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.

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Monumental Selfishness

I write my blogs as an outlet, sometime as an outlet for passion, sometimes for a prophetic word and sometimes in disgust and anger.  This is one of those disgust and anger times (with likely prophetic overtones).  I have to be careful as my much more mercy oriented wife exhorted me to be cautious about what I might say, but I am getting closer and closer to “taking numbers and naming names” when it comes to some of the bile I see “Christians” spewing.  This will be short but goes to the core of Jesus, the Gospel, the Love of the Father and asking “just where is YOUR home?”

This blog is simply posing the question “what are the really important things in your ‘Christian’ life”?  And yes, I put Christian in quotes a second time as I suspect there are many out there who are just playing church because it’s the cool thing to do but who have little willingness to actually embrace the heart of the Father. 2 Peter 3:9

Is prayer in school important to you?  What about tax deductions for donations to the church? Are the Ten Commandments carved in stone and place in your town square important to you?  Is the preservation of your earthly home and your earthly country your focus? Are Easter bunnies and Christmas lights on your list of top ten things you must have to enjoy “your” Christianity? Then it’s just that, “your Christianity”, and not the one that I read about in the Bible which places our citizenship in an eternal heaven and not some fading home on this earth to try and fight for and preserve for “just us Christians”.

I am not saying that those things are bad, not at all.  But I am saying that if devotion to things like the ones mentioned above take priority over opportunities to lovingly rub shoulders with those who don’t know Christ then you yourself have not experienced the fullness of the love of Christ in your own life.  And this is why I call it monumental selfishness because you are choosing temporal things over the call to share eternal joy with someone who isn’t “like you”!

christian-hypocrcy

What is a Christian?

It was in Antioch where in Acts 11:26 it says that the believers in Jesus were first called Christians.  The term Christian comes from two Greek words.  The first one is referring to Christ or the anointed one and the second indicating a following or adherence to (the subject) which in this case is Jesus (Christ).  It is usually understood to identify a “follower of Jesus” or more specifically, someone who is “like Jesus” or Christ like.

The term Christian does not identify someone’s parents, nationality, church attendance, race, gender, political persuasion or club membership.  It was intended to singularly and uniquely identify someone who follows and takes on the attributes, attitudes and characteristics of Jesus.  This was important in the early church formation as to be a follower of Christ was a significant departure from the status quo of religious leaders and zealots who were joined in a corrupt hierarchical system of money, manipulation and control.  So to reflect the character of Jesus was distinct enough to garner its own descriptive term.

This is vitally important for us to understand today as the practices of Jesus (and subsequently His followers) were highlighted by humility, modest lifestyles, serving others, outreach to non-believers, modest dress, knowledge of Scripture, holiness, repentance, fellowship with other believers, spreading the Gospel, spiritual accountability, correction and discipleship.

Hopefully, for most of my readers, what I have written so far will be considered somewhat academic in nature and shouldn’t come as any shock or cause controversy.  But perhaps this next part will change that.

Identifying fellow believers in Christ was important in the early church since they were few and far between.  So when Jesus says in Matthew 7 “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” He is giving advice on distinguishing between false believers or wolves and true “Christians”.  The early church incorporated Jesus’ exhortations and used them to advise on issues of fellowship and church discipline.

Fast forward to today where the label “Christian” has come to be associated with almost a third of the world’s population, to include many top athletes, performers, politicians, motivational TV personalities and church “leaders”.  But purely from a practical standpoint, the attributes of Christ are often far removed from many of these high profile figures as well as the not so high profile.  I/we, of course, cannot judge hearts, but we are instructed on ways to judge actions, fruit, character and attitudes.

Christ is in the business of transforming and changing lives from the corruptible to the incorruptible, from unholy to holy and from earthly focused to a focus on eternity.  It is not some small and insignificant power by which Christ influences lives towards sanctification.  It is the unlimited power of the creator of the universe which courses through the lives of those who have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.

