The Babylon Affect

Genesis 11:6 – The LORD said, “They are one people with one language. This is only the beginning of what they will do! Now nothing they plan to do will be too difficult for them.

God saw all the amazing things the “globalized” people of the earth were accomplishing and He saw it as a negative.  Why would great advancements, huge building programs and international cooperation be seen as a negative?  Because God knew that along with “nothing they plan to do will be too difficult” would also come an arrogant practice of anything goes.

So it has taken several thousands of years for the world to be “globalized” again to the point where language differences are of little consequence when all you have to do is hit “translate page” on Google or upload a comparable app on your smart phone for instant, real time translation.  Just yesterday I saw and advertisement for an ear insert that instantly translates a language.  There is again no language barrier in the world.  As a result, truly amazing things are taking place in the advancement of the world in technology, medicine, farming, science, construction, manufacturing as well as equally negative, anything goes, factors of relativism, pride and debauchery.

An amazing amount of these “advancements” have taken place in my lifetime.  I was visiting with my father a few months back and we were discussing the decline of the church’s influence in America in particular.  He made the point that WWII was a significant factor in the beginning of the globalization of the world.  Prior to WWII, the vast majority of people were born, grew up and died all within a few miles while all the time going to the same church, generally knowing the same people as well as being subject to the same peer influence and pressure for most social and character life issues.  The effect of WWII on that localized influence was monumental.  With the advancement and reduced cost of both local and international travel, it was no longer assumed that you would live and die in your “home town”.  Troops from across the globe, in addition to fighting a war, were exposed to vastly different and exciting new states, countries and cultures.  Combine this shrinking of the world via travel with the ease of international communication and collaboration and what was once the local village ultimately became the World Wide Web breaking down all remaining barriers.

Don’t get me wrong, I see it as a good thing when somebody in South Africa comes up with a piece of some medical puzzle and he is able to instantly collaborate with someone or even several someones in other countries to affect a breakthrough in medicine.  That is not the problem God saw with common tongue and communication.  It’s when some guy with a foot fetish, (or substitute some other fringe activity) who because of social media and the ability to search the whole world in an instant for others with the same interest, no longer feels alone and the need to hide or curtail his vice.  He now feels validated and accepted practicing what would have otherwise been viewed as weird and perhaps even deviant to his local community.  Don’t believe me.  Oh you doubters, there are now foot worship fetish parties all over the world.

http://www.footnight.com/la.html

When it comes to appreciating nice looking feet, perhaps there is little concern for the decline of worldwide morality.  There are, however, other incredibly destructive things which have come “out of the closet” in my lifetime.  And I’m not just talking about homosexuality.  In the big scheme of things, homosexuality may be one of the lesser evils which have found validation in today’s society as a result of the shrinking world.  By far the most destructive things to emerge “triumphant” in modern society are areas in which the church has capitulated to “right side of history” and culturally correct or expedient practices.  The reason falling standards in the church bears so much consideration is because, lest we forget, “judgment begins in the house of God” 1Peter 4:17.

I am going to be as blunt and honest as I can here because the future ability of the church to regain its effectiveness, influence and reputation in the world is at stake.  Just a short biblical lesson shouldn’t be too tedious for those who already know and it will be helpful for those who don’t (of which there are apparently multitudes).  From the very beginning of the establishment of the Jewish nation, leadership was admonished to not collect a big salary (multiply gold for themselves), to follow God’s eternal laws and to serve the people.  Most of them unfortunately failed to do this causing countless reoccurring problems.  Jesus however, as our most perfect shepherd/leader, did in fact model these eternal values by living a life of servant hood and sacrifice paired with an extremely modest lifestyle.  How is it then that today there are so many “pastors” who insult God’s commands and the very essence of who Jesus is by embracing living standards more closely resembling the “lifestyles of the rich and famous”?  It’s because they can go on line and find other pastors “succeeding” who have equally inflated opinions of themselves who live in million dollar homes and who collect 6 or 7 figure salaries.

It is primarily a modern day phenomenon in which a person can feel “called” into the ministry and service of Christ and have the prospect or expectation of being greatly enriched by doing so.  And if we are going to be completely honest, even the un-churched are often all too aware of the commands in scripture for a modest lifestyle among Christians and these affluent and greedy mega-church practices, which more closely resemble those in the corporate world, have them dismissing and tuning out entirely because of the blatant hypocrisy.

