Friday, July 30, 2010

Is This Like Heaven?

“Is this like heaven?”

Shannon and I took our five year old son, Kameron, to Disney World last week. He was so excited and had such a great time. At one point he looked up at his mother and asked, “Is this like heaven?” We laughed and moved on but I thought about his question for the rest of the day.

It could be nearly blasphemous to compare heaven to a place like Disney for surely there is no place on earth that will ever compare to heaven but in some ways I thought Disney might be sort of heaven-like.

Disney is very diverse. When I heard someone speaking English I perked up, it was usually one of my own family. A man spoke to me in English at the Port Orleans Resort but he was from Britain. Won’t heaven be diverse? There will be peoples there from every country. There will be representatives from every culture and every language. The gospel message of salvation is for all peoples of the earth and there will be those from every culture who accept Christ and gain entrance into heaven.

Disney is a fantasy. Disney is about experiencing thrills and stepping into a world that will allow you to escape the harsh realities of your personal life. It is about making dreams come true. Heaven is not real to us yet, it is but a fantasy. But on the day we arrive we will finally escape the evil that oppresses us in this world. We will experience thrills and what we can now only fantasize about will become a joyful reality in that day.

Disney is a happy place. All the residents (characters) always have smiles on their faces. They live in a world of joy. They live their lives to entertain and bring joy to others. I know that it is all a fa├žade and the smile on Snow White’s face might possibly be just a cover to hide some hidden pain in her heart but the joy in heaven will be genuine. There will be no pretense, every smile witnessed there will be a genuine reflection of what lies deep within the heart.

Disney couldn’t be Disney without the main character. What my son loved most about Disney was the characters. They were very real to him. What we will love most about heaven is the Main Character. Heaven couldn’t exist without Jesus Christ. We will know him then as we could never have known him here. It will be very fulfilling to arrive in heaven and meet the characters. Christ will welcome us at the gate and then there will be such a procession of great saints of God. What a privilege it will be to pose with Moses, Abraham, Peter and Paul.

Disney only admits certain ones. You must have a ticket to enter the gate. It is not at all important when you enter, some enter early in the morning, some late in the evening but no one enters free. A price must be paid. Kameron didn’t have to pay anything to enter, his ticket was bought by someone who loved him more than he will ever realize. No one goes to heaven free. A ticket must be bought and for those who will one day enter, they will be eternally grateful to Jesus Christ for purchasing for them a salvation that permits entry into an eternity of joy and bliss.

Kameron was right, it’s a lot like heaven.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

America's Ruling Class -- and the Perils of Revolution by Angelo M. Codevilla

This is the best article I've read regarding just what is happening in America today.  It is rather lengthy but well worth the read.

The Stuff in our Lives

The Stuff in Our Lives

I saw a young girl sitting in the crowd just off the first base line at a baseball game. The right fielder was running after a foul ball and as he leaned over in an attempt to catch it he jostled her inadvertently. Concerned that she might be hurt, he apologized and said a few words to her. She nearly went apoplectic. She gripped her hands together, her face was all aglow and her lips said, “Oh, I must call my Mom.” I wondered at the time if she would have the same reaction had met Jesus?

Jesus was a real person that walked upon the earth and intermingled with others in his world. Even his enemies claim him to be the greatest and most influential man to have lived. But he is more than a man, he is the Son of God and he is empowered to save us from eternal separation because of his willingness to pay the wages for our sin, yet, so few of us care to know much about him. Some hunger to be like him, yet, when they look in the mirror each day they realize they’ve fallen short.

My daily desire to emulate Christ and become more and more like him is hindered by the weeds growing in my life. The fruit can’t fully mature when it must share nourishment with the weeds.

My wife and I lived in an apartment before we moved into our present home. When we closed on the house we packed up our stuff, in one afternoon, and moved in. Now, six years later, we are just overwhelmed at how much ‘stuff’ we have accumulated. It seems we have stuff stashed away in every crook and cranny. It would take days to pack and more than a truck and two men to move us now. There has to be a place for every item you save, you have to put it somewhere. If you save it, you have to store it or dust it.

I have discovered that it is often the stuff in my life that prevents me from drawing closer to God. When we pray that God will draw near to us it often doesn’t happen because we pray that prayer while our knuckles are turning white hanging on to all our stuff. Don’t we need to ask for the fire of God to come down and consume the stuff in our lives. Wouldn’t you like to see all the stuff removed so that you could say these words penned by C.A. Tindley:

Nothing between my soul and the Saviour,

So that His blessed face may be seen;

Nothing preventing the least of His favor,

Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.

