Thursday, September 25, 2008

There's No Business Like Show Business

A while ago, a commenter asked me to post my views on the Lakeland fiasco. Though not wishing to respond to that request specifically, I do want to broach the broader subject of fleshly inspired antics in ministry. If in doing so, I manage to ruffle your feathers, I hope you'll post a comment and help me see your viewpoint.

The realm of finance is presently teaching us what the realm of ministry has taught us over and over again: people are unwilling to call their superstars on their excesses. Success inexorably excuses excess. Despite red flags, warning sirens, and the inevitable recognition, after the fact of course, that we knew something was fishy, we look the other way if the party in question at least gives the appearance that he or she's getting it done. The Charismatic movement is in disarray because of that unfortunate trait. Are there some simple principles that charismatics could use to assess the actual spirituality vs. fleshly embellishments of ministry, before the result is another boondoggle that embarrasses everyone who cherishes the gift of the Holy Spirit? Yes, I think there are...

  • If Jesus didn't minister that way, neither should we
  • If it was not envisaged in the scriptures, it's not of God
  • Goofiness is not spiritual, it's just goofy
  • Only prestidigitators and illusionists need fanfares and distractions to perform their art
  • No one is all that special
  • Biblically, only the megalomaniacal needed music to set the tone for ministry
  • When they were slain in the Spirit in the Bible, the were buried forthwith
  • When Jesus took off his coat while ministering, he washed feet, not stoked up the crowd

More could be said, suggest a rule or two yourself in the comments if you'd like. The bottom line: if a man or woman ministers outside these guidelines, he or she is fleshly at best and an out and out charlatan at worst. That may sound judgmental, but how many dog and pony shows are we going to be subjected to before we start making the judgments Bible believing, Spirit-filled people should able to easily. Or, are we so far out at sea that we cannot tell the difference between show business and ministry?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Last Laugh

What a week! America teeters on the precipice of financial collapse. How does one digest that! 401K's, IRA's, bank accounts, stock portfolios, home prices, all are susceptible to sudden and large declines or losses as the grease of commerce (credit) in the consumer society dries up, and all the moving parts of our economy seize into motionlessness. Why does such bad news seem so often to come in the fall, perhaps that's the very definition of poetic justice.

Basically, we're in this fix because this generation of Americans feel we are entitled to have what we want and to have it now. It must be grabbed, after all, before we're too decrepit to enjoy it. Anyone with a bit of chutzpa can live large: dream homes; hobbies; vacations; jobs that are exciting, interesting, even pleasurable; early retirement with walks on sandy beaches. Don't work, scrimp, save, and plan for these things, that's for old-fashioned schmucks. Grow into your mortgage, tap your home equity, borrow from your 401 and pay yourself the interest, Visa is accepted everywhere, no worries--no one even plays the pipe anymore. Dream big, live large.

Wall Street will end up getting the blame for all this, not the irresponsible government and never the avaricious American people that vote it into office. American business exists to make money supplying what Americans want. If we want a stupid thing, there's plenty of smart folk out there who will find a way to market it to us. Once one smart guy finds a way to the meat, the rest of the piranhas flop over each other trying to get a bite too. Is this really surprising to anyone?

Where are the Christians in this Christian nation, particularly in the financial field, the government, and mostly on the consumer side of the counter? Jesus told us we could not serve God and mammon at the same time. Boy, have we tried to prove him wrong. Tell me, what does the the last laugh sound like when it rolls from heaven?

Addendum: This may shed some light on the question of where were the Christians on the consumer side of the counter. (HT: Paul Grabill)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Can Anyone Be Ready for This?

Concluding positions one might take if biblical religion were actually brought into politics...

Concerning Law and Order

Every neighborhood in this country, rich or poor, should be safe enough for even a stranger to pass through without fear. Wealthier neighborhoods already are, but poorer neighborhoods often do not experience the same level of law and order. Yes, there is a different class and density of population between one and the other, but that is no excuse to abandon entire areas of our cities to the de facto control of gangs, thugs and crime. The
poor deserve safe neighborhoods every bit as much as the wealthy.

