Continuing to Stand

It is true that I watched the State of the Union address last evening. To say that I was impressed would not lead to the truth of what I truly felt. Nonetheless, the most troublesome thing that I heard was when our “Christian” President chose to uphold Islam and its tenants over the virtues of Christianity. Now, if one is Islamic it stands to reason that such individuals would further what he sees as just and honourable through Muslim eyes. However, when one is a Christian it should also stand to reason that such a person uphold the virtues of Christianity above all else.

The fact is that Christianity is not given to the weak and appeasing. It is not given to those that uphold its virtues so long as its standards do not offend. The fact is that the Gospel never seeks to appease. Instead, the Gospel has shown itself to be a stumbling stone and a rock of offence (Romans 9:33). This means that there are some who will not take too kindly to the standard of Scripture. Others will find reason to avoid it even if that avoidance means making cultic ventures greater than the Gospel. Well, Christians, it is time we continued to stand. It is time to take back the narrative from those who love not Jesus and stand on the very principles of the Gospel.

The hallmark principle of the Word of God is love. It was because of love that God sent His only begotten Son into the world in order to restore a broken relationship. It was because of love that Jesus humbled himself unto death; even the death of the cross in order to make things right between the Father and man. It is because of love that Christ remains on the right hand of the Father interceding for those that love Him. That love is furthered in Christendom to all that know not Christ might come to know Him. That love is extended to all – even followers of Islam. That love is perpetuated in the lives of the Christian whereby his life is one showing forth the love of God. Love is the hallmark of all that God is as God is love.

On the other hand Islam does not present in love. Now, some might say that all of Islam does not seek to be like what is counted as radical. Even so, contrary to the commandment of love found in the Holy Writ, Islam presents no such idea; not even amongst its own. Many Muslim men rape their women and other women. There are honour killings in the name of Allah for those who betray the teachings of Islamists. Many Muslim men take very young wives and often those wives are counted as property. Those counted as infidels are beheaded, burned and drowned. Yet, Islam is counted as the religion of peace even while the Prince of Peace is seen as a mere prophet to be subordinated to Muhammad.

This is not a time for Christian apathy. It is not a time to kowtow to the move of some political figures that seek to remove Christianity from the public arena. Instead, it is time to stand in the face of adversity. It is time to hold fast to the fundamental teaching of the Gospel. It is time not to give in to the feel good temporary gimmicks of the day. Instead there needs to be a continuation of the stand that was called for in Scripture. This stand is not a stand with calm waters in a peaceful pond. No, this is a stand when the wind and waters are contrary to what we know to be right. We started standing and that stand needs to be perpetual.

Ephesians chapter six uses the word “stand” three times. The idea of standing is central to the chapter and to Ephesians at large. However, the idea of standing is not specific to the church of Ephesus. Christians today are also faced with the wiles of the enemy. Christians today need to wear the entire armour of God. And, when one wears armour he, by necessity, must stand. Standing is not an act of apathy. It is an act of boldness and determination. Determination — what an idea from a determined God in order to restore broken relationships. Standing in love; what a way to present the truth of the Word of God without shame.

The Church and its Move to Secularism

The Church and its Move to Secularism

LIBERTY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

Introduction

Historically the Church has purposefully pulled away from ideas and practices that seemed even remotely ungodly. Christians behaved themselves in such a manner is to easily differentiate between them and non-Christians. The Christian language was not replete with expletives neither were church services geared toward a specific group rather than wholesome worship of God. Even more, the manner of dress was evident in that both males and females dressed in modesty while biblical principles were taught in the homes and reinforced in the church.

Today it appears that the Church is moving from traditional Christianity to a selfish modernism.  Sound biblical teaching has given way to feel good speak which serves only to create a double standard among the adherents of a Gospel which seems to be acceptable only to those growing up in pre-postmodern era in which sound doctrine was the norm rather than the alternative. It is for the reason that an examination of some church practices will be presented in this report. Research in the matter of church secularization shows the church at large pulling from traditional teaching and practices to a more liberal view and application of past traditions.

Context

     The fact that God has always required a high standard for His followers goes without dispute. Even before the time of Moses God required that His people worship Him and Him alone. Multiple scriptural references show that God’s people are to live in the world without being attached to the world system (Romans 12:2). This idea of not being attached to the world by conforming to its standards of living pulls in the idea of holiness. This separation is not new rather has been a struggle of the church from the time of its birth. The problems of a secular church was at least hinted on with the words “We see the church is yearly becoming more tolerant and more democratized” in the late nineteenth century.[1] This observation suggests that the church has been becoming more secular with the passage of time to the extent that the Church of England noticed changes in its clergy.[2]

The move of the Church to secularism was also well noted by Michal R. Weed in his article “The Secular Church” wherein he reaches back two centuries to show the steady move of secularism in the church both in Europe and the United States.[3] Weed specifically notes that “In America, churches have survived, however, by adapting to secularization and by commending themselves in terms that are attractive to “secular man.”[4] It would appear that the ‘secular man’ is more inclined to self-satisfaction rather than adherence to sound biblical teaching as has been the history of the Church.

