Should Pentatonix be Promoted by Christians?

Good points. Do we believe the Bible to be God’s Word, or not?

Delight in Truth

Pentatonix

My social media feeds have been inundated this past month with videos of Christian carols by the band Pentatonix. The first time I saw the Pentatonix video of the carol song “Mary, Did You Know” I was impressed by the vocal talent in the production, but something didn’t seem right. They did not strike me as portraying the image of the average evangelical Christian artist.  It is almost unheard for a Christian artist to be promoted on the world’s stage like this.

Well, thank God for the common grace of Google.

While at least one member of the band publicly claims to be a Christian, two other members are openly gay.  Furthermore the band is active in promoting the LGBTQ agenda.  All this at the same time as taking advantage of the evangelical Christian market which may be their top target in selling albums.

But, hey, it’s a free country and…

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Life’s Hardest Lessons

Our “education” doesn’t end when we finish school, whatever level that may be.  I sometimes joke that I’ve learned the most from that school whose colors are black and blue. 🙂  I seem to keep getting set back a grade, though, because in some things I never seem to learn.   This world isn’t the only one which believes in “continuing education”.

The most difficult lessons are about something the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV),

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 

Spurgeon had a tremendous sermon on this text, and if I still had it, I would be tempted  just to print it, even if it is twelve pages long.  He’s not to be blamed, though, for the thoughts which follow.

There seem to be two “grades,” if you will, in this school.  These are found in connection with the word, “rest.”

In the first grade – would that it were that simple because that was where we learned the ABC’s and 123’s – in the first grade, our Lord says to “come” and He will give us rest.

This, I believe, is the “rest” of salvation.

With this phrase, I don’t mean that there is something “more” to salvation, that is, the “rest” of it.  Perhaps I should have said, “the rest which comes from salvation.”  There are those who look for something more, some experience, some emotion, something… beyond “salvation.”  They look for the “abundant life,” as if eternal life itself isn’t enough.  They want a “second” blessing, as if we haven’t already received every spiritual blessing in the Lord Jesus, Ephesians 1:4.  They just feel that something is missing.

Nor, by this phrase, do I mean that we can “kick back and take it easy;” we can just “rest” and goof off.  We’re on our way to heaven.  Saying this, I DON’T mean that we somehow have to work our way to salvation, or that we even can do such a thing, though our Lord does address those who labor and are heavy-laden. 

No, no, I believe He’s talking to those who “labor” in the shackles of sin, though modern “wisdom” has lessened that thought to a mere “addiction.”  They are “heavy laden” with the effects of their lives: disease, poverty, crime, violence, to name just a few.  Just in passing, though I’m not really railing against “evil Joe Camel” or “Demon Rum,” but how much do you suppose an average person spends in a year on tobacco or alcohol?  In a life?  I don’t know, though I suppose someone has figured it out.  But at $5 or so a pack for cigarettes – and a pack or two a day?  No wonder folks are “poor!”  And that doesn’t figure in the cost of alcohol.  Or the price of a “fix.”

Even for those who aren’t one of “them,” life apart from the Lord Jesus is expensive. How much will some pay for “success,” however that may be defined?

What will they pay for “stuff?”

No, no, our Lord talks about “rest” because the work of salvation is done.  When He cried out on the Cross, “It is finished,” He didn’t mean there was something left for us to do to “complete” salvation.  He lived the live we can’t live; He died the death we can never die – the only life and death which can satisfy God’s law and justice.  That work is forever done.

Some people look to the “merits” of saints to help them out.  Beloved, there’s only ever been One Who had any merit to begin with, let alone have any “left over”!

To “come” doesn’t mean to walk an aisle or pray a prayer or do any of a hundred other things religion says to do.  It means to believe, to trust, to “rest” on Christ, Who He was and what He did for sinners like you and me.  To rely on Him to the point that if He were to fail – and He can’t!  He won’t! – there’s no other hope for us.

Because, apart from Him, there IS no other hope!

However, there is another word our Lord uses.  He said, “Take.” 

This, I believe, is the “rest” of submission. 

Oh, that word raises the hackles.  It makes us arch our back and spit like a cat.  There are whole bunches of religious people who oppose this idea with all their might.  And these aren’t just “liberal” folks; they might otherwise be very “conservative”.  They might even “believe the Bible from cover to cover.”

