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Posts Tagged ‘truth’

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney has been an inspiration to many with his vocal Christian testimony and laudable charity work. On more than once occasion, secularists have been appalled at the coach’s display of religion, while many Christians have found it refreshing, especially in this day.

Things took a turn, however, when the Palmetto Family Council (PFC) announced in May that Coach Sweeney was going to be honored for his Christian testimony and the work of his “All In Foundation.” The reaction from the radical left was immediate, predictable, and intense. Cassie Cope, writing for The State, reported that “Jeff Ayers of S.C. Equality, a gay rights advocacy group, said he is disappointed Swinney accepted an invitation to appear at a fundraiser for an organization that has been outspoken against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. ‘It’s sending the wrong message to the LGBT students, and faculty and supporters of Clemson.’”

Such a reaction from a homosexual advocacy group was not unexpected, but a similar one from a South Carolina legislator was. Todd Rutherford, South Carolina House Minority Leader from Richland, was apoplectic that Swinney would accept the PFC award: “I cannot fathom why Coach Swinney or anyone else would knowingly assist a group whose mission is to fight against equal rights and equal treatment of others. As a state employee, national figure and role model to kids all over the state, Coach Swinney should send a message that he has zero tolerance for discrimination and cancel his appearance.”

So there you have it. A group that promotes the family, opposes abortion, and stands for the historical, not to mention biblical, view that marriage is to unite a man and a woman is charged with “discrimination.” That a Democratic politician holds such a view is no longer surprising. Indeed, that is the national party’s obsession. That a Democratic leader in South Carolina would make such a public statement reveals a culture more depraved than we had imagined. Something about calling evil good and good evil comes to mind, Mr. Rutherford (see Isaiah 5:20).

All of that, however, is beside the point. Coach Swinney, a man who had been honored for his courageous stand for Christianity, quickly caved to the pressure, stating, “I had no idea that I was being invited into a political controversy.” I’m sorry, Coach, but everything in America that is seen as standing for traditional morality is deemed a political offense by the collective voices of depravity.

Coach Swinney, widely considered an honorable man, raised the white flag when the LGBT crowd objected. It was a time to take a courageous stand for biblical truth. The coach failed the test.

Coach Swinney’s giving in to the LGBT bullies has been roundly and rightly criticized. We need remember, however, that we all face such tests, and we shall face them more often as that which was only recently deemed depraved is now deemed normal by most and even divinely blessed by some. The charge of discrimination will grow louder against those who stand for biblical morality. Will we stand or surrender? I don’t bear any animosity towards Coach Swinney. I can only imagine the pressure that a man faces when he enjoys a base salary of some $3.3 million at an institution that would be very much on the side of leftist morality. I know what I hope I would do were I faced with his decision, but I’ll never know exactly because I’ll never have so much money on the line and be in his situation. Nevertheless, anyone who so caves to the LGBT pressure is wrong, whether it’s Coach Swinney or you or me.

Unfortunately, such decisions are not mere matters of opinion. When we fail to stand for what the Scriptures clearly teach, and the Scriptures are clear about homosexuality, we deny the God of those Scriptures. The words of Jesus are haunting, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:32-34 [ESV]). We can’t have it both ways: affirming Jesus on the one hand and denying his Word on the other.

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Quite the brouhaha has erupted in Washington, D.C., over a simple promise which President Obama made when he and his Democratic Party were trying to get their congressmen and senators on board to pass the so-called Affordable Care Act (the very title of the act brings the concept of truth into question). The president said and has continued to say, “If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.”

Because the Democrats had large majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the president’s party controlled whether the legislation would pass or not. Some legislators were reticent to go along, fearing the backlash from constituents back home. The president was able to squelch some of the potential fallout with his now-infamous promise, “If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.”

The word “period” used in this context means regardless anything else. It means without equivocation. Period. That’s it. Nothing can change this. Millions of Americans are discovering that the statement not only is not true now but was known early on not to be true.

According to Lisa Myers and Hannah Rapplelye of NBC News, the president’s statement was not true when he uttered it: “Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, ‘40 to 67 percent’ of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, ‘the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.’

“That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.

“Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, ‘if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,’ was still saying in 2012, ‘If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.’

“‘This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t make it either,’ said Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consultant who works for health industry firms. Laszewski estimates that 80 percent of those in the individual market will not be able to keep their current policies and will have to buy insurance that meets requirements of the new law, which generally requires a richer package of benefits than most policies today.”