Weed further notes that the secular church is more like a “Christ Club” wherein members are not gathered to worship God rather the practice of the secular church is to become more entertaining with hosts of social activities and various forms of recreation that have little to do with spiritual growth and biblical learning.[5] The suggestion is that spiritual growth and the adherence to biblical principles has become less than paramount as appeasement to self-centeredness and perhaps hedonism have taken stage in the secular church.

There are divergent views on the secularized church. For instance, traditional churches relied on classic hymns or traditional Gospel music as forms of worship. This style of worship has been replaced by Hip Hop and is not necessarily seen as appeasing the secular man. Instead, it has been propped as speaking for “the marginalized, the poor, and the downtrodden … and sought to increase social consciousness along with racial and ethnic pride.”[6] It is further argued by Daniel Hodge, author of “No Church in the Wild: Hip Hop Theology and Mission” that Hip Hop “Engages profound religious themes and has a capacity to provide meaning and hope to people … ignored by many Christian churches.”[7] This begins the argument that deindustrialization was the impetus for Blacks becoming disenfranchised thereby causing a shift in cultural expressions giving rise to Hip Hop.[8] Hodge predicates his view of Blacks making themselves relevant with the use of Hip Hop and other forms of secular music in the church by stating that “It emerged as a source of alternative identity formation and social status for young people within the theological vacuum of the ‘hood are within a system that had abandoned them.”[9]

Hodges view presupposes at least to issues. The first is that the changing economic condition of the United States primarily negatively impacted Blacks. It also supposes that the church at large had no use for the young people. While there may be some truth to Hodges view, Alan Ehrenhalt argues that demographic changes in inner cities have not nor are currently in place solely because of racial issues. He argues that “Race is not always the critical issue, or even especially relevant in this demographic shift.”[10] Ehrenhalt further argues that “… the deindustrialization of the central city, for all tragic human dislocations it caused, has eliminated many of the things that made affluent people want to move away from it.”[11]

Ehrenhalt shows that the impact of deindustrialization impacted humans no matter their cultural heritage. The affluent were also gravely disadvantaged yet Ehrenhalt makes no specific effort to show whether the affluent were of any particular people group. Instead a larger picture is painted of different groups moving either in the city or into suburbia because of their financial ability to live in either location. Ehrenhalt also makes clear that starkly different from the 1970s “… middle-class people of all colors began to feel safe on the streets of urban America in the 1990s…”[12] One might be hard pressed to say that Blacks alone were negatively impacted by deindustrialization rather it might be suggested that the plight of Blacks was highlighted more than that of their White counterparts.

Arguably, the same is true of music.  While Hip Hop and Rap are presented as a means “to overcome despair with hope” the musical genre might be more aligned with social rebellion.[13] This is also true with other forms of music introduced to the secular church such as Rock. While Rock is not provided the cover of racism or any other racial impetus with Hip Hop rather, Rock is seen more as a form of popular music “used to express religious, social and political messages.”[14] This distinction between the two genres of music is significant because they are contemporaries in popular culture. It is also shown that “The sociology of music is more about society than about music. It is based on the assumption that social reality is embodied in an individual’s activities…”[15] This is why the introduction of secular music such as Rock and Hip Hop is troubling. Neither form of music is expressly used to worship God. Instead of worshiping God, the music is used to set forth agendas that may have nothing to do with godliness.  Hip Hop, for instance, in part sets forth a racial divide in that Hodge presents the idea that “Hip Hop contextualizes a Jesus to whom urban youth can relate – not a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, White embodiment of perfection…[16] The problem of Hip Hop in the church goes further than diabolical racial divides it also promotes erotica in ways such as was never intended to be in the Christian Church. Michael Ralph notes:

Hip-hop’s most promising intervention grows from its preoccupation with desire and fantasy. This tends to be a chauvinistic male fantasy, but hip-hop actually narrates a range of social practices. Some rappers develop coded queer personas, even if they refuse to identify that way. And rap music that reveals an abiding interest in erotic power remains indebted to feminism while, ironically, expressing callous disregard for the female, queer, nonconforming populations offended by its licentious messages.[17]

The introduction of secular music provides considerable insight into why and how local church bodies became secularized. This is exceptionally true when music with sexual overtones are presented as a way to reach people have become preeminent rather than using music to worship God. A greater problem is that the male rappers are often considered to be exploitive of women yet women have also chosen first hand in the world of Hip-Hop.[18] Women have not only voluntarily engaged in Hip-Hop but also freely subscribe to the idea of “praise dancing” in many local assemblies.