I spent several years among them.  Saw perhaps hundreds of “professions,” but only handfuls who were ever baptized or joined a church.  But they were “saved” because they had “prayed the prayer.”  Or so it was said.  I really don’t know in any particular case because I can’t see the heart.

But I do believe that there will be multitudes who will “weep and wail” at the judgment because they did what some preacher or soul-winner or priest or rabbi or imam or guru or whatever told them to do, only to find out when it’s too late that it’s not what God told them to do.

The “yoke” speaks of service.  It was put on the neck of animals so they could pull a plow or some other item.

All of us have a “yoke” of one kind or another.  But our Lord tells us to take His yoke, to serve Him, not sin, nor self, nor stuff.

It amazes me even after several years of study and writing, etc., that even in the middle of writing this very post, I saw something I can’t say I had really noticed before.  In reading over our Lord’s words, I was struck that there was a third thing He told us to do.

He said to “learn” from Him.

There are multitudes who are “Doctors” or “Masters” of some particular branch of learning.  And I am not against “formal” education.  I have a degree, though not as exalted as those.

Ah, but to learn from Christ Himself!  And not just about Him!  How I would love to have been with those who sat at His feet or those on the road to Emmaus who listened to Him and who testified later, “Did not our hearts burn within us, …while He opened the Scripture to us?” Luke 24:32.

But why Him?

“I am gentle and lowly in heart.”….

Yesterday was Christmas.

Today – not so much.

The wrapping paper has been picked up and put in the trash.  All the food has been put away, though I fear the scale might tell us we put too much away!  In the retail world, this is a very busy day, with gifts being returned and exchanged, and with all the “after-Christmas sales.”

The nativity set probably still sits there, sharing space with a tree and ornaments and decorations.

Christmas was yesterday.  (Sounds like the title of a post.)

In a few days, there will be a New Year, the ball will drop in Times Square, and life will go on.

Will the lesson have been learned – the gentleness and meekness of Christ?

“Very God of Very God.”

Born a Baby.

In a feeding trough.

Probably not….

But there’s another reason “why Him”?

“My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” 

So much easier than that burden you’re carrying right now.

The world looks at Biblical Christianity as a terrible thing.  I had a man tell me that God  forbids all the things we want to do.  That’s because they’re bad for us, now and forever.

So, why do that?  Why “come”?  Why “take”?  Why “learn”?

Because we will “find rest for our souls.” 

The most popular drugs are tranquilizers.  One of the most common ailments is stress.  That’s because this world has no resting place.  There’s nothing that really can say, “That’s enough.”  There’s always another dollar, another pleasure, another rung on the ladder, another “thing.”  We need this year’s model; last year’s model isn’t any good any more.  We have been taught to believe that “new” is “improved.”  That it’s better.

But it wears out or becomes old itself.

Only God’s blessing, in Christ, in new every morning, Lamentations 3:23.  (You might take note of the surrounding verses and chapters in this short book.  It isn’t about “health and wealth” or any of the other things our modern superficial spirituality looks for.  It is about trusting God when everything around us says, “Why?”)

Oh, there’s so much more I could write.  So many things.

But I don’t know you, my dear reader.

I pray the Spirit of God will do that which I cannot, and find you wherever you may be in life and make you a student in the School of Christ, that One Who alone has the words of eternal life, John 6:68.

May God add His blessing, for Jesus’ sake.

The Baby at Bethlehem.

I belong to a facebook group where there’s been a rather spirited and lengthy discussion going on about celebrating Christmas.  There are earnest people on both sides of the question. Though I personally don’t like all the trappings that obscure the true meaning of Christmas, I have no problem with celebrating His birth.  Apparently, some do.

I thought the best post of them all was by a person who included a cartoon.  The cartoon showed the nativity scene with Mary, Joseph and the Baby, but also showed Santa, a chair, an elf and lights and a camera.  Santa has his arms outstretched, but Mary is holding Jesus away from him, and the caption, which I have altered slightly, has her saying to Santa, “Why in the world would we want a picture of Him with you?”  I’d have included it here, but my low-tech mind hasn’t figured out such high-tech thingys.

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about.  Perhaps some of you who have been with me for a while will find the rest of the post familiar.  Though not completely copied, it is taken from a post published last year at Christmas.