The president and many in his party are now spinning the story that the fault lies with the insurance companies who had been selling “lousy” plans to unsuspecting Americans, that now citizens will be buying quality plans. Well, spin it any way you like, but a lie is a lie is a lie. Glen Kessler, writing in the Washington Post, gave the president four Pinocchios for his repeated statement. On a scale of one to four, getting a four means you told a whopper.

Some evangelicals particularly dislike saying that the president lied about something. Their thinking goes something like this: Most of our unchurched neighbors are Democrats, and we want to reach our neighbors with the gospel. If we say that the leader of their party has lied, we effectively cut them off from the gospel.

While I understand and am sympathetic towards the logic, I really consider that a worldly way of looking at things. Jesus said to those who opposed him, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Did Jesus not care about the souls of those who opposed him? John the Baptist would be beheaded because he has said that it was unlawful for Herod to have his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:1-11). Did John not care about the souls of Herod and his supporters?

In the Scriptures, we find that truth matters. A lie is a lie is a lie, whether you or I or even the President of the United States tells it. We do not have to be uncivil when we observe that a lie has been told. We must not sacrifice the truth about telling a lie in the name of evangelism. Period.

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The April 22-24, 2011 issue of USA Weekend featured an article on Joel Osteen entitled “My gift is encouragement.” Writer Cathy Lynn Grossman accurately notes that “quite possibly no one smiles more, ear to ear, day after day, than Pastor Joel Osteen.” She continues, “He is the blue-eyed beaming Texas preacher known worldwide for exuberant declarations of health, prosperity, wisdom, confidence, and courage.”

There are some things about Osteen that I like. He hasn’t felt the need to don the “it-doesn’t-matter-what-you-wear” jeans and casual shirt attire of preachers seeking to relate to people. Osteen still wears a suit and tie, dressing as though worship were a serious activity.

Osteen is a positive person, and that is attractive. No one like a sour puss, someone whose constant dour expression can snuff out the candles of an octogenarian’s birthday cake with one quick glance.

Another positive is that Osteen has not given into political correctness by failing to call homosexuality a sin. He does soften his declaration by saying that homosexuality is not “God’s best for a person’s life,” but at least he doesn’t characterize deviancy as something to be celebrated, as do many theological liberals.

Despite Osteen’s appeal, his preaching entails critical problems. Grossman, while praising Osteen, unintentionally reveals a key issue with Osteen’s brand of preaching: “Small wonder that Osteen, 48, has built up the nation’s largest congregation by far, thronged by people in Houston and global visitors who come to hear about hope and God’s love—not his wrath. Let others carry spears in the culture wars and veer into politics: Osteen is the Lord’s Pollyanna, looking on the bright side of all trouble and travail.” Magnifying God’s love at the expense of his wrath, Osteen’s hearers fail to get the message of what makes God’s love “love.”

The description of Osteen as Pollyanna points to the superficiality of Osteen’s message. There really is little there but nice sounding but relatively meaningless platitudes. “We are victors, not victims.” “Magnify God, not your problems.” Grossman writes, “In Osteen’s sermons, bad times can be reimagined as opportunities. Someone left you? Lost your job? Thank God! You didn’t need that person. A better job awaits. ‘God wants to double your blessings as he did for Job,’ he says.”

Misusing Scripture is the norm in Osteen’s preaching. “I tell people, ‘You are created a masterpiece.’ If you are missing the mark, that’s what sin is. You are missing the best of what God offers you.” Actually, “for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10) comes on the heels of “for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is the regenerated follower of Christ who is God’s “masterpiece,” not the unsaved individual who is looking for a divine fix for his problems.

All of this points to the central problem with Osteen’s brand of Christianity: it is man-centered, not God-centered. Everything is about making life better, more pleasurable, more useful, more worthwhile, more meaningful. The centrality of the glory of God is absent. Christ’s dying to reconcile God to man is not in the picture. Richard Niebuhr’s criticism of early-twentieth-century Protestant liberalism could justly be leveled at Osteen prosperity preaching: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” In his book Become a Better You, Osteen writes, “As long as you’re doing your best and desire to do what’s right according to God’s Word, you can be assured God is pleased with you.” In essence, Osteen preaches “another gospel” and stands under the condemnation of Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

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This video by Paul Washer accurately, yet sadly, reveals what goes on in far too many, if not the majority, of churches in the United States. Washer is right in saying that there are godly people in such churches who want to learn truth and lead godly lives. Many of these people remain in carnal churches in hope of turning things around. Rarely does that happen. Should true believers remain in carnal churches?

