jasonbwatson

May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day set aside in the United States to remember those who have given their lives in service to our country—who have served in the Armed Forces to protect the freedoms that we enjoy as citizens of the United States of America. It is, to borrow words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

I grew up just a few miles outside of Washington, D.C., and as someone who loves politics and U.S. history I have always loved much of what that city has to over. I have taken my children into D.C. several times, and they enjoyed it too, for the most part, though they did grow tired of all the walking. Most anyone who visits Washington, D.C. will see several of the most recognizable monuments in the city: the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial. There are many others in D.C. and in other places around the country—particularly in places of historical significance. Visiting these monuments with my children provided me with an opportunity to tell my children about why the monuments had been erected, about the people and events they were there to remember and honor and about the freedoms we enjoy because of them. That, of course, is exactly why the monuments are there.

I am not going to write about the monuments to important events in our nation’s history, however, nor about the sacrifice that has been paid by the men and women who have served in our military and given their lives in defense of our nation. Instead, I want to talk to you about a spiritual memorial day of sorts.

I want to first take a look at several examples of monuments or memorials that God used in Scripture to remind His people of important truths or promises–to help them to remember those things because we are, in the natural, quite prone to forget. After we look at these examples I want to identify for you three areas where I think we should be creating memorials or reminders for ourselves and for our children.

First, the biblical examples:

* Perhaps the most prominent example is the rainbow. See Genesis 9:8-17 and note the repetition of “sign” and “remember”
* Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River and God instructed him to take twelve stones and create a monument specifically so that future children would be prompted to ask about them, thus giving parents an opportunity to tell their children what God had done. See Joshua 4:1-3, 6-7, 21-24
* The Passover was designed to create a memorial for the Israelites to remember how God had spared His people and led them out of captivity. See Exodus 12:14
* Easter, as well as the fact that Christians worship on Sunday rather than Saturday, are memorials to the resurrection of Christ, which is the most important event in the Christian faith
* Communion, or The Lord’s Supper, is designed to cause partakers to remember the love of God, manifested in the gift of His Son who died in our place. See 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Now, those are five biblical examples of memorials or monuments whereby God provided direction for remembering important events and promises. It is quite fair to say, then, that the use of symbols and monuments is appropriate and that they are not dishonoring to God in any way. (Provided, of course, that they do not become idols). Take, for example, the cross. Here is what Max Lucado has written about the cross:

The cross. Can you turn any direction without seeing one? Perched atop a chapel. Carved into a graveyard headstone. Engraved in a ring or suspended on a chain. The cross is the universal symbol of Christianity. An odd choice, don’t you think? Strange that a tool of torture would come to embody a movement of hope. The symbols of other faiths are more upbeat: the six-pointed star of David, the crescent moon of Islam, a lotus blossom for Buddhism. Yet a cross for Christianity? An instrument of execution?
Would you wear a tiny electric chair around your neck? Suspend a gold-plated hangman’s noose on the wall? Would you print a picture of a firing squad on a business card? Yet we do so with the cross. Many even make the sign of the cross as they pray. Would we make the sign of, say, a guillotine? Instead of the triangular touch on the forehead and shoulders, how about a karate chop on the palm? Doesn’t quite have the same feel, does it?

Why is the cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer look no farther than the cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal—the other vertical. One reaches out—like God’s love. The other reaches up—as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of his love; the other reflects the height of his holiness. The cross is the intersection. The cross is where God forgave his children without lowering his standards.

How could he do this? In a sentence: God put our sin on his Son and punished it there.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The cross, then, is a monument, a memorial, a symbol that reminds us the God loves us—that He loved us enough to send His only begotten Son to pay the penalty of sin in our place that we could never pay. We do not, by the way, use a crucifix, because we know Jesus is alive. Yes, His death is significant and meaningful, but I He had died on that cross and stayed dead, we would be without hope.