If God will come and consume the stuff hidden in our closets that only we know about, if he would help us to overcome that besetting sin that continually torments us, if he would fill us with a deep hunger for more of himself and less of our stuff then we could see him so much clearer and know him so much better.

When we want Christ more than the others in our lives, when we hunger for him more than we hunger for the stuff in our lives, he responds to us as he did to Moses, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

.Calvinism or Arminianism? Spurgeon or Wesley??

I have studied these two opposing doctrines until it seems I may lose my mind over them. There are strong arguments on either side of the aisle which can be confirmed by the fact that we have been debating for hundreds of years. Nevertheless, I am a convinced Arminian mostly because I believe strongly in the free will of man and I have trouble fitting free will into the Calvinistic belief. I also find it difficult to maintain an image of God as holy and lovely while believing he would pick some for heaven and some for hell like we used to pick teams on the playground in my childhood. However, I have met men of the other persuasion who are great men of God and I would be so pleased if I could be even half the man many of these are when it comes to having a deep, spiritual relationship with God.

I am of the Wesleyan persuasion and I have studied John Wesley’s theology extensively and find very little I disagree with. Setting all that aside, I was reading a biography of Charles Spurgeon recently and found it interesting that even though he considered Arminianism to be an outright heresy he had this to say about John Wesley:

“But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the Twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one “of whom the world was not worthy. I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or at least cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of heaven.”

I love the good spirit of these two men toward each other. In view of the fact that Arminians and Calvinists will live in the same neighborhood in heaven as they do here on earth, I think it proper to spend less energy arguing our differences and more energy joining hands to glorify Christ and build his kingdom.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Ichabod" - The Glory is Departed

“Ichabod” – The Glory is Departed

The times were hard for the people who called themselves the “Children of God.” Eli was judge of Israel and they had fought a battle near Ebenezer and 4,000 Israelites were killed in the battle. The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord was retrieved from Shiloh and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas stayed with the ark.

A great shout went up in the camp of Israel. They were motivated by the presence of God and the Philistines were fearful when they heard the sounds of celebration, nevertheless, they refused to bow to the God who crushed the Egyptians. They fought again and 30,000 Israeli infantry died in the battle.

A soldier escaped from the conflict and ran back to share news with Eli. Eli was 98 years old and blind. He sat in a chair as the soldier approached. The news was devastating. Both Hophni and Phinihas had died and the Ark of the Covenant was taken away by the Philistines. The shock of this revelation caused Eli to fall backward from his chair. He struck his head, broke his neck and died on the spot.

Eli’s daughter-in-law, wife of Phinehas, was pregnant with a child as all of this was unfolding. When she heard of her husband’s death and that the Ark of the Covenant was lost she went into labor and delivered a male child. When they brought the child to her she didn’t regard it. She was dying and would have no future with the child. Her last words expressed grief regarding the state of Israel. “The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken (1 Sam. 4:22) So, she named her newborn Ichabod which means, ‘the glory is departed.’

As a history teacher I have studied most of the documents written by the founding fathers. It is evident beyond dispute that they intended this country to be founded and to persevere as a Christian, God-fearing country. It is also without dispute that our country is spiraling downward into moral depravity and decay. We cannot continue to enjoy the blessings of God while we turn our back on him. It may not yet be time to replace “In God We Trust” with “Ichabod” on our federal currency but we must accept the reality of our backsliding. The hope is that the departed glory, like the Ark of the Covenant, will one day return in the form of a great revival.

Our fathers would be deeply disturbed to know:

• We’ve taken God out of the classrooms, the courthouse and our public gatherings.

• In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized the murder of unborn infants for any reason.

• The entertainment media mocks Christianity

• Some schools teach our second graders the acceptance of homosexuality and mutual masturbation to our Middle Schoolers

• Religion is prohibited in our educational institutions while pornography is available in our media centers

• Instead of riding to our rescue, the church rides off into the sunset hand in hand with a godless culture.

