Christmas Eve Service

Posted in Uncategorized on December 25, 2011 by Irish Bison

I left our Christmas eve service last evening feeling angry and confused… okay not so confused as angry but left in a conundrum nonetheless. A sad state of affairs on Christmas Eve. Our Pastor had invited a woman to share her testimony with the church. It was a story of years in the faith and then a rebirth in that faith about midway through her life (she is probably in her 70’s). What struck me about it was that her entire speech was a drive towards “contemporary” worship. It actually got down to the comment that whenever she worshiped, or praised God, she had to raise her hands in the air and that she didn’t see a whole lot of that in our church. It was then intimated that the lack of such behavior in the church meant lack of faith, there was even a veiled hint from there, re-affirmed later in the service, that such people were akin to Judas, walking in the footsteps but not believing in their heart. So why am I angry, could I perhaps be that Judas?

Nope, funny enough the woman used 1 Timothy 2:8 to support her argument, ” I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” Okay so the basis for her speech was the NIV translation, but it says the same thing, “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” I wonder if she had read the rest of that chapter in Timothy prior to using it for that argument. If you haven’t read it yourself it is traditionally this passage, and one other, that gleans the comment from women that “Paul must have been one big male chauvinist.” There are at least three other places in the New Testament alone that support Paul’s comment here about women being silent in church. Now, do I think that women are inferior to men? No, my wife is a beautiful mind and woman capable of so much more than I am and I have three daughters who are cut from the same mold. But what I do believe is that the Word is God’s Word and who are we to take it so lightly.

At the end of the service the overall theme was that folks who do not choose to engage in “contemporary worship” probably had not accepted Christ fully. They had just been judged from the pulpit, sadly not only from this woman. In so many places in scripture we read of people who “fell, or fall,” down before God and worship Him. There is a reverence there that I think we sometimes miss:

“The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:10,11

I am reminded of the publican who stood in the temple with the pharisee, humbly before God, confessing his sin and his unworthiness before his Creator. The difference is I know of the saviour and that my sin has been paid for. Does it make we want to jump up and down and wave my hands in the air? No, it fills me with reverential awe, the fact that God would send His only Son to live in a frail human body, suffer for all of mankind’s sin, descend into hell and rise again so that we may have the same inheritance. Honestly it moves me to tears, how can I but stand before my God with a tearful and thankful heart, like a son before a father, with reverence, thankfulness and love because He has done this for me, and for you, who were once so unworthy.

The last part of this puzzle is that I let my human nature get hold of me last night and I forgot the truth of today, that a young child was born to suffer for me that I might receive a part of His inheritance. Awe inspiring.

Black and Blue Friday

Posted in Uncategorized on November 29, 2011 by Irish Bison

A while back I found myself entangled in an argument with an Episcopal Priest focusing on the nature of President Obama’s Christianity, or lack thereof. I made the comment over lunch that the President was quickly showing us that he was not, in fact, a Christian. This young priest lit me up arguing that Obama was a professing Christian and who was I to judge his faith. I responded with, “I am not judging his faith, I am discerning that he does not show me the characteristics of faith.” After all, are we not taught through scripture this principle, “by their fruits ye shall know them?” Matthew 17:16,20. Scripture admonishes us in many places to discern those who bear fruit so we can walk with and associate with them, I Kings, Psalms, Proverbs, Acts, I Corinthians, I Timothy, I John, etc. How can we follow this if we cannot discern those who walk the path? In doing so am I not able to discern one who professes and not walks?

At the time of the argument one of my main points against Obama’s walk was his lack of Church attendance, some of you may object, but Jesus did say “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” one of which is to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it Holy. The other was the active engagement in class warfare, or redistribution of wealth, which is clearly contrary to the teachings of the 10th commandment, “thou shalt not covet.” The key thing about fruit bearing is, that if the fruits of the spirit are not evident then the fruits of the flesh will be. This mantra of class warfare that is promoted by President Obama has been with us longer than Obama has been in the political spectrum, but his open embrace of it shows me even more that he is not the Christian he claims to be. For his sake I would pray that his understanding changes, but the fruits of that mantra were spelled out this past Friday, as rampaging greed for material things resulted in chaos across our once selfless nation. I give you a link a more eloquent writing on the subject here. Sad really, even more depressing that a man of the cloth cannot see it.

Back from the USS…A?

Posted in Randomness on November 15, 2011 by Irish Bison

It’s been a long road getting from there to here… okay blatant rip off of Diane Warren’s tune, but for about 2 seasons it was the opening theme for a darned good television series called “Enterprise.” Sadly the story arc, and the really stupid ramp up of the song, made seasons three and four one big bit of… well you get the idea. Jolene Blalock running around in that skin tight red suit got me through season 3 and part of four however, but I am done. Sad really, I think the “Enterprise” concept would make a decent feature film setting, but with the success of the new JJ Abrams “Star Trek,” getting an “Enterprise” film off of the ground is akin to topping Everest.

