Archive for the ‘Morality’ Category

The Days of Obadiah Are Over

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

I believe that the days of Obadiah are over.  The days of Elijah have come.

Obadiah, pious, Godly has saved thousands of believers.  In order to do that Obadiah had to be anonymous, quiet.  Oh he was privately advancing the cause of YHWH.  And it must be said that he was a pious, Godly effective man in his day, to his people.

But the days of Obadiah are ending. . . the days of Elijah are coming.

Peter Berger, a secular sociologists, reminds us that the social structures we call “culture” are no longer sustaining our society, that, in effect, things are falling apart.  Our problems are much deeper than the economic crisis, there is a crisis of cultural authority. Or, as my old friend Professor Harvey Cox, at Harvard, coyly observed, “Once Americans had dreams and no technology to fulfill those dreams.  Now Americans have tons of technology, but they have no dreams left.”

The first strophe of William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” begins:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre,

The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

The blood-dimmed tide is tossed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

American in the beginning of the 21st century is spinning out of control.  We are stretching our wings adventurously, but drifting farther away from our God. We are in trouble.

The days of Obadiah are ending and the days of Elijah are coming!

The fact is, and numerous theologians and social annalists echo this, America is in a post- Christian era.  Ergo, for the first time in American history, Evangelical, born-again Christians, are most definitely a minority element in America.  Writers like William Willimon, Thomas Sine, David Wells, Os Guinness, and others echo this theme of “resident aliens” throughout America.  Increasingly we who proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior are finding ourselves in a minority culture.

It seems, at times that Americans are lost.  “The sense of being lost, displaced, and homeless is pervasive in contemporary culture,” Walter Brueggemann writes. “The yearning to belong somewhere, to have a home, to be in a safe place, is a deep and moving pursuit.”  I am a pastor, and in spite of our hedonistic bravado, I generally find most of my congregation members–who generally are not living a life centered on Jesus Christ–are in fact desperately unhappy.  And no wonder.  This world does not provide what we need.  No, it really doesn’t.  It once thought it did.

I can remember being seduced by the august institution that was HarvardUniversity.  In 1976, I really believed my university chaplain who told the incoming Harvard class, “You are the next history makers of America.” I wanted to believe it.  I needed to believe it. My acquaintance and colleague from Harvard Divinity School, Dr. Forrest Church, now pastor in a Unitarian Church in New York City, was fond of saying, “In our faith God is not a given, God is a question . . . God is defined by us.  Our views are shaped and changed by our experiences. We create a faith in which we can live and struggle to live up to it . . . compared to love a distant God had no allure.”  Indeed.  This thinking has gotten us into quite a mess.

Oh, but, my friends, the days of Obadiah are ending and Elijah is coming!

Elijah with his bravado and choleric melancholy.  Elijah with his intrepidness and eccentricity.  Elijah the prophet. Choleric Elijah is coming home—and no one wants him to come home.  He is crossing his Rubicon.  After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”   King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, of course, hate him.  But even, Obadiah, a faithful follower of God and trusted advisor to the king and queen, who had learned so well to survive in this hostile land, who has done so much good for God’s people—Obadiah was not too thrilled to see him either.   In fact, no one welcomed Elijah—not the hostile king and queen nor the pious evangelical Obadiah. Even though Elijah brings good news—it is finally going to rain—no one welcomes him.  Elijah’s fish-or-cut-bait prophetic messages are irritating the life out of the status quo.  That is bad enough.  But what really scares the dickens out of everyone is the fact that Elijah has come home to Zion, to the City of God, to challenge the gods of the age to a duel.

In one sense, like Obadiah, we resist the coming of Elijah.  The anonymity that we evangelicals have so enjoyed over the last few years has caused us to prosper.  But there is no middle ground left to us evangelicals.

On the other hand, as Os Guinness reminds us, there needs to be a great falling away, perhaps a great persecution before there is great revival.  Bring it on, Lord!

Elijah is coming to town!