I can’t say for certain why so many today, who have little or nothing to do with Christ and His character, identify themselves as Christians but I can speculate.  First off, they simply do not understand what it means to be a Christian.  Take Trump for example; I think we are all aware of his interview where he was asked if he had repented and ask God for forgiveness and he didn’t even really know how to answer the question.  This is not intended to be a slam to Trump but rather highlighting his understanding of Christianity as being one of the most common out there.  Many simply don’t have much of a clue as to what it really means – the extent of their knowledge is that their parents were Christians or they were “raised” in church.  Then there are those who may have a pretty good understanding of what it means to be a Christian but they have little interest in actually living a Godly life but they understand that to identify as a Christian affords them some particular status or image as an impression in other people’s minds.  Sort of like if I tell people that I am a skydiver they will automatically put me in the category of crazy, extreme sport or daredevil even if I have never actually jumped out of a plane.  There are those who don’t want to disappoint family or friends and continue to pose as a Christian simply to keep up appearances out of a sense of obligation.  There are those who do it for financial gain.  And then there are those who do it because it is some trending thing to wear a cross or thump your chest and point to the sky.

Bottom line, in my opinion, the days are such that we can no longer warm up to or tolerate posers as representing Christ and the church.  In the same way we would unanimously reject the Westboro group as not representing Christian values, I believe we must distance ourselves from an increasing number of what I will call “wanna be” Christians who for reasons of financial, political or social gain preach, chest bump or bow at the altar of a pop-culture religion that has little to do with the life and lifestyle exampled by Christ.  I submit that these types are eminently more dangerous than the Westboro crowd as they are far more socially acceptable yet blur the focus and distinction of the cross of Christ to those around them and in some cases to the nation and the world.  The line of difference must be as clear and distinct as the character and nature of Christ or, honestly, there is no difference.

Matt. 7:14 How narrow is the gate and how constricted is the road that leads to life, and there aren’t many people who find it!

1 Cor. 5:12 After all, do I have any business judging those who are outside [the Christian faith]? Isn’t it your business to judge those who claim they are inside?

Being like Christ is the issue, not blue blazers or Khakis!

The following link was posted on our facebook thread today.  It is an article which basically encourages giving a pass on certain activities to certain new converts or congregations who practice differently than you practice.  The author mentions activities such as a person smoking a cigarette, using foul language or the less than stellar former lives of some of the 12 disciples.

http://www.faithit.com/f-bombs-and-bikinis-what-it-really-means-to-be-a-christian/smoking man

I understand that many Christians do not drink or smoke and they refrain from activities like these for various reasons.  The Bible is clear that Christian are not to get drunk, but there is actually no prohibition on either smoking or drinking and in fact it is clear that Jesus and the disciples drank alcoholic beverages.  Were they ever accused of being drunk?  No!  Were they ever accused of being foul mouthed?  No.  Were some of them foul mouthed prior to accepting the call to follow Jesus?  Likely so.  Did a couple of them get off base when they wanted to call down fire from heaven?  Absolutely, and Jesus didn’t hesitate to call them out for their horrible behavior and rebuke them.  What they did before choosing to follow Jesus is germane only to the extent it displays for all to see that grace and salvation is available to all.  And the Holy and sacrificial lives they lived after Jesus called them out is a testimony to the character of Christ which they took on thereby causing others to call them “Christian” or like Christ.

Christ expects perfection from us (Matt. 5:48) but He also understands that salvation is a process of sanctification.  I find it odd that the author chose to focus on foul language and the F bomb for leniency since changing the words one uses in conversation is probably one of the easier areas in which we can be more like Christ.  I have a much harder time with patience, envy, anger and materialism.  A conversion experience should speak for itself in a life converted to be more like Christ through repentance and turning away from our former life.