In 2004, there was at least one discussion surrounding the idea of programmed dancing and its place in the church. While the trend has taken on considerable influence there are some that liken the introduction of secular dancing in the church to the introduction of Hip-Hop and Rock into the church. Among those who bemoan praise dancing is Rev. Ron Brown of the First Missionary Baptist Church who declares that “When you put women in leotards in the church, it’s going to open the doors to problems because it attracts unbelievers in a fast and powerful way – and worldly women who want to show off their bodies.”[19]

Despite the different dance styles involved in praise dancing such as hip hop and ballet, there are dissenters to Rev. Brown’s point of view. Among those is Pamela Rutherford who believes “Church leaders should accept that reaching modern churchgoers requires modern techniques.”[20] The idea of reaching modern churchgoers might be considered code for reaching the youth as much of the secular church seeks to reach the youth by integrating secular ideas in the church. This is the case with Hip-Hop. It is seen as less than “a utopian ‘evangelizing tool,’   it can help youth to find God on their own terms without the religious mantras present.”[21] Perhaps this is the reason Rev. Brown sarcastically retorts during a discussion, “If I had three or four good-looking women with great bodies, I’d be guaranteed an audience.”[22] It seems evident that Rev. Brown has not only recognized the secularization but also the sexualizing of the church as it has welcomed practices which go against the norm of the traditional Church.

The introduction of secular practices is not seen as inappropriate by some clergy members but also some in academia. For instance, Professor of Religious Studies at Lewis and Clark suggests that her peers “stop studying hip-hop through the lens of Christianity, and view rappers more as products of their own environment.” [23] This idea seems to go in line with the thought that “The so-called transcendence of the secular church is a false transcendence which merely uses the Creator in a thinly veiled adoration and infatuation with the creature.” [24]

Music, however, is not the only issue in the Church that pulls toward secularism. A rising practice is the teaching of a prosperity Gospel. This form of teaching presents the idea that “health, wealth and material success as the essential promises of the Christian faith.[25] It would appear that the major difference in prosperity teaching and secular music in the church is that the former may be designed to reach the older members of local bodies while evidence shows that the latter is specifically geared to younger generations. Even so, prosperity teaching seems to demean the poor as it seeks to “exalt success as to pour scorn on the poor and stubborn infidels who have evidently refused to seek God’s aid.”[26]

The general idea of prosperity is certainly a principle which is found in Scripture however, that prosperity may not be as presented by the teachings of pastors such as T.D. Jakes. In fact the converse may be true in that it has been said that prosperity teachers such as Jakes tend to “flaunt tremendous wealth before their congregants as validation of their faith.”[27] By extension, those who have not enjoyed wealth such as Jakes lack faith and perhaps will never enjoy the wealth enjoyed by Jakes and those like him. With that it can be said that prosperity teaching, as it relates to church secularism, seeks to appease God through tithing rather than the Christian living a lifestyle of holiness.[28]

Conclusion

No matter one’s personal view of church secularization, it is inarguable that music plays a significant role in the church as teachings of prosperity have become a form of religion on its own. It becomes more evident that as music has changed, so have larger attitudes in the church at large. For instance, Hip-Hop although it started in the 70s was not intended as a form of music giving worship to God. Instead, this style of music was used to give voice to a group that perceived itself as having no voice. Its uses of vulgarity and sexuality serve only to show lack of regard for biblical standards. Despite this some local bodies continue, to embrace alternative styles of music as a method to reach the youth.

God’s call for holiness is embedded in the idea of the Church. The Church, while in the world, is not an entity of the world. This is why pure worship of God is paramount and should not be “quasi-entertaining” rather; it should be a practice of solemnity in the presence of God.[29] Additionally, while Christians do well to prosper, perhaps a renewed look at prosperity might be beneficial. It is for this reason Weed argues, that repentance “will be a necessary part of recovering our way. We will confess that we have put ourselves in the place of God.”[30] Hence by putting ourselves in the place of God we have created a secularized Church.

[1] “The Church and the World”, The Speaker: The Liberal Review (Oct. 13, 1894)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Michael Weed, “The Secular Church: American Church Adapts to Self-Centered Culture,” The Examiner volume 1 (November 1986): accessed  March 2, 2015

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Daniel Hodge, “No Church in the Wild: Hip Hop Theology and Mission,” Missiology: An International Review (2013)

[7] Hodge. 99

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Alan Ehrenhalt, “Trading Places,” New Republic 239 (2008): 18-22

[11] (Ehrenhalt, 18)

[12] Ibid.

[13] (Hodge, 100)

[14] Jay R. Howard, “Contemporary Christian Music: Where Rock Meets Religion.” Journal of Popular Culture (1992)

[15] (Howard, 124)

[16] (Hodge, 101)

[17] Michael Ralph, “Hip-Hop,” Social Text (2009)

[18] Ibid.

[19] Kortney Stringer, “Spirited Debate: Dancing in Church Splits Congregation; Black Protestants Question Whether a Crowd Pleaser Serves Religious Purpose,” Wall Street Journal (October 14, 2004)

[20] Ibid.