One of the most disturbing essays I have ever read is an essay by Thomas Merton entitled “A Devout Meditation in Memory of Adolf Eichmann.”  “One of the most disturbing facts,” Merton begins, “that came out in the Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane.”  The fact is, given our world, we can no longer assume that because a person is “sane” or “adjusted” that he/she is ok.  Merton reminds us that such people can be well adjusted even in hell itself! “The whole concept of sanity in a society where spiritual values have lost their meaning is itself meaningless (p. 47).”

Obadiahs, spread forth your grandeur!  Proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord!  For Elijah is coming!

Be the best you can be.  Speak, act, work with excellence!  Ask for no quarter, give no quarter, but go to the Mt.Carmels of our society, tear down the Asherath Poles, and confront the Gods of this age!!!!

1Walter Brueggemann, The Land (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977),  p. 1.

Crossing the Rubicon

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

I don’t know, home schoolers, when we crossed the Rubicon. Perhaps it was when we turned off the television or refused to buy the latest entertainment center. Maybe it was when we drove our old cars another year so we could buy the best curricula for our kids. Or was it when we decided to read classics together in our homes? Somewhere, sometime, we crossed the Rubicon and there is no going back.

To push my metaphor farther, we were first “Obadiahs.” Obadiah, like Daniel, was a very influential in a very evil regime. King Ahab and Jezebel are very capable, and in many ways, successful monarchs. From their perspective, they are the ‘true’ leadership. Elijah, and the prophets, were radical, unreasonable, uncompromising troublers of Israel. They were not team players. No doubt Ahab and Jezebel could not understand why Elijah could not carry on a civil discussion about what they saw as tangential, civil issues.

This generation is the Elijah generation. To Elijah, the behavior of Ahab and Jezebel is absolutely appalling. While claiming to worship the Hebrew God they also fill the land with syncretism, with apostate worship of the BAALS. The crowning blow, to Elijah, was when these scoundrels placed the Asherah poles (places where believers could have sexual relations with temple prostitutes) on the hill next to the Temple. Enough was enough and Elijah was ordered home to confront these evil powers on Mt. Carmel.

And Elijah was not accommodating nor was he running away – don’t you just wish Ahab and Jezebel!—he is coming home to challenge the gods of this age.

Ahab and Jezebel are Post-Modernists. They celebrate the subjective. They are committed to compromise – it is their religion. Live and let live! What is the big deal?

Well, you see, Elijah cannot compromise with the stuff they are doing. There is no wriggle room in Judah and there is getting to be precious little wriggle room in the U. S. A. too.

The world of the Baals, folks, is falling apart. And quickly. As sociologist Peter Berger explains, “American mainline culture can no longer offer plausibility structures for the common man. It no longer sustains Americans.” Or, as my old friend Professor Harvey Cox, at Harvard, coyly observed, “Once Americans had dreams and no technology to fulfill those dreams. Now Americans have tons of technology, but they have no dreams left.”

In short order the Ahabs and Jezebels are going to find out that Elijah is not in a compromising mood either. Folks, there are some things one cannot compromise. Elijah and Jezebel are going to meet a man of God who speaks with concrete clarity, who carries the weight of truth.

Elijah is coming in 2010, Christian brothers and sisters. The days of Obadiah are over. Elijah is coming to town.

Are you ready? Can you give up your anonymity? Will you risk everything this year to do what God tells you to do? Will you go the extra mile in your home schooling to make sure that this generation will stand on Mt. Carmel and proclaim the sovereignty and goodness of our God? So they can bring the Kingdom on this earth as it is in heaven? The stakes are high; the potential rewards astounding. We have a chance, perhaps in our lifetime, to experience an unprecedented revival. This is the generation of Elijah. The generation that will have to walk the long, arduous walk up Mt. Carmel and they will challenge the gods of this age. Bring it on! We are ready! Every knee shall bow, every tongue shall profess, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Bring on the fire of Elijah, again, on this nation! God is calling forth our children–Elijahs who will go to the high places of our nation to challenge the prophets of Baal—in the courts, in the university, in the shop, in the home, in churches.

MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH TO FAMILIES

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

A. FAMILY MINISTRIES
Walter Brueggemann, in his book The Land, suggests that there is a pervasive “lostness” in American life. In fact this alienation from one another, threatens all aspects of American culture. The reestablishment of the two-parent home would go a long way to bring back stability into our culture.

In that sense, then, church programs must take into account the broken relationships, the loss of relationships, that an Ellen or Elizabeth are experiencing. For instance, in our church we have a Youth Club, intergenerational experience every Wednesday night. A sort of “family” night, everyone is invited. Everyone is part of a “family” at least once a week. The Church should never lower its standards. On the contrary the Church should unabashedly promote a Christian perspective of family–fidelity to Christian morality.

Likewise, the church must recognize that the actual number of Murphy Browns in America (single mothers by choice with incomes over $50,000 a year) is not even .1% of unwed mothers. The fact is, they need our financial support. They need free childcare provided or all events. And so forth.

But it is true, though, that nontraditional family numbers are growing. Single parents should not be discouraged. We all know inspiring stories of how single parent families have prospered.

Another group that needs our attention is blended families. Now that 46% of all American marriages involve at least one partner who has at least one partner who has been married before, we need to recognize that blended families need special programming and attention.

B. DON’T FORGET TO BE RELIGIOUS
Next, the church must be unequivocable in its ethical stand that the Word of God must not be compromised. While we celebrate pluralism, without being moralistic or harsh, we need to recognize that not all family forms are right nor equal for the task of raising children.

Churches must accept openly and without prejudice the full range of single families, stepfamilies, and cohabiting families (while making clear such a life style is sinful!).

The church should challenge its families and young people to have higher standards than the world.

Our youth programs should emphasize preparation for life in the egalitarian postmodern family. Since one of the major trends of family life in America is the absence of fathers, boys and young men should be spoken to seriously about commitment and parenting.

THE COLLAPSE OF THE AMERICAN FAMILY (cont.)

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Most historians–and social scientists–agree that a stable, two parent American family is the key to a revitalization of American society. Whether it is 1850 Cincinnati described by the historian Mary Ryan, or 1995 Los Angeles, a two parent family brings significant bonuses to American society. Its absence creates all sorts of problems.

In conclusion, these are no longer right wing, conservative Judeo-Christian organizations saying these things. According to a study by the National Commission on Children, the “Kids Count Data Book: State Profiles of Child Well-Being,” published by the liberal Center for the Study of Social Policy, children growing up in single-parent households are at greater risk than those in two-parent families for substance abuse, adolescent childbearing, criminality, suicide, mental illness and dropping out of school. It is clear too that the economic risks to children are greatest among unwed mothers. And clearly there is no compelling evidence that a decline in government spending alone accounts for the growing risks to children. In fact, let me make myself very clear: all my research points to an unavoidable conclusion: The most important indicator of childhood problems–from poor health to poverty to behavioral problems–is whether a child grows up in a two-parent or single parent household. No other indicator–race, economics, ethnicity, demographics–is as important as whether or not there is a father in the house. In that sense, the loss of fatherhood in our society has had a devastating effect. The single most important, and, in my opinion, trend in American families today is the increased absence of fathers and the feminization of kinship.

The problem is not simply missing fathers, but the cultural shift stripping fatherhood of its masculinity. In the movie Mrs. Doubtfire as an androgynous parent Robin Williams is badly needed by his children; as a father, he is irrelevant. Fathers are becoming an extinct species.

The collapse of the American Family (cont.)

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Clearly single parenthood exacerbates poverty, but would marriage cure it? Yes. Research suggests that over 60% of poor children in mother-only families would be lifted out of poverty if they were in two parent households.

Would money help the problem? “Unless we slow down these social trends–out-of-wedlock births, crime, drugs, the breakdown of values–government money is not going to do much,” says Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council. Bauer concludes by saying, “Kids are not in poverty because Washington is not spending more money.” “Programs like AFDC combined with food stamps and housing assistance, although meant for good, have broken up more families than slavery ever did. As a result of these broken families, children are being raised without fathers in the house. This single fact contributes more than anything to the chaotic atmosphere in our inner cities,” writes Rev. John Perkins, a pioneer of African American self-help programs, in Policy Review a publication of the Heritage Foundation.

