Jesus’ Wedding Pictures

Our awesome God is the ultimate romantic. In Genesis 2:18, The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him (NIV).” Hurrah for that! Any student should know that God put Adam to sleep, took out one of his ribs, and with it He created Eve. Wow! We had already read in Gen 1:28 that they were to, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth (KJV).” And God graciously facilitated the process. Hmm, a virile man and a fertile woman—have babies—multiply and replenish the earth—no problem!

But there is another chapter to that story: Marriage! God bonded them together in a unique union which became known as marriage. Wait a minute, what’s with this marriage stuff? Well, God ordained it and briefly outlined and recorded this union in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (ESV).” Hmmm, we certainly don’t have to get married to be fruitful and multiply—to replenish the earth! Nevertheless, it would soon become apparent that God had an ulterior motive—a future, even more beautiful plan for marriage and He would surely see it through.

Now, let’s fast forward to the 12th chapter of Genesis and see a broader description of marriage. Enter the great Patriarch, Abraham, and God’s promise to make him father of nations. Whoa! He was already 75 years old, had no sons, his 65 year old wife was barren; and he was to become the father of nations? How could that be? Yet, in spite of all the negatives, that was God’s promise. Compounding the negatives, a near unbelievable long wait ensued; as a matter of fact, they waited another 25 long years; waited until all hope of an heir was gone; still no son! In order for God to finally make good on that long awaited promise, He would obviously have to perform some astonishing miracles! But that was exactly what God had in mind.

Sure enough, when Sarah was (gulp) 90 years old, God miraculously restored her youth, opened her womb, and she bore that long-awaited promised son. They named him Isaac. When Isaac reached maturity, another chapter in this saga began. (Here’s where the romance begins). If Abraham was to become the father of nations, Isaac would need a bride. So, in the 24th chapter of Genesis, the Scriptures went into great detail describing the unique search, courtship and marriage of their son. That wonderful love story occupies the whole chapter—all 67 verses. There we find Abraham sending his servant back to his homeland to seek and find the perfect bride; and when he found her, he would bring her back and present her to Abraham’s miracle son, Isaac.

Inquiring minds might be inclined to ask, “What made that particular marriage so special?” and, “why was that particular marriage the only one chronicled in the entire Pentateuch??” A closer look would indicate that their courtship and marriage was a very picturesque earthly happening illustrating a heavenly truth— a truth involving all of us. We find an explanation in 1 Corinthians 10:11. “Now all these things happened to them as examples… (NKJV)” Their unique courtship and marriage paints a beautiful picture of the Heavenly Father sending the Holy Spirit to seek and woo a bride for His only begotten Son. It also illustrates what a wonderful position we occupy in the heart of God’s long awaited miracle son, Jesus the Messiah. The entire body of believers is often referred to as the ‘bride of Christ’. That’s us!! And what a romantic picture it is!!

But, there is a sad fact involving this beautiful ‘picture’. We should also be aware of the fact that the enemy hates this beautiful, romantic photo—hates it with a passion! ! And he is set on defacing it. We have all seen beautiful portraits where vandals have added grotesque mustaches. or eyebrows. or horns, or other ugly marks ruining the beauty of them. So it is with the beauty and significance of marriage. Many so-called ‘millennials’ in today’s society view marriage as unimportant, meaningless, trifling, blasé. They may live together, have children together, but never become ‘one’ as indicated in Genesis 2. Many (not all) have been influenced by the pettiness attributed to marriage by the various media for their entire lives. Husbands are very often portrayed as the weaker sex—buffoons. Wives are considered as no more that sex objects—victims. As a result, many grow up self-centered—unwilling to give up their individualism—unwilling to fall into that untoward mold. They have no concept of brides and bridegrooms and wedded bliss. They are oblivious of the romance attributed to the ‘church’ being the ‘bride’ of Jesus Christ. Satan has nearly obliterated all the loving images of the wonderful relationship between us and our ultimate ‘Bridegroom’

Pity those who have been deprived of enjoying that beautiful picture prior to it being so utterly defaced by the enemy.

