Thoughts on Jonathan Mayhew’s A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission

I truly feel that preaching is one of the most poorly executed vocations of our day. It is so lacking in basic logic, consistency, and nobleness of attitude.

What is amazing is that I can find a sermon by a “liberal” preacher of early America, and he is excellent. If anything, he seems a bit prudish (!). He is someone I would LOVE to spend a Sunday hour listening to! Why? Because he had his game together! He doesn’t bind people with unintelligent nonsense. And even after he concocts a well-thought sermon that I can agree with, he presents it in a free fashion, telling his listeners that they can take it or leave it according to their own conscience. WOW. What a concept.

SOOO… this sermon was SO good I had to stop and write an article on it!

I’ll give you a little background and then share some of the best gems.

The guy was preaching a couple decades before the American Revolution. He takes up the question of whether we should show unlimited submission to rulers, and comes to the conclusion that we should not.

But he doesn’t leave you hanging. He brings up all the Scriptures that opponents bring up and thoroughly dissects them, so that you can actually appreciate where the opponents are misusing the Scriptures.

Amazingly, the entire sermon is available here (A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission by Jonathan Mayhew)! I highly recommend you read it – it will probably be one of the best sermons you’ve ever encountered.

The intro alone is amazing:

It is hoped that but few will think the subject of it an improper one to be discoursed on in the pulpit, under a notion that this is preaching politics, instead of CHRIST . However, to remove all prejudices of this sort, I beg it may be remembred, that “all scripture— —is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for CORRECTION , for instruction in righteousness” (2 Pet. iii. 16). Why, then, should not those parts of scripture which relate to civil government, be examined and explained from the desk, as well as others ? Obedience to the civil magistrate is a christian duty : and if so, why should not the nature, grounds and extent of it be considered in a christian assembly ? Besides, if it be said, that it is out of character for a christian minister to meddle with such a subject, this censure will at last fall upon the holy apostles…Tyranny brings ignorance and brutality along with it. It degrades men from their just rank, into the class of brutes. It damps their spirits. It suppresses arts. It extinguishes every spark of noble ardor and generosity in the breasts of those who are enslaved by it. It makes naturally-strong and great minds, feeble and little; and triumphs over the ruins of virtue and humanity. This is true of tyranny in every shape. There can be nothing great and good, where its influence reaches. For which reason it becomes every friend to truth and human kind ; every lover of God and the christian religion, to bear a part in opposing this hateful monster. It was a desire to contribute a mite towards carrying on a war against this common enemy, that produced the following discourse…Civil tyranny is usually small in its beginning, like “the drop of a bucket”(Isai. xl. 15), till at length, like a mighty torrent, or the raging waves of the sea, it bears down all before it, and deluges whole countries and empires. Thus it is as to ecclesiastical tyranny also,——the most cruel, intolerable and impious, of any. From small beginnings, “it exalts itself above all that is called GOD and that is worshipped” (2 Thes. ii. 4). People have no security against being unmercifully priest-ridden, but by keeping all imperious BISHOPS, and other CLERGYMEN who love to “lord it over God’s heritage,” from getting their foot into the stirrup at all. Let them be once fairly mounted, and their “beasts, the laiety,” may prance and flounce about to no purpose : And they will, at length, be so jaded and hack’d by these reverend jockies, that they will not even have spirits enough to complain, that their backs are galled ; or, like Balaam’s ass, to “rebuke the madness of the prophet.”

First up, he talks Romans 8 (“…the powers that be are ordained of God…”). There are a number of views on Romans 8, but the most popular one seems to be that ALL authority is divine in origin, and that everything your leaders command must be honored. But if this is so, there are tons of other Scriptures saying essentially the same thing which we allow don’t apply in such a way. When the Bible tells wives to obey their husbands “in all things,” everyone readily confesses it doesn’t really mean “absolutely all things, no matter how unjust or ridiculous.” So why do we get so funny about Romans 8? A better view is that of Mayhew, who sees Paul as correcting a sort of libertarian attitude of flaunting law for the sake of Jewish pride or for the sake of “freedom in Christ.” The Jews had a long history of hating Gentile lordship, and no doubt many converts retained this attitude. Other non-Jews may have thought “freedom in Christ” meant libertinism. Paul is simply stating that generally rulers are trying to curb evil and maintain civic peace and harmony, and as such, are in-line with God. When they’re not in-line with God, it would be stupid to worship them as if they were.

Rulers have no authority from God to do mischief…It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors, God’s ministers…When once magistrates act contrary to their office, and the end of their institution ; when they rob and ruin the public, instead of being guardians of its peace and welfare ; they immediately cease to be the ordinance and ministers of God ; and no more deserve that glorious character than common pirates and highwaymen.

