Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Contrasting Sunday Morning Music to Soul-Stirring Stuff

Yes, I’ve shared this video clip before and it is certainly well worth listening to again for its own inspirational value. However, I was prompted to post it today after my reading this morning of “The Three Men in the Fiery Furnace,” a chapter in Francis Schaeffer’s fine 1974 book, No Little People.

And a second reason for posting it is to encourage you to compare this stirring, confrontational, Bible-centered song with the stuff we regularly listen to on Sunday mornings in our churches. Which do you think would most appeal and more effectively move to action the men and boys in our congregations?



The Democrats Demand Abortion...With No Limits Whatsoever

The United States is one of just 7 countries that permit elective abortions after 20 weeks.

Just think about that for a moment.

The nation that boasts of its compassion, of its justice, of its dedication to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all is a nation that defends (even pays millions of dollars for) the brutal killing of preborn boys and girls.

By the way, that list of 7 countries I mentioned, includes such intolerant (indeed, repressive) governments as North Korea, Communist China, Vietnam, and Canada. Great company to be in, huh?

Shameful?

Most certainly.

And yet, to the modern Democrat Party, this kind of barbarism is exactly what they want....what they demand. And the most recent evidence of this travesty is that on Monday all of the U.S. Democrat Senators except for Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted against the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, an extremely limited bill which would only have prohibited abortions after the preborn baby had reached 20 weeks gestational age.

My, my. The Democrats, who have gone wildly wrong on so many moral issues in recent years, have completely lost their soul in their extremist promotion of abortion.

Time for you to quit riding the donkey?

The First Feminists Were Adamantly Pro-Life

Hmm. Even the BBC admits, “The early leaders of the feminist movement were against abortion. The radical feminist Susan B. Anthony referred to abortion as ‘child murder’ and viewed it as a means of exploiting both women and children. Alice Paul, who drafted the original version of the Equal Rights Amendment, referred to abortion as ‘the ultimate exploitation of women.’”

Indeed, this is only the beginning. Check out this excellent National Review article for more.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Pro-Lifers in the Public Square (And a Lot of Them Too!)

Here’s a few observations from Saturday’s Walk for Life in Lincoln…

* It was, once again, a large crowd…something over 5000 people. Some might say this is an indication that the pro-life movement is riding the wave of a new enthusiasm. And while I would certainly agree, I would also point out that these public demonstrations against abortion have always brought out huge numbers, even in the darkest days of the aggressively pro-abortion administrations of Presidents Clinton and Obama. Of course, pro-life advocates are thrilled with the signs of moral progress in this critical battle -- the declining rate of abortion, the increased public awareness of Planned Parenthood’s barbaric crimes, the dramatic evidence of the preciousness of pre-born children as illuminated by medical technology and imaging, the political advances of the pro-life cause from the Donald Trump administration, and so on. However, it’s important to remember that pro-life Americans have been faithful to raise the banners of the sanctity of life even when these evidences were not so apparent.

* It was impressive to hear from so many of Nebraska’s political leaders and to hear them speak of very specific actions and legislative goals instead of giving the crowd the kind of tepid and too-often meaningless clich├ęs we have hard before. The most important of the things spoken of on Saturday morning was the resolve of the pro-life politicians to work for the de-funding of Planned Parenthood. This is something that is long overdue from Nebraska leaders. So, many thanks to Gov. Ricketts, Lieutenant Governor Foley, Senators Sasse and Fischer, and Congressman Bacon and Fortenberry for joining us at the Walk...and making that pledge.

* There are always at these events several striking examples of media bias against the pro-life cause. That’s no surprise but it still should be noted as a great travesty. From grossly under-reporting the numbers involved…to ignoring the salient points made by pro-life speakers…to giving “equal time” (at least) to the minuscule scattering of pro-abortion protesters on hand…to often failing to even cover the pro-life event at all, and so on...the press shows itself again and again to be anything but fair, objective, and professional. However, another example of indefensible bias that I’ve noticed over the years is how carefully and devotedly the press avoids covering the screaming stridency of "pro-choice" agitators, the threats of violence they make (let alone the actual violence they have perpetrated), and the over-the-top profanity and blasphemy they use in their chants and signs. This gross indecency and mean-spirited fanaticism which is regularly displayed by the pro-abortion bullies is never shown, never reported, and never commented on by journalists. 

