Love of Money

[taken from my current work: Isaiah and the Six Woes: A Cautionary Tale of Pity.]

Whether a nation or an individual, the biblical message of Isaiah is the same. And if there is a sequence or order to the 6 woes, it is reasonable to caution, “Stay free from the first woe, the first temptation, and the rest cannot follow.” The first one, greed, covetousness, or avarice is a desire to obtain money above what is needed whether just to hoard it as wealth or to become the quintessential consumer because there are so many expensive toys to buy. Sunday, the Pastor, shared this maxim with his congregation: “Life isn’t about money.” 


A man named Agur is credited with compiling chapter 30 of the Proverbs. Mr. Agur is a self-acclaimed stupid man not to be classed as a scribe because he confessed he knew so little about God. He only knew that his faith was in God [Proverbs 30:5]. Notwithstanding his self-abasement, no wiser prayer were ever prayed, nor ever more relevant: “Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches—Feed me with the food allotted to me” [Proverbs 30:8].

If we believe this and can find purpose in life that does not occupy our time and energy in the sole quest for money, we should find ourselves on a good path to avoiding the other woes.

The Path To Destruction

Paul taught that “avarice is the root of all evil” [1 Timothy 6:10]. Every English translation calls it love which can not be far from what Paul meant since Jesus reminded us that no one is able to make money their master and still claim to love God [Matthew 6:24]. Is it possible to have a romantic attraction to money? I love my wife of 54 years (as of this writing) and I would miss her if she were not here with me.

Market Insecurity

When the market crashed in 2008, due to subprime rates ballooning, I lost a chunk of my investments but I did not miss the money in the same way. Most investments are virtual funds (capital we didn’t need to live on that could be risked) and any increase was just on ledger paper or in a computer’s database. I didn’t miss the loss. But some people did! Their investments were watched like a child playing in a busy street and those investors worried as if a Stock Market crash was the end of life. Some lost retirement money, and some of those were now too old to make it up through further investing. If they were believers in Christ, they hopefully remembered that God is over all aspects of our lives. But should God be jealous of our interest in money?

And what about persons in government? Leadership or government officials that focus more on personal wealth, and not the well-being of the country—and especially the poor—are feeding their own passion for riches which Isaiah warned has God’s undivided attention.

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The Fire of God

[taken from my current work: Isaiah and the Six Woes: A Cautionary Tale of Pity.]

Therefore, just as fire licks up stubble
and dry grass shrivels in the flame,
so their roots will rot
and their flowers wither.
For they have rejected the law of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies;
they have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
– Isaiah 5:24 NLT

When Isaiah told us God was angry, he gave Israel’s rejection and contempt as a reason.  The Hebrew actually reads, “The Lord’s nose was hot.” He was snorting, He was about to explode in a furious display of rage. This does not suggest God “lost it.”  Never!  What it does suggest is that He must be feeling something like Jesus did at Lazarus’ tomb when the apostle wrote, “He groaned in the spirit [was deeply moved with anger] and was troubled [agitated].” [John 11:33].  The language  in John’s gospel is not as vivid as Isaiah’s. Jesus was disturbed over their lack of faith. (This, in itself, should be a warning worth noting.)   God was more agitated, more “troubled” because His warnings went unheeded.

In our verse: You can hear the hissing of the flames, as C. H. Keil noted, in the use of Hebrew words with “S’s.” [The Hebrew  ’s’ and ‘sh’ sounds is the ש in Isaiah 5:24: קַשׁ לְשׁוֹן אֵשׁ וַחֲשַׁשׁ Reading from right to left, “stubble tongue of fire chaff”] You can picture the flames lapping like tongues at the young plants turning them to ash.  You can envision the root ball suddenly collapsing, sinking, in the flames (shrinking, shriveling, and then gone) until it, too, is only cinders. All of it returning to the dust from which it came.

