June 30, 2017

A Tribute to America & Her Flag







The Star Spangled Banner Lyrics By Francis Scott Key 1814

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light.
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?



You’re a Grand Old Flag by George M. Cohan - 1906

You’re a grand old flag, You’re a high flying flag And forever in peace may you wave. You’re the emblem of
The land I love. The home of the free and the brave. Ev’ry heart beats true ‘neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, Keep your eye on the grand old flag.



America, The Beautiful Lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates - 1913

O beautiful for spacious skies,
 For amber waves of grain,
 For purple mountain majesties
 Above the fruited plain! 
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
 And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!



O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
 Whose stern impassion’d stress
 A thoroughfare for freedom beat 
Across the wilderness!
 America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
 Confirm thy soul in self-control,
 Thy liberty in law!



O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
 Who more than self their country loved,
 And mercy more than life! 
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
 And ev’ry gain divine!



O Beautiful for patriot dream
 That sees beyond the years
 Thine alabaster cities gleam,
 Undimmed by human tears!
 America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
 And crown thy good with brotherhood 
From sea to shining sea!




June 22, 2017

Dumb Things People Say by Clay Nuttall, D. Min

Some of the things people say are just plain funny, while others are extremely harmful.  Quite often, things that are stated are only strange because of where they are uttered.  This is like the visitor who goes to the OB ward to visit an obviously expectant mother.  The visitor says, “Are you still here”?  Then there is the man who is visiting at the funeral home and comments about the deceased, “My, he looks so nice.”  My favorite is church bulletin humor.  “The Pastor’s message: What the fool said.”  Dumb things can often be quite entertaining.
 
When the time rolls around for elections, we are subjected to some of the dumbest things I have ever heard.  You sometimes have to wonder how anyone could possibly be elected who appears to be totally brain dead.  I love one-liners, and they probably are the best way to respond to dumb statements, if you are not still laughing after five minutes.  Dumb things are not always verbal; sometimes they are put in print.  I tend to do this in emails because I never spell- check them.  That can get you into a lot of trouble, as some of you well know!  Then there is social media. This is the king of written dumb things.  It covers almost 50% of the comments posted. We live in a world that doesn’t think. That, of course, is the fruit of today’s liberal American education, and almost everyone I know struggles with thinking before speaking.
 
IN THE CHRISTIAN CIRCLES
 
Let me begin with dumb things preachers say.  An oft repeated statement is, “The lost will be separated from God for eternity” or “The worst thing about hell is that God is not there.”  Unless you have a different God than the one described in the Bible, that is a dumb statement.  The God of the Bible is omnipresent.  That means He is present always, everywhere, for all time and eternity.  There is NO place where He is not eternally present.  The psalmist put it this way: “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”  (Psalm 139:8)
 
My pet peeve involves a string of things that all mean the same thing.  “I believe,” “I think,” “my view,” “my opinion is.”  Let me be blunt.  What the preacher believes, thinks, opines is not relevant.  I don’t care.  What we want to know is what the clear teaching of the Word of God says.  If you don’t know, either say so or wait until you do know.  The authority in the pulpit is the Word of God, not the imagination of the preacher.  If you do know what the Bible says, then say it clearly and pointedly: “The Bible says…”  That is not arrogance; it is obedience.
 
We should all agree that preachers telling lies in the pulpit is dumb.  Everything we say ought to be tested with the truth.  Let me focus on lying about time: “This is my last point,” “I am almost done,” “Just a minute more.”  This is fine if it is true; but if you then ramble on for another half hour, let’s face it - you lied, and that is dumb.  Oh, I see - “the Lord led you.”  Why do we always blame our errors on God?  That is also dumb.  The best preaching doesn’t ever refer to time.  It holds the attention of the listener so that, when the end does come, the listener is surprised.
 
