Wednesday, July 29, 2015

America's Got Talent: Season 10, week 3 judge cuts

Last night was another good episode of America’s Got Talent. Next week’s episode should be even better with the return of Piers Morgan. He doesn’t have a clue when it comes to politics, but he is an excellent judge because he pulls no punches. He is very fair, but brutally honest. I like that.

As for last night though, I think that mannequin from the Dolls Love act used to have a head until Al Snow got ahold of it. And speaking of heads, I think the 2% of people that hit the golden buzzer on the AGT app for that guy lost theirs. They either lost their heads or they were just women who hit the golden buzzer for him because he had shirt off.

Johnny Shelton, the man with the touching story about losing his son was one of the best acts of the night. It was a shame to see him go, but he had a lot of great competition against him. The right decision was probably made, but it was still tough to see him go. It would have been great to see him continue on. He should have a bright future ahead of him though.

The ventriloquist act, Paul Zerdin, was also very good. I agree with the judges that sometimes you forget there is only one person up there because his material is so good and he is great at talking without visibly giving away that he is the one talking. My wife can do that too though. Maybe she should have been on there instead of him. I have been trying to tell her she needs to go on AGT for a while as a singing act. Here is another possibility for next year.

One act that I am glad did not make it through was the Pretty Big group. I agree with Mel B that they have a very positive message, but I do not agree with her that they should have been given a spot in the next round just because they may make people feel better about themselves. It’s called America’s Got Talent. The show is not America Has A Positive Message. The other judges did a good job choosing the superior talent over warm and fuzzy feelings.

My favorite act of the night was Mountain Faith Band. Howard’s mockery of them was rude and distasteful, but I guess that should be expected. After all, that is Howard Stern. I guess I shouldn’t expect more from him. You take him out of his environment and put him into a different one, but he is still the same guy on the inside. At least Howie Mandel stood up for them by pointing out that they were judging Mountain Faith Band’s talent, not opinions on a genre of music. I just hope America won’t be affected by the same bias as Howard Stern when it comes time for the people to start voting.

Overall, I agreed with every one of the judge cuts. As the show went on, it became more obvious that they were going to have to cut some really good acts. I think they made the best decisions they could make though. Like I said earlier, I am really looking forward to next week’s episode with Piers Morgan. It should be a lot of fun.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Oregon bakery ordered to pay $135,000 for refusing to bake gay couple's wedding cake raises 3x the fine's amount

Aaron and Melissa Klein are former owners of the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, Oregon. They refused to bake a wedding cake for lesbian couple Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman in 2013. The couple claims that Aaron Klein called their relationship an “abomination to the Lord,” but he was also kind enough to apologize for wasting their time and explained their position biblically as to why they could not do the cake for the wedding. "I honestly did not mean to hurt anybody, didn't mean to make anybody upset, it's just something I believe in very strongly." What the Kleins did and said were very biblical. Both the Old and New Testaments explicitly condemn homosexual behavior. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:1-29 because of their wickedness, of which openly blatant and homosexuality was a part. Leviticus 18:22-28 and 20:13 literally calls homosexuality an abomination. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 gives a list of people that will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven. Homosexuals, “abusers of themselves with mankind,” nor “sodomites” (depending on the term you want to use) are listed among the list of unrighteous people that will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Verse 11 says “such were some of you.” That means that homosexuals are capable of changing whether the curse of sin we inherited caused them to be more attracted to the same sex or whether they chose to be that way. Even Jesus Himself reiterated that marriage was for male-female relationships only He affirmed what Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 said in Matthew 19:4-6. However they also spoke the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and did not curse them (Romans 12:14).