[21] (Hodge, 103)

[22] (Stringer)

[23] Vincent Funaro, “Religion in Hip-Hop: Reconciling Rap and Religion,” The Christian Post (October 26, 2012)

[24] (Weed)

[25] Philip Jenkins, “Notes from the Global Church: The Case for Prosperity,” The Christian Century (November 30,2010)

[26] Ibid.

[27] Shayne Lee, “Prosperity Theology: T.D. Jakes and the Gospel of the Almighty Dollar,” Cross Currents (2007)

[28] (Jenkins)

[29] (Weed)

[30] Ibid.

Bibliography

Ehrenhalt, Alan. “Trading Places.” New Republic 239 (2008): 18-22.

Funaro, Vincent. “Religion in Hip-Hop: Reconciling Rap and Religion.” The Christian Post, October 26, 2012.

Hodge, Daniel White. “No Church in the Wild: Hip Hop Theology and Mission.” Missiology: An International Review, 2013: 97-109.

Howard, R. “Contemporary Christian Music: Where Rock Meets Religion.” Journal of Popular Culture 26, no. 1 (1992): 123-130.

Jenkins, Philip. “Notes from the Global Church: The Case for Prosperity.” Christian Century, November 30, 2010: 45.

Lee, Shayne. “Prosperity Theology: T.D. Jakes and the Gospel of the Almighty Dollar.” Cross Currents, 2007: 227-236.

Ralph, Michael. “Hip-Hop.” Social Text (Duke University Press) 27, no. 3 (2009): 141-146.

Stringer, Kortney. “Spirited Debate: Dancing in Church Splits Congregation; Black Protestants Question Whether a Crowd Pleaser Serves Religious Purpose.” Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2004: A1.

The Speaker: The Liberal Review. “The Church and the World.” October 13, 1894: 399-400.

Weed, Michael R. “The Secular Church: American Church Adapts to Self-Centered Culture.” The Examiner 1, no. 6 (1986).

Gonna Keep on Preaching

The fact is that some things going on in this country are rather disheartening. Right has become wrong and wrong has become right. Those of us who stand for righteousness are called everything except the children of God. The ungodly are getting louder and louder as institutions such as the Supreme Court provide license to ventures that God has called an abomination. With the lawlessness of the Supreme Court and the will of some to tear at the fabric of this nation it seems to me that those choosing righteousness and holiness need not kowtow to the moral decadents of the day. It is my hope that many will stand with me because I am gonna keep on preaching the Word of the Most High God.

A couple years ago I was told that I rail too much against homosexuality. I was preaching against the abomination in writing and behind the pulpit. I could see the agenda manifesting itself to what is now an acceptance of this act by many. The problem is that this acceptance of wrong is nothing new. For instance, lies have been accepted by many because to some lies can be protective. Well, the protective nature of lies has yet to be determined. The fact is that God is not One who takes well to lies and has declared that all liars shall have their place in the lake that burns with fire (Revelation 21:8). The interesting thing is the text states that “all” liars will have their part in lake of fire. Hence, I am compelled to and I am gonna keep preaching on the danger of lying.

The matter of lies does not hold a lot of steam insofar as political correctness goes. It seems that all know it is wrong and many choose to live a life of lies. Consider, for instance, Bruce Jenner (I’m about to get in trouble now). Here is a man of renown deciding that he is no longer a male rather he is a female. There is little doubt by those with just a little discernment that this man has been troubled for a number of years. There is hurt and pain hidden well below the cloak of his transgender disguise. God made him a wonderful man yet he decided that he would be bold and come out of the “closet” as a woman. He has been hailed as brave and heroic for such revelation. Unfortunately his hurt and pain are still there. This is not to mention the fact that his gender “change” smacks God in the face. This, at the very root, is uncleanness to which God is not pleased.

Now, the Supreme Court must be highlighted again. This time a look at the Affordable Care Act (what a misnomer) was placed before the Court. The questions surrounding subsidies was at hand. The plain language of the law was apparent yet the members of the Court decided the law did not mean what was plainly written. As such, the Court essentially rewrote the law. Dare I say, and I am no lawyer, it is not the job of the Court to rewrite law rather it is purposed to interpret law in light of the Constitution. This did not happen in the opinion of the majority.  Instead the Court decided what the intent was ignoring what was written. This is lawlessness at its core.

Now we have a country torn. There are some that have taken up arms against those with whom they disagree. Consider the murders most recently in South Carolina. There was no reason for this young man to kill except that his unfounded hatred began to control his actions. The problem is that he is not alone. Christians are targeted on many fronts and this seems ok in the eyes of some. However, if there is one word said against Islam all of a sudden the world is in turmoil. Well, I have not time to worry about the social nuances of the day. I have to uphold the Gospel no matter who is offended. While it is not my intention to offend anyone the Gospel is an offense to those who choose to live contrary to its standard. Yes, I’m gonna keep on preaching not just behind the pulpit but also in the life I live.

