Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Do Not Be Surprised: the Hatred of Perez Hilton

When we think of God's commandments our thoughts tend to be drawn to those concrete instructions which deal with our external relations with others: do not steal, do not lie, do not bear false witness, do not kill etc.  But there are also commandments which deal with our internal thoughts and intentions, and these are no less important.  After all, a man who is innocent of the physical act of adultery may still be guilty of spiritual infidelity via his unfaithful heart and mind (Matt. 5:27-28).  With this simple premise in mind, allow me to remind the reader of yet another commandment which offers a rebuke to those who have allowed themselves to wane in their mental discernment:

1 John 3:13: 13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.

It is too often the case that passages of Scripture are read without noticing the important details therein.  Thus we should note that the words "do not be surprised" represent just two words in the Greek - me thaumazete - the imperatival construct being translated literally as: "you must not be surprised!"  I have placed the exclamation mark at the end in order to remind the reader that, as an imperatival construct, this statement must be understood to be a command rather than a quaint suggestion.   John is literally commanding his readers that they must never be surprised (thaumazete) when the world dishes out its venomous hatred against the followers of Christ.  Because of this, we can know that if we are ever surprised then we are simply evidencing our naivete and forgetfulness of what Christ Himself declared:

John 16:33 In the world you have tribulation...

Representing, evincing, and communicating Christ (which is the definition of a true Christian) will beget much in the way of tribulation, hatred, and hostility from those who disdain the Lord Himself.  As Christians, we must make sure that we are never the source of offense through sin; and yet we must also remember that sometimes the most gracious presentations of truth can be met with the hottest hostility.  When such hostility occurs then the true believer must not be surprised, for the simple reason that - worldly people act in worldly ways.  

I mention all of this in view of the recent debacle concerning the recent Miss USA pageant.  Even though I don't watch or support such programs, it has been impossible to avoid the subject in recent days.  The grand controversy swells around a judge's question (Perez Hilton) for the contestant from California - Carrie Prejean:

Hilton:  "Vermont recently became the 4th state to legalize same sex marriage (background applause) do you think every state should follow suit?  Why, or why not?"

Miss Prejean's response followed:

"Well I think that it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other; um, we live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage and...you know what, in my country, and in my family, I think that I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman - no offense to anybody out there - but that's how I was raised and that's how I think that it should be - between a man and a woman, thankyou."

Now I know nothing about Miss Prejean herself, and will not attempt to decipher questions about her profession of faith, however it is enough to say that her above response was tepid at best.  One could hardly charge her with being firm, rough, or inappropriate with her questioner, and yet following the contest (which she did not win) Hilton (who is openly gay) proceeded to lambaste her on his website for offering her...personal opinion.  This he did despite the fact that in his original question, he asked "...do you think.."; which most English-speaking earthlings would comprehend as a query for someone's personal opinion. 

Yes, that's right: he actually got what he asked for, but became angry anyway.

Hilton's webcam invectives were disgusting and revealed a childishness that has become popular, even encouraged, in our Internet/Reality-TV culture of today.  Yet despite his dark behavior, Hilton has been paraded about as a champion of a superior cause.  And as disturbing as this all is, we find that others are digging desperately to find a new low in their disdain for the supporters of traditional marriage:

Mr. Duncan (Libertarian MP) may think that it is funny to joke about murdering someone for opposing homosexual marriage, but I wonder if he would still be laughing if the same favor were returned to him.  Had a heterosexual man or woman spewed such a thing about a supporter of homosexuality, the mainstream media would do all that it could to set the world on fire in its defensive rage.  But please note this:

No Christian should be surprised by any of this.

Perez Hilton is just one person, but he represents an entire generation of youth who have been raised by the ill-fated philosophies that gush out of the cesspool of the entertainment industry on a daily basis.  There are many people today, like Hilton, who desire a society that is genderless, lawless, licentious, and Christless - and they won't stop until they create such a beast.  In many respects, people like Perez Hilton are simply fulfilling Scripture (2 Timothy 3:1-4) along with the promise that, in this ancient world, nothing is substantially new (Ecc. 1:10).  I say that nothing is new because Christian persecutions of the past always began through the instrumentality of hatred and systematic dehumanization.  During the Neronian persecutions, Christians were portrayed as "haters of humanity" for the following reason: Christians could not, in good conscience, pay homage to the countless Roman and Greek deities, and therefore they were characterized as those who opposed the common good of society because most Romans believed that sacrifices offered to the gods were needful in order to receive an abundant harvest every year.  Thus, by failing to offer the prescribed sacrifices, Christians were reputed as those who opposed productive harvests and therefore Roman society itself.  From all of this it is easy to see that the dehumanization, hatred, and vitriol that was directed towards the 1st century Christian community became the perverted grounds for their massive, systematic murder. 

