The Hole In Our Holiness

CIRCA 1900: A colorfully illustrated temperance bible study card from circa 1900 reads, “Elijah’s Spirit On Elisha. 2 Kings 2: 6-15. How much more shall your heavenly father give the holy spirit to them that ask him?” (Photo by Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Sept 17, 2021 By Kevin Deyoung 

I have a growing concern that younger evangelicals do not take seriously the Bible’s call to personal holiness. We are too at peace with worldliness in our homes, too at ease with sin in our lives, too content with spiritual immaturity in our churches.

God’s mission in the world is to save a people and sanctify his people. Christ died “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor. 5:15) We were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Eph. 1:4) Christ “loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her…so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27) Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14)

J.C. Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool during the nineteenth century, was right: “We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world…Jesus is a complete Savior. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more—He breaks its power (1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 12:10).” My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ saved us from, we will give little thought and make little effort concerning all that Christ saved us to.

The pursuit of holiness does not occupy the place in our hearts that it should.

There are several reasons for the relative neglect of personal holiness:

1. It was too common in the past to equate holiness with abstaining from a few taboo practices like drinking, smoking, and dancing. In a previous generation, godliness meant you didn’t do these things. Younger generations have little patience for these sorts of rules. They either don’t agree with the rules, or they figure they’ve got those bases covered so there’s not much else to worry about.

2. Related to the first reason is the fear that a passion for holiness makes you some kind of weird holdover from a bygone era. As soon as you talk about swearing or movies or music or modesty or sexual purity or self-control or just plain godliness, people get nervous that others will call them legalistic, or worse, a fundamentalist.

3. We live in a culture of cool, and to be cool means you differentiate yourself from others. That has often meant pushing the boundaries with language, with entertainment, with alcohol, and with fashion. Of course, holiness is much more than these things, but in an effort to be hip, many Christians have figured holiness has nothing to do with these things. They’ve willingly embraced Christian freedom, but they’ve not earnestly pursued Christian virtue.

4. Among more liberal Christians, a radical pursuit of holiness is often suspect because any talk of right and wrong behaviors feels judgmental and intolerant. If we are to be “without spot or blemish,” it necessitates we distinguish between what sort of attitudes, actions and habits are pure and what sort are impure. This sort of sorting gets you in trouble with the pluralism police.

5. Among conservative Christians, there is sometimes the mistaken notion that if we are truly gospel-centered, we won’t talk about rules or imperatives or exhort Christians to moral exertion. To be sure, there is a rash of moralistic teaching out there, but sometimes we go to the other extreme and act as if the Bible shouldn’t advise our morals at all. We are so eager not to confuse indicatives and imperatives (a point I’ve made many times) that if we’re not careful, we’ll drop the imperatives altogether. We’ve been afraid of words like diligence, effort and obedience. We’ve downplayed verses that call us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) or command us to cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1) or warn against even a hint of immorality among the saints (Eph. 5:3).

I find it telling that you can find plenty of young Christians today who are really excited about justice and serving in their communities. You can find Christians fired up about evangelism. You can find lots of Generation XYZ believers passionate about precise theology. Yes and amen to all that. But where are the Christians known for their zeal for holiness? Where is the corresponding passion for honoring Christ with Christlike obedience? We need more Christian leaders on our campuses, in our cities, in our seminaries who will say with Paul, “Look carefully then how you walk.” (Eph. 5:15)

When is the last time we took a verse like Ephesians 5:4—“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving”—when is the last time we took a verse like this and even began to try to apply this to our conversation, our joking, our movies, our YouTube clips, our TV and commercial intake? The fact of the matter is if you read through the New Testament epistles, you will find very few explicit commands that tell us to evangelize and very few explicit commands that tell us to take care of the poor in our communities, but there are dozens and dozens of verses in the New Testament that enjoin us, in one way or another, to be holy as God is holy (e.g., 1 Peter 1:13-16).

I do not wish to denigrate any of the other biblical emphases capturing the attention of younger evangelicals. But I believe God would have us be much more careful with our eyes, our ears and our mouth. It’s not pietism, legalism or fundamentalism to take holiness seriously. It’s the way of all those who have been called to a holy calling by a holy God.

Scriptures: 1 Peter, Ephesians 5:4, Isaiah 52:11, Isaiah 52:11-12, Titus 2:14

https://www.sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/kevin-deyoung-the-hole-in-our-holiness-936

Running The Race

By Discerning Dad Jan 29, 2021

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT

Inclusivity training in a common standard in businesses and recently we had one at my work. The goal of this training was to help the employees understand that both employee and customer bring bias into their situations at work and how to navigate this bias so it does not display itself in a negative way. Bias has a negative connotation but it does not have to be. Everyone has bias. Bias can be defined as “a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned that can affect a person’s actions.” We all have bias and opinion based on our interests, upbringing, affiliations, activities, career, place of residence, and the list goes on and on. The trick is to not let your bias treat anyone differently.

People have no shortage of opinions on things and Christians are not any different. Christians usually have an answer for what they believe and why. They can tell you all about what sin is, what political party to vote for, what grace is and is not, if you can lose your salvation, what denomination to follow, what the end times are going to look like, and especially how OTHER Christians are supposed to behave!

This is especially the case on social media, from what I have seen, the typical Christian typing away responses to online forums or posts to either believers or non, has no shortage of opinions and “facts” based reasons why someone else is wrong and why they are right.

The missing piece to this formula is love…

But what’s love got to do with it?

With discernment, it is very important to know what you believe and why. You should be able to give an answer for the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15). The world, the Internet, and books are filled with more information that you can absorb in one lifetime. The Bible has to be the foundation for which all this information is discerned. As we grow in maturity as Christians, we will be more and more confident, moving from milk to solid food as the Bible talks about.

“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to truck us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” Ephesians 4:14

As we build a solid foundation in our faith, how does that affect how we treat others?

We should grow in truth but how do we share it?

One of my favorite quotes on this matter is:

“Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth” John Stott

It’s important to note that not all Christians are in the same phase of their walk with the Lord. We are “running the race” as Romans explains, a race has runners at various stages. We can’t look at our position in the race and ridicule them for not being as far along. Encouragement goes a lot farther than discouragement.

This doesn’t mean you have to ignore heretical statements spoken by another Christian but maybe it does? It depends on the situation. If it happens online, you can simply log off or scroll past. If it’s a fellow Christian who has given you a platform to be able to speak in their life, then provide correction with love if they are in a position to hear.

Someone who has been a Christian for a long time can forget what it was like to be first saved. It can be overwhelming at first trying to understand the Bible, the world will tell you that it is filled with contradictions and antiquated ideas that aren’t relevant today. Newer Christians sometimes don’t know where to start, what to study, or even what to believe. If you include the fact that many churches focus on a “salvation message” without encouraging discipleship, newer Christians are left at the starting line without any fellow believers to help them on their journey.

When considering the parallels with a race and our Christian walk a few things come to mind:

• Conditioning– Reading the Bible, exercising your faith, praying, worship, etc. are all ways we grow and practice before “the big game.” We are all in the main event race our whole life but there are smaller races I believe we take part in. These include callings to a new ministry or phase of life, struggling with a battle of health or finances, and facing rejection.

• Endurance– Galatians 6:9 states, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” A marathon is tough and grueling and many just want to quit. Some estimates say that between 10-30% of participants in a marathon do not finish. Christians are falling away from the faith at a record rate. Some have been in the race their whole life and some are newer Christians who decided the cost was too much. We are called to ENDURE!

• Psychological– A big aspect to running a race is not only physical but mental! A runner can be their own worst enemy if they let their mind control their motivation during the race. You’ve heard the phrase “mind over matter”. Your willingness to push yourself can cause you to go further than you thought was physically possible. The same is true in our Christian walk, our doubts and fears can sometimes get the best of us and make us want to quit.

• Encouragement- Do you see the crowds that cheer runners on the side of the road? They cheer, give high fives, and throw water bottles at them as a sign of encouragement. You often see many runners as well encouraging each other along the way, sometimes even finishing with another runner hugging onto their shoulders. Runners can have sponsors as well, which is a close analogy to Christian mentors. We have a “crowd of witnesses” as Hebrews 12:1 states. These are men and women of faith who have gone before us, our family who we long to see again, the men and women of the Bible, and many we don’t even know! They endured the race and made it to the end, cheering us on through the example they set before us. The onus is on us as runners to encourage those around us, realizing we are heading to the same goal.

Paul knew what he was talking about when he compared our Christian walk to a race! Jesus waits for us to finish, ready to say “well done good and faithful servant.” Every pain we face, every doubt we overcome, every battle we wage is worth patiently enduring the journey to get to the finish line and see our Savior at last!

Discerning Reflection: What areas of my life hinder my race? Is there sin that I need to let go of that slows me down? How can I encourage other Christians around me? Who specifically is God calling on me to mentor and disciple?

Prayer: Lord, help me overcome sin that ensnares my race. Let me see with clarity what my eternal goal really is. May I not be consumed with earthly goals that distract me. Help me be an encouragement to those around me while being conscious of the fact that they are in different stages of their race.

Tim Ferrara

Discerning Dad

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Deciphering Truth in Word and Concept

June 15, 2021 by Tavis Bohlinger 

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

Christopher Croom | Columbia International University

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:38)

Introduction

This famous portion of Scripture that has been rendered as a standalone verse is directly related to the crucifixion scene of Jesus Christ. In this scene, Jesus stands before Pilate, questioned regarding charges leveled at Him by the Jews. In analyzing this verse, we do not want to overstep the boundaries provided to us by the context. Nevertheless, in examining this verse, we cannot help but acknowledge this deeply profound epistemological question. What is truth

First, we should observe the possible attitude with which Pilate proposes this question. Is Pilate saying this in a mocking tone? Or does Pilate opine with genuine curiosity? John Calvin suggests that Pilate laid out this question in disdain. In his commentary on this passage, Calvin says, “For my own part, I rather think that it is an expression of disdain; for Pilate thought himself highly insulted when Christ represented him as destitute of all knowledge of the truth.”1 D.A. Carson notes something specific in his view of this passage. Carson offers this beautiful observation. “Moreover, there is an implicit invitation in Jesus’ words. The man in the dock invites his judge to be his follower, to align himself with those who are ‘of the truth’.”2 Carson also goes on to suggest that Pilate may be irritated with Jesus and categorizes the question as “curt and cynical.”3

Gerald Borchert stands in opposition, suggesting that perhaps this question did affect Pilate. While Pilate may have resisted the more profound implications for his life, it certainly left him with no condemnation against Christ.4 I tend to agree with Borchert’s position in that the surrounding evidence of the passage does not lend itself to frustration or irritation on Pilate’s part. Moreover, Pilate seems to meet this situation with a certain level of wisdom and prudence. When asking the Jewish leaders for the charges against Christ, he appears less than impressed and may even see himself being used as a pawn in their scheme to rid themselves of the Messiah. Finally, we see Pilate approach the mob and try to provide a way to back out of this act against a seemingly innocent man. I wholeheartedly believe Pilate’s question of “what is truth?” was a genuine question worthy of consideration. 

