Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Eternal meditations

When considering certain subjects, words naturally fail us; but they have not failed everyone, by the grace of God.  Here are two of John Donne's most thought-provoking, and true, sonnets.



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"A Voice from Hell"

A Voice from Hell .

Oh, why am I here in this place of unrest
When others have entered the land of the blest?
God's way of salvation was preached unto men;
I heard it and heard it, again and again.

Why did I not listen and turn from my sin
And open my heart and let Jesus come in?
For vain earthly pleasures my soul did I sell
The way I had chosen has brought me to Hell.

I wish I were dreaming, but ah, it is true.
The way to be saved I had heard and I knew;
My time on the earth, oh, so quickly fled by,
How little I thought of the day I would die.

When God's Holy Spirit was pleading with me,
I hardened my heart and I turned from His plea.
The way that was sinful, the path that was wide,
I chose and I walked till the time that I died.

Eternally now, I must dwell in this place.
If I from my memory could but erase
The thoughts of my past which are haunting me so.
Oh, where is a refuge to which I can go?

This torture and suff'ring, how long can I stand?
For Satan and demons this only was planned.
God's refuge is Jesus, the One that I spurned;
He offered salvation, but from Him I turned.

My brothers and sisters I wish I could warn.
Far better 'twould be if I had not been born.
The price I must pay is too horrid to tell
My life without God led directly to Hell.

Oh, soul without Christ, will these words be your cry?
God's Word so declares it that all men must die.
From Hell and its terrors, Oh, flee while you may!
So, come to the Saviour; He'll save you today!

—Oscar C. Eliason

Monday, February 25, 2013

Studies in Islam: Child Sex Trafficking

This story will come as no surprise to readers in northern Europe, where the followers of Muhammad have made sex trafficking (i.e., kidnapping, rape, and forced prostitution) a booming business in recent years, but it illustrates once again the psychopathic hatred of women which is perhaps the true cornerstone of the Islamic "religion."  Those dedicated Mohammedans who are not quite devout enough to become actual terrorists (thereby endangering themselves, instead of others) have distinguished themselves as some of the most brutal pimps and sex slavers in modern history.  This is not the 16th Century, with Mohammedans selling black slaves off the Ivory Coast; this is today's increasingly Muslim Europe.  I apologize in advance for the graphic detail in this account, which is one of the less sensational versions:


Oxford child abuse trial: woman
.says she was branded at age of 12

Woman tells court she was repeatedly raped by man who 
burned his initial on her to show she 'belonged' to him

Alexandra Topping, Friday 22 February 2013 09.59 EST

A young woman has told the Old Bailey that when she was 12 years old she was branded with the initial of a man so other men who raped her would know she "belonged" to him.

The jury was earlier told that the woman, now 19, had been sold to the man as an 11-year-old. She told the court that until she was 15 he repeatedly and brutally raped her, organising for other men to have sex with her.

The woman, known as girl D for legal reasons, said on several occasions Mohammed Karrar and his brother Bassam Karrar forced her to have sex with one of them while performing a sex act on the other.

The woman is the fourth witness to give evidence at the Old Bailey in the trial of nine men accused of offences including rape, trafficking and child prostitution against children as young as 11 in Oxford.

Appearing in court via video link, the woman struggled to control her emotions on several occasions, fighting back tears and taking deep breaths as she gave her evidence.

She earlier told the court that Mohammed Karrar would rape her in her own home as her parents were deaf. On one occasion after sex she was on her sofa wearing only knickers when he took one of her hairpins, stripped the paint off it with a knife, bent it into a M and heated it up with a lighter. He then burned it into her bottom, she said. "He was branding me so people knew that I was his … if I had to have sex with someone else."

Earlier she described a "honeymoon period" with Mohammed Karrar when she believed he loved her and they were in a romantic relationship. She told the court earlier in the week that she had become pregnant and he had taken her to have an illegal abortion.

She met Mohammed Karrar and his brother Bassam Karrar as an 11-year-old and was forced to have sex with both of them, she said. She described one occasion when she said Mohammed Karrar had followed her into the bathroom and gagged her with her own scarf before raping her.

Knowing he carried a knife in his coat pocket, she grabbed it, she told the court. "I kind of took the knife and threatened him. I said I would stab him but I didn't do anything. He was quite mad with me, even threatening him and taking the knife," she said.

