Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Feller of Trees?

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?" (Judges 6:13)

Judges 6-9 is the account of God choosing Gideon, son of Joash, to deliver Israel from the oppression of the Midianites. Gideon's first task: cut down the Asherah poles and destroy the Baals that his father had erected. Deuteronomy 16:21 states, "You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God". The Baals and the Asherahs, strictly forbidden by Yahweh, had been erected by the Israelites in the places of worship. The first step to delivering the land from tyranny of the enemy was to end the evil practices in the places of worship. The regeneration of Israel hinged on the restoration of proper worship during a time of widely accepted improper worship. The sinful rebellion was so widely accepted by God's people that they wanted to kill Gideon after he had cut down the Asherah and Baal.

"So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime. In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal's alter, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrficed on the newly built alter! They asked each other, "Who did this?" When they carefully investigated, they were told, 'Gideon son of Joash did it.' The people of the town demanded of Joash, 'Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal's altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.' But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, 'Are you going to plead Baal's cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning!" (Judges 6:27-31)

In America, we have been or are in the process of being taken over by our enemies on multiple fronts. The political landscape is falling apart and the culture is crumbling. Culture is defined by the "cult" or common set of beliefs and worship. In other words, culture is defined by the Church. The Church permeates into culture. Culture permeates into politics. There has been a fundamental breakdown and it all stems back to improper worship in the Church.

The remedy: Christ. He is our salvation. The first step: removing the Baals and Asherahs from the places of worship even in opposition from God's own people. What are our Baals and Asherahs? They take form in our disregard to Christ's words, just like Israel had disregarded God's words. Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, Romans 7:2-3, I Corinthians 7:39, Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 are no longer acknowledged. Even a cursory look at these principles will testify to the fact that unrepentant adultery is clearly our improper worship. For adultery is not only allowed in the places of worship, it is propagated as righteousness and defended tenaciously. Matthew 18:15-18, a process of confronting a brother in sin, exhorting him to repentance, and resulting in ex-communication for the unrepentant, is the first step to cutting down the Baals and Asherahs. I Corinthians 5:9-13, II Thessalonians 3:6,14, I Timothy 5:20, Titus 1:11 and 3:10, 2 John 1:10-11, I Corinthians 5:2,6-7, II Timothy 3:5, and Ephesians 5:3,7 reinforce Christ's command regarding unrepentant believers and would demolish the Baals and the Asherahs if practiced. Obedience to Him in worship will result in regeneration on all levels.

Gideon means feller of trees. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matthew 7:19)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tocqueville on War and Democracy

"There are two things that a democratic people will always find very difficult, to begin a war and to end it."

"No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country."

"All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and the shortest means to accomplish it."

- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Book II, Chapter XXII, Why Democratic Nations Naturally Desire Peace, And Democratic Armies, War

Churchill on Education

"This is an age of machinery and specialisation but I hope, none the less - indeed all the more - that the purely vocational aspect of university study will not be allowed to dominate or monopolise all the attention of the returned Service men. Engines were made for men, not men for engines. Mr. Gladstone said many years ago that it ought to be part of a man's religion to see that his country is well governed. Knowledge of the past is the only foundation we have from which to peer into and try to measure the future. Expert knowledge, however indispensable, is no substitute for a generous and comprehending outlook upon the human story with all its sadness and with all its unquenchable hope."

            - Winston Churchill, University of Miami Speech, Education, 1946

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Running About With Fire Extinguishers

Grace, grace, grace...tends to be the fashionable outcry of popular Christianity. Walk into any church and the message will more than likely be on God's grace. There will be grace peppered into every song, grace will be the title of the sermon, and "Grace" will probably be in the name of the church somewhere. It is not unfashionable or offensive to speak of grace. Turn the radio to the Christian station and you will hear Matthew West singing, "There's only grace. There's only love. There's only mercy and believe me it's enough". Or you will hear Pocket Full of Rocks' opening lyrics, "He's not mad at you. He's not disappointed. His grace is greater still". Afterwards, the radio hosts will make no qualms about proclaiming the grace of God and the grace Christians should have to each other. Grace is well spoken of and touted as wonderful, beautiful, and often leaving those who experience it in awe. These are all good and true things. The problem arises when this virtue is emphasized to the point of crowding out all other Biblical virtues, thus leaving the the Church ill-equipped to guard against the vices to which it is prone.

In C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, the veteran demon, Screwtape, discusses how the spiritual forces of darkness attempt to direct the popular thoughts of humans:

"The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention
of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of
each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and
fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are
trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running about
with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to
that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under."

The vice which is endemic in the Church today is lawlessness and licentiousness. The fashionable outcry is grace. The virtue of grace has been approved to the point of proclaiming obedience and repentance an arduous endeavor for those who dare. It may be difficult to find a sermon overtly co-opting grace as a means to continue in sin because the perversion is usually more subtle, but the message is still conveyed through the incessant focus on grace, elementarily understood. This, coupled with the lack of exhortations to repentance and obedience, nearly puts the ship's gunwale under. The hearers ingest the grace message as milk rather than solid foods because grace is not just the realization that you have been given something you do not deserve, but it brings you into repentance and obedience as well. Do you not know that "God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4).

God sent His son to die for the sins of mankind, an act of grace. Yet, the very first words out of Christ's mouth initiating His ministry were, "The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). And His appeals to obedience were not unusual, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:5), "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21) or "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matthew 7:23). God is not as one-dimensional as the fashions in thought propagate.  Obedience pleases God. "For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice." (Hosea 6:6 NAS) And Paul sums this up well in Romans 6:1-2, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?". Beloved Christians, stop the foolishness, and might I say cowardice, of running to floods with fire extinguishers. Run to the fires.