I’m going to sound a bit liberal here for a moment (please forgive me) but how do so many churches justify cushy couches, fancy coffee bars and worship leader spot lights combined with a multitude of projector screens, mood lighting and the latest internet technology while we still have the destitute, lost and desperate right outside our church doors.  I suggest it is our priorities which need remodeling – not our “out dated” facilities.  And here is the kicker, those “bigger, better, more” accoutrements are the very reason we are not drawing in or retaining our young people as they see these things as a shallow mimic of their entertainment world.  They are longing and searching for something very different than their most recent secular concert experience when it comes to engaging and worshiping a holy God – or was it for naught that God said “My ways are not your ways”?  And in Romans 12 when God exhorts us “Don’t become like the people of this world.  Instead change the way you think.”  What follows is a list of activities of servant hood, giving, teaching, showing mercy etc.  Conspicuously lacking is any mention of fancy buildings or big salaries.  This is not to say that functionally appropriate facilities are not necessary, but they cannot take precedence over the work of the ministry.

There are many more factors which have led to the church growing in its irrelevance.  In order to maintain those high salaries, fancy coffee bar lobbies and environmental sanctuaries, which by the way are resulting in ever increasing budgets, many churches have rolled over on many eternal biblical standards.  They simply can’t risk losing those tithe dollars so in order not to offend the offenders, long standing Biblical laws are massaged and equivocated on to include a hate for divorce that mirrors God’s (Malachi 2:16), an intolerance for adultery, teen sex, gossip, greed, homosexuality and more.  Pro-active mentoring and accountability for Godly character has become a fading and lost art.  I offer one glaring example from Malachi 2:13 & 14 where God plainly informs His people that the reason He no longer pays attention to their prayers and sacrifices is because of the high divorce rate.  Could it be stated any more plainly?  And here we are today with divorce rates in the church approaching the same level as in secular society.

I hope you are able to track with me on this as to the negatives of the church being “plugged in” to the progressive globalized world.  To possibly help illustrate this I will offer an example.  Most of us Christians, as well as non-Christians, view the Amish and similar communities as old fashion, behind the times and maybe even a bit weird.  But let’s give the benefit of the doubt for a minute and consider this quote from an article on the Amish Studies website.

“Why would God frown on a telephone? What sense does it make to keep a tractor at the barn but not take it to the field? Is it not inconsistent, if not outright hypocritical, to hire non-Amish drivers but refuse to own cars? And what could be the difference between 12-volt electricity from batteries and 110-volt current from public utility lines? These distinctions may look silly to outsiders, but within the context of Amish history they are important cultural adaptations that have helped to slow the pace of social change and keep worldliness at bay”.

Obviously the rejection of many types of technology hasn’t been a catch-all for the Amish, but in their close knit and tight communities the influence or validation of Biblically fringe practices have had little opportunity to foment and grow.  Not too unlike it might have been 100 years ago in a smaller community where if some guy in your church is abusing his wife and the other men in the church find out, they would have taken that guy out and given him a good talking to or more depending on the level of abuse.  Or if the guy with some other fetish or deviant inclination was unable to find others like himself in their town he might truly have understood that this was a lifestyle or way of thinking which he shouldn’t entertain.  But today, it almost doesn’t matter what fringe or deviant interest you might have, you are sure to find a few hundred if not several thousands of people “just like you” amongst the billions of people in the world for the simple reason you were able to search it on Google or some other social media and even go the their annual conference.

And on a more broad note, how is it that so many young people today feel the freedom to be dismissive and rude to their parents, teachers and other community “elders”?  Because they see it modeled every day on the latest TV sitcom, late night comedy “news” or selfie video on social media.  And if all those other young people are doing it then it must be ok and all those grey headed people are just stupid and out of touch by trying to hold onto those outdated practices of honor, character, respect, morality and hard work.  Even among many Christian youth it hardly even enters into their minds that the first commandment with a promise was to honor those “older” people in your life (parents).  They have been brainwashed into believing they know better after finding validation for their attitudes with the latest trending YouTube video and they do not even hesitate to inform you of their new found enlightenment and your “old and busted” views.

How unfortunate that the globalization and shrinking of our world through the ease of communication, and the internet in particular, has spawned 2 very different results.  One being the almost limitless capacity of our world to accomplish things formerly thought impossible as well as the ability for anti-God practices to gain an increasing foothold in the church because “everybody is doing it” and I can prove it because I read it somewhere on the internet today.