And why must God be so furious?  Because He is a mighty and holy God.  Recently in an international prayer meeting one brother in his prayer called God “mighty and holy,” a rather common characterization frequently heard in prayer meetings, but to God’s ears, it has to be pleasing and a delight.  When a believer calls God the might and holy God they trust, when their prayer speaks to their faith in Him, there is no greater praise.

But here Israel who has become self-reliant seeking greedily for all things pleasurable and using lies and bribes to support such a life-style, there is no thought of the holiness of a mighty God. If God were just holy but too impotent to act on it, the nations of the world might never know what He was thinking or “feeling.”⁠ But He is both. His desire for true justice is an aspect of His holiness and He is mighty enough to react in ways men describe as wrathful. A better word might be “jealous” [Exodus 20:5; 34:14]. But regardless the theology, A holy God powerful enough to do something about sin, will not stand back and do nothing!

Do judges take bribes today? Is it possible for a judiciary, in a collective sense, to be so corrupt as to  get God’s attention and incur His displeasure? The prophet has outlined for us the 6 steps of degradation that describe a nation devolving into chaos. For the believer there is always hope because there is faith [Hebrews 11:1], and there is faith because God is “holy and mighty.” If this is the end time, and we have reason to believe it is, Isaiah in poetic verse reassures us that God knows and He is on His way [Luke 21:28].

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Is a ‘Hin’ of Wine Significant?

According to the Mishnah, Rabbinical teachings on the Torah, the Passover meal was eaten with a “hin” (10 pints) of red wine. [see Rev. Dr. Edersheim. “The Temple, Its Ministry and Services, as They were at the Time of Jesus Christ.” revised. Fleming H. Revell Company, London: unknown) page 204.]

“Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.” – 1 Corinthians 5:7

A “Hin” of  Wine

Although wine was not part of the original Exodus it was part of the celebration in Jesus’ day and spoke of “His blood.”

In the same way He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” [NASB20 1 Corinthians 11:25]

4 Cups

The wine mixed with water was poured into four (4) cups drunk at different times during the Passover meal. Why four?  Well, it’s complicated—as they say. It depends on which Rabbi you ask, but I know of no Biblical significance. Nonetheless, Jesus would have honored the rabbinic tradition since He and His disciples were accustomed to it and scripture does not challenge it.

  1. After the first cup, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. [Luke 22:17; John 13:5].(Edersheim . page 205)
  2. Jesus would have sung Psalm 113:1-9 & Psalm 114:1-8 before drinking the second cup (Edersheim . page 207)
  3. “The cup of blessing” was third. (see 1 Corinthians 11:24) (Edersheim . page 209)
  4. The fourth cup was drunk singing the second portion of the “Hallel,” (Psalm 115:1 – 118:29) (Edersheim . page 210)

Any Interest?

Interesting fact: The adult human male contains between 1.2 and 1.5 gallons of blood (A man weighing >=150 pounds or approx. 10% blood by weight. If a “hin” is 10 pints of wine and the wine represents our Savior’s blood, this suggests His weight at the time of the Cross was a little over 156 lbs. This is realistic since the average Jewish man was about 5’6″ tall and Jesus Himself was under great stress during the final year of His life before His death.

Was it significant, then, when the soldier struck the spear into the Savior’s side [John 19:34] and blood and water came out? Most assuredly! As the song writer penned, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” His death by the shedding of His blood was important in the plan of God for our salvation [Luke 22:20].

He didn’t just shed His life’s blood from the crown of thorns on His head or from the flesh laid open by the lash.  When the spear struck, Jesus in a most literal and complete sense, gave His all for our salvation.

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Let Me Teach, Lord!

[on Psalm 51:13 when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.“]

David is impassioned about helping others find the magnanimity of a divine love and wisdom that alone can rescue them whose remorse is burdening their future, pulling them back into their past, and taking away from them the joy of Lord in the present. David will introduce them to his God, Who alone resolves the misery of a self-inflicted punishment.

