The Time is NOW

eyeseeyou  I’m about to write something that is probably apparent, even though, at this stage, I haven’t read anything that comes right out and says so. So here goes my attempt to fill the vacuum: the time has come to do something about ISIS at the source. While their evil plots against Americans at home have been foiled so far, some will eventually be successful. If we continue to turn a blind eye to ISIS expansion in the Middle East, their successful recruiting efforts, their beheadings, burnings and torture will only increase there and ultimately here. These monsters are even prepared to employ chemical warfare. Julie Bishop, Australia’s foreign minister, in a recent speech said Australia has no doubt The Islamic State group has shown it is prepared to use chemical weapons and is likely to have among its recruits the technical expertise to develop them. Bishop also agrees that the rise of global terror groups such as the Islamic state is one of the gravest security threats faced by the world. Karl Vic, writing in TIME magazine said, “…terrorism experts warn that it (ISIS) will inevitably train its fire on Western targets.”
We are in much the same situation as Britain as Nazi power increased prior to WWII. Britain was still reeling from the huge loss of life in WWI and the people were extremely war weary. They didn’t want to hear anything about another conflict and, consequently, ignored the problem. Soon enough, they could no longer put their head in the sand and had to respond. The result was the nightmare of another war against evil. In the same way, our leaders have refused to face the truth about the growing nightmare of ISIS.
Who wants to go back to war in an area where so many of our youth have given their lives? Who wants to return to a place where the blood of brave Americans stains the desert soil? Who wants to retake the same battlefields won at such a high cost and so recently.
For a long time I’ve taken the position that since the Middle East will likely always be in constant upheaval, so let’s back off and let them fight their own battles. No more blood and treasure for a region that has always been awash in sectarian and political violence. I wish I could say that today but the repercussions would endanger us. Furthermore, the longer we delay the harder and more costly to do what’s needed. The time is NOW!

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Is There Any Hope?

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Some have called the American voter “stupid.” I believe a better term would be “ignorant.” Ignorance of available essential matters, in my experience, is a result of apathy. The run-of-the-mill person on the street turns out to be incredibly and willfully ill-informed. Many don’t know the most basic facts about our elected officials – who they are, what their views and philosophies may be and what they have or have not done.
These are the individuals who, if they vote at all, vote for those who can give them what they feel entitled to – regardless of what their domestic and foreign policies may be. The ultimate outcome of such sloth doesn’t concern them. Sometimes their preference may be based upon such questionable standards as race and culture. Others give-in to peer-pressure or simply follow the way their family has always voted. Tragically they let others do the thinking for them.
Ominously, this group grows larger year by year. As they grow more numerous, we can expect our representatives, senators and administration (whose ultimate goal is reelection), to reflect these values (or lack of them). Consequently the ethical and moral decline of our nation continues accelerating toward her ultimate demise. Yes, we have met the enemy (you know the rest).
So, is there any hope for the health and state of the union to improve? If you thought I was going to supply the answer to this dilemma I hate to disappoint you. Voter education is the obvious remedy but it is in vain if the students refuse to listen and learn. You can lead a horse to water (you know the rest).
Actually, I do have some suggestions that have the same chance of being accepted or being considered as that famous snowball in hell.
Any thoughts?

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Geller in Garland

eyeseeyou I assume everyone now knows about the incident in Garland Texas where two terrorists tried to kill the participants in a contest to see who could draw the best cartoon depicting Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.
Islam prohibits any depiction of Muhammad in any form. To do so draws the ire of Muslims, whether militant or not.
Ms. Geller’s stunt seems to have divided people into two camps. One camp says that since we have a right as Americans to express ourselves in free speech, no one can lawfully prohibit us from speaking our mind even if it is hateful and inflammatory. Some seem determined to prove it.
The other camp thinks Ms. Geller was deliberately looking for trouble and she got it. She has been criticized for putting the Garland police in harm’s way as well the group of cartoonists who attended her “contest.”
But there is a third group with no patience with the savages engaged in Jihad. This camp agrees that their cruelty must be stopped and innocent lives saved by military force if necessary (and are amazed that it has not happened yet!). Yet they are also sensitive to the feelings of Muslims in general. They know that to take what is holy to them and drag it through the mud is counterproductive. No, we don’t agree with their prophet or their theology — but we know that their souls are precious and that God wants them to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4). If we close any door on hearts that might have eventually been open to the gospel we shoot ourselves in the foot. Instead of baiting them, why not use our energy and resources to show them the Christ that draws all humans to Him? (John 12:32).
How do we do this? We do it by letting our light be seen by everyone (including Muslims) resulting in open hearts and glory for God (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15). One can’t make fun of their prophet in one breath and win them in the next (Colossians 4:6).
Do you agree? Let me know.