The problem appears to be that there is more error taught in the name of God than truth.  Part of this has to do with a tragic, casual approach to the study of God’s Word.  Digging in the text is hard work.  It takes time, energy, and persistence.  I often wonder why anybody listened to me in my early years of preaching, and I wish I had known then what I know now.  What I do know, for sure, is that I now know very little of the whole even after fifty-seven years of ministry!
   
A second problem with this issue of dumb things is the infringement of “historical theology” upon the clear teaching of the Scriptures.  Instead of being like the saints at Bera (Acts 17:11). who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” too many preachers blindly accept what other men have said about the text.  Everyone wants to be loved and accepted, so asking questions about historical positions is off base.  To those who have chosen to be followers of a man, disloyalty is almost criminal.  Even the faithful know better than to ask questions about historical conclusions that don’t make sense. 
 
This would include the problem of the worship of scholars.  I repeat: scholars and scholarship have great value for all of us, but they do us no service if we are not allowed to ask questions. How often are scholars wrong?  The answer is “often”, and that is easy to prove.  With so many and such varied conclusions about a text, they couldn’t possibly all be right.  Maybe one of them is; but even if one is right, it means the majority must be wrong.  Let me remind you that the Bible was not written to scholars; it was written to the common man.  Deep inside, the liberal in you may be saying that this writer is opposed to scholarship and serious education, even if the evidence is the exact opposite.
 
THE HEART OF DUMB THINGS
 
The road to “dumb things” is paved with wrong interpretation.  Actually, it is paved with wrong systems of interpretation.  I am racing to finish the book “The Normal Hermeneutic.” In it I deal with the word “interpretation.”  The Bible interprets itself.  God put truth in, and He wants to lift it out of the text.  Somewhere, it seems, we got the idea that God needs our help; so, we began to add our wisdom to that of the scriptures.   We end by adding our ideas to the text.  Our task is to find out what God has plainly said and to make sure that is what we teach.  What has happened is that we teach what we think about what the Bible says and so end up saying a lot of dumb things.
 
An example of this problem is found in our own national government.  The founding documents of this nation are its laws.  The responsibility of the courts is to see that the original documents are upheld and that people obey those laws.  Now enters a system that allows the courts to interpret the law rather than uphold what was written.  The product is a corrupted judicial system that does not represent the original documents.
 
That is exactly what has been done to the Bible.  Instead of letting the Bible speak, we have added our ideas and ignored the things we don’t like.  So, we end up drowning in a sea of dumb theological ideas.  And then there is music…but don’t even get me started!
 
 
Shepherd's Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min. 
 
A communication service of Shepherd's Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.  Shepherd's Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or Shepherdstaff 

June 5, 2017

A Pie in the Sky?

Socialists have long accused religion of offering “a pie in the sky by and by” as a way of distracting