So, I said I was going to share three areas where I think we should be creating memorials or reminders for ourselves and our children. The first is the one I just shared–the love of God, the gift of His Son, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. We cannot overemphasize that love or that atoning sacrifice. I am not suggesting that you must wear a cross necklace or hang crosses in your home or anything else, but I am suggesting that we have a responsibility to remind ourselves and—if we are parents, to remind our children—regularly of the love of God and the gift of His Son.
In an article published just before Valentine’s Day 2015, entitled “Remembering the Unquantifiable Love of God,” Christina Fox wrote,

But real love isn’t something you can measure. The love God has for us is beyond numbers and can’t be tallied. When God promised to bless Abraham with countless children, he used the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore as a metaphor. These are things people simply cannot count. Paul described the love of Christ as surpassing knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). And the psalmist wrote, “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds” (Psalm 36:5).

God’s love for us goes farther than even time itself, into the deep recesses of eternity past. It stretched all the way from forever, forward to the cross, and will continue into eternity future. “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4–5).
His love for us is a love that doesn’t hold back. His love gives everything, to the point of sacrificing his very own Son. At the cross, the perfect eternal love of the triune God was shown most vividly as the Son bore all our sins for us. This is unquantifiable, immeasurable love.

We have opportunities at church, opportunities with communion, opportunities when we forgive, when we explain justice and mercy-—we have opportunities around us all the time, every day, to recognize, remember and celebrate the love of God.

The second area where we need to conscious of creating reminders or memorials is in what God has done in our lives. Each of us has stories and instances of God working in our lives, through the circumstances we have experiences, the trials we have endured, the valleys we have passed through, to see God at work and to experience His grace, His comfort, His mercy, His strength, His patience, His faithfulness. We need to be intentional about remembering those instances—and willing to tell others about them.

In Luke 8 Jesus heals a man indwelt by many demons—so many that they call themselves Legion. He casts them out of the man and into a herd of pigs. In verse 38 of that chapter we read that man who had been freed of the demons begged Jesus that he might stay with Him. But Jesus sent him away, and in verse 39 it says that Jesus said to him, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And what happened next? The verse finishes, “And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”

Now, you probably do not have a testimony so fantastic as being freed of a legion of demons. Neither do I. And frankly, for a long time, I thought that my story, my testimony, any examples of what God had done for me, were pretty boring. But that’s simply not true. Any of us—all of us—can tell others of what Jesus has done for us. It may not be dramatic, it may not incredible, it may not be the stuff of a made-for-TV movie, but the simple reality is that if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you have a miraculous testimony. The almighty, sovereign God of the universe gave His Son to die in your place, and you are now forgiven, set free from sin, and destined to spend eternity in heaven with Him. That is miraculous!

Stephen Altrogge wrote an article entitled, “If you don’t have a dramatic testimony.” In it, he recounts feeling the same way I did—that his testimony is nothing exciting. He grew up in a loving family, was a pretty good and did not do anything terrible from which, or out of which God saved Him. That may make your life story less exciting from a human standpoint, but it is really all the more reason to be grateful and thankful to God. Altrogge writes:

Don’t be disappointed that you don’t have a gripping, over-the-top testimony. Don’t feel like you somehow missed out. Will you get to tell your story in front of large audiences? Probably not. But that’s a good thing. Be grateful that God spared you from the heart-breaking, soul-wrenching consequences of some sins. Be grateful that God saved you before you could wreck your life. Be grateful that you’re not carrying years of baggage around with you.

Those with incredible testimonies may have greater opportunities to tell their stories to larger audiences, but everyone one of us can tell others about what God has done for us. The story of our salvation itself may not be dramatic but every believer has a story of how God has worked in our lives, of how God has provided peace, provided direction, provided comfort…

Let me ask you a question—–could yousay that one or more of these describes you or where you have been at some point in your life: By the grace of God you still alive; delivered from committing suicide; delivered from addictions; no purpose in life—-felt hopeless, lost, no meaning; in the midst of incredible despair, turmoil or uncertainty and you had no idea what was happening or why, but God sustained you and brought you through; you thought you had everything figured out and God told you to do something else that made no sense from an earthly standpoint; you found strength and peace in the midst of incredible physical, mental or financial difficulty… If any of those are true of you then you have a story, you are a monument, a memorial to the faithfulness and goodness of God, and you can and should tell others what God has done in and through and for you.

