America and the Shining City on a Hill

America has often been described as “a shining city on a hill.” This is language borrowed from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Clearly, the context of the Sermon of the Mount has nothing to do with America. The “Ye” that are the “shining city on a hill” are the people who reflect the Beatitudes, which is, uh, not America.

But hey, it makes a good story. The first time America was promoted to Beatific standing was in 1630 when John Winthrop said:

“For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses.”

Although many have waxed prophetic on this quote (most notably Ronald Reagan), I find the quote to be somewhat arrogant and presumptuous. Jesus is not talking about America, to say that He is assumes and destroys a lot.

America is no Christian utopia. Never has been; never will be. If you think it was, I suggest you read some more history.

The Bible begins with a perfect place on earth (The Garden of Eden) and ends with a picture of perfect life in the New Jerusalem. Paradise was lost. To regain it a lot of things have to happen, none of which occurred when or since America was founded.

The idea that we can create a Christian heaven on earth is just terrible Bible interpretation. Only Christ, the King of Kings, has the power and authority to pull such a thing off.

When certain early Americans claimed to be able to create utopia, they merely placed themselves in the position of Jesus Christ. They were their own Messiahs. This is a bad idea. Pride goeth before the fall.

However, the idea of American Utopia still gets air time. Here’s a quote from Thomas Cahill about the word “utopia,” creating a definition that America might be able to meet:

[Thomas] More was the inventor of the word “utopia,” which he made up combining a Greek noun, topos, meaning district, and eu-, a Greek prefix meaning good–though if one pronounces the first syllable as ou-, one is using a Greek prefix that negates the noun that follows it. So “utopia” has the double meaning of good place and no place. It is, therefore, an ideal society that does not exist.

In that case, sure, America is a utopia–a fine place that only exists in the imagination of nostalgic, sentimental patriots.

Sure, it is (might have to soon go past tense here) better than any other country, and I enjoy living in it. But it’s just a large land mass inhabited by sinful people, just like all other places on the globe.

Thinking that America is, or could be, heaven on earth is merely wishful thinking. America is indeed a good place that does not exist.

“Be Still and Know That I Am God” Is A Great Philosophy

“Be still and know that I am God.”

What a beautiful phrase! One of the more precious statements of Scripture.

Because of its awesomeness, it gets quoted a lot. When we quote things a lot, we often assume we know what they mean.

I was reading in Martyn Lloyd-Jones the other day when he mentioned this verse. He said “be still” means “give up.” Really? That kind of shocked me. I made a note of it to look it up later, because, yeah, cool. I like that!

Giving up is a fair summation of my take on life! As the old Christian rocker, Steve Taylor, once said, “since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better.”

“Be still” means “give up?” Let’s see if it’s true!

“Be still” is from a Hebrews word that can be translated numerous ways. Forsake. Fail. Weaken. Down. Go. Alone. And, most beautifully mixed in there are “idle” and “slothful!”

Even better! Be lazy and know that I am God!

Now, before we get too excited, it doesn’t mean we don’t work and take care of our responsibilities. Plenty of other Scriptures make that clear.

But when it comes to personal safety, seeing culture fall apart, and the nations and kings doing their things that nations and kings have always done, yeah, give up.

This planet will always have messed up stuff going on. There is coming a day when God will take His people to a place where He will provide abundantly.

Until then, give up on your dreams of having it all here. Give up seeking refuge in other places. Run to God and let Him do your protecting.

Why the World Gets so Worked Up About Words

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

Apparently this is no longer true.

It seems today people are more offended by names and words than by actual harmful things that happen.

For instance, Islam absolutely despises gay people. ISIS just last week threw four gay men off a roof to their death. Turkey, a heavily Muslim country, used police force (water cannons and pepper spray) to thwart a gay pride parade, yet I hear very few homosexual activists upset with anything Muslim.

Christianity, which largely just tells people we think homosexuality is a sin because the Bible says so, is under constant attack by homosexual groups.

Christians say what they believe; Muslims kill gay people. Guess who is seen as more evil? Those talky Christians.

It amazes me how offended people are by words. How fearful they are of the power of a word.

Why do people fear words so much while continually normalizing sinful actions?

I wonder how much the increasing censorship of words reveals the inherent power of God’s Word.

God created with a word. Jesus Christ is called the Word. Jesus Himself said, “the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”

When Christ returns and wipes out all unrighteous people, we’re told He does this by a sword coming out of His mouth. This is figurative language, He’s not actually wielding a sword with his teeth.

The sword is His Word. The Word of God is called a sword in the armor of God. Hebrews says God’s Word is sharper than a two-edged sword.

God utilizes words very effectively. That’s why increasingly you will get in trouble for speaking God’s Word. That’s why increasingly, even though the world confidently tells us our religion is a crutch, they will be so afraid of God’s Word we preach that they’ll desire to silence it.

This is no surprise. God’s Word told us it would be this way.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Do you have faith to stick with God’s Word, or will you chuck it to keep earthly comfort and acceptance?

It’s a question we will increasingly have to consider.

Black Churches Are Burning

It’s a very poorly reported story, but six black churches have burned since the Charleston shooting. Six.

Although there may be no connection, nor do the fires show any graffiti or racist anythings, it is slightly suspicious.

Also suspicious this gets no coverage. Imagine if it were six mosques?!

You can donate some money to help these churches here.

UPDATE: It’s now up to seven churches.

10 Points On Recent Cultural Events

I guess I’m supposed to say stuff about the Supreme Court and Marriage and Confederate flags and trans-gender and trans-race stuff because I’m a pastor. Here is what I have to say about the state of our culture today.

