I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…

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I was in need of boat mechanic and found one that makes house calls. Remarkable, almost as good as finding a doctor that would do that!

So, he comes out to our house and together we spend about 4 hours in the water working on the family pontoon boat. Actually, he’s doing the work and I’m holding tools some of which I drop in the shallow water. Fortunately, he is a patient man.

Four hours is a long time and we get to talking and he asks me what I do for a living. I tell him that I’m assistant pastor. He asks me where and I tell him the name of our church and he instantly recognizes the name as a  type of Bible church. (It’s Missio Dei Fellowship and means God’s Mission, Latin, not Spanish.)

He tells me where he goes to church and we recognize that we are brothers in the Lord. Nice. Glad I picked this guy to fix my boat.

From there it gets more interesting. He tells me that he and his wife were life-long Lutherans (Evangelical Church of America) and had belonged to a rather large one in the area. About five years ago they decided to leave. The issue was the ELCA’s stance on homosexuality and the ordination of gays\lesbians etc.

The man’s reasoning was spot-on. How could they stay and approve of something that the Bible clearly does not approve of? He was surprised that only thirty families left the church over the issue. Like I said, it’s  a large church. If thirty families left our church we’d have to close the doors.

What  he said next was even more remarkable. Here was a man who was baptized into a large denomination and presumably for most of his life thought he was a Christian. Yet, as part of his story, he told me he became a Christian only in 2009 at his new Bible church. (see John 3:1-8 to understand what he meant. No really, look it up!)

I was listening to talk radio the other day and a woman commented that many so-called Christian Churches were leading the charge towards gay marriage and they were rejoicing with the SCOTUS  decision to strike down DOMA. This is true enough and the ELCA is certainly part of that. The woman’s voice was filled with grief and despair as she lamented so-called Christian churches turning their liberal\progressive backs on Scripture.

I wanted to call her and share with her the story of my new friend the boat mechanic.

I wanted to tell her that God is still at work. He’s not asleep at the wheel and he is not powerless to affect change in the hearts of people that he will claim as his sheep. For example, Jesus said this about the sheep who are truly his:

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
(John 10:14-16 ESV)

The Good Shepherd, mosaic in Mausoleum of Gall...

The sheep, like my new friend, will listen to the shepherd’s voice (Scripture). The Good Shepherd knows who they are and the sheep know who the Good Shepherd is. These sheep will be brought into the sheepfold, period, regardless of the apostasy shown by any group that calls itself Christian. The gospel will not be stopped by an unconstitutional SCOTUS nor by a denomination that ignores or spins Scripture to pursue their goals of political correctness.

I thought of the thirty families that left the ELCA. I pray they landed somewhere where the truth is still the truth like my friend did.

These days there are good reasons to leave churches that no longer take God’s Word seriously. The Good Shepherd will gather them, guaranteed. My new friend is proof of that.

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For Traditional Marriage? You are “an enemy of the human race.”

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This is a link to my pastor’s thoughts on the DOMA decision that was handed down by SCOTUS today. I recommend the article and the blog.

I agree with him especially in regards to the comments that illustrate that this decision is no worse than other SCOTUS decisions (like Roe v Wade) or others decisions regarding immigration, the Marxist nanny state and so forth. We’re on a rocket sled of bad, anti-Constitution decisions with no end in sight!

I think of Jesus’ words that he said to Pilate when he said his kingdom was not of this world. For the Christian either is ours in the ultimate, eternal sense. But, on the other hand, we still have live in this kingdom. This link from the Gospel Coalition explains the good news and bad news affecting the church about the SCOTUS DOMA decision.

My pastor (and the Gospel Coalition) is further correct in saying the gospel will still go forth even if American Christians are persecuted, a likely eventuality in my opinion. Here’s why:

Here’s another link of interest from Fox News that details Judge Scalia’s dissenting opinion.

Scalia accuses the Supreme Court majority (the decision was 5-4) of high-handedness because the majority have accused proponents of straight marriage “enemies of the human race.”

So much for liberal/progressive diversity. If you disagree with a liberal/progressive about gay marriage and your own preference is a traditional marriage between one man and one woman you must be “an enemy of the human race.” It’s one thing for the ordinary, whacked out statist liberal\progressive to utter such nonsense and quite another for the SCOTUS to say so, either directly or indirectly. That is scary and it’s probably meant to be scary.