I must say, that toward the end of my days in a “holiness” church, as they preached more and more on “submission” to the government (read Obama), I had to stop and think. If I am to be entirely subject to the US government, we are set up as a constitutional republic. The Constitution was thus given this “godlike” power (so the holiness church would be forced to view it, as they viewed all “authority”), yet it was in distinct contrast to Obama (and the “holiness” church wanted you to “respect” and “submit to” Obama – they inwardly hated the Constitution). So, I’m supposed to be in submission to the government, which on the one hand of the Constitution is telling me to speak out against Obama’s tyranny, and on the other hand of the Presidency is telling me to go against the Constitution and to give up Christianity entirely. So which is it? When government is pitted against itself, how do you obey Romans 8? Do you just pick which  of sets of contrary laws to obey? Well of course it makes no sense to interpret Romans 8 in such a ridiculous way. There is no [good] authority, but of God. The basic goodness of the authority is assumed, but removing it results in all kinds of bondage. Find the good and respect it. Find the bad and oppose it. And that is what I did.

The “holiness” church I had gone to had become so corrupted by their wrong interpretation of Scriptures like Romans 8 that they told me I had to leave if I didn’t agree to their terms: “Don’t say anything good about conservatives, and don’t say anything bad about the Democrat party”! Why? Because “the President is a Democrat, and we have to respect his party.” And just like that a “holiness” church becomes a veritable seat of Satan, worshipping all that is evil, and hating what is good.

If we calmly consider the nature of the thing itself, nothing can well be imagined more directly contrary to common sense, than to suppose that millions of people should be subjected to the arbitrary, precarious pleasure of one single man ; (who has naturally no superiority over them in point of authority) so that their estates, and every thing that is valuable in life, and even their lives also, shall be absolutely at his disposal, if he happens to be wanton and capricious enough to demand them. What unprejudiced man can think, that God made ALL to be thus subservient to the lawless pleasure and phrenzy of ONE, so that it shall always be a sin to resist him ! Nothing but the most plain and express revelation from heaven could make a sober impartial man believe such a monstrous, unaccountable doctrine, and indeed, the thing itself, appears so shocking——so out of all proportion, that it may be questioned, whether all the miracles that ever were wrought, could make it credible, that this doctrine really came from God. At present, there is not the least syllable in scripture which gives any countenance to it. The hereditary, indefeasible, divine right of kings., and the doctrine of non-resistance, which is built upon the supposition of such a right, are altogether as fabulous and chimerical, as transubstantiation ; or any of the most absurd reveries of ancient or modern visionaries. These notions are fetched neither from divine revelation, nor human reason ; and if they are derived from neither of those sources, it is not much matter from whence they come, or whither they go. Only it is a pity that such doctrines should be propagated in society…

And since those who judge kings by character rather than office are often accused of being “factious,” Mayhew continues:

It is unquestionably the duty of children to submit to their parents ; and of servants, to their masters. But no one asserts, that it is their duty to obey, and submit to them, in all supposeable cases ; or universally a sin to resist them. Now does this tend to subvert the just authority of parents and masters ? Or to introduce confusion and anarchy into private families ? No.

Another thing that may be asserted with equal truth and safety, is, That no government is to be submitted to, at the expence of that which is the sole end of all government,——the common good and safety of society. Because, to submit in this case, if it should ever happen, would evidently be to set up the means as more valuable, and above, the end : than which there cannot be a greater solecism and contradiction. The only reason of the institution of civil government ; and the only rational ground of submission to it, is the common safety and utility. If therefore, in any case, the common safety and utility would not be promoted by submission to government, but the contrary, there is no ground or motive for obedience and submission, but, for the contrary.

And while I am speaking of loyalty to our earthly Prince, suffer me just to put you in mind to be loyal also to the supreme RULER of the universe, by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice. To which king eternal immortal, invisible, even to the ONLY WISE GOD, be all honor and praise, DOMINION and thanksgiving, through JESUS CHRIST our LORD. AMEN.

The Black Robed Regiment

It’s easy to opine about being apolitical when the overwhelming scourge of its consequences are far away; it seems convenient even to shape religion into a beta-dog acquiescence of the pillars of piety – autonomy, liberty, freedom of conscience, respect, and brotherhood.

Barna Poll
Barna Poll

The Great Awakening of Jon Edwards and George Whitefield, however, led to a strong and healthy sort of worldview – one which was not merely brainy, but which was evidenced by resolve and purpose.

It was against such an awakened populace that one King George chose to fight. With a jackboot attitude, acts of terror were committed against Americans on the seas; their livelihoods were sapped by ever-increasing taxes; and their desire to be independent was disallowed by force.

