Pastors, don’t leave your people alone

Our society is big on “aloneness.” We don’t need anyone or anything. This is a one man show, and the audience is dispensable. What a paradox that those who are most alone damage so many with their sin.

Adultery, particularly for men, is often preceded by a period of isolation. Pastors, seek out the men cutting themselves off from fellowship and worship – they are in danger. For women, this isolation is often foisted upon them by uncaring husbands. They are left alone and seek out companionship. Pastors, watch out for abandoned women and find ways to care for them.

Liars and gossips are often lonely. They crave the intimacy of shared experience and find that creating a world of juice and lurid tale is inviting to other lonely souls. Of course when the sensationalism dies, so do the sensations of connection. When the scandal is widely known community breaks down and more loneliness is created. Pastors, keep your ears open and go to the source of the fires starting in the woods of the Church. Don’t just come with admonitions, but with community, showing the gossip their interconnectedness to those about whom they wag.

Murderers are often isolated. The bullied child and the shunned odd man out are left with an inner dialog of painful lies. They hear very clearly the father of lies, who was a murderer from the beginning, and unless someone interrupts that conversation it will end badly. Pastors, talk to the isolated people in your congregation and teach them to reach outside themselves. Teach others to see the lonely and to reach out to them.

Lastly pastors. Please don’t isolate yourself. All the above apply to you in spades. Your adulteries, your murders (killing comes in many forms), your unbridled tongue will do more damage to the body of Christ than any 10 of your parishioners.  

Are we a just society…

… when we don’t obey our own laws?

“Congress is way out of touch on this issue,” said Paul. “These people who believe in projecting American power, really believe in projecting American weakness. They don’t want us to respond to words with actions or obey our own laws.”

http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/08/15/rand_paul_slams_congress_for_aiding_egypt_how_does_your_conscience_feel_now

IRS horror stories…

23 years ago this month my wife and were sitting in a coffee shop in Rota, Spain reading the Stars and Stripes newspaper (I believe I was reading the comics, while Mary had the main section), we were joking around with a couple of friends about the similarities of one of our mates to a particular comic strip character. In the midst of that laughter my wife excitedly exclaimed, “Alan, your parents are in the newspaper!” Thinking this was a continuation of our conversation over the comics, I leaned over to take a look.

Nope. Not a comic.

It was a horror story.

This is what I saw in the upper left hand corner of the Stars and Stripes dated June 14th:  http://newspaperarchive.com/european-stars-and-stripes/1990-06-14/page-3

A federal judge said that he had been lied to and that my parents had been treated rudely and incompetently by agents of the IRS. He went on to say, in a 10 page ruling that the behavior of the IRS “demonstrates the IRS’ lack of organization and respect for the taxpayers.” What the heck happened? I had no idea what this was all about, but over the next few months I would find out.

Here is the gist of the story…

My grandmother died of cancer in 1987 and during the turmoil of that time, managing her estate and tying up loose ends, my parents turned some business books over to an accountant and he failed to pay diesel fuel tax between September of 1988 and May 1989. My family discovered the error when they took the books back over and being good citizens they called the IRS office in Atlanta, GA to let them know that they owed back taxes. The IRS assigned the case to Sherilyn Heyward of the IRS’ Savannah office and boy, did she run with it.

She initially informed my parents that their back taxes and penalties came to about $51K, then a couple of weeks later she said she made a mistake and they owed $7,000 more, then another $1,000, then, ooops, another $37,000. After mortgaging their store, cashing in insurance policies, and getting loans from banks they arraigned to pay off everything except $10K. They asked that they be allowed to pay off the rest in installments. No dice. Heyward put a lien against the business for unpaid taxes and went to a bank to seize money. In an example of the incompetence that the federal judge noted, Heyward got the address for the store wrong on the lien and the bank refused to hand over the cash.

Heyward went before judge Edenfield and lied to him, stating that my parents were moving bank accounts around in an attempt to hide money from the IRS. The judge, acting on this false testimony, issued a search warrant for my parents business and Heyward oversaw its execution with armed federal agents in tow. Some of that is covered in this article in Money Magazine: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/1990/10/01/86126/index.htm

After all of this the IRS was ordered by the same judge to leave my parents alone and stop all collections against them. This order was ignored, in fact the IRS went door to door in my parents neighborhood asking their friends how many cars they owned, if they ever drove business vehicles for personal use, really sponsored little league baseball teams and in general ruined my parents reputation out of spite.