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In its May 18 issue, the New York Times reported that Richard Blumenthal, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, made a bogus claim about his prior military service.

At a ceremony honoring veterans and senior citizens who sent presents to soldiers overseas, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut rose and spoke of an earlier time in his life.

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

As is now widely known, Mr. Blumenthal never served in Vietnam, received several deferments to avoid the draft, and was able to get into the Marine Reserves in 1970 when his last deferment appeared to be in jeopardy. Confronted with the fact that his speech was betrayed by his record, Mr. Blumenthal responded like a politician.

“On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service, and I regret that and I take full responsibility,” Mr. Blumenthal said at a packed news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in West Hartford. “But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.”

The bottom line is that Mr. Blumenthal has been put on public display as a liar, and he continues to lie. He claims to “take full responsibility” but characterizes his statements about service in Vietnam as “a few misplaced words.” And he says defiantly, “I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.”

Mr. Blumenthal encapsulates the fallen condition of humans. He is a sinner but fails fully to acknowledge he is a sinner. He makes mistakes, in his view, but does not intentionally lie. Yet there is no way around it—when what a person claims is contradicted by what he has done, he has lied. Taking full responsibility would be to admit the lie, repenting of it and seeking forgiveness.

This is a lesson in truth-telling for all of us, and the Bible warns us of eternal, not merely temporal, consequences of being a liar:

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8 [ESV]).

And the Bible shows us that Christ alone is the hope for repentant sinners:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11 [ESV]).

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During the past century or so, the concept of pragmatism has become the guiding force behind how conservative churches function and how the gathered church worships. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, pragmatism is “a practical approach to problems and affairs.” Philosophically, pragmatism is “an American movement in philosophy founded by C. S. Peirce and William James and marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief.”

Basically, pragmatism boils down to doing what works, doing what produces the desired results. The April 25, 1912, issue of The Christian Index, the weekly paper of the Georgia Baptist Convention, editorialized: “‘What can it accomplish?’ is the question that meets every man today who presents to the world for its consideration either some new invention, or some new theory of social, civil or political activity; or some religious belief and practice.” That which applied to individuals also applied to organizations: “‘What are you accomplishing for the betterment of men and of society?’ is the question which every organization of men has to meet and answer. And the higher the claim of such organization the more searching the investigation that then will make into the results it is achieving.” Obviously, then, those churches which were producing tangible results were the ones which had satisfactorily answered the question. For support, the work of the Salvation Army was presented: “Some years ago, the Salvation Army began its operations, and by its strange, biazarre [sic] methods, shocked the sensibilities of the thoughtful. It had to run the gauntlet of suspicion, ridicule, contempt, and misrepresentation. But it stood the test. It has done a great work where no one else was working. In the parlance of the day, it has ‘made good;’ and now men of every creed and nation recognize it as a great power for good. Its officers get a hearing anywhere and purses open to its pleas that remain closed to those of regular churches.”

Neither the doctrine nor the methods of the Salvation Army were examined for biblical faithfulness. The criterion for approving the Salvation Army’s methods was that they had “made good.” The Index found support in the words of Jesus: “‘By their fruits ye shall know them’ is as true of churches and denominations as it is of individuals.”

Whatever works, whatever gets the most persons to the worship “service,” whatever appeals to the populace so we can get out our message—these are the concepts which have been directing much of the work of evangelical churches for over a century. In the twenty-first century we find churches following the latest fads to attract a following. Pastors wearing suits are out; pastors preaching in jeans and untucked shirts are in. Reverent worship is out; high-powered bands are in. The use of discretion in sermons is out; explicit talk about sex is in.

Many of these churches teach doctrine which we would endorse, and yet there seems to be danger lurking. When a church appeals to outsiders through a “hip” pastor and a certain style of music and the use of coarse speech, that church is on the slippery slope to compromising its message. It may not happen in the first generation, but the next generation will discover that people are turned off by concepts such as personal holiness, judgment and hell, the wrath of God, and the inability of humans to come to Christ in their own power. After the hip wears off, the message will come under attack. The apostle Paul’s warning in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 will come into play: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

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