Thus, Mr. Duncan seems to be leading this generation's angry mob.

Perez Hilton is no statistical aberration, whether by the standards of human history, or by the recent accounting of America's degrading culture.  Ultimately, our nation has been busy producing Perez Hiltons en masse through the following means:

Effeminate Men:  Many young men today have never had real male role models in their lives.  In a society that has been almost totally emasculated, many men today grow up with no real notions of biblical masculinity.  From this vacuous condition, we often find an increase in the number of effeminate and homosexual men arising within society.

The Abandonment of Motherhood:  The role of motherhood is another casualty in our emasculated and feminized culture today.  Children are rarely nurtured in the home by the leadership of a father, and by the tender nurture of a mother.  The end result is that many young women and men grow up without the slightest concept of this ancient institution called marriage.

A World Without Truth:  In a world where there are no perceived absolutes, save the absolutes of one's personal opinion, there can be no actual foundation of truth whatsoever.  The subjectivism of our culture has made it so that the group who screams the loudest wins.  What they win isn't the battle over absolute truth, rather they win the contest of self-protection amidst the larger scheme of political correctness.  Sometimes screaming leads to violence - but this doesn't matter, just so long as you are on the correct side of the politically correct fence.

As to this latter point, Miss Prejean's personal opinion doesn't even matter in the final, authoritative analysis.  I would rather direct Mr. Hilton to the actual object of his hatred by referring to Christ who was also asked about the nature of marriage:

Matthew 19:4-6: 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Perez Hilton may not like Miss Prejean's opinion, or even her right to express it, but in the final analysis he will have to appear before the judgment seat of the Creator, Who made all things including marriage

When that day comes I can assure you that the Lord will entertain no appeals when His final judgment is rendered.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

When You're More Worldly than the World

"Shock Theology," as I call it, is becoming more of the fad these days in view of the growing number of churches that are trying to fill their ranks with people who are looking for church thrills.  Sadly, such tactics do fill the pews, but usually this is accomplished at the grave expense of a real Gospel witness and a sound reputation among men.  Of course, we've been here before, but this time, the world is striking back:   

MELBOURNE, Fla. —  A church giving sermons about sex may have to find a new home.  Brevard Public School District's risk-management department has threatened to boot New Hope Church out of Sherwood Elementary because of a worship series titled "Great Sex for You."

Church leaders mailed 25,000 fliers, asking residents "Is Your Sex Life A Bore?" ... Mark Langdorf, the director of risk management, says the mailers generated complaints, were not appropriate for elementary school children and shouldn't be used to advertise the sermon in the school.

Langdorf says the church's lease contract is under review.

[Full article here]

[Original photo/mailer here]

"Great Sex for You" - that's nice... 

This is the same headline that I often see in my e-mail's spam folder.  Such messages are instantly deleted, and for a good reason.  Now, we can sympathize with a church that is being rejected and persecuted for its godliness; but when churches employ a "Shock Theology" that is unnecessarily offensive, and alienating to the world, then I'm less inclined to offer much compassion.  Of course, people make mistakes and God can intervene in His Providence and even use such efforts despite their desperately flawed tactics, however, as Christians we must remember that we have the most serious and important message in the world, and we have been commissioned to deliver it with great joy and great solemnity (Acts 20:18-21).  Alternatively, those who preach theological spam, in the name of Christ, should be ashamed of themselves.  My prayer for New Hope Church is that they would confess this matter before God and men as a means of communicating a genuine Gospel humility to those who desperately need to see and hear it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Surety Before Politics

Porter GossThe examples of political expediency and compromise in our nation's capitol should remind every Christian that we must pray earnestly for those who are in governing authority (Jeremiah 29:7, 1 Timothy 2:1-8).  It is disturbing to see the way in which our nation's well-being is being sacrificed on the altars of greed, power, and naive populism.  Such bad examples in the world often stand as illustrations of other spiritual contests.  For example the modern church has become quite political itself such that in an effort to increase it's influence in the world many "churches" today are incrementally exchanging the truth of God for worldly popularity.  Such doctrines of compromise and political expedience lead to the loss realism, truth, and integrity.  In like manner, many of our nation's leaders are exchanging the substance of reality, truth, and integrity for the mythological hope of an American Utopia - a land of peace that is begotten by means of political deception, public pacifism, and the naive pursuit of friendship with enemy states who are committed to our destruction - no matter who is president.  

