Archive for June, 2013

Finney: Humility, Prayer, & the Arm of God

In reading through Charles Finney’s Revival Lectures again, I was struck by how contemporary many of his statements are. Yes, he wrote this in the nineteenth century, but the application to what we are experiencing today is evident. See if you agree. In a section called “When a Revival May Be Expected,” he declares,

When the wickedness of the wicked grieves and humbles and distresses Christians. Sometimes Christians do not seem to mind anything about the wickedness around them. Or, if they do talk about it, it is in a cold and callous, and unfeeling way, as if they despaired of a reformation: they are disposed to scold sinners—not to feel the compassion of the Son of God for them. But sometimes the conduct of the wicked drives Christians to prayer, breaks them down, and makes them sorrowful and tender-hearted, so that they can weep day and night, and instead of scolding the wicked they pray earnestly for them. Then you may expect a revival.

I also found these words relevant to our situation today when sin is being sanctioned by the government:

The prevalence of wickedness is no evidence at all that there is not going to be a revival. That is often God’s time to work. . . . Often the first indication of a revival is that the devil gets up something new in opposition. This will invariably have one of two effects. It will either drive Christians to God, or it will drive them farther away from God, to some carnal policy or other that will only make things worse. . . .

I'm InIf Christians will only be humbled and pray, they shall soon see God’s naked arm in a revival of religion. I have known instances where a revival has broken in upon the ranks of the enemy, almost as suddenly as a clap of thunder, and scattered them, taken the ringleaders as trophies, and broken up their party in an instant.

Those comments should be an encouragement for those who are nearly in despair over the moral insanity of our times. Never forget that the Lord is more than willing to break in “upon the ranks of the enemy.” All too often, He’s waiting for us to believe He can do so.

Lewis: Understanding Forgiveness

I like the way C. S. Lewis deals with sin and forgiveness in the following passages. First, he unfolds how people often, but erroneously, think of it:

If you had a perfect excuse you would not need forgiveness: if the whole of your action needs forgiveness then there was no excuse for it. But the trouble is that what we call “asking God’s forgiveness,” very often really consists in asking God to accept our excuses. What leads us into this mistake is the fact that there usually is some amount of excuse, some “extenuating circumstances.” We are so very anxious to point these out to God (and to ourselves) that we are apt to forget the really important thing; that is, the bit left over, the bit which the excuses don’t cover, the bit which is inexcusable but not, thank God, unforgivable. . . .

What we have to take to him is the inexcusable bit, the sin.

He then zeroes in on the heart of receiving forgiveness, and what must come first:

The demand that God should forgive such a man [one bent on evil] while he remains what he is, is based on a confusion between condoning and forgiving. To condone an evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete: and a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness.

Acknowledgment of sin and a genuine turning from sin—a.k.a., repentance—are prerequisites to forgiveness.

Repentance & Forgiveness

Who’s Paying Attention?

If you don’t watch Fox News or depend on other alternative media sources, you might think the IRS scandal is passé because you haven’t heard much about it lately. That appears to be a deliberate choice of the other networks and newspaper outlets. Yet there is a lot going on. Well, let me rephrase that: there is a lot of avoidance of finding the facts going on. It’s not due to a lack of diligence by the Congress; Republicans in the House are demanding answers but are getting none.

The newly appointed IRS commissioner, Daniel Werfel, who was recently one of the president’s advisers in the White House, came out with a report earlier this week that was at first hailed by Democrats and other assorted liberals, progressives, and radicals. It led us to believe that there was no specific targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. Why, they even investigated organizations that had words like “progressive” in their names, we were told. The report basically said, “Hey, no one here did anything really wrong.”

Daniel Werfel

In other words, this former Obama insider—the fox who was put in charge of the hen house—found nothing of major concern in his investigation. Liberal groups rejoiced over this news, but their rejoicing was short-lived. Apparently, an honest person in the government—and no, that is not an oxymoron—came forward to correct this perception.