The next step will be ship all these “enemies of the human race” to the re-education camp or similar gulag where they will have the opportunity to see the light, or not.

If not, then maybe something more akin to Hitler’s Final Solution is in store for “enemies of the human race.”

Far-fetched? I think not. From time to time the ancient, pagan Romans declared Christians to be enemies of the state and bloody persecutions followed.

This is no surprise and Jesus said the world would hate Christians because the world hated him first. What is surprising to me at least, is that I never would have thought this country would slide that far down the rat hole and at the same time persecute those who do not want to go along for the ride.

Well done SCOTUS betrayers of the Constitution.

If you think elections don’t have consequences, think again.

Roman Mosaic

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Recently I mentioned the Greek god Dionysus in one of my posts and so I was happy to see this article appear in my blog feed. What is fascinating about it is the fact that Christian themes have been super imposed over the pagan god Dionysus. The blending of Christianity with paganism was not uncommon. I believe the motive was to help people ease into Christianity without wiping out pagan holidays entirely. Anyway, this is a very interesting piece and I hope my readers enjoy it. Thanks History of the Ancient World!

The old gods are the new gods

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The Greeks who worship the ancient gods.

The above link goes to the BBC News. It’s an interesting story about modern-day Greeks that worship the old gods. Some of the worshipers even dress up in period costumes much like a re-enactor would.

Council of the gods on Mt. Olympus http://ancientreligion.net/greekroman-pantheon/

Council of the gods on Mt. Olympus
http://ancientreligion.net/greekroman-pantheon/

The intriguing line to me was “These people consider Greece to be a country under Christian occupation.”

Some dress up in ancient costume to worship the old gods. credit_eranlivni

Some dress up in ancient costume to worship the old gods.
credit_eranlivni

The “these people” refers to those Greeks who worship what the ancient gods represent to them. They do not believe literally in a Zeus or an Athena or Ares.  Instead they worship characteristics that the gods may represent such as beauty, courage, health or wisdom.

The “Christian occupation” refers to the Greek Orthodox Church, the church 98% of Greeks are born and baptized into.

The Orthodox Church, not unexpectedly, takes a dim view of those who worship the old gods even in an idealistic form.

When I read the article my mind went immediately to the Book of Acts and the apostle Paul who spent some time in Greece, particularly Athens, perhaps the intellectual capital of the Roman world at the time of Paul’s visit.

Here’s the record of what happened first:

    Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. (Acts 17:16-21 ESV)

Paul at the areopagus in Athens speaking of Christ and the resurrection. Some called him a "babbler."

Paul at the areopagus in Athens speaking of Christ and the resurrection. Some called him a “babbler.”

The educated philosophers thought Paul a “babbler.” It was a not a compliment but some of the philosophers were curious enough to hear something new.

Paul has a chat with them in the shadow of the Parthenon, a Parthenon filled with the Greek (and Roman gods, including the deified Caesar Augustus). The Scripture notes that the city was full of idols causing one ancient Greek writer (Petronius) to say it’s easier to find a god in Athens than it is to find a man! Seems that some pagan Greeks\Romans were skeptical regarding their gods.

The something new the babbler was speaking of was Jesus Christ and the resurrection. Christianity rises or falls on whether or not Jesus, the Son of God, rose from the dead after the crucifixion (1 Cor. 15: 1-19). Paul is very clear on this point in 1 Corinthians 15:1-19. Christ either did rise or he did not and if he did not a Christian’s faith is futile meaning pointless. The babbler was very clear on this point.

Here’s what the babbler had to say to the educated elite philosophers:

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. (Acts 17:22-34 ESV)

It could a while to unpack all that but note that the babbler says that the divine being is not like gold or silver or stone, an image by the art and the imagination of man.

While the Greeks who seek to worship the old gods do not do so in a literal way they certainly worship a god of their imaginations.

What these means is that we, as fallen creatures, tend to manufacture little gods to our own liking (Rom. 1:18-23). This is ultimately the issue that Paul the babbler is confronting in the Areopagus.

When the babbler drives home his point by pointing to the resurrection some mock but others were intrigued enough to want to hear more.