Instead of leaving and going to another bakery that would bake their cake, they decided to file a civil rights complaint against the bakery under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007. Their complaint said they suffered “acute loss of confidence, doubt, excessive sleep, feeling mentally raped, dirty and shameful, having high blood pressure, impaired digestion, loss of appetite, migraine headaches, looking pale and sick at home after work, resuming a smoking habit, going through shock, surprise, uncertainty, and weight gain.” On July 2, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries and a ruling by administrative law judge Alan McCullough agreed with the complaint after a two year investigation, ordered them to pay $135,000, and forced them to shut their business down. The claims made in the complaint are ludicrous and that is putting it nicely. If anyone has suffered here, it is the Kleins. They have suffered real losses, loss of their business, loss of their peace of mind, loss of their privacy, and maybe eventually (but prayerfully not) loss of their safety. For all the people who have said to me that homosexual marriage does not affect us personally, here is a shining example of how it does. The Kleins were doing nothing but exercising their religious freedom (a freedom they are not giving up when they choose to run a business) and they are suffering a great deal for it. With the legalization of gay marriage, Christian persecution has also been legalized and will likely get worse over time.

In response, the Christian couple tried to start a GoFundMe page to cover the cost of the fine, but GoFundMe removed the page after they had raised $109,000 due to pro-homosexuality protests. Then they changed their policy to reflect their fear of the pro-homoseuality movement to include bans on “claims of heinous crimes, violent, hateful, sexual or discriminatory acts.” The Kleins were allowed to keep the money, but they obviously needed more so they started a fundraiser on another site called Continue to Give on May 5. The pro-homosexuality protesters tried to bully that site as well, but the owner of that site did not back down. Site founder Jesse Wellhofer said his response was, “Thank you for your concern, have a great day and God bless you.” The couple has raised $352,500 at the time of this writing. That is the good news in all of this. For all of the interdenominational and intercongregational infighting in the Church today, it is a refreshing to know of so many standing up for these defenders of the faith in real, practical ways rather than just words.

Aaron Klein is employed as a garbage collector, but is currently out of work due to an arm injury. His wife, Melissa, is also not working except for privately baking for family and friends. They continue to stand for their faith in Christ no matter what. The Kleins will be appealing the decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Klein said, “The first amendment guarantees my right to freedom of speech. We are looking forward to getting [the case] in a court that recognizes the Constitution.” Melissa Klein said, “The final ruling has been made today. We have been charged with $135,000 in emotional damages, But also now Aaron has been charged with advertising. (Basically talking about not wanting to participate in a same-sex wedding) This effectively strips us of all our first amendment rights. According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech. We will NOT give up this fight, and we will NOT be silenced. We stand for God's truth, God's word and freedom for ALL americans. We are here to obey God not man, and we will not conform to this world. If we were to lose everything it would be totally worth it for our Lord who gave his one and only son, Jesus, for us! God will win this fight!”

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Two Shelby, NC pastors fly Christian flag above American flag

Two Shelby, North Carolina pastors have their priorities right. They flew the Christian flag above the American flag on Independence Day. Pastor Rit Varriale of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, North Carolina has said his church will now have the Christian flag over the American flag. He said this is different from normal flag etiquette, which is to have the American flag first. If that is the case, then flag etiquette is backwards because God’s glory and will are above all nations.

Pastor Walter Wilson of Focus Missionary Baptist Church started doing this a few months ago. He said, “I was changing the rope one day, the Lord just laid on me that He is first and when He told me that, I switched the flags around. We know that not everyone is going to agree with that, but that’s not going to make us sit down and stop talking about what’s important.” It should be a breath of fresh air to every born again follower of Jesus Christ when one of our brothers or sisters in the Lord not only hears the voice of God, but obeys immediately.

Varriale continued, “The reality is [the gay movement] have been willing to sacrifice more, be more bold for their cause than the church of Jesus Christ has been for serving God. That’s gotta change.” When people call him (a former Army Ranger) unpatriotic, he responds “I really don’t need a lecture on patriotism. I am willing to give my life for my country. When you think of military mottos, you think for example ‘God and Country.’ God first and then country.