J. Russell GeorgeJ. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General, and the one who first identified the targeting problem, has given the facts: 292 conservative groups underwent extensive harassment by the IRS without ever getting their tax-exempt status, compared to 6 progressive organizations that were simply put on a list but never had to undergo any genuine scrutiny. The evidence of bias is overwhelming. True government servants like George deserve our gratitude.

As a result of George’s willingness to expose the lies, Werfel had a rather awkward and uncomfortable session before a House committee yesterday. May he have more. How can anyone have confidence in this new director after the events of this week?

What was even funnier, if that’s the right word, is that Werfel told the committee that his agency needed more funding. Why? For more conferences?

Audit Experience

The IRS comi-tragedy will continue, and the House will attempt to drag more information from those responsible for this fiasco. Of course, there are many other fiascoes underway concurrently, none of which seems to get the attention of the presumed leader of the Free World:

Somebody Audit Her

Never has a president been so absent from the pressing issues of his administration. Even Richard Nixon kept commenting when Watergate was unfolding. This president just tries to change the subject whenever he deigns to do anything at all:

 Save the Planet

Yes, he has time to make speeches about climate change being the premier problem of our age—despite evidence to the contrary—but no time to speak to China or Russia about Edward Snowden or to be honest and forthcoming about what happened on September 11, 2012, in Benghazi. How does he think he can get away with this? Is it because he has a good understanding of the attention span and interests of the American public?

 Full Brain

Unfortunately, that may be the case.

The Supreme Court vs. God’s Court

BuildingAll day Tuesday, I was seeing tweets via my Twitter account that expressed optimism that the Supreme Court would uphold the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] because it wouldn’t want to repeat the mistake of Roe v. Wade. I was not nearly as optimistic. Technically, the optimists were correct; the Court stopped short of declaring that same-sex marriage should be legal throughout the nation. But the effect of its decision in Windsor—and its punt on the Prop 8 case—is not much different. Homosexual activists clearly saw the decisions as a win for their unholy goals.

There are a couple of layers here to analyze. Legally, the decision was narrow in one sense; it didn’t strike down DOMA altogether. While the Court ruled that these fictional same-sex marriages qualified the couples for federal benefits in the same way as real marriages, it left untouched, at least nominally, the part of the bill that protects states who have defined marriage as between a man and a woman from recognizing same-sex marriages that have occurred in another state. However, that protection is now paper-thin. By giving same-sex mock marriages the same status as genuine marriages, the push will now be on to overturn the rest of the law. After all, on what grounds can a state now deny these fake marriages if the federal government has sanctioned them? At least, that will be the argument.

An equally disturbing feature of the DOMA decision was enunciated by Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent, which was strong indeed. He objected to the majority’s decision on a couple of fronts. One was the “tone” of the majority and the aspersions it cast on the motives of those who support traditional marriage. A second concern, intertwined with the first, was the high-handedness of the Court in saying it is the ultimate authority on these issues. Both assertions bothered Scalia and led him to write the following:

Antonin ScaliaWe have no power to decide this case. And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation. . . . The court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.

But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been
unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race. . . .

It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here—when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’s hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will “confine” the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.

A deeper and more basic concern is one that the political world doesn’t want to touch: the rebellion against God and His law that has led us to this point. Few in politics ever come out and clearly state that homosexual behavior is sinful [to use such a word would be to tie oneself to an outmoded way of thinking] and destructive of society. Few will take the chance of being branded as bigoted and hateful for holding such a view. Well, I’m one of the few who will say it: homosexuality is a sin; it is an abomination before God [as is all sin]; it is leading this nation into a spiritual and moral black hole; we ultimately will be judged for following this path.

If anyone thinks yesterday’s Supreme Court decisions will bring us peace, think again. Now that the highest court in the land has given approval to this behavior, the proponents will stop at nothing to overturn all morality based on Biblical teachings. Further, there will be an ever-increasing crusade to marginalize those who continue to hold to Biblical morality. They won’t be satisfied until all who believe as I do are ostracized from “respectable” society.