When soldiers are about to kill you and your family out of petty greed, suddenly nose-bleed “spirituality” loses its appeal. Or was such stuff ever spiritual in the first place? Who isn’t for peace? The early Americans wanted peace as much as anyone; but when they “spoke,” the British crown was for war.

It seems nice to go along to get along, but eventually such an attitude results in atrocities like the Holocaust. When the church in Germany stayed silent about truth for too long, they couldn’t stop the worst nightmare reign known to man!

Charles G Finney
Charles G Finney

The church is to be the conscience of the nation, not an optional caboose. Charles Finney, for example, spoke extensively on how the church should get in politics and speak up for the enslaved Negro’s liberation.

In early America, most of the preachers spoke of standing up to tyranny. Tyranny unchecked is a cancer to the world. These pastors’ preachments on liberty and respect may have been what led the Americans to victory. Known as the “black robed regiment,” these ministers heroically stood side by side with parishioners in defending their fellow man from unjust violence. Today though, it’s considered “unacceptable” to “preach on politics.” What a contrast!

Henry Beecher Ward
Henry Beecher Ward

It is not Christians’ involvement in politics that is dirty; it is reclusion from it that makes it so.

John Wingate Thornton
John Wingate Thornton

Wherever injustice is found; wherever human dignity and autonomy are mocked and disregarded; pastors have an obligation to speak to it.

I appreciate Dan Fisher’s presentation on this subject, entitled “Bringing Back the Black Robed Regiment.” If you would like to watch one version, it is linked below. Hope you enjoy!

Conservatism in Exodus

In the days of Pharoah of Egypt, the king made a command that all Hebrew male babies should be killed by the midwives.

Though these midwives don’t appear to be part of the religious Hebrew community (Exodus 1:16), the Bible says twice that they “feared God” (vs. 17, 21) and therefore wouldn’t do as the king commanded. They told the king a lie (that the Hebrew women were “lively” and gave birth before they could arrive), but God was pleased with what they did, and “dealt well” with them, and “made houses for them” (vs. 20, 21).

One can’t help but remember the story of Moses as well (Exodus 2:1-10), whose parents, moved by their faith in God, were not afraid of a king’s commandment (Hebrews 11:23), but hid him for a season. Acts 7:18-20 tells us this Pharoah “evil entreated” these early Hebrews.

But to get back to the midwives. Here we find conscientious objection to the king’s decrees. We find apparently irreligious people who are pro-life. People who see the big picture – that life matters. That no matter what your theology, obedience to a wicked king’s judgments is flat out unacceptable.

The king essentially had a eugenics by forced abortion campaign going on, but a few people got in the way and kept it from happening, and God was *pleased* about that! In our day, we would have charged the midwives with 15 counts of felony for “lying,” and debated the “ethics” of what they did, just like we did with David Deleiden and Sandra Merritt, for their work in exposing the insane evil and criminality that goes on at Planned Parenthood venues.

When I read passages like this, I can’t help but get offended at so-called preachers these days who “don’t want to be political.” When will they ever grow a backbone? If they won’t be as righteous as these “pagan” midwives, at least they could refrain from stigmatizing what is good! So many preachers mock and/or disallow the fight for good values in government. This is something that Christianity has to get over.

And it’s something we *can* get over. Conservatism has long been a part of Christianity, and it’s only after an antichrist like Obama that the church has largely capitulated and surrendered to evil. We *can* come back. All it takes is admitting our wrong: “Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 3:13). That’s all God is after – not perfection – not performance – just agreement with Him – just faith in Him. That is where any true righteousness begins.

And until the church comes back into agreement with Him, there is need for drawing attention to passages like this, where a message of conservatism in Exodus is clearly presented in terms no religionist could possibly argue with.

The Spirit of Antichrist as Insane Accusations and Malevolence

Spirit of antichrist: insane accusations and malevolence

What better place to look than king Saul, a true type of the antichrist.

Saul was obsessed with hating the guy who did the most good for him, who loved him, who sacrificed for him. Saul called David a “son of perverse rebelliousness” (1 Sam 20:30) and even a “son of death” (1 Sam 20:31)!

David, always a clever one (remember Christ’s advice to be “wise as serpents” [Matt 10:16]?), found his opportunity to mock the insanity when he captured Saul’s sword and water vessel, and yelled out as much, calling Saul’s guards “sons of death” for allowing such an easily preventable episode to occur (1 Sam 26:16).

But it gets worse. David and his men were called upon to deliver the Israeli city of Keilah from the Philistines, which they did. And in return what do they get? The city intends to capture David and hand him over to Saul to be killed (1 Sam 23:1-5, 12). If showing forgiveness and love in the face of evil is the spirit of Christ, then showing malevolence and murder in the face of sacrifice is the spirit of antichrist.