He dragged her to the living room and told the other people there to leave. Then he grabbed a baseball bat, she said. "I was whacked around my head. I remember whistling in my ears, my head felt really heavy and pounded," she said.

When she regained consciousness he was assaulting her with the handle of the baseball bat, she told the court. "I hated him when he done that", she said. "I thought it was my own fault because I shouldn't have threatened him with the knife."

She told the court she had "no choice" but to have sex with the brothers. If she tried to stop Mohammed Karrar "sometimes he would get angry, sometimes give me a guilt trip". Asked how he would react she said he would "shout, hit, or just take it into his own hands".

She described one occasion when he hit her with the back of his hand and she "flew into the sofa". If she refused to have sex "he would force himself upon me, he would whisper in my ear saying you know this is what it's meant to be like, baby, I love you", she said.

Mohammed Karrar had total control over her and would force her to dress up and perform roleplays, she told the court. "If he wanted me to do something I would do it. [He said] If he wanted me to eat shit, I would eat shit."

Mohammed Karrar also organised for other men to have sex with her and took payment for it, the woman told the court. She met other men in hotel rooms or in flats, sometimes alone or in twos and threes, and up to three times a week, she told the court. She was expected to treat the men like "important guests" but said "it was meant to be nice … but I dressed like a slut".

She told the court that on a few occasions she had been able to say no, but more often "they would go mad, or sometimes they would ask very nicely, [saying] 'Please, for me, these are my guests', but eight times out of 10 it was 'You have to do it and you are going to do it'." One man threatened her with a knife before penetrating her with the handle of the weapon, she said. She didn't understand what the men said to each other, as they talked in a different language, but she got the impression they enjoyed scaring her, she told the court.

After the men had left, Mohammed Karrar would force her to have a bath and scrub her so hard that she would, on occasion, bleed, she told the court.

He would say "stuff like I'm a dirty bitch, and I needed to keep clean. Calling me all the names under the sun," she said. He would ask sarcastically if she had enjoyed herself. "He would just make me feel lower and lower and lower, even though it was him making me lower," she told the court.

Kamar Jamil, 27, Akhtar Dogar, 32, Anjum Dogar, 30, Assad Hussain, 32, Mohammed Karrar, 38, Bassam Karrar, 33, Mohammed Hussain, 24, Zeeshan Ahmed, 27, and Bilal Ahmed, 26, face a total of 51 counts between them, including rape, forcing a child into prostitution and trafficking. The men deny all the charges.

It is alleged the men targeted young girls from vulnerable and chaotic backgrounds, and over a period of eight years subjected them to extreme physical and sexual violence, sold some victims for prostitution in Oxford and trafficked others around the country.

The trial continues.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Someone may object that these "men" were not identified in the story as "religious Muslims."  That's because I chose the least sensational account I could find, from a publication which is far too "politically correct" to imply such a thing; they played it as a women's rights issue exclusively.  But, as we've said so many times, and as Wafa Sultan has demonstrated so indefatigably, this is the true face of Islam.  It has no other. 

"The religion of peace:" coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Waiting for me to deny Christ"

Here's the latest dispatch in the outrageous case of American pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran for preaching the Gospel of Christ in private homes.  The Islamic savages currently persecuting this man think that they control his fate, but they have not reckoned on the prayers of God's people, who will not relent in our supplications.  Meanwhile, they bray that "there is no compulsion in religion!"

Imprisoned American says Iranian
captors 'waiting for me to deny Christ'

By Lisa Daftari Published February 22, 2013

American pastor Saeed Abedini, jailed in a notoriously brutal Iranian prison for his Christian faith, is facing physical and psychological torture at the hands of captors demanding he renounce his beliefs, according to supporters.

The 32-year-old married father of two, who left his home in Boise, Idaho, to help start an orphanage in his latest country, detailed “horrific pressures” and “death threats,” is a letter to family members, according to his U.S.-based attorneys.

“My eyes get blurry, my body does not have the strength to walk, and my steps become very weak and shaky,” read the letter, sneaked out of Evin prison in Tehran. "They are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ. But they will never get this from me.”
Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison for threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches. The American Center for Law and Justice has provided legal support for Abedini’s family in the U.S. and is working through various government means to help win the pastor’s release. ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said the fact that the torture is happening after Abedini's trial, a sham he and his attorney were not even allowed to attend, is particularly chilling.

“This is post conviction," Sekulow said. "This isn’t about a trial. This is about life, and the message is you will be treated this way until you become a Muslim.”

