The Wisdom of Vice President Mike Pence and Evangelist Billy Graham

**WARNING… This post focuses on a sensitive topic that is inappropriate for children.

What do the men in the following list have in common?

Harvey Weinstein (Film Executive), Kevin Spacey (Actor), Glenn Thrush (NY Times Journalist), Jeffrey Tambor (Actor), Louis C.K. (Comedian, Actor), Al Franken (Actor, Comedian, Senator), Charlie Rose (Journalist), Matt Lauer (Today Show Host), Roy Moore (Former Judge, Senate Candidate), Steven Seagal (Actor), Ed Westwick (Actor), Brett Ratner (Film Director), Dustin Hoffman (Actor), Jeremy Piven (Actor), Michael Oreskes (National Public Radio News Chief), Mark Halperin (NBC Senior Political Analyst), George H. W. Bush (41st President of the United States), Terry Richardson (Celebrity Photographer), Leon Wieseltier (Literary Critic, Magazine Editor), James Toback (Film Writer and Director), John Besh (Celebrity Chef), Bob Weinstein (Film Executive), Oliver Stone (Film Director), Roy Price (Amazon Studios Chief), Ben Affleck (Actor), Garrison Keillor (author, speaker, radio celebrity).

They are successful men in their respective fields who have all been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior in the past two months. And that list is not exhaustive. It all began with Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein. He was the proverbial domino that led to what seems to be almost daily breaking news of another celebrity, or person in a psoition of power, being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.

This morning it was music executive Russell Simmons (Def Jam Records).

For a lot of men in powerful positions, victims have chosen to no longer remain silent. For the ones who are truly guilty, their day of accounting is overdue. I suspect many more will be called out to accountability in the days, weeks, and months to come.

Some of the men on the list have only one accuser. Some have multiple. In both cases, we need to be careful of assuming someone’s guilt simply due to accusation. I heard about one pastor (several years ago) who was accused by a teenager of inappropriate behavior. It nearly cost him his church and brought untold turmoil on his family, his church, and the community. Sometime later the girl admitted that she made the whole thing up.

So what does this have to do with our Vice President and with famous evangelist Billy Graham?

Well, simply this… Both Pence and Graham chose to live by a very high standard that would make it virtually impossible to (a) engage in this kind of behavior and (b) be accused of this kind of behavior.

How? They live by a principle that my generation credited to Graham… strive to never be alone with another woman other than your wife, including, but not limited to, not eating out alone with a woman other than your wife in public. In ministry circles we called it the Billy Graham rule. This current generation is calling it the Pence rule because our Vice President applies the same rule to his life.

Men who hold positions of influence or power have more opportunity to act upon their sinful inclinations as well as are more susceptible to false accusations. Therefore, you would think that all Christians would see the wisdom in such a principle, especially for men who are in positions of leadership (which the Bible calls for being “above reproach”).  But if you think that, you would be wrong.

Case in point… Christianity Today editor Katelyn Beaty. This young lady recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which she argues that the Graham/Pence rule is demeaning to women. She writes, “The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away.”

Well, Ms. Beaty, if this Autumn’s news cycle hasn’t convinced you… men are lustful beasts (Ephesians 2.3) who, apart from the restraining grace of God, will engage in shocking and disgusting behavior to fulfill their lusts. Any man who tells you otherwise is lying or self-deceived. King David was a man after God’s own heart and yet he fell into the trap of using his position of power to sinfully fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Second, as for women that are objects of desire that must be hidden away, I hate further rain on Ms. Beaty’s pollyannaish parade, but the truth is that many women today actually need to do a better job of hiding away their sexual parts, instead of showing as much of them as possible. I’m not saying women need to cover all their skin and dress frumpy. But let’s be honest, the rebellion against modesty seems to know no limits these days. (And yes, I’ve read the viral article titled “Modest is Hottest” is not in the BibleThe author makes some good points but is dangerously naive, as well as weak theologically, on some critical points.)

God created them male and female. But because our society has summarily dismissed God and His wisdom concerning sexual standards, it’s no wonder that there is so much confusion about how to safeguard against sexual misconduct.  What’s disappointing is that an editor for Christianity Today thinks that the Graham/Pence rule is a bad thing.

As for me, I am going to stick with the Graham/Pence rule. As each “Breaking News” story unfolds in this current sordid news cycle, I’m increasingly seeing just how wise these men are.

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Yes, Jeremiah 29:11 Applies to You!

Jeremiah 29:11 is a beloved verse for multitudes of Christians. And that is understandable when you consider its content:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

I’ve seen Jeremiah 29:11 on refrigerators, Facebook cover pages, car windows, framed art, and permanently inked onto human skin.

I have also heard Christians rebuke other Christians for assuming Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise that can be claimed by them today. The argument goes something like this… “Jeremiah 29:11 does not apply to us today. It was written at a specific time for a specific people. You cannot claim it as a promise for yourself.”