(the list is nearly infinite)

We are a morally bankrupt country. We are beginning to suffer the consequences of rejecting God. Unfortunately, many of us see a change in leadership as a solution to the problem. But the problem is not so much political as it is spiritual. A new president or a new majority party in Congress won’t reverse the consequences of our turning away from God. The only solution to this spiritual depravity in our culture is for us to call on the name of God, humble ourselves, confess our sin, pray and seek His face. But that’s not all, we will have to turn from our wicked ways and if we do that He will hear from heaven and he will forgive our sin and heal our land. (2 Chron. 7:14)

Monday, July 12, 2010

They Call Themselves Nazarenes

They Call Themselves Nazarenes

No person could study the history of the Church of the Nazarene without realizing that the identity of the church, the distinguishing factor, is their strong belief in entire sanctification. It would also be observed that there was a time (in my grandmother's day) that the perception of the COTN was that of a church group who refused to go to movies, drink, smoke, wear makeup or wedding rings and whose female members wore long dresses and long sleeves. Few people are attracted to or give credence to a list of "thou shalt nots".

What I love most about the Nazarene Church is its commitment to the doctrine of holiness but finding the middle of the road where common sense prevails is sometimes the hardest thing to do. If you fail to understand the gravity of the holiness of God and his expectations for men to be holy then you've done God and injustice and you've sold yourself short. If you overemphasize or exaggerate the doctrine of holiness then you create a pharisaical cult that would be despised by true Christians and by Christ himself.

I am pleased that there is much discussion about the doctrine of sanctification in the COTN. I feel like the general superintendents did well when they explained the life of holiness simply as a Christian’s calling to be Christ-like by the grace of God. I think sometimes we are mistaken to trace our roots to John Wesley and then close the book. Our roots should be traced back to Pentecost and we should build our history and theology around that of Jesus Christ rather than any one man. I love John Wesley and believe nearly all that he stood for but I am instructed first and foremost to call myself a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.

Playing golf while the country goes to pot!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Book Review: The Blood of Lambs by Kamal Saleem ( a pseudonym)

Book Review: The Blood of Lambs by Kamal Saleem ( a pseudonym)

Kamal Saleem writes of his experience as a seven year old Sunni Muslim growing up in Beirut, Lebanon. He was recruited by the Muslim Brotherhood and sent on child missions to deliver weapons to Palestinian resisters. He grew into a well-trained terrorist whose hatred for Israel and America was all consuming. He trained in terrorist camps funded by Muhammad Gaddafi of Libya. There was never a shortage of money or of infidel targets. Kamal’s loyalty to jihad was exemplary and total.

Kamal was taught by his mother that any frail excuse was acceptable to kill a Christian, no excuse was necessary to kill a Jew. A Jew should be killed simply because he was a Jew. Kamal was taught verses from the Koran on his mother’s knee:

Sura 2:191 “Kill the disbelievers wherever you find them.”

Sura 9:123 “Murder them and treat them harshly.”

Sura 9:5 “Fight and slay the pagans, seize them, harass them, and lie in wait for

them with every trick.”

Sura 8:12 “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore

strike off their heads.”

Kamal moved to America and struck out on a mission to destroy the Great Satan from the inside out. He spent all of his time recruiting in prisons and projects in our nation’s large cities until one day he had a terrible automobile accident. A series of events followed that caused Kamal to cry out to Allah for a personal relationship. He looked eastward and lifted his arms and cried out to his god and what did he hear? Absolutely nothing.

Kamal converted to Christianity and now writes and travels throughout the country warning people that radical Islam is infiltrating our country. They embrace the words of Omar Ahmad, founder of the council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith…(but) should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.”

The Blood of Lambs is 310 pages of suspense. I couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. If indeed, this man’s experiences are authentic, he has lived a truly phenomenal life. His message to America is certainly authentic, we have an enemy, the enemy lives among us and hates us passionately. This enemy believes that Allah has instructed them to destroy us at any cost.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Enemy of my Friend is my Friend.

I'm not sure I get it. Can someone help me? Obama was asked if he thought PM Netanyahu would try to launch an unilateral attack on Iran without consulting Obama. Obama said he felt that the relationship was strong enough between Israel and the United States that that scenario would never happen. He went on to say, "the truth of the matter is that my outreach to the Muslim community is designed precisely to reduce the antagonism and the dangers posed by a hostile Muslim world to Israel". So, the way to secure friends is to reach out to the enemies of our friends. For some reason I think there must be a cadre of terrorists huddled in some Afganistani cave laughing themselves silly.

