A prayer for a church’s offering

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In the words of King David,

Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You (1 Chron 29:10-14).

Indeed, all things come from God’s hand. Let us pray:

Father, glory and majesty is yours, your dominion is endless, your righteousness is without question. You condescend Yourself to us, in Your Son Jesus Christ, bearing our transgressions and reconciling ourselves to you. You do so liberally, without preconditions. All you ask for is a broken and contrite heart that trusts in you, and such a heart we cannot attain on our own for even you prepare the heart.

Because you show us what love is, by laying down Your precious Son’s life for us, show us how to lay down our lives for one another in our thoughts and deeds, and in this offering. Bless this offering so that we may be blessed in the giving and that what is given may be used for preaching your Gospel, the most important thing that men need addressed. We ask this all in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, who sits at your right hand now constantly making intercession for us, Amen.

Reformed Commentary on Job: Chapter 8

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In this chapter Bildad responds to Job, cautioning him that all men are unrighteous and though they prosper for a time their destruction is assured as punishment unless they repent.

Chapter 8 (For Previous Chapter Click Here)

Bildad now joins the fray. Much like Eliphaz, he cannot keep silent because Job is accusing God of not treating him rightly. This, he views as an assault of God’s justice. There is some truth to this as we find out later.

He asserts rhetorically, “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right” (Job 8:3)? Obviously the answer is no. So, without a hint of subtlety if God is both righteous and all powerful, it stands to reason that Job’s suffering is occurring as punishment.

To Bildad, other obvious explanations are not acceptable. One would be that God does not always see suffering and is not omniscient (this is the view of Jehovah’s Witnesses for example). The other would be that God is unjust and punishes “good” people. It is our presumption that he would agree with Eliphaz and assert by default, all men are deserving of punishment anyhow. In fact, when pressed on the matter and finding no specific unrighteousness to accuse Job of, he argues desperately, “How then can a man be just with God? Or how can he be clean who is born of woman” (Job 25:4)?

Though a not completely untrue position, if we use this to rationalize why we experience evil, then man is deserving of punishment all of the time and he is never to experience God’s blessings, but only punishment. As we have already seen, Job accuses God of being overly scrupulous for this reason. What is man that God, knowing he is flawed, seeks to crush him every moment?

Nonetheless, Bildad just as Eliphaz is self-righteous, but also inconsistent. On one hand he sees all men as unrighteous and deserving to be crushed. However, he somehow does not lump himself in that definition and asserts to Job that if only a man can be righteous (something they say before is impossible anyhow), only then can he be restored to God. It is, at it’s heart, a completely irrational view.

Bildad does not allow logic to get in his way from accusing Job immense unrighteousness deserving of death. He callously says, “If your sons sinned against Him, then He delivered them into the power of their transgression” (Job 8:4). Bildad then admonishes Job that if he merely repents of his sin, “He would rouse Himself for you and restore your righteous estate” (Job 8:6).

There is more to this than the idea “if you repent, God will restore you.” Implicitly, there is a very profound error in the assertion. God is not answerable to man, nor does he meet man on his terms. So, if we give the church more money, if we reject our inclinations to sin, and if we pursue righteousness, none of these acts put God in our debt. As Elihu later in the book astutely asserts:

If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against Him? And if your transgressions are many, what do you do to Him? If you are righteous, what do you give to Him, or what does He receive from your hand (Job 35:6-7)?

If God is the one that makes us righteous by His Spirit leading us to and sustaining our faith in Christ, how can we buy God off with righteousness that was not our own to begin with? As the Scripture states, “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You” (1 Chron 29:14). God made all of creation, everything we have is from Him. We can’t buy Him off with His own money, so to say.

In short, Bildad is wrong. However, he is going by what he believes is an orthodox tradition: “Please inquire of past generations and consider the things searched out by their fathers…Will they not teach you and tell you…?” (Job 8:8, 10).

The teachings of Bildad, perhaps old Near Eastern proverbs, are not that difficult to understand. Perhaps the metaphor about trusting in one’s own works instead of placing trust in God is the toughest one. Bildad teaches, “He [the wicked] trusts in his house, but it does not stand; he holds fast to it, but it does not endure” (Job 8:15). The man who exerts effort, perhaps by cutting moral corners so to say, will find that “his shoots spread out over his garden” (Job 8:16) and he feels secure as the roots wrap around stones (Job 8:17). Yet, in one fell swoop, God puts the tree to the axe (Job 8:18).