Jesus and Fine Wine

There is an interesting little story in the Second Chapter of John in which Jesus actually turns water into wine. Hmm, now there’s a subject for controversy; Jesus and wine in the same verse. Among devout evangelicals, wine is nearly always considered an absolute ‘no-no’. And yet, there it is in black and white—Jesus putting His stamp of approval on wine—not drunkenness, but on the wine. Not only did He put His stamp of approval on it, but He produced it to be consumed at a wedding celebration. Thinking back, I suppose I’ve heard numerous sermons centered on the evils of wine or the abuse of wine, but I don’t recall ever hearing a sermon on the virtues of wine. The same holds true even among my favorite commentaries.

That seems a bit strange to me insofar as when Jesus was having His last supper with His disciples, we read, “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:27-28 NASB).” Then In the very next verse He refers to that cup as being filled with ‘the fruit of the vine’.

These are certainly not isolated references to ‘the fruit of the vine’ or wine. Wine obviously plays an important role in the Scriptures—occurring 262 times in 237 verses. Let’s look at a few of those verses: Melchizedek, king of Salem, presented Abram a gift of bread and wine (Gen 14:18). In Gen. 27:37, Isaac sustained Jacob with corn and wine; in Exodus 29:40 God instructed His people to bring a hin (about 5 quarts) of wine as a drink offering. In Deuteronomy 7:13, Israel was promised to be blessed with plentiful wine and oil, and later in Deuteronomy 14:23, Israel was commanded to bring a tithe of their plentiful wine and oil. Jesse, David’s father, sent him along with bread and a jug of wine to minister to King Saul. Later when David was made king, they celebrated with their abundance, including wine and oil. That verse ended with, ‘There was joy indeed in Israel (1Chronicles 12:40).’ I would imagine the wine played a part in their joy!

In the New Testament, Jesus illustrated a point in one of His parables by saying that new wine should be put into new wineskins (Mark 2:22). In Luke 10:34 wine and oil were used medicinally and again in 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul instructed Timothy to drink a ‘little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments’.

Of course the apex of all these Scriptures came when Jesus took the cup and said, “This is My blood of the covenant”. WOW! We must wonder at what made that juice from the ‘fruit of the vine’ so special as to be symbolic of His own precious blood? In an effort to find the answer, let’s look first at the fruit itself. In order to achieve the optimum fruit for the production of wine, it must be harvested at its peak of perfection, not too green—not too ripe—just right! The next process is to place that harvest of beautiful, succulent, freshly picked grapes into a winepress. Then the workers step into the winepress and begin crushing the grapes with their bare feet. Their objective is to extract all the “blood of grapes (Genesis 49:11)” into a collection vat. They would tread on the grapes until nothing was left in the winepress but the empty skins, the seeds and any stray stems.

We should also notice that when grapes are perfectly ripe for harvest, they are covered with a thin white powdery mold—yeast; or in Biblical terms: leaven. As in other studies we have learned that leaven is symbolic of sin. As odd as that may seem, that ‘fruit of the vine’ was, at its time of perfection, covered with sin! That begs the question, ‘why is the leaven mixed right in with the pure blood of the grapes?’ To answer that, we must understand that the role of leaven is the most important element in producing wine from grape juice. When leaven is present in the vat filled with the ‘blood of grapes, it begins to boil and effervesce. Fermentation has begun. The fermentation process is actually a fierce battle raging between the sugars from ‘fruit of the vine’ and the presence of leaven. That battle will not be over until every trace of the leaven has been defeated by the natural sugars of the blood of grapes. In the end, what was originally ordinary grape juice has been perfectly cleansed of all impurities. The battle against the leaven has been won; it is finished!

I am reminded of a fine restaurant in the Dallas area. We only go there on special occasions. On a couple of such occasions, our little group was treated to seats around a beautiful large table located in their ‘wine room’ where we were surrounded by their entire selection of wines. We couldn’t help but notice the wide variance of prices ranging from a few dollars per bottle to hundreds of dollars per bottle. In taking note of the cost of a very select few bottles, the term ‘outrageous’ comes to mind.

At our first opportunity, we queried the wine steward as to why that very select few of the wines commanded near unbelievable prices per bottle, while others were plentiful and considered affordable. He proudly began describing the circumstances necessary to produce the finest wines. He said the particular grapes for those wines were grown in the best vineyards located on optimum soil; had to be near perfect at the time of harvest, and had to have near perfect climate conditions during their growing season. Even at that, there were very few years in which all those conditions were met. Thus the finest wines, as he described them, were very rare, commanding the great prices. He also concluded that his restaurant felt much honored to offer such an extensive list of wines, including the very rare.

Hmm, in thinking of that, it is near unimaginable to think of the cost Jesus paid to produce that cup of the rarest of wines of which He said, “This is my blood!”

Real Men Don’t Cry

In 1982 Bruce Feirstein, an American author, published ‘Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche,’ a book satirizing stereotypes of our masculinity (or lack thereof). In his book Quiche eaters were characterized as being wimps, pantywaists—less masculine. Although it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it caused many of us alleged macho men to examine our own images—did we fall into that category? Did we possess some wimpy traits? Even so, the book was a huge hit. According to Wikipedia, it was on the ‘New York Times’ Best Seller list for 55 weeks, and sold over 1.6 million copies

Adding insult to injury, two or three years ago I was enjoying the ‘Tonight Show with Jay Leno’. He was interviewing an attractive young single lady and was querying her about what type of man would be her ideal. One surprising ‘deal-breaker’ for her was any man who drank through a straw. Jay seemed somewhat startled and asked, “Why is drinking through a straw such a deal-breaker”; to which she replied, “Real men don’t drink through a straw” and then quickly added, “John Wayne would never drink through a straw”.

As you might well imagine, a rash of other ‘Real men don’t….’ phrases popped up during that era. ‘Real men don’t hold purses’; ‘real men don’t shop’; ‘real men don’t need power tools’; ‘real men would never order ‘what she’s having’. Then, perhaps the most poignant of all ‘don’ts’ was, ‘real men don’t cry’. That’s a tough one—really tough. As young lads we were encouraged to ‘keep a stiff upper lip’. If our upper lip began to tremble, we were indicating first signs of weakness—an absolute ‘no-no’ for any upstanding young man! We were taught that real men can control their emotions—real men can remain strong in the face of adversity. The implication is that if a man sheds tears, he is automatically considered a ‘wuss’.

And yet, in some ways the phrase, ‘Real men don’t cry’ has a Scriptural basis. In the King James Version of the Bible, the words, ‘be strong’ appear in 72 verses, and the words, ‘good courage’ appear in another 20 verses. In all those verses we are admonished to be strong in the face of adversity. And with good reason! God is on our side. An example of that is found in 1 Chronicles 28:20, “Then David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished (NASB)”
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But even in the Bible there are noted exceptions, evidently approved by God. One such exception would be Hezekiah, one of the greatest kings in Judean history. We read about him in the book of 2 Kings. When the prophet Isaiah told him to get his house in order because he would soon die, he wept bitterly. Then in the 5th verse of chapter 20 we read, “Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you (NASB).” King David, Judah’s greatest warrior and king, who as a youth killed lions and bears with his bear hands, and slew the notorious Philistine giant with a sling shot was known to cry a number of times. One example is found in Psalm 6:6 where he prays to God, “I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears (NKJV).” But then, in Psalm 56:8 David acknowledged that God puts our tears in His bottle. He was consoled by the fact that our tears do not go unnoticed by God! Tears did not diminish their manhood.

And if that is not convincing enough, in John 11:35 we read that even Jesus wept. No one in his right mind would dare to say that Jesus was not a ‘real man’. He was the ultimate man’s man—afraid of nothing—even submitting to death on a cruel cross.

Hmm, in surveying instances such as those, you might say that when we are overcome with grief to the extent that we cry, we’re in good company. I feel better now. .

War on Poverty

Poor people! Every city in our ‘Good Ole USA’ seems to have more than its share of poor people. Their dire situation won’t go away; their station in life seems to be set in stone— hopelessly poor. Any caring person who doesn’t care about their dilemma should and would be deemed as heartless. And rightfully so! It would be totally shameful for a nation with our wealth and opportunity to close our eyes to the impoverished—to overlook them. Thus, throughout our fair land, there always has been a segment of people who really seem to care for the plight of the poor. They have declared war on poverty. They would love to totally wipe out poverty forever. What a noble ambition that is!