I get it. I totally understand that it is vital that we study our Bibles in context and that we do not take verses out of context. Yet, I also think it is entirely appropriate for Christians today to draw hope and comfort from Jeremiah 29:11. Here’s two good reasons why…

  1. Though Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise given by God to Israel, under the old covenant, its content is consistent with the promises of God given to believers under the new covenant.
  2. The New Testament instructs us to take the Old Testament promises and see them as fulfilled for us and through us in Christ: “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NKJV)

Now, that said, let me bring some balance. One of the legitimate reasons that many Christians are concerned about claiming Jeremiah 29:11 as a personal promise for today is that sometimes people make assumptions about the verse that simply are not true. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. A Christian is going through a very hard time, reads Jeremiah 29:11 and assumes that this means that the trial they are going through is definitely not God’s will and He will quickly rescue them from that trial. Yet, Jeremiah 29:11 was written to God’s people when they were experiencing the discipline of God in their lives. In the midst of the trial God had given them, He wanted to remind them that His ultimate goal was to bring them to a place of peace and prosperity. As for the assumption that God would soon rescue them, that was definitely not the case for the people to whom this promise was originally delivered. In fact, Jeremiah 29:10 said that they would be under God’s discipline for seventy years!
  2. Someone hears Jeremiah 29:11 and assumes God is going to give them a glorious future and they have no responsibility themselves. I have actually seen people claim this verse for themselves while they are living in blatant, unrepentant immorality. My dear friends, it does not work that way. If you are truly a child of God and if you are living in rebellion against your loving Heavenly Father, don’t expect Him to give you peace and prosperity. Expect Him to discipline you (see Hebrews 12:6-8). You have a responsibility to be calling upon Him in prayer and seeking Him with all of your heart (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

So, in summary, Jeremiah 29:11 applies to you after all! But make sure you first understand it within its immediate context, as well as the context of the entire redemptive story.

You Are Loved!

“The Starting Five”

Later this month I will be self-publishing an e-book through Amazon Kindle… Lord willing. The title of the book is The Starting Five: Discovering the Five Doctrines that Anchor the Christian Life. A 31-day devotional, this book will be especially helpful for new Christians who are looking to establish a strong foundation for their Christian life. But I believe it will be a good resource for established Christians as well, reminding us all of foundational truths. More details forthcoming.

Where Was Your Bible MADE?

In the last few years, I have become more intentional about buying more American-made products. But I had never given much thought to where my Bibles are made. Until now. I stumbled across this eye-opening post (albeit a little dated…2011), about how a large percentage of Bibles are now made in China, by a company that apparently does not support line up with my Christians values.

I took at look at the last 4 Bibles I have purchased (a NLT, MEV, and 2 KJVs) and found that two were printed in the U.S., one in Italy, and one in Korea (I’m assuming, and hoping, that means South Korea).

If you want me to recommend a Bible Publisher, I am a huge fan of the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS), based in the UK, and whose Bibles are printed in the Netherlands. They only produce King James Version Bibles, but that is not a problem for me since that is the translation I prefer for my daily Bible reading.

TBS Bibles are the best combination of quality and value. They are not quite at the same level of quality as Cambridge, Allan, or Schuyler, which are the highest quality Bibles on the planet. But they are much higher quality than the vast majority of Bibles you will find at Walmart or your local Christian bookstore, and at remarkably low prices (a calfskin Bible for only $43!).

Another great thing about TBS is that they are not a corporation that views the Bible as product to sale. Unfortunately, most Bibles are published primarily to make money. TBS is a ministry whose primary goal is the distribution of the Word of God. This is why their prices are so low.

You can buy them directly from TBS or from evangelicalbible.com.

Does Monday (Eclipse Day) Start the Countdown Clock to God’s Judgment on America?

This Monday, August 21st, is a significant day because of the total eclipse of the sun that will be experienced over a significant swath of the continental United States. Last week I came across an article by Ann Graham Lotz, in which she suggested that perhaps this eclipse is a sort of harbinger, or warning sign, of God’s impending judgment. She referred to this video by Australian pastor Steve Cioccolanti, who believes God’s judgment will fall on the United States between the two solar eclipses of the next seven years:

 

By linking to the video above, I’m not recommending that you watch the video. In fact, save yourself the hour, because I’ve done the watching for you. While an effective speaker, I found three major problems with his presentation:

(1) He makes very strong, confident assertions that God’s judgment will fall on the U. S., and, therefore, the world, between the two solar eclipses (2017 & 2024). Then he backpedals significantly and comes across as saying this is just a “possibility.” So, if you didn’t notice…he’s now covered his tracks. If it happens like he suggested, he’s a prophet. If it doesn’t happen, he can point to his disclaimer statement. I’m not saying his intent was malicious; he may have complete integrity. It just seems odd that he gives himself such an “out.”