In a way, Bildad is saying that the wicked appear to be doing well for a time, but eventually they pay dearly for what they have done. He asserts that God takes joy in doing this to the wicked, knowing that the next wave of wicked men will raise themselves from the dust and will also be put to the axe (Job 8:19).

Bildad ends with advice with promises of restoration, which ironically will all come to pass by the end. God does not reject a man with integrity, He will not support evil-doers, and those who hate Job will be clothed with shame.

Morality and immigration into the United States

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According to self-described “liberals,” deporting children that are illegal immigrants is hateful.

A parent that abandons a child is beyond despicable. Even bad parents do not abandon their children. Pagans won’t. There is simply no excuse for it.

Now, I want to avoid getting overtly political in this blog, especially if it has no bearing on matters of theology, so please do not take the following as a “Red team” versus “Blue team” argument. It is not.

Further, I have not followed this issue very carefully, so I do not pretend to be anything close to an expert on it.

There apparently is some sort of upsurge, whether in media attention or in reality, in illegal immigrant minors. Now, there are many reasons for this. Many are teenage girls brought to the US as part of sex trafficking. Others have relatives or friends of relatives in the US and if they end up getting Green Cards, they can sponsor their parents over. In certain border towns, it has been a common practice for decades in order to get access to US public education.

Whatever the reason is, the indignation of typical “liberals” and “conservatives” is over the wrong issues. Conservatives just don’t want more immigrants. Refugees, people wanting a better life, people looking to go on public assistance…it does not matter. They just want them out unless they can hit homeruns or something.

Liberals like championing the cause of the “underdog.” Now, sometimes the underdog could be guilty of murder, but it does not matter. They “stick it to the man” by championing him or her.

So, the disgust over children among conservatives is something I find to be confusing being that we are talking about children. However, the preceding magazine cover from “The Week” in its July 25th issue is also disconcerting.

It shows a bunch of Mexican children, of varying age, jumping over a border fence. A teenaged girl, holding her younger sibling, has a look of desperation in her eyes. The message is obvious: “empathize with my plight!”

Here’s my question for the bleeding heart liberals: Where are the parents in all of this? America is not the answer to the problems of these children and it is arrogant to think so.

The Scripture teaches, “Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred” (Prov 15:17). It is immoral to support the tearing apart of families for short-sighted, materialistic reasons because the “big white bogeyman” is oppressing people they would have never known, unless they illegally entered into the country to begin with.

The main thing that jumped out to me in my trip to Cambodia, aside from the idolatry, is how much more important is family than wealth. No one I was there with was wealthy. My Grandmother-in-Law cooks with wood and showers with a bucket. However, in many ways, she is much wealthier then western elderly people who are abandoned in old-folks homes, sitting in a pool of their own urine.

There is a great dignity and wealth in bearing one another’s burdens, and living together the way God has intended since the beginning of time. To me it is close-minded and arrogant to think being in America is so much better than a childhood without one’s parents (which is one I essentially had, by the way).

Unless one is escaping a genocide or famine, it should be patently obvious that the place where the kids belong is with their families. A policy that encourages otherwise merely results in more broken homes and an increase in the amount of children that grow into anti-social adults (whether many of them learn to milk the system, become criminals, teenage mothers, or whatever is immaterial).

A government’s policies will always have flaws, so I cannot tell you I know what policy will “fix” this whole situation. But, I’ll tell you this: Children belong with their parents and if those kids should be going anywhere, it should be back across the border to be reunited with their families.

Ray Rice’s church background questionable

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Ray Rice has become famous for punching out his wife Janay in an elevator. Before any of this became media fodder, the couple shortly after the event, unbeknownst to the American public, became “born-again Christians.”

Ray Rice and his wife are assert that they are now Christians, but do they understand what it means to be one?

Now, man only knows outward appearances while God knows the heart, so we can only speculate whether the conversions are for real. While their motives to convert might not be as cynical as they would be if it were after the whole public reaction to the event, some of their recent behavior on the record has been questionable. However, Christians often times act according to their flesh, so this is not a smoking gun for anything either.

Nonetheless, the Rice’s could have anticipated this getting out and did this as a way to keep the NFL money flowing.

Though it is not entirely clear what church the couple belongs to, the player’s Aunt is a “Pastor” of a Fire Baptized Holiness Church (an Episcopal Pentecostal denomination). Now, to anyone well acquainted with Reformed Theology and the Doctrines of Grace, none of the following will be all that surprising. But, to some of you who are following this story and do not know too much about Christianity, the following is quite important in understanding why Rice’s church background is suspect.