As much as it pains me (and the Lord) to say this, I don’t see things changing for the better in the church in general.  So many have fallen hook line and sinker for the Joel Osteen, Rob Bell and Carl Lentz types who embrace feel good wealth fantasies, no worries about eternal punishment and an unwillingness to call blatant sexual sin – sin.  I am feeling more and more that Jesus was not speaking metaphorically when He said that the path to eternal life is narrow and few will find it.  I am challenged everyday to watch my attitudes, anger, impatience, un-forgiveness as well as my devotion to the principals of scripture and how it compares to the life of Jesus and the fruits of the Spirit.  I have a long way to go, but I cannot turn aside  from that narrow path to run across the median to that wide and inviting road shouting to the rest of humanity, and so many who call themselves Christians, “wait for me, I’ll catch up”.  This is not about being on the right side of history.  This is about being hidden in Christ and Him alone.  And the promise is that if we do so we will be despised on this earth.

PS  As I was writing this over the past few weeks, I felt strongly that it was a prophetic word for the church.  I was praying the past few days for the Lord to confirm this word in my heart before I sent it out and this morning a good friend posted an excerpt from a short letter written by Derek Prince probably 25 years ago.  That letter parallels this blog in several ways and I felt it was a confirming encouragement to go forward.  Thanks Richard!  Link below

http://www.derekprince.org/publisher/file.aspx?id=1000021473

I have never asked this, but if this blog speaks to your spirit, pray about sharing it.

I don’t understand all the shock and OMG outrage!!!

I am seeing more and more post expressing shock and “oh my gosh” outrage over all the things being revealed about corruption in politics, the media, Trump, Hillary, Bill and almost anyone connected to them.

All I have to say is REALLY!!!  Seriously, please quit with all the hyped/fake shock and outrage!

Where has everybody been for the last quarter century?  Nothing that has happened here has any shock value to it for me.  I wrote a book which covers some of these types of trends that I started almost 20 years ago and I blog about this stuff all the time.  Anyone who is shocked is either being disingenuous or has spent the last 25 years at Disney World where every bit of dirt or trash is swept up before you have a chance to see it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am disappointed, disgusted, nauseated and saddened by all the lack of integrity and character.  But shock? No, not shocked, as I am well aware of the depravity of our society that little would shock me at this point.

There are also choruses of people advocating a no vote or a vote for a third party and you are absolutely free to make that decision.  But it might be important history for younger people to be aware of (because it was before your time or while you were still in grade school) that in 1992 we had a viable 3rd party candidate, Ross Perot, who garnered almost 20% of the popular vote in that national election in an effort to make inroads into challenging the corrupt 2 party system – and yes, I agree that it is corrupt.  He made a notable showing, but that 20% of the vote is the very thing that ushered the Clinton’s into power.  They may not be the most corrupt dynasty we have had (although I suspect they might be), but they are the current one.  For 25 years we have been living with the severe consequences which occurred as a result of all those who either by a no vote or a vote for Ross Perot enabling the current levels of corruption we have.

I cannot and will not excuse or defend the corrupt or lewd actions of either candidate or party but neither am I shocked by them.  But there is still something that I will be shocked by until the day I die and that is the fact that as a “civilized” society we still allow the mutilation and murder of babies who have either not yet been born or who are in the process of being born.

Perhaps the only thing I have to hope for in this current election season, (and I say hope because in life there are no guarantees) is that several of the honorable pro-life people on the list of 20 candidates for the Supreme Court which Trump has released as being his choices will have a chance to be appointed.  The Democrats are afraid of this list and even Hillary acknowledged in this last debate that Trump will put people into the Supreme Court who can overturn Roe V Wade.  All you have to do is take note that this issue (Supreme Court Nominees) is of one of the most frequently mentioned platform positions the Democratic party mentions about Trump when arguing against him being elected.

There may be no way to properly express the incredible importance of this power which will be placed into the hands of the next president which will have massive affect on certain aspects of the direction our nation takes over the next generation.

I also understand that some may want to distance themselves from this election and be able to say “I sure didn’t vote for him/her”.  The reality is that we live in a secular and frankly evil and corrupt nation and unless you are going to remove yourself entirely from ever participating in the election process, you will most likely be voting for someone who represents very little of your values in the majority of future elections.  As Christians there is little we can do beyond prayer, but I believe we must do what we can when there is a window of opportunity to help defend the most defenseless in our midst.