(2) He claims that the epicenter of both eclipses is at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. I have a little advantage on the geography of things because I grew up in the area of which he speaks. While the confluence of these two great rivers is certainly not far from the exact epicenter (about 40-45 miles), it is not the actual epicenter, as the map below shows:

2 Eclipses Map
Yellow shows where my parents live. Red shows the epicenter of the two eclipses. Purple shows where the Mississippi River and Ohio River meet up.

On a side note, we drove through the area last week as a family, and stood at the bottom of the state of Illinois, right at the confluence of the two mighty rivers: the Mississippi and the Ohio:

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 2.23.53 PM.png
Why are we all smiles, considering we are standing on the potential center of the bullseye of God’s judgment on America? Well, for one, I don’t think this prophecy is accurate. But even more importantly…”There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…”!

According to Pastor Steve Cioccolanti, this will be the exact point at which God’s judgment will fall and the U. S. will be divided physically:

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 8.12.46 PM
Man I would hate to live in Louisiana if this “prophecy” is true!

He mentions the New Madrid seismic zone (he mispronounces ‘Madrid’, but hey, he’s Australian, so I’ll give him a pass on that one) is right there as well, which is how God will bring the judgment… via earthquake(s). While it is true that a major quake in the New Madrid would likely bring devastating damage to the tristate region (Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri, and far Western Kentucky), the actual seismic zone is south of where the two eclipses cross as well as the confluence of the two great rivers:

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This seismic zone is significant. If the “big one” ever does occur, there will be massive destruction and loss of life. The last major earthquake of this fault zone was in 1811, creating Reelfoot Lake as well as damaging houses in St. Louis, Missouri (about 150 miles north of New Madrid, Missouri).

On to the 3rd major problem with his thesis:

(3) I do not believe the United States is the “Babylon the Great” of the book of Revelation. The entire thesis rests on the assertion that the U.S.A. is indeed “Babylon the Great.” If it is not, then this whole thing is pointless. While in many ways we as a nation have the spirit of Babylon, I have yet to find a compelling enough argument to convince me that the United States is even mentioned in the Bible. That said, end-times prophecy expert I am not. So, perhaps I am wrong on this one.

Whether I am right or whether this Australian pastor is right, the truth is that every day brings us closer to the day of God’s judgment. Maybe it will be in the next seven days or seven years, or maybe it will not be for another seventy years. One thing is for sure… God’s judgment is coming and the only way to be eternally protected is to be found “in Christ.”

Have you repented of your sin and placed your faith in Jesus Christ to save you from the wrath to come? Jesus died on the cross for sinners and rose from the grave, conquering death and Hell. Run to Him for salvation before it’s too late!

Do You Ever Sing the Psalms?

Do you sing the Psalms?   I’ll admit, I have very little experience or knowledge in this area. But I do want to grow in my knowledge and, hopefully, practice of singing the Psalms. After all, Psalms are, by definition, songs. They were meant to be sung. Many of the Psalms are preceded by instructions to the musicians who would lead the people in singing the song (psalm). For example, these words precede Psalm 55 (MEV):

For the Music Director. With stringed instruments. A Contemplative Maskil of David.

Perhaps you are aware that many churches in the past only sung Psalms in their worship service. Churches that started using hymns in worship were considered by the traditionalists as liberal and radical! It seems that today the pendulum has swung to the other extreme, because now it is rare to go to any church that sings a single Psalm in an entire calendar year!

I believe we need to find some balance. After all, we are commanded to sing Psalms:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  (Colossians 3.16, MEV)

Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.  (Ephesians 5.19, MEV)

So where find resources to help you sing the Psalms? Here are some websites that might be of service to you on this topic:

The Psalms Project – Gifted musicians, including some well-known Christian artists, combine to set the Psalms to contemporary worship.

Contemporary Psalms – Blogger Christine Longhurst has set up an index of contemporary worships songs inspired by the Psalms. Some of the links are broken/out of date.

Prayerbook – Artist Brian Moss is seeking to write tunes for all the Psalms. Looks like he has two CDs out so far, covering Psalms 1-30.

If you want to go for a more traditional approach, there is always the Scottish Metrical Psalmbook (commonly known as the 1650 Scottish Psalter). These metrical psalms are the books of Psalms, rewritten to be easily set to song. Here is the always popular Psalm 23 in metrical form:

1. The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

2. My soul He doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for His own Name’s sake.

3. Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill,
For Thou art with me, and Thy rod
And staff me comfort still.

4. A table Thou hast furnished me
In presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.

5. Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me,
And in God’s house forevermore
My dwelling place shall be.

Here are a couple of youtube videos of Psalm 23 in this form:

 

If you are interested in owning the 1650 Scottish Psalter, the Trinitarian Bible Society has copies available for as little as $5.50. They also offer it as an appendix to the Windsor Text Bible. I own this version (TBS Windsor w/ Metrical Psalms). If you want a cheaper copy, they have the hardback edition for only $20.

Finally, I found thepsalmssung.org, a blog that offers mp3 musical renditions of several of the psalms. It’s worth a browse, at minimum.

Abundant Life (Jn.10.10) … Abiding Life (Jn.15.5)