David has learned much about God’s approach to healing the soul who is hopelessly desperate to find help from a guilt or a misery that badger-like has attached itself to their life. When he thought God would punish him severely, God forgave him outright. Like the good Samaritan who poured in the oil and wine,1 salvation is a welcomed experience. When David thought God would strike him, God draped His great arm around him and whispered “Be still” to his soul!

Sinners will “turn back to You” David envisioned. And why not!? There is no healing like God’s when He removes the agony of sin and the sin, too! When He strengths us and gives us a steadfastness, a resolve, to overcome temptations. David is teaching repentance, the sole guiding principle, back to God for those who cannot find the way. Had David known the song, Love Lifted Me,2 he probably would have gone about humming and singing its message.

Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!

A Christian Idea

As Paul instructed the Galatian believers:

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” [Galatians 6:1-2].

Consider his encouraging words to the Philippians : [my free interpretation/translation. David’s heart in ecclesiastical terms},

“If there is, therefore, any opportunity to encourage3 another in Christ, if any opportunity to lovingly persuade4 another struggling with discouragement, if there is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit by your common experience or fellowship5 to use you who have overcome to help another overcome, if the compassion6 Jesus knew that sent Him to Calvary is in you as His disciple, if any empathy,7 confirm my praise of you by your being united with the Savior in your concern8 for one another” [Philippians 2:1-2].

If this is indeed David’s heart—and I think so—his remorse over all he did to Uriah is now well along on a healing path. David discovered in a prayer of repentance that  only God can deliver us from ourselves!

1 Luke 10:33-34 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him
2 written by James Rowe, 1912
3 παράκλησις in John 14:16 this is the Spirit’s ministry of guidance and instruction but not in a harsh or threatening tone but with an encouraging, supportive tone.
4 παραμύθιον persuasive words which both calm and inspire, console and at the same time encourage the disheartened to try again. cp. 1 Thessalonians 2;1 “as a father doth his children.”
5 κοινωνία πνεύματος Christian community based on sharing. Quickened or made alive by the Holy Spirit cp. 1 John 1:3 “truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
6 σπλάγχνα A heart of mercy (Philippians 1:8 “of Jesus Christ”) unlike the Greek’s understanding of “the seat of violent emotions” in our Bible it follows the Hebrew thought of the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, and compassion. Used in Scripture of Christ and His followers. The verb form is not found earlier in Greek literature.
7 οἰκτιρμοί pity. an inward feeling abiding in the heart which is more likely to be accompanied by prayer and tears. cp. 2 Corinthians 1:3 “The Father of οἰκτιρμοί is the God of all παράκλησις,”
8 σύμψυχοι A biblical word only meaning unanimity of thought and purpose.
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We live in a kind-of “bubble” in which we sense our reality through a materialism, what we can see, feel, taste, etc. Living inside this natural sphere, all thing are considered knowable. But we are not seeing the larger picture; there is an outside, a spiritual realm. Our science is dependent on our natural senses and a kind-of circular logic. We have come to accept all things as foreseeable—not because we understand them but—because all things are explainable in a language we invented to explain them!

However, we remain wonderstruck at the absolute beauty of the world we live in but not because we are any closer to the underlining “how” of it—unless we believe in God. Birth and death, for example, remain the biggest mysteries of all; we do not cease to marvel in awe at the miracle of life itself but we can only theorize its inception. We cannot reproduce it. And if you think of it, so is the inevitability of death (That’s why “time” is so important in calculating everything discoverable; it tracks ultimate growth, movement, and decay).

But outside there is an eternity not reachable by the tools of our science and ignoring it will not make it go away or any less significant to our reality.  Angels are outside this bubble! Try explaining to them how a baby is conceived! Physical death, time, and many other aspects of our “knowledge” we call inevitable, angels remained flummoxed by. Our science has no meaning to them—only what God does on our behalf makes any sense to them.

The Archangel Michael wears a Roman military cloak and cuirass in this 17th-century depiction by Guido Reni.