Tim Enloe tells of a people group in Tanzania who although they have never previously heard the name of Christ or met any Christians, once they hear the Gospel and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior they immediately stop the status quo of horrible sexual practices and beating their wives.  They don’t even have to be told the whole gospel to immediately understand in their renewed conscience that some things are simply not to be a part of their lives any more.  But then Tim doesn’t present some “join the club” form of Christianity.  They present a gospel more in keeping with the “Christ bids us come and die” concept as presented in “The Cost of Discipleship” book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Perhaps a huge disservice is being done by those who call people to come and “join” without explaining the true cost of following Christ.

“Wise as serpents and gentle as doves”

MYOB!  I would love for someone to show me the chapter and verse where “mind your own business” is the way forward with the Gospel.  There has been outrage in the past couple of days because the pope identified characteristics that he doesn’t see as being Christ-like (Christian) in Trump.  Frankly there are countless other characteristics in Trump which I feel more strongly suggest a lack of being like Christ (affairs, divorces, denigration of women, etc) than the suggestion of  building walls but that is maybe for another blog.  I am not going to debate Trump’s standing before God, but the outrage has followed something like this “no one has the right to question someone’s faith or religion”.

Really?  Why do we have missionaries?  Why do we have discipleship? Why do we have CR?  Why do we have accountability groups? Why does scripture – IN MANY PLACES IN BOTH THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS – command us to confront bad behavior with the judgment that we will be found guilty of the same sins if we don’t?  Why does scripture say that “by their fruits you shall know them”?

There is a huge difference between discernment and judging – judging is God’s role which is the authority to carry out punishment.  But the current decline of morality in both in the secular community and the church is a direct result of MYOB.  The Biblical fact is that we ARE our brother’s keeper.  And continued failure to act as such will only perpetrate the church’s slide into oblivion and insignificance.  Many wave the “judge not that ye be not judged” verse while ignoring all the other verses about holding people accountable – how’s that been working for us?  I personally have little interest in being part of one more social club to join and party with.  That’s not what I signed up for, that’s not what drew me to the cross and that is most certainly not what Christ died for.

So whereas building walls can be seen as being wise, to also look for ways to build bridges (done wisely) must also be part of the way forward for peace and the spread of the Gospel.

I will never be able to understand why the church has such a great desire to blend into the fabric of the world when every indication in scripture warns us against doing just that.  Never was a scripture more prophetic for today than “How narrow is the gate and strict the way that leads to life, and FEW are those who find it” – Jesus!

I read it on the Internet so it must be true – right?

There are lots of places to get your news and information these days – CNN (leans left), FOX (leans right), NPR (leans intellectual), the Internet (leans – everywhere), gossip magazines (leans to the gullible & bored), the government (leans politically expedient) and then you own personal experiences which although definitely lean true, they might not be the whole truth.

Here are a couple of examples to illustrate my point.  In just the last couple of days Barbie has been told that Michelle Obama is really a man and that Barak is gay.  Follow that up with the “breaking news” there is a project in Alaska called HAARP which “they” are using to cause (among other things) the drought in California and the earthquakes in Oklahoma.  The sinister motive behind the infamous “they” is to cause everybody to move out of California and return the fertile valleys to Government lands and the earthquakes, which center around Cushing, are an effort to disrupt the oil industry and once and for all stop the Keystone Pipeline project.  It didn’t take much checking to find out that the HAARP project was scrapped in the last few years due to lack of success and funding and earlier this year the entire project was deeded over to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.   And here is the really scary part, the people who told Barbie of these ridiculous conspiracy theories were “mature” adults (55 years+) one of whom works in education at a local university and another attends our church.  The internet was cited as the source of these stories when Barbie asked.  I did some checking (on the internet) and the Michelle/Barak story was originated by none other than the trusted investigative reporter Joan Rivers.