My hat would be off to them except, without a miracle from almighty God; it is a war that cannot be won. Any and all efforts toward that lofty goal will be futile. Among our elected officials there is currently a notion that we could wipe out poverty for many by raising the minimum wage. On the surface, that would seem such a simple solution. If the poor had more money, then they would no longer be poor. Duh! That would be such a simple solution except for one little caveat. It won’t work! There is an age-old adage that is so very applicable here: “A rising tide raises all ships!” Thus, if we were to raise the minimum wage, we would necessarily raise all wages. The supervisor will nearly always make more than workers; the manager more than the supervisors; the officer more than the managers, the owner more than the officers. It is a law of economics.

There is also the law of cause and effect. Early in my career, a seasoned manager gave me a bit of advice that has controlled many of my decisions since. He said that before I turn any switch, be sure to ascertain all that will be activated. Good advice! Following that line of thought, when the minimum wage switch is turned on, the domino effect kicks into gear. Wage increases across the board will necessarily cause the cost of goods and services to increase proportionally. Finally, when all the dominos have fallen, the day’s wage of the poor will buy no more than it did before their minimum wage was magically increased. Their station in life will still be on the bottom rung of the ladder.

So what purpose will it serve? All that is achieved in the process is considerable inflation. To prove that statement, let’s take a look at history. In 1978 the minimum wage was raised 15.2%, followed in 1979 by 11.2% inflation; in 1979 the minimum wage was raised 9.4% followed in 1980 by a whopping 13.58% inflation; In 1980 the minimum wage was raised 6.9%, followed in 1981 by 10.35% inflation. Through those periods, the purchasing power of a dollar was radically decreased. During high inflation, many suffer; but the real losers are the retired workers, living on fixed income, who are being proportionally added to the ranks of the impoverished. .

In case you’re wondering, the Bible has some sobering words about the poor in both Matthew 26 and John 12. Right before His crucifixion, Jesus was in Bethany in the home of His dear friends: Mary, Martha and Lazarus. While He was reclining at the table, Mary came to him with the rarest treasure in their home; an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head and feet and wiped them with her hair. The sweet aroma filled the room. When one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, saw this, he was indignant. “Why this waste?” he asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus asked him, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” Notice that last sentence. Jesus told them, “The poor you will always have with you…” According to that, poverty was, is, and always will be a fact of life. The bottom rung of the economic ladder will always be fully occupied. The war on poverty is a war that cannot be won.

So if we cannot win that war—if we cannot stamp out poverty, how are we, as Christians, to react to the poor? Do we simply accept the fact of their poverty and go on our merry way? Should we ignore them, turning their plight over to the government? According to the Scriptures, neither option is acceptable in God’s sight. We should actually think of them as our own personal opportunities. They allow us to be both a blessing to them and in return receive a blessing. Let me show you a few really interesting Scriptures on the subject. “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward him for what he has done (Proverbs 19:17).” “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered (Proverbs 21:13 NIV).” “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor (Proverbs 22:9 NIV).” And this is merely a sampling of the numerous Scriptures regarding our attitude toward the poor. To fail in our generosity toward them, is to forfeit a wonderful personal blessing available to us from our Almighty God.

Try this!! When the poor little lady in front of you in the grocery line is putting things back because of lack of funds, have the checker simply put them on your tab and put the groceries in her sack. Then check your attitude. The blessing is immediate—both for her and for you! I know! I’ve tried it!

News Flash! JESUS was and is POLITICALLY INCORRECT!