In all the celebration of Christmas, even with the nativity sets included, have you ever thought about the fact that the Lord Jesus is the only historical figure who apparently never grows up.  Nelson Mandela died the day before my birthday, which is how I can remember it.  This year, there was a news item about his being remembered.  It was very short, yet it was from the standpoint of his life, not about his birth.  And yes, I know there are those who deny the Lord’s historicity.  Not interested in that here.

Someone commented to me that we do celebrate Jesus’ death at Easter.  That is true, for without Christmas there would have been no Easter.  Still, we don’t normally associate those two events, His death at Christmas or His birth at Easter.  When we observe the birthday of any other figure, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc., we talk about what they did, not so much about their births.  Only Jesus stays in the manger on Christmas day.

Why do you suppose that is?

Could it be that nobody’s threatened by a baby?

True, Herod was, but his was a unique case.

I don’t know what the situation was back in the Lord’s day, but folks today will come up to the parents of a little one and “ooh” and “aah” over how cute he or she is.  They’ll smile at the little one, want to know his or her name, and then go their way.  They have no real interest in the youngster, no responsibility toward him or her.  He certainly poses no threat to them.

What about the Baby in Bethlehem?

He grew up.

The Lord Jesus began His ministry by commanding people to repent.  He talked about sin and death and judgment and hell, where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched,” Mark 9:43-48.  Now there weren’t ignorant pagans in some out-of-the-way place somewhere.  They were people who for centuries had prided themselves on being God’s people.  After all, they were the chosen nation.  No other nation had ever enjoyed that privilege.  And no doubt many of them did know the Lord.  But the idea to some of them that they had to repent just like Gentiles who converted was just too much.

Jesus told them that unless “their righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,” they would “by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:20.  You have to understand that the Pharisees especially were looked up to as the height of virtue and righteousness.  And there were good Pharisees, who lamented the “street-corner Pharisees,” as much as our Lord, who scolded them more than once for their hypocrisy.  Still, the idea that something more than what they had was unthinkable.  After all, they were the guardians of Israel and her heritage.  No wonder they perceived Him as a threat to them and to their way of life, cf. John, 11:48.

Even though Jesus was mostly against the leaders of the nation, it  doesn’t seem to have taken long for them to incite the crowds later to cry out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” Luke 23:20; John 19:15.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby poses no threat for folks.  They can ignore Him and go their way.

But as the incarnate God and Judge of all mankind – well, then He’s a threat.  People don’t want to think about things like death and the judgment to follow.  They don’t want to be told they’re sinners and that, apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, they stand condemned in the sight of God.  They want to hear about “love”, not righteousness, about a “better place”, not that other place.  They want “health”, not holiness.  Riches, not redemption.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby is safe.

But He grew up.

Thank you, Lord.

Happy Birthday.

 

 

The Seriousness of Christmas.

This will probably be the next to last post until after Christmas.

Though it’s almost the last, I hope it’s won’t be the least.  It’s about something which will still be here long after the tree is down, the lights and ornaments are put away and the Santa figures and snow men are stored back in the attic or shed.

It’s about what the angel told Joseph after it was discovered his affianced wife was pregnant,

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins,”  Matthew 1:20, 21.

Christmas is about salvation.

“He will save His people from their sins.”

Some folks focus on this statement, which they see as an indication of what might be called the definite purpose of salvation.  They will always emphasize that Jesus died to save His people.

Others, with what they consider a wider view, proclaim  “Whosoever will”.

Both are true.

Neither of them, in and of itself, is the Gospel.

You see, the Gospel isn’t so much about “who,” but “how.”

Even the salvation of “whosoever” is limited to those who believe.

And even that is limited:  “whosoever believes in Him..,” John 3:16.

And how does He “save His people”?  Through faith in Himself.

Yes, but can’t God just “forgive” sin?  After all, He’s a God of love.

True, but He’s also a God Who is holy, righteous and just.

His holiness requires absolute perfection in our dealing and views of Him.  His righteousness demands absolute perfection in our dealings with ourselves and with others.  His justice says there are consequences if we fail in any of the areas.

In other words, He requires perfection in life.

And who of us can truthfully say that we haven’t failed – times beyond counting?

Regardless of how we may dress things up or explain them, the sad truth still is, We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.

But because God IS also a God of love, He sent His Son to remedy that situation.