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Dictatorship Danger

Am I mistaken to think that governing by proclamation is similar to totalitarianism, especially if it seems to be a habitual way of getting things done? When such a form of “ruling” becomes the accepted norm (with no consequences) can dictatorship be far away?

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Politics and Civility

eyeseeyouOkay, I get it, a bunch of Americans don’t like Obama.  You have made your point clear.  A bunch of Americans didn’t like Bush either.  In both cases, the muck-throwing has been prodigious!  Shame on us!  How fortunate we are to be citizens of a country where they don’t lock you up or knock you off for criticizing the president/prime minister/king or dictator.  If we lived in one of these nations, a bunch of people would now be behind bars or deceased.

How privileged we are to be able to vote for the president and congress (the Supreme Court is another matter).  Come the next election, we can vote-out those we disagree with and vote-in those we think better represent our values.  Historically this is a new paradigm bestowed upon the world by the Mother of Parliaments and not every nation is ready or able to live within this concept.  Yes, we are indeed fortunate to live in a nation governed by and for the people.

In a couple of years, we will be able to express our opinions of Mr. Obama and his party by voting in an election.  We can go to the polls and fire those we disagree with.  In the meantime we can make our opinions known in letters to the editor, blogs and in the various forms of social media.

Unfortunately, what I have been reading across the political spectrum is distressing.  Never have I seen such hatred and invective.  So much of it is offensive, disrespectful, divisive and downright ungodly.  Some of it is simply false.  And, to make matters worse, too much of it comes from people who call themselves Christians.

It is possible to disagree without spewing hatred.  The lengths to which some go to express their hatred is astonishing…especially from those who should be known for speaking the truth in love…whether that truth is related to the gospel or any other subject.

How would you like to live under a Roman emperor or a cruel king or governor?  Well, as a matter of history, Christ and his followers lived in such a time.  And yet, we fail to see them respond with anything but Godliness.  About the strongest language I can recall is when Jesus called Herod a “fox” (Luke 13:32)  I challenge you who claim to be Christians to re-read some pertinent passages.

John 19:10-

  • ·         Pilate’s authority (when he reminded Jesus that he had authority to crucify him) was given to him by God.

Romans 13:1-7

  • ·         All authority is from God and we are to be subject to them.  We are not to resist their authority…to do so is to oppose the ordinance of God.
  • ·         Authority is a minister of God to you for good.
  • ·         It is necessary to be in subjection for conscience’ sake.
  • ·         We are to render tax, custom, respect and honor to whom it is due.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

  • ·         We are to pray for kings and all who are in authority.
  • ·         We are to pray for them that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
  • ·         This is good and acceptable in the sight of God.

1 Peter 2:13,14

·         “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

1 Peter 2:17

·         “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

We live in a wonderful time when we can voice our opposition and act upon it in word and deed when we go to the polls.  But we must do it with honor and respect, praying for those in authority whether we agree or disagree with their policies.  It is high time we begin acting like the one we follow.

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Hodgepodge Evangelism

eyeseeyouI believe that one of the most beneficial changes any church could make is to correct their misunderstanding of evangelism.  We’ve made such a monster of it in our minds that very few of us do any of it at all.  We count on having user-friendly churches with seeker-sensitive assemblies featuring a great preacher, state-of-the-art equipment and methods.  We rely on doing Bible classes and assemblies so well that when people visit us to do their church shopping, we hope they’ll choose us instead of that other church down the road.  There are three things wrong with that.

·         First, it’s not evangelism it’s accumulation.

·         Secondly, people who have to be won by attractive methods and surface cosmetics will only last as long as those remain valid.

·         Third, it is a focus and emphasis unknown by Jesus, the apostles and the early church.

The church that won the Roman Empire knew nothing of “user-friendly” or “seeker-sensitive churches or spectacular methods of reaching the unconverted.  Mark Galli writes,

What it did have seems paltry: unspectacular people, with a hodgepodge of methods (so hodgepodge they can hardly be called “methods”), and rarely a gathering of more than a handful of people.  The paltry seems to have been enough, however, to make an emperor or two stop and take notice (Christian History, Issue 57, p. 8).

