Saturday, December 23, 2006

Glory to God in the Highest!

Over the next few days I will be posting, over at The Armoury’s Studio, various songs that our family put together on a CD that we called Glory to God in the Highest! Most of the selections are focused on the 1st Advent holiday, while others are just hymns that our family has enjoyed throughout the years. Here is the list:

1. Under His Wings (Family)

2. All Praise to Thee (Sandra, Hannah & Maria)

3. Song for Josiah, by Keith Green (Hannah on Piano)

4. Away in a Manger (Family)

5. Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah (Sandra & Hannah)

6. Once in Royal David's City (Sandra, Hannah, Maria & Micaiah)

7. Psalm 23, by Keith Green (Hannah on Piano)

8. See, Amid the Winter's Snow (Sandra, Hannah & Maria)

9. Silent Night (Micaiah)

I’ll begin with the first song, Under His Wings by Barney E. Warren (pub. 1911). It is based largely upon Psalm 91:4, but here is the broader context of that verse:

Psalm 91:1-4: 1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" 3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

This text and hymn became very important to us as a family, especially when we were going through the darkest trial of our life as a family in the winter of 2001. During that time we learned all the more how it is that the Lord’s encouragement and grace is often most magnified through the dark trials of life - so that we too can learn about the greatness of His refuge and protection for His people. When we first recorded this hymn together (in 2001) it was just Sandra and myself along with Hannah, Maria and Micaiah. Now we have this blessed ensemble to include Ruth (5) and Lydia (2) - you can hear them on the third verse of the hymn...

Friday, December 22, 2006

And We Beheld His Glory

People today are getting an earful about who Jesus Christ is, and very little of it is good. There is, of course, the “Jesus” of the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses; as well as the “Jesus” of Islam. Then there is the “Jesus” of popular culture: certainly the T.V. media, Newsweek, Time Magazine and yes, the book & movie, the Da Vinci Code, all have their own twisted tales to tell. In short, what people are often hearing about Christ is utterly blasphemous. But in view of this age-old problem, we Christians should only strengthen our resolve to herald the true message of Christ amidst the clouds of confusion. Especially during the Christmas and Resurrection-Day holidays we as believers ought so see these times as even greater opportunities to reach out to others with the clear message of Christ. With this in mind, I have recently reproduced the Gospel of John, with a brief survey/study of John chapter 1. This simple booklet is designed with the sole purpose of getting a portion of the Scriptures into the hands of people so that we might have the opportunity to query, as did Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch: “do you understand what you are reading?”:

Acts 8:30-35: 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31 And he said, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: "He was led as a sheep to slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He does not open His mouth. 33 "In humiliation His judgment was taken away; Who will relate His generation? For His life is removed from the earth." 34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?" 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.

And beginning from this Scripture (Isaiah 53:7-8) Philip “preached Jesus to him. This Gospel example is the root idea behind And We Beheld His Glory - The Complete Text of the Gospel of John. We all have a certain number of neighbors, co-workers and general acquaintances that we have had some opportunity to speak to about the Lord. What we all pray is that they would be drawn to the Savior through the powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). By taking copies of the Gospel of John to others, this can become an opportunity to speak to them, in greater depth, about the true meaning of Christ’s advent:

John 1:14: 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God the Son (John 1:1) became a man (John 1:14) and dwelt among us as the fullest disclosure of the Father’s glory, and as the One who died on the cross for our sin. The introductory study in this booklet offers a simple Gospel presentation that is based upon John 1. It is very brief and is designed to be used in a guided Bible study. I have used the NASB, NKJV and ESV versions in this work in order to honor the copyright laws which govern each translation. Thus, it can be copied and distributed (for free) without any legal conflicts. Below is a Microsoft Word “booklet” format (in pdf) - this format can be taken to any local photocopy center and reproduced into a 8.5 by 5.5 booklet. Feel free to use this and pass it along to other brethren as an evangelistic tool.

Now, go out and tell others about the true Christ of “Christmas.”

MS Word “Book Fold” Format

Amazing Grace - The Movie?

I just hope that the producers of this film don’t end up making it into a man-centered message -

Friday, December 08, 2006

Beware of Moderation

We are often told in the media, and by nearly all government officials, that true Islam is best represented by those who call themselves moderate Muslims. Whenever I hear such pontifications, I can’t help but to think about how odd it would be for a genuine Christian to go around calling himself a moderate Christian. OED defines a moderate as being one who avoids extremes - no surprise there. But when you think about it, the idea of religious moderation is most often associated with a lukewarm liberalism. You know, that warm and gooey substance that lies between sound doctrine and rank heresy. In my lexicon, if a person calls himself a “moderate” anything, what he is really saying is: “I don’t take my ‘religion’ too seriously.” In the case of the “moderate” Muslim, what they are really saying is that they do not fully accept the literal teachings of Mohammed. When you listen to such moderates speak about the Koran, they will quickly redact very clear texts which call for Muslims to slay infidels for the sake of Islam. They will complain that those who disagree with their twisted interpretations are just ignorant of Islam, and that their critics simply do not understand. And yet it is these same “moderates” who are suspiciously silent in the wake of violent acts that are committed in the name of Allah throughout the world. For example the Islamic courts in Somalia ruled on Wednesday that the inhabitants of Mogadishu are required to pray 5 times a day, and those who do not comply will be beheaded in accordance with Islamic law. Ironically, here in America, the so-called moderate group called the Council on American Islamic Relations has heralded the Islamic takeover of Somalia as a positive change.