And now for some good. Jonathan, the one which had a lifelong friendship with David, came and “strengthened [David’s] hand in God” (that is to say, in this case, told him he believed God was going to make him king; 1 Sam 23:16-17). Friendship and praise, when you have been wrongly targeted, means so much.

Right in here is also the story of Nabal and Abigail. Nabal exhibits the disinterest and insolence towards the cause of righteousness that is so common in some holiness churches: he looked down on David as merely an unworthy rebel who had “broken away from [his] master” (1 Sam 25:10), and therefore was undeserving of basic human necessities such as a little food and drink while on the run for his very life! Some churches have a downright antichrist fealty to any wicked leader that may come along, but a godly or half way decent ruler drives them up the wall. Go figure.

But Abigail wouldn’t have the nonsense. Nor was she one to run everything by her husband if she knew something was right and he wouldn’t approve. She got the provisions so needed by David and his men/animals, and didn’t bother checking with hubby first (1 Sam 25:19). She even called him a “stupid idiot” (1 Sam 25:25 – “as his name is, so is he. ‘Fool’ is his name, and stupidity is with him”)! How could she do that? Because the shoe fit and the application fit. If you call everyone names if the shoe fits, you’ve missed the point. Generally you never call someone a name, but this case needed it. Nabal was a jerk, and needed to be called out on it. She wasn’t name calling at him for not being “sinless” but for his sour attitude towards David’s need.

And so there you have it. We’ll never have revival until we in America stop treating the best among us like trash. The Ted Cruzes. The kind conservatives. The ones that sacrifice to try to preserve doctrines like grace in an increasingly legal and unfriendly world. The soldiers and policemen who give sometimes their very lives to try to hold the world together and protect our lives and freedoms. These are the ones that understand what friendship is.

When Caution Prevents Worship

True worship which pleases God is spontaneous and sincere. It is free. It is unregulated. It is our natural reaction to the greatness of God.

It’s the man beating upon his chest, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). It is King David dancing before the Lord “with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14).

Too often, churches exhibit such fear-mongering towards worship, you’d think they were still in the Old Dispensation! Instead of doing anything good, their caution prevents worship.

Caution 1: “Singing Must Be Louder Than Instruments.” (??)

For some, there’s a rule that the singing must be louder than the instruments. How is it measured? By decibels? By subjective human thinking? Is there allowance for the rule that our ears hear human vocal range (relatively high in the spectrum) more loudly than bass frequencies, and that bass has to be relatively louder just to be “heard” as equal? The whole thing is an exercise in nonsense.

God cares about whether we believe in Him and love Him. If we like to play our instruments loudly because we are passionate in our feelings, then good! Legislating against it prevents the expression of our love for God, which is a critical aspect of the Christian walk.

Caution 2: “Drums Cannot Be Used!” (?!)

For others, there is a stipulation that drums are ipso facto sinful, and cannot be used! These drums, we are told, originated from African dance ceremonies and always conjure up demons. And the “inverted” rhythm is sensual!

Others say that we can’t “invent” a way to worship God, but must do exactly as He said. (Weren’t all instruments invented? Wasn’t every song invented [we hope with God’s inspiration]?)

When Caution Prevents Worship - Is This Realistic?
When Caution Prevents Worship – Is This Realistic?

But alas! It is an argument from silence. In fact, it is entirely possible that the Bible actually “commands” us to praise the Lord “with the drum”!

“Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: priase him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.” – Psalm 150:4-6

What a beautiful segment of Scripture! Let’s take a look in the original Hebrew:

הַֽ֭לְלוּהוּ בְתֹ֣ף וּמָחֹ֑ול הַֽ֝לְל֗וּהוּ בְּמִנִּ֥ים וְעוּגָֽב׃

הַֽלְל֥וּהוּ בְצִלְצְלֵי־שָׁ֑מַע הַֽ֝לְל֗וּהוּ בְּֽצִלְצְלֵ֥י תְרוּעָֽה׃

כֹּ֣ל הַ֭נְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּ֥ל יָ֗הּ הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ׃

Halleluhu Betoph U’Machol Halleluhu Beminim Veugav – “Praise Him in/with the timbrel and dance! Praise Him in/with the strings and flute!”

Halleluhu Betziltzilei Shama Halleluhu Betziltzilei Teruah – “Praise Him in/with the cymbals of sound! Praise Him in/with the cymbals that blast!”

Kol Haneshama Tehallel Yah Halleluyah – “All souls praise Yahweh! Praise Yahweh!”

The excitement for God in this passage literally breaks out of the pages!!