The third and final area in which we need to create memorials and reminders is the way that God has worked in and through others. The Scripture is full of stories of how God has done marvelous things in the lives of those who follow Him. Look what He did with Job, with Moses, with Noah, with Daniel, with Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, of Gideon, of Esther, of David, of Peter, or Paul, of so many others—those are encouraging to us because they are examples of how God works in and through fallen, fallible human beings in order to shape us to be who and what He wants us to be and to do what He wants us to do. We should study and know those stories because they are reminders to us.

At the same time, there are many other examples post-Bible times, of how God has worked in incredible ways through very ordinary people. Some of the great individuals of Christian history–Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, George Muller, William Carey, Jonathan Edwards, William Wilberforce, Hudson Taylor, Charles Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael, D.L. Moody, Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jim Elliot, Joni Eareckson Tada, Chuck Colson, and so many more. In the day and age in which we live, there are people being persecuted for Christ every day-—and we can pray for them, we can know their stories, we can find encouragement and strength and courage and hope in their willingness to stand firm in their faith even when doing so costs them their life. In Hebrews 11 we see a long list of individuals who accomplished great things for God because they obeyed “in faith.” Paul often referenced other believers in his writings. It is not the purpose of Paul or the writer of Hebrews to hold those people themselves out as examples, but rather to serve as reminders–as monuments or memorials–of what God can do in and through ordinary, fallen individuals who get out of their own way and obey God, following His direction and leading in their lives.

For the child of God, every day can be–every day should be–memorial day.

May 5, 2016

False Prophet

Filed under: Politics/Current Events — jbwatson @ 10:25 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I was both shocked and troubled this morning when I saw that an acquaintance of mine had posted a link on her Facebook page to something called “The Trump Prophecy” with the question “Could this be true?” Now this acquaintance has made no secret of the fact that she is all aboard the Trump train and, while I disagree with her on that, that’s her business and certainly her right. However, as I listened to the hour-long radio program to which she had linked I grew more and more troubled at her lack of discernment if her comment about the possibility of the story being true was made sincerely.

The link was to a broadcast of TRUNEWS with Rick Wiles. I had never heard of the broadcast or of Wiles prior is listening to this broadcast, though his comments indicated that he had previously been with TBN. (Frankly, that was a significant indicator to me by itself that extreme caution would be needed). According to the TRUNEWS web site, “Today, people around the world faithfully tune-in to TRUNEWS every weeknight for news, information, and inspiration that they can’t find anywhere else.” I do not know how many people tune in, but if the story about the Trump prophecy is anything like their usual content that we have reason to be deeply concerned.

This broadcast was an interview with Mark Taylor, a retired firefighter who says he is a prophet–and that God gave him a prophecy in 2011 that Donald Trump would be the President of the United States. Taylor gave an exclusive interview to Wiles on April 18, 2016 to discuss the prophecy–and indicated that it was his first public commentary on the prophecy God had given him five years ago. Wiles and his co-host, by the way, seemed to believe the entire thing completely.

You can read the entire prophecy on the TRUNEWS web site if you are so inclined, but let me highlight for you a few serious matters that need to be addressed in order to ensure that you are not led astray by such nonsense.

First, Taylor claims that he received a visitation from the Lord in 2006 and that the Lord assigned an angel to him at that time.Then, four years ago, another prophet, whom Taylor had never met, told him that he had an angel assigned to him to minister to him, and through him, and that the angel would only hear the words that come from the throne of God. The angel would then immediately do those words and bring them to pass. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that God ever has or ever will assign an angel to a human for any such purpose. Yes, God spoke through angels in the Scripture and revealed prophecies through angels, but those angels were heavenly messengers, not personally-assigned sidekicks who would provide exclusive insight from the Lord.