  • The denomination’s website speaks of people being baptized by the Holy Spirit by “appropriating faith.” This means someone is only saved if they want it bad enough and thereby appropriate the faith itself which God generally gives to all. Evidence of this faith is if someone “speaks in tongues.”

This is wrong on all sorts of levels. “God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Rom 12:3). Further, “it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29). Further again, “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Man does not appropriate for himself faith. Rather, God appropriates men for himself and gives to them the faith that saves.

Speaking in tongues (ecstatic, incomprehensible speaking) is not evidence of one’s salvation, as not every saved believer spoke in tongues. Many “Pentecostals” (a group that is under the pale of what is called “Christianity”) claim otherwise.  St. Paul states that tongues are a spiritual gift and not every believer has it: “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spiritand to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues (1 Cor 12:8, 10). Further, “All do not speak with tongues, do they” (1 Cor 12:30)?

Lastly, typical in Pentecostal churches is that people speak in tongues, often interrupting one another, and no one translates the what anyone is saying. Again, the Scripture warns against this: “I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor 14:9). Further, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God” (1 Cor 14:27-28).

  • The denomination does not teach the inerrancy of Scripture.

The Christian religion requires an understanding of Scripture identical to that of our Lord and Savior who said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Being that this denomination does not ascribe to the authority of Scripture, this means that what they teach lacks a foundation in which it can be analyzed and understood. In science, there is the scientific method. In philosophy, there are the rules of logic. In religion, there is the practice of theology. No good theology can be derived when it is approached in an inconsistent way. Without the authority of Scripture, the Christian religion lacks consistency, changes with the times, and therefore can make no claim to truth.

  • The denomination does not uphold Biblical standards for church leadership.

Rice’s aunt is the Pastor of a New Rochelle congregation. However, the Scripture instructs, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Tim 2:11-12). Why does the Bible care whether a woman submits to a man? “I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor 11:3). To have it the other way would obscure the fact that God the Father is the head of Christ and that in effect the Son submits to the Father because as Christ says, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). Hence, to misunderstand this is to not know in its fullness the triune nature of God.

I hope that Ray Rice and his wife really did accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, for they just like any of us are sinners. We don’t just wrong one another, but by doing so we sin against God (Ps 51:4) and sinning against the infinite deserves an infinite punishment. However, God’s wrath justly reserved for men and women like us has been poured out on His Son so that, if we believe in His death and resurrection, we die to our sin and are resurrected with Him.

Ray Rice may not really understand this. But if he does, and he has the repentance to prove it, he has gained much more than what he can ever lose, even if it is a NFL career.

Christians: Say no to Obama’s Crusade against ISIS

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You heard the President’s speech about “ISIL” or “ISIS” or whatever they call them next (you don’t want to offend the terrorists by calling them by the wrong name). He did not touch on this, but you know it to be the case: Our fellow Christian brothers and sisters are being persecuted for their beliefs. They are taxed for being Christian. Their businesses are being destroyed. The least fortunate are killed. Something must be done. What would Jesus have us do?

President Barack Obama continues a cycle of bloodshed as old as humanity itself.

Let’s look what he actually did Himself: He spoke truth to power and was executed for it, “for everyone who does evil hates the light” (John 3:20). Yet, Jesus conquered the grave and by doing so was declared the Son of God with power (Rom 1:4) and has made it possible that sinners (which is you and me) may be put in right standing with God and live forever if they believe in Him.

Jesus, though he could summon armies of angels to his defense was killed for speaking the truth. Nor did he defend His Church physically, but rather they had to flee from those who wanted to arrest and execute them. Christ, by the Holy Spirit, sustained His people spiritually instead. Why? “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

What if ISIS rebels took over our town or city and began to persecute us? What advice did Jesus actually give to those who would follow him?

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name (Luke 21:12-17).

Christians are not supposed to fight back to stop being persecuted for their faith. We are to show restraint and take advantage of the opportunity we have to give a testimony to those who stand to lose much more than us if they do not repent:

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt 10:28).

Some might accuse me of taking Jesus out of context. Well, how did the Apostles apply his teaching?

Peter (1 Peter 2:13-17) and Paul (Rom 13:1-7) admonished Christians to submit to a government that was much more wicked than ISIS, simply because they were much bigger. Both Apostles wrote, and were probably executed, during the reign of no other than Emperor Nero of the Roman Empire.

While ISIS beheads and tortures people that don’t convert to Islam, the Romans would do the same to those who would not worship the Roman emperor. The Romans also crucified Christians and killed them in an ancient (and actually real) version of the Hunger Games. Yet, Peter and Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit did not call Christians to right wrongs by physical resistance, but rather to submit an authority that makes ISIS look like a bunch of wimps.

Lastly, if the command of Jesus to be obedient to the point of death and the admonitions of the Apostles (who were martyred and did not violently resist their persecutors) do not convince you, I appeal to you using plain reason:

A decent primer in the futility, and complete lack of Christianity, of recent US foreign policy can be surmised in the following synopsis of history after World War II:

-The US overthrows Iran’s government in the 1950s in response to Soviet expansionism

-In response, Islamic extremists overthrow Iranian government and take Americans hostage in 1979-1981

-In response to this, the US government props up Saddam Hussein in the 1980s to act as a counterweight to Iran, Saddam creates the world’s fourth largest army as a result

-For unrelated reasons, the same US government secretly sells weapons to Iran(who is fighting Iraq) in the 1980s, so they can create a slush fund to prop up military uprisings in Latin America

-US government props up Islamic extremists in Afghanistan in response Soviet expansionism in the 1980s

-In the 90s, Iraq’s army invades Kuwait, US-led coalition defeats Iraq and creates no-fly zones and military bases in response to Iraqi expansionism

-In response to US bases in the Middle East and policy towards Israel, Islamic fundamentalists apply the financial network and training developed fighting the Soviets in the 1980s to launch International terror attacks in the 1990s, culminating in the September 11th attacks in 2001

-In response, US government invades Afghanistan and Iraq in the 2000s and supports the “Arab Spring” movement in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria beginning in 2011 to curb the expansion of “Islamo-fascism”/militant-Islam

-In response, Libya, Egypt, and Syria have now been overrun or taken over by Islamic fundamentalists and persecutions against Christians have increased. Tunisia appears to be an exception for now.

The formation of ISIS and the present crisis in more detail:

-In response to the US deposing Saddam, Iraq’s people, a majority Shi’ite population, elect a pro-Shi’ite government in the 2000s and continuing into today, effectively making Iraq a satellite of Iran

-Iraq’s Islamic government permits wider persecution of Christians than Saddam’s secular government had and with US support force out Sunni militants, who pour into Syria

-Sunni militants from Iraq, other nations, and Syrians begin overthrowing the Syrian government

-As result of recent US policy to manipulate affairs in the Middle East to stem terrorism, the West pursues a policy of destabilizing the Syrian government by funding and even training Syrian rebels, including ISIS. More proof of this is here, here, and here.

-Though this is not necessarily a purposeful policy, ISIS and related groups thanks to these bad policy decisions, grew in response and poured over the border into Iraq and begin persecuting groups such as the Assyrian Christians.

-Obama announces airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq

Now use your commonsense. Studying history, what is the likely result of this? ISIS is defeated, militant Islam begins to wane, Christians worship with greater safety and persecutions decrease? Or, the policy of force will backfire and persecution will increase and spread?

Christians, hear my voice: Jesus Christ warned, “Those who live by the sword die by the sword” (Matt 26:52). We must heed of the words of our Lord. What He says in His Scripture is true and we know our history.

Let it not be said of us:

Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes (Rom 3:15-18).

Paul issued this warning talking about the total depravity of unbelievers, so that “every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God” (Rom 3:19).

Why trust a government of unregenerate, unChristian men to have the right motivation behind shedding the blood of men, even wicked men in ISIS? Christian, why is destruction and misery any less in the paths of unsaved men and an unsaved President of the US government than in the hearts of terrorists that make up ISIS? “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Do not lie to yourself and say that an unsaved President is anymore righteous than a ISIS member, “for everything not of faith is sin” (Rom 14:23). They are all sinful to their core and need a Savior.

Do you find yourself accountable to God because your feet a swift to shed blood? Do you live your life with no fear of God before your eyes? Then repent now and trust Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, “who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom 4:25).

We who believe in Christ must say no to a Crusade against ISIS. Today, it’s the heads of Yazidi and Christian men and women in Mosul. One day, if we live by the sword, it will end up being ours. May God have mercy and end the fighting in the Middle East. Pray for those Christians who are being persecuted and will be caught in the crossfire of this international, sinful war.

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