Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Christian Nation

This is NOT about Politics! Aren't you glad? This is about our culture. I just want to comment on a few things.

First, 92% of America believes in God! And people say we aren't a Christian Nation! Well OK, just cause people believe in God doesn't amke them Christian, but still, 92% thats something isn't it?
Well we're down 6% from 1967, does that mean we are backsliding?
But in 1947 it was only 94%. Wow, and I thought the post-WWII era was very religious!

Going back just a few years to 2007 we find that only 86% were "Sure" there was a God. But maybe some of the "unsure" if pressed would say probably so.
Still less than 90% say there's a heaven! What is that about? Surely heaven is the main product that Christianity is selling. And less that 80% believe in a Hell! Well there goes the motivation for 20% of the population to check out the claims of Christianity!
2007 May 10-13
(sorted by "believe in")
Believe in
Not sure about
Don't believe in
The Devil

But again, we're talking about a basic belief in a deity. Not neccesarily YHWH, or Jehovah God, or even a basic Christian view of God. Just God. Some of these people maybe graduates of a 12 step program that allows you to pick anything for your "Higher power." Some of these may believe in the Great Omelet in the Sky! Or the Great Pumpkin!  So how do we calculate how many folks believe in God in a way similar to Jews, Christians, or even Muslims? (Muslims are only about 8 in every thousand but a case can be made that their god is somewhat similar to the Jewish understanding.)
Maybe the next Questions will shed some light:

   How often do you attend church or synagogue -- At least once a week, almost every week, about once a month, seldom, or never?

a week
once a
2007 Mar 26-29

Only 55% ever attend church more than "seldom". Oh wait that's church OR synagogue. So the Jews (God love 'em) are not part of this Christian Nation (except of course, they LIVE here.)
 And as for churches that would include Catholic churches which do not teach the more evangelical view of salvation and is therefore errant. Then there are the Mormon, Jehovah's witnesses and other Christian-like cults that are even more errant than the Catholics. 
Maybe the next Question helps:

Would you describe yourself as a "born again"
 or evangelical?



2005 Nov 17-20

2004 Dec 5-8

2003 Nov 10-12

2002 Dec 9-10

2002 Mar 18-20

2001 Feb 19-21

2000 Aug 24-27

1998 Jun 22-23
1997 Aug 12-13
1997 Mar 24-26
1996 Sep 3-5
1995 May 11-14

But what does Barna mean by Born Again and Evangelical?
So now we're down to 40% who call themselves "Born again"
 or "evangelical." Wow, less than half. Hmmm.  This doesn't
 bode well for the "We are a Christian Nation" crowd.  And
gee, Evangelicals? Really? I mean those are those nominal
Lutherans and Methodists that don't really believe much of 
anything. Certainly not in the exclusive claims of Christ,
and salvation by Grace through Faith, occuring in a
 miraculous work by the Holy Spirit! So whats left? 
How many Christians are there for crying out loud?

Well maybe Gallup can't get us where we want to go, so
let's try Barna. According to him:
While more than eight out of ten (84%) view themselves 
as Christian, a lesser but significant majority label them
selves as a "committed Christian" (60%). Within that 
framework,people’s self-identity includes 45% who 
call themselves "born again Christian," 42% who claim
 to be an "evangelical Christian..."
“Born again Christians" are defined as people who 
said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus 
Christ - that is still important in their life today - 
who ... believe when they die they will go to Heaven 
because they had confessed their sins and had 
accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not 
asked to describe themselves as "born again." 
Well, gosh, I know of unsaved baptists that would attest
 to that!