By the way, I am not going to discuss either these issues here (or anywhere else for that matter), but I would like to discuss the fact that just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it so.  I have read or listened to numerous reports or rants about the proposed acceptance of Syrian refugees in recent days. They have covered the gamete from “they are part of a well planned Trojan horse” to keep out at all cost to “God is love” and because of that fact it follows we should let them all in.  Most notably have been numerous reports that there is little to no risk in letting them in and especially the widows and orphans because the vetting process is almost foolproof in weeding out all (current) jihadists.  There are likely elements of truth in all these angles.

I would like to share a story directly related to this discussion from my own personal life experience – not off the internet.  When Barbie and I first lived in Israel in the late 70’s things were drastically different from today.  It was very common for the population to tramp (hitchhike) all over the country accepting rides from whoever stopped, whether Jew or Arab.  People didn’t think twice about shopping in East Jerusalem, the Arab quarter of the Old City, Bethlehem or Gaza.  If you rented a car you could drive wherever you wanted with no concern beyond a flat tire.  Yes there were occasionally terrorist attacks, but in most cases they were carried out by jihadists who had snuck across the border from Jordan or Syria in the hours before the attack.  In other words, the vast majority of the Arab population were living and loving life in a peaceful co-existence with their Israeli occupiers.  Fast forward to the early 90’s when we lived there for a couple of months as part of YWAM (Youth With a Mission).  Imams from the surrounding Arab countries began to garner greater and greater control over the Arab population in Israel to the point there were significant security concerns at many of the traditional tourist locations such as Bethlehem, Jericho & Hebron.  And a visit to Gaza was totally out of the question.  The team we led got a pretty good feel for the deteriorating situation as we spent a lot of our time in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  We were strongly cautioned about taking our rental van into predominantly Arab sections of the country as ambush attacks on cars with Israeli tags were on the rise.  Barbie and I have been able to visit Israel a couple more times in the last 20 years to include a spring trip last year.  Now there are walls, fences and checkpoints everywhere, you are forbidden from taking rental cars into many areas and a population that some 30 years earlier was not radicalized has been, in just one generation, transformed into what may well be a radicalized majority who are carrying out knife, car and gun attacks (some by women and young boys) almost on a daily basis from Arabs within the country.

You see, to truly understand Islam, you must understand the huge influence the main Imams have over their “flock”.  Not too unlike prominent Christian leaders such as the Pope, Billy Graham and Joel Osteen have over trends in Christianity – some good and some not so good.  In Islam, there are a significant majority of the Imams calling for jihad.  Take note that one thing that has been missing in response to the recent terrorist attacks has been any broad scale denouncing of them by the Imams of the Islamic world.  Yes, there have been some Arabs who have denounced these acts, but what has dominated the headlines are things like what happened a couple of days after the Paris attacks when Turkish fans booed and shouted Allahu akbar during a moment of silence to honor the Paris victims before a soccer match between Turkey and Greece.

So is there risk is bringing the refugees here?  Yes, there are absolutely great risks and anybody who dismisses the cautions claiming there is little to no risk either doesn’t understand Islam, has little interest in learning or they read something on the internet to the contrary.

Having said all that, as a Christian, I must try and view this situation through God’s eyes and a heavenly perspective.  The US is not my real home, I hopefully count my life on this earth as no value for the sake of the Gospel and what if all this is part of Gods grand plan to bring those in desperate need of the Gospel right to our door step?  As one who has been involved in mission work in the Middle East, I can tell you it is very difficult if not forbidden to do mission work over there.  And this refugee challenge might just be a golden opportunity for the Church to strategize together for the sake of the Gospel.  What if Churches across this country offered to sponsor refugee families on a grand scale?  Not to cram the Gospel down their throat, but to love on them, serve them and help them get jobs and housing in a strange new country.   What if?

I love and am challenged by the story of the Moravian missionaries Dober and Nitschmann who went so far as to sell themselves into slavery in order to bring the Gospel to the West Indies in 1732.  There was of course great risk for them to do that, and although there is risk in bringing Syrian refugees to American soil we too could echo the cry heard from Dober & Nitschmann from the bow of that ship as it pulled out of that German Harbor –

“May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”

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