One of the biggest mysteries for them is Calvary. “The law … was given through angels,” Stephen explained [Acts 7:53]. But that was “law” not “grace” Sadly for them, they don’t know “forgiveness” and “reconciliation.” Angels mediated the law given to Moses and proffered to Israel. This made perfect sense to them since the law was in reality the very profile of divine love—of the God they knew and served. Why this love would necessitate Christ’s incarnation and death was not clear; so, for this understanding, they would need our faithfulness in serving the God they served.

It was revealed to [the prophets] … things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. – 1 Peter 1:12

We are truly on display before them. “We have been made a spectacle to angels,” Paul agreed [1 Corinthians 4:9]. And we probably confuse them all too often when we “sin.” Paul, for example, urged Timothy as a pastor not to have favorites within his ministry. Angels don’t know what favoritism is.

I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions …do nothing out of favoritism. – 1 Timothy 5:21

Furthermore, they probably speak a different language [I Corinthians 13: 1]. Our varied theological interpretations of our faith add to their confusion [1 Corinthians 11:10]. They have existed exclusively to serve God [Job 1:6].

Angels [are] ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”

The writer to the Hebrews penned these inspired words [Hebrews 1:14 ] and these angels do a better job of it than we realize [Psalm 91:11].

We are living the mystery of our salvation. It is, indeed, a mystery to the ten of thousands of angels commissioned from the Throne of God to oversee His work in us.  It behooves us to faithfully live it. If we need another reason? …for their sakes.

<= Schutzengel (English: “Guardian Angel”) by Bernhard Plockhorst depicts a guardian angel watching over two children.

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Thank You

Have we raised a generation that has lost the ability to say: “thank you”? Is this an absurd question? Are we simply negligent in recognizing the value of being thankful? Or, perhaps, this is an extreme feeling difficult to voice. Like saying “I love you” or “I’m sorry” perhaps most people find it difficult to form the words. Take a look at Paul’s encouraging directive to the church at Philippi.

“Do all things without complaining and disputing,” Philippians 2:14 NKJV

And he added this:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:4, 7-8 NKJV

Admittedly, angry thoughts and words have led to splintered families, churches, and nations. Without self-awareness those who support such outrage fail to connect the dots; they do not discover that their anger has consequences. They do not understand that at the beginning of every war or divorce or separation there are “words” intended to hurt and accuse. And there is a notable absence of gratitude for the good things that have been a part of each of these relations.

The antonym of gratitude is not regret or sorrow. It is an angry, bitter, hateful spirit. And this spirit thrives on the notion of entitlement. Entitlement means you owe me something I need. And since want and need no longer are distinguishable, it is unreasonable and unfair to deny me what I want. On this logic all the outrage is justified. In this environment a little gratitude might go a long way to bring feuding factions to the bargaining table.

It seems incredulous to assume all this because of a lack of gratitude, but that is exactly what we are postulating. Being thankful for the simple benefits of life is devoid of rage, complaining, grumbling, yelling out, “unfair”! These are two feelings that cannot thrive together in the same heart.

Craig D. Lounsbrough wisely observed, “Fairness is not something to which we are entitled. Rather, it is something for which we hope.”

Paul recognizing this went further to say that being grateful, especially in prayer toward God, leads to peace on many levels. It is a peace that soothes our anxious spirits; it is also a peace that mends relations and unites us. The power of a “thank you” spoken honestly, spoken spontaneously, from a heart overflowing with gratitude, can heal a nation if enough people mean it.