“Evangelicals" meet the born again 
criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. 
Those include saying their faith is very important in their 
life today; believing they have a personal responsibility
 to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-
Christians; believing that Satan exists;
 believing that eternal salvation is possible only through
 grace, not works;
 believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth;
 asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; 
and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful,
perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it 
Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon 
church attendance or the denominational affiliation of 
the church attended. Respondents were not asked to 
describe themselves as "evangelical."
Well, OK, I guess this sounds pretty Christian to me, 
and that's 42%. But Gallup said only 40% describe 
themselves as 'born again' or evangelical. And when you 
read Gallup's data closer you would find that some of 
that 40% didn't even believe in Jesus! They defined 
"born again" in their own private terms.
  So, there appears to be some polling discrepancy here. 
(Sounds a lot like a presidential election poll doesn't it? 
BUT I'm not going there.) Taking Barna's numbers
 though, we have the description of 42% of americans 
who might be considered True believers. Problem is, 
when I view what Jesus said,that number looks WAY
 too big.
Jesus said;  Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is 
the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to 
destruction,and many there be which go in there: 
 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, 
which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.
 (Mat 7:13-14)
"Few there be that find it." Hmmm, 42% sounds like
 more than a few!
Jesus also said;  So the last shall be first, and the 
first last: for many be called, but few chosen. 
For many are called, but few are chosen. 
What am I trying to say here? I guess I'm trying to say
the USA is a shining city on a hill! It was founded by
really sharp guys, many of whom did seem to be 
Many were deists, and various other of primarily God-
believing groups.It was founded as a Republic. Where
 laws could protect the disenfranchised from mob rule. 
Or sometimes it did anyway, that was their goal.
It was founded with representative government rather
 than the divine right of Kings or despots to rule and 
seize power from the people. 
It was founded with an 
open and free commerce system. The government may
 have owned property but it wasn't actively competing 
with or crippling the shopkeepers, farmers, tradespeople,
 homeowners, local elected officals or churches. 
It allowed ideas, even government and religious ideas,
 to compete in a free market place as well as goods 
and services. 
It was also founded with an eye towards 
common law and Biblical law. It recognized Biblical
principles in commerce, philosophy, and government.
It did not do all of these things perfectly because a 
nation is only as good as it's people and we are not 
a perfect people. These are wonderful things, however,
 to be proud of. They have helped us excel beyond 
many other nations on earth.
(Now some would say thats a very naive opinion. They would 
point to our greed and domineering attitude. To the corrupt
 usage of raw materials and human resources. All of which 
I would have to say we have been guilty of to some degree. 
But are we so different as humans? Did not Europe, Canada, 
China, Australia, etc. have raw materials and the possibility 
of cheap labor? I would say yes they did. But our laws
 helped us rise above using people in a demeaning way.)
But, we are not a Christian Nation. And that's OK.

Our constitution does not say we are Christian. It 
defends the rights of all people to believe according to
 their own consciences.
Our laws are not all Biblical laws.
Our people are not even Christian in the majority.
And, there is only one Christian Nation: 

The Redeemed of God, for whom Christ died, who have 
been regenerated, saved, born again, and justified by the
 blood of Christ. Some are here on earth. Some have 
gone to be with the Lord. But it is them and them alone 
who are a "chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an
 holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew 
forth the praises of him who hath called you out of 
darkness into his marvellous light:"
And that's not the USA! And that's OK.

 In fact, its great to know!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11th Musings

Pardon my long musings on this day; September 11th.
11 years ago I was on my way to a pastor's prayer group early in the morning when I heard on the news that a plane had flown into the WTC in NY. I turned to different stations, incl. my music and sports stations and they were all talking about the events unfolding with hijacked planes. Just as I arrived at a church about a mile north of FBC Smithfield, the second tower was hit. As I went in all the pastors were already on their knees. The usual time of fellowship and worship had been skipped and men were praying! I mentioned to one of them softly about the 2nd tower and he said they had just heard as well.
The prayers were fervent, passionate, and somehow both comforting and alarming. We prayed for the people on the planes, in the towers, the families of the killed and wounded and for the terrorists. We prayed for our country. Was this the first wave? Was it going to go nuclear soon? Was our western way of life over all at once?

The unity in the days and months ahead was inspiring, but we are mere humans with different priorities, goals, values and busy busy lives. The unity fades. The arguing returns.
When I stood a couple years later on that field in Pennsylvania where one of the planes went down there was a just a makeshift memorial there at that time. But it was loaded with hats, bumper stickers, and postcards, mostly from law enforcement and Emergency workers from all over the country. I think their sense of unity in the light of this tragedy has lingered longer than anyone else's except perhaps the Airline industry. Like the Police, Fire, and EMTs they put their lives on the line everyday in ways most of us don't.

But there is a different kind of unity I experience. It may wax and wane and then grow hot again from time to time, but it never goes out. That's the unity I experience around other followers of Jesus Christ. And it's one of the reason Christians would like to see other people join our ranks; The fellowship of the forgiven, the congregation of the righteous, the church of the Savior Jesus Christ.
Human based unity never lasts. Sadly. Especially government or geographic based unity. Ethnic unities may last longer but eventually splinter, dim and die. But there is a God-made unity that has lasted longer than Assyria, Babylon, the Zhou dynasty, Rome, Great Britain, and certainly longer than the USA has been around. That is the unity of those purchased by the death of God's Only Son.
What a shame we don't maintain that unity the way we should. Because it is a valuable asset. It is more than a feeling. It is a commitment to help the fallen, to strengthen the weak, to weep with those who weep and rejoice with the joyful.

9/11 saddens me, angers me, frustrated me and leaves me feeling a bit helpless. The watershed event that makes the unity of the body of Christ possible, causes me to rejoice.  Maybe that is just one reason this unity has lasted and means so much to so many.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Greatest Chapter in the Bible* Outlined and Annotated

(*According to James Boice)
I have mentioned in other places that one way I study the Bible is to outline a passage. Even If I'm preaching on a few verses I look at the whole context and at least outline the chapter where the verses are set. You may outline it differently, but the goal is to understand the flow of the argument, the story, the illustration, or the worship better.
Its been said that the whole Bible is a ring, the New Testament the setting, Romans the jewel, and Romans 8 the shining point on the brightest facet of the gem.
It's also been said that whatever chapter the preacher is preaching from is the Greatest Chapter in the Bible!

WHY there is NO Condemnation:
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation [C1
     for those who are in Christ Jesus[C2] .
                2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus 
                from the law of sin and death.
                     3 For God has done what the law, weakened by flesh, couldn't do.
                                By sending his own Son in the likeness 
                                     of sinful flesh and for sin,
                                he condemned sin- [C3] in the flesh
                                              4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law [C4] 
                                               might be fulfilled in us, who walk 
                                               not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
                                     5 For those who live according to the flesh 
                                          set their minds on the things of the flesh,
                                     but those who live according to the Spirit 
                                          set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
                                                6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but
                                                to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
                                     7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God,
                                                for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.
                                                 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God[C5] .

How we live with No Condemnation:
                9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit,
                      if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.                          
                     Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ 
                          does not belong to him.
                                10 But if Christ is in you,
                                                 although the body is dead because of sin,
                                                the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
                                11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead 
                                dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead
                                                will also give life to your mortal bodies                                      
                                                through his Spirit who dwells in you.
                12 So then, brothers, we are debtors[C6] ,
                                not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
                                           13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die,
                                but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, 
                                            you will live.
                                14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
                                     15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery 
                                          to fall back into fear,
                                     but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons,
                                          by whom we cry "Abba! Father!"            
                                16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit 
                                        that we are children of God,
                                17 and if children, then heirs—
                                                heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,
                                                     provided we suffer with him in order that
                                                     we may also be glorified with him.

How No Condemnation affects us Now in this world:
                18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth 
                     comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
                                19 For the creation waits with eager longing for 
                                the revealing of the sons of God.
                                20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly,
                                                but because of him who subjected it,  in hope
                                                21 that the creation itself will be set free from 
                                                     its bondage to corruption
                                                and obtain the freedom 
                                                     of the glory of the children of God.
                                                22 For we know that the whole creation 
                                                     has been groaning together
                                                     in the pains of childbirth until now.
                                23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves,
                                                who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,                                     
                                                groan inwardly as we wait eagerly
                                                      for adoption as sons,
                                                      the redemption of our bodies.
                                24 For in this hope we were saved. 
                                                Now hope that is seen is not hope.
                                                For who hopes for what he sees?
                                                25 But if we hope for what we do not see,
                                                we wait for it with patience.
                                26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
                                                For we do not know what to pray for as we ought,
                                                but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
                                                                with groaning(s) too deep for words.
                                                27 And he who searches hearts knows 
                                                      what is the mind of the Spirit,
                                                because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according 
                                                       to the will of God.

Why God called us to be with No Condemnation:
                28 And we know that for those who love God all things 
                                for those who are called according to his purpose.
                                29 For those whom he foreknew[C8] 
                                     he also predestined to be conformed 
                                     in order that he [Jesus] might be the firstborn 
                                           among many brothers.
                                30 And those whom he predestined he also called[C10] ,
                                and those whom he called he also justified,
                                and those whom he justified he also glorified[C11] .

What else does it mean to Have No Condemnation?
(More Questions!)
                31 What then shall we say to these things?
                                If God is for us, who can be against us?
                                32 He who did not spare his own Son [C12] 
                                                but gave him up for us all,
                                                how will he not also with him graciously 
                                                     give us all things?
                33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? 
                It is God who justifies.
                34 Who is to condemn? 
                     more than that, who was raised—  
                     who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
                35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
                      Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, 
                          or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
                                36 As it is written,
                                "For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
                                     we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
                37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
                through him who loved us.

What does No Condemnation Mean for our Eternity?
38 For I am sure that neither
                death nor life,
                nor angels nor rulers,
                nor things present nor things to come,
                 nor powers,
                39 nor height nor depth,
                nor anything else in all creation,
                will be able to separate us from the love of God 

 [C1]Theme of Ch 8

 [C2]Only Condition for No Condemnation

 [C3]Sin is Condemned not the sinner

 [C4]Not for salvations sake but for God’s glory

 [C5]In Christ no condemnation, in Flesh there’s no righteousness

 [C6]He was debtor to the ethne in Rom 1:14 But now Debtor to God.

 [C7]Or God works them

 [C8]Foreknew is not chronologically before Predestined. They are simply stated as both occurring.

 [C9]Higher purpose than merely predestined to be saved.

 [C10]This is where the chronology of the “Ordus Salutis” begins: the Order of Salvation.

 [C11]Notice predestined, called, justified, glorified are all past tense. As in already done.

 [C12]Anyone disappointed with God doesn’t know or has forgotten this!

 [C13]So he was condemned for us

 [C14]No condemnation Christ in V.1; No Separation in Christ in V.39.