Too bad our previous leaders didn't catch on to this crafty piece of diplomacy. George Washington could have avoided the Revolutionary War had he had tea with King George III. FDR could have ended WWII had he shared a cigar with Hitler and if George W. Bush had invited Osama bin Laden to his ranch for a BBQ we could have avoided the war in Iraq.

In what ways does Mr. Obama believe his "outreach to the Muslim community" will bring peace between Israel and their enemies? He said that the Israelis don't trust him because his middle name is Hussein. Does he think his middle name conjures unlimited affection from the Muslim world because he shares a common name with them? Is he so out of touch with reality that he has no clue that terrorists interpret his groveling as weakness rather than benevolence?

Radical Islamic terrorists believe that the pathway to holiness and eternal reward is to stick a knife in the throat of any infidel who refuses to convert to the Islamic way. It is much easier to slide the knife into one who is determined to placate and appease. Morale among those who hate us must be sky high as they have come to realize there is no warrior in our White House. Obama has sent them reason to believe he is weak by revealing his indecisiveness regarding our strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has shown he has no heart for winning this war by announcing to our enemies the date he will withdraw our troops. What message does that send our troops? What does that do to their morale? Its not about winning the war, its about withdrawing so as to score political points in the polls before elections take place! Disgusting!

I hope Obama finds a big stick soon. If not, then get out of the way and let someone lead us who will settle for nothing short of victory.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Who Is Barack Obama

Who is Barack Obama?

The answer to that question is complicated. Americans have so much trouble understanding why Barack Obama seems to be so detached, why he lacks patriotism, why he looks with suspicion at our allies, Britain and Israel, and why he chooses to embrace, even bow, to our enemies. Does he love the country he serves? Is he the Christian he claims to be? Why is there so much mystery about his place of birth, his childhood, his college life?

Obama belongs to a movement that seems to have no set nomenclature. It is a movement that promotes global renewal and condemns the 'failures' of capitalism which is often associated with empire. Global renewal will be accomplished by saving the planet's environment. Justice will finally be achieved by purging the courts of conservative thought. Economies will be sustainable by forming an economic system that will serve all areas of the world without bias or political motive. Racial or ethical bias will finally be eliminated by converting the masses to embrace the superior dogma of diversity. In the past those who have become quite fanatical about global political transformation have been called fascists, totalitarians, communists, etc. The modern movement toward global 'purity' isn't replacing those systems of thought, it has evolved from them.

What makes President Obama a dangerous president is that this group believes that any action can be deemed morally right depending on the consequences of that action. He aptly demonstrated this "end justifies the means" approach as a community organizer who felt comfortable using "Chicago politics" to purify the community from the evils of capitalism. If he must declare off-shore drilling illegal to save the marine environment he will make that declaration with messianic conviction even though it may destroy the families of thousands who have built their livelihood on the oil and fishing industries in the coastal areas. The war must be won though some must perish along the way!

Barack considers himself to be a citizen of the world before he is a citizen of the United States. The global purification movement is an international movement. Their mission to save the environment, defend illegal immigrants and control pollutants crosses all borders. Their ultimate goal is to transform this messed up, nasty world created by the capitalists and replace it with their own utopian paradise and they pursue this mission with religious zeal. To complete the mission humanity must be reinvented.

Governments cannot be used to promote this ideology because most are associated with an unacceptable ideology in their past or they have participated in capitalistic aggression which disqualifies them as change agents. Therefore, NGO's (non-government organizations) are used to organize events and develop policy for the movement. Why would Obama embrace an anti-American leader like Hugo Chavez? because they embrace the same ideology. Their mission is to destroy the evils of capitalism and replace it with their own utopian dream.

Why so much hatred for the United States and Israel? because they have become the hated icons of capitalism and empire. They are the bulls in the china shop that destroy everything in their paths. These 'purists' are so steeped in their ideology and so narrow in their focus that they have only deaf ears for the proponent who comes to the defense of capitalism.

Where did Obama learn such things? I suppose sitting at the feet of his liberal relatives and associates and at Columbia University and I suppose that’s why there is no written record of papers written by him.

I like Jarvis DeBerry's phrase: "Oily words can't hide the sticky truth." Obama's reveals who he really is by his actions as he governs and they don't jive with the 'oily words' of his campaign.

Recommended reading: "Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For" by Ernest Sternberg, teacher at the University of Buffalo.