I have been away for a long, long time and I feel like a schmuck. I know I have used the excuse before, but job and family and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, made it tough to log in and write on a regular basis. Well NO MORE… hopefully. New job, new location, same family though, which is a good thing, God doesn’t particularly smile on trade-ins in that arena… anyway, I am looking forward to commenting more frequently, about what I don’t know. Probably talk mostly about film, comics and games; politics is nothing but a run around circus anymore and one side is so completely delusional all their comments do is provide for some momentary humour and then the sad realization that idiots like that are going to end up tanking our country.

One thing I will say, it has been a year and three days since my grandfather passed away. I do miss him, but still ever so thankful to have had him in my life and I thank God for that.

Cheers!

With All Respect

Posted in The Way on November 12, 2009 by Irish Bison

Yesterday in the United States we remembered our veterans. It is an honorable thing to recognize and pay tribute to those who have served. I myself have not served, as a pigheaded young man I ignored my father’s requests to submit application for the United States Naval Academy and it is one of the few decisions in my life that I truly regret. With that said I have lived in a number of countries outside of my beloved United States and fully understand the freedom that those who serve, and have served, procure for us and how important they are to the continuation of such things.

In this modern day our young men and women who serve do not get the credit they deserve and while I was impressed with President BOB’s speech at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier it is painfully evident that the United States Military, and the welfare of our service people, rank somewhere off of the bottom of his list. Many objectors these days consider war, and those who participate in such things, to be purely evil. This particular public outlook on war fosters, in many of our men and women who serve, doubts about their roles in the military. A few of my own particular friends have suggested that they have concern that their actions in time of war are “unforgivable sins,” or at least sins that hold them back from the Kingdom of Heaven. My first comment is that we learn throughout scripture that God has forgiven all sins through the gracious act of our Savior, Jesus Christ. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8, KJV. along with; “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;” 1 Corinthians 15:3, KJV. Now as long as you believe and have faith in Him, doing the work of the Gospel, you are covered.

I would also submit that although wars may be caused by evil things, the hand of God controls all things and that war in itself is used by God to show forth His glory. In the book of Joshua we read that the Children of Israel waged war with the blessing of God against the many city states of Canaan. The first to fall was Jericho. All of us remember the story from bible school when we were children, someone probably brought in a shofar and after our eardrums had been shattered from the sound we all imagined the walls falling down and that was that. The question is were you taught about what happened after the walls fell? Everyone in Jericho, except for Rahab and her family that were within her home, was put to death; women, children, men, sheep, oxen, cows (Joshua 6:21).

As we read further into the book of Joshua the same fate awaits the rest of the city states within Canaan, Ai, Jarmuth, Eglon, Debir, Lachish and many more. God allows this to be done to prove to the doubters that HE IS GOD! Rahab saw this evidence, the people of Gibeon saw the same. Thirty one kingdoms were put to the sword as Joshua and the Children of Israel entered into Canaan, all with the blessing and command of the Lord (Joshua 12:9-24). In the book of Judges we read of Gideon and his 300 men, men chosen by God to wage war in the defense of Israel against the Midianites. The scriptures inform us that 120,000 men fell under the sword of Gideon and God’s 300 chosen. (Judges Chapters 7/8) So God uses warfare in times to show His Glory and to accomplish His means.

Of course I have just described a series of passages that recount God’s own people waging war against the heathen with His blessing. But what about those who serve but not in the Army of Gods people, people who serve for kingdoms that are quite the opposite? My first comment here is that all kingdoms are of God, those who worship Him and those who do not, for God ordained all that is. However, we are given a very specific example about military service outside of God’s chosen people in scripture.

From Matthew 8:5-13 “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.” This same story is repeated in Luke 7:1-10.

On the face of these verses we see a man who has supreme faith in Christ’s deity and ability as the Messiah. Speak the word, the centurion says, and my servant shall be healed. Jesus says that he has not found faith as great as this man’s in the whole of Israel. Interesting that comment, for this faithful man is a Centurion, a commander of a Centuriae, a unit of 80 men (standard number was 80-84, not 100 as often thought) serving in the Imperial Legions of Rome. The Centuriae was the basic unit of the Roman Army, these were the guys on the ground, in the front lines, doing the dirty work as it were. The men who ushered Christ to the Cross were members of a Centuriae. But Jesus here commends this Centurion’s faith. We know from History that the Romans were not particularly Godly as a whole, as a matter of fact Emperor Titus completely destroys the second temple (of course this is in fulfillment of God’s warning and promise), and throughout the history of the Empire until the reign of Constantine the Great, faithful Christians are persecuted throughout. But Jesus commends the Centurion’s faith and heals his servant. You will note that Jesus does not say, “vile creature,” or “hypocrite,: as he does to some others who are supposedly citizens of God’s chosen. Nor does he tell this man to repent, quit his job and turn away from soldiering. He says “go thy way, and as thou has believed, so be it done unto thee.” (Matthew 8:13)