* In Gov. Ricketts remarks, he mentioned three examples of citizen activity which demonstrate his contention that “Nebraska is a pro-life state.” Those three things were: visiting senior citizens in nursing homes, being involved in crisis pregnancy centers, and participating in prayer vigils. Claire and I couldn’t help but look at each other and smile because, of course, Vital Signs Ministries has been in the forefront of those ministries and heavily engaged in all three for decades now. And added to that is our involvement in sidewalk counseling at the abortion businesses, writing letters of advocacy and encouragement, speaking out in the public square, training and equipping other pro-life activists, and much more. So...way to go, Vital Signs Ministries!

* Finally, I want to express my thanks to all of those connected with Nebraska Right to Life who have worked so hard over the years to make the Walk for Life such a profoundly winsome and effective pro-life event. That would include Julie Schmit-Albin, Sandy Danek, Barb McPhillips, Chuck Conrad, Julie Lostroh, Shirley Lang, Brenda Eller, Brian Kimminau, Denise Ashby, and many others. Thank you all!

(The photo at the top, by the way, was taken by Jessica Moore for The Daily Nebraskan.)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Can Someone Be Sure They Are Going to Heaven?

Jesus told His disciples, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” (Luke 10:20, NASB)

My confidence that I am going to heaven when I die has sometimes been criticized by certain friends and acquaintances as being an unwarranted presumption. How can you know? How can you be so sure? Isn’t it a pretty egocentric, self-righteous attitude to consider your admission through the pearly gates a done deal?

Well, actually the presumption and the egocentricity would be to dare stand in judgment of Christ, to dismiss as irrelevant foolishness His promise, to treat Jesus as someone who either cannot deliver on His word or, even worse, to act as if He is a cruel liar dangling before His followers something they will never receive.

The presupposition behind such questions, of course, is that a person needs to attain a certain level of holiness to qualify for heaven. Such people believe that they must make the grade with God by racking up enough religious points and, conversely, by avoiding sins altogether or at least being profoundly sorry for them afterwards.

But alas, on those grounds, no one will make the grade! In Romans 3, the apostle Paul explains that all people are “under sin.” Indeed, he says that we are slaves to sin. And our “slave wages,” the Bible goes on to say, is eternal separation from God…and everything else. Brother, that’s as bad news as you’re ever gonna’ hear.

But then onto this dark, tragic stage entered the gospel (literally, the good news) announcing that a way of escape, of deliverance, of salvation has come our way. And it’s not in us. It’s not something we can do to bribe God or to fool Him or to placate His righteous standards. No, the salvation offered is through Jesus Christ Whose death and resurrection is an offer to pay our debt – freely, in full, and forever.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Romans 5:8-11, NASB)

“But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23, NASB)

Salvation  -- complete and forever salvation -- is available to everyone but not through earning enough “religion credits” to impress God. That will never happen. Rather salvation is received by the simple act of believing in Jesus’s atoning death and resurrection in your behalf. And that is not presumption. That is not pride. Having your name written in the book of life that Jesus refers to in Luke 10 is not a matter of religious works or ascetic denial. It is only the humble acceptance of the gift offered by a gracious and trustworthy God.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Contemporary Church Music: Enjoy It? Endure It? Or Escape It?

To note Throwback Thursday, here is a Vital Signs Blog post (only slightly edited) from back in July of 2013.

* “I have always kept one end in view, namely, with all good will to conduct well-regulated church music to the honor of God.” (Johann Sebastian Bach)

*  “Oh my, no. The church must never sing its songs to the melodies of the world.” (Fanny Crosby)

* “‘What a way to learn great theology!’ That’s what comes to mind whenever I sing one of those old hymns. ‘And Can It Be’ is like putting the doctrine of salvation to music. ‘Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ is a melodic lesson in grace. No wonder good hymns make for strong faith!” (Joni Eareckson Tada)

Okay, I have a confession, though it's a confession which my friends will confirm has never been a secret. And I make it again today without apology.  I have for decades been frustrated (no, that's not quite strong enough, make it thoroughly turned off) by the music featured in modern evangelical churches.

Indeed, when the hymnals were tossed out and replaced by overhead projectors...when the thoughtful, intellectually stimulating songs of Christianity's heritage were exchanged for repetitive and inane choruses...when the volunteer choirs and song leaders were replaced by entertainment-oriented worship teams who were allowed to dictate to the congregation when to stand, sit, clap, hold up hands, etc...when the music's volume increased to the levels at which I used to play Steppenwolf when stoned...and when unbridled emotionalism not only trumped but even eclipsed the traditional religious virtues of rationality, orderliness and corporate fellowship, I checked out.