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Reflections on How Good God Is

I have been making an attempt at a weekly blog but a lot depends on my mood. My current mood, as I noted last week, is “contemplative.” That’s probably why I have taken a peaceful and meditative interest in Paul’s letter to the body of believers at Philippi. As an institution, all remembrance of them disappeared from the annals of church history by the second century. But for Paul, as a Roman prisoner, the faces in this tiny congregation became a cherished memory that often reminded him that his life was never without meaning. He called them “beloved and his joy and crown” [Philippians 4:1]. Only the believers in Philippi and Thessalonica received such commendation. And Paul thought this of “all” the Philippians. No fewer than eleven times he spoke inclusively of every believer in this congregation as if his heart would not let him forget any of them. “Every time I recall the fellowship we shared,” (if I might translate freely) he noted, “I am overcome with joyous appreciation to the Lord for bringing us together. I pray for each of you often asking our Lord to meet every need you have” [Philippians 1:3-4].

The church at Philippi was never ensnared by the heresies and twisted, compromised, religious thinking of the day. Unlike the churches at Rome or Galatia or Ephesus or, indeed, Corinth, the Philippians were from the first day to the present (Paul’s own words, Philippians 1:5) fellow laborers in the gospel message. And Paul knew with absolute assurance God’s work among them would flourish [Philippians 1:6].

Then Paul’s pen must have hesitated because Philippians 1:7 can have two meanings according to the grammar: Did he write, “I have you in my heart” or “You have me in your heart”? Why not both meanings! He added, “this is the absolute truth, and I know I’m right, And I see it this way about each and every one of you!”

River Anghista near the site of Philippi

You see, this shared passion for Christ, shared joy in their common salvation, and a shared interest in Christ’s sufferings through persecution, was a shared defense of and confirmation of the reality that is in serving Christ. Paul was never alone because he had been to Philippi and gone to the banks of the River Anghista to pray [Acts 16:13].

I could go on, playing the commentator of this warm recollection of what Paul’s service to the Savior was always all about. But I will let you study it for yourself. Paul didn’t know if his imprisonment would end in release [Philippians 2:24] or martyrdom [Philippians 2:17] but either way, his heart was rejoicing.

And what about my mood? I, too, have sweet abiding memories of what God did to which I bore joyful witness and of which now I sit in quiet meditation—of how good God is, indeed.

Truly, God is good [Psalm 73:1].

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Contemplative Moments

I have been unusually contemplative the last few days. This is not to say I have been despondent but more reflective, more aware of the feelings some of the people I have come to care about are feeling while I ramble on spewing my theological opinion. Some of the things God has had to do, told in the stories in the Old Testament, like killing Egyptian innocence and calling it love [Isaiah 43:2, 4] as well as what He has allowed to happen, like natural disasters and man’s cruelty to man, make Him appear distant, uncaring, and if not this, to suggest Him—well—draconian, when He doesn’t get His way.

I feel I have been left to explain Him or somehow spin His actions—or lack of action—in some merciful way—something I never imagined would be a part of ministry. Recently in a Bible study, I thought it an exciting idea to review the 7 sacrifices Moses wrote about. These speak of Christ and His death for our salvation. I forgot that someone whom I care very much about, and who was in this study, owns a farm on which they are raising some of the world’s most lovable little lambs. And here I am talking about butchering them!”

Happy is anyone who takes no offense in me,” Jesus spoke caringly [Luke 7:23]. One translation [NLT] put the onus on us! “God blesses those who do not turn away because of [Jesus].” (And then the translator seemed to reconsider in a footnote, “Or who are not offended by me“). Even Jesus, at times, needed to explain Himself and at times the explanation was worse. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus argued with Jewish leaders who sought to entrap Him in His words. They were discussing “manna.” And then the Savior raised His voice and cried, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in yourselves” [John 6:53]. That’s where He lost them. John 6:66 is one of the saddest scriptures: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” I have come to cherish Peter’s response to all of this when the Savior asked him if he, too, would leave, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Spot on, my brother!

I suppose at times God seemed cognitively dissonant. He instructed Hosea to marry a prostitute [Hosea 1:2] which represented in His mind Israel’s unfaithfulness. God was hurting—even if we can’t see it! (Marrying a prostitute was forbidden to the priests, Leviticus 21:7. According to Deuteronomy 22:21 virginity at marriage was sacrosanct.)