Second, Taylor claims that in 2011 he was watching television in his living room when he saw and heard Donald Trump giving an interview. “I am hearing the words of a president,” Taylor felt, prompting him to write down a prophecy from God. He originally thought the prophecy was for 2012, but when Trump never declared his candidacy, Taylor thought he had misunderstood the message from God and he set it aside. I will come back to the prophecy shortly, but let me add a few more things that Taylor shared during the interview with Wiles.

Third, Taylor claims that three months after he received the Trump prophecy he received a prophecy about a Triple Crown winning horse. He said this would be a sign to the church because Secretariat had been a sign to the end-times church (how this is so was not explained) and that this new Triple Crown winner would mean that it was time for the church to break out.

It turns out there was not a Triple Crown winner in 2012, though. The horse that could have done it, having won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, was injured before Belmont Stakes and did not run. That horse’s name was I’ll Have Another. Keep that in mind…

At some point God also told Taylor to re-write Dwight Eisenhower’s D-Day speech for God’s army. Then, in 2015, American Pharoah won the Triple Crown. God told Taylor to release the Eisenhower speech at that time,and ten days later Trump declared his candidacy for president. Taylor asked God if he had missed the prophecy in 2011 but God told him no, it was all supposed to happen in 2012 but His people were not ready. The horse I’ll Have Another One was God’s message that He would have another one coming later.

Now, one thing the Scripture makes clear about prophecy is that prophecy that is from God comes true. God sometimes used prophets to deliver messages saying that certain things would happen if they did not obey God or get right with Him, and sometimes they did–so the prophesied judgment was withheld. But there is no recorded instance of God declaring that something would happen and that it not happening because His people were not ready for it. Prophets who say “this will happen” and then it does not do get to say “I misunderstood, it will really happen at such-and-such a time.” Why not? Because a prophecy that was truly from God was unmistakably clear. Think about Harold Camping as but one example. He erroneously predicted–you might say prophesied–the end of the world and the return of Christ. It did not happen in 1994. He said he erred, it would be 2011. It did not happen then either. In 2012 he said he was wrong about the timing. Really? What else could he say, since Jesus had not returned? Camping was wrong because he was claiming something that God had not, in fact revealed to him. In fact, God makes it clear that what Camping claimed to know is known by no man.

Anyway, Taylor’s prophecy includes the following: “The Spirit of God says I have chosen this man Donald Trump, for I will use this man to bring honor, respect and restoration to America.” Later, the “enemy will quake and shake and fear this man.” Still later, Trump “will be a man of his word. When he speaks, the world will listen and know that there is something greater in him.” Trump, Taylor says, is chosen by God; he has spent his entire career to this point building his empire to prepare him for what God will use him to do.

Let me insert here that Taylor says, referring to the “quake and shake” portion of the prophecy that Trump made his announcement on the same date that the United States decided to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. That was surely a shot heard ’round the world, and that is not a coincidence. Well, Trump declared his candidacy in June 16. That is not the same date that President Truman decided to use the atomic bomb. On July 16 Truman found out that an atomic bomb had been successfully tested in New Mexico. It would be absurd to think that the decision to use the bomb had been made a month before anyone knew it would even work. According to Digital History, a research tool for historians and students operated by the University of Houston, several leading scientists announced on June 16, 1945 that they did not think that a demonstration of the atomic bomb would be enough by itself to end the war. Taylor, then, is grasping at straws. May 3, 1469 is the day that Niccolo Machiavelli was born. Does that bear some significance to the fact that on May 3, 2016 Ted Cruz dropped out of the Republican race? I doubt it. On 4, 1979 Margaret Thatcher was sworn is as the first female Prime Minister in UK history. Does the fact that John Kasich dropped out of the Republican race on that date in 2016, leaving only Trump left to oppose Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee and therefore first female presidential nominee of a major party in the U.S., have any significance? I doubt it.