Dr. Rick Flanders
and pacifying those who suffer under capitalism, thus keeping them from rising up in insurrection.  The phrase (which has moved into our general conversation in reference to things other than religion) comes from a folk song, titled “The Preacher and the Slave,” which was written by a radical revolutionary named Joe Hill a century ago.  He was echoing the charge of Karl Marx that “religion is the opium of the people.”  The far Left has long regarded religion in general, and the church in particular, as supporting the interests of the rich (who, they say, control religion) by mollifying the discontent of workers using vain promises of heavenly rewards for those who will not make trouble for capitalists.  The ironic fact, however, is that it is socialism, and not Christianity, that promises rewards it never delivers.
The different kinds of socialism that have appeared on the scene in the past 250 years have all promised utopia and yet they have all failed to deliver.  And it is strange that those who in our time are charmed by Leftist promises have not noticed this fact.  So-called “utopian” socialists in the 19th century set up a number of communal colonies, such as Robert Owen’s New Harmony, Indiana, and, and none of them succeeded.  One of the participants in the New Harmony experiment explained the reason for its failure in these terms:
“We [the members of the famous communal colony] had a world in miniature—we had enacted the French revolution over again with despairing hearts instead of corpses as a result…It appeared that it was nature’s own inherent law of diversity that had conquered us…our ‘united interests’ were directly at war with the individualities of persons and circumstances and the instinct of self-preservation…”
(Josiah Warren, 1856)
Every one of the other utopian colonies set up in America and abroad in those days (such as those in Nashoba, Tennessee; New Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Fruitlands, Massachusetts; and the Oneida Community in New York) failed for the same reason.  Human nature makes successful communalism impossible.  And government-enforced collectivism must always become oppressive.
The communist revolutionaries who overthrew the monarchy in France gave the French the Reign of Terror and a corrupt dictatorship, instead of the liberty, equality, and fraternity it promised.  All of the revolutions inspired by Marx and Engels ended badly, and certainly not in the Workers’ Paradise they convinced people they were creating.  Look at the miserable histories of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Cambodia and East Germany.  See how socialism sucked the very soul out of these once-great nations, and put them under the rule of terrorists who murdered great numbers of innocent people.  The history of the past two centuries seems to prove that if politicians promise Heaven on earth, they will give us Hell on earth.
In Europe and America, socialism and communism arose in response and opposition to the gospel preached by evangelical preachers in the churches and revival meetings.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ comes to us as good news in contrast to the bad news that all men are sinners and justly condemned before God for our sins.  The good news is that God loves us and sent His Son on a mission to rescue us from the power and consequences of our sins.  Jesus died on the cross “for our sins, according to the scriptures” (First Corinthians 15:1-3-4), and God “raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25).  Sinners who come to Jesus for their salvation and trust Him to bestow the grace of God upon them will receive eternal life, and a new life of peace and hope, and also the promise of Heaven.  They will not be condemned because Jesus paid for their sins (John 5:24, Romans 8:1).  They can live triumphantly because He arose the Victor over sin and death.
Preachers of the socialist gospel say that the evil present in human society does not arise from the human heart or the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, but rather is generated by the way we operate the economy.  Capitalism, they proclaim, creates evil.  Suffering and injustice come, not from our innate sinfulness and our need of the Savior, but rather from the selfishness and oppression that is part and parcel of our economic system.  Our need is not for Jesus, but for a new economic system.  We need to devise and implement some system of collectivism and force it upon our society.  Private property and free enterprise are the enemies of the good, and must be crushed by a socialist revolution and communist-type government.  Things will be better for everybody, they say, soon after the socialist gospel is believed and accepted.  But all of the nations that have received and implemented socialism, expecting the pie that was promised, are still waiting for it to come out of the oven.
The Apostle Peter wrote by divine inspiration about the false prophets that will come to challenge the truth:
“These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.  For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption, for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage.”
(Second Peter 2:17-19)
Socialist rulers rise to power by offering empty promises that desperate people accept.  Whether it was Lenin or Stalin or Hitler (who called himself a “national” socialist) or Mao or Pol Pot, every socialist dictator gained absolute control over his people by promising them the pie in the sky, which he never produced.  This is true also of less vicious rulers who have gained power with the same vain socialist promises.  Socialism in any form has never worked.  It doesn’t share the wealth, but only the misery.  It is never a movement of love and compassion, but always a movement of hatred and envy.  It is a false gospel that has been proven a lie over and over again.  And the revolutionaries of our day in our country still sway people by promising the pie that never materializes.
On the other hand, the gospel of Jesus Christ comes through with all that it offers, and has never been a message offering only hope in the next life.  Those who receive Christ receive benefits of profound value right away.  Jesus told the sad and sinful woman He met at the well of Sychar,
“If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water…
“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst: but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
(John 4:10 and 13-14)
The sinner who comes to Jesus for everlasting life receives immediately a new life that satisfies him forever.  Just ask a born-again Christian if all He got in Jesus was a promise of something after he dies.  He will tell you that the need of the thirsty soul is fully and forever satisfied the moment he turns to Christ for salvation.  It happens every time, in this present life, because Jesus came that men might “have life and, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries