January 27, 2019
1 Timothy 4:1-2 (NIV) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
Psalm 139:21-22 (NIV) 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? 22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV) 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Do these verses have anything to do with each other? I think so. We’ll come back to the connection shortly. I once had a non-Christian say to me “I thought you Christians don’t have any enemies. Right? Why would you … if you follow Christ?” Well … actually … we certainly can and do have enemies. In fact, being hated because of our faith and even harmed does give us enemies. And we see enemies of righteousness all around us. So, the issue is not having enemies but how to respond to our enemies. Especially how to keep from developing hearts full of hatred every time we read of things totally ungodly.
Many readers of this blog interacted and admitted to real frustration, even contempt and low-level hatred when Governor Cuomo celebrated his state’s new law. Now, in New York, it is easier than ever to kill the unborn. Even up to birth. And Mr. Cuomo was proud! If he is not a personal enemy, surely he is an enemy of all that is Holy despite his claim to fidelity to the Catholic Church. So, what to do with these feelings of anger and distain for such a man and his actions? Especially since the Lord Jesus Christ said to love him? A few more thoughts on this.
FIRST: As Christians, we do not want to be haters and people filled with fury. That is one of the reasons the non-stop news world we are living in can be emotionally unhealthy. Hourly reminders of evil in the world can darken our spirits and make us unlovely and unloving. So, we must make sure our hatred is hatred of the unholy and remember that we too can be unholy.
SECOND: We should be savvy about what the psychology people call “Habituation.” We all experience this. You become accustomed to your neighbor’s barking dog or a difficult colleague at work. You become “habituated.” It’s often a good thing and one of life’s common-sense realities. But ask any combat veteran who killed others and they will usually say, in some manner, it became easier. Those who have engaged in torture often say they simply did it without conscience. Some years back, a project at Yale University measured how people responded when asked to perform acts of cruelty. The majority started out with great uneasiness. By the end of the project, many if not most were doing so without hesitation. (The recipients of the pain were not actually experiencing it but the people causing the pain did not know that.) Those inflicting the pain simply became habituated to what they were doing and no longer found it morally reprehensible.
That’s what happens in the radical pro-choice movement. Those who support killing the unborn have become habituated. They all know what it is. They’ve all seen the pictures of mangled babies. The senators and congressmen and governors. They know. Everyone has seen a sonogram by now. THEY KNOW! Yet, they continue to support and even celebrate the killing of these innocents. Why? Because they have become habituated to evil and wickedness. Like the Nazi guards who simply carried out their orders.
Here is the big question: how can this happen? For that, we return to Paul explaining the demonic activities that were SUPPORTED in the early church. He said these were people: “Whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” (1 Timothy 4:2) HERE IS THE AMAZING EXPLANATION: “Seared” is the Greek word “cauterod-zo” from which we get “cauterize.” A surgeon might cauterize an artery and the blood stops flowing! A cauterized conscience does not work! It is stuck. The normal healthy flow of God-given moral values is cut off. In short, when I watch an otherwise decent family man like the governor, I am watching someone who has been habituated to an evil position and whose conscience, on this issue, does not work.
In thinking about this, we are reminded of how brutally and indecently our Lord was treated. Yet, from the Cross he prayed:
Luke 23:34 (NIV) Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
They were ignorant of who Jesus was. The governor does know what he is doing but, with a seared conscience cut off from the flow of Holiness, he is rendered ignorant of sin. He is, in a sense, helpless like the she-camel in heat. So, yes, his actions are repulsive but how are we to react? Ok…
THIRD: Some Suggestions for all of us starting with me … when struggling with the sins of people:
Remember, we have boards in our own eyes. Our Lord pointed out that it is always easier to see the speck in the other person’s eye; we do need to look in our moral mirrors frequently.
Matthew 7:5 (NIV) 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
We must ask God to show us what He wants us to work on. Interesting that the Psalmist who said, “Do I not hate those who hate you Oh God?” also said:
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Remember that there is good in most people, even those we are tempted to hate. Jehoshaphat was the King in Judah around 850 BC. His moral record was quite uneven, and God sent a messenger named Jehu to speak to him. I like what he said:
2 Chronicles 19:1-3 (NIV) 1 When Jehoshaphat king of Judah returned safely to his palace in Jerusalem, 2 Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you. 3 THERE IS, HOWEVER, SOME GOOD IN YOU, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God.”
There is good in even the “worst” people.
Remember that our best response to pain when viewing evil is to pray for the evil-doer. In this case, I often pray by name for those leaders who promote abortion. Perhaps God will raise up their consciences. Even if he does not, it’s hard to be filled with hate when you are praying for someone.
Do something about evil besides fret and fume. Help at a crisis pregnancy center. Give money to Right to Life. Write letters. Run for office. Channel your energy into constructive responses to this grotesque situation.
Finally, do not worry about justice. No one ever really gets away with anything. If justice on this side of the Kingdom never seems present, the Day of Judgment is coming.
Be sure that I am struggling with you.
Blessings and Peace. Pastor Alberta
January 24, 2019
Jeremiah 2:23-25 (NIV) “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals’? See how you behaved in the valley; consider what you have done. You are a swift she-camel running here and there, a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving– in her heat who can restrain her? Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves; at mating time they will find her. Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry. But you said, ‘It’s no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them.’”
Somewhere around 600 BC, the prophet Jeremiah spoke for God in condemning Judah and Israel. The language that the Lord placed in his heart was nothing less than “earthy” and almost vulgar. In God’s mind, His people were unfaithful. He described their infidelity as sexual impurity … running after endless passion. The godless people were likened to a she-camel chasing about unrestrained and INSATIABLE in her desires for more. The hyper charged up female donkey could not help herself. She was like Godless people racing after idols and wallowing in sin, she cried out “I love foreign gods, I must go after them!”
That reminds me of the militant pro-choice people in our land. It’s not just that they defy the Word of God and encourage the killing of the unborn. This week, Governor Cuomo actually bragged about New York’s latest law allowing virtually for unborn murder right up to birth. Like the she-camel panting for more, he can’t help himself! He said:
“Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion. With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body…”
Perhaps someone could inform the governor that unless a pregnant woman has been raped she already has control over her own body. But she is a she-camel seduced by the society into thinking that no-consequences sexual intimacy is her Constitutional right.
What really angered me was Mr. Cuomo’s bragging about his latest life-ending trophy. Like the she-camel, he is a pro-choicer who cannot get enough. He does not care that everyone else is observing that science is making hash of his arguments. Making it easier to kill a child at six months or even nine is so obviously wicked that it suggests demonic influence upon the man’s thinking. He actually boasted about his state’s new law. Once again, we find the words of Jeremiah to be profound when he described the sins of those who had abandoned God:
Jeremiah 6:15 (NIV) “Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD.
Ironically, it was Mr. Cuomo’s father in the nineteen eighties who presented his equally darkened and incoherent argument about abortion. Speaking at Notre Dame, he said he was “personally” against abortion but who was he to force his views on other people? Right. I’m against murder but as a legislator I cannot demand that everyone share my view. Amazing how silly a well-trained lawyer can sound. I mean really…their thirst for blood and destruction is analogous to the she-camel in heat. They are in a heat for death.
Processing all of this has shown me again just how much anger I can feel at this holocaust in the womb. Actually. I will admit to the edge of hatred. I know it. I have wondered over the years about what to do with this verse:
Psalm 139:21-22 (NIV) Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
I know. I know. Please do not remind me that Christians are not supposed to hate. And we are to love our enemies. But I am a genuine born-again Christian with the Holy Spirit inside of me … yet I find myself struggling not to hate those who hate God and do such evil.
Some will say “Hate the sin and not the sinner.” Ok. I’ll try. I am a forgiving man but right now I’m furious at the shameless and demonic evil in New York and embarrassed for the soul of a Governor who has sold it … his soul … to Satan for votes.
I used to live in New York and I like New York. But right now if someone gave me a beautiful house in that state I’d sell it immediately rather than put a dime into their treasury.
Sin is all around us and we are living in a land where child-murderers go about sniffing and snorting like she-camels looking to kill more innocents and eager to add to the weight of their coming judgment. It is discouraging. But keep in mind…
1 Timothy 5:24 (NIV) The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.
Dia. He knows.