So, what happened to the incompetent Ms. Heyward? Well, she received a temporary appointment to oversee all collections in Savannah when last we had any dealings with her. There was never any discipline. In fact, when my mother was interviewed on the Today Show about all of this one of her fellow guests, a former IRS agent, said that agents are never disciplined for overly aggressive collections, but they are disciplined if they don’t collect. Nice, eh?

My parents spent a lot of time in the newspaper (http://archives.savannahnow.com/sav_pdf_archive/text/fr38/A_2301527.pdf

http://archives.savannahnow.com/sav_pdf_archive/text/fr38/A_2301555.pdf)

The Money Magazine article was picked up by Readers Digest as well and with all that publicity guess what happened?  Nothing. In the end my parents closed down two businesses in Georgia, moved to Florida and filed for bankruptcy. My dad had a massive coronary in 1991, surviving thank God, and began to rebuild their lives.

The IRS is raw, uncheck power and when they move on people they are capable of inflicting great harm.

More Bible, More Voting…

… Sure I know it has been 7 months since my last post.  What? Your’re not busy?

“When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

(Deuteronomy 17:14-20 ESV)

 Here are a few thoughts I am carrying with me into the November Election in the US. My friend Todd mentioned Lex, Rex by Rev. Samuel Rutherford, during our men’s fellowship Todd leads. It sparked some good conversation and got me thinking. I know many people disagree with me on the issue of voting for a Mormon for president and I pray that we might disagree with godliness and not go down the road of vilification… May that tactic be reserved for more governmentally entrenched targets?

 1. When setting a king (how much more a President?) over us in our voting we should remember he is to be “from among our brothers.” I take this to mean one of the covenant people of God. We ought not set someone over us who does not know God.

Rutherford talked about the role of the people in “Setting a king over” them. In Question VI of Lex, Rex Rutherford answers the argument, “WHETHER THE KING BE SO FROM GOD ONLY, BOTH IN REGARD OF HIS SOVEREIGNTY AND OF THE DESIGNATION OF HIS PERSON TO THE CROWN, AS THAT HE IS NO WAY FROM THE PEOPLE, BUT BY MERE APPROBATION.” In other words isn’t it true that it is God alone who sovereignty appoints kings? Don’t the people just show “approbation” or approval? Rutherford uses the text above to note that the people do put kings up and they have the capacity, because of the fall, to choose a king who is not “your brother.” How is this?

Rev. Rutherford answers in part: 

“The assumption (that it was God alone who chose Saul and David) is also false, for the people made Saul and David kings; and it were ridiculous that God should command them to make a brother, not a stranger, king, if it was not in their power whether he should be a Jew, a Scythian, an Ethiopian, who was their king, if God did only, without them, both choose, constitute, design the person, and perform all acts essential to make a king; and the people had no more in them but only to admit and consent, and that for the solemnity and pomp, not for the essential constitution of the king.”

 

To say that the people simply approved of what God does, guts the command of God for the people to do the choosing and makes the king of no “essence” from the people. He later goes on to prove his argument that though Saul and David were chosen by God they were also chosen by the people. By the way if you gut this command of God, which other commands will you eviscerate?

 2. This is not a reason to vote for someone who is a brother by baptism yet mocks God and hates his rule. Lex, Rex (Law over the King) is a Biblical idea, and the king must learn to fear the Lord his God. Notice above that the king is to hand write a copy of the Law so that he might not be lifted up above his brothers. He is to get the law from the priests and he is to do the copying. 

 

Rutherford in discussing elections over hereditary assumption of the crown says this in question X

 “Elections of governors would be performed as in the sight of God, and, in my weak           apprehension, the person coming nearest to God’s judge, fearing God, hating covetousness;     and to Moses’ king, (Deut. xvii.) one who shall read in the book of the law; and it would seem now that gracious morals are to us instead of God’s immediate designation… The genuine and intrinsical end of making kings is not simply governing, but governing the   best way, in peace, honesty, and godliness, (1 Tim. ii.) therefore, these are to be made kings who may most expeditely  procure this end. Neither is it my purpose to make him no king who is not a gracious man, only here I compare title with title.