And I wasn't alone. Many others, especially men, headed towards the nearest exit too.  George Barna, in describing how profound a part church music now plays in contemporary religious life, said “This is the feel; this is the sound that constitutes who you are and what you’re about.”

But my redemption, my ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church, my responsibilities to be salt and light in a dying world -- these are much more important and much more involved than just church music.  I'm afraid that contemporary worship music does provides “the feel” for so many Christians in the West. But I resent (and steadfastly oppose) the naive notion that “the sound constitutes who I am and what I'm about.”

But where were those evangelicals to go, the ones who didn't care for the loud music, the maudlin (often mindless) choruses, the coercive worship leaders, the dramatic emphasis on emotional experience?

Well, many of them turned to liturgical churches, places where they hoped to find order, contemplation, beauty, tradition, and a principled and relevant agenda for social action, especially about such biblical priorities as the sanctity of life. Others looked around until they discovered those few evangelical churches that hadn't given in (at least, not completely) to the new wave.  But way too many evangelicals just dropped out of church altogether.

Of course, the larger percentage of evangelicals (men and women) who were initially uncomfortable with the new music and the new attitudes learned to adapt. "Everyone else seems to be enjoying it. I guess I'd better get with the program too." In so doing, their church experience (and usually their religious lifestyle) changed. More emotional, more introspective. And less oriented to theology and mission.

Many of you will want to write and tell me that your church is an exception. Good. I'll be glad to hear it. Others will say, “Right on, brother. So come on over and join us in Rome...or Constantinople...or Geneva.” Still others will simply dismiss my criticism out of hand, seeing it as just another peccadillo from an aging curmudgeon who won't accept the social realities of the 21st Century. Fair enough, there's certainly some truth in that. After all, I was defiantly counter-culture in 1969 only to find out the next year (the year of my conversion to Christianity) that my counter-culture life was only beginning. And, of course, over 30 years in the trenches of pro-life activism have not made me any fonder of modernity, be it in art, film, literature, politics, fashion...or church music.

So curmudgeon though I may be, you may still find these observations (and opinions) of some value to consider. I hope so.

By the way, here’s another couple of articles about this matter that you might find of interest. “Contemporary Music: The Cultural Medium and the Christian Message: What kind of Christians do contemporary services produce?” by D. H. Williams in Christianity Today and “Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church” by Bill Blankschaen at Faith Walkers and “The heresy of worshiptainment” by Mike Livingstone.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Oh, the Times! (Part 2)

Checking in with Important News & Commentary: New Year’s Edition (Part Two)

* “Bill Clinton once lost the nuclear codes for months, and a 'comedy of errors' kept anyone from finding out” (Christopher Woody, Business Insider)

* “New Report: Planned Parenthood Abortion Business Makes More Money Than Ever Before” (Steven Ertelt, LifeNews.com)

* “Planned Parenthood aborted 321,384 babies last year, got $543 million from taxpayers” (Claire Chretien, LifeSiteNews)

* “2017: Chicago Homicides Outnumber U.S. Military Casualties 18 to 1” (Michael W. Chapman, CNS News)

* “The Dumbing Down of Scholastic Achievement” (Former sheriff David Clarke, Town Hall)

* “How Have Trump’s Pro-Life Promises Held Up?” (Alexandra DeSanctis, National Review)

* “Why the Supreme Court Shouldn’t Bow to Government Agencies” (Elizabeth Slattery, Daily Signal)

* “Suppression of Good News Is the Media's Dirtiest Tactic. Here's What They Missed Last Year” (Steve Sheldon, Town Hall)

* “Franklin Graham Says Americans Need to ‘Wake Up to the Evil of Abortion’” (Micaiah Bilger, LifeNews.com)

What's Really Up with the Phrase, "Separation of Church & State?"

From the Nebraska Family Alliance comes this brief but profound video clip.

We're talking about “Separation of Church and State.”

Most people believe that this five word phrase is in the U.S. Constitution. And even those who understand it isn’t, still refer to it as a type of “constitutional commitment,” as Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor did recently in the Trinity Lutheran v. Comer case.

Because of this phrase's incredible impact on our country, it's important to know where it came from, how it's been distorted, and its proper understanding.