News Flash! JESUS was and is POLITICALLY INCORRECT!
Or so is claimed by our pop culture! In the mind of today’s warped pop culture, that’s a serious offense! In today’s world, political incorrectness is the most heinous of all crimes. And at the very top of their list of heinous crimes is any inflammatory act or remark aimed toward homosexuality. In their sight, no one is more deplorable than a so-called homophobe. Thus, if Jesus was alive today, He would once again be crucified; not necessarily by the laws of the land but certainly by our vaunted pop culture. He would be brutalized by the mainstream media, by the talk show hosts, and by the ‘stars’ of Hollywood. It even extends into the penal system. If a ‘straight’ man commits any ‘crime’ against a homosexual man, it is considered a ‘hate’ crime, and thus draws a much harsher penalty. I am utterly amazed at the rate of speed that the homosexual community has morphed from the closet, to ‘coming out’, to raucous gay parades, to gay and lesbian churches, and now sanctioned gay marriages; all within my lifetime. I hold no malice against friends and relatives who are involved in such unnatural activity, but my strong feelings against their lifestyles are Biblical. According to the Scriptures, it is still sin and depravity.
Accordingly, by their standards, the Bible itself would necessarily fall into that same ‘blasphemous’ category. We got an up-close and personal photo of that when Phil Robertson of ‘Duck Dynasty’ ignited a national controversy by including homosexuality in a list of pretty bad sins enumerated in the Scriptures. It should be noted that he was not merely exposing his so-called homophobia, but was quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 nearly verbatim. Just for the record, that Scripture contained a substantial list of notoriously degenerate people. The ‘PC police’ doesn’t seem to bristle over calling out any of those other degenerates, but don’t dare include homosexuals in that infamous list. As you well know, Phil did, and for that he was suspended from his wildly successful TV show. In so doing, they were not only attempting to defame him, but were actually indicting God’s Holy Word through him. He was soon reinstated, but inquiring minds such as mine are inclined to wonder if that reinstatement was due to their repentance or the realization that considerable income would be lost. The money trail nearly always trumps noble intentions.
Today’s society seems to have brushed any memories of Sodom and Gomorrah under the rug. The term ‘sodomy’ has long since disappeared from our vocabulary. Nevertheless, those twin cities were a noted haven for homosexuals; and God demonstrated his utter disapproval of their degenerate lifestyle when He destroyed them with fire and brimstone. The result of that great fire evidently created such depression in the earth that their location is now considered to be at the bottom of the Dead Sea. That should have been a lesson to all generations that followed. But quite the opposite is true! In today’s society homosexuals are declaring that they are simply wired differently—that God created them that way. Today’s openly defiant gay and lesbian society seems to have no fear—no shame—no remorse. They insist that they are simply coming to grips with ‘who they are’, and since ‘God created them that way’, for them it is not sin. WOW! How bold do homosexuals have to be to blame God for their ‘unnatural’ lifestyle? Has God changed? Has the Bible evolved to fit the times?
By way of comparison, let‘s take a look at the ‘natural’ lifestyle. For instance, God also created me the way I am. I am just a normal red-blooded American man. As such, I am attracted to beautiful ladies. I will be the first to admit (very shamefully) that I have on occasion lusted after ladies other that my own sweet wife. That’s just ‘who I am’. That’s the way I am wired! So, does that give me license to commit adultery with every pretty lady who might submit to my advances? Should I obey the lusts of my flesh just because ‘God made me that way’? Would it be His fault if I became an adulterer? I don’t think so! That would put me and my lifestyle into the same infamous list with all the other degenerates listed in1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Paul addressed that problem to the Christians in Rome in chapter 6, verse 12: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts (NASB).” He also wrote a little note of personal testimony in 1Corinthians 9:27: “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should *become disqualified (NIV).” *Note; In the KJV that phrase is ‘become a castaway’. Whew! Not good! Even the great apostle Paul had to deal firmly with the lusts of his flesh. We should also be reminded of the fact that most of the Children of Israel who, after being delivered from Egypt, never made it to the Promised Land. Why? In 1 Corinthians 10:8, we find one of the reasons: “Nor let us act immorally as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day (NASB).” Another lesson ignored!
So, if we are so bold as to state that such unnatural activity is still sin in God’s sight, we’re classified as politically incorrect; we’re hate mongers—extremists—homophobes. Thus, in today’s society, if Jesus walked on earth again, the ‘PC’ police would also immediately label Him as a person filled with hate—an extremist—a homophobe! Sadly, as such He would be brutally and unmercifully pummeled by our own vaunted pop culture. I guess, to them, He would be the chief of all offenders; a sad commentary on today’s society.