In spite of billions of federal dollars being poured into social projects since the War on Poverty began in the middle sixties, there are more poor people today than any other time in American history. Even in the idealistic decade of 1960-170, when everyone thought the war on poverty would be won in a generation, in spite of the fact that the government provided unprecedented resources for children, the well-being of children declined.

Young persons who grow up in single parent households are much more likely to commit crime than any other population group. Three out of four teenage suicides occur in households where a parent has been absent. Eighty percent of adolescents in psychiatric hospitals come from broken homes. Tracking studies indicate that five of six adolescents caught up in the criminal-justice system came from families in which a parent (usually the father) has been absent. In fact, in 1988 a government survey of 17,000 children found, according to one analyst, that “children living apart from a biological parent are 20 to 40% more vulnerable to sickness. As illegitimately increases, so does criminal activity. And most social scientists insist that there is a clear connection. In 1972, when about 10% of children were illegitimate, the federal and state prison population in the United States was 94.6 per 100,000 people. In 1982, the rate was 170 per 100,000. By 1992, when over 30% of American children were illegitimate, the prison rate had grown to 330 for every 100,000.

THE COLLAPSE OF THE AMERICAN FAMILY

Monday, December 14th, 2009

The social welfare system is a runaway juggernaut. We have spent over $5 trillion since 1965 and we are worse off. If all this money had given us happy, healthy families, it would have been worth it. But the opposite is true. It has consigned untold millions of children to lives of bitterness and failure.

In 1960 five of every 100 American births were illegitimate. By 1991 that figure was thirty of every 100, and the upward trend shows no sign of slowing. Government welfare programs dealing with the problem have also increased. But the cost of illegitimacy is not measured only in dollars, as New York’s Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed: “A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder–most particularly the furious, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure–that is not only to be expected, it is very near to inevitable.”

By 1994 the figure of illegitimate births grew to 40% and, an even more alarming figure, 27% of pregnancies are aborted. “Now, I don’t care what your position is, whether you’re pro-choice or anti- that’s too many,” President Clinton told the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Having a baby out of wedlock is “simply not right,” he said. “You shouldn’t have a baby before you’re ready, and you shouldn’t have a baby when you’re not married.”

“Children who do not live with a mother and a father are more likely to be high school dropouts, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and more likely to be dependent on welfare than children who live with both biological parents,” Human Services Chief Louis Sullivan said in October, 1994. Psychologists point out that fathers are not simply substitute mothers. Fathers tend to be stronger disciplinarians than mothers and that’s particularly true for boys. Boys are much less likely to develop good self-control when fathers are not present. But, as Senator Daniel Patrick Moniyhan pointed out in 1965, a man, already suffering from his failure as a provider, is further demeaned by becoming dependent on the woman who gets the welfare check. As a result, many African American men have turned to violence to gain self-esteem. Roughly 40 percent of young black men ages 17 to 35 are in prison, on probation or on the dole. I blame human depravity and the social welfare system for this deplorable situation.

Of course the real victims are children. Single households statistically are usually poorer than two parent households.In 1993, 46.1% of the 8.8 million female-headed families with children lived in poverty, compared with only 9.0% of the 26.1 million married couple families with children. Of 1.6 million families headed by unmarried men only 22.5% lived in poverty. Out of 69.3 million children younger than 18 15.7 million–one in four–are poor. Most of these poor children are illegitimate and illegitimacy is approaching an 80% rate in some inner-cities. And it is not simply an innercity phenomenon. 23% of American children live in families below the poverty line and 31% of these in Suburbia.