We do not have the rest of this man’s story, but what we do have is not a condemnation of his profession, but an exaltation of his faith. Scripture teaches us through these examples, and a number of others that I really don’t have time to list here, that soldiering is an honorable profession, as long as it is done with proper faith and understanding. So as we honor our men and women in service, remind them that their job is something that God has ordained, and that through faith in Him they will still have forgiveness and salvation.

Doing the work of the Gospel

Posted in The Truth and The Life, The Way on November 9, 2009 by Irish Bison

We live in an age where orthodoxy is at the core of most of our recognized religious denominations. Ortho meaning “right or correct,” doxy meaning “true or praise.” We have a number of faiths described with such a term, The Eastern Orthodox Church, Jewish Orthodox, Christian Orthodox and what does this mean? Traditionally it means adhering to the accepted, traditional and true meaning of the faith or teachings of scripture. The problem with many in the modern era is that they adhere so strictly to certain pieces of their orthodox faith that they become obsessed with it. A common statement among American Christians is, “one needs simply to have faith to be saved.” Well this is true in an orthodox sense, Scripture teaches us that it is only through faith that we are saved; in Romans 5:1 we read: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” And we read also in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:”

The problem is that such adherence to this one orthodox principle in scripture may lead us to forget the rest of the pieces in the puzzle. I have often (with full recognition that I myself am a heinous sinner) admonished others who profess the saving faith to turn from their actions which are speaking a bit louder than their words. The common response is that I am judging, which is a topic that I could speak on at length, but the second is a quick move to point out that Jesus was speaking against the Pharisees strict adherence to the law and that He came to teach us that it simply is faith that saves us, not the practice of the law. There is truth in the statement, just not in the way it is being interpreted. I would submit to you that if Christ preached against strict “orthopraxy,” the practice of the (ortho) correct (praxy) action, or practice of the law, would He not say something similar about the strict adherence of orthodoxy only?

Throughout His ministry Jesus teaches us that strict adherence one way or the other isn’t the correct ticket. By our faith we are saved, we read that in Ephesians 2:8 and we know that our works cannot save us, Christ spoke against the very Pharisaical practice of the same. Works alone cannot earn the Grace of God: Romans 11:6 “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” So Grace is Grace and works are works. But Jesus also teaches us that many will profess the faith and not make the cut (sorry for that football term there). In Matthew 7:22-23 we read: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” This is echoed in the previous verse with a bit more sincerity: Matthew 7:21 “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” This is repeated in Luke 6:46 and Luke 13:25 and echoed again through many other verses of scripture.

The reality is this: orthodoxy leads us to orthopraxy. Notice that “but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in Heaven?” As we follow in the ministry of Christ we learn the truth of His teachings, orthodoxy. Through this, out of our love for Him, we begin to practice orthopraxy, or we begin “doing the work of the Gospel.” This is part of the great commission, go forth and teach the Gospel. The root of this is the statement that Jesus speaks to us in John 14:15: ” If ye love me, keep my commandments.” With our faith comes good works, and faith alone is not the answer, because faith is simply a word. True faith is the learning of that which is true and the practice thereof, orthodoxy and orthopraxy working together leading us to do the work of the Gospel.

The Lord Calls One of His Own

Posted in The Truth and The Life on October 11, 2009 by Irish Bison

11 years ago my wife and I were struggling with many things. I had been laid off from my job and I was experiencing a variety of health issues related to the stress of being unemployed. No excuses though, I was raised to provide for myself, so I went to the local mall to apply for a number of jobs. One of those interviews was very providential indeed. The manager of the store and I sat for about two or three hours and discussed everything, life, movies, religion, our significant others (my wife, her fiancee). We became fast friends and she now tells people that I am her big brother (the irony there is that she is a tad older than I am). Needless to say I went to work for her.

Over the course of my year there she would repeatedly invite me to her church for their Sunday service. Not being much of a church type, or Christian for that matter, I would say something like “sure,” and the explain that my wife was raised as a Roman Catholic and she wanted something a bit more formal than the church my boss attended. Regardless of my answer she would continue to invite me, with a cheerful smile and a calm understanding.

Sometime early in the year 1999 things were particularly difficult for my wife and I and I had a serious health episode. When I woke up I told my wife we were going to go to that church the very next Sunday. We walked in the door and stuck, thank God.