And who knows, Trump could drop dead the day after the election and Mike Pence could become president – hey, it could happen.

What difference a day can make!

The ever changing “progressive” society we live in is becoming schizophrenic in it’s values.  There are numerous states or municipalities who have recently enacted laws which capitulate to a small fraction of a percentage of our population.  Now, if some guy on any given day feels like he is a woman instead of a man (or that he just wants to get his jollies) he can, with legal protection, go in the girl’s/women’s restroom.  Here is why this is so messed up.  Supposed this guy had gone into the women’s restroom the day before he gained his legal right to do so.  He would have been arrested as a pervert/pedophile and would have a lifelong record as a sex offender.  But just one day after the new law he can go in the women’s restroom, with the legal protection of the law, and the person who tries to prevent him will be the person who is arrested for discrimination and have to take “sensitivity training”.  How can values change 180 degrees in just one day?  This is why I call it schizophrenic as normal thought, reason and the values of the vast majority are outweighed and tossed out the window in favor of irrational, immoral and narrow laws giving into a very small handful of people.

States that have enacted reasonable laws to insure the privacy and security of children (and adults) to feel safe from voyeurism in the restroom are being attacked and boycotted for their horribly discriminatory practices.  In just the past couple of weeks countless major corporations, concert artist and businesses have announced boycotts of a couple of these states.  I have never been one to promote boycotts and I’m not going to start now, but just so you know, you would basically not be able to buy almost anything to sustain life if you were to boycott all the companies who have signed protest letters aimed at these states.  And just for those of you who are saying to yourself, “there he goes again, exaggerating”, here is just one of the recent cases of someone using another states law which protects a person’s right to use the bathroom they feel they identify with.

http://www.kgw.com/news/local/washington/seattle-man-in-womens-locker-room-cites-gender-rule/45248512

The argument is that no one should have to suffer the stress associated with discrimination.  So for the sake of less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the population the other 99.99% of us, to include our young daughters, will instead be forced to suffer the stress of not knowing if the girl/guy in the next stall is a voyeuristic pervert.

pervert

Why is this so important and why are special interest groups able to have such success promoting fringe movements?  Because, frankly, fringe is becoming mainstream.  Anybody who thinks this is not just the next step in the direction of legalizing pedophilia and sex with children is both wonderfully naive and unaware of many groups already advocating this or you have a unique ability to walk and live in denial.  Anybody who is truly interested can dig a little deeper than a cursory Google search and find out that many of these special interest groups advocating these fringe sex, marriage and gender laws can be traced back to the gay, swinger and free sex movements of the 1960s.  It is perverse, deviant, voyeuristic and devoid of any common sense.  But it is unfortunately America’s new “normal”.

So what can Christians do?  The main tool we have is prayer.  Boycotting is unrealistic as we would basically have to go off the grid and become hermits in the mountains (as nice as that might sound) which of course is not fulfilling our calling of being “in the world but not of the world”.  Our testimony is being forced into the realm of personal relationships and character as we go into all the world while occasionally using words when necessary.  And if your Christ centered lifestyle is not sparking interest, or spite, in those you come in contact with, consider that you might not be doing it right.

“For such a time as this”?

Let’s be perfectly clear, If Trump is ultimately the GOP nominee I will, as I have stated in earlier blogs, hold my nose and vote against any of the current possibilities the DEMs may put forward by voting for Trump.  But to also make it clear, Trump is in no way my preferred representative for president.  A good friend pointed out the first few verses in 2 Timothy 3 the other day as a reason she (and I) would have trouble voting for Trump.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of moneyboastful, proudabusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholywithout love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceitedlovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Unfortunately, we have way to many candidates on both sides this time around who might have several of the above characteristics underlined about them as well and our choice might very well come down to what may best be described as choosing the lesser of 2 evils.  Not a choice I am looking forward to.

But what I would like to visit in this blog is the plethora of “prophets” and Christian “leaders” who have seemingly “anointed” Trump as some kind of Ester figure or King Nebuchadnezzar or Darius savior.  Just today the leader of one of the largest Christian Universities endorsed Trump as God’s man of the hour.