Addressing the Question

Having now addressed the biblical aspect of this, we must face the question itself and its implications in our world. However, I do not want to address this from a predominantly “spiritual” perspective (or what Christians might perceive as spirituality), but rather, a practical aspect. After all, I am a Ph.D. student of practical theology (with a slight lean focusing on ethics and morality). So, I will do what I think I do best—talk about this question’s practical and ethical aspects. 

The Greek word behind “truth” is ἀλήθεια (aletheia). The word itself carries an intensely distinct semantic range. English speakers may translate this word as “in truth,” or “upon truth,” or “sincerely,” or “genuine,” or “firmness,” among other similar options. Considering the 109 uses of this word in the New Testament, it is translated as we see it here, “truth,” 95.4% of the time (or 104 times). Jesus states just before this verse that He came to testify to the truth. Pilate responds with what this author believes is a genuinely inquisitive query. So, what is Pilate asking, and how can we use this in our lives?

Pilate is asking a question that many people ask today. “How can we know what is true?” Before we address the question, we should determine its significance. When we speak about truth, or as I will often refer to it as “intellectual virtue,”5 In the most practical and simple terms I can provide, what we are discussing is an agreement to the definition of words and concepts and the reality built upon those definitions. In other words, there must be some fundamentally agreed-upon terminology that allows us to understand and decipher the world around us. For now, we will (mostly) lay aside questions of authority for defining those terms and reality and frankly focus on its existence. 

If I took some exegetical liberty with the text, as those before me have, I would like to suggest that Pilate is not so far off in his mindset from the subjectivists of our modern-day America. In other words, Pilate did not have an objective standard for truth, and so, this question persuaded his mind to argue with this philosophical difficulty in a way that those on the Areopagus of Acts 17 might have done. So much was Pilate interested in this; he tried to exonerate Christ after a brief consideration of Christ’s statement. 

What does this mean for the Christian Scholar or Pastor? Well, in today’s world, the Christian Scholar or Pastor finds themselves in one of three positions. The first position: Understanding and struggling to live with biblical clarity in a  rapidly changing world with changing definitions and conceptual truths. The second position: Believing they understand and struggle to live with biblical clarity in a  rapidly changing world with changing definitions and conceptual truths, but sinking further into the world’s subjectivity. The third and final position is being oblivious to the difference between the two and sinking further into the world’s subjectivity. 

A Brief Practice to Address Error

Because this is not designed to be a book or even a full paper outlining all the issues and potential solutions, this is where we shall consider, briefly, a remedy. Having been made aware of the issue that faces us, we should now consider a solution. 

Scholars and Pastors: Addressing the world with presuppositional truth is not practical in today’s world. I understand how unpopular this will be as a position. Nevertheless, telling a subjectively oriented world of a coming Christ is, while accurate, ineffective—at least, in and of itself. Starting with that will lead to nowhere. However, leading to that point, starting with a classical exposition of the general revelation could yield a more profitable engagement. When Pilate asks, “what is truth?” he questions something already answered in the world around Him that leads back to the Creator of all things. 

The General Revelation helps the created creature agree upon the definition of what exists inside of it. For instance, what does the creation (not explicitly Scripture) tell us about the nature of man and woman? The reason this approach is critical is that, as Jay Wood points out, “there are what are called “basic” or “immediate” beliefs; these form the bedrock of all that we believe, undergirding everything else we are justified in believing.”6 In agreeing upon what exists in the General Revelation, we create what Nicholas Wolterstorff refers to as a control belief.7 That control belief identifies the boundaries in which we can continue to move in our question to build a perimeter around valid words and concepts. 

This reason alone is why the Christian Church and the Christian (Scholar, Clergy, or Laypersons) have lost their foothold in the battle for words and concepts. In stepping away from the pursuit of truth, exchanging it for some undefined or unspecific spirituality, the Church began to, like the world, pursue subjectivity in religion, seeking a feeling of connection to God rather than a knowledge of the truth—or even worse, conflating the two, instead of an emotional connection to God being the result of proper knowledge of Him (Jer 9:23-24). This order is the natural order of true faith and spirituality, rooted in truth and reason.

What Pilate expresses is no different from what the Church expresses; each time, we neglect the pursuit of fundamental knowledge about God or portend to others that a relationship to Christ is the fullness of true religion (to the neglect of reason, doctrine, and similar concepts). We especially, as the Doctors and Pastors of the Church, must avoid both logical fallacies and cognitive biases in his assessment of the truth. As those who have General Revelation on our side, we should strive to define truth by the created world, ultimately pointing to Special Revelation. 

The world is currently busy changing the definition to well-established truths, such as gender, family, sex, and all the like. The result is that concepts are being redefined through that change. Now, love, good, evil, culture,  and ethics are all being manipulated in an unprecedented way. The truth that Jesus proposes to Pilate is not just a truth that leads to salvation. It is a truth that leads to seeing the world as it was truly meant to be seen. 

Conclusion

Pastors, Doctors, Scholars: I call you to a serious pursuit of the truth. A pursuit that starts by understanding how the General (or Natural) Revelation provides a piece of evidence to all men. Whether through the existence of a Creator or the law written on man’s heart and the active consciousness of knowing a right from a wrong, in earnest, that comes with it, Christians must answer the call to challenge the world cognitively. We must satisfy the curious nature of man’s mind and heart and respond to the question that Pilate once asked, and so many have asked after him, “what is truth?” because we are the only ones with meaningful access to the answer. 

If we, the learned and shepherds of the Church, do not understand this, how can we teach those under our care and doctrine? And if those under our care and doctrine do not learn, how can they reach the world?

How much better it is to get wisdom than gold!

And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver. (Proverbs 16:16)


Christopher Croom holds a Masters’s Degree in Bible Exposition, from Liberty University and is a Ph.D. student of Moral Theology at Columbia International University. He also is the founder and Managing Member of CROSS & Culture, LLC (http://crossandculture.org), a relaunching platform committed to expanding Biblical Scholarship and Discipleship within the Church.

  1. John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentary on the Gospel according to John, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 212.
  2. D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 595.
  3. Carson, John, 595.
  4. Gerald L. Borchert, John 12–21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 243.
  5. As borrowed from Wood, W. Jay. Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous. Edited by C. Stephen Evans. Contours of Christian Philosophy. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1998.
  6. W. Jay Wood, Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous, ed. C. Stephen Evans, Contours of Christian Philosophy (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1998), 84.
  7. Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Reason within the Bounds of Religion. Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984.

Abolitionist Poets: William Lloyd Garrison, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Ellery Channing, Theodore Parker, Henry David Thoreau & Ralph Waldo Emerson — “America … a last effort of divine Providence in behalf of the human race”

May 27, 2021

The Second Great Awakening spread across America in the early 1800s. Not only was the Gospel preached, bringing people to a saving faith in Christ, but believers were spurred to share their faith in action, bringing social change.Revivalist Charles Finney preached:”Every member must work or quit. No honorary members.”Read as PDF …

American Minute-Notable Events of American Significance Remembered on the Date They Occurred

Finney’s preaching inspired William Booth to found the Salvation Army, and George Williams to found the Y.M.C.A. (Young Men’s Christian Association).

Called “Practical Christianity,” believers formed a network of volunteer Christian organizations, the “Benevolent Empire,” to:

  • Lobby for prison reform;
  • Found and staff hospitals;
  • Care for handicapped and mentally ill;
  • Provide for immigrants;
  • Establish schools for the poor;
  • Go as missionaries around the world; and
  • Work to end slavery through the abolitionist movement.

Though these organizations were largely run by Christians, over time, some began to focus more on improving society and less on sharing the Gospel.This highlighted the danger of there being a ditch on either side of the road, namely;

  • on one side is having correct beliefs but not doing anything good;
  • on the other side is doing lots of good but not having correct beliefs.

This was seen in the period from the French Revolution to the Civil War.

 William Lloyd Garrison published the Boston anti-slavery paper Liberator and founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.He suffered hundreds of death threats for his politically incorrect stand on the value of human life.

Author John Jay Chapman wrote in the biography William Lloyd Garrison (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1921):”The source of Garrison’s power was the Bible. From his earliest days, he read the Bible constantly and prayed constantly. It was with this fire that he started his conflagration …So also, a prejudice against all fixed forms of worship, against the authority of human government, against every binding of the spirit into conformity with human law, — all these things grew up in Garrison’s mind out of his Bible reading.”

William Lloyd Garrison wrote in his inaugural edition of The Liberator, (Boston), January 1, 1831:”I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard ‘the fear of man which bringeth a snare,’ and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power.And here I close with this fresh dedication (from Scottish poet Thomas Pringle’s ‘To Oppression,’ April 22, 1828) …’I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand,Thy brutalizing sway — till Afric’s chainsAre burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land,Trampling Oppression and his iron rod:Such is the vow I take – SO HELP ME GOD!'”

In “W.P. and F.J.T. Garrison,” 1885-89, William Lloyd Garrison wrote:”Wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being, whatever may be the sex or complexion.”