Is The President awful, or what?

Is the President awful, or what!

I, along with my close circle of friends and relatives, all went to our respective polling places with relative confidence. As Election Day approached, we had talked politics over meals, at the water cooler, during casual phone calls, and any other places where small talk is made. Practically all our peers were of one accord; our candidate had a good chance of winning. Thank goodness!

But, during that fateful evening, as we watched the election returns come in, I couldn’t believe the results. Maybe the exit polls were wrong. I had this sinking feeling in my gut: that our nation was in trouble. What were those other people thinking? Had they lost their minds? Couldn’t they see through all the flowery campaign rhetoric? As with practically all candidates before him, he mostly railed against his predecessor and offered hope and prosperity for the future if he was elected. He could and would soon rid us of all the perils he had inherited.

After this new ‘leader of the free world’ settled into his lofty new position, many of our worst fears were realized. The campaign promises became distant memories. We had strong feelings that this newly elected president was going to sink like a rock and take our beloved USA down with him. This was a sad day for America. Those of us who opposed his presidency began jokingly quoting the Scripture, “Let his days be few; Let another take his office (Psalm 109:8 NASB)”. Hardy, Har Har! Yet, deep in our hearts, we wished this to be true.

Hmmm, thinking back, this is not the first nor the only time I had these severely negative feelings about our elected officials. I could have written this little essay several times during and after previous campaign cycles. Perhaps, I could have written it a couple times when (Gulp!) ‘my guy’ won. As we look back at history, very few presidents deserve having their images added to those already carved on Mount Rushmore.

Of course, this is not unique to our good ole USA—not by a long shot! This is an age-old problem, both here and abroad, both past and present. We can name nation after nation, empire after empire, kingdom after kingdom, regime after regime where their rulers misled the people over whom they had authority. (Sadly, this dilemma might even occur in our churches). Many have led their people into total disarray. We would often conclude that good and noble leaders are quite a rarity. Even little Israel, ‘God’s Chosen People’, had more than their fair share of evil kings. Casual students of the Scriptures would be hard pressed to name any of their good kings, other than Kings David, Solomon, and Hezekiah. Some may not have even realized that Hezekiah was a king.

So why has Almighty God allowed these people with seemingly wrong motives, to rule over us? Was He having a bad day during those election cycles? Did He make a mistake? Was He asleep at the wheel and take a wrong turn? Let me introduce you to a little known Scripture for some answers. But, I must warn you; this Scripture is really hard to swallow. It wasn’t one of my favorite Scriptures when I first discovered it, nor is it now. But here it is. The apostle Paul declares to those early Christians who were being terribly oppressed by the Roman emperor, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God (Rom 13:1 KJV).” Whoa, did we read that right? Are all our leaders, past, present and future, ordained by God? Even the bad ones? Evidently! According to that, whoever gains authority over us is God’s man for the season; and we are to subject ourselves to them. Hard to believe, but that ‘s what our Scriptures would dictate. Hmmm, since that’s the case, I must admit that it’s going to require a radical attitude adjustment on my part. (Thank goodness we are not required to like them—only to subject ourselves to them.)

We should also take note that it was always during times when things were going well that Israel lost sight of God and drifted away from Him. They were notorious for that. In each case God necessarily subjected them to oppressive kings in order to put them on their knees and bring them back to Him. Perhaps there is a lesson in there for all of us. Instead of railing against our leaders, it may be time to stop and take inventory of our own allegiances and priorities. Have we also lost sight of Almighty God and drifted away from Him? Do we, as a corporate nation, wink at adultery; do we accept lies as a necessary evil in order to achieve our goals; do we consider the killing of unborn babies as a viable method of birth control; do we embrace homosexuality as an acceptable alternate lifestyle? Is it possible that our current president hit the nail on the head when he declared that America was no longer a ‘Christian’ nation? Have we actually become a pagan nation? Even though we bristled mightily at the mere suggestion, he may have had a point; he may have inadvertently issued a wake up call to all of us; He may have been unknowingly echoing God’s words to us.