Can someone, anyone – really anyone, please show me the scripture where Christians are supposed to promote, anoint or prophesy into places of prominence and leadership those who exhibit a large percentage of the negative characteristics listed in 2 Tim. 3.  I can understand waiting until the last minute and, as I stated earlier, voting for the lesser of two evils, but this phenomenon of prophetic and spiritual support for Trump has me as baffled as Balaam’s ass and I must bray loudly in protest.

First I will deal with the Babylonian kings who were benevolent to Daniel and his 3 friends.  I recognize that both Nebuchadnezzar and Darius protected Daniel and company and ultimately paid some homage to the God above all gods.  But let’s be perfectly clear, Daniel, his 3 friends and the host of Israel were still very much slaves and captives in Babylon both before and after those kings “saw the light” and eased their incarceration.  Is this what you are hoping for with Trump, some easing of conditions via a person who has almost no understanding of the most foundational tenants of our Christian faith – repentance and communion?

I would welcome someone who can personally assure me that Trump’s faith has some element beyond giving a cursory nod to a supreme being, pandering to a Christian university or pouring out praises to any of the many humanistic “I’m ok, you’re ok” feel good, positive thinking preachers out there who have chosen to abandon the doctrine of sin in favor of pop culture/right side of history capitulation.  Feel free to post that character reference in the comment section of this blog.

At least not all sanity is lost as it was reported today that several prominent Christian women’s organizations came out against Trump in light of his oft vile and offensive words directed at females and his flip flopping record on abortion.  (Right to Life and Concerned Women for America among them)

But some of these Christian (Men) leaders have even gone so far as to give Trump the “for such a time as this” mantle as if to compare him to Ester.  I have read the book of Ester, I have studied the book of Ester, I love the character, bravery and humility of Ester and Donald Trump you are no Queen Ester – and neither am I for that matter.  Please don’t insult the memory of Ester with that kind of comparison!

It is at this point I will make what will be viewed as my most controversial observation.  Why would it be that men (in much higher numbers) are falling all over themselves to jump in lock step with Trump in contrast to far fewer percentages among women?  I believe it is because of basic “machismo” male dominance to which Trump’s boisterous demeanor and rude treatment of women rings some un-civilized bell among men – yes even among Christian men.   Women are much quicker to cut through this bluster and see it for what it is – a return to more archaic times.

I suppose I could begin to understand if all the fawning and praise was over Dr. Ben Carson who I do see as a brave, humble and Godly leader.  But the title of “God’s man of the hour” or someone “for such a time as this” would be a challenging title for almost all the presidential candidates this season (in no particular order of scale).  I do believe there are a couple of exceptions and I challenge you to do the hard work of research, study and comparing your values to the various candidates (and to God’s values).  With much prayer and God’s intervention, we will hopefully be able to GLADLY cast our votes this coming November.

As a tool, I would suggest you take this comprehensive and un-biased questionnaire in order to see which candidate most closely agrees with your standards and areas of importance.  You will get the best result if you answer all the questions in each category.

isidewith.com

No easy answers – this is way above yours or my pay grade!

There is a legitimate debate going on right now in the US over Syrian refugees.  At least I am calling it legitimate.  I have been surprised at how many don’t see any legitimacy in the debate because the answer (to them) is so obvious and simple.  And I am not speaking about only one side, both sides “see” so clearly as to be dismissive, rude or accusatory to the “other” side.  Barbie and I even had someone unfriend us yesterday because we would not enter into the bombastic and inflammatory manner they were taking.  It wasn’t even that we disagreed with them but rather the rude and arrogant method of delivery.

So is this an Old Testament argument, a New Testament argument or somewhere in between.  Some have tried to reduce the debate points down to “God is always Love” or “If you don’t protect those in your own family, your are worse than and unbeliever”.  Both of those points are true but neither of them fully encompasses this debate.  Please do not reduce the compassion for refugees or the security of the US to a “one liner”.  Even between Barbie and I there are strong leanings to the different sides.  And all of this speaks to me of a few things, patience, learning, listening, respect and most of all the Holy Spirit.

I will tell you that I am not the type to quickly to cut out of my Bible those parts in the Old Testament where, because of the evil of their religious practices, God ordered entire peoples destroyed to include women and children.  But at the same time I will never discount the over arching theme in the New Testament that there is none beyond the reach of God’s love.  Some might see these themes to be in contradiction.  But because we also know that God never changes, we have to accept that in fact they are not in contradiction and we must wrestle with that reality and find the balance.  Were those people destroyed because their spiritual DNA was so far gone that it had to be wiped out so it couldn’t spread?  Could that then have been a loving thing to do to protect many future generations of God’s people from those evil influences in nearby villages.  If that same story was repeated after Jesus’ sacrifice was made would God have ordered a different outcome.  That may well be.  In the NT we see Jesus telling a woman, properly sentenced to death for adultery, to go and stop doing it after her executioners leave.  But later we witness God killing a husband and wife “just” for lying.  Are you duly confused by now as to how God does things? (Isaiah 55:8)

On accepting refugees, Republicans are leaning to a pause or a big no which challenges Christians which probably lean more towards yes.  Most Democrats along with Obama lean yes mocking Republicans as being afraid of widows and orphans.  Yet it was a woman who blew herself up this morning in France wounding 5 officers and a special on PBS last night highlighted how ISIS is training kids as young as 4 to become jihadist.  Then today in Turkey and Honduras there were 13 Syrians, with suspected ISIS ties, arrested while posing as refugees trying to get to Europe and North America.  And consider our cherished value of “’Give me your tiredyour poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” boldly inscribed on the Statue of Liberty combined with exhortations in scripture to take care of the poor and homeless (paraphrased) and you have the makings of a real dilemma.

I am not a bigot if I choose the safety of my family first and my wife is not naive if she leans towards opening our borders.  But we both would show our shallowness if we were not able to listen to each other and with prayer and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit endeavor to flesh out God’s plan.

This is great risk either way.  There is great risk if some of the refugees follow the likes of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Chechen refugee who came here as a little boy who was not radicalized and after his family began to follow the American dream he decided to bomb the Boston Marathon.  And what are the risks if we close our borders?  Perhaps that is a cost that will be felt in unknown ways other than terrorist attacks.

So if you are still determined to throw out your quippy one liners, then you really don’t understand or appreciate how complicated this discussion truly is.  And if you are given pause by this Blog then join me and countless others in praying that God will give our leaders and our military the wisdom from on high to deal mercy and justice for all concerned.

Too good to be true?

This is a follow-up blog to the one I wrote yesterday about the inability of secular society to stomach true Christianity in their midst.  Again, as I have written several times, this has nothing to do with tolerance, equality or getting their cake baked.  They simply cannot swallow the idea of a judgmental God who also stands at the ready to redeem and save any who would humble themselves.

Several years ago Barbie and I read together Ben Carson’s book Gifted Hands.  It was truly an inspiring book on several levels.  He was born into poverty and rose to the absolute pinnacle in the field of pediatric neurosurgery.  As an inner city youth he rose faster than any one before him to the top of the ROTC program in high school.  But most importantly, as an angry black youth, he rose out of his rebellious, angry and hatful attitudes as a result of a salvation experience with Jesus.

But to non-believers, this is myth and cannot happen in real life!  It’s just a story, and it must be discredited at all cost in order to preserve our right to do as we please.  So bring on the attacks and deep investigating into the life of a teenage boy while in grade school some 50 years ago.  They simply cannot reconcile that someone displaying good character today could have once tried to attack his mother or stab a relative over 5 decades ago.  It’s not possible, it sounds to ….. how can I put it ….. fantastical.  And of course we don’t believe in fantasy, right!

No, we don’t believe in fantasy, but we do believe in a redemptive God who can turn even the worst of us around and cause His light to shine.

And it’s not only the liberal left who are out to discredit Ben’s changed life.  Just this week in an interview with Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump totally dismissed any possibility of it being a redemptive God story stating that the only thing that can bring that kind of change to someone is pills or drugs.  I guess that also says a lot about Trump’s understanding of Christianity – which he claims some form of adherence to.

No, here again is a prominent public figure unashamedly modeling Jesus and His life changing redemptive power and this narrative is totally incompatible with unaccountable secular humanism.

As for me, I choose to see this as a wonderful example of the unlimited potential of Christ in the life of Ben, me, you or anyone who would yield to Jesus.

too good to be true

Where are the answered prayers of the Church?

Have you ever asked yourself the above question?  I sure have.  “Greater works than these will you do because I go to the Father”.  Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, walked on water, calmed the sea and dismissed demons by simple commands.  For the most part, the church is not seeing very much in the way of similarity with what Jesus did much less the “greater”.  So I, you, we find ourselves often asking why.