Porter Goss, former director of the CIA, has recently written a revealing article exposing the dangerous activities that are now freely flowing from Capitol Hill.  It is difficult to ascertain which is worse: the dangerous policies themselves, or the manner in which they are pursued: 

Security Before Politics [Excerpts from the Washington Post]

By Porter J. Goss, Saturday, April 25, 2009

A disturbing epidemic of amnesia seems to be plaguing my former colleagues on Capitol Hill. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, members of the committees charged with overseeing our nation's intelligence services had no higher priority than stopping al-Qaeda. In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA's "High Value Terrorist Program," including the development of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers...

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience...

Circuses are not new in Washington, and I can see preparations being made for tents from the Capitol straight down Pennsylvania Avenue. The CIA has been pulled into the center ring before. The result this time will be the same: a hollowed-out service of diminished capabilities...

Unfortunately, much of the damage to our capabilities has already been done. It is certainly not trust that is fostered when intelligence officers are told one day "I have your back" only to learn a day later that a knife is being held to it. After the events of this week, morale at the CIA has been shaken to its foundation...

Trading security for partisan political popularity will ensure that our secrets are not secret and that our intelligence is destined to fail us. [full article here]

Apart from the new birth from above, with God's intervention of mercy and grace, such stories will continue to flow from our nation's capitol.  Let us then pray for the welfare (Jeremiah 29:7), repentance, and redemption (1 Timothy 2:1-8) of the people of our nation.  Without a surety in Him, we will have no security at all.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Apophis - A Bitter Destroyer?

The final judgment narratives found in the Bible are located in the book of Revelation.  They begin in chapter 5 and culminate in Chapters 18 & 19 via the seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments.  In chapter eight, we find an interesting reference to one of these instruments of tribulation which is brought about by a "star" named Wormwood amidst the third trumpet judgment:

Revelation 8:10-11: 10 The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. 11 The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.

Interestingly, the English word "star" represents the Greek word - ἀστὴρ - from which root we also get the word asteroid.  In the case of "Wormwood" it is called ἀστὴρ μέγας  - which could literally be translated as "mega-asteroid."  What the Scriptures predict NASA is coming to know, with increasing accuracy, in light of the greater accuracy and resolution power of the many telescopes in the world today.  NEO's, as they are called (Near Earth Objects) are celestial objects that are being watched in view of the proximity of their orbits to that of the earth itself.  Only in recent years has NASA, along with other scientific organizations around the world, devoted such a large amount of time, energy, and research on this subject of NEOs - because the scientific data is revealing the truth that an astroidal threat is quite real: 

As of March 31, NASA's list of so-called near-Earth objects numbers 6,191. The catalog includes 773 objects one kilometer in diameter or larger and 1,042 objects -- including Apophis -- classified as "potentially hazardous" to Earth, according to the agency's Near-Earth Object Program web site.

Because of the increasing knowledge of the cosmological threat that surrounds us, many have been seeking out ways to destroy or redirect incoming asteroids before they hit the earth, as evidenced in the video below:

One asteroid that is receiving more attention in recent days is the object known as Apophis.  Apophis is the Greek name of the Ancient Egyptian god Apep, "the Destroyer."  NASA is convinced that Apophis will safely pass by the earth in 2029, but its return orbit is much more of a mystery.  When it does another flyby, this object which is the size of a 25 story building, may impact the earth.  If this is the case, Apophis may require a name change.  Nasa article here.  Wikipedia overview here.

P.S. My concluding suggestion that Apophis might require a name change is rather tongue-in-cheek.  Based upon Acts 1:7 I do not believe that we will know about the real Wormwood until it is nearly upon us (many asteroids are invisible to us due to the earth's asteroidal blind spot).   Besides, Wormwood is called ἀστὴρ μέγας - and Apophis (at 1000 feet in length) isn't all that "mega."

Defining Extremism: The DHS and Their Concern About Right Wing Terrorists

As one who served in the United States Air Force for nearly eight years of my life, I wanted to address an issue which has garnered much attention in recent days.  The Department of Homeland Security issued a summary report on April 7th entitled: Report on Right-Wing Extremists.  This document, which was marked  "for official use only" (FOUO), is normative in the sense that the DHS typically will issue warnings to local law enforcement officials concerning real or perceived threats to our national security.  What was alarming about the report was its focus on specific groups and ideologies, such as military personnel and certain conservative ideals.  This the report did, despite the follow-up statement made by Secretary Napolitano:

"Let me be very clear: we monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We don’t have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence."  Statement by US DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano

Rather than making political ideology a secondary consideration, the primary focus was clearly established within the title itself - "Report on Right-Wing Extremists."  The definitions of right-wing extremism, as addressed in the report, were established to be those who were motivated by hatred of certain religions, races, and ethnicities - but it did not stop there.  It even went so far as to single out ideologies as follows: 

"It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration." 

At this point, we could all agree that we have seen occasions of violence stemming from such ideologies, and even from disgruntled military personnel.  Because of this, it may seem like a moot point to criticize the DHS report at all, and yet we might wonder if this same DHS body will reveal equal alarm over "disgruntled vets" who team up with those who have committed actual terrorism in our nation for the sake of liberal causes:

Former Marine Joins Forces with Bill Ayers

(April 3rd 2009, Former Marine Speaks out Against Iraq War, The Oakland Press)

"An Oakland Community College student who is a veteran of the Iraq war will be among more than 200 young activists at the first annual Michigan Social Justice Conference on Saturday at the University of Michigan. A former U.S. Marine, Lars Ekstrom is now a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. Last weekend, he joined a protest in a march on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C...The conference day will begin with a panel discussion on 1960s and 1970s activism with panelists Bill Ayers, who recently spoke at Oakland University, and Shanta Driver, Alan Haber and Hector Aristizábal. The event is being organized by the Progressive Alliance, a coalition of progressive social justice organizations that was formed in September 2008." (full article)

As a veteran myself, I would be just as concerned (if not more so) about those who would use violence in order to advance a "left wing" agenda.  With men like William Ayers involved, one would have to wonder how far such a movement might go - especially since we are now committing more troops to Afghanistan.  The query that I raise as a veteran is this: will the DHS produce a follow up report concerning Ayer's recruitment of disgruntled vets, with a possible title: "Report on Already Known Left-Wing Extremists."  At least with such a report as this, one would not be left with mere conjecture about what could be, instead they would have the concrete evidence of a man who used violence against our nation already, and who remains unrepentant to this very day.

For now, I'll just wait for that follow up report.

P.S.  Secretary Napolitano has been asked several times, in seperate interviews, whether or not she read the April 7th FOUO report before signing it.  Her repeated response has been that she was briefed on it, but that she did not read it herself.  In view of this trend of governing officials signing reports and bills without a coherent knowledge of their content, I would suggest that there are much greater dangers lurking out there than some disgruntled vets.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

For Once, I Agree with the Taliban

It is a limited point of agreement to be sure, but here it is:

U.S. reconciliation offer "lunatic": Taliban spokesman

By Sayed Salahuddin (Reuters article)

KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents reject a U.S. offer of "honorable reconciliation," a top spokesman said on Wednesday, calling it a "lunatic idea" and saying the only way to end the war was to withdraw foreign troops.

One qualification: the word "lunatic," comes from the Latin word lunaticus, which originally referred to a form of madness caused by lunar phases.  Those who believe that the Taliban could become peaceful as a result of an insipid offer of reconciliation are not in their right mind.  As to the question about human madness, consider the following:

Ecclesiastes 9:3: 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead.

Child Training & Consequential Reproof

Ephesians 6:1-3: 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.

In the broadest sense of the expression, consequential reproof is being used here to refer to God’s provision of chastisement by means of specific consequences for sin. This aspect of reproof is very important in light of the fact that it is a universal form of rebuke that will follow us all throughout the rest of our lives. Because of this, children should be trained in such a way that they can learn to appreciate this form of reproof. The Scriptures give us several examples of what consequences may come for sin, for example: If you don’t pay your bills then you will receive the consequences for such negligence (Proverbs 6:1-2). If you fail to take care of your household then it will decay and become broken down (Proverbs 24:30-31), and the perverse use of one’s mouth will bring ruin (Proverbs 6 & 18). Foolish behavior will be met with the consequential reproof of the Lord. This reproof is providentially given by the Lord, especially to those who are His children for their greater good. However, we must remember that great caution must be applied when attempting to ascertain if God’s hand of reproof is being applied for specific sins. When we attempt to interpret life’s experiences we must guard against the error of merely assuming that all hardships are the direct result of a particular sin. For example, when the disciples encountered the man who was born blind from birth in John 9, they queried about what sin the blind man or his parents had committed, such that this ailment came to be. The Lord’s answer clearly redirected their thinking, for it was neither that he sinned nor his parents, but that the works of God might by displayed in him (John 9:1-3). When difficult circumstances come our way, it is in keeping with wisdom and humility to seek the Lord in an attempt to understand the purpose of His providences (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). But it is important to exercise great wisdom and caution when attempting to interpret life’s circumstances. Sometimes our comprehension of trials may be very clear, at other times we may have to admit our inability to comprehend God’s immediate purposes. However, if you fail to pay your bills and you go to jail for it, wonder not! Whether we suffer for doing good, or evil (1 Peter 2:15-20), God’s profitable word reminds us that He is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