The word of God clearly says that homosexuality is wrong in both the Old and New Testaments. This does not matter to some though. After the Supreme Court’s opinion was made public there was some that took to dancing in the streets in celebration of this ungodly declaration. Well, another problem has arisen that many will not even touch. Well, I have no choice and I’m gonna keep on preaching. You see, Galatians 5:21 warns against revellings and things like unto it. Revelling is the drunken public celebrations of immorality. How many times have we seen homosexuals celebrate with little to no clothes on which would otherwise be counted as indecent? Well, enough is enough. I have had my fill of social issues of the day seeking to tell me what to preach and what not to preach.

I am gonna keep on preaching the Gospel no matter what is said. I have already had horrendous things said about me and all I have done is repeat the Scripture. Galatians goes on to show that those that celebrate a number of offenses will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Those are not my words rather the Word of the Holy Writ. I will not attempt to pacify nor will I seek to appease. I have been called to preach the Gospel without compromise and as such I’m gonna keep on preaching. Is there anybody preaching with me?

Another Crusade

Fighting wars is no new thing. Fighting has been going on from the time Cain killed Abel so it comes as no surprise that man has sought to kill fellow man stemming from jealously and fear. Such was the case during the Crusades beginning in 1095 wherein Catholicism sought to defend itself against the ever increasing stronghold of Islam. The initial loss to Catholicism caused the determined Muslims to fight even more for that they construed to be a “holy war.” That fight has been going on from that time to this with the idea that Islam should be the world religion and those that do not adhere, even different thinking Muslims, need to suffer the fate of death by the hands of those that fight in this jihad.

There have been many instances of late wherein Islamic terrorists have committed acts of violence not only in the Middle East but also in Canada, Australia and the United States. One of the most horrific acts was reported just yesterday. The report is that a Jordanian pilot was burned alive by Islamic jihadist. These Islamist, calling themselves ISIS, have no regard for human life. There is no respect for opposing viewpoints. Their holy war is just another means of silencing those that do not give in to Islam and yet our President refuses to publically admit that the enemy the world is fighting is a war against Islamist seeking to kill the rest of us. There is definitely a crusade going on yet there is another crusade that many will not engage in.

Christians are also called to a holy war however that war is not to seek out and kill those that disagree with us. Instead the Christian is called to a jihad of sorts. Now, this is not to say that Christianity is to give way to Islam; that is far from what is being suggested here. Instead an examination of the original idea of jihad is the Muslim idea of an inner struggle. The Arabic term has much to do with striving and has little to do with the idea of holy wars. Still the Christian would do well to understand that we are called “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24). With this the Christian is not to fight against a physical enemy as a way of life rather he is to work diligently in keeping the faith (II Corinthians 13:5).

It is true that many Muslims seek to tear down Christianity by any way possible. And Christians are to be determined to fight another crusade. Certainly there are times when nations must take up arms in the matter of self preservation. So must Christians lift holy hands to a Holy God in complete surrender to His will. The fact is that Islam does not recognize the spirit realm so it takes its jihad against all who are not like it. However Christendom has another crusade wherein it realizes that the fight is not against flesh and blood rather it is against principalities and powers and rulers of darkness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). The Christian crusade also involves standing to live (I Thessalonians 3:8) rather than putting forth the false idea of martyrdom. This Christian crusade means fighting for righteousness and giving even our enemies a chance at salvation.

So, while the Islamic State continues to wreak havoc the world over Christians need to maintain holiness and faithfulness to the One and only God. Fought properly the holy war of Christians can and will soften the heart of the most dedicate Muslims. With that, Christians, let us crusade not out of malice and vitriol but rather with love and compassion so that we might win some; even if some are Islamic terrorists.

The State of the Church

Last evening the President of the United States of America presented his sixth State of the Union address. During the address, a number of issues were raised. Some of those issues caused a collective scratching of heads with many across this great land. One such item was that the President touted financial success by reason of policies he has implemented and that the nation’s unemployment levels have steadily gone down over his tenure. Unfortunately, the only reason the unemployment levels appear to have fallen is that about ninety-three million people of fallen out of the employment picture and are not looking for work because of the lack of jobs and have exhausted all benefits. This is not to mention the fact that when the President took office the debt was about nine trillion dollars and now stands over eighteen trillion dollars.

There are many other items that can be addressed in the President’s speech however it might be more beneficial to discuss the State of the Church as the Church has had many successes over the past year. For instance, the Church is strong and growing. Despite the attacks on fundamental Christianity the Church has not folded. Instead, Christianity is beginning to stand its ground in favour of traditional Judeo-Christian values and refusing to relent to the boisterous cry of those that seek only the demise of the one entity that recognizes the one true and living God. Evangelical Christians are digging deeper into the trenches of holiness as it furthers the Great Commission.