A few actually believed. Two of the new believers are named by Paul, a man named Dionysus and a woman named Damaris.

Dionysus is a variant of the Thracian (a people who lived to the north of Greece and were heavily influenced by them) god Dionysus. The Roman variant of this god is perhaps more familiar. To the Romans Dionysus was Bacchus, the god of wine and merrymaking. Today Bacchus is largely remembered as Bacchanalia which means any kind of drunken revelry.

Bacchus to the Romans, with grapes, representing wine.

Bacchus to the Romans, with grapes, representing wine.

Tracking down “Damaris”  is a bit more challenging but I found this description in the Urban Dictionary:

Damaris comes from Dama, or lady, and aris, the goddess of trees. Damaris is sweet, intelligent, mature, proud, good decision maker, logical, reasonable, wonderful, handsome, rare, and magical. When seen one must bow in honor of her presence.

I think the credibility of the Urban Dictionary is a bit suspect when it comes to making Damaris the goddess of trees, but certainly some of the characteristics her name is associated with are the type of things modern Greek worshipers might value and worship such as intelligence, maturity or wonderfulness whatever that means.

I find this observationally interesting but would not read too much into it,  that the two people mentioned who believed in Christ and the resurrection have name connections to the old gods (Dionysus) and a connection to the new worshipers new gods (intelligent, mature, etc).

The  babbler, for his part, said what he came to say and moved on to another Greek city this time to Corinth.

The Greeks who worship the old gods do not seem to label themselves apart from being part of The Return to the Hellenes movement in Greece. They seek to return Greece  to the old ways before Christianity took hold in the country.

I cannot speak about Greece specifically but I know that western Europe in general is retreating from Christianity regardless of what it might say on a person’s baptismal certificate.

The apostle Paul, should he be the gospel messenger to the European gentiles today could just as easily address a European Parliament in the same manner he addressed the Greek philosophers in the Areopagus. No doubt he would receive a similar reception.

Some would call him a babbler or kook, others might be curious enough to hear more and a few would actually believe.

A President Unlike Lincoln

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Years ago while reading about the American Revolution I came across the following statistics that for some reason stuck with me.

The author wrote that perhaps only 1/3 of the American colonists were actively rebellious against the British crown. Another 1/3 were actively loyal to the crown and the remaining 1/3 just wanted to be left alone.

The Queen's Rangers were one of the most famous Loyalist\Tory units in the American Revolution. Like other loyalists they were forced to Canada by the vindictive Rebels\Patriots

The Queen’s Rangers were one of the most famous Loyalist\Tory units in the American Revolution. Like other loyalists they were forced to Canada by the vindictive Rebels\Patriots

Knowing what I know about the war the author’s statistics had the ring of truth to them. Certainly the British must have thought that those in actual rebellion were a relative minority and largely confined to New England hotheads otherwise they might have been more inclined to negotiate rather than fight a rather long tedious war against their American cousins.

It’s the 1/3 who wanted to be left alone that intrigues me. Were they so remote on the frontier that whatever government that was running things was largely irrelevant? Perhaps the 1/3 simply did not care or perhaps they were waiting to see which way the wind blew before they took a side? Perhaps it was a combination of these and other factors that combined to have 1/3 of the population sit out the conflict.

Whatever the 1/3’s motives were it was the 1/3 rebellious that prevailed in the end, much to the astonishment of a tired Great Britain and much to the chagrin of the 1/3 loyalists who were booted into Canada by the vengeful rebels.

In modern America (and the numbers are relatively consistent over time (Gallup), 41% identify themselves as conservative, 21% as liberal or progressive and a whopping 36% as moderate.

The parties fight over the 36% who are perceived as going either way in any given election. I found the 36% curiously close to the 33% who didn’t want to pick a side during the American Revolution.  What is equally clear is that the Obama team gathered enough moderates to win an election twice despite the fact that social and economic conservatives out number liberal\progressives by a 2-1 margin.

Never-the-less, the liberal/progressives won twice and what’s more remarkable their so-called moderate allies and the mainstream media seem to care less that the Obama Administration resents the Constitution and tramples upon it on a regular basis in a barely disguised attempt at vindictiveness just as the winners in the American Revolution were vindictive against those who were loyal to the British Crown.