These broader principles of life also apply to the family, including children. As parents, we are in the process of learning how to ascertain life’s circumstances appropriately, that is, Biblically. As we grow in wisdom in this area, we must aid our children such that they too will think Biblically about their circumstances. It is certain that they will experience the natural consequences for sin, and when they do they will need the wisdom of the Word to understand the Lord’s loving reproof in it all. Parents should avoid the superstitious approach of the disciples, but if a child burns his hand on a hot iron after being commanded “No! Do not touch!” then there should be little mystery concerning the relationship between their failure to obey and the injury they received! Consequential reproof can take many forms, arising in many contexts. There will be times when consequential reproof will come by means of events that take place outside of the parent’s direct influence (i.e., the child who touched the hot iron when ignoring the parent’s warning). At other times, consequential reproof can be supplied by specific events that are initiated and governed by parents. In this latter category it is the parent who directly supplies the consequences for sin. Consider the following examples.

  • Temporary isolation for gossip: Proverbs 20:19 He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.

  • Temporary isolation for selfishness: Proverbs 21:13 He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered.

  • Temporary isolation for mockery: Proverbs 22:10 Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, Even strife and dishonor will cease.

  • Removal of various privileges for selfishness or laziness: Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat.

  • The temporary loss of responsibilities in the home because of sin: Proverbs 28:10 He who leads the upright astray in an evil way will himself fall into his own pit...

  • A loss of a meal for laziness: Proverbs 20:4 The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, So he begs during the harvest and has nothing. (2 Thessalonians 3:10 “...if anyone will not work, neither let him eat.”)

  • Temporary removal of property for disobedience: Proverbs 13:18 Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored.

The loss of privileges for the sins of gossip, selfishness, mockery, laziness, or general disobedience can be very effective in offering punitive reproof to children. Like the use of the rod, the use of consequential reproof should be designed in order to offer a safe but effective rebuke to the child. A loss of a single meal will not lead to malnutrition; nor will an hour of isolation lead to insanity. The extent to which these methods of reproof are employed should be measured with careful consideration in order to achieve a balance of compassion and a needful rebuke. Parents will learn, over time, what forms of reproof are most effective with their children. For some children, an hour of isolation can be a small vacation for them, while for others the loss of certain responsibilities in the home could be a great victory. But it could also be that for these same children that the removal of certain property or the loss of a meal could capture their attention and cause them to consider their sin more clearly. The point is simply this: what is effective for one child may not be as clearly effective for others, therefore, parents must watch, listen, and learn as they apply such reproof.

It is oftentimes argued that such reproof caters to a fleshly motivation for obedience. Such a concern is well advised since it is true that fleshliness should always be a concern in all matters of obedience to God’s Word. However, the concern over fleshly motivation actually applies not only to devices of consequential reproof, but it also applies to the rod of reproof. This is so because both means of reproof deal in the language of grief and pain. The pain of the rod, the pain of hunger, the pain of isolation etc., all bear the common root of this universal language of grief and pain. Therefore, there will always be a danger that children would obey only so that they might avoid the pain of any of these forms of reproof. While it is true that the avoidance of pain will have some part in one’s motivation in obedience, it cannot be the goal of the parent for such to be the principal source of motivation. Our highest motivation must be the love of God and His good pleasure, and secondarily, the love of our neighbor. The fear of consequences for sin should take on a tertiary role of importance, at best. This concern of motivation never ends however, not only in parenting, but even in the lives of mature Christians. What parents should do in order to direct their children to a right motivation is to use the pain of reproof (whether by the rod, or by circumstantial reproof – or both) as a tool to show them the ugliness of sin and thus direct them to the goodness of the Savior, Jesus Christ, who came in order to save His people from their sin.[1]

[1] Matthew 1:21 “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”