His Son, Jesus, was born as a helpless babe, in order that He might grow and develop and mature and experience everything there is to life.  The fact that He never drove a Chevrolet or had a facebook account has nothing to do with it.  These things, and all the other modern “conveniences,” are secondary to life, which has to do with how we react to ourselves, to others and to God.

He’s the only One who could truthfully say, “I always do those things which please Him,” John 8:29.

That goodness of life, that righteousness, is what we need if we’re ever to stand uncondemned before God.  I used this phrase in talking to a Jehovah’s Witness, but I may as well have talked to the chair he was sitting on.  He had no idea what I was talking about.  During our conversation, he told me that he thought he had a pretty good chance of making it to Paradise.

I was talking with a young lady and I asked her if she loved the Lord with all her heart, mind and soul.  She replied with an emphatic, “Yes, I do!”  I resisted the temptation to tell her that when she got to heaven, she could go up to the throne and say, “Move over, Jesus.  Now there are two of us.”

It’s sad that we can think that we’ve “got it,” when we don’t even come close!

All that we have is unrighteousness.

Sinfulness.

Even our best is bad.

Isaiah 64:6, though it’s Israel’s lament, could just as well be ours, But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.  We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. 

“Our righteousnesses” – those things we think are on the positive side of the ledger, the “good” we do, are just like “filthy rags” in the sight of God.  These were menstruous cloths, or the rags a leper might use to dress his sores.  Not very pretty, but graphic.

And we all know that we really have very few “righteousnesses” when it comes right down to it.  If our “best” is this foul and disgusting in the sight of God, what must our “unrighteousnesses” be??

I’ve made the comment before that Jesus is the only historical figure who’s never allowed to grow up.  He’s always viewed just as “the babe in the manger.”  Nelson Mandela died the day before my birthday – that’s how I can remember it.  This year, there was a news item about the observation of the anniversary of his death.  It was a very short item, but it still was from the standpoint of what he had become, not just that he was born.

Somebody made the point that we do celebrate the death of Christ.  That’s true, but still, the two events aren’t really connected in our minds.  We normally don’t think of His death at this time of the year and we won’t think of His birth next Spring.  And what happened between those two events is just as necessary as the events themselves.

What happened was His life – that perfect, sinless, righteous life.

That life we can never live ourselves.

And yes, He died.

Though He had no sin of His own, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that God made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 

I don’t even know how to do justice to that verse!  It says that Jesus took to Himself all the foulness of sin, all the filth of sin, that leprous cloth, that menstruous cloth, as if it were His own, and God treated Him as if it were His own.  Jesus felt the full weight of the wrath of an offended holy, righteous and just God.  We don’t ever think of God like that in our superficial and sentimental Christianity, but Jesus experienced every ounce of it for those for whom He died.

But just as there came a time for Him to be born, and a time for Him to die, so there must come a time when we, too, must come, not to that cradle, for there is no salvation there, but to the Cross.  It is only there that our sin question will find an answer.

The Apostle Paul answered one such individual, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

“To believe” means “to trust,’ to so completely trust that if He were to fail – and He cannot! – if He were to fail, there would be no other escape from our sins.  There IS no other escape!

“That we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

There are two sides to the coin of salvation.  One side is that Christ took our sins.

The other side is that God gives us Christ’s righteousness.  He imputes it to us, credits it to our account.  This is called justification.  In addition, He treats us as if we were righteous, just as He treated Jesus as if He were sinful.  The work of the Spirit is to show some evidence of that righteousness in our lives, lives which show conversion, no matter how imperfectly it may show.  This is called sanctification.  Paul wrote that we are God’s workmanship, Ephesians 2:10.  The Spirit’s job is to make sure that we look something like it.

Oh, that today, God might do His work through the Holy Spirit, that there might be some, perhaps even you, who come to Bethlehem to find that One Who was born in order that He might live and die for sinners.

Christmas is serious!

 

The Splendor of Christmas

And, no, we’re not writing about all the glitter and glitz of Christmas as it’s celebrated today.  Without doubt, there are some gorgeous displays of lights and ingenuity this time of the year, but, as with our last post on Christmas, we’re thinking of another day, a day which could not have been more opposite to today.