Former slave Frederick Douglass wrote in My Bondage and My Freedom, 1855:”After reaching New Bedford, there came a young man to me with a copy of the Liberator … edited by William Lloyd Garrison …

… His paper took its place with me next to the Bible …… It detested slavery … and, with all the solemnity of God’s word, demanded the complete emancipation of my race …His words were … holy fire … The Bible was his text book … Prejudice against color was rebellion against God.”

William Lloyd Garrison worked with another abolitionist, Amos Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women (1868).In 1843, Amos Bronson Alcott founded a utopian community called Fruitlands, but it failed seven months later, as Louisa wrote in Transcendental Wild Oats.In 1830, Amos Bronson Alcott helped found the first Boston anti-slavery society organization, with William Lloyd Garrison.The Alcott home in Concord, Massachusetts, called “The Hillside,” was a stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves to rest on their way north to freedom.

During the Civil War, the Union Army sent out a call for battlefield nurses.Louisa May Alcott enlisted and served. She wrote:“My greatest pride is that I lived to know the brave men and women who did so much for the cause, and that I had a very small share in the war which put an end to a great wrong.”She, along with her mother and sister, gave free lessons in reading and writing to African American women.

In 1879, Massachusetts allowed women vote on issues of schools, bonds, and taxes.Alcott was the first woman to register to vote in Concord. She wrote on 1881 to Thomas Niles:“I can remember when anti-slavery was in just the same state that suffrage is now, and take more pride in the very small help we Alcotts could give than I all the books I ever wrote.” 

Some notable lines of Louisa May Alcott are:

  • “The door of opportunity opened just a crack.”
  • “Happy is the son whose faith in his mother remains unchallenged.”
  • “Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.”

Alcott wrote:”My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one.The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom.His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength.Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.”

In 1848, Louisa May Alcott convinced her family to move to Boston, where they attended Federal Street Church and heard the preaching of William Ellery Channing.Amos Bronson Alcott said Channing: “Throws upon the principles of Christianity a light which dissipates the darkness in which it has been so long enclosed.”The Alcott’s old home, “The Hillside” was purchased by Nathaniel Hawthorne, who renamed it “The Wayside.”He hired Henry David Thoreau to survey it in 1852.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a romanticist author, famous for Twice-Told Tales (1837), The Scarlet Letter (1850), The Marble Faun (1850), The House of Seven Gables (1851), and The Blithedale Romance (1852).He wrote:

  • “Christian faith is a grand cathedral, with divinely pictured windows. Standing without, you see no glory, nor can possibly imagine any; standing within, every ray of light reveals a harmony of unspeakable splendors.”
  • “Our Creator would never have made such lovely days, and have given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal.”

William Ellery Channing, who graduated from Harvard in 1798, described how the French Revolution had shaken the faith of the Harvard student body:“College was never in a worse state than when I entered it. Society was passing through a most critical stage.The French Revolution had diseased the imagination and unsettled the understanding of men everywhere.The old foundations of social order, loyalty, tradition, habit, reverence for antiquity, were everywhere shaken, if not subverted. The authority of the past was gone.”

This era of shaken faith led to skepticism, similar to what was experienced in Europe following the Napoleonic Wars, and World Wars I and II.

Alberto M. Piedra wrote in “The Dechristianization of France during the French Revolution”(Institute of World Politics, Jan. 12, 2018):”French governments between 1789 and the Concordat of 1801 … formed the basis of the gradual trend toward dechristianization, later transformed into a less radical laïcité (secularization.)Most scholars would argue that the goal of the revolutionary government between 1793 and 1794 ranged from the public reclamation of the massive amount of land, power, and money held by the Church in France to the termination of religious practice and the extermination of religion itself …”

Piedra continued:“La ConstitutionCivile du Clergé … July 12, 1790 … resulted in … religious practice … outlawed and replaced with the cult of the ‘supreme being,’ a deist state religion …Dechristianization … increased in intensity with … the Law of Suspects (September 17, 1793) …1) all priests and all persons protecting them are liable to death on the spot,2) the destruction of all crosses, bells and other external signs of worship,3) the destruction of statues, plaques, and iconography from places of worship …In 1793, the Christian calendar was replaced with one reckoning from the date of the Revolution and the Festivals of ‘liberty, reason, and the supreme being’ were officially established …”

Piedra concluded:”During the two-year Reign of Terror, anti-clericalism became more violent than any other in history …The Festival of Reason … November 10, 1793 in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris … loose living girls took occasion to celebrate at the main altar the cult to the Goddess Reason with Phrygian bonnets on their heads.The wave of massacres started in 1789 … Rene Sedillot writes in his book Le Coût de la Révolution Française that in Paris 1,300 assassinations took place in four days.”

The French Revolution’s hatred of traditional Christianity crossed the ocean, and a watered-down version influenced various New England preachers, most notably, William Ellery Channing.His preaching contributed to the birth to “Unitarian Christianity,” out of which a group of idealistic New England authors, philosophers, intellectuals and politicians formed the “Transcendental Club” — which enjoyed popularity prior to the Civil War.

They attempted to maintain Christian morality without acknowledging the divinity of Christ.They held to Biblical concepts of the individual, freedom of conscience, self-control, and the existence of the being of God, but fell short of attributing the origin of these concepts to Judeo-Christian thought.Transcendentalists were essentially religious libertarians who championed self-reliance, independence, seeing the divine experience in everyday life, and believed salvation was earned by doing good works.

Channing was initially a moderate abolitionist till the British successfully abolished slavery in the British West Indies in 1834.When none of the predicted economic and social upheavals took place in the Caribbean, Channing changed and began doing good works to abolish slavery.

At first, transcendentalists maintained basic Christian doctrines, being called Unitarian Christians.Channing wrote March 31, 1832, (Memoir of William Ellery Channing, vol. 2, p. 416):”I have always inclined to the doctrine of the preexistence of Christ, though am not insensible to the weight of your objections.”A similar attitude was expressed by Abigail Adams, who attended the First Parish Church in Quincy, and wrote May 5, 1816, that she still believed Jesus was divine:”I acknowledge myself a unitarian – Believing that the Father alone, is the supreme God, and that Jesus Christ derived his Being, and all his powers and honors from the Father.”

Over time, unitarians and transcendentalists stopped believing in the atonement of Christ.Theycut themselves loose from the anchor of Biblical absolutes.The resulting moral drift affected the pulpits of Congregational Churches in New England, as well as New England academia, most significantly, Harvard.

In 1805, transcendentalism forever changed Harvard.Jedediah Morse, “Father of American Geography” was one of the overseers of Harvard. He tried to keep the college anchored to traditional Christianity but he was out-voted.The other college overseers voted to break from the nearly two centuries of Calvinistic Protestantism by choosing a Unitarian, Henry Ware, to chair of the Harvard Divinity School.Soon there began a purging of the past faith.

At Yale, there was a pushback to this liberalism, led by Timothy Dwight, the 8th President of the college.Dwight listened patiently to that era’s version of woke students who were enamored with French infidelity, secularism, and the loosening of moral restraints.Then Dwight systematically answered their questions and exposed the shallowness of their reasoning in a series of weekly lectures, giving “a well-reasoned defense of the Bible’s accuracy.”

Dwight’s son, Sereno Edwards Dwight, was a student at Yale during this time. Sereno, who later became U.S. Senate Chaplain, wrote:”From that moment, infidelity was not only without a stronghold, but without a lurking place.”

Another Yale student wrote:”It seemed for a time as if the whole mass of the students would press into the kingdom. It was the Lord’s doing, and marvelous in all eyes. Oh, what a blessed change! It was a glorious reformation.”A Yale tutor wrote:”Yale College is a little temple; prayer and praise seem to be the delight of the greater part of the students while those who are still unfeeling are awed with respectful silence.”Through the efforts of Timothy Dwight, over a third of Yale’s student body experienced conversion, with many entering the ministry.

The secular push, though, continued in academia, especially among intellectual elites, fueled by German philosophers.Over time, the anti-Christian ideas that began with French Revolution took root and became predominant on American college campuses.Education became increasingly secular, and eventually hostile and intolerant of Biblical faith, and even God.By the late 1800s, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called it hypocritical for those who have rejected Christianity and God to consider themselves “moral” (“Twilight of the Idols,” The Portable Nietzsche, ed., trans. Walter Kaufman, NY: Penguin Books, 1976, p. 515-6):”When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet … By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands.Christianity presupposes that man does not know … what is good for him … God … alone knows it. Christian morality … stands or falls with faith in God.”

One of the students of the liberal Harvard Divinity School was Theodore Parker, who graduated in 1836.Parker identified as a transcendentalist and was ordained as the pastor of the Unitarian Church in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.He wrote:“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve … by … sight, I can divine it by conscience.And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

Around this time, Millard Fillmore helped organized a Unitarian Church in 1821 near Buffalo, New York.In July, 1850, Fillmore became the 13th U.S. President when Zachary Taylor died.Fillmore articulated the Democrat position on slavery:“God knows that I detest slavery, but it is an existing evil, for which we are not responsible, and we must endure it, and give it such protection as is guaranteed by the Constitution, till we can get rid of it without destroying the last hope of free government in the world.”

Parker criticized the Democrat Party’s pledge to continue slavery:“See what the Convention says of the Democratic party: — ‘We understand the Democratic party to be pledged to decline any legislation upon the subject of slavery, with a view either to its prohibition or restriction in places where it does not exist, or to its abolition in any of the territories of the United States’ …”Parker continued:”There are some very sad examples … A man of high standing in the New England churches … defends slavery …Perhaps I ought not to say, ‘if’ Christianity supports slavery. We all know it does not, never did, and never can.” (Frances Power Cobbe, The Collected Works of Theodore Parker, 1863, Volume 5, p. 103-133).

When Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Law, which empowered the Federal Government to track down and arrest escaped slaves, Theodore Parker publicly rebuked him:”There hangs in my study … the gun my grandfather fought with at the battle of Lexington… and also the musket he captured from a British soldier on that day.If I would not peril my property, my liberty, nay my life to keep my parishioners out of slavery, then I should throw away these trophies, and should think I was the son of some coward and not a brave man’s child.”