More police need to be placed on our streets, particularly the mean ones. There's not one square inch of this country that the government, under God, can justifiably cede to the rule of thuggery rather than the rule of law and order. An idea for utilizing our police forces that would help immediately: stop parking them so often along the streets in patrol cars manning speed traps and start placing them more often on the streets preventing crime!

Concerning Political Parties

The Constitution should to be amended to specifically ban elected officials at any level of government from being associated with any political party, and furthermore, should ban any association which seeks to organize candidates or office holders into ideological blocks in order to gain political power. Taxpayers should not foot the bill for party politics as it does now through gridlock; double staffing; witch hunting, grand standing inquisitions; primary elections and matching funds for campaigns. Informational and voter service agencies would not be effected.

I could go on, but I won't. Hopefully, you're reading in between the lines and can see the problem that lies ahead for any who would resolutely attempt to bring biblical religion into politics. Jesus rules, unapologetically, with a rod of iron, and we will rule with him, like him. I don't think the world is ready for that just yet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Any Readier?

Continuing with positions someone who actually brought biblical religion into politics might take...

Concerning Crime and Punishment

Prisons, by and large, should be abolished. Criminals owe their victims, not the state. Those that commit crimes should be indentured to the victims of those crimes until restitution is made. Those too violent to put on the streets should be sentenced to death (government bears the sword not the key). Crimes that are of a personal nature should not be crimes at all.

Concerning Economic Justice

Labor should not be commoditized. The
ox is not to be muzzled as it treads the grain. It is a travesty that the most powerful sliver of the workforce uses its power to enrich itself, tapping into the harvest, while the mass of the workforce is forced into ever tighter, constricted competition for less and less. In hubris, the powerful actually believe they deserve that much more than the poor schlubs at the bottom of the ladder. God is no respecter of persons and has no respect for greed. Neither should the law! Whatever profit a corporation disburses in dividends to stockholders and bonuses to the top tier of management should be at least matched and distributed among all of its employees, including the janitor and the receptionist. Sole proprietorships and partnerships should follow similar rules.

Concerning Welfare

Those who will not work, should not eat. Those who cannot work, should be shown mercy. Those who cannot find work ought to be put to work serving the public good.

Concerning Reparations

The bulk of idle federal landholdings, not held in trust for Native Americans, ought to be divided among and deeded to all those who can trace their lineage to former slaves. Those slaves were not only often abused and mistreated, but were given nothing upon achieving freedom, and that needs to be rectified. Whether it's 40 acres or not doesn't matter (presumably, it would be much more); regardless, no mules will be distributed.

Are we having fun yet?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Are You Ready for Religion in Politics?

Dr. D asked a question to any takers about religion and politics the other day on his Charismatica blog. He had no takers, and wound up starting the discussion himself. I appreciated his thoughts, but I thought it best to address the issue here from my own, unique (read: outrageous/extreme) point of view.

Biblically, I see the only
purpose of government under God as protecting the innocent from the evil doer. This is an absolute secular necessity if life amongst sinners is to continue until Jesus comes back. In the best of worlds, we wouldn't need it, in ours (even in the Millennium) we desperately do. We are told that government doesn't bear the sword for nothing, and we should cooperate with its purposes in ensuring justice. Of special note in all this is the conclusive fact that government bears the sword, not the key. Government is not in place under God to tell anyone what to think, how to run his or her life, what to do for retirement or education, what to do with private property, what to do medically, and certainly never to enforce a belief system (though it did in ancient Israel). Government, at its most fundamental, is there simply to keep the powerful and the violent from doing harm or oppressing the rest of the population (I think the this aligns with the OT prophets as well).

With that Biblical and worldwide mandate in mind, let me suggest a few policy positions a politician who actually brought biblical religion into the realm of politics might take:

Concerning the Use of Deadly Force

  • The Death Penalty should be enforced, without pity or mercy, upon anyone who willfully or callously takes another life.
  • No other government or body should be allowed to kill or oppress the citizens of this country while they are in their own lands, without incurring the response of the sword (which requires a strong, ready and able military).
  • Abortion should be illegal, unless the unborn child is causing immediate, physical distress that realistically threatens the mother's life. A practitioner, or anyone else, who performs an illegal abortion should be sentenced to death.
That will be sufficient for now. If this has legs under it, I'll add some more. If not, que sera sera!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Just How Depraved Are We?