Grief and Blessings! Pastor Alberta
January 18, 2019
Proverbs 19:2 (NIV) It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.
On March 3, 1913, the very first “Women’s March” took place in Washington D.C. The primary goal of the event was the right to vote. Apparently, it was reasonably large and set in place the idea of communicating political and policy concerns through peaceful means. Now, on January 19, 2019, several “Women’s Marches” are scheduled to take place across America, although some have been cancelled due to objections by some organizers over the inclusion of individuals suspected of wholesale hatred. Charges of anti-Semitism, bigotry, too many white participants and other concerns have been raised. Of course, the most recent marches occurred after the inauguration of President Trump in January of 2017 when he quickly became the target of many in the feminist camp.
These marchers have every right to engage in demonstration and protest. In my view, some of their concerns are sensible including protecting the environment and helping the needy. At the same time, their website includes LGBTQ rights and “reproductive rights” …. read abortion and the right to put unborn children to death. So, as always with every social movement, we find good and evil motives. Now … I cannot prove this point, but my very clear impression is that abortion remains the hottest and most furious concern of these marchers. (Consider the recent Kavanaugh hearings)
In other words, at its core, it is a march about “self.” The woman supporting abortion is always prepared to demand the “right” of a pregnant woman to have her unborn child put to death. She must have that prerogative without any inhibiting laws or restrictions in play. For her, this constitutes true freedom of choice. Period. It’s about the woman who demands post-conception contraception. Abortion.
On January 18, 2019 there was another march in Washington, D.C. We might call this the unselfish march. Women and men and children from all over America travel great distances …many of them…to stand outside in the cold by the Supreme Court and protest the killing of unborn children. Their highest priority is not self or a woman’s right but the unborn child’s right to life.
A fine article in National Review (Jan. 18, 2019) by writer Alexandra DeSanctis was titled: “Whom Are We Marching for?” She writes about those who join the Right to life March saying:
“They say they want the government to protect the right to life of every human being, including the unborn. They march on behalf of a class of human beings that can do absolutely nothing for them. They demonstrate for a cause that has nothing, ostensibly, to do with their own quality of life. Theirs is a movement motivated by selflessness.”
These marchers have nothing to gain but a hole in their checkbooks and possibly frostbite or pneumonia. They are orderly and dignified and non-combative. There will be no speeches suggesting the assassination of the President or blowing up the White House or demanding that men must be free to marry men to men and women to marry women.
Contrast this with the atmosphere of the other march. Never mind the natural bodily designs of human beings, by the handiwork of God. Such obvious truths must be dismissed. Who cares what God wants? Rather, they assert radical new definitions of reality.
Anyway, the core issue is simply right to life. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that a murderer loses his or her own right to life. We read: Genesis 9:6 (NIV) “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” The Word of God is irrelevant to most of the marchers but even if everyone dismisses it … it is clear. It is the responsibility of the society to respect the right to life of the image-bearer and that murderers must be punished. Ironically, the Women’s March encourages mothers to be murderers.
INTERESTING, that at no time has anyone in the “March for Life” movement suggested that women who have abortions should be put to death themselves. I have never asserted that, but I do acknowledge it is a logical conundrum. Commentator Chris Matthews likes to ask this question of pro-life people. “If you really believe that abortion is murder how can you not call for capital punishment for the doctor and the woman when abortion has taken place?”
In terms of reasoning, Matthews makes a good point. He delves into a question without an answer. But there are many unanswerable questions in the abortion debate. A more important one, in my view, is this …. I would ask Mr. Matthews if he really believes a child in the womb at eight months can be put to death but a child five minutes after birth has the right to life? In that thinking, right to life depends upon location. In the womb you may be killed. Outside of the womb you are safe … unless you are the victim of Dr. Gosnell who killed babies after their birth.
MY POINT IS that arguing with those who support abortion on demand is usually a hopeless wrangle. As to the mother who makes the abortion choice, my sense is that recompense for her actions will haunt her conscience throughout life and be the tragic punishment that is more than thorough. I say that having spoken with many women in exactly that position.