Psalm 150 in the Original Hebrew
Psalm 150 in the Original Hebrew

I would draw your attention to the Hebrew word behind “with the timbrel” – בְתֹ֣ף – it’s a bit unclear, but the Hebrew “toph” is generally agreed to mean a tambourine, which in the day, may or may not have had jingles; and, may or may not have had a drum head (but probably did, as the jingles do not appear to be common, and without jingles, it would make no noise without a stretched head). So it appears there are three options:

  1. Something akin to a modern-day open tambourine, with only jingles on a frame.
  2. Same as above, but with a drum head.
  3. Drum head only, with no jingles.
Tambourine with Jingles
Tambourine with Jingles
Tambourine with Jingles and Drum Head
Tambourine with Jingles and Drum Head
Tambourine with No Jingles and Only Drum Head
Tambourine with No Jingles and Only Drum Head

And out of those options, the third appears most likely. For further reading, see this or that article.

It’s not totally conclusive, but there’s a probability that God “charges” us to praise Him with the drum! So, all the carrying on about drums being unacceptable seems to me quite remarkable, but not a bit helpful. When caution prevents worship, I think God is highly displeased!

But I’m still enjoying this passage – let’s go to the Greek Septuagint. It’s the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was fairly popular in the time of Christ on the earth, and which He seemed to quote from quite a bit.

Psalm 150. Verse 4: αἰνεῖτε αὐτὸν ἐν τυμπάνῳ καὶ χορῷ αἰνεῖτε αὐτὸν ἐν χορδαῖς καὶ ὀργάνῳ Verse 5: αἰνεῖτε αὐτὸν ἐν κυμβάλοις εὐήχοις αἰνεῖτε αὐτὸν ἐν κυμβάλοις ἀλαλαγμοῦ Verse 6: πᾶσα πνοὴ αἰνεσάτω τὸν κύριον αλληλουια

“Praise him with timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and the organ. Praise him with melodious cymbals: praise him with loud cymbals. Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord.” (Brenton’s translation of Septuagint, Psalm 150:4-6).

To modernize a bit, I think we could paraphrase as following: “Praise Him with the drums and with great exuberance! Praise Him with the guitar and the keyboard! Praise Him upon the ride cymbal and the crash cymbal! Everything living should praise God!”

The Greek word “τυμπάνῳ” is the etymological ancestor for our word timpani, which is a huge orchestral drum which is slightly melodic. And for those that dislike even a simple piano or organ, Psalm 150:4 tells us to praise God “ὀργάνῳ” – “with the organ” (or, back in the day, perhaps the “flute” – in Greek, literally, “that with which one works(/makes music)” – whatever device you need or want to create artistic music!).

As far as the “backbeat” sometimes created by drums being “sensual,” again it’s an argument from silence.

I could say that red chairs in church are “sensual,” but it’s just as lacking in any concrete proof. In fact, I better shut up before somebody legislates against red chairs!! (I can hear them now: “You can have red chairs in your homes, but it’s not proper in the house of God” – lol!)

The fact is, God created us as emotional beings, and I would much rather that people show that emotion for God, than being seduced by the cheap pleasures of the world! If we are disallowed from seeing God as beautiful and have to have this weird “distance,” then Satan can suddenly tempt us by painting sin as beautiful.

In fact, heartfelt worship has the opposite effect of what so many charge of it – it actually builds up the inner man to withstand temptation.

But at the last, even the hymns that drum-haters adhere to (and which I also love) often have a backbeat emphasis on beats 2 and 4 of the song, rather than on 1 and 3 as they require, so they themselves are not even consistent with their own strange rule!

So whether you call it a “backbeat,” a “rock beat,” or whatever, it’s present in a lot of your hymns, but there’s no evidence against it – au contraire, heartfelt worship is a boon to the Christian life.

Caution 3: “We Need the Right Tone!” (Which is Defined How??)

I’m always leery when someone makes statements that preclude worship based on some subjective, unknowable standard. This is a perfect example. For every thousand people arguing this, they’ll have a thousand different concepts of what the “right tone” is.

The Bible makes it so much easier. Jesus asked us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. That’s it. If we are worshipping God, it’s good.

Don’t get me wrong – soft can be beautiful. Ancient can be beautiful. But so can passionate and loud, so don’t forbid that either!

People have a million different tastes, and as long as a church ALLOWS you to worship God, and does not condemn it, then I suppose I’ll put up with any taste they have. I can discipline myself to praise God no matter what the venue, whether I enjoy the style or not. Because at the end of the day, it’s about God, not my styles.

Notwithstanding, the Bible presented a large variety of instruments in Psalm 150, and I must say that my preference is for worship that is as exuberent, melodic, and heartfelt as possible! 🙂 No underlying ideas that it would be “sinful” if the instruments got “louder” than the vocals, that certain instruments are “off limits,” or that we have to have a nose-bleed zone of only the “right tone” of music allowed.

And alas! Someone will disparage this whole article as an “attempt to be cool” and tell me that “Christianity shouldn’t try to be cool!” But that is a topic for another day, and one which I am definitely planning to write upon. 🙂

When Churches Become Echo Chambers

I pray…That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. – John 17:20-23

Christ envisioned the church to be universal, unified, catholic (as opposed to fractured) – in short, “one.” But not an “echo chamber” sort of oneness – a familial, friendly, healthy sort of oneness. He envisioned a oneness that was so beautiful, it made unbelievers desire to become believers!

While churches may mentally connect “seeker-friendly” with compromising the truth, Jesus reached higher. He envisioned a communal love of truth that was naturally “seeker-friendly” and drew in outsiders. Jesus didn’t labor under the false burden that it was impossible to embrace both truth and kindness.

When it comes to the internet, the term “echo chamber” has arisen to describe the effect of joining communities of strictly like-minded people which tends to narrow people’s views increasingly. But it seems to be a problem for many churches, too.

Due in part to Obama’s shaming of Christianity, an inverse effect has happened inside the church. As the church loses its power with society, pastors suddenly find themselves with freakish powers over their particular congregations. Spiritual cabin fever sets in, and suddenly “questioning the pastor” becomes the highest sin in the book.

I, for one, do not feel that Sinai is an acceptable model for the church. It even seems that the underlying reason God didn’t allow Moses to enter the promised land may have been his emphasis on law over grace. His instance of yelling at the people and striking the rock to bring forth water (instead of simply speaking to it) may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for God (Num. 20:12; Deu. 1:37). I think God hates when we obfuscate that salvation is by grace through faith; and though Moses certainly served his predestined place in spiritual history, we have a better covenant now built on better promises and which clearly reveals that justification is by faith alone (Heb. 8:6; Rom. 3:24; 5:1).

We must remember, too, that the whole point of the law was to “shut us up” from self-righteous attempts at heaven, “unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed” (Gal. 3:22-25; Rom. 3:19-21ff). Therefore, to revert back to citing how the earth swallowed up dissenters of Moses in the Old Testament in order to maintain power as a pastor; seems, to me, a very dangerous idea. Are you as a pastor removing your flock from the sure foundation of Christ, and building on the shifting sands of legalism?

And it is exactly here that I can finally “begin” this article. Many churches suffer from being “echo chambers” in my opinion. Whether it is some Baptist churches ever suffering from a mushy, apolitical bent; whether it is some holiness churches, laboring under a works salvation mentality; whether it is so-called plain churches, with their obsessive requirement that everyone must interpret 1 Cor. 11:5 exactly as they do; or whether it is some black churches, that foster a mentality of gaming the system and embracing the Democrat party – so many churches today have become veritable echo-chambers!

Seriously, try simply talking about the relevant touchy issues in any such churches, and you’re labeled a schismatic and heretic whom the ground must immediately open up to swallow!

But such churches are thousands of years too late – Jesus has already come, and His religion brought “grace and truth” rather than Moses’ “law” (John 1:17) – indeed, I dare say that God never intended such things to be viewed as the true approach to God. Even under Moses, the spiritual path to God was faith – was justification by faith – belief in grace. Though legalism served a purpose, it was never the true path to God, and converts of the Old Testament were able to see this true intent of God behind the smoke and mirrors of legality, and simply trust Him for their salvation. No one in either dispensation earned their way to heaven.

In any event, I was glad to see a Catholic (bishop Schneider) speaking along these same lines. I’m not a Catholic, but what he said was so true. Disliking the atmosphere of fear created by the new Pope, he said, “the Church is a family where discussion is possible.” That sounds so self-evident, but he’s considered by many as a sort of “heretic” for daring to “undermine” the Pope. Well, the Pope undermined himself by failing to align with spiritual reality (I’m not saying on this issue which I haven’t studied, but on other issues which I have studied).

On the issue at hand (giving communion to adulterers), I personally would offer communion to whoever was gathered (how do you know who might or might not be an adulterer, liar, etc.??) – why do we think we’re responsible for what someone else does? If someone walked up, grabbed the communion out of a priest’s hands, and desecrated it by stomping on it, why is it the priest’s fault? It’s not. It’s the fault of the guy who desecrated it. But that is a digression.

The point is, many conservatives feel downright uncomfortable to even discuss things or to ask questions or to try to understand, inside the Catholic church. And they have good reason to feel that way, because they could be “put out” by the Pope!

But it’s too common in Protestant churches also. Obama, by publicly ridiculing Christianity, has inadvertently made pastors feel way too powerful over their congregations. We definitely have a case of many pastors that “lord it over” their flocks these days, contra 1 Pet. 5:3. I think many are simply confused and feel like they have to preach along such lines. But, confused or not, I think it’s time to realize our error and seek to change.