Without publicized campaigns or even an explicit evangelistic strategy, Christianity made its way quietly and effectively in an environment not wholly unlike that in the post-Christian West today. 

            Glenn Hinson writes, “Most churches had the same goal: evangelism.”  But it was not evangelism based on getting people into church buildings since it was nearly 300 years before the first one was built.  This was evangelism by friendship.  It was outreach through good works such as feeding the hungry and rescuing abandoned children (1 Peter 2:12).  It was the message of a moral and pure way of life (1 Peter 3:2).  It was seen in their keen pursuit of justice.  Each disciple was ready to tell their friends and associates the reason for their hope (1 Peter 3:15).

            Evangelism is the life-blood of any congregation of the church.  Only if it becomes our goal, we will truly become alive.

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Edify or Amplify?

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The Case for Rejecting Instruments in the Assembly

Churches of Christ (the a cappella segment) seem to be becoming very different very quickly.  Several larger congregations and a number of smaller ones (I have no idea of the actual numbers) have opted for adding mechanical (as opposed to vocal) instruments to their assemblies (I absolutely refuse to call them “worship services” as that description of assemblies of the saints is nowhere to be found in Scripture – and, when you think about it, it betrays an ignorance of the meanings of both “worship” and “service”).  For over a century, one of the distinguishing marks of churches of Christ was strong opposition to the use of instruments in assemblies.  Countless debates, articles and divisions occurred with both sides remaining unconvinced.

It will not be my purpose here to pile more verbiage on the tons of arguments by taking one side or the other.  I’m not sure it would serve any purpose except to put me in one opposing camp or another.  No, my point will be something different.  I want us to take an honest look at our motives.  WHY are we ditching our a cappella tradition?

The most common reason given is some variation on the desire to attract a younger, hipper crowd into our buildings.  One group is currently remodeling their auditorium to add a stage for the musicians.  If we build it, they reason, they will come.  Sound familiar?  Put simply, it is an attempt to increase attendance at their “worship services.”

At this point let me ask a question that seldom seems asked: what are assemblies for?  No…not what do you WANT them for but what are they REALLY for?  By that I mean what does Scripture say they are for?

·         Are they for “seekers?”  Can you show me a passage for that?

·         Are they for the entertainment of the members?  Passage?

·         Are they for the excitement of the members?  Passage?

·         Are they for the encouragement of the members?  Bingo!

·         Are they for the edification of the members?  Score!

Our purpose for assemblies and our conduct during them seems to be the focus of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapters eleven and fourteen.  He deals with several subjects but his emphasis; especially in chapter fourteen is edification.  Edification has absolutely nothing to do with attracting a crowd and blowing them away with sanctified rock (make no mistake, I like to rock as much as anyone).  To edify is to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge…promoting the spiritual growth and development of character of believers, by teaching or by example.  Look it up.  Paul goes so far as to say, “…let all things be done for edification” (I Corinthians 14:26).

So.  How do we instruct and promote each other’s spiritual growth?  One of the most important and effective ways is by singing to one another (Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16).  Notice that our singing is for teaching and admonishing one another.  Sorry folks, well-choreographed and orchestrated performances accomplish nothing assembly is designed for.  In truth, they hinder the process.  Inevitably, the volume gets louder and louder.  How can we edify one another if we can’t hear the singing of the one standing next to us?  Read lips? Not likely!

Could this be the reason we are commanded to sing to one another?  Singing with thankfulness is not assisted by a groovy drummer, hot guitarist, deft keyboardist and a soloist who’s been listening to a lot of contemporary Christian radio.  Save all that for a concert.

Are there exceptions?  Of course.  Some of the new contemporary music conveys wonderful spiritual, edifying truths.  Even a cappella churches have adapted and incorporated some of these songs in our assemblies.  In my experience, however, the mechanical instruments overwhelm the potential edification as they play louder and louder.

Here is the crux of the problem as I see it: we have turned our assemblies into something they were never intended to be.  They are times of encouragement and edification.  When this is not accomplished, our assemblies are failures no matter how well choreographed they are.  When we leave behind principles and purposes taught by Scripture; when we replace them with innovations never envisioned by the Spirit; when edification and encouragement are no longer the focus of our assemblies; when synthetic externals take precedence over spiritual internals — we can expect to fail.  In the words of Hosea (8:7), we have sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.

Here are a couple of articles that, while I don’t agree with everything they say, help make my point: http://churchformen.com/uncategorized/have-christians-stopped-singing/  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/afewgrownmen/2013/05/why-men-have-stopped-singing-in-church/

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