Christians need to respond appropriately. First, no matter how we may feel about what is transpiring, we must keep holding out God’s message of salvation to those who have trapped themselves in the chains of sin. That message must begin with a clear statement of what sin is, the necessity of repentance—turning away from rebellion against God and His loving laws—and the offer of forgiveness and sanctification through the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Even as we spread the Good News that people can be free from sin and living for God, we must redouble our efforts on the political front to reverse what has occurred. It can be done. Even now, there is a movement away from the abortion-on-demand mentality that has infected our society for too long. We have been making the case for life, and we are seeing victories, both in court and in public opinion. The same can happen with respect to marriage.

PersecutionBut what if, despite all our efforts, the society continues to plunge headlong into the abyss? What if we are persecuted for our beliefs? The message remains the same: be faithful. Besides, being persecuted merely connects us with those who have suffered for the faith throughout history. We should be glad to share the fate of those who have gone before us. Our reward awaits us once we leave what many have called “this vale of tears.”

Reading in the book of John yesterday, I was reminded of these words of Jesus:

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. . . . If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

We’re not in a popularity contest. We’re called to be disciples of the One who is above all human courts. Let’s be faithful to that calling.

Pro-Abortion Lawlessness

Late last night—actually, early this morning—abortion supporters “won” a “victory” in Texas.  Yes, I put quotation marks around those two words for a reason. Any victory for those who favor abortion is an abomination before God. A win, for them, is by any means possible, even at the cost of disrupting a legislature and overturning the rule of law.

Here’s what happened.

Unborn ChildThe Texas legislature was on the verge of passing a bill that would protect the lives of unborn children, disallowing abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy. This bill would save hundreds of lives in that state and move us closer to being a nation with a conscience once more. Those without a conscience, however—or rather, those with a seared conscience—decided to stage a combination of legislative chicanery and outright riot to forestall the possibility.

One Democrat woman legislator held a filibuster on the bill, seeking to keep the chamber from voting before midnight, when the legislative session would legally end. She had help from a raucous crowd, both inside and outside the building, attempting to create an atmosphere of chaos. Republicans were finally able to end the filibuster at 11:45 p.m., but then were kept from voting on time by the mob that made it impossible to conduct business.

I’m reminded of the same strategy in Wisconsin a couple of years ago, when protesters occupied the state capitol and even made death threats against Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators there. What we are witnessing is an ongoing tactic of trying to get one’s way by intimidation and lawlessness.

Is this where we have come as a society? Well, that’s really a rhetorical question. You can see it plainly. We celebrate the murder of innocent children, all in the name of reproductive rights. There’s a translation of that phrase I can give you: utter selfishness and depravity.

By the way, that unlawful mob yesterday received direct written support from Barack Obama, who may be perhaps the most lawless person ever to hold the office of the presidency. It’s time to stop acting as if he’s just a nice guy who simply holds an uninformed opinion on abortion. No, he’s the foremost proponent of killing innocent children. How often do I and others have to remind an uncaring people that he’s one of the few legislators on record as opposing a bill that would have required medical attention from doctors for any child born alive during an abortion? Who else has pronounced God’s blessing on an organization—Planned Parenthood—whose primary purpose is to carry out as many abortions as possible?

Barack Obama fits the description offered by C. S. Lewis in his Screwtape Letters, when he has the senior devil gloat over how wickedness is no longer found primarily in the dark corners of society, the sordid dens of iniquity, but rather in the corporate offices and government bureaucracies of the land run by people who are well-manicured and respectable.

This is the face of evil in our day. It’s time to stop mincing words. It’s time to speak the truth more boldly than ever.

Immigration & Honest Deliberation

I’ve held back on writing about the immigration debate going on right now in Congress. There are a number of reasons why I’ve been reluctant to engage the topic until now, but it really comes down to the desire to hear as much as possible from both sides before saying anything publicly. Once a comment is made, it’s hard to pull it back; I strive to never have to regret what I write in these blogs.

The need for some kind of immigration reform is pretty much acknowledged on both ends of this polarizing debate. The fact that we have more than 11 million illegals living in the country has to be dealt with somehow. I understand the desire of so many to escape their situations where they came from, and that the US seems to be a beacon to them, holding the promise of something better. That’s why America has been an immigrant magnet throughout much of its history.

I kept hoping this debate would be illuminating; it’s turned out to be anything but that. Frankly, I’m distressed by the rhetoric on both sides. Those in favor of the current comprehensive bill before the Senate have accused those who oppose it of being anti-immigrant or even racist. That last charge is always the last resort of the demagogue. Well, for some, it’s the first resort; they wrongly presume it never gets old.

Those who line up against the proposed bill say it simply repeats the mistake of the 1986 act that promised real border security but never delivered. They then accuse the proponents on the Republican side of kowtowing to the Hispanic vote. Senators like Lindsey Graham have provided fodder for that accusation with his comments on how Republicans will become a permanent minority if they don’t support this bill. Political pandering is as old as politics itself, but statements such as those make this appear to be wholly political rather than for the good of the nation. Opponents also warn that there are other voters out there as well:

Voter Never Forgets

What I desire is a solution that ensures the border is not a sieve while simultaneously treating immigrants with compassion. Does compassion, though, mean those who crossed over illegally should have a promise of citizenship? Why do those who favor the bill hold out citizenship as the endgame? Why are illegal immigrants, in effect, being rewarded for breaking the law in the first place? I’m not saying we should deport them; what I’m saying is there should not be what has been termed “a path to citizenship” for those who showed no respect for the law. No one is owed citizenship. It’s not a natural right.

Let’s go back to what the Founders had to say about immigration. What we find is actually rather surprising. They said little about it, comparatively. For most of the first century of American government under the Constitution, there were no immigration laws. Why not? Because all the emphasis was on citizenship, which is where the Founders put their emphasis. Immigrants were welcome, but the road to becoming a citizen had rules. One had to follow those rules and show respect for the laws to be part of this society. And the nature of those immigrants was such that they sought to fit into the already-existing culture. Oh, and they didn’t get any government benefits: no free healthcare; no free education; no welfare of any kind. They were on their own to fail or succeed based on their personal character.

We have since introduced monetary incentives to cross the border illegally. A veritable treasure house awaits. We also now have the threat of international/Muslim terrorism, which can take advantage of a leaky border:

 One Reason

We’re told by those in favor of the current bill that it effectively secures the border. Opponents disagree; they say it is amnesty first, with a promise of border security eventually—that the bill is all rhetoric and no action—that we’ve been down this road before. From what I’ve been reading, I would have to say their point is well taken.

What’s wrong with securing our borders first? Why not have a “results-oriented” bill that documents a 90% effectiveness in sealing that border before dealing with the rest of the problem? Without a secure border, the problem continues and grows larger. Why try to do everything in one monstrous bill? Why not break this into stages?

What we are witnessing this week is Obamacare revisited. Remember when Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass Obamacare to find out what’s in it? This huge immigration reform bill, along with a supposed border security amendment, is almost the same size as Obamacare. Harry Reid is attempting to rush it through the Senate this week, not allowing senators to fully digest it first. Real debate over the particulars—which includes a lot of pork, apparently—is not allowed. Vote first, find out what you voted for afterwards.

Even if I could support this current bill, I could never support the way in which it is being rammed through. It’s unconscionable.

No bill becomes a law without the consent of both houses of Congress. Once the Senate circus is over, the House will have its chance to show the country that honest deliberation is not dead.

Please Tell Me I’m Wrong

It just keeps getting better and better. Well, what I really mean is worse and worse. Did you catch the latest with the IRS? Despite all the furor over that agency’s actions, it goes ahead with plans to give bonuses to its employees.

Bonuses

Is it possible to be more out of touch with the anger and resentment boiling among the populace? Have the key players there even considered how to change their ways?

Back to Work

And where is the Obama administration in all this? What kind of leading role is the president taking to tackle the problems? Has anyone seen him lately, other than giving a lackluster speech in Berlin or talking about how divisive Christian schools are? Where is true leadership? What about the pledge to be transparent? Some would say he’s kept that pledge, only not in the way everyone expected:

 Most Transparent Administration

And what difference will this make when the next election comes around? Here’s what I fear:

Mr. Low-Info Voter

Tell me I’m wrong. Please.