Family and friends of Abedini have long suspected the worst regarding his treatment in the prison, but the latest letter confirmed their fears.

“This is only second time we’ve heard from him, but this makes sense in light of how Christians are being treated in Iran," Sekulow said. "He can’t communicate this message every day. It’s our job to get this important message out to everyone.”

Abedini has denied evangelizing in Iran since being arrested and admonished more than a decade ago. He has made over nine trips to Iran since 2009, but says he traveled to visit family and friends, and on his last trip over the summer of 2012, finalize details on a family established orphanage. Authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into Evin prison.

“It is heart wrenching to hear of Saeed's continued abuse and torture in the Iranian prison. We have known for some time that he is facing physical and psychological abuse. Now our worst fears have been confirmed,” said his wife, Naghmeh Abedini, in reaction to the most recent letter.

The ACLJ, along with its European affiliate, filed a document last week with the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) calling on Iran to immediately release Abedini, citing Iran’s violations of international law and human rights abuses.

Also last week, more than 80 members of Congress sent a bi-partisan letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to “exhaust every possible option to secure Mr. Abedini’s immediate release.” The letter stated that “[a]s a U.S. citizen, Mr. Abedini deserves nothing less than the exercising of every diplomatic tool of the U.S. government to defend his basic human rights.”

The ACLJ’s #SaveSaeed campaign and petition continues to gather momentum with over 300,000 signatures and a global effort to use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to keep international pressure on this case.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Receiving Christ?" What's that?

Since starting this blog, several years ago, many references have been made to "receiving Jesus Christ."  But that expression, which sounds so simple, is puzzling to a lot of people, just as it was once puzzling to me.  Let's talk about it.

The term itself comes from the first chapter of John's Gospel.  Referring to Jesus Christ: He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:10-13).  So, that's where we get the expression, "receiving Christ."  But what does it mean?

In the first place, it means that Jesus Christ is God: not merely a "great prophet" or "great teacher," but God in the flesh, walking around on earth in a specific time and place. He created the universe, and everything outside the universe.  And, although He was and is the Messiah of the nation of Israel, He's not merely "the Jewish Messiah;" He's the Saviour of all men, Jew and Gentile alike .... if they "receive" Him.  Which brings us back to our question.

What does it mean to "receive Christ?"  Why is it such a big deal?  How is it any different from a "religious conversion" to Islam or Catholicism or Buddhism or Protestantism?  

Because it's not a matter of "religion."  "Religion" is what causes self-righteousness and small-mindedness and wars.  This is a matter of your individual, very personal relationship with your Creator.  And make no mistake: you have such a relationship already, whether you want it or not.  Whether you're at odds with Him, or apathetic toward Him, or you're reconciled to Him and in fellowship with Him, there's a relationship - - - even if you're an agnostic or atheist.  You may not acknowledge the relationship, but it's there.  

And, like every man or woman ever born on this earth, you're a sinful creature.  It doesn't matter whether your sins are "big," like murder or theft or sexual immorality, or "small," like envy or gossip or selfishness.  If you deny it, you're only fooling yourself - - - although most people don't deny it, at least in their heart of hearts. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one, the Bible says (Romans 3:10); for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And sinful people need a Saviour: from their sins, from themselves, and from an eternity in Hell.  That's why Jesus said, speaking of Himself, He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil (John 3:18, 19). Now, I didn't say that.  Rick Warren or Billy Graham didn't say that.  Jesus Christ said that: and if you doubt it, your quarrel is with Him, and nobody else.

What does it mean to "believe on him?"  Does it mean to believe that He existed, or that He was a nice guy, the way you "believe in" one of your friends, or some celebrity you've never met?  No; it means to receive Him.

(This is described much more fully in the section of this blog entitled "Hey, dummy!"  If you don't consider yourself a dummy [and some dummies have very high I.Q.s], you might not have read that section.)

"Receiving Christ" is very simple.  Making the decision to do it might not be easy, but the process is simple.  You simply go to God, directly (you don't need a priest or a preacher or a "counsellor"), and accept Him, on His own terms, and give yourself to Him.  (Believe me, you'll be getting the better end of that deal!)  You don't recite an ancient chant while counting some beads, and you don't need an eloquent prayer that some great preacher wrote a hundred years ago.  You talk to Him directly.  You might say something like "God, I know that I'm a sinner, and that I can't fix myself or save myself.  I know that I deserve Hell, and that's where I'm headed, if You don't save me.  But God, as much as I understand of myself, I'm giving to as much as I understand of You.  Please save me, for Jesus' sake!"  