The natural spiritual state of mankind is both the subject of theological debate, and homespun philosophy apart from any consideration of religious doctrine. Folksy conclusions drawn from the observation of life can be stated succinctly, running along a spectrum, from "nobody's perfect," to "everyone has some good in him," to "children learn what they live." The parallel theological spectrum runs from Calvinistic total depravity to Pelagianian free will. One would think that Paul put the issue to rest with Romans 7, but the debate lingers on.

In trying to assure that God gets all the glory in salvation, many feel they have to diminish man in order to elevate God. I wonder, does God need us as a step ladder? While the desire to glorify God is commendable, diminishing his stated plans, purpose and design for man in order to do it is, at least, misplaced assistance. So, how does Worm Theology glorify the Creator in whose image the "worm" was made and the Son of God was incarnated? Of course, in the opposite vein, overstating the quality or abilities of natural man will induce self-dependence, which can only result in frustration and loss.

The problem outlined in Romans 7 for natural mankind is not that a sinful person is unable to perceive the goodness of the law, nor even to understand what is good conceptually, but that he has something within him which frustrates his ability to actually do anything about it. Now I should add, there is no clue that the natural person is able to derive what is good on his own or has any desire to (although he is able to discern the nature of God that way). However, the natural human is definitely capable of seeing it when God graciously presents it.

The godly sorrow that results in that perceiving, as their ensuing exasperation burgeons, is what leads the natural man to abandon self-reliance and to put trust and hope in Christ. To the depraved Christ proclaims his life saving message, "Repent, and believe the good news!" For those that do, the frustration of personal depravity yields to the peace of his ability.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Background Noise

It's been said that the mass of humanity is sheep-like, following whomever seems to know where to go. There doesn't have to be a logic to it, boldness is sufficient to turn the masses. Hitler's strategy was to tell the biggest lie he could as boldly as he could, and the sheep would follow in tow. Hitler as Bo-peep, now there's an image you won't find on the average blog, boy, I wish I had graphical skills!

It doesn't take anything as dark as Hitler to reveal this quality in the human race, we see it in the rather silly and less threatening realm of fashion and celebrity. A star wears the outrageous or impractical and the stores can't stock enough to staunch the crescendo of bleating. Though we're all adapting to the concept of the viral in the internet age, I wonder if its roots trace wa-a-a-a-ay back before Al Gore's famous creation to the fawning of a new age introduced by bobby-soxers' hysteria over Frank Sinatra. Does one little match really set the forest aflame?

It makes one wonder, at least it does me, where my ovine tendencies are leading me. Whether it be election year musings, or some more profound stirring of soul, I'm asking myself whose lead am I truly following. We all know the PC (preferred Christian) answer: Jesus!-- but does an investigation of our trail here, to this point (reading this silly blog), confirm or belie that contention?

There are many whose wool rises above the heights of any other's in the vicinity. They write books for dummies, testify to the greener grass in the pasture they know the way to. They host TV shows, wool carded and sounding not b-a-a-a-a-d at all. They get on soapboxes in the public square and blather until we choose, between them or that other blatherer standing on a different colored soapbox, which to follow. Where are we going following them? To a spot to stand until the next one rises, or perhaps, to the jaws of a ravening wolf.

It's time for us to begin checking credentials at the door. You know, that door to your life (thanks Bill Bright). We're not made of iron and these stars we follow are not made of neodymium. We can't follow two masters, two gurus, two directions at once. Jesus rose from the dead, his credential trumps all others. So, regardless of what anyone is selling, or supposedly knows, or thinks they can guarantee, put all your eggs in Jesus' basket. We don't need to be like the world, we don't need to have what the world thinks we do, we don't need to fit into their mold, and we don't have to see things their way. I am a sheep that follows Jesus, the bleating of other sheep and the howling of wolves are nothing but background noise.