Though evangelical Christianity and unitarian transcendentalism were separate from each other theologically, they were able to join together in patriotism and opposing slavery.Parker’s religion of doing good works resulted in him becoming one of the many outspoken abolitionists.His writing may have influenced Abraham Lincoln, whose Gettysburg Address, November 1863:”Our fathers brought forth … a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal …That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Parker had previously stated in “The Effect of Slavery on the American People,” to the New England Anti-Slavery Convention, May 29, 1850:“The American idea … seems to me to lie at the basis of all our … institutions …The idea that all men have unalienable rights; that in respect thereof, all men are created equal; and that government is to be established and sustained for the purpose of giving every man an opportunity for the enjoyment and development of all these unalienable rights …This idea demands … a democracy,that is, a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people; of course, a government after the principles of eternal justice, the unchanging law of God; for shortness’ sake, I will call it the idea of Freedom.”

Parker himself may have gotten that idea from Daniel Webster, who told the U.S. Senate in 1830:”It is, Sir, the people’s Constitution, the people’s Government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.”

Earlier, British politician Benjamin Disraeli wrote in Vivian Grey (1826):”All power is a trust; that we are accountable for its exercise; that from the people and for the people all springs, and all must exist.”

The line may have originally been from John Wycliffe in 1384, who was the first to translate the Bible into English so the common people could read it:“This Bible is for the Government of the People, by the People, and for the People.”

Theodore Parker wrote:”Since the Revolution, there have been three instances of great national importance, in which freedom has overcome slavery …1. In prohibiting slavery from the North-west territory, before the adoption of the Constitution;2. In prohibiting the slave-trade in 1808. I mean, in prohibiting the African slave-trade; the American slave-trade is still carried on in the capital of the United States;3. The prohibition of slavery in Oregon may be regarded as a third victory.”

A colleague of Channing and Parker was poet Henry David Thoreau.Thoreau wrote:

  • “It’s only by forgetting yourself that you draw near to God.”
  • “If Nature is our mother, then God is our father.”
  • “When you knock, ask to see God — none of the servants.”
  • “As I stand over the insect crawling amid the pine needles on the forest floor, and endeavoring to conceal itself from my sight, and ask myself why it will cherish those humble thoughts, and hide its head from me who might, perhaps, be its benefactor, and impart to its race some cheering information, I am reminded of the greater Benefactor and Intelligence that stands over me the human insect.”

In the spring of 1862, while he lay dying, Thoreau was asked by his aunt Louisa if he had made peace with God. Thoreau responded, “I did not know we had ever quarreled.”

Henry David Thoreau wrote in Civil Disobedience, 1849:“‘That government is best which governs not at all;’ and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”

Thoreau influenced Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr.King, while at Morehouse College in 1944, read Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience.Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:”In this courageous New Englander’s refusal to pay his taxes and his choice of jail rather than support a war that would spread slavery’s territory into Mexico, I made my first contact with the theory of nonviolent resistance.Fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system, I was so deeply moved that I reread the work several times. I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau … The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement …Peaceful protest(s) … are outgrowths of Thoreau’s insistence that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice.”

Another contemporary of Channing, Parker, and Thoreau was poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, born May 25, 1803.An advocate of individualism and personal freedom, Emerson wrote”This is the history of governments … a man who cannot be acquainted with me, taxes me; looking from afar at me, ordains that a part of my labor shall go to this or that whimsical end, not as I, but as he happens to fancy …

… Hence, the less government we have, the better …The fewer laws … the less confided power.The antidote to this abuse of formal Government, is, the influence of private character …The appearance of character makes the State unnecessary …He needs no army, fort, or navy, – he loves men too well; no bribe, or feast, or palace, to draw friends to him; no vantage ground, no favorable circumstance.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson composed some of the best loved poems in American literature, including The Concord Hymn, of which a stanza is inscribed on the base of Daniel Chester French’s Minute Man Statue:”By the rude bridge that arched the flood,Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled;Here once the embattled farmers stood;And fired the shot heard round the world.”

Emerson commented on John Quincy Adams:”No man could read the Bible with such powerful effect, even with the cracked and winded voice of old age.”

In 1848, Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Paris between the February Revolution and the bloody June Days.When he saw that mobs had cut down trees near the Champ de Mars to form barricades across downtown city streets, he wrote in his journal:”At the end of the year we shall … see if the Revolution was worth the trees.”

When abolitionist publisher and Presbyterian pastor Elijah Lovejoy was murdered by pro-slavery Democrats in 1838 and his printing press destroyed, Ralph Waldo Emerson said:”It is but the other day that the brave Lovejoy gave his breast to the bullets of a mob, for the rights of free speech and opinion.”

Emerson stated:

  • “I think we must get rid of slavery, or we must get rid of freedom.”
  • “It now appears that the negro race is, more than any other, susceptible of rapid civilization. The emancipation is observed, in the islands, to have wrought for the negro a benefit as sudden as when a thermometer is brought out of the shade into the sun. It has given him eyes and ears.”

Abolitionist Sen. Charles Sumner attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston, and King’s Chapel, described as Unitarian Christian in theology, Anglican in worship, and Congregational in church government.Sumner took Ralph Waldo Emerson to the White House to meet Republican President Abraham Lincoln.

Having voted for the Lincoln,Emerson stated of the Southern Democrat states in a lecture at the Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.:”The South calls slavery an institution … I call it destitution …Emancipation is the demand of civilization.”

In 1865, Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked at a memorial service for Abraham Lincoln:”I doubt if any death has caused so much pain as this has caused.”

Miracles in American History (Vol. 3: Episodes 21-30)

On September 12, 2001, the day after Islamic fundamentalists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, J.C. Watts, Jr., gave a speech quoting Emerson:“Politics has taken the day off. Today Congress remembers and recognizes the afflicted and the sorrowing and those who come to the aid of their fellow man. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 1842, captured what we are thinking as a nation today:’Sorrow makes us all children again,destroys all differences of intellect.The wisest knows nothing.'”

In The Conduct of Life (1860), Emerson wrote:Fate-“Men are what their mothers made them.”In May-Day and Other Pieces (1867), Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:Boston Hymn, st. 2-“God said, I am tired of kings,I suffer them no more;Up to my ear the morning bringsThe outrage of the poor.”Fragment-“Wilt thou seal up the avenues of ill?Pay every debt as if God wrote the bill.”Ode, st. 5 -“United States! the ages plead, -Present and Past in under-song, -Go put your creed into your deed,Nor speak with double tongue.”Voluntaries III-“So nigh is grandeur to our dust,So near is God to man,When Duty whispers low, Thou must,The youth replies, I can.”

Regarding civilization, Emerson wrote:”The true test of civilization is, not the census, nor the size of the cities, nor the crops – no, but the kind of man the country turns out.”In Social Aims,Emerson wrote:”Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy.”

In The American Scholar (1837), Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:”In how many churches, by how many prophets, tell me, is man made sensible that he is an infinite Soul; that the earth and heavens are passing into his mind; that he is drinking forever the soul of God?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:

  • “All I have seen has taught me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
  • “America is another name for opportunity. Our whole history appears like a last effort of divine Providence in behalf of the human race.”

Read as PDF … Abolitionist Poets: William Lloyd Garrison, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Ellery Channing, Theodore Parker, Henry David Thoreau & Ralph Waldo Emerson — “America … a last effort of divine Providence in behalf of the human race” 

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Who is the King in America? And Who are the Counselors to the King? An Overview of 6,000 Years of History & Why America is Unique

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Christianity, Science & C.S. Lewis

April 28, 2021

Casual readers of C.S. Lewis are not always familiar with his supremely balanced view of science and faith.

In a world where skeptics allege science and religious faith are incompatible, Lewis upheld the orthodox Christian understanding that Christianity and true science are 100% compatible. The problem arises when people attempt to use science to explore matters science cannot address.

In “C.S. Lewis and How Christians Should Think about Science,” we read that “C.S. Lewis has written extensively on science or specifically on how believers should think about science. Lewis himself was not antiscience. But he had grave concerns about the use of science to either manipulate nature or validate worldviews based on reductionism or naturalism.”

I would like to emphasize this warning, by adding three simple letters. C.S. Lewis “had grave concerns about the misuse of science.” And so should we all.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis describes science’s proper role.

Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like, “I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2:20 a.m. on January 15th and saw so-and-so,” or, “I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such-and-such a temperature and it did so-and-so.” Do not think I am saying anything against science: I am only saying what its job is.

And the more scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would agree with me that this is the job of science—and a very useful and necessary job it is too. But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes—something of a different kind—this is not a scientific question. If there is “Something Behind,” then either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men or else make itself known in some different way.

The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. And real scientists do not usually make them. It is usually the journalists and popular novelists who have picked up a few odds and ends of half-baked science from textbooks who go in for them. After all, it is really a matter of common sense. Supposing science ever became complete so that it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not plain that the questions, “Why is there a universe?” “Why does it go on as it does?” “Has it any meaning?” would remain just as they were?

There are, of course, many, many thousands of scientists who are Christians.

I recently read an interesting article on the Society of Roman Catholic Scientists. I commend it to everyone, whatever your religious affiliation (or lack thereof). It is entitled “Christianity in Scientific Mythology,” and begins with the author saying,

It shocks many people to find out that I am both an astrophysicist and a religious believer.  It shocks some of my fellow astrophysicists and even some of my fellow Catholics. . . . But why should this be?  Why should it be a surprise that someone whose chosen profession is the scientific study of the universe is also a person of faith? Why the perception of conflict?  Is it intrinsic to the business of science that it be “at odds” with religion?

Despite the fact that Professor Clemens fails to mention C.S. Lewis in his essay, he makes many valid points. The first lays a solid foundation for his message, and dispels a patently obvious, but seldom acknowledged, fact.

One of the defects of contemporary culture is the undue and unhealthy reverence we show toward scientists.  The public imagines scientists to be too smart to disagree with, too objective to be swayed by emotion or bias, and experts on every subject they choose to talk about.  None of these things is true, of course, and the unquestioning acceptance of these notions does great harm.

C.S. Lewis’ Concept of Scientism

Like all sane people, C.S. Lewis appreciated the great value of science. What he warned against was a sort of deification [my word] of science. It is like the elevation of scientific mythology to the status of ultimate religious truth, able to answer even metaphysical questions with certitude.

If you would like to read more on this subject, consider the following articles:

Science and Scientism: The Prophetic Vision of C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis: Science and Scientism

C.S. Lewis and the Religion of Science

C.S. Lewis on Science, Evolution, and Evolutionism

Another worthwhile article, published in the journal of Science and Christian Belief, is available at “Science and Religion in the Writings of C.S. Lewis.”

As a person of faith, albeit not a scientist, I concur wholeheartedly with C.S. Lewis. In the following passage from The Weight of Glory, Lewis makes a profound point, although it may require more than a single reading to comprehend. You may wish to read the entire essay to see how he builds up to this observation, but I offer it here on its own merits.

The waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world: the dreaming world is judged less real because it cannot contain the waking one. For the same reason I am certain that in passing from the scientific point of view to the theological, I have passed from dream to waking. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religious. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself.


The illustration above was drawn by E.J. Pace and appeared a century ago in The Sunday School Times. You can download a personal copy of a book featuring a hundred of Pace’s cartoons here.

https://mereinkling.net/2021/04/28/christianity-science-c-s-lewis/

Behold Two Paintings That Show A Miraculous Christmas Meeting

Two historic women, one old and one young, were the first to welcome and praise the Savior of the world. And two glorious paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events.

Behold Two Paintings That Show A Miraculous Christmas Meeting

Dec 23, 2019

If quizzed “Who was the first person to welcome Jesus and announce his lordship?” how would you answer? It’s an important question when we consider that this man from the nowhere town of Nazareth is the most consequential individual ever.

His teaching and followers across the globe radically transformed world culture, toppled great powers without ever firing a shot, established the world of humanitarianism and accessible medical care for commoners, inspired the scientific method, and enlivened the world movements for justice, human dignity, and individual freedom. He literally divides history and is responsible for the founding of the largest, most diverse collection of people around some basic ideals.

This all started with two women no one had ever heard of, whose life-altering experiences are now illustrated in two exquisite works of art. Mary, a humble, young virgin, by tradition about 14 years old at the time, is told by an angel she will give birth to the very Son of God. At this striking news, she “arose and went with haste” to see her cherished relative, Elizabeth, some 90 miles away.

Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her own miraculous pregnancy, for she was well past child-bearing years. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.

The beauty of this part of the Christmas story is the miracle that happens the moment Mary enters Elizabeth’s home. Christ is recognized, received, proclaimed, and worshiped, and Mary and Elizabeth are not the only two involved in the divine drama here. We read in Luke 1:41-44:

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

This is a major event in Jesus’ story and thus the Christian church, but we seldom appreciate it as such. It is the first time Jesus is both proclaimed and worshiped as God! This was done, we are told, “in a loud voice.” And Christ the Lord is worshiped by two people at the same time — one very old, one super young.

The First to Proclaim Jesus’ Lordship

Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Jesus and his mother. The simple but world-changing confession, “Jesus is Lord,” was the first and most basic way Christians began to proclaim their faith and greet one another in the church’s early years. It was the first Christian creed, and Elizabeth was the first to proclaim it, long before Christmas morning. Think on that for a moment.

The second greeting is even more incredible and speaks to an intimate relationship in the Savior’s life. Baby John leaps for joy, literally, at the coming of the Savior. He does so as a child in the darkness of his mother’s womb. (Yes, Christianity has profoundly strong words for the humanity and dignity of the unborn child in John and Jesus’ remarkable in utero contribution to the good news.)

John did not start serving as the forerunner of Christ when preaching about his coming in the desert. It was here, in the womb. And it was two very common mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, who experienced this remarkable, history-changing event. It happened in distinctly womanly interiors of their hearts and wombs, and in the humbleness of Elizabeth’s home. Humble motherhood and the intimate bond only mothers can share is the human font of the Christian story.

To be sure, the Christian church, which is often incorrectly charged with being sexist by people who know little of its actual story, is founded upon two women being the first to welcome and praise the Savior. (Remember as well, it was a small group of women who announced the “second birth” of the Savior, if you will, at his resurrection.) What other major faith or philosophy has women playing such a significant role in its founding? I cannot think of one.

Two famous paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events, “The Annunciation” and “The Visitation.” The first African-American painter to achieve significant critical acclaim, Henry Ossawa Tanner, created both. He is a remarkable man and one of my favorite artists.

Christmas paintings by Henry O. Tanner

‘The Annunciation’

One of the things I like best in Tanner’s two works here is that he shows us the simple humanness of Mary and Elizabeth. They are not supernatural, other-worldly, saintly subjects in the typical sense. Tanner’s images show us the regular, everyday women they were.

Christmas Painting The Annunciation

He will not allow us to miss the youth, innocence, and commonness of our Mary. Tanner doesn’t give her a facial expression communicating anything obvious. Is she scared? Stunned? Joyful? Solemn? His Mary is more complex than many artists’ as is undoubtably true of the actual event. Tanner has her communicating all these feelings and struggles at once.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this most startling news, he found a teenage girl living a typical teenage girl’s life. The greatest royal announcement in the history of the universe takes place in this teen girl’s humble bedroom, illuminated by the majesty of God’s oracle. That is precisely what Tanner gives us, and it’s just stunning. Also, his technique in presenting the folds and flow of her gown and bed coverings is nothing short of magnificent.

‘The Visitation’

As wonderful as Tanner’s “Annunciation” is, his “Visitation” is even more striking.

Just look at it and consider what’s happening here.

When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Christmas painting The Visitation

Tanner allows us personally to witness this event. Elizabeth most likely did not have any notice that Mary was coming or the grand news that prompted the visit. She sits at the table on an ordinary day, when she hears Mary possibly utter what any of us likely would as she comes to the door, “Liz, you home?”

Elizabeth’s divine surprise and wonder is dramatically communicated simply in her uplifted hands. It’s a glorious device. Are they hands of praise or surprise? Certainly both at the same time.

This simple scene of a surprise family visitation and domesticity is the first scene of Jesus being worshiped. Reflect on this a moment. The event we are witnessing right here in this kitchen is the initiation of what the rest of history and eternity will be about, the worship of the second person of the divine Trinity: Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son.

The interchange between these two women in this domestic setting is unspeakably profound. We typically move over it far too easily, wanting to get onto what we see as the center of the Christmas story, the manger.

This exchange is also vitally important because it is the first revelation of Christ beyond Mary’s heart and womb. It is the precise second and scene that commenced the worship of the Son of the God that will continue without end into eternity, the story that encapsulates a Christian’s whole reality.

P.S. Tanner Lived in Philadelphia

I knew Tanner lived in Philadelphia for some time, so on a business trip there some years ago, I wanted to see if his house was discoverable. It was, and I found it, right around the corner from John Coltrane’s home. How cool is that?

Henry O. Tanner house

Glenn T. Stanton is a Federalist senior contributor who writes and speaks about family, gender, and art, is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and is the author of the brand new “The Myth of the Dying Church” (Worthy, 2019). He blogs at glenntstanton.com.

https://thefederalist.com/2019/12/23/behold-two-paintings-that-show-a-miraculous-christmas-meeting/

Faithfulness

by Discerning Dad

“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8

I hate peer pressure… I mean I really do. Does anyone like it? We’ve all faced it but it seemed incredibly strong for me in grade school.

Peer pressure is like waves in an ocean trying to move you off course. A boat has to make constant adjustments in order to stay on course. Waves and wind will constantly try to disrupt the navigation flow of the vessel.

So it is with peer pressure, we have our convictions, but we become convinced by a stronger voice in our life to settle or to do something that we would not have chosen on our own. I’m only talking about negative peer pressure here; there can be positive peer pressure too.

Comparison kills contentment and it weakens our conviction. I have been a Christian all my life and in grade school and high school, there was a constant barrage of voices trying to get me to question my faith, to try a drug, watch a mature movie, be in a relationship that wasn’t good for me, and the list goes on.

Even something as relatively innocent as clothing can cause others to size you up based on the latest trends or name brands. I remember around 5th grade, I was completely happy with my socks and shoes. I had no clue about fashion or name brands that is until this one kid in particular made it known to me how much I was lacking in this department.

Every day this kid would berate me and call out, “generic socks and generic shoes.” I don’t even remember what I would wear but it wasn’t good enough for the social criticism in the late 1980’s. This kid was nonstop with the generic comments every single day. I finally pressured my Mom into buying me Nikes, but not just Nike shoes, but Nike socks which visibly had the black swoop on the top of the sock in order to be seen by all. No one would again say that I had “generic sock and shoes.” I had won.

I was perfectly contented with my situation before this peer pressure occurred. I was oblivious to the need to put on a show for others in order to not be ridiculed. Sometimes it’s just easier to give in to quiet the noise around us, to lower our convictions for a moment’s peace. How often have we compromised our walk with Christ for the easy, the popular, the pleasurable, or whatever THING that is demanding of our time and attention?

Peer pressure isn’t as in my face as it was in grade school, but then again my phone is literally in my face every day. I see on social media a non-stop list of what I “need.” what others have, what I don’t have, how others are so happy, how well behaved their kids are, how many vacations my friends are taking, what God is doing in other ministries, and the list goes on. Social media is more subtle form of peer pressure but it may be just as strong, if not stronger, of an influence in our life than a physical person.

Discernment will allow us to ask, “what is God asking of me?” I can’t worry about what anyone else is doing or what God is calling them to do. God measure success based on faithfulness not based on achievements. I am longing for the day that Jesus says, “well done good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:23).

People often will want the results without the work it takes to get there. You see that successful Pastor with a vibrant ministry? You don’t see the two failed churches, the multitude of sleepless nights in prayer, or the constant stress he faces by those that have a critical spirit about them. Actually the stress, the failure, the pain, and prayer have gotten him to this point, he had to learn to fail in order to succeed. He had to learn the lesson of when he did not rely on God so that he would never go down that path again. He had to learn the importance of prayer when he couldn’t do it on his own so that he would be able lift up those around him in a powerful covering so that Satan never gains a foothold in his ministry.

But you see him and you want to be him without any of those steps or God’s calling on your life to do that…

It’s like someone that idolizes a celebrity and wants to be them while never seeing the depression they face, the loss of true friendships, never feeling like they are valued apart from their talent, or the desire they have just to “be normal” again.

What is God calling you to do? Where is God calling you to go? If you can’t answer that, you need to pray. God is always looking for a willing vessel who can say, like Isaiah, “here I am God, send me!”

Read 1 Kings 13, seriously stop and read the chapter before you continue…but if you didn’t I’ll do my best to summarize.

Jeroboam was a wicked king (there seemed to be no shortage of them when you read the Old Testament). God called a prophet out of Judah to go to Bethel (Jewish historian Josephus called him Yadon and I will too for the purpose of this story).

God called Yadon for a purpose, to travel to another city and to boldly rebuke the King, facing a probable death for doing so. When he got there not only did he miraculously prophecy about King Josiah (which wouldn’t happen for about three centuries later) but he also destroyed the pagan altar through an earthquake (13:5)! When the King pointed at him to have his guards seize him, instantly his hand became paralyzed and he couldn’t pull it back (v4).

Now the evil King Jeroboam asked the man of God (Yadon) to pray for his hand to be restored and it was. The King then tempted the prophet to come and eat, drink, and stay in his palace, but Yadon was strong in his conviction since the Lord told him, “you must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came” (v.9).

This was a powerful confrontation that Yadon had; almost as powerful as Elijah calling down fire on the prophets of Baal. I don’t know the mindset of Yadon but I would have breathed a sigh of relief, not only was I not killed by the wicked King, but God showed up in miraculous signs and the King actually wanted to treat me to a royal dinner. I can imagine he was pretty famished; the long journey with no food and water now was the time to relax… or was it? Yadon resisted the pressure and remained true to what God was asking him to do.

But that was not the end of this story. The rest of this story is about an “old prophet” who is unnamed who sends his sons to find Yadon. Once he was found, the old prophet rode out to meet Yadon. He asked “are you the man of God who came from Judah” (v.14)? No doubt word of his confrontation with the King spread like wildfire through the town. He invites him back to his house to get some food and drink, but again Yadon replies about how God told him not to eat or drink anything until he returns to his hometown. The same answer he gave the King.

Now this part is fascinating…

“But the old prophet answered, ‘I am a prophet, too, just as you are. And an angel gave me this command from the Lord: ‘Bring him home with you so he can have something to eat and drink. (v18)’” The next verse even says the old man was lying, but the peer pressure, the fatigue, and/or the camaraderie of another prophet got to Yadon and he went back with the old man to eat and drink.

Now think about this for a minute, God called Yadon out of his hometown to go to Bethel to deliver a mighty message to the king. Why didn’t he call this old man? He was a prophet, conveniently located in the same town as the king… We know this old man had no problem lying and God knew his heart as well.

So back to the story, the old man and Yadon were eating a meal back at the house and the Spirit of God speaks through the old man, aka the liar! “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have defiled the word of the Lord and have disobeyed the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back to this place and ate and drank where he told you not to eat or drink. Because of this, your body will not be buried in the grave of your ancestors” (v21-22).

I feel bad for Yadon, after this meal he saddled his donkey and rode off to an awaiting lion that killed him (v.24). A mighty victory for God turned into a crushing defeat because he did not obey the word of God; he listened to a false prophet who got him to sway off course. He fell into peer pressure from a fellow prophet. A prophet who said he heard from God nonetheless!

I find it interesting that God still spoke through the old prophet at the dinner table, you see, God can use anyone and anything for His glory, but that doesn’t mean the prophet was trustworthy or following the will of God.

God can speak through anyone, but that doesn’t mean you need to go to their church, to read their books, or follow them if they are not fully obedient to the Word of God. There’s a lot of truth out there being mixed with deception. God can reach people even among prosperity preachers and twisted denominations.

We need to have discernment to align all things against the Word of God and hold fast to what is true.

But on a personal level, if God is calling you to do something, don’t be swayed by what another preacher, teacher, pastor, or priest tells you. God wants you to hear his voice so clearly you don’t need a second opinion.

I’m not saying that we can’t ask for wisdom from others, but I’m saying if God tells you something; don’t listen to someone who hasn’t heard from God for your life, who has a conflicting message.

There are other examples in the Bible of this same thing. Micaiah faced off against 400 other prophets in 1 Kings 22. I love this story and I write about it in detail in my book on the chapter about counterfeits. All the prophets were ‘yes men’ and prophesied success for the King while Michaiah prophesied defeat. One of the prophets came and slapped him saying, “Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you” (v.24)? What Michaiah prophesied came true despite 400 voices claiming to hear from God.

Another example is Hezekiah and the siege on Jerusalem from King Sennacherib of Assyria (Isaiah 36). An envoy of Assyria came to taunt Israel and said a number of insults outside the city including, “Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it” (v.10). Obviously a blatant lie.

Satan can be disguised as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). We have to be very careful when even someone in ministry tells us a word from God that does not align with truth. I do believe God gives people words of knowledge today, but I also believe that Satan can plan deception in people’s minds that allow them to say something that is just a little off and get you to question what God said. Just like with Eve in the Garden, “did God really say?”

God would rather you be faithful to what He is calling you to do, than to chase after dreams and aspirations that don’t align with that calling. After all, are you building your kingdom or God’s?

Maybe being faithful to the job you dislike means that you can bring life into that environment and others can see Jesus through you.

Maybe being faithful to your family despite the frustrations means that your kids will be the first generation to know of the goodness and love of Christ without having to survive an abusive parent.

Maybe being faithful to your spouse despite your feelings means that you need to subject your feelings to the will of God and not your own; your faithfulness will be a witness to other couples with the same struggle.

Maybe enduring the pain and heartache that comes with fostering children means that the children you are pouring your heart and soul into will be able to know about Jesus simply because you are being faithful to that call despite all the garbage that sometimes comes with the foster care system.

This all comes back to discernment. Seek God for yourself; stand fast on the path He is calling you to take. Don’t be swayed by the lies of the enemy, even if it comes to you under the guise of a “friend” or someone that supposedly hears from God.

Be bold, be courageous, God can use you to accomplish His will on this earth if we are faithful and obedience for the glory of God and God alone. Amen!

Tim Ferrara
Discerning Dad

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Choosing To Forgive

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:13-14 NIV

Most Christians will agree that forgiveness is the right thing to do, after all there are over 100 verses in the Bible that talk about forgives or forgiving others. And yet, forgiving other people can be extremely hard to do. It seems to come easily for children, I know that my children will quickly forgive each other and move on about their day. They never bring up infractions from a week, month, or year ago! Why does this get harder to do as people move into adulthood? As you become adults, the wrongs levied against you become more severe, we build up walls over time, and we can analyze a scenario to judge if someone is deserving of our forgiveness.

A recent Barna study (1) among practicing Christians said that:

76% offered unconditional forgiveness to someone else

55% received unconditional forgiveness

27% identify someone they don’t want to forgive

23% identify someone who they can’t forgive

22% struggle to receive forgiveness for something

We can learn a lot about forgiveness in the Bible. Let’s take a look at the story of Jacob and Esau.

Jacob had God’s favor but he was not a good brother to Esau in the least. He took advantage of Esau when he was weak and traded him some stew for a birthright (although Esau was not very smart to have agreed). Jacob also betrayed his brother by stealing the blessing from his father by dressing up like his brother, with his mother’s help nonetheless! This was a double betrayal for Esau from his brother and mother.

Jacob brought about division against him and his brother and he had to flee for fear of repercussion. The interesting thing is that the brothers meet up again, many years later in Genesis 37. Jacob is justifiably scared of this encounter. He does not know if Esau will attack him and steal everything. Jacob separates out his wives and children into groups so that if one group is attacked, the other can flee safely. Jacob also prepares a generous gift for Esau when he arrives.

Surprisingly to Jacob, Esau embraces his brother and even rejects the gifts that Jacob brings saying, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.” (Gen. 37:9) The brothers are reunited despite the past. God blesses both of them as they grow in livestock and wealth that they eventually have to split up because the land cannot support both groups.

Esau made a decision to forgive his brother. Jacob did not ask for forgiveness before it was offered. Esau had every “right” to stay bitter and even steal from Jacob his possessions. Esau chose the high ground.

Esau was betrayed by his own flesh and blood, how often does family betray their own? This hurt can be harder than others to recover from. If a stranger hurts me, it may make me sad but I can move on. When family hurts you, it sometimes makes the relationship irreparable and can cause devastating psychological damage.

The same can be said for our church family. Too often I hear and have experienced fellow Christians who hurt and betray their own, either through difference of beliefs or petty arguments. This can result in unforgiveness and someone choosing to not go to church or not let another Christian brother or sister close to them again in case of a future hurt. If an effort to control your surroundings, you end up taking extreme measures that hurt you in different ways such as the lack of fellowship and community. We are meant for relationship with fellow believers and to meet together regularly (Heb. 10:25).

Forgiveness does not forget the past. It does allow you to keep the past from controlling your future.

Forgiveness does not excuse or condone previous actions and it does not mean you have to sign up to get hurt again.

Forgiveness should be given even when it is not asked for. The person you forgive does not even need to be present in cases of death or abuse. You can still forgive them before your Heavenly Father.

Forgiveness is more an act of release for YOU than the other person. We hold on to unforgiveness because it gives us power, but it also destroys us in the process and steals our joy. They say power corrupts, I would say that unforgiveness corrupts our spirit.

There’s an old saying that says, “Harboring unforgiveness or bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

But we only forgive those who deserve it right? After all there are some actions that are reprehensible, that cannot be forgiven even if I wanted to? I don’t want to judge but I also can’t forgive because of what this person did to me…

If anyone “deserved” to hold on to unforgiveness it would have been Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. She tells of an amazing story of one of her captors after the war, coming to a camp where she was preaching about Jesus. She chose forgiveness there on the spot when he told her who he was and what he had done.

Corrie ten Boom then told of not being able to forget this incident. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest.

“His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor,” Corrie wrote, “to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks.” “Up in the church tower,” he said, nodding out the window, “is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness.

When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.” “And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force — which was my willingness in the matter — had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts.”(2)

What unforgiveness in your life do you need to let go of today, like letting go of a helium balloon? Let unforgiveness float away from your life and allow the Holy Spirit to heal broken wounds like only He can.

Discerning Reflection: What areas of my life do I have unforgiveness? Do I forgive as quickly as Jesus commands? Who do I need to pray about forgiving today that God is placing upon my heart?

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your immense gift of forgiveness that you gave us through your Son’s sacrifice on the cross. Help me to not hold on to unforgiveness which can lead to bitterness. Reveal to me today who you would like me to forgive, even if they are not asking for forgiveness.

Tim Ferrara
Discerning Dad
1- https://www.barna.com/research/forgiveness-christians/
2- http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/f/forgiveness.htm

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Stop Smearing Christians As ‘Christian Nationalists’ Just Because They Value Both Faith And Freedom

Stop Smearing Christians As ‘Christian Nationalists’ Just Because They Value Both Faith And Freedom

Don’t confuse true believers who rightly fight for both faith and freedom as Christian nationalists. They’re just Christians.

By Kylee Zempel FEBRUARY 23, 2021

Throughout the Trump presidency but with increased frequency in the days and weeks following the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, the term “Christian nationalism” has littered newsfeeds, and “Christian nationalist” has become a ubiquitous insult hurled broadly at those on the religious right.

We can’t say Christian nationalism doesn’t exist; it does. But what does it mean? Who are the Christian nationalists? Much like the irony of the racism label, when religious folks fight the Christian nationalist tag, their foes seem to take that resistance as further proof that they are indeed Christian nationalists.

Part of the problem with the label is that it is ill-defined, meaning it’s hard to know what exactly Christian nationalism is, how to identify it, and thus hard to counteract or refute it. This makes it a convenient and effective rhetorical grenade to launch at faithful Christians.

Rachel S. Mikva, writing in USA Today, seems to think Christian nationalists are “Christians who plan to take the country for Jesus,” while Amanda Tyler, writing in Religion News Service, describes the phenomenon as “Christianity wrapped in an American flag.” It’s “a fusion of God and country,” explained Jack Jenkins in the same pages.

The Rev. William E. Swing, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, defines Christian nationalism as “those who believe that God is partial to Christians, that Christians are God’s chosen people in this country. They are convinced that America has always been a Christian nation and always will be.”

While Christian nationalism predates the Trump era — critics hurled the same accusations against George W. Bush for his policies — some authors have fused this idea with the 45th president, saying “the most extreme corners of support for Mr. Trump have become inextricable from some parts of white evangelical power in America,” as Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham wrote in the New York Times.

In The New Republic, Matthew Avery Sutton takes it a step further, claiming that “fear, anger, and anxiety remained as central to the lives of evangelicals as any practices of forgiveness, love, understanding, or compassion,” and that Trump “stoked evangelicals’ terror of state power and brought their deep-seated racism and sexism to the surface.”

Christian Nationalism Defined

David French zooms away from Trump to help articulate a clear explanation, which he takes from Thomas Kidd quoting Matthew McCullough: Christian nationalism is “an understanding of American identity and significance held by Christians wherein the nation is a central actor in the world-historical purposes of the Christian God.” It offers an “exaggerated transcendent meaning to American history” and can “undergird American militarism.”

The first part of French’s analysis is spot-on. He notes that this problematic worldview is ahistoric and anti-biblical, and thus can lead to dangerous applications. So-called Christians who believe their identity as Americans is equal to their religious identity and that their earthly citizenship is central to God’s divine plan and promises do so at the expense of scripture. Patriotism is not the central message of the gospel.

French is also right that “the pervasiveness of Christian nationalism as an academic or theological concept is greatly exaggerated.” Even most patriotic pastors believe Christians must devote themselves to God above nation.

Also, contrary to how corporate media actors have crafted the riot narrative, the number of “religious” people who forced their way into the Capitol on Jan. 6, allegedly taking it over “in Jesus’s name,” was numerically insignificant compared to the number of Christians who rallied peacefully in the capital city that day, concerned for their country and the integrity of our institutions.

Most of French’s subsequent analysis, however —  which also wades into anti-American 1619 absurdity and white guilt — is instructive about the myriad ways opponents of Christian Trump supporters (and of Christianity generally) use this label to smear Christ-followers trying to faithfully live out their beliefs. French’s NeverTrumpism taints his analysis of patriotic white Protestants and shines through in his knee-jerk disdain for anything resembling an America-first outlook.

It’s the same sentiments you can find in The New York Times and The New Republic, but unlike most corporate writers spouting off about religion, French, as a Christian himself, has all the right language to effectively smear the faithful believers whose voting records and civic engagement he finds distasteful. In his world, Christians who love their country differently than French loves it run the risk of being tossed into the “Christian nationalist” basket.

When Love Becomes Militant

French rightly notes that an incorrect view of God and his purposes for America can lead to militarism, which he seems to believe is what’s wrong with white, Christian freedom-lovers and Trump voters now. But he fails to note that even a correct love of God and country can lead to aggression.

Of a virtuous love for country — which includes love of home, familiarity, and family — French quotes C.S. Lewis, saying: “Of course patriotism of this kind is not in the least aggressive. It asks only to be let alone. It becomes militant only to protect what it loves.”

His argument is self-defeating, however, because it ignores our present reality. What does righteous patriotism become, then, when people are not “let alone” and when their institutions begin to directly attack what they love? Lewis said it right there: It becomes militant.

The pandemic offers a fresh example. Citizens aren’t being “let alone” when they are subjected to sweeping and partisan orders that dictate how they must cover their faces and whom they are permitted to allow inside their own homes. When government authorities qualify worship as nonessential and dangerous, fracturing church bodies into rotating services or relegating them to internet “fellowship,” that surely qualifies as an attack on “what they love.” Therefore even in keeping with so-called pure patriotism, aggression becomes warranted.

This seems to be a popular sentiment among left-wing media and politicos, that Christians ought to be polite, silent, and unconcerned with the affairs of government. Any peep out of them, even when their rights are violated, amounts to extremism and a desire for theocracy.

Oh, you Christians don’t want gender propaganda forced on your kids in schools? You’re a bigot who wants religion written into law. You want Supreme Court justices who value life even in the womb? You’re a hateful theocrat. You think Big Tech and bureaucrats rigged an election that will result in your rights being infringed, so you fly to D.C. with your family and your flags? You’re a Christian nationalist.

The Gospel According To…

The fact is all people have some sort of religious belief to which they passionately cling. As the late novelist David Foster Wallace noted, “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”

For some people, it’s Black Lives Matter or so-called reproductive rights, and for others it’s climate activism. For some, it’s nationalism parading around as orthodoxy, and for others it’s biblical Christianity.

Each has a certain moral code, a requirement for repentance, some method of worship, and leaders that they follow. BLM disciples hosting struggle sessions and following the teachings of Ibram X. Kendi while they praise the doctrine of “equity” have the same religious fervor as true Christians. Elevating Kamala Harris, the social justice warrior and “equity” preacher, to the vice presidency is evidence that followers of that secular religion want their beliefs written into law as much as Christians want to be free to follow their own.

The laws and policies in our country aren’t neutral; they reflect someone’s “religious” beliefs. When lawless actors set fire to a courthouse or vandalize a national monument in the name of Black Lives Matter or Antifa, it doesn’t differ much from a rioter wielding a cross and a Bible as he storms the Capitol. Both could be considered religious extremists; they just worship different gods — neither one the true God. Violence and tribalism are the natural result of false religions that prize the temporal over the eternal.

It’s here we must realize that when patriotism becomes violent nationalism — when it elevates country to the same status as God and believes America, rather than Christ himself, to be central to God’s plan — there’s nothing “Christian” about it.

True Christians condemn idol worship. They hold fast to what is good. They expect to be persecuted strangers and exiles. They believe vengeance and judgment belong to God alone, not to vigilantes bearing cross necklaces and flags. Rogues who invoked Jesus’s name while smashing windows and barging into the Capitol did so in vain. That isn’t what following Jesus looks like.

Bullied into Apathy

None of this is to say Christians ought to embrace apathy or be pacifists. The anti-religious newsrooms pushing cover stories about so-called Christian nationalism would love nothing more than to shame and bully faithful disciples into sitting down and shutting up.

The Capitol riot was a convenient hook for their narrative, but they don’t just believe the people who showed up in Washington that day were religious extremists. They think all Christians are. It isn’t that they don’t want you in Statuary Hall. It’s that they don’t want you on the school board, in journalism, or on campus. They want to chase you out of churches, out of public office, and even out of political conversations.

Believers, however, know faith without works is dead and that our faith isn’t confined to Sunday morning services. What we believe about God and man and redemption ought to affect every decision we make, including our civic engagement.

If we love God, love our neighbor, and wish to steward our resources and lead our families well, sitting on the sidelines of the political and culture wars is really not an option. Contrary to French’s assessment, it isn’t about making ourselves more culturally comfortable; it’s about being consistent in our beliefs and doing what’s right.

As long we remain on this Earth, Christians will be assailed as bigots and nationalists. This evergreen dynamic of Christians being not “of the world,” but striving to be faithful while they’re “in it,” is way bigger than Jan. 6, Donald Trump, David French, or America. Don’t confuse true believers who rightly fight for both faith and freedom as Christian nationalists. They’re just Christians.

Kylee Zempel is an assistant editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter @kyleezempel.Photo Pikist

https://thefederalist.com/2021/02/23/stop-smearing-christians-as-christian-nationalists-just-because-they-value-both-faith-and-freedom/


AUDIO Vaccinated Christians

By Rev Bill Woods

Medical Science has rushed to develop a Covid-19 vaccine to safeguard people against getting this dread disease that has created a world-wide pandemic.

  • Currently there are 2 varieties of vaccines in the U.S. that are authorized and recommended, but a 3rd one is being developed.

These Covid-19 vaccinations are supposed to provide immunity from the disease.

Because not enough vaccine is available for everybody yet, the Center for Disease Control is vaccinating front-line workers like Doctors, Nurses, para-medics, and, also, people 75 and older.

  • Vaccinations will be available to the rest of society as quickly as they can be developed.
  • The plan is to have all 7.5 billion people in the world inoculated with this serum.