Even so, there are problems in the Church. And problems are nothing new in the Church particular if one considers the issues Paul addressed concerning the Church at Corinth. This is evident in I Corinthians 3:3 where he states that “ye are yet carnal.” This carnality meant that the church was much like the world at large and that carnality was detrimental to the Church in a number of ways. The same is true with the Church today. There are many that cannot eat the meat of the Gospel as they are still on milk. Among many, there has been no growth so that some local bodies have become stagnant. This stagnation has led to frivolous programs called ministries which serve only to create social clubs in these Houses of Worship. These things ought not to be so.

Likewise, there has been a pulling away from the historical teaching of Christ in futile efforts to reach those presumed unreachable in traditional terms. Hence music has changed from worship to entertainment wherein in some localities it is becoming increasingly more difficult to determine if the churches are parts of the Church or clubs. This, in part, has caused a double standard with congregants wherein lives outside the local bodies are less godly and more carnal. This is to say that many of these in the Church are Sunday saints and often barely that. As such the State of the Church is weakening because the Great Commission has been changed from going to all the world and teaching the Gospel to bringing the world into the Church by compromising the Gospel.

And there are hosts of other matters in the Church that need to be addressed just as they were addressed by Paul. Schisms in the Church caused unnecessary divides just as they do today. With this, the Church needs to lay aside petty differences in order to further the Gospel while using the love of Christ to embrace each other so that the world can see the love we have one for another and be positively affected by it. This love means that there is no fornication it the Church. Lies will become a thing of the past as the truth becomes all the more paramount with the true and living God at the helm. This will result in respect for the people of God as pastors and ministers work tirelessly to hone their prophetic skill thereby pointing men to the foot of the cross.

It is absolutely true that the State of the Church is strong and that many are being brought into the fold. Likewise, there are problems that need to be addressed in that strong things, even the church, need to be maintained so that the strengths do not become weaknesses. Let us, then, lay aside the carnality which seeks only to uproot that which is holy and pick up the ways of righteousness which serves to bolster and undergird a strong a prospering Church.

Appearances, Appearances

There has been much talking here of late about appearances. Specifically much of that talk has been around President Obama and some of the latest optics of his administration. One such was the sending of three White House representatives to the funeral of Michel Brown who would have gone unknown except for the fact that he robbed a store and at minimal challenged a police officer. Unfortunately no representatives were sent to New York where two offices were killed as they sat in their car. Now there is much discussion about the recent show of solidarity against Islamic terrorism in France wherein at least forty Heads-of-State joined arms yet no one from the United States was sent to stand with the world standing against a common enemy.

There are hosts of other optics that can be pointed out such as this administration’s refusal to call Islamic terrorism Islamic terrorism. This goes to the point that appearances mean everything. For instance, if one were to go to the “block’ in downtown Baltimore around midnight and he sees a young lady scantily clad going into a strip joint (or out of one for that matter) he might deduce that the lady might be at least a dancer. Such is the case within Christianity. Appearances mean not just a temporary opinion or view but rather appearances mean everything. What one dresses like, acts like and who he associates with speaks volumes about who that person is.

For instance if a married “Christian” man were found in the same area of Baltimore without his wife and he was just a bit inebriated with young ladies on either arm it might be said that Christianity might not be his chief practice. The fact is that appearances make all the difference in the world. This is why the Christian is called to holiness. Holiness is not merely a state of mind rather it is the way of life of the Christian. This is why Christians stand in the face of that which is unrighteous and unholy. This is why preachers preach and teach against succumbing to the pull of that which turns against God. Appearances is why Christians walk and talk far differently from non-Christians.

With this Christians need to walk arm-in-arm in solidarity against the things that God calls sin and unite with the love of Christ. There are neither big sins nor little sins so that lies are just as dangerous as homosexuality. Stealing is not worse than reveling while drunkenness and the lack of a sober mind can be synonymous. These are matters in which Christians can rally together and be examples for all that choose not to celebrate the God of our salvation. Christians need to present the optics of solidarity from one house to the next so that our common enemy cannot penetrate the wall of togetherness.

It is very true that together we stand and divided we fall so Christians, I beg of you, let us stand together and present a picture of holiness which will serve only to please the Father as we continue to lock arms for the standards of holiness and against unrighteousness.

And They Call Themselves Christian

Yes, they are out there, millions of people that call themselves Christians. There is no doubt that you have heard them and seen them. They have all the right moves and say all the right words. These people are very convincing if you only consider the very surface of what they say and see the feigned mannerisms of what Christians are thought to be in a society that expects Christians to be the all-accepting, all understanding, standing on nothing group of weak-kneed people that Christians are supposed to be. The problem is that these people that see Christians in this light are usually not Christians even though they may call themselves Christians for the sake of expediency.