This essay is wandering but perhaps that is good. The entire issue is a moral and logical cull de sac. In any case, I would like to go to a Women’s March and talk with its leaders and ask them: “Are you really, actually interested in the well-being of women?” I think they are. “Then why are pro-life women not welcome at your marches?” I can imagine the response. In short, any march that insists it stands on the moral high ground but demands the right to take innocent life is not of God, and is certainly disastrous for women.
Hence, these two marches give us a picture of darkness and light. The one insists it is for justice while it demands murderous rights. The other is for justice even at the expense of self. Period. As always, this is more motivation to pray for our nation and keep in mind … that it is hanging by a thread and Heaven is watching. Watching zealous people…without knowledge. Of God.
Isaiah 5:20 (NIV) “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
Blessings! Pastor Alberta
2 Peter 2:1 (NIV) 1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves.
In my own spiritual life, I have been increasingly aware of my need to grow in humility and an attitude of mercy towards those with whom I disagree. This realization has left me praying about my comments and heart thoughts as I observe politics and social issues … and, of course, theological matters. There are many viewpoints regarding spiritual issues that are debatable. Baptism, women in ministry, the Lord’s Supper, the age of the earth, Calvinism …. and more. There is room for debate on many of these items. Only the Lordship and Resurrection of Christ are beyond doubt and cannot be questioned by true disciples. But, as C.S. Lewis supposedly said “When we get to Heaven we will find out that we were all slightly wrong!” So, all of us … including me … should speak with considerable caution.
Having said these things, I recently heard of a “Biblical Teaching” that was so nonsensical and cheerless that I can only conclude that it comes from the evil one. A “lie of the devil!” Exactly what was it that got me all fired up? Here is what happened …. I received a phone call from a young man whom I have known since his birth. A terrific kid and strong in Christ. He is away at a Christian college in his first year. It seems that he has come under the teaching of a man who likes to shock students from an evangelical background. There are people like that who take great delight in challenging everything everyone believes. Some of them think it is clever and their goal is to create doubt. I simply cannot understand such people unless they are actually unregenerate themselves. Anyone who has experienced the Lord Jesus Christ and been born again should be able to dismiss his poor teaching.
These folks like to say something like this: “The Bible does not really teach that we can go to Heaven much less be sure that’s where we will go. The Old Testament that Jesus affirmed taught that the dead go to “Sheol” or to “Hades” to await the judgment. Then, perhaps those who followed Christ will be invited into some undefined “Heaven” but their works will be judged as in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. He wrote:
2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV) “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
Of course, this is true. Christians will be judged for their service to the Gospel. Sort of a job performance review but our salvation will remain secure. That is the context of the statement. A “teacher” trying to create doubt about the Christian’s eternal well-being need only look, ironically, to the verses right above this text to find re-assurance about Heaven. True, the word “Heaven” does not appear but where God is Heaven is! And where Jesus is, Heaven is!
So, Paul writes:
2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NIV) “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”
To speak of Sheol or Hades to the New Testament Christian is simply ridiculous. Away from the body is at home with the Lord. What was meant by “Hades?” Hades was the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Sheol” which meant the place of the dead. The hopeless dead. Paul ministered to that small group who had experienced Christ. Anyone who teaches that the true Christian will need to stop in Hades simply has not known the Son of God. Consider this sweet promise from our Lord Jesus Christ:
John 14:1-4 (NIV) 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Could anything be more clear? Jesus wants his own sheep to be with him and he will come back for them! Jesus reigns in Paradise and we who belong to him will join him in Paradise at the time of physical death. That is the WHOLE POINT of the New Testament. As it says in Hebrews Chapter Two:
Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV) “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
Rather than fear death, the true Christian should look forward to it! As did a great and true teacher named J. Gresham Machen. Born in 1881, Machen became the world’s most notable New Testament scholar. Nearly every seminarian had to master his textbook on New Testament Greek (including this writer). When Princeton Seminary became too liberal, he helped found Westminster Seminary. He was a stalwart witness for Christ and a great supporter of missions. Although only in his fifties, his health deteriorated and New Year’s Eve of 1936 found him on his deathbed.
A dear friend named Sam was perhaps the last person to speak with Machen but he could never forget what he heard! The sickly professor told him of a vision he had had only a few minutes before. He had looked into Heaven. Paradise. Perfectly lucid and alert, he said “Sam…it was glorious! It was glorious!”