I cannot say definitively that I have the answer, but I must submit this for consideration.  It’s not easy, it’s not politically correct, it’s not even religiously correct to suggest what I am putting forth as the likely barrier to our sacrifices and prayers not being answered or acceptable to our Holy God, but I must submit it nonetheless.

I will start by asking what symbol best represents God’s covenant with His people?  There are probably several good answers to that question, but I suggest the answer at the apex of that question would be the marriage covenant.  Marriage was the first institution God introduced.  He uses it in prophetic ways throughout the Old Testament (Hosea, Ruth, Malachi) and culminates the New Testament with the wedding feast of the Lamb to His Church.

God made His covenant to Abraham and His descendants the Jewish people.  Even though they have not always been faithful, perhaps even most of the time, He has remained faithful even to this day.  The story in Hosea was specifically scripted to illustrate the absolute faithfulness by God to an unfaithful “wife” (Israel) and even a wife that was un-pure to start with.  So for me, this places the marriage covenant as the centerpiece symbol representing the faithfulness of our God and potentially the greatest witness to the lost.  I say potentially because it would seem the church has discarded this holy covenantal union in exchange for easy no stigma divorce.  Discarded is a strong a word, but I always try and write with a nod as to how the world views the church and with the divorce rate at similar percentages in the church as in secular society we have on some level lost the moral high ground when it come to marriage – any kind or gender.

What I am suggesting is pretty radical in its implication and as such I will need to present some tedious academic supporting evidence.  But basically I am suggesting that a high divorce rate amongst Christians is one, if not THE reason our prayers often go unanswered.

In Malachi 2, Judah is crying out to God asking why their sacrifices and prayers are not accepted and God’s answer, not my answer-not Malachi’s answer and not the world’s answer, but GOD’s answer is because of the high divorce rate (paraphrased) with God stating emphatically that He hates divorce.  I’ll place bets you never heard that sermon before.  And here is where I must get a bit academic.

In the 1984 NIV version of Malachi 2:16 it reads in part “I hate divorce says the Lord God ..” and yet in the NIV 2011 version the same section reads “the man who hates and divorces his wife..”  Because I happen to be able to read and speak Hebrew and my wife teaches Biblical Hebrew I can tell you with absolute accuracy the more recent translation is categorically wrong to change the subject to the man hating and divorcing his wife instead of God being the one who hates the act of divorce.

This is not the only example of decades and centuries old translations being changed/softened on the subject of divorce.  Take the comparison of Matt. 19:9 in the American Standard Bible between the 1901 version And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.  And now here is the 1995 AS version of the same verse – And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality (almost all new versions now say adultery), and marries another woman commits adultery – part B of this verse is omitted entirely even thou it show up in 6 of the 7 main manuscripts most commonly used for translation purposes.  The King James Version finally caved to this “trend” with the American King James published in 1999.

What must be understood is that there are two very specific and different words used in both Greek and English to describe fornication (sex amongst non married people) and adultery (sexually breaking the marriage vow).  The Greek word for fornication (porneia – from which we also get pornography) is the word used in this text.  Because of this, in centuries past, this verse was clearly understood to mean that if, after getting married, it was found out that the girl (I embrace this applying equally to both genders) had fornicated but had presented herself as a virgin, then the husband had the right to divorce her or have the marriage annulled because it was under false pretenses.  Such was the case with Joseph’s initial inclination to divorce Mary privately.  This is also why the Catholic Church allowed for annulment, although that is totally abused in modern times to be for almost any reason.  But the more recent translations suggest that sexual immorality or adultery after marriage can be cause for divorce.  These are two totally different scenarios.  One is from promiscuity before marriage and the other after the vows are taken.

There is a story from the life of Jesus which would seem to support the 1900 year old understanding of Matthew 19:9 instead of the more modern trending interpretation.  If adultery was what the author (Jesus) intended, there would have been no need to address it as the clear and practiced punishment for adultery at the time of Jesus was death.  Remember the woman caught in adultery who was brought before Jesus.  Jesus totally agreed with the crowd that death was the proper punishment and encouraged those standing there who had no sin to carry out the execution.  You see, as harsh as it sounds today, there would have been no need to address adultery in the context of divorce at the time of Christ since the death sentence would have been assumed.  This would have freed the non-offending party to re-marry with no divorce proceedings necessary.  However death was not the practiced punishment for fornication.  In fact the practice of temple prostitution was not uncommon.