The proof is obvious to anyone with eyes to see..

Everyone who has at least some interest in the news knows that the IRS targeted groups seeking non-profit status if the group had “patriot” or “tea party” and perhaps other key words in the group’s names. The fact that corresponding liberal\progressive groups were not targeted strongly suggest vindictiveness, harassment and intimidation.

A Tea Party supporter in Revolutionary War garb carries the Gadsden Flag. The Obama administration has been clearly vindictive against conservative groups.

A Tea Party supporter in Revolutionary War garb carries the Gadsden Flag. The Obama administration has been clearly vindictive against conservative groups.

But there is more. Other groups were targeted as well and these groups were and are socially conservative faith groups.

Perhaps the best know is Samaritan’s Purse (Franklin Graham) and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, two separate organizations linked together through the well-known Graham name. The groups were targeted because they urged voters in North Carolina to vote for those with “biblical values.”

In politics there is always something called “to victor belongs the spoils” but that is different from a planned vindictiveness that can only breed further resentment and divide an increasingly divided people.

President Obama likes to compare himself with Abraham Lincoln, the US President that led the nation through a bloody Civil War. With amazing foresight in the middle of a conflict not yet won Lincoln painted a vision for the future, a future that included a fully reconciled South. He ended his Second Inaugural Speech with these words:

 With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. (Full text of speech)

Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural

Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

President Obama, if you really want to be like Lincoln then cease being the vindictive, petty President that you are.

The Theology of Pope Francis

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Heaven for Atheists. Pope sparks debate, CNN headline on May 23rd.

These remarks sparked the controversy.

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone,” the pope told worshipers at morning Mass on Wednesday. “‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”

Francis continued, “We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

The atheists and humanists were thrilled, a Vatican spokes person not so much. He said:

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said that people who aware of the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.”

At the same time, Rosica writes, “every man or woman, whatever their situation, can be saved. Even non-Christians can respond to this saving action of the Spirit. No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin.”

Rosica also said that Francis had “no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation,” during his homily on Wednesday.

There is much wrong with the Pope’s statements as well as the Vatican spokesperson’s attempt to “clarify” what seemed to be clear statements made by Francis.

Let’s consider something Jesus said:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
(Matthew 7:15-23 ESV)

There are at least two warnings here, 1) against false prophets and 2) against false disciples.

Note that within the warning against false disciples is Jesus’ complete and utter disregard for their “good works.”The false disciples are using the Lord’s name as prophets, cast out demons and do might works (good).

Jesus simply tells them I never knew you (in the first place) depart from him and then the clincher, they are actually workers of lawlessness! They will not enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s unambiguous if one takes Jesus at his word.

Further note that in the first warning against false prophets there is the  appearance of a harmless sheep that is actually a wolf. The false prophet often looks good  on the outside and says “good things” but on the inside is something else entirely. Judging by the fruits produced by a false prophet means to discern whether the message spoke is consistent with the Gospel. Paul’s summary verses make the point:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

Apparently, being good, is not criteria for entering heaven nor is being part of the mother church.

These are the words of Scripture. When fallible men attempt to interpret fallible men you often get confusion. Note that no where in the CNN article does the Pope or the Vatican spokesperson interact with Scripture. This is telling or at least it ought to be. It raises the question of who or what is authoritative in the Catholic Church? Is it the Pope? Is it the Vatican spokesperson? Is it Scripture?

As an ex-Catholic when I read stuff like the above words from the Pope (and the silly clarification from the Vatican that corrects a man who is supposed to be infallible) I am grieved more than angry. It saddens me that many Catholics will take the above story lightly if they consider it at all.

If any of my Catholic friends and neighbors should read this please consider the possibility that your Pope, is wrong about he Gospel, never mind the atheists. It’s no small matter. This is serious. Consider the words of Scripture. Please, for your own sake.

A Few Thoughts on the Six-Day War, June 5th, 1967

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A cross-post from my other blog, History Stuff that Interests Me

A Few Thoughts on the Six-Day War.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
(Genesis 12:1-3 ESV)

English: Abram Called To Be a Blessing, as in ...

English: Abram Called To Be a Blessing, as in Genesis 12:1-8, illustration from a Bible card published 1906 by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)