If you belong to Christ, you’re going with him! Jesus! And it will be glorious! Happy New Year!
Blessings! Pastor Alberta
Friday Dec. 28, 2018
FYI.,. Coming up: I will be teaching on Weds. nights in the Chapel at Cornerstone in Brighton…four weeks Jan. 9,16,23, and 30. We will begin at 6.45 pm
THE TOPIC: “THE PRAYERS OF JESUS”
Bring your Bible! Blessings! Pastor Rja
Ps: never try to write blog articles on an iPhone! 😂
December 24, 2018
Imagine this. We receive a text from God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. It says: “I will be coming to be among you as a sinless man. Please arrange for my arrival in every detail. I will get back to you just before I arrive. God.”
Ok. We can do this! First, we arrange for Him to arrive on Air force One. He will ride in a stretch limo with six doors on each side. His motorcade will include a hundred motorcycles and dozens of armed guards and soldiers. We will have Him arrive in New York and be taken to Trump Tower where platoons of servants will cater to His every need. A fabulous room overlooking the Hudson and attended by formally dressed servants ready to respond to His smallest wish. A beautiful suite that will include every imaginable comfort. A medical team on stand-by and room service that will be second to none. Or…we could arrange for him to arrive in Chicago and be driven to the Ritz Carlton or to Pebble Beach to stay at the La Playa. Other alternatives may be considered.
Now, we text back to God with our preparations. We expect his Divine approval. And He responds:
“Friends. Scrap your plans. I would like to arrive after a long journey through the desert with my earthly mother riding on a donkey. There will be no entourage. Only Joseph and Mary. In Bethlehem, there will be no room to stay with family or at any local inn and Joseph will have to beg for the use of a shed so that Mary can give birth. My incarnate self will have the company of sheep and goats and a bed of straw. After the child is born, visitors will arrive and bring gold and frankincense and myrrh but the celebration will be short-lived. Joseph and Mary will have to literally run towards Egypt because a madman serving as the king will want to kill the child. If you find this plan surprising…I am not surprised. I will come into your world as the humble Christ. I will be misunderstood from day one. But don’t be concerned. This is how I want it. God.”
Merry Christmas and Blessings! Pastor Alberta
December 17, 2018
Ephesians 4:15 (NIV) “Instead, speaking the truth in love…”
I received a thoughtful note regarding my recent blog post about suicide. In that article, I reminded God’s people that suicide is not the unforgivable sin and that God’s grace is surely extended to the Christian who despairs and ends their life. One reader made a good point. Namely, how can we be sure that comments such as mine might not actually encourage a person to commit suicide. It’s a fair question and the answer is simply that we cannot be sure. There is always danger in preaching and teaching; our words might serve a destructive purpose.
We might be misunderstood. Over the years, I have taught that while God hates divorce it is not the unforgivable sin. But someone might proceed to a divorce because my words “gave them permission.” I have preached that drunkenness is forbidden in the Word of God, but alcohol is not condemned per se. What if a person hears that and returns to drinking? That might happen.
The preacher/teacher must weigh the value in his or her words. My point in the suicide blog was to remind Christians about spiritual warfare and reassure others that God’s grace will cover their lost loved one who belongs to Christ. In short, I think truth must be told even though it comes with a risk.
Over the years, I have preached that God’s Word considers the homosexual lifestyle to be abominable to God. It does, and it is. Some left the church. Some blamed me because their gay son or daughter left the church. Dealing with the truth is a challenging business.
Many years ago, an emotionally disturbed man insisted that I drop everything and drive several hours up into Canada and meet with him as he was in despair. I was quite willing to do that, but I literally could not do it that night because of a commitment to my family. (A Pastor who allows everyone to dictate his or her schedule will burn out within a few years.) Anyway, that night the man ended his life. I was bothered but I did not blame myself. He made a choice. In any case, I trust the Lord Jesus Christ who said: Matthew 10:29 (NIV) “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.”
God allowed the man to take that step. I was sorry he did that, but I cannot serve the Lord if I let the Devil accuse me of everyone else’s sins. So, when ministering to others be assured that we will do it imperfectly. Thus, we must pray that the intent of our words will be blessed, and no harm will come from them.
Blessings! Pastor Alberta