Many maintain, as the song goes, “We’ll talk it over in the bye and bye. I’ll ask the reasons; He’ll tell me why.” There is some truth here, but more immediately it helps to understand that mercy must be administered by a judge, The Judge, and our limited understanding of His rulings, His form of justice, is what probably bothers us most. Yet, Abraham seemed to know, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?“[Genesis 18:25]

Amen, Brother, Amen.

[Written in loving concern with empathy and understanding]

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With the current interest in redefining identities, the Christian Church is in the process of reevaluating relevant Scriptures. Binary identification, gender dysphoria and gender reassignment, gender affirming care for children, non-binary persons, shared pronouns, and misgendering are among the increasing list of labels by which some self-identify. (This explains the complexity that might introduce a gender studies course in college.)

The importance of “manhood” and consequently “fatherhood” within a changing culture is being marginalized and even discredited. Factions within the industrialized nations are pushing the narrative that men must become less virile and more feminine, more woke. Professor Tom Klingenstein, Chairman of the Clarmont Institute, addressing the need for strong national leadership (in a speech on what he called, “the war to preserve the American way of life”) opined,

“In present time when manhood is being stripped of its masculinity, traditional manhood even when flawed is absolutely essential.” 


How is it even possible to imagine that a kinder-gardener should be credited with knowing anything about their own sexuality! The effort to include younger children, as the ‘misnamed’ gender affirming care seeks to do, is an effort through acculturation to introduce a way of life in the same manner the Sawi tribes of Indonesia trained their young children to eat human flesh. What should be a cringe-worthy approach to life becomes the social norm because—if children are anything—children are, to use Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s term, malleable. Children are being asked to understand an adult theme that has no relevance in their play world but, nonetheless, does have life changing consequences!


Men have lost their status as father and husband in any Biblical or Edenic sense and the family has been—not extended—but altered to exclude them. In the name of diversity, identity, and equity [die] masculinity has been disenfranchised and that’s tragic! Fathers have lost their identity as caregivers and protectors of the family unit.

What makes a man, a man? We have lost any intuitive understanding of the word—a fact made more evident by talks of gender fluidity or reassignment. We always understood, culturally, that boys grow into men and fathers were a vital part of that process [Proverbs 1:8]. But a society that condemns virility, that accuses loving husbands of rape, that empowers wives in the name of equity to redefine the dynamics of the marriage relationship, or that marginalizes a husband’s manliness, is a society that has lost the Biblical concept of family and its cultural importance. We have assuredly exited Eden in a most literal sense and cannot find our way back.


Fatherhood culturally always stood in the way of reinventing society. There was always something about a father’s creative genius, his passion for family, his strength—not just physically but his strength—of character that made him into a frightening opponent to any who failed to discern the love in his motives. Men are by nature revolutionaries where their families are concerned. It was important for social change to occur that fathers be defanged, domesticated, and made amenable to such change. Their determination to lead where their children were concerned became culturally and legally challengeable.

Enter the idea of equity which rips and tears at a long standing cultural recognition of the role of fatherhood in society. Diversity became an acceptable word for marginalizing a father’s cultural supremacy within the family. One has to ask rhetorically: Why the attempt at eroding the distinction traditionally awarded “mother and father,” “man and woman” by inventing generic terms that can serve to narrate the story of culture without any reference to either?

Social Change?

You are familiar with the acronym LGBTQIA+. Each stage of its development legally and culturally saw Hollywood introducing more and more social change in movie format. The ‘plus’ sign opens the door wide for any other words necessary to give language to such cultural change.

The Divine Model

We have seen fathers wimp out while mothers assume roles they were not psychological suited to. The fatherly task of teaching self-discipline, for one, became less and less evident even in a household were he was still in residence. But having a dad to learn discipline and the practical wisdom it engenders was, and continues to be, the divine model:

I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. – 2 Samuel 7:14

One father alone might seem insignificant in addressing crime but a culture that endorses and encourages “fatherhood” will deal with it decisively.