If we as Christians are to be winsome to the world, we have to be friendly to the world. And to do so, we must be accepted and appreciated in our churches. The attitudes of exclusion have to be replaced with brotherly benevolence. The legalisms of the heart have to be replaced with the gracious way God views His true-born children. ESPECIALLY after an antichrist like Obama has made Christianity so unpopular.

Let us lay aside the insolence, and strive to respect one another – especially those who have taken it upon themselves to stand for what is true. We are an army, and we MUST have comradery. We must especially lift up the arms of the guys holding the standard, not decry them as “schismatics.” And that is a reference to Moses that is most suitable even in our dispensation of grace (Ex. 17:11)!

Thoughts on Malachi 3 16 18

Written by Brad Caldwell on Jan. 29, 2017.

“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another:” – Mal. 3:16a

Comradery – a spirit of kinship or friendship – is seen here to be a natural outcome of faith. The idea that we have each other’s backs – that we are a group whose unity is only fortified by our adversaries – is more or less taken for granted in passages like these.

“And the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him” – Mal. 3:16b

Perhaps the best instance of this that comes to mind is the friendship between David and Jonathan: “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam. 18:1). It wasn’t just any friendship – it was friendship centered around a common understanding of who God is and what He is like.

A modern example is a college friendship between Tait and McKeehan – again centered around a shared love of God – which no doubt was how their band, dc Talk, ended up becoming the most influential Christian band of the 90s.

Michael Tait Now of the Newsboys
Michael Tait Now of the Newsboys

“For them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.” – Mal. 3:16c

It’s not unity alone, but unity around a Gospel of grace; unity around spiritual reality.

“And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” – Mal. 3:17

God sees individuals who desire and aspire for such an ideal as “jewels” – they are beautiful in His sight: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)!

“Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” – Mal. 3:18

While Christianity is certainly a religion of the heart, it is not a religion of ignorance. There is no premium on refusing to “love the LORD your God with all your…mind” (Luke 10:27). Of course, literally, this passage just means to love God with all your ability, but just to be a little bit wooden, part of your ability is the mind God blessed you with.

Fruit of faith in Christ, and of the exhibition of kindness towards one another, is discernment.

Now, by discernment is not meant that we should nit-pick our fellow believers, or anyone else. Neither is it meant that we should be implacable (unwilling to forgive) if someone has “stumbled seriously.”

The vitriol expressed by many conservatives towards the moral failings of liberals (and vice versa), and the unwilliness to forgive if someone should repent, could not be farther from the discernment spoken of here.

No, Biblical discernment is the kind that Jesus exercised. It led Him to forgive the adulterous woman, and to rail against the pious religionists of His day, who not only were inconsistent, but had horrible attitudes.

When the Bible speaks of discernment, it simply means being in accord with God’s reality.

God first says that right is right, and wrong is wrong (Isa. 5:20). He also says that He is not willing that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9).

2 Peter 3:9b
2 Peter 3:9b

When it comes to hot issues of the day like refugees, it can be easy to jump to a conclusion. While we want to be loving, we sometimes need to take a little time to study all the details of a case.

Did the failures of liberalism create the crisis in the first place by trying to topple Assad via arming so-called moderate “freedom fighters” who were actually fighting against the people of Syria, and even engaged in beheading Christians and children(*, **)? Might some radicalized individuals want to game the opportunity of being a “refugee” to get into America (“the Great Satan,” as we are called) and commit terror?

If Trump has said he is giving priority to the refugees who are Christian or who have actually been targeted the most for persecution in their former countries, isn’t that a good thing? Why did Obama discriminate against the Christians, and show no heart towards them? Why didn’t everybody gather at JFK airport to protest Obama’s rejection of Christian refugees? Why didn’t people protest much more loudly about Obama doing what he did in Syria?

It’s easy to get manipulated. And it’s disheartening when professed “holiness” people become ensnared by Satan in siding with extreme, liberal notions. Good water and bad water can’t flow from the same source (James 3:11).

It may very well be that some sincere people get hurt by the policies of Trump. And no human leader is perfect. But it pays to look at the big picture, or at least hold back on railing against people who have spent hours upon hours looking into getting accurate details, and who have reached a conclusion that appears “uncaring.” What if God sees the ones being called “uncaring” as actually the ones trying the most to help?

Additional support for “Thoughts on Malachi 3:16-18”:

*CNN’s Jake Tapper interviews Democratic Congresswoman from Hawaii about her first-hand trip to Syria.