That's just a suggestion, of course.  You can put it in your own words, just as you'd talk to anyone else.  But you must acknowledge your true condition - - - that you're lost and clueless and without hope - - - and ask God to save you.  If you do that honestly, without crossing your fingers or playing any games, He'll save you - - - and you will have received Christ.

Now, you can do a lot of things that are "religious," and still be unsaved.  You can repent of your sins, and confess them, and still go to Hell: that's what Judas did.  Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5).

You can believe in Jesus, with your intellect, and be baptized, and still go to Hell: that's another thing that Judas did, and so did Simon the sorcerer. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done ... And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. (Acts 8, selected verses).  

You can ask the godliest people you know, or even "Mary and the saints," to pray for you, and still go to Hell:  that's what Pharaoh did. And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer (Exodus 9:27, 28). 

But you cannot receive Jesus Christ, personally, and go to Hell: But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12,13). "Sons of God" don't go to Hell!

Did you get that last part?  About being born of God?  That's why Jesus says, Ye must be born again (John 3:3-7).  When you receive Christ, you're born again, and although you're still you, and haven't lost your individuality, you're now a new creature.  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

And that's just the start of your new life; it will never end. You will have begun an eternity in fellowship and reconciliation with your Creator.  Not because of anything "good" or "religious" that you've done .... but because of what Jesus did, on Calvary, and what He's willing to do today.

If you haven't received Christ, why not do it now?  It's very simple: Do it on His terms, and if you take Him, He'll take you.

Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Prayer first ... then mercy

Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired 
of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.  Ezekiel 36:37

Prayer is the forerunner of mercy. Turn to sacred history, and you will find that scarcely ever did a great mercy come to this world unheralded by supplication. You have found this true in your own personal experience. God has given you many an unsolicited favour, but still great prayer has always been the prelude of great mercy with you. When you first found peace through the blood of the cross, you had been praying much, and earnestly interceding with God that he would remove your doubts, and deliver you from your distresses. Your assurance was the result of prayer. When at any time you have had high and rapturous joys, you have been obliged to look upon them as answers to your prayers. When you have had great deliverances out of sore troubles, and mighty helps in great dangers, you have been able to say, "I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." Prayer is always the preface to blessing. It goes before the blessing as the blessing's shadow. When the sunlight of God's mercies rises upon our necessities, it casts the shadow of prayer far down upon the plain. Or, to use another illustration, when God piles up a hill of mercies, he himself shines behind them, and he casts on our spirits the shadow of prayer, so that we may rest certain, if we are much in prayer, our pleadings are the shadows of mercy. Prayer is thus connected with the blessing to show us the value of it. If we had the blessings without asking for them, we should think them common things; but prayer makes our mercies more precious than diamonds. The things we ask for are precious, but we do not realize their preciousness until we have sought for them earnestly.

- - - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Morning and Evening

Friday, February 15, 2013

Does Iran already have the bomb?

Something very troublesome has been happening in Washington since the re-election of President Obama.  In discussions of Iran's nuclear capabilities, which were such a hot issue in last year's Presidential campaign, one has begun to hear the word "prevention" less and less, and the word "containment" more and more. "Containment" (i.e., allowing Iran to go nuclear, but "containing" its power, much as America attempted to "contain" the Soviet Union's global ambitions in various ways) is not yet official American policy, but as the new left-wing Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense take their places, the sands may shift. (The proposed Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, is decidedly more lackadaisical about security issues than the outgoing Secretary, Leon Panetta, and Panetta was no hawk; and Hagel is virulently anti-Israel.) In any case, it may be a moot point: because it appears that Iran may already have achieved full nuclear capability.  The horse may have left the barn.

Writing in Tablet, international affairs expert Lee Smith ties Iran's nuclear progress to that of North Korea, which has recently demonstrated, again, that it is a fully nuclear nation.  There has been a long history of extremely close cooperation between North Korea and Iran, and it would be naive to assume that Iran has been struggling for nuclear status without outside help.

Smith's article should be read in its entirety, and is not overly technical or boring in any way.  In fact, it's of vital interest.  A few of his observations:

"The White House and President Obama’s supporters insist that he’s making his first trip to Israel next month to assure the Jewish state that if push comes to shove with Iran, he’ll have Israel’s back. But North Korea’s nuclear test Tuesday morning could indicate that it’s already too late for that. If North Korea has the bomb, then for all practical purposes Iran does, too. If that’s so, then Obama’s policy of prevention has failed, and containment—a policy that the president has repeatedly said is not an option—is in fact all Washington has.