1) What? The world likes its sin? No way! Get out of here! I’m shocked.

2) In order to get attention people have to do bizarre things. The more bizarre things people do, the harder it is to get attention, which then pushes the bar of what “bizarre” is. We live in a bizarre time where people are practically trampling each other to get attention. The more we get outraged, the more attention they get, which feeds the whole problem. This is why I tend to ignore such ridiculous behavior and carry on being normal (the new “bizarre” pretty soon).

3) Lots of Christians are bemoaning the “loss of our country.” I find this sad. Not sad for losing America; sad for how soon Christians forget their Bible. America is not our country. Read Hebrews 11. They can do whatever they want down here, they can’t mess with my country. The more we fuss about earthly countries, the more we blow our testimony of faith. Chill. This is not our home.

4) Christianity loses on earth. Read Revelation. The world ends in fire after a complete rebellion against God. We lose on this earth. Jesus lost when He was here. He lost for the joy set before Him. We lose too for joy set before us–we inherit the eternal Kingdom of God’s Righteousness.

5) The meek inherit the earth. There’s not much meekness on any side of these issues. There is either arrogant boasting in victory, or self-absorbed bitterness, both of which are filled with pride, anger, vitriol, and spewings of the mouth. Chill. The meek get God’s perfect new earth. The arrogant get this one. Let em have it, the next one’s better.

6) I know I’m going to be told that voting is what I need to do to turn this country around. Hey, people, voting is what got us here! It’s not working. This is what happens when we let majorities rule. Majorities are made up of a majority of sinners. This is not our country. America can die and God’s Kingdom will still live.

7) In the end, according to Revelation, the nations line up against God. Did you get that? The nations line up against God. Yet why do we assume we can save our nation? America will line up against God. Again, we lose here.

8) The Church lost its voice on this issue when we started divorcing left and right. The Church needs to shut up about the world’s sin until we address our own. That whole beam and speck thing. Judgment begins with the house of God.

9) One of the weirdest aspects of modern life is that people are no longer getting in trouble for what they are doing, but people are getting in trouble for what they are saying (more on this tomorrow). This sets things up nicely for the persecution of “Christians,” who do little, but say much (that last line was sarcasm) (Sort of).

10) Bottom line: the more Christians act like stuff going on here is a threat to us, the more we blow our Christian distinctive. Again, this is NOT OUR HOME. We lose. Everything gets burned up. We get the next earth; not this one! The more we freak out, the more we show we have no faith. Let em win. Let em have it. This is the only attitude that will allow you to love. As long as we view them as “stealing our country” that we “need to take back,” love will be gone. Don’t do this Christians. Don’t do this. Our job is to love. Go do that.

Moral Chimps, Sort Of, Not Really, But Still

Perhaps you saw this story the other day:

Chimpanzees can tell right from wrong: Apes’ reactions to violent video footage may give clues to how human morality evolved

Whenever evolution stories are reported on, know that the headline has almost next to nothing to do with actual findings. Also note that when a topic is covered and always appears that they’re trying too hard, something is amiss.

Bottom line: if you read the article and the actual findings, chimps have no concept of right and wrong. Here’s an analysis of the findings.

It is somewhat ironic that as our culture increasingly decides morality is nothing but bondage, we feel a need to make animals moral.

Animals aren’t moral. They do not know right and wrong. Animals may have instincts that appear moral, but they are not guided by morality, they are guided by instinct.

God has put his law in our hearts, all people have a sense of God’s right and wrong. All people have a conscience, a thing in their brain that bugs them when they do wrong, sometimes shown by guilt, sometimes by brazen flaunting.

Animals can’t violate morality, carry guilt. If they did, they would need forgiveness and thus an animal messiah to save them. Animals are breathing piles of dirt just like people. The main difference is in our morality, conscience, will, and intellect.

Gun Control and Baptism

I saw this on the internets the other day about the Charleston Shooting:

“Gun control is a legislative placebo deceiving people who think “feeling” safe actually means they are safe.”

I think that expresses well the issue of legislation in general. People want a feeling. Even if people were totally safe, if they didn’t feel they were, they would conclude they were not safe. For instance: my wife with spiders.

I heard once that a car company made a car shift with no noise. You couldn’t tell the car upshifted or downshifted. It was so smooth, people thought there was something wrong with the transmission.

The car maker redesigned the transmission so that it would make a noise and a lurch to let people know it shifted. People don’t just want to shift; they want to feel like they shifted.

People are really weird.

But this whole thing has eternal ramifications as well. People want to feel like they are saved, whether they are or not.

Baptism is Gun Control Legislation. I may not be saved at all, but at least now I feel like I am. Saying the prayer, going to church, having quiet time, whatever your thing is that gives you that “saved feeling,” might just be guaranteeing your spot in hell.

But hey, at least I feel saved now!

Unfortunately, not only do we do this nonsense with ourselves, we apply it to others. We tell our kids they are saved because they did that thing that makes us feel like they are saved.

We tell the doubting person at church “I know you’re saved, I was at your baptism!” We shuffle people’s doubts under the rug and maintain our feelings.

In the end, your feelings are probably the worst possible guide on any given subject. Feelings might help, but they are not all we make judgments by.

So, which would you rather have: salvation or the feeling of being saved?

Many people have decidedly chosen the feeling.

It’s possible to have both, this is true. I can guarantee, however, that hell is filled with people that, until they ended up there, felt saved.


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