Taylor went on to say that America has been chosen as the launching platform for the harvest. Every time Trump is attacked by the media or other candidates his numbers go up. Why? Because, Taylor says, he is anointed by God. Taylor claims that Megyn Kelly of FOX News was violently ill the day of the first GOP debate and that during the debate she had her legs covered with blankets and there was a bucket beside her on stage in case she threw up. Why? God was warning her not to mess with His anointed man Trump. (Kelly famously asked Trump about his treatment of women during the debate). Kelly’s questioning of Trump, said Taylor, is an example of the kingdom of darkness trying to stop Trump.

Taylor, Wiles and company say there are many instances of God using individuals who were “not choir boys” to accomplish His purpose. That is true. However, those individuals were not God’s anointed. They were not used by God to restore His people but to judge them. There were multiple references in the interview to Nebuchadnezzar. Ezra 5:12 says, “But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia.” Several Old Testament passages tell us that Nebuchadnezzar took gold and silver vessels out of the House of God and put them in his palace or in the Temple of Babylon.If Donald Trump is a modern day version of Nebuchadnezzar then we are all in trouble.

Yet, Taylor says that God is using Trump to split hell wide open. One of the radio hosts said he pictures Trump like a big oak log with handles and God is using Him as a battering ram against the gates of hell. He is strong enough to withstand the beating he is taking because of how God is using him. God, Taylor said, is using Trump to do what the church will not do.

What about Trump’s language? Well, Taylor says, Jesus said things like “hypocrites” and “brood of vipers” of the religious leaders of His day. Trump uses harsh language sometimes too. Uh huh. That comparison is so ridiculous as to not even warrant a response.

America’s best days are before it, Taylor says, and he is “absolutely certain” that Trump will be elected. Oh…and Trump will get to name five Supreme Court justices, too.

Donald Trump is not God’s chosen man to restore the church in America. Though he claims to be a Christian, Trump says he has never asked for forgiveness. Those two statements, of course, are mutually exclusive. If Donald Trump has never accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior then he cannot be a prophet of God. If Donald Trump has never asked for forgiveness then he cannot have accepted Christ as his Savior. God does not reveal prophecy with divine authority any more. Those gifts have ceased, because we have the entire revealed Scripture. Yes, the Holy Spirit is real and active and prompts and works in the hearts of believers, but again, Donald Trump, by his own admission, is not a believer.

So, no matter what Mark Taylor or Rick Wiles or anyone else may say, there is no Donald Trump prophecy and Donald Trump has not been chosen by God to restore the church or to batter the gates of hell. If Donald Trump is elected in November it will be because God allowed it to happen, but God did not tell Mark Taylor five years ago that it would. Of that I have zero doubt.

 

 

May 3, 2016

Good for the goose…

Filed under: Uncategorized — jbwatson @ 9:33 pm

In his lead column in the April 30 issue of WORLD Magazine Joel Belz, the magazine’s founder, takes to task Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal, for his decision to cancel plans to build a global operations center in Charlotte, NC. Schulman’s decision was made in response to the passage of a law in North Carolina that, according to the Washington Times, was “decried by activists as being among the most extreme anti-LGBT measures in the country.” The law was passed by the North Carolina legislature, and signed by the governor, in response to an ordinance passed by the Charlotte city government to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals from being discriminated against by businesses. The state law, which of course supersedes the local law, prohibits local governments from putting in place such measures on their own. Accordingly, transgender individuals may not use restrooms according to the gender identity but must, instead, use restrooms according to their gender at birth.