Evoking the Spirit of Isaiah

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

The task ahead of us is to live and evoke the spirit of Isaiah in our community. As the theologian Walter Brueggemann, and others like him, argue, our task is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a conscious­ness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us. And increasingly that culture is become inimical to the Gospel. Either way, a community rooted in the Lordship of Jesus Christ is a curiosity and a threat in such a culture. No wonder Isaiah’s argument that one should rely on a faithful, historical God was such a threatening message to His generation. And to ours. Our world does not understand, much less believe in our history. God is not to be trusted because He cannot be quantified. He is not to be controlled. This God makes self-proclaimed kings of the earth uncomfortable. And this God of ours, therefore, has been making kings like Herod, Ahab, and Nero uncomfortable for ages. I remember a simple, powerful Gospel Song that all of us in our 1966 Southern church sang. This was the song of the redeemed. But we scarcely knew it. “Jesus loves the little children. . . red and yellow black and white, they are precious in His sight.” Since I was still too young to doubt the veracity of my parents and teachers, I actually believed that song. And, when I started living that song it changed my world. And when enough people live that message we will change our world. Our cause will become holy, our witness worthy of the Gospel. There will be opposition. But our song brings hope, life, and salvation. So it is worth it. Be bold and courageous, young people, and sing a new song. Do your best on the SAT to bring glory to Him. And become a light to this new generation!

4 MILLION AND GROWING!

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Finally, what does it mean to the future of America to have 4 million of its best, brightest, and spirit filled students graduating from the most prestigious universities in the world? What will it mean to have four million new business persons, artists, authors, military officers, business leaders, and government leaders who are spirit-filled evangelical Christians? I can feel the ground shaking!!!!

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Practically speaking:

  • Find a local church before you go to college. Go to the first service you can.
  • Parents should meet the local pastor and introduce themselves.
  • Participate in a local Christian group—Navigators, Inter-varsity, et al. But that does not substitute for a local church.
  • Purpose to live a Godly life before you face temptation.
  • Set up a study schedule that is a priority only behind your devotional life.
  • Practice courtship.
  • Expect persecution. The main persecution you will receive will be about your profession that Christ is the only way, the only truth, the only life.
  • Summer school can be a spiritual and financial opportunity for you. You can participate in mission trips that may count for academic credit and may also help you grow spiritually. Also, summer school may be a cost-effective way to accelerate your college experience and thereby save money for you and your parents.
  • Avoid all appearance of evil.
  • Write from a Christian perspective but do not allow your confessional stand to be an excuse for shoddy work.
  • You will probably not be able to choose your roommate before you first arrive. But you can choose your roommate for your sophomore year. Choose wisely.
  • Pray for your unsaved friends.
  • Know the Truth.
  • Live the Truth.
  • Work hard and be the best follower of Christ that you can be!

WHAT TO DO IN COLLEGE

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Next, once we understand the world to which you are called there are several things I want to see happen to you.

Make sure that you know who you are and who your God is. “By faith, Moses, when he had grown up refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” (Hebs. 11:24)

Refuse to be absorbed into the world but choose to be a part of God’s kingdom. You are special and peculiar generation. Much loved. But you live among a people who do not know who they are. A people without hope. You need to know who you are—children of the Living God—and then you musmust live a hopeful life.

Take responsibility for your life. Moses accepted responsibility for his life. “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” (Hebs. 11: 25) If you don’t make decisions for your life, someone else will.

Get a cause worth dying for. Moses accepted necessary suffering even unto death. You need a cause worth dying for (as well as living for). “He [Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebs. 11: 26). Evangelicals know that we are crucified with Christ, yet it is not we who live but Christ who lives in us (Gals 2:20).

Never ever take your eyes off the goal. “By faith, he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” (Hebs. 11:27). How long can you wait? How long can you persevere? What is your threshold of obedience?

The following are ten moral issues that must be clear in your mind before you go to college:

  • Punishment and blame: What is fair punishment? Do you accept your authority’s right to enforce laws?
  • Property: What is property and who owns it?
  • Affiliation roles: What is a family? What are the motivations and obligations of a good family/ community member?
  • Laws and statues: When if ever should laws be disobeyed?
  • Life: What makes life valuable? Is life inviolable?
  • Truth & Contracts: What is the truth? Why is truth telling valuable? Are there inviolable covenants that human beings must make?
  • Government: What is a good citizen?
  • Social justice: What are basic political, economic, and social rights?
  • Sexuality: Is sex merely a biological response or is it related to religious or social guidelines?