Thus, when the storms hit us and the ill winds blow, whether physical, political or economic, we must never forget that God is still in control. In spite of how dark and dismal things may seem to be, we must always remember that our loving God has a perfect plan, and He is working it out. When the ‘physician’ is removing a cancerous growth, it hurts! But, in the process He “causes all things to work together for good to those of us who love Him, to those of us who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 paraphrased)”. Even though we may not be able to see any good from our present vantage point, nevertheless, that hopeful promise is still there and always will be! PTL!

What’s With All These Denominations

In the Presidential election cycle just past, the Republicans were represented by a Mormon and a Catholic. Wow! Suddenly, among devout Protestants and Evangelicals, it was ‘Game On!’ The legitimacy of their denominational affiliation became interesting fodder for discussion and debate among those of us of a different persuasion. No argument that both were fine, upstanding men. But, were Mormons and Catholics true Christians or not? A significant number of Protestants and Evangelicals railed against their doctrines; some even dubbing them as no more than cults or false religions. I suppose the question of the day would have to be, “Did they have a valid argument, or not?”

Perhaps a little history lesson is in order. It should be noted that the early church came into existence during the Roman Empire and consisted entirely of Jewish followers of Christ, who were “all with one accord (Acts 2:1 NKJV)”. And rightfully so! Jesus was born a Jew, the early church was Jewish, and the New Testament was written entirely by Jews in Hebrew, the language of Jews. But, then the great apostle Paul threw a wrench into the exclusivity of this movement by offering this new Jewish religion to Gentiles—outsiders. And, since this new ‘early church’ was now considered as broad based or universal, it eventually became known as catholic, which means all-inclusive; thus the Roman Catholic Church.

During the second century A.D., the Church of England grew out of that early Christian movement and eventually, under papal authority, drifted more and more toward salvation being based on the ritual of Sacraments. During the 16th century, Martin Luther brought about a revolution against the vaunted Church of England, avowing that their practice of ‘good works’ had nothing to do with the salvation process. John Calvin soon followed, asserting that Christianity was strictly by predestination. Followers of Luther obviously became known as Lutherans and followers of Calvin as Calvinists. Then In the 18th century, John and Charles Wesley, also Christian zealots, couldn’t swallow Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, so they began a systematic method of taking the gospel of salvation to ‘whosoever will’, throughout the world.

The early 19th century saw yet another religious movement called the ‘restoration of the church of Christ’. The movement was brought about by a group who wanted to return the ‘church’ to its primitive roots. In 1830, Joseph Smith, Jr. (considered by many as the first latter day saint) vowed that he had received a vision from God. In that vision he said that he received a blueprint of how the early church would be if translated into today’s world. He subsequently introduced that blueprint in his Book of Mormon; not meant to be in opposition to the Bible, but as an addition to it. Nevertheless, that ‘restored’ church grew rapidly until Joseph Smith was killed in 1844. After his death, the so-called ‘restored church of Christ’ splintered. Three major factions sprung up from that division: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the mystical Free Masons, and the present day Church of Christ—all very different from one another.

Since then, uncounted scores of new denominations have sprung up, all flying under the Christian flag. I’m reminded of a line in the song, ‘High Hopes’ in which the ant says, ‘Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant’. Can they all be right while being so different? Even though many of today’s myriad of denominations might seem flawed to those of us of different persuasions, we might do well to ask if they are they fatal flaws. The litmus test is found in Acts 16:30-31 where the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” to which they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household (Acts 16:30-31 paraphrased)”. (It should be noted here that ‘believe’ in this Scripture is further defined in the Amplified Bible as: to trust in, rely on, and adhere to.) Then, in Ephesians 2:8:9 we learn that salvation cannot be earned; it is a precious ‘GIFT’ from our loving God to all who trust in, rely on, and adhere to His Son, Jesus the Christ. In spite of all these varied sincere denominations, those four basic verses define the only way (John 14:6) to eternal salvation. Thus, according to the Scriptures, if those basic truths are not at the core of their doctrines and beliefs, then yes, they are fatal flaws. In Galatians 1:8, Paul said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”