**Cheri Berens lives in Egypt and has a lot of information on the subject.

Ted Cruz at RedState Atlanta

The following are pictures that I personally took with my phone while in attendance at RedState in Atlanta, GA last year (August 2015). It was an indescribably awesome event, and I can’t explain how awesome it was to see and hear Ted Cruz in person for the very first time. I know people always hate me to say stuff like this, but it’s what I really think – Cruz is an awesome fighter for the things that God cares about, and I think all the opposition Cruz has seen from religious circles is either because very few people know God, or at the very least, very few people have seen a deep revelation of what God cares about. It’s time the church rises up and blesses this godly servant for fighting against the elephant that has been sitting in the room that no preacher had to guts to say anything about. Hope you enjoy these pics of Ted Cruz at RedState Atlanta!!

UPDATE: I added 6 short videos of Cruz interacting with the crowd!

Ted Cruz at RedState Atlanta (August 2015)

The Glory of Self Government

The glory of self government is seen fore-mostly because it is a fruit of the Spirit. But it also brings with it industry, participation, ambition, and a host of other practical benefits in a society.

But the fruit of the Spirit is…self-control: against such there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

Some argue that this final of the seven fruits of the Spirit should be translated as “Holy-Spirit-control” rather than “self-control,” for they say that doing anything in the power of “self” is antithetical to Christianity, which is a religion of God’s enabling grace. I agree with that concept, as all good has its source in God; nevertheless, there is a world of possibilities in this concept of self-control as a fruit of the Spirit’s creation.

The Glory of Self Government - A Fruit of the Spirit
The Glory of Self Government – A Fruit of the Spirit

Related to the idea of self-control are the ideas of autonomy, self-respect, drive, optimism, vision, charityhealthy ambition, and self-government. To get a picture of what is meant by self-government, go back to the small, fledgling country of Israel in the 1950s and 60s. Imagine how the Jews had moved there with vision, making “aliyah.” Consider how they had skin in the game when Arab nations immediately began to attack them. Think of how Captain Uziel Gal of the IDF had invented the now-famous Uzi machine gun as a contribution to the safety of his nation, following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and the horrors of the Holocaust. Think of the enterprise and endeavor of the business owners in that new desert region. This is a fairly good picture of “self-government,” and it’s a wonderful thing. There is productivity, charity, benevolence, law, and a great degree of order in a most unstable and unsettled region of the world.

Captain Uziel Gal
Captain Uziel Gal

This has been a picture of America, as well. The founders had a vision that life was bigger than allowing bullies to terrorize and kill people at sea. The God-given opportunities for greatness and freedom in a new land were too special to be squandered living under the petulant demands of a foreign king. In the early days of America, government was simply the exercise of people’s will. They had a government because it could serve a purpose.

These days, the government is wholly outside of our hands, too big and complex for us to even influence, and has become a bloated destroyer of the economy (e.g., EPA, red tape on nuclear power, etc.), and a means to enabling our overthrow by enemies via funding them (e.g., the Iran Deal).

That is a sad picture; but there’s no excuse for it when 70% of Americans profess the Christian religion (as of 2014).

Can you imagine Israel, having entered their land; and, instead of crowning King David, they stick their tail between their legs like a beta-dog and crown one of the few Canaanites remaining among them as their King? And then picture them holding five synagogue meetings a week to preach to each other about the necessity of increased persecution from the Canaanite government, and you have a perfect portrait of the church in America today.

Christianity Is Not a Beta-Dog Religion
Christianity Is Not a Beta-Dog Religion

That is where the church is. She is a beta-dog, and happy to be so. You will not find any of the leaders in the Bible (Abraham, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul, Peter) acting like a beta-dog. No. They had confidence and boldness. They had self-respect. And they believed that what they preached was the truth.

The closest you come to a Christian leader acting like a beta-dog in the Bible is when the Apostle Peter became legalistic and inconsistent and would not eat with Gentiles, and Paul had to rebuke him.

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. – Paul, Galatians 2:11

Where there is self-government, people care about each other. People care, period. The opposite of self-government is abdication of leadership, and it leads to sloth, pettiness, disregard for life, disinterest in earning an honest living and thereby helping others, and so on.

Self-government is precisely why many small businesses flourish and become benefactors to society – somebody had an idea, and had the insanity to imagine that they could do it themselves!

I don’t know what the best answer is for our country going forward, but I do know we as spiritual Ahabs should again assume a measure of leadership. Where there’s a will, there’s a way to self-government. Paul was tortured for awhile, but he found a way for the Romans to treat him and his fellow believers with respect, even when they were only a tiny minority.

Innocent people are losing their heads in Syria. Our economy is suffering. Immorality is being promoted. It’s time for the 70% to earnestly reach for the glory of self government.

Those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them. – Pressfield paraphrasing Socrates