qualified to be a participant due to a dismal failure to meet the guideline standards. Review His encounters on different occasions in which He called those with views far different than His own as being hypocrites, fools, blind, serpents, brood of vipers, etc. A good starting point on this is Matthew 23. Seems a major problem for Jesus was that He did not "respect" those opposing view points!

So, what to do? Is there a United Methodist out there who is a dedicated supporter (maybe a DS or a bishop) of holy conferencing and who will inform Jesus that He needs to clean up His act, quit applying such derogatory terms to those who hold different views from His own, and quit being so disagreeable toward those with whom there is disagreement. Further, He needs to show more respect for those who hold differing views.

If He fails to comply with the holy conferencing guidelines, then He needs to understand that He cannot be a part of the United Methodist Chuch as it sails the peaceful seas of holy conferencing in days to come. He simply is divisive and causes too much strife, and we can't have that in a church where more and more the philosophy that was dominant in the time of Judges is being adopted today - "everyone did that which was right in his own eyes!"

"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" --- Matthew 7:22, 23

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Group of United Methodist Bishops Now Qualify As Heretics!

“…The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” --- Par. 304.3, United Methodist Church Book of Discipline 2008 Edition

Heretic: one who holds to a doctrine or opinion that is contrary to the fundamental doctrine or creed of one's church... --- Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary

A group of retired United Methodist bishops has issued a joint statement which is titled, "A Statement of Counsel to the Church - 2011."

Here are the opening statements in that declaration:

(quote) "Out of concern for the welfare of all God’s people, and, out of special concern for the people of The United Methodist Church, we, United Methodist Bishops – retired, believe The United Methodist Church should remove the following statement from The Book of Discipline (2008):

“…The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” ¶304.3

Our lives and ministries over the years have included prayerful, thoughtful consideration of our Holy Bible, our Wesleyan heritage, reflection on our experience of the church and world, and our conviction of God’s intention for a world transformed."(end quote)

Later the bishops get to the heart of the issue which amounts to full acceptance of sodomy and lesbianism as a legitimate moral lifestyle and that such persons should be ordained into the ministry if they feel they have been "called" to serve in this manner. Further, they are to be accepted into the congregational life of the church without objection -- that is, if two persons of the same gender are practicing a lifestyle of sexual activity, we are not to object to that in any way negatively or even hint that it is morally wrong!

While, they do not specifically indicate support for the marriage of sodomites or lesbians, it is easy to see that the road these church "leaders" are traveling will eventually lead to that destination, and that they would have no objection to same-sex marriages.

And while rhetoric on this issue dwells much on "love" and "commitment" the plain fact is that the practices of sodomy and lesbianism are not supported at any place in God's total revelation to us. Same sex practices are always condemned and never one time held up in a positive and acceptable light. There are vain attempts to "interpret" Scripture in favor of practicing same-sex activity, but this is simply twisting the Scriptures to one's own destruction. Peter notes that there are people who do that kind of thing from time to time! (2 Peter 3:15,16). It is obvious that some United Methodist bishops are now a part of this crowd.

For United Methodist pastors and lay folk who believe the Bible does mean what it says and who believe the present "official" position of the United Methodist Church is in agreement with the Scriptures regarding the boundaries God has established for sexual expression and experience, we have one main weapon -- it is called prayer! Pray that God will purge the church of all that is contrary to His holy Word and that He will return upon the heads of those who teach and preach false doctrine the "fruit of their doings!"

Here are the ones who signed the statement: Sharon Z. Rader, Donald A. Ott, Beverly Shamana, C. Joseph Sprague, Melvin G. Talbert, S. Clifton Ives, Joe A. Wilson, William Lewis, Forrest Stith, Susan Morrison, Susan Hassinger, Judy Craig. Dale White, William Boyd Grove, C. P. Minnick, Kenneth L. Carder, Roy I. Sano, Joe Yeakel, Kenneth Hicks. Joseph Humper, Monk Bryan, Jesse DeWitt, Jack Tuell, J. Lloyd Knox, Charles W. Jordan, J. Lawrence McCleskey, Marshall L. Meadors, Jr., Franz Schafer, Sheldon Duecker, Fritz Mutti, Cal McConnell, Leontine T. C. Kelly.

But another disturbing thought comes to mind on this subject - how many active United Methodist bishops do you suppose are in agreement with this bunch, and eventually will add their signatures to the list?

The entire statement can be viewed and read at A Statement of Counsel to the Church - 2011 This will take you to the Reconciling Ministries Network web site.

.... who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. --- Romans 1:32