 And in question XIV,

             “…the king oweth to God proper and due obedience as any of the subjects, and also to govern the people according to God’s true religion, (Deut. xvii.; 2 Chron. xxix.;) and in this the king’s obligation differeth from the people’s obligation; the people, as they would be saved, must serve God and the king, for the same cause.”

Our ruler is to be righteous “according to God’s true religion” if he is to rule rightly and if one has proven that he would not rule thus he is not to be king. Rutherford argued that this is the peoples power and place to exercise wisdom in this area, but exercise it they must.

More later, but feel free to comment now…

al sends

Jesus Christ, Lord of the State and How That Informs My Voting

As a post-mil, “Thy Kingdom Come” kinda guy here is where my difficulty lies.  For a Christian to actively support a person for a position of authority over the State is to also promote that person to a position of authority over the members of Christ’s body, the Church. To promote a non-Trinitarian to that position is, I believe, very problematic. If God is Lord over the State, which I believe he is, then to elect someone within the LDS to the presidency is to give tacit approval to, or at least gross ambivalence toward, the doctrine of Joseph Smith and the LDS Apostles.

So, what is different between this case and supporting someone who advocates for example an unjust preemptive war or is ambivalent to homosexual unions? We all make compromises when we vote these days. What makes this more significant than Ron Paul’s ambivalence toward the Morning After Pill, Senator Santorum’s desire to treat Iranian nuclear scientists as Al-Qaida members, or Newt Gingrich horrid personal life?  Two things…

First, our primary call as Christians is to expand the Kingdom of Christ. We are his workmanship created for good works and the first and greatest work is that we should go out and make disciples of all men, teaching them and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Why would we actively work to promote the Mormon god and his disciples?

Second, the other candidates I mentioned may be addressed within the governance of the Church and, God willing, one day with a state in submission to Christ. We can even call a man like President Obama back to the truth of his God as revealed in Scripture, pray for him as a Christian who may yet return to the Triune God of his Baptism. If our particular Church were in authority over him – we could discipline him in accordance with the Scriptures that he might repent.  None of these things are an option with a Mormon.

This is the key for me.

I welcome your thoughts…

 al sends

Why I Am Not A Voting A Mormon

The study of the Puritans/Pilgrims led by my friend Todd Leonard a few weeks ago was helpful in cementing in my mind why I cannot vote for a Mormon (or a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Christian Scientist) for president…. Here are my (and only mine) brief thoughts:

 While still on the Arbella, sailing to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop delivered or at least penned his treatise titled, “A Model of Christian Charity.” Without going into too much detail (you can find the entire text here:  (http://religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu/sacred/charity.html) I just want to point out that Winthrop was a governor in submission to the Lordship of Christ. So, when at the end of his sermon, says to the colonists that they “shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon (them),” we must remember that this is in the context of how they should carry out living justly, mercifully and humbly (Micah 6:8) in the land. He was quoting Christ and His description of how his disciples should effect the world for the kingdom.

 In other words they would have no light at all if Christ was not their Lord. If the government (of the people) is not in submission to Christ then any light they offer is ultimately a false light and the Church must call them back to repentance and faithfulness. This was how many of our fathers saw their work in building a new world, it was an extention of the eternal city – the Kingdom of God.

 When John F. Kennedy used the phrase “city on a hill” to describe America he moved away from the Gospel and found redemption within the borders of the US. When Ronald Reagan used the phrase even more narrowly, equating the “city” with the Republican platform of governance, the “city” shrank again.

 Here is where I get to the heart of my argument against voting for a Mormon to president. If our president is part of a Christian cult* (large, moral, nice, well dressed and no longer dogmatically racist to be sure, but still a cult), then he is not under the Church’s authority. There are no elders who will give an account for this man’s soul.

 If God lifts up another John Knox who will speak to those in power his audience at the Whitehouse will not be listening, at least not with the ear attuned to a conversation amongst the Trinity. The source of our submission to authority is rooted in the Trinity. As the Son submits to the Father and the Father receives the Kingdom from the hand of the Son and the Spirit is sent in submission to them both, we submit to them and to one another. Now, if you hold that the god of this planet was once a man like us (sinner like us?) and was elevated to rule – solo – the idea of submission has no foundation.

 If a Mormon is elected to be President I will submit to him as my leader.  To paraphrase John Knox to Mary, “If the (country) finds no inconvenience from the government of a (Mormon), that which they approve shall I not further disallow than within my own breast, but shall be as well content to live under (his rule) as Paul was to live under Nero.” Having said that, there is a world of difference between being ruled by someone and actively supporting their ascendency to power. 