"If this sounds hyperbolic, consider the history of extensive North Korean-Iranian cooperation on a host of military and defense issues, including ballistic missiles and nuclear development, that dates back to the 1980s. This cooperation includes North Korean sales of technology and arms, like the BM-25, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching Western Europe; Iran’s Shahab 3 missile is based on North Korea’s Nodong-1 and is able to reach Israel. Iran has a contingent of Iranian weapons engineers and defense officials stationed in North Korea. Meantime, North Korean scientists visit Iran. And last fall, both countries signed a memorandum of understanding regarding scientific, academic, and technological issues.

"Given all this, there’s a great deal of concern that, as one senior U.S. official told the New York Times, 'the North Koreans are testing for two countries.'”

This all makes sense, and only adds to what we know of Iran's own internal development program, as described by Benjamin Netanyahu last September at the United Nations.  But Netanyahu might not have been considering the North Korean "wild card" in his warning.

Both Netanyahu and Smith have given us ample reason to assume that Iran will soon be a fully nuclear power - - - if it's not already. But the President of the United States, despite his constant remarks to the contrary (which are merely his successful attempts to secure the Jewish vote), despises Israel, and it is hard to imagine that he'd lose any sleep if Iran incinerated the country.

Smith concludes, accurately and pithily: "If this is the case, Obama will go down in history as the American president who presided over global nuclear proliferation, including rogue regimes. After four years of restraining the Israelis, he may now be going to visit them next month for a good reason: to apologize."

But he won't apologize, of course.  When Israel stands naked in the face of her enemies - - - now including the United States - - - he'll smirk, just as his predecessor would have done.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Don't forget!

The ordeal of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American pastor imprisoned in Iran, continues. And the protests are beginning to mount. Please watch this video, featuring Toby Mac, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Josh Turner, Bart Millard, Natalie Grant, Michael Tait, Kevin Max, Ricky Skaggs, and Julia Ross. Then sign the petition, spread the word via your social media, and contact your elected representatives to protest this monstrous act of Islamic oppression. More information on the case can be found in our earlier post. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body (Hebrews 13:3). 


Monday, February 11, 2013

Possible successors to Benedict XVI

With the official Vatican announcement that Joseph Ratzinger will resign as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church this month, the world is, as usual, abuzz with speculation as to whom his successor will be.  Whoever it is, the College of Cardinals will have to move fast: since there will be no period of mourning, as when a Pope dies, the election of Benedict XVI's replacement is unlikely to be a languorous process.

I am not a Roman Catholic, by the grace of God, but in the spirit of ecumenism, I hereby offer a few possible choices for the Cardinals' prayerful consideration (although prayer is less a concern in this process than backroom politics and electioneering).  The actual requirements for a person to be considered are few: it is not necessary that a potential papabile be a Cardinal, or even a Roman Catholic.  It is only required that one convert to Catholicism, and be ordained a priest, prior to election.

It is also required that one be a male, but perhaps this requirement might be waived in this enlightened age.  The Roman Catholic Church has already had one female pontiff, Pope Joan, a.k.a. Pope John VIII, a.k.a. Johannes Anglicus, who reigned from 855 - 858 Masquerading as a man, Joan would have reigned longer (Catholic Popes don't "serve;" they "reign," the Church being a primarily political institution), had she not suffered the embarrassment of suddenly going into labor during a public procession, and being beaten to death by the understandably startled onlookers.  (The Catholic Church disowns Joan as a "legend," of course, but that's standard operating procedure.)  Thus, perhaps the time is ripe for another female Pontiff.  In any case, considering the requirements (or lack of them) mentioned,  here are a few suggestions for the Cardinals' consideration:

Fred Phelps.  Pastor of the tiny Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, Phelps is notorious for his congregation's picketing and persecution of the funerals of soldiers, massacred schoolchildren, and other victims of disaster; and, of course, for his insistence that America (if not the world) is being judged by God for its acceptance of homosexuality.  This would, immediately, seem to put him at odds with the leadership of the RCC, who have covered up perversion and pedophilia within their ranks for centuries; but, on the other hand, his election might just persuade the public that the Roman Catholic priesthood isn't really a nest of Sodomites.  Converting to Catholicism might not be that much of a theological stretch for Phelps, who manages to balance dogmatic, extreme Calvinistic beliefs with his profession of being a Baptist.  In any case, Phelps is perhaps the only public figure this side of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is just as intolerant as the Roman Catholic hierarchy has always been.