Christians, by definition, are those that follow the tenets and teachings of Christ. This means that the Christian is one who has adopted a lifestyle of living according to the Word of God. Yet there some that choose lifestyles far from what is provided by God with excuses such as “God knows my heart” and “only God can judge me.” Well, with that being the case it becomes more than evident that those that choose to shack up rather than marry not only ignore the Word of God but also count God and His Word irrelevant and not a standard of morality for the day. Nonetheless Ephesians 5:3 addresses the matter of fornication among other things that were common then and now. The words, “but fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not once be named among you, as becometh saints” paint a clear picture of things not condoned by God yet are common practice for some that call themselves Christians.

And the discussions of sexual sins are rightfully abundant among Christian circles yet there are other discussions that need to take place that is not often heard. Consider, for a moment, some that choose to fight with the people of God. The fight need not be physical yet harm can be brought to the people of God in words and in actions. This is a very dangerous place to be in if you are the one that chooses to not only fight with but also to antagonize the servants of God. With this the principle found in I Chronicles 16:22 remains applicable today in that the text urges that the anointed of God be not touched and that the prophets of God be not harmed. Now, the anointed here is specific to those that God has placed in kingly authority such as David. The prophets are those that present the Word of God by preaching, teaching and prophesying. To harm any of these in any way can prove detrimental to the offender. Consider the account of Elisha in II Kings 2:23-25.

The list of issues that purported Christians bring to the table is certainly enough to fill a book. Many have forgotten that to be a Christian takes much more than a casual statement of belief in God. The fact of the matter is that mere belief in God is not the same as a Christian life. James states this clearly in James 2:19. The fact is that belief in God should be more than head knowledge rather the entire life of the Christian should be congruent with the teachings of Christ. This lifestyle includes not just what is done but also what is said. There are many that call themselves Christians that have no control over their tongues. James also addresses this matter by showing that “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26). The Carter Translation (this writer) would say that if any pretend to worship God and will not cease from cursing and profanities then there is really no worship of God.

The fact is there are hosts of people that hold their hands high during Sunday morning worship services yet their lives during the rest of the week are somewhat lacking. Scripture provides no recourse for lack of dedication to the Word of God. Instead, Christians are called to holiness. Holiness is not the negative attribute of being better than others with uplifted noses. Rather, holiness is the state whereby one’s lifestyle is wholly different than non-Christians. Christianity is not a popular movement backed by the mantra of political correctness. Instead, Christianity is a way of life that exemplifies the incarnate Christ. With that, if one does not adhere to the standards of the Word of God while calling himself a Christian it might well be suggested that this man’s religion is vain.

The Secularization of the Church

     It seems unreasonable that anyone would argue against the idea that the Church is to be separate and distinct from the rest of the world. Yet so many see no reason for the church to remain an entity within itself rather there has been an effort on the part of many to move the church more from God and closer to the world. It is not certain that this is the thing that God had in mind when he gave rise to the idea that the Church should be separate and apart from the world in every aspect.

     Moreover God has always required that His people be distinct from all others. One clear evidence of this can be found in Leviticus chapter eleven. While much of the discussion in Leviticus has to do with priestly ceremonial law it is certain that God wanted His people to be different from others even in what they ate. Now, there no suggestion as to what should be eaten by the Christian noted here as that is not the point of this missive. Rather it is important that the people of God not give in to secular ideologies which seek only to distance the people of God from a most holy God.

     But like Israel Christians have pulled away from the truth of God’s Word. Instead of being separated from that which displeased God there is a welcoming of secularism in Houses of Worship. Take for instance the idea of shacking up. It is certain that God does not condone fornication even while He honours marriage. Some in the church have decided that it is acceptable for a man a woman to live together without being married so long as the couple is committed one to another. This very notion flies against the standards of God while welcoming the secular idea that a mere piece of paper does not determine love.

     Marriage is not the only issue at hand even while some “church” members purport the honour of same-sex marriages. The idea that there are acceptable alternatives to what the world does further erodes the standards of the Church. One such idea is that the young people of the church are taught that it is wrong to go to clubs and like venues. And while there is considerable truth to this pulling away from ungodliness the same people teaching the fallacy of clubbing have introduced club-like atmospheres in local bodies. This dichotomy is not only unacceptable but has created a double standard and hypocrisy in the lives of those involved. Further, it has become increasingly difficult, in some cases, to tell the difference between the Church and secular venues.

     Romans chapter one provides clear insight into some to the issues taking place during the time Paul addressed problems that were going on not just in the secular world but also in the Church. Versus twenty-four through thirty two show some of the issues at hand:

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,  Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

     These very things are taking place in the Church today and God is not pleased. The people of God were called out to be separate and apart from the world. After all that is what “church” really means taken from the Greek “ekklasia” which means the called out ones. And while there is a bit more to the definition it is certain that Christians are called out from the world to please God. As such matters such as whispering, backbiting and disobedience must be removed from the church even as homosexuality, adultery and other sex sin should not be named even once among the people of God.

     Yes, there has been a secularization of the Church yet it is high time the people of God referred back to the standards of God in order to be that shining light in and for this untoward generation.