 Even if we try to get Luther to say, “I would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian” I would challenge anyone to defend the idea that Luther would campaign for a Muslim to be his Prince. Even Martin Luther and his Two Kingdom theology would not encourage a Christian to actively support putting a non Christian as the representative head of a people. (This is a bit of an anachronism, since the idea of representative democracy was outside of Luther’s paradigm.)

 Finally, let me say that politics is a tool in the hand of an almighty God; it is not the source of wisdom, health, blessing or salvation. So, I will not despair if our current President is reelected nor will I sit back and declare “it is finished” if Ron Paul (for example) wins in November 2012. No, but I will labor to show that Christ claims supremacy in every area of life and that will include national elections.

——————————–

 *I am using the term cult here to identify an off shoot of Christianity that claims to have discovered some truth the Church has missed about the Triune God revealed in Scripture, yet departs significantly and damningly from the Christian faith. Mormons in this case deny the Trinity, the eternality of God, the corruption of man and many other Christian essentials.

The Why of Worship

Let me start with a couple of things…  First, I am talking to Christians here, believers in the Triune God who is revealed in Scripture. If you do not have Christ you do not worship God. You cannot have God the Father outside God the Son. Jesus said that, not me. (John 14:6)

 Second, we are to gather together for particular worship. I am not talking about the idea of sanctified living, where everything we do is before the face of God. While that is true it does not make everything worship, for if everything is worship then nothing is.

 This series hopes to get into the details of why Providence Church in Pensacola does what it does as a body of believers gathered for a particular purpose. It is true that we live before Him 24/7, but in that living God requires that we set aside a time for the weighty, glorious labor of worship.

 So, with that in mind let proceed:

 Worship is a heavenly duty.

 God calls us to assemble in His presence, and thus the task of worship is both a serious and joyful duty. In light of this, every effort should be made to prepare oneself and, if applicable, one‘s family for the worship service. What we experience with God‘s people on the Lord‘s Day should not be confused with our other, normal activities. This is aspecial time the Lord has set aside to meet with His people.

 The Apostles gathered with believers on the first day of the week to hear preaching and to break bread: Acts 20:7 “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”

 They urged the Saints to gather regularly:  Hebrews 10:19-25 19 Therefore, brothers since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through she curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 As we worship we are brought, like John on Patmos, into God’s presence: Revelation 1 and 4. Joy is found in the presence of God. Come let us worship and bow down and kneel before the YAHWEH  our maker (Psalm 95:6). Heavenly duty indeed!

Back in Bid’ness

I was happier when I wrote stuff down… I was even happier when you read it and provided feedback. May both happen with some regularity again.

Here is what I have planned… To start this puppy up again I am going to write about the worship service at Providence Church in Pensacola, FL, the Church where Uri Brito and I pastor.  Why do we do the things we do and what does it mean for the life of the world.   You can find a copy of our Order of Worship here:  Order of Worship August 28th 2011. It is a tri-fold so start reading in the right hand column and then flip over to continue. 

I believe this series will last a bunch of weeks with a couple posts per week.  Give it a read and let me know what you think.

God Bless,

al sends

Who’s Up For A Revolution…

…  lefty cartoonists for one.  Here is a video to keep in your back pocket the next time someone complains about those “crazies” on the right.  At one point he throws out that we need to save the planet.  What a loon.  Click the link below to see the interview:

From MSNBC via Hot Air

Here is a quote from the author in the video:

We are here because the U.S. is going to end soon. There’s going to be an intense, violent, probably haphazard struggle for control. It’s going to come down to us versus them. The question is: What are you going to do about it?…

Christian fundamentalists, the millennial end-of-theworlders obsessed with the Left Behind series about the End Times, neo-Nazi racists, rural black-helicopter Michigan Militia types cut from the same inbred cloth as Timothy McVeigh, allied with “mainstream” gun nuts and right-wing Republicans, have been planning, preparing, and praying for the destruction of the “Godless,” “secular” United States for decades. In the past, they formed groups like the John Birch Society and the Aryan Nations. Now the hard Right has a postmodern, decentralized non-organization organization called the Tea Party.

I wonder if this guy has a gun? 

al sends