 Pope Fred I?

Rick Warren.  This is a no-brainer.  Regarded as the most popular and influential Protestant cleric in America, everything Warren touches seems to turn to gold: his entire "Purpose-Driven" philosophy has made him even more popular than Billy Graham was in his heydey, although he lacks the Biblical convictions that Graham once had.  The Bible, for Warren, is precisely what it has always been to the Roman Catholic Church: a tool which, if skillfully misinterpreted, can hoodwink the masses. His "ministry" has made him a millionaire many times over (although, in fairness, he practices a "reverse tithe," giving 90% of his income away, thus making him much less avaricious than any Pope in history).  And, in a time of dwindling Catholic membership, Warren is a man who (in the language of sports promoters) knows how to "put butts in the seats."  He'd be a natural, and the Papal vestments are even snazzier than the Hawaiian shirts he favors. Finally, and perhaps most important, he's already established himself among "the kings of the earth" (Revelation 18:2, 3).

Their Holinesses

Nancy Pelosi. Yes, she's a female, but we've already addressed that little quibble.  She has a lust for power that was horribly frustrated when she lost the Speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives, and she needs a job worthy of her ego. Her social views, being politically correct in every respect, might rattle some of the more conservative Cardinals, but her zeal for abortion could wipe away the Catholic stigma on birth control that has kept so many people away from the Church (or has made so many  Catholic couples disobey its teachings, thus becoming infidels).  Times change, and the Church changes its doctrines so routinely that abandoning the no-contraception stance is only a matter of time.  (If there's ever a Vatican III, you may expect such changes.)  In addition, she is widely regarded as a sincere and almost aggressive Roman Catholic.  If the Cardinals can overlook her sex, she may be a very attractive candidate.  Well, not attractive, perhaps, but logical.  And she's already demonstrated her fealty to Benedict:

Do I see a Protestant in the background?

Okay, there are three possibilities. There are many others, but it is hardly my responsibility to enumerate them.  I simply think the Roman Catholic leadership should think outside the box, for once.  As for Benedict himself, I cannot bid him Godspeed, but I sincerely hope his remaining days are not too uncomfortable.  As he will shortly learn, there are things worse than physical pain.  So long, chucklehead.


UPDATE: Well, the College of Cardinals has disregarded my advice once again, by electing Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who has taken the alias "Pope Francis."  I'm beginning to think that the Cardinals don't have much use for my counsel ..... President Obama has named Nancy Pelosi, along with Joe Biden, as America's representatives to Bergoglio's "coronation" on March 19.  Rep. Pelosi will be green with envy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Confusion, uncertainty, and faith

You don't know which way to go.  You're faced with a choice or a decision of real, lasting importance.  But you can't make up your mind ... and you're a Christian!  What's going on here?

Doubt.  Uncertainty. Lack of faith.  You've been saved by the grace of God, according to John 1:12.  You've been born again, as Jesus commanded you to be in John 3:3-7.  And you know the importance of faith, and the disadvantages of doubt, in everyday life.  You hate to admit it, but you're confused: and you know that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).  And yet for some reason, as you face a major decision, the certainty of God's direction isn't there.  Is God playing cat and mouse with you, or have you - - - as some Christians will tell you - - - somehow "lost your faith?"

It's a real dilemma, and it's faced by every real Christian more than once in his or her life.  But did you know that what we perceive as "confusion" isn't always a lack of faith at all?  It might just be uncertainty. And that's very different.

Joseph, the espoused husband of Mary, knew something about uncertainty .... and he was a God-fearing, decent man, desiring to do God's will.  Like so many "common," hard-working men, he was probably very quiet and thoughtful, not brash or hasty in his decisions.  But when a man or woman is following God, even that kind of thoughtfulness can bring on uncertainty - - - and it's not doubt, or a lack of faith.

You know the story. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily (Matthew 1:18, 19).  According to Jewish custom, "espousal" was virtually the same as actual marriage, but it didn't include cohabitation or intercourse.  And when Mary told Joseph of her miraculous pregnancy, which had been revealed to her in Luke 1:26-38, he was hearing something utterly incredible, and, if true, utterly unprecedented.  He was tempted to "divorce" Mary (for breaking an engagement was the equivalent of divorce), because he was so confused.  But he didn't want her to be disgraced.  What should a "godly" man do?  Marry a woman carrying a child not his own, or disgrace the woman he loved?  