 

Just ‘Cause They Call it Christian

     All too often Christianity has been made to succumb to the world it sits in. This is largely because many that count themselves Christians compromise the Word of God to the extent that the Word is nearly nullified simply because of the acquiescing of the leaders of the Church. Much of this acquiescing has been in the form of calling things Christian that far fall from the standards of holiness. Christianity has been maligned to the extent that the word “Christian” has been wrongly placed on nearly everything that the world has to offer. Suffice it to say, however, that just ‘cause they call it Christian don’t make it so.

     This is one that is bound to get some fur to flying. Still the area of music must be examined. There are many forms of music available for Christians and non-Christians alike. Yet many choose to place Christianity on music simply by changing the Words of a popular tune. Because of this there are many forms of music purporting to be Christian when all it really is an attempt to change the Christian culture under the guiles of reaching the youth. This has resulted in “Christian” Rock, Punk Rock, Rap, Soul, R & B, Heavy Metal and the list goes on. God does not need the mimicking of stylistic ventures of the world in order to be worshipped. Instead He requires that the Church come out from the world and be separate (II Chronicles 6:17). And while the noted text is an Old Testament reference it holds much relevance today because it presents the idea of holiness which goes far beyond dispensational ideas.

     The idea of holiness appears absent even in the matter of the coming Halloween festivities. Many churches will have alternative activities which serve only to promote the diabolical influences of the infamous holiday. There are many that will have a Christian form of Halloween by having congregants dress as Mary, Jesus, Moses and other biblical characters while bobbing for apples and telling not so scary stories. This is far from the pulling away as referenced earlier rather this is kowtowing to influences that should have no say in the Christian realm. Christianity should have no likeness to the rest of the world. In matter of fact the converse is true; Christians should be peculiar be reason of their stand for holiness. This because the people of God are called to be “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Peter 2:9). And because Christians are holy then there is no room for calling things Christian that have no likeness of holiness.

     And there are hosts of other areas that can be examined insofar as separation is concerned.  This idea is encapsulated in just a few words; just ‘cause they call it Christian don’t make it Christian. As such it is prudent that those that seek to hold up the blood stained banner hold it up without wavering. Hold up the standard without concern for reprisal. The unsaved are looking for a difference and that difference cannot be found be calling things Christian that clearly are not.

Peering into Holiness

     It cannot be said enough that holiness is a way of life required by God of His people. Holiness is not a mere suggestion of upright living rather it is a mandate to live outside the dictates of worldviews which are contrary to God’s Word. Even with this simplicity in explanation many seem utterly confused as to what holiness consists of and leave the matter to those clergy members who have no choice but to be holy. Yet scriptural text is not specific to clergy members alone rather the standards are required of all who name the Name of Christ.

     The matter of holiness was addressed in considerable detail by Paul to the church at Galatia. He pointed out some very specific hedonistic practices that not only pull from holiness but also lend to the probability of eternal damnation if the practices continued. Galatians 5:19-21 points out “the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

     Many Christians are very familiar with some of the issues raised in this text yet many choose to overlook many of them for reason of convenience or even more sinister reasons. Most understand that the cry against adultery is a call for monogamous sexual relations in marriage yet the idea of fornication is often limited to heterosexual sex outside of marriage. This is a fallacy that needs to be debunked on every level. While fornication does include the noted definition the idea goes well beyond this over simplicity. Fornication includes all sexual sin including pedophilia, homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality. As such the call to return to sex in marriage between one man and one woman only is a return to holiness.

     However, Paul did not only address matters of sexual impurity. Matters of the heart also prove to be prominent in his admonishment to turn a people to holiness. The fact is that the hearts of some people are contentious and seek to fight no matter the situation. They choose not to live in peace and are continually seeking ways to create strife on one end or the other. Paul calls this condition “variance.” Scripture advises us to live in peace (II Corinthians 13:11) yet variance is the antithesis of peace. Sowing seeds of discord and backbiting brings about matters that pull away from the idea of holiness through peace.

     And there are other acts that are not conducive to Christendom. Drunkenness and dancing in the streets also pull form holiness. Paul calls the idea of dancing in the street with drunkenness “reveling” yet so many see no harm in this practice. It is true that this type of partying has moved from the streets, in most cases,  into clubs and other venues. Yet the idea remains the same while the party goers honor false deities or other “icons” under the guises of having a good time. Further complicating the matter of reveling many have pulled this unholy practice into the House of God. Yes, the Christian can enjoy life but reveling and partying is an unholy alliance with the standard of godliness.

      This brief overview of holiness points out the fact that God is holy. Those that worship Him must do so with not only the actions of holiness but also a life exemplifying the life of Jesus as well as an attitude that seeks only to please God. If the attitude to please God is pure in nature then the idea of holiness is not a matter for the clergy alone but is a matter for those that enjoy being an heir with Christ and being part of a holy nation.