God, Give Us Back Fathers

Fathers were always a vital part of a Bible based social structure. It became  important in a woke world to reinterpret Scripture in a way that spins this golden truth into worthless straw. [Homosexuality, for example, in the Bible is being interpreted as only an antiquated pagan religious practice not in any way akin to the present day dissolution of the nuclear family unit.] But the important truth being ignored here  is the Biblical role of fatherhood in the children’s lives. If we can bring this to the forefront culturally, I maintain, we can cauterize this slow bleeding which is draining the very spiritual and psychological life out of our world.

I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, 1 Chronicles 17:13

God, give us back our men, our fathers!

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Christian Identity

From every ethnicity, clan, and tribe to the nations of the world the cultures of the globe and the languages used to express them are intrinsic aspects of each group’s identity. To westernize these societies so they resemble mainline Christianity is to ask them to leave the community in which they knew a sense of belonging and acceptance to become marginalized and an outcast for nothing more than some misunderstood privilege of learning how to act “civilized,” to act British or like an American! As Andrew Walls remarked in The Missionary Movement in Christian History,

“This question is alive for Africans just as it was for Greek converts in the ancient Hellenistic world. Do we have to reject our entire history and culture when we become Christians?”

We are reminded of Acts 15 and that first Council at Jerusalem.

“For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:…” [vs. 28].

And the Church leaders then expressed a concern about any former religious ritual which had a non-christian meaning and would confuse any believer who hungered for God’s Truth in its place. Philip Jenkins, however, reminds us in The Next Christendom,

“That is not to say that there is no such thing as an unchanging “historic Christian faith,” but we must be careful to distinguish the core idea from the incidentals.”

To experience a sense of accomplishment in winning souls—as well as a sense that the pagan element has been successfully purged—missionary effort once confused westernization with evangelization. Yet it is well understood that the gospel message must transcend culture. Wearing a military uniform does not make one a soldier nor wearing a doctor’s scrubs does it make one a surgeon. Likewise teaching a non-christian culture to practice the rituals of the Western church does not make them Christian.

But what if pagan social practices come in conflict with the Christian faith. Should the indigenous pastor, for instance, be concerned about polygamy or nudity or the circumcision of girls—to name a few—when they encounter these? In the western world or, the so-called “Global North” castration and mastectomies of children (early teens), are becoming normal practices along with the enculturation# of transgenderism. Should Christians in an effort to evangelize be concerned?

Is the purity of the Christian message being adulterated with ideas that “cut” its efficacy? Is the light of the Church’s witness flickering and might it go out? Is the new convert’s ability to live a pure faith in Christ being challenged by such cultural norms? The Western church once defined what a Christian culture looked like because in most cases Christianity became the “state religion.” But now Western religion has to join the Global South in addressing culturally defined practices which, at the very least, stand to shock the sensibilities of the believer unprepared to deal with them.

But Christianity is more about a Christ-like character first and the expression of those qualities that represent it.  Christianity is more about the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount than culture.

The “Beauty” of the Beatitudes is that they are the “core ideas” which have nothing to do with cultural norms but the quality of a pure Christianity, the Christian character that represents Christ to the world.

Any custom that confronts these inner qualities is immediately challenged by the heart and the convictions of the Believer who lives them. No tradition, observation, fashion, ritual or ceremony, religious or codified in secular law, formal or informal—whatever—will be ultimately accepted by the believer who is becoming a new person in Christ and who is guided by the conviction of the Spirit of God.

We “old” folk tend to put too much importance in a hymn book or organ—and I really do! But there is no ritual defined in Scripture in the life of the early church. It is as if I can still hear Paul caution us, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” [1 Corinthians 11:16].

But we have the Sermon on the Mount and it is to be lived. The Beatitudes give us our Christian identity!

#Not to be confused with inculturation which is the adaptation of christian practices to a non-christian culture. Both enculturation and inculturation represent a confusion of practices between Christian and non-christian practices.

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