The Pastor and Steward of that Church was a man named Edwin Powers Elliott Jr. A truer example of a Christian man does not exist. Edwin went home to be with the Lord today. I feel as though I have lost my own father.

From day one in his Church Pastor Elliott made us feel welcome. He went out of his way to make sure we learned at our own pace. As the Spirit of the Lord grew in my wife and I, Edwin was there with answers to questions and an understanding of Scripture that comes only from a true and faithful love of the Gospel and our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the birth of each one of my children he was at the hospital before I could even reach the phone to call him. He baptized each one of my children and did his best to treat them as if they were prospective adults, admonishing each one to do their best and being genuinely proud at their individual achievements.

In 2004 when a number of things began to fall apart in our lives Edwin was there for support. He stood by us and through the strength given by the Holy Spirit he helped us to stand. As my father’s Parkinson’s began to play a good bit of catch up again Edwin was there, often arriving at the hospital even before I could get there. Not only did he give comfort to me, but he would stay and chat with my father who struggled greatly with his affliction. Through Edwin’s patience and teaching my father has begun to understand the tribulations of this life.

Edwin introduced me to the beautiful biblical meaning of freemasonry. He signed my petition. He raised me. He was instrumental and a key piece in founding Patrick Henry Loyal Orange Lodge #1105, a protestant organization promoting Christian fraternalism. He was the longtime editor of the Christian Observer, the oldest continual Christian news publication in the United States.

He held so many official offices in the various York Right organizations within freemasonry that his coat could scarcely hold the medals and awards. He was awarded the highest award that a Royal Arch Mason can be awarded, the John Dove award for Excellence in Royal Arch Masonry.

He was a member of Hanover Presbytery and of the Calvin Synod. I think at the time he was admitted to Calvin Synod he was the only non-Hungarian member of the Synod.

Edwin was also a publisher. He and his brother published so many books on such a variety of subjects that it would be difficult to count them all.

Most importantly he was our Pastor and teacher. For those of you who read this you may doubt my words, but with God as my witness I will say that Edwin made time for each member of his flock. He met on a weekly basis with a number of men in his church, I know I was one of those he met with. On occasions, in order to get something to him, I would inadvertently walk in on one of his meetings with someone else.

An amazing thing about this man is that he suffered from a number of health problems that would task him greatly, yet he was always selfless in his support of others. He suffered from a form of diabetes that did its best to hold him down, but it didn’t. The night before he suffered his heart attack I was with him at a meeting. He did something for me that he probably shouldn’t have done and I shouldn’t have asked him to do.

Through all of these things Edwin was supremely confident in the gift of Grace offered to us by the Lord through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Edwin would often talk about the day he would get to go and be with the Lord and to meet with all of those who had gone before. He would tell us of the people he wanted to see and questions he wanted to ask them. Today he is there, praise God. He will be sorely missed by many, many people, but he is where he longed to go.

The road to hell is paved with…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 17, 2009 by Irish Bison

I was taking an online quiz and ran across that introductory statement; it struck me as funny. Funny in that I had not heard it in a long while. It led me to remember a number of such statements that it seems our society has forgotten, or have we really forgotten them?

My pastor likes to say that the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. In this he means that the little things that people do to make themselves feel good, or satisfy their need to feel useful, things that are seemingly helpful, are actually a bane to those that they are intended to help. Take welfare for example, has it helped get people situated to being successful or has it bred a large group of society tethered to the federal government’s umbilical chord? I think the statistics and numbers support the latter half of that statement.

Another example would be the move in the public schools to make the curriculum work for everyone. In “equalizing” the curriculum of our public education system we have dumbed down the core of learning so much so that the majority of our students entering college have serious problems with basic functions that should have been honed by their secondary education. Once again something enacted as a tender mercy that has actually hurt the intended target of the action. (please call BS on my comment and then come and visit with me so I can show you the many term papers and projects written by my students that are covered in red ink). My own children are involved in a program based off of a curriculum that dates back to the 1950’s, with updated information of course; they are scoring far above their public school counterparts. Students who are two or three grades ahead of my kids.

In an earlier post I wrote about how tolerance in my day delineated a group of behaviors that would not be allowed, but today the term is used to allow any sort of behavior that a person can come up with. When did pedophilia become a normal and healthy thing? According to NAMBLA (I am not going to spell out the name behind the acronym, please look that up for yourself) such behavior is perfectly okay; and there are people telling us that opposition to such behaviors is “cruel and non-inclusive.” I recall the words of the late James Kennedy, “tolerance is the last virtue of a degenerate nation.”

One of the most common questions of our society today is why have things gone so wrong when we see the news reports of violence, unsettling behavior, rudeness, racism and the like. Perhaps we need to simply look at some of the old tried and true methods we have re-written in the name of “kindness.” After all, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”