So much for moderation.

The doublespeak of such organizations should remind us that the “moderate Muslim” is in fact a contradiction to the example and doctrine of Mohammed himself. But honest expressions of Islam are often debunked as being extremist rhetoric. Take for example Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He recently delivered an Islamic call to western nations, to either convert or die. At least the man is honest:

“Rest assured that if you do not respond to the divine call, you will die soon and vanish from the face of the earth.”

And he is consistent with Islamic doctrine:

Surah 2:191. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.

Those who suppress the faith of Islam are those who actively reject Allah. Therefore, any person who opposes Islam is seen as an aggressor who must be rewarded with slaughter. Thus, the “infidels” of this world will always be fair game in the Islamic war of Jihad - until the world is conquered for Allah (as they believe). It is the honest Muslim who calls for such warfare. The disingenuous “Muslim” calls for peace with the infidels, in opposition to the mandate of Mohammed. But many people would rather give their listening ear to the “moderate Muslim” because they prefer the message that they hear. It is probably due to a hopeful naivete - a wishful thinking that makes the world seem nicer than it really is.

Much like the appeal of moderate Islam, we find that many in our day prefer moderate Christianity (Liberalism) - which is a refuge for those who seek a nicer, non-judgmental Jesus; a Jesus who loves everyone and condemns nobody. People like moderate Christianity because it makes their sin seem nicer than it really is. As Christians, may we never be known as insipid, moderate Christians. Let us instead be zealous warriors for Christ - wielding not physical swords in a fleshly battle, but wielding the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, in order to advance the Gospel of Peace.

The Religion of Peace®

The irony of this video is not found in the mode of execution employed, but in the fact that Sharia law is the standard for capital punishment. In this generation, I just wonder how many Christian converts have been slain in the name of Allah. Click on picture to see video...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Judas Iscariot: Rome’s First Pope

Just this last week, Pope Benedict XVI was in Turkey in an attempt to curb the hostile anger of muslims around the world for his speech made in Germany back in September. In that speech, the Pope quoted the 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Palaiologos, who’s criticizm of Islam leaves little to the imagination. The Islamic seeth-fest that ensued illustrated for us all, once again, just how peaceful the religion of Islam isn’t. But this particular event almost made the Mohammed-cartoon controversey look like a...cartoon. Instead of standing by his words, the current Pope relented of his comments, indicating that Palaiologos’ views did not represent his own. Worse than this, Benedict called for a brotherhood between Christians and Muslims during his stay in Turkey. On the last day of his trip he attended the prayer services held at the Sultan Ahmed Mosque [the Blue Mosque]. The Pope faced Mecca, folded his hands in the Muslim tradition, and prayed:

The irony of all this could pass us by too easily should we fail to be mindful of Islam’s history. The background behind this modern day fiasco is profound indeed: the Sultan Ahmed Mosque [the Blue Mosque] faces another building called the Hagia Sophia, which is considered to be one of the greatest buildings in the world. Historically, it was an ancient Eastern orthodox cathedral that was converted to a mosque when it was overtaken by the Ottomans in 1453. Now it is a museum and historical monument to the history of violent Islamic conquest. But in addition to this, Benedict’s controversial speech made in Germany contained a citation from the very man who sought to withstand the Ottoman/Islamic onslought that turned the Hagia Sophia into an instrument of Islamic idolatry. It was in 1424 that Manuel II Palaiologos and his son, John VIII Palaiologos, were forced to sign a peace treaty with the Ottoman Turks, thus subjecting the Byzantine Empire to pay tribute to the sultan. It would be 29 years later that Constantine XI would utterly lose the kingdom at the siege of Constantinople. In this context, we see the great profundity of emperor Manuel II Palaiologos’ comments concerning Islam. Not only did he call Mohammed an instrument of things “only evil and inhuman” but he also said the following:

"God is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death..."

Clearly, Manuel II was willing to refute Islam’s dark doctrine of conversion by the sword. Not only did he do this through his words, but he also refuted Islamic violence in his attempt to protect the Byzantine empire. But in striking contrast, the official Vatican recantation has been supplied as follows: “...the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion [Manuel II Palaiologos’] his own in any way. ” Benedict has thus sought to save face in the presence of the disciples of Mohammed. To do this, he entered into an Christ-denying temple of Islam and prayed with idolaters, while protesters stood outside with signs which read “Jesus is not [the] son of God, He is a Prophet of Islam.” Unfortunately, many in the world see the Pope as being the chief representative of the Christian world - but it should be clear, by his actions, that he is just as much an enemy of the cross as Mohammed himself. But there should be no surprise here: like his spiritual forefathers, Benedict would much rather save his skin for 30 pieces of silver, rather than be counted as a disciple of Christ. Judas himself would be proud. The whole thing is a sad affair. May the Lord have mercy on those who may be tempted to follow such conduct and doctrine.

Men do need reconciliation - but what they need is to be reconciled to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. There is no other way to have true peace.