This is an issue which has received plenty of attention elsewhere, including in this blog, so I am not going to go there. Instead, I want to talk about Belz’s charge that Shulman and PayPal are behaving like “neighborhood bullies” by “throwing their weight around.” Belz says the decision is a prime example of “argumentum ad baculum – or an appeal to force.” He goes on to say that “almost every time you sense that it’s happening, you should sound the alarm and note that somebody’s changed the subject and is trying to win the day using an argument where force, coercion–or, more typically, the threat of force–is its main justification.”

In other words, Belz says that Shulman and PayPal are playing unfair, using their power to withhold a proposed new project that would inject millions of dollars into the North Carolina economy and provide an estimated 400 jobs. Belz uses rather strong language to cry foul. For example, he writes:

In the current high-profile debate over the rights and privileges society should extend to people in the so-called LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) segment of our population, it would be one thing to arrive at tolerable conclusions through traditional discussion and debate–in the appropriate legislative settings, and in the political processes through which those legislative settings are staffed. … It is something altogether different, though, to have to reckon with the clumsy demands of corporate entities that have no accountability in the various settings where they have become so intrusive and noisy. Who is PayPal–and who are their corporate colleagues? How do we know what these companies’ policies are? When they come thundering in to tell us which of our policies are OK with them and which ones aren’t, what redress do we have? If they have the right to shape our future so profoundly, do we have any reciprocal rights to shape their futures as well?

Belz goes on to say that he does not deny the freedom of such companies to intrude because “that’s the price tag of liberty sometimes.” Yet, he also concludes, “neither do we have to pretend they are being anything close to helpful citizens.”

This is where I have to question the premise of Mr. Belz. Why is it being a neighborhood bully when PayPal decides not to locate a major portion of its business in a state with laws it disagrees with, but it is fine for Christians (and others) to boycott businesses with policies or practices or products they disagree with? How can we argue PayPal is being unfair by not locating an office in North Carolina yet also argue that businesses should be allowed to refuse service to those whose lifestyles they believe are sinful? Why should it be an appropriate exercise of individual liberty or religious protection for a bakery owner to refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding or for a farm to refuse to host a lesbian wedding, but it’s “throwing their weight around” when PayPal says, “because we disagree with this law, we will not locate our business in your state”? After all, PayPal did not say they would close all locations they already have in North Carolina. They did not say they will no longer provide services to North Carolina clients or residents.

If the multitudinous posts I have seen on Facebook about the number of people who have pledged not to shop at Target because of their new policy on bathroom usage are to be believed then there are hundreds of thousands of people–perhaps even a million–who say they will no longer shop at Target. Now I am just as unhappy about the Target policy as anyone else I know. I think it is a foolish policy. To the point Mr. Belz made, I suspect that Target’s policies may change if their bottom line is adversely impacted by an effective boycott. But how is it not using force for one million people to say they will no longer shop at Target because of it’s policy, but it is force for PayPal to not open a new office in North Carolina and employ 400 people there? Mr. Belz and others who are bothered or offended by the PayPal decision could certainly choose to boycott PayPal as well if they would like.

No doubt many suggest that it is not the same thing. A few people–even a whole bunch of people–cannot carry the same weight or have the same impact as a powerful multinational corporation. I don’t know, though. The use of boycotts have been quite successful in the past when there were wrongs that, through sheer numbers, were eventually righted. The Montgomery bus boycott may be among the most famous examples, but there have been boycotts throughout history. The colonists boycotted British tea and other goods during the colonial era. The United States and other nations have boycotted the Olympics as a sign of protest at different times. I canceled a subscription to a magazine in the late 1990s because it included an advertisement that was explicitly targeted at a gay audience, or at generating support for the gay lifestyle, and it offended me. The power of the purse is an effective and influential one. It is contradictory and silly, however, to suggest that it is okay for individuals to boycott businesses but not for businesses to boycott (or choose not to locate in) states with laws they do not like. It is ridiculous to support boycotts of Target but get up in arms over boycotts of Chick-fil-A. That’s the trouble with free speech–to protect your right to free speech, you have to protect the right of those who disagree with you to have their say, too. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

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