The Bible commands us to be good and active citizens that submit to legitimate authority. These two pastors are definitely both good and active citizens. God ordains the institution of government, but not every specific government or government decision. That is why many times in the Bible, ungodly governments are compared to beasts. Ours was founded as an exception to that general rule of history although it has drifted far from what it originally was. The power in America is supposed to rest in “we the people.” Public servants, then, are essentially people that we hire to carry out our will for the country. As such, we are to be good citizens by obeying the laws that do not contradict God’s Word. Otherwise, we would have anarchy and our rebellion against the legitimate authority we have loaned to our leaders would be a bad witness for lost people who don’t know the Lord.
However, we also have a responsibility to be disobedient when government laws are evil. The Hebrew midwives disobeyed the king of Egypt when he ordered them to kill all male Hebrew babies. Rahab disobeyed the king of Jericho when she helped the Israelite spies. Daniel and his three friends disobeyed when the government decree came down that said they were required to worship an idol or be burned to death. Daniel blatantly defied a second threat of death when he refused to obey the law that said he could not pray to God for 30 days. Not only did he disobey, but he prayed to God from the roof of his home! Peter and John twice refused to stop preaching and teaching about Jesus even when they were commanded to by the authorities. These examples and God’s response to them demonstrate the principle of obeying those in authority over us unless a command from authority contradicts a command from God. That doesn’t just apply to government either. It also applies to obeying teachers, bosses, rules of public places, and any other authority unless it contradicts God’s commands.

The overall principle of God’s teaching and requirements on the subject though is that we are to obey Him first and above all people and authority, no matter what may happen to us or what we are threatened with. I hope more pastors, Christian leaders, and Christians in general will put God above country, not just because of the recent gay marriage ruling, but because that is how Christians are supposed to live, putting God above everything and everyone else. Having those correct priorities will make us better patriots in the process anyway. In George Washington’s 1796 farewell address he said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of man and citizens.” Summarized, anyone who tries to separate religion and morality from politics should not consider themselves a patriot.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Self-pity's lack of perspective

Self-pity could be very addicting whether it is over something big like the loss of a spouse or something small like sulking because you have to get up too early, looking for something you can’t find, losing a competition and having a bad attitude, or because you’re sleepy and grumpy while shopping like I was a couple of weeks ago. This may not seem like it is a big deal, but it is because it elevates yourself to where God should be.  That is idolatry. Galatians 5:20 calls idolatry a work of the flesh. Idolatry is not just bowing down to a stone statue. It can be putting anything above God, including yourself or your own life. Jesus said in Matthew 10:39, “He who finds his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Those who truly live their lives as a sacrifice for Jesus have no room for self-pity. It may not be a popular message because most of the things about our culture are selfish and self-centered. We are told from the time we are children to believe in ourselves, be what we want to be, follow our hearts, don’t let anyone tell us what to do, etc… America has developed an incorrect view of freedom. They view freedom as something that allows us to do whatever we want to do, whatever makes us happy. In the name of this corrupt view of freedom, the Supreme Court has turned our flag into a godless symbol that represents the lust of the flesh and trampling on the rights of anyone just to delay a moral judgment. No matter the state of the country or our personal lives though, Christians have a choice to make. We can wallow in self-pity, but that won’t change anything. Instead, we can keep plowing along, knowing that our race is not over until we have reached our final destination, Heaven.

There is a cure for self-pity. Pastor Kyle Idleman points out in his book and video teaching series Not A Fan that true freedom comes in making yourself a slave to Christ. “The Bible would describe the follower [of Jesus] as a ‘slave.’ This is the exact opposite of a consumer. The image of slave provides a picture of what ‘deny yourself’ looks like. A slave has no rights. A slave has no possessions to call their own. A slave in Jesus’ day didn’t even have a personal identity. A slave doesn’t get time off or get to clock out at the end of the day. A slave doesn’t get to negotiate. But ‘slave’ is the way many followers of  Christ introduced themselves.”

It is only when we keep an eternal perspective that we will see all of our current problems--personal or national--for what they really are. I have heard a couple of Christian authors refer to this as living for the line rather than the dot. Then they will not seem like insurmountable mountains. They will be things that, while difficult, we can conquer through Christ. This life is short. James 4:14 says our life is like a vapor that vanishes for a while and then vanishes. So what in this life is worth having any self-pity over? When we see ourselves consistently as slaves to our Lord Jesus Christ here to do His will and not our own, there is no room for self-pity.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Godly repentance vs. ungodly sorrow

In the next set of notes from my Foundations of Faith class, we continued learning about repentance from dead works. Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Repentance is an inward decision to change your mind. That inward decision to change your mind results in an outward change of behavior away of sin and toward God’s righteousness. Acts 20:21 says that we are to testify “both to the Jews and also to the Gentiles repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Repentance is not emotions. It is a decision to stop sinning and start living for God. Repentance can have emotions involved, but just because you have had an emotional experience does not mean you have repented. You will know you have truly repented when you notice God changing your actions and attitudes.

Acts 17:30 says God calls all people everywhere to repent. Repentance is a necessary part of salvation. Jesus said in Luke 13:3 that those who did not repent would perish. Peter repeated in the principle in Acts 2:38. He said, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness and remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We cannot enter God’s Kingdom without repentance. Jesus picked up John the Baptist’s message where he left off after he was arrested. Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17)! One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 2 Peter 3:9. It says that God holds off His judgment because He is patient, wanting everyone to repent so that they will not perish. So when you think, “How much longer will God wait before He gives people what they deserve?” Remember that one day He will, but be thankful for His patience, especially if you still have loved ones that are not following Christ. Also remember that there was a time when that applied to each one of us as well.

While the first act of repentance is when a person turns from their sins and trusts in Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection alone for salvation, it is not the only act of repentance. Repentance is a necessary part of the Christian life as we grow in our walk with Christ. It is the way we restore our relationship with Him if we fall short. The Christians in Corinth repented after Paul sent the letter of 1 Corinthians to them, detailing the sin they were permitting to take hold in their lives and in their church. Paul’s response to that repentance is 2 Corinthians. He writes in 2 Corinthians 7:8-10, “Even though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it--though I did regret it--for I perceive that this same letter has caused you sorrow, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that your sorrow led to repentance. You were made sorrowful according to the will of God so that you might not suffer loss in any way from us. Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation and brings no regret. The sorrow of the world produces death.” Again, the example of Peter and Judas is useful here. Peter had godly sorrow which led to repentance after he denied Jesus three times. He went on to faithfully serve the Lord the rest of his life. Judas had deep sorrow, regret, and emotion. However, his regret did not produce the godly repentance that leads to a changed life of serving God. Instead, his self-pity over his sin caused him to commit suicide. Godly repentance leads to new opportunities to serve God. Ungodly sorrow produces a pity party that never ends. On this Independence Day while Christians celebrate what our country used to be, it is also a time of mourning where we commit ourselves to God anew and try to disciple more people than ever before. These are rough times as far as the Christian message is concerned. We need to be ready to face what is ahead. If there is any sin in your life for which you need to repent, don’t wait.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Calling evil "good" and "good" evil

Isaiah 5:20 pronounces woe to those who call good “evil” and those who call evil “good.” Woe to those who exchange or substitute darkness for light and light for darkness. Woe to those who exchange or substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. That one verse accurately describes what the United States of America has done, especially around the last 50+ years. It did not just start last week when the United States Supreme Court decreed gay marriage legal in all 50 states like a black-robed oligarchy. That is just the symptom of a much deeper spiritual problem.

It has been rightly stated that divorce is just as high among professing Christians as it is those who do not profess to be Christians. I am willing to bet that most of those people did not have one of the few biblically permissible reasons for divorce either. That is not to say that gay marriage is the answer to the problem any more than a broken left leg is a good answer to a broken right leg. Legalizing an abomination that promises prohibition from entering the Kingdom of God will not solve the marriage problem. As one of my friends frequently points out, one of the ways we could help fix the marriage problem is to take away no fault divorce as an option. “A no fault divorce refers to a type of divorce in which the spouse that is filing for divorce does not have to prove any fault on the part of the other spouse. All a spouse has to do is give any reason that the state honors for the divorce. The most commonly given reason is ‘irreconcilable differences’ or an ‘irreparable breakdown of the marriage.’ These are just fancy ways of saying that the couple does not get along and that the marital relationship cannot be repaired. A spouse cannot object to another's petition for no fault divorce, as that objection itself is viewed by the court as an irreconcilable difference...Fault divorces are not as common, and in fact, many states no longer even recognize them. In the states that do recognize them, one of the spouses requests that a divorce be granted based on some fault of the other spouse.”

Reversing good and evil with marriage is only one of many problems the church in America has caused today though. A video teaching called Principles of Success shows recent polls that say 65% of Christians admitted that they had definitely told a lie in the past month. The most frequently given reason by those 65% is “If I told the truth, it would devastate my friend.” To this excuse I would say along with the apostles: It is better to obey God rather than people. You judge whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to Him more than people (Acts 4:19; 5:29). “...love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19). Ephesians 4:15 says speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects and with reference to all things who is the head, Christ Himself. Another reason given was: “I only lied about little things. God doesn’t care about that.” Oh, yes He does! What is little in our sight is not necessarily little in His. Some sins are worse than others and have worse consequences, Said another way, not all sins are equal but all sins defile our oneness with God. “You shall not steal nor deal falsely nor lie to one another” (Leviticus 19:11). “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully and truthfully are His delight” (Proverbs 12:22). A third excuse given for lying was: “I lied. I know it is a sin, but that is why Christ died on the cross.” Grace is not a license to sin. Grace gives us the power to stop sinning. Pastor John Hagee has said, “To offer forgiveness without requiring change would make the grace of God an accomplice to evil.“ Romans 6:1 asks, shall we continue in sin that grace may increase? God forbid! Certainly not! May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Looking at another subject, Micah 5:12 says, “I will cut off sorceries from your hand and you shall have no more fortune-tellers.” Sorcery is mentioned among the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. Isaiah 47:13-14 says you are wearied in the multitude of your counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you from the things that shall come upon you. They shall be like stubble. The fire shall burn them completely and they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame. It shall not be a coal to be warmed by nor a fire to sit before! Deuteronomy 4:19 says, Beware, lest you lift up your eyes toward Heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars and all the host of heaven, and feel drawn away and driven to bow down to, serve, and worship them that the LORD your God has allotted to all the nations under the whole heaven. Deuteronomy 18:10-14 says, there shall not be found among you anyone that makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who practices divination or witchcraft, one who interprets omens or a sorcerer, or a charmer who casts magic spells or a medium or a spiritist or a necromancer. Whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD. Because of these detestable abominations, the LORD your God will drive them out from before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. For these nations that you are about to dispossess listen to those soothsayers who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do the same. For all of these prohibitions against astrology, fortune-telling, psychics, witchcraft, necromancy, and similar activities, there is no difference in the percentage of Christians and non-Christians who embrace these beliefs.

Most importantly are what professing Christians, people who self-identify as Christians, have as the makeup of their spiritual worldview. Many nominal Christians do not even accept the basic tenets of Christianity. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Acts 4:12 says that there is salvation in no one else. There is no other name under Heaven that has been given among people by which we must be saved. Despite the very clear teaching of the Bible that says Jesus is the only way to Heaven, the same survey found that 80% of Christians believe that religions other than Christianity will get an individual into Heaven. 52% of Christians believed that a belief in Islam would get an individual into Heaven. 53% of Christians believed that a belief in Hinduism would get an individual into Heaven. 42% of Christians believed that a belief in Atheism would get an individual into Heaven. 56% of Christians believed that just being a “nice person” would get someone into Heaven.

It is no wonder the culture is rotting before our eyes. It is no wonder we can murder millions of babies that are supposed to be safe in their mother’s wombs every year. It is no wonder that the Church has sat by while gay marriage has been legalized nationwide. It is no wonder many congregations are openly accepting homosexuals into leadership positions. It is no wonder the divorce rate is the same among Christians as it is among non-Christians. Most of the people calling themselves Christians don’t even believe what Christianity teaches, let alone obey it. They are not qualified to call themselves Christians. Jesus said in John 15:14 that we are His friends if we do whatever He commands us to do. How can Christians do what He wants them to do when those who call themselves that don’t even believe what He says? Furthermore, how can we expect the lost to take us seriously when those who claim to follow Christ don’t resemble Him even closely in their actions or beliefs?