The reason this is such a vitally important distinction is because of what covenant is supposed to look like.  God has never wavered in His faithfulness to fulfill His covenantal vow to often unfaithful Israel.  That is the depth of commitment and love He displays in His promise, and He established marriage to be a blessing, a testimony and a witness of that faithfulness to His people and to outsiders.

I believe covenant marriage is right under salvation as the most valuable gift God has given mankind.  But why would God withhold just because of high divorce rates?  I can only offer a humble illustration.  Say God decided to build you a mansion (which He actually is) and He personally carved a magnificently beautiful front door as the first thing everyone saw when they came to visit.  But you take that amazing front door and put it on the back door or on the shed out back effectively removing it from its place of honor.  God doesn’t kick you out of the house, but He would likely be very hesitant to make further upgrades and improvements on the house until you return that special door to its rightful place.

I know the implications of what I am suggesting are radical and far reaching but there is no denying the fact that high divorce rates among His people was the reason He wasn’t responding to the appeals of Judah in Malachi 2.  You may not like that fact, but it is a fact nonetheless.  It is important to keep in mind that various punishments including invasion or exile were doled out by God for Israel’s “adultery”.  But even with all of Israel’s unfaithfulness, God never broke covenant.

I will give another example of modern translations bending to what’s “tending” in regards to divorce.  In Timothy 3:12 NIV 1984 version – A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well: and the same verse from the 2011 version – A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well.  This same “accommodation” occurs in an increasing number of other translations which, simply put, allows the significant change from a deacon only ever having one wife (to which he is faithful) to allowing a deacon to be a man who is faithful to one wife at a time. This is a complete misrepresentation of that verse and the intended testimony of covenant marriage to the local Christian congregation as well as to the un-churched.

This is not an easy thing to consider and I know what I’m talking about.  Barbie’s and my marriage has not always been easy.  We had a very tumultuous first 5 years.  Fighting, yelling, verbal abuse and a lot of unhappiness abounded.  We looked at each other and actually verbalized something to the effect of “I don’t love you and I don’t want to be with you!”  Fortunately for us, and our kids, we were both raised that divorce was not an option and we got counseling, lots of counseling, got serious about loving and serving each other and fought through to victory and boy is victory SWEET!  I was talking to Barbie last night and she agrees that we would put our marriage up against any marriage for friendship, love, serving each other’s goals and joy.

I am not suggesting someone stay in an abusive marriage.  Neither am I suggesting that adultery should in anyway be ignored or glossed over.  What I am saying is that I completely embrace the sacred position to which the holy covenant of marriage must be returned to.  I fully endorse scriptures’ admonition that we only marry people who are born again Christians and who are submitted to Christ and His church.  But we can’t stop there.  I am also in agreement with the exhortations in scripture for people to not only be in committed fellowship in a local church but to also walk in absolute accountability for the character of their lives.  If we make the above commitments we will be placing tremendous safeguards to protect marriages and give support, rebuke and exhortation when one or both spouses gets off track.

And for those wondering about those who were married before they became Christians, we see clearly that you should stay married unless the unbelieving spouse is unwilling to remain married. 1 Cor. 7:13-15

In no way is this some judgment on those who have experienced the devastation of divorce.  This is an exhortation, going forward, for the church to make a recommitment before God to honor the covenant of marriage.

So I suggest the Church has a monumental decision to make if we want to change the status-quo.  Do we want the Father to come in power, hear our prayers and accept our sacrifices or do we want easy, no-fault and no-stigma divorce.  I believe it really does come down to that simple of a question albeit with a very weighty answer.  I’ve been watching the church for over half a century try almost everything else to coax the heavens open and for God to come in power, healings, miracles and those “greater works than these” with little to no avail.  Maybe we should try covenant level commitment, holiness and an honoring of God in our marriages – yes even when the going gets tough and when unfaithfulness raises its ugly head because that is the kind of commitment the Father has towards us.  And maybe, just maybe, the heavens will again be opened and the lost of this world would actually see something to desire, pursue and be jealous of.  It’s a huge decision, but decide we must.

And because I believe so strongly that this is key to the future power and testimony of the Gospel, I would ask you to consider sharing this blog with others to include your pastor.

I have attached a link below to one of the more annotated and referenced studies on the subject of tracking changes in translations over the years.

http://www.danielrjennings.org/arebibletranslationsprogressivelysoftening.pdf