But Joseph wasn't beset by spiritual doubts; he was simply uncertain, and who could blame him? So God, in His grace, gave him a very special message: But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20, 21). And Joseph proceeded to act on what God had told him.

If you're a Christian, you've never been in Joseph's exact position, but you know the feeling: suddenly confronted with a choice, conscious of your responsibility to do God's will, but completely baffled as to what God's will might be.  We've all been there.  And, in such moments, the Enemy (and perhaps some of the "brethren") will tell you that you're faithless and carnal and cowardly.  But you're not: you're not even doubting God.  You're simply confused - - - and God understands, and will guide you through it, if you keep your eyes on Him.

Your Christian friends might have all kinds of advice, and it might even be scriptural - - - even when it conflicts!  "Step out on faith," someone will say; "because whatsoever is not of faith is sin!" Someone else will tell you just the opposite: "stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD!"  Both good scriptural principles, both solidly Biblical, and both, no doubt, well-intended.  But not every verse in the Bible applies to every situation. You need to realize that, in seeking God's will.  Sometimes, God will want you to move ahead boldly, with nothing but faith to guide you; at other times, He'll want you to wait on Him, and be still, and let Him do the "advance work" for you.  (Faith in God is always proper, of course; without faith it is impossible to please him [Hebrews 11:6].  And waiting for the Lord to reveal a course of action is proper, too.  But these things are general principles, and not to be used as "quickie" solutions.) Your brothers and sisters in Christ may offer good advice, but it's still your situation, your issue, your problem.  And although "a multitude of counsellors" is good, it can be even more confusing when they're offering conflicting counsel!

But remember: temporary confusion or uncertainty isn't the same as "doubting God."  The opposite of faith is not uncertainty; the opposite of faith is doubt.  The opposite of confusion is certainty, and God will provide it, if you don't give up, and if you keep seeking Him.

There are, alas, always those brothers and sisters in Christ who won't understand your uncertainty (if they know about it).  Perhaps you're considering a new job, or getting married, or moving to a new town, but you can't seem to find God's will ... yet.  Some Christians, like Job's "comforters," will be very quick to trot out certain verses of scripture: "Why are you so undecided?  Don't you know that God is not the author of confusion?" (They don't mention that the context of that verse - - - and a text without a context is a pretext - - - has to do with orderly behaviour in the public church assembly.) Don't feel like you're all alone: look at the "advice" Job's friends gave him: they didn't even agree among themselves!  The only One Whose opinion is binding is your Lord's.

Sometimes, God may even lead you in a path that nobody understands, and that baffles you completely.  (Ask the Old Testament prophets, like Isaiah and Hosea, about that!) God is bound by His word, but He's not bound by our expectations.

Think of a single incident in the life of one of the Apostles:  Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.  And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city (Acts 8:5-8).  What a wonderful thing!  Philip was doing exactly what Jesus had commissioned the disciples to do, and seeing exactly the results that Jesus had promised.  Could anything have possibly been more certainly "in God's will?"  But suddenly, God brings it to an abrupt end: And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.  And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.  And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?  And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.   And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him (Acts 8:27-38). 

Philip had been seeing a large-scale, genuine "revival" in Samaria, with people rushing to receive Jesus Christ, and suddenly God told him to walk away, and leave it all behind - - - without telling him why.  Philip must have been confused, if not downright baffled; and, surely, there were those who said "Philip!  Don't you see all the good that you're doing here?  You can't stop now! This can't be God leading you!"  But, in spite of his own uncertainty, he had faith to obey God: and he found himself talking to a most unlikely individual, an African eunuch, in a remote location, instead of the crowds in Samaria.

But that eunuch was the first person in the New Testament to be saved in exactly the way we're saved today - - - by faith alone, in Jesus Christ.  God took Philip from a place of spectacular success to a place of historical, eternal significance - - - in spite of Philip's uncertainty and, perhaps, confusion.

What a God!  What a Saviour!  If anyone ever tells you that temporary uncertainty is a sin, or a failure of trust in God, tell them about Joseph, and about Philip; and then continue to seek God's will, without wavering (James 1:5, 6), until He makes it clear. And rejoice in a God Who isn't bound by our limited understanding!