True, there were a couple of bright spots in that day of scandal, as we labeled it.  There was a visit by a few shepherds at the birth itself.  There was a visit perhaps a year or two later by an entourage which had traveled hundreds of miles to bring gifts to and worship the little one.  Their gifts, by the way, probably financed the family’s trip to and stay in Egypt.  This is not to leave out the angelic visits to Mary and Joseph explaining what was going on.

But for the most part, there was more shadow than light in that event.

So what was it that made this day worthy of remembrance?

Why should we care about something that happened 2000 years ago?  Is there anything else that happened back then that anybody cares about today?

Why this day?

It’s not about anything that happened “outside”.  It’s not even about Joseph or Mary, though a large part of professing Christendom has made it about her.  Indeed, it seems, for the most part, that they’ve made everything about her.

No, no, the day is special because of the Baby Himself.

But why this baby?  There may have been several other babies born in Israel that day. Certainly, world-wide, there were probably hundreds of babies born that day.

So. why this One?

John 1:14 says that He became flesh.  Philippians 2:7 says He took the form of a servant. 

What?

“Became”?

“Took”?

Who does that?  Nobody has any choice in the matter.  We don’t ask to be born.  Our kids will sometimes remind us of that.

This One did ask.

All the arrangements for what happened at Bethlehem, both leading up to and after, were made before God said, “Let there be light,” Genesis 1:3.  See 1 Peter 1:20.

You see, John 1:1 says that this One Who became flesh was God.  Oh, I know there are some who knock on your door who will say that He was only “a” god.  But if that were true, and it isn’t, then there is no salvation.  If only a creature, as JWs insist, then Jesus would have had all He could do to make it back to heaven Himself, let alone bring anyone else with Him.

Philippians 1:6 says that this One Who took the form of a servant, before then was in the form of God .  He didn’t think that exalted position was something to be selfishly clung to, but made Himself of no reputation.

“The form of God” means that He was truly God, just as “form of a servant” means that He was truly human.

“Made Himself of no reputation.”

Reputed illegitimate Son of a reputed adulteress.

Scandal.

No reputation.

Indeed.

There is an old hymn which says, The Son of God goes forth to war.”

Yes, He did.

As a baby.

That is the splendor of Christmas.

Reflections on the Death of a Sister.

A sister in Christ, that is.  I was an only child.

Her memorial service was this morning.  “Viewing” was Sunday.

The morticians did an admirable job preparing her.  Meaning no disrespect at all, I thought it was a little like fixing up a vacant house.  She doesn’t live there anymore.

But we came together to remember and honor her, not the mortal remains she left behind.

I was thankful the service wasn’t just some rote thing out of some “minister’s manual.”  It was from the heart, both the minister officiating and those who spoke of her.  There were a few tears, but there was a lot of laughter.  That’s the kind of person she was, a joy to be around, and a shining light for the glory of God in this dark world.

She was a shining example of what Paul meant when he wrote, For to me to live is Christ…, 

Jo suffered from Lupus for more than forty years, and came down with ALS just a few months before she died.  Though she was paralyzed and unable to speak at the end, yet someone’s comment during the service said to me that she had more joy in life than most of us who enjoy good health.  My wife and I visited her before she lost the ability to talk, and her cheerful demeanor and spirit blessed us more than we blessed her.  I’m sure of it.

A comment someone made while we were leaving the service struck me.  Like other comments I’ve heard over the years, it showed me how much we’ve been influenced by the thinking of the world.  This person said, “It’s good to be alive.”  My response, “Jo’s more alive now than we are.”

Another comment often heard, especially when someone is very sick:  “Well, that’s better than the alternative.”  No, it’s not, not for the Christian.  The rest of the verse from Paul quoted above is, …and to die is gain, Philippians 1:21.  There’s an interesting nuance in the original language missed in our English translations.  What Paul actually said was, “to have died is gain.”  His is the viewpoint of looking back at death and what’s on the other side of that door, not just at the door itself.

In spite of what the world wants to think, to die is not better than to live if the one dying doesn’t know the Lord Jesus as Savior.  There is no “better place” out there apart from Him.

But Jo was more than ready to go through the door, not because of her own efforts or goodness, as she herself would point out, but by the grace and mercy of God.

So, Jo, as we come to the end of the events of the day, we don’t say “goodbye.”  We just say, “Auf Wiedersehn, dear one.”  ‘Til we meet again.

Miss you.