Bill Gates and others of his caliber want to make it so everyone receives a certificate after being vaccinated.  Anyone without a certificate will not be able to buy or sell, to travel, and a bunch of other restrictions.

  • People are coming by the hoards to get this inoculation. 
  • Sounds pretty close to what is described in Revelation 13 and 14.  I don’t think this is the Mark of the Beast, but I think it’s the forerunner to the mark.
  • It’ll get people used to the idea of complying with Governmental regulations and make them less suspicious to cooperate. 
  • However, when the genuine Mark of the Beast arrives, people will know they’re making a commitment to comply to the government and the Anti-Christ.
  • IT WILL NOT BE SOMETHING THAT CAN BE TAKEN BY ACCIDENT OR TRICKERY!  

With all this push for a vaccination to combat the Covid-19 virus it brought back memories of my childhood when I was forced to get various kinds of vaccinations.

I remember as a little boy being taken to the Walla Walla Clinic to get my vaccinations.

   – I’d kick and scream all the way.

They told me this vaccination was good for me and it would help me stay well, I still didn’t appreciate the opportunity to be vaccinated.

  –  I hate getting shots!

    – As a boy, I’d often lay in my bed at night and cringe because many of my relatives had

      Diabetes and had to give themselves a shot every day.

      – How could they do that!

  •  I was afraid it might happen to me too!

My biggest fear became reality – I now have to administer my own shots twice a day—since 1984!

    – Yikes!  37 years!  I’ve shot myself over 27,010 times!

    – Not to mention the gallons of blood I’ve shed piercing my fingers to test my blood sugar.

There’s a difference between an insulin shot and a vaccination.

  .- My insulin injection is a smaller sharp needle that’s clean and sterile and is administered by someone who loves and cares for me very much –  THAT WOULD BE ME!

     – Marty threatens from time to time to file the points if I act up….. German Bloodline!…….

I seem to remember from my childhood how a vaccination required a big square long, dull needle and was administered by a big hairy, ugly nurse smelling of body odor and trained in a Nazi Prison Camp with no thought of tenderness and compassion.

Nurses would say, “Billy, be a big boy — this won’t hurt and it’ll soon be over and I’ll give you a lollipop! It’s going to pinch.”Liar! LIAR!  It didn’t pinch it stabbed and it hurt!

   – Look Lady! Keep your lollipop–stay away from my arm!  And other target areas on my body.

I suspicioned this Amazonian nurse was in cahoots with the dentist and the lollipop was designed to give me the opportunity to kick and scream all the way to the dentist’s office.

    – Poor Mom was so gullible that she bought into these wicked schemes.

      – You’d think she’d eventually come around because she was the poor soul that had to drag her sweet little boy to those horrible places.

        – Then, much to my horror, I learned she was paying these sadistic people to hurt me!  MY OWN MOTHER!!!!

I couldn’t believe after suffering the horrors of vaccinations, I’d have to put my two beautiful daughters through the exact same thing.

Seriously, in medicine a vaccination is good because it places a small dose of the disease in your body so you can build immunity against the real thing.

    – Hopefully you won’t have to contend with a full-fledged disease.

Most churches have people who seem to be vaccinated Christians.

   – They’ve gotten a small dose of religion that’s keeping them from getting the real thing.

     – In medicine that’s good – in Christianity that’s not good at all!

Jesus said – Matthew 7:21-23:
21  “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
22  On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’
23  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

Just being vaccinated isn’t enough — we need to be fully exposed to genuine Christianity.

1.  CHILDREN GROWING UP IN THE CHURCH OFTEN BECOME VACCINATED. 

    – They’ve been around the church and have the attitude they have special privileges.

      – They think they can get away with sin and are allowed certain leniencies others don’t have because their parents hold certain positions in the Church — the rules don’t apply to them.

Eli’s sons Hophni and Phineas fell victim to these ideas.

   – Their dad was the High Priest of Israel.

    – His boys naturally became priests, but felt the rules were for someone else.

1 Samuel 2:12-17
12  Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the LORD
13  or for their duties as priests. Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, Eli’s sons would send over a servant with a three-pronged fork. While the meat of the sacrificed animal was still boiling,
14  the servant would stick the fork into the pot and demand that whatever it brought up be given to Eli’s sons. All the Israelites who came to worship at Shiloh were treated this way.
15  Sometimes the servant would come even before the animal’s fat had been burned on the altar. He would demand raw meat before it had been boiled so that it could be used for roasting.
16  The man offering the sacrifice might reply, “Take as much as you want, but the fat must be burned first.” Then the servant would demand, “No, give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.”
17  So the sin of these young men was very serious in the LORD’s sight, for they treated the LORD’s offerings with contempt.

To make matters worse, Eli knew what was happening and didn’t correct his boys.

    – He probably thought he loved them too much to discipline them — if he truly loved them he would’ve tried to correct them.

1 Samuel 2:22-25
22  Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle.
23  Eli said to them, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning?
24  You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the LORD’s people are not good.
25  If someone sins against another person, God can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede?” But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the LORD was already planning to put them to death.

Kristin — “My Dad’s the Sunday school Superintendent!”

Often kids don’t even hear the message because they’re “special” and the rules apply to everyone else but not to them.

   – They’ve been entertained for so long they don’t know they’re expected to listen.

   – Parents and grandparents don’t seem to be aware of the danger their children are in!

     – Parents don’t try to make the children listen because “It’s so hard to understand!”

Listen!  God’s very serious that we serve Him and we train our families to serve Him!

1 Samuel 2:27-31
27  One day a man of God came to Eli and gave him this message from the LORD: “I revealed myself to your ancestors when the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt.
28  I chose your ancestor Aaron from among all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer sacrifices on my altar, to burn incense, and to wear the priestly vest as he served me. And I assigned the sacrificial offerings to you priests.
29  So why do you scorn my sacrifices and offerings? Why do you give your sons more honor than you give me—for you and they have become fat from the best offerings of my people Israel!
30  “Therefore, the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I promised that your branch of the tribe of Levi would always be my priests. But I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me.
31  The time is coming when I will put an end to your family, so it will no longer serve as my priests. All the members of your family will die before their time. None will reach old age.

The interesting thing is that even with this warning, Eli did nothing to fix the problem.

    – We are warned — what will we do?

1 Samuel 3:11-14
11  Then the LORD said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel.
12  I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end.
13  I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them.

I read about a man who worked in an acid factory.

    – He said the only reason anyone gets hurt is because they don’t want to follow the rules.

    – The new workers respect the rules, but the “seasoned” workers think they can take short cuts and ignore their safety training and still get by.

      – That’s when they get hurt!

WE’VE NONE TO LOSE!

   – Many of those children grow up taking the same attitude with them into adulthood.

     “I’m a 3rd generation Nazarene……….”

      – Being around the church isn’t the same as knowing Jesus Christ…..

        – Standing in a garage doesn’t make me a car….. Or sitting at McDonald’s doesn’t make me a

           Hamburger or French fry.

If your kids don’t know Jesus – you’re doing them no favors by sheltering and covering for them!

   – We excuse them as being “a little independent, etc.”

      – Actually they’re pagans on their way to Hell!

      – We think their antics are cute now, but in 10 or 15 years they’ll be our major headaches.

If you’re faithful to the Church, but don’t belong to Jesus, you’re not going to Heaven either!

    – Years ago a fellow got mad at me and began to tell everyone you can’t get to Heaven from his Church.

    – RIGHT!  NO CHURCH WILL GET YOU TO HEAVEN!  ONLY CHRIST DOES!

2.  PEOPLE WHO GET TOO COMFORTABLE WITH THE WORLD BECOME VACCINATED.

    – The problem is their Christian Walk has lost its vitality and has become routine, boring and dead.

    – 2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate  yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.

We lose our sensitivity to Christ and the things God has for us and become calloused.

   – Coarse humor, filth on TV or the internet, gossip, take God’s Name in vain, and etc.

      – “Its okay, were all Christians and we understand.”

        – Does God understand how special you are and how you’re exempt from His rules?

We lose the tenderness we once had towards God and others…..

    – We get offended easily and become critical and combative.

    – We lose the resilience we once had.

Satan loves to stir up dissension in God’s Church in an effort to stop any spiritual progress that’s being made.

Psalm 119:165 (KJV) — “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

We don’t pray or read our Bible and if we do, we approach God in a flippant, irreverent manner.

Yes! The Middle Partition is down and yes, we’re invited to approach God’s Throne, but He’s still Holy, Awesome, and Majestic!

    – HE STILL DEMANDS HOLINESS!  

1 Peter 1:13-16
13  So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.
14  So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.
15  But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.
16  For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”  

Hebrews 12:14 — Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.”

We must learn reverence and respect.

God and our worship of God are serious matters.

   – When we won’t heed God’s Spirit we harden our hearts….

     – God has some very definite ideas about worship.

Look at what happened to Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu

Leviticus 10:1-3
1  Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they disobeyed the LORD by burning before him the wrong kind of fire, different than he had commanded.
2  So fire blazed forth from the LORD’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the LORD.
3  Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD meant when he said, ‘I will display my holiness through those who come near me. I will display my glory before all the people.’” And Aaron was silent.

   – Aaron’s sons thought they were special and didn’t have to follow the rules…..

Someone will say, “Well that’s Old Testament –– God   isn’t like that in the New Testament.”

Oh No!  Try reading Acts 5:1–11
1  But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.
2  He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.
3  Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.
4  The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”
5  As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.
6  Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.
7  About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8  Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?” “Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”
9  And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.”
10  Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11  Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.

I get uncomfortable when people get flippant about God, “God’s Kids,” “the Big Guy,” etc.

I’m telling you this because I love you and don’t want to see you error!

We need a revival of genuine worship to a Holy God.

Satan would dearly love to make us too casual, too familiar, too disrespectful.

   – He wants to steal this last generation – our kids and adults (you and your family) – from God.

WE HAVE NONE TO LOSE!

Vaccinated Christians are just kept from having a full walk with Christ.

    – They’re not immune from going to Hell.

Don’t settle for a religious vaccination – – GET THE REAL THING!!!


PODCAST VACCINATED CHRISTIANS

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