President Trump and “The Snake”

 

Trump Serious

Yesterday, President Trump read The Snake to a highly supportive CPAC crowd. He used the short poem to illustrate the dangers of unrestricted, uncontrolled immigration.

However, any believer reading the piece will immediately recognize the snake (serpent) as representing the devil. Beyond the first recognition, any sin committed is coddling or showing compassion for the snake. Any temptation is an invitation to embrace the lure of the snake. Sin appears alluring and very attractive; in the end, it bites with far more poison than any snake.

Note: The poem is apparently lyrics from a song written by Oscar Brown, Jr, in 1963 and recorded by Al Wilson in 1969. Because the song is based on one of Aesop’s fables, it has been available in various forms for about 2500 years.

The Snake

On her way to work one morning

Down the path alongside the lake

A tender-hearted woman saw a poor half-hearted frozen snake.

His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew

“Poor thing,” she cried, “I’ll take you in and I’ll take care of you.”

“Take me in, oh tender woman, take me in for heaven’ sake

Take me in, oh tender woman,” sighed the vicious snake.

She wrapped him all cozy in a comforter of silk

And laid him by her fireside with some honey and some milk.

She hurried home from work that night and soon as she arrived

She found that pretty snake she’s taken in had been revived.

“Take me in, oh tender woman, take me in for heaven’ sake

Take me in, oh tender woman,” sighed the vicious snake.

She clutched him to her bosom, “You’re so beautiful,” she cried

“But if I hadn’t brought you in by now surely you would have died.”

She stroked his pretty skin and kissed and held him tight

But instead of saying thank you, that snake gave her a vicious bite.

“Take me in, oh tender woman, take me in for heaven’ sake

Take in, oh tender woman,” sighed the vicious snake.

“I saved you!” cried the woman, “And you’ve bitten me, heaven’s why?

“You know you’re bite is poisonous, and now I’m going to die!”

“Oh, shut up silly woman!” said the reptile with a grin.

“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in!”

Pastors: The Pulpit is Responsible for It

Finney Charles G

Charles G. Finney, the famous 19th Century evangelist and minister, during the Second Great Awakening had powerful and prophetic words for leaders in the ministry. During a sermon in 1873 Finney proclaimed:

Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits.

  • If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree.
  • If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it.
  • If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it.
  • If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it.
  • If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it.
  • If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it.
  • If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.

Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.

The Law Complements the Gospel!

woman reading the bible in the darkness

“Some say that you must not preach the law. But you cannot preach the gospel without preaching the law; for you shall find, by and by, we are to preach something that the people must be saved by: it is impossible to tell them how they are to be saved, unless we tell them what they are to be saved from. The way the Spirit of God takes, is like that we take in preparing the ground. Do you think any farmers would have crop of corn next year unless they plough now? You may as well expect a crop of corn on unploughed ground, as a crop of grace, until the soul is convinced of its being undone without a Savior.”

Rev. George Whitefield

Leader of the First Great Awakening (1730s & 1740s)

Preachers Reply-Southern Baptist Convention Publishes Politically Correct, Gender-Neutral Bible

Recently, the piece published on the subject topic attracted some criticism (in Christian love, of course) from two ministers. My message began:

In a monumental departure from millennia of Biblical tradition, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)—largest Protestant denomination in the United States—recently published a politically correct, gender-neutral version of the Bible.

Read about it here: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/southern-baptists-embrace-gender-inclusive-language-in-the-bible/529935/

The responding ministers referred me to:

https://cbmw.org/public-square/is-the-csb-really-gender-neutral/ and

http://www.dennyburk.com/have-southern-baptists-embraced-gender-inclusive-bible-translation-not-by-a-longshot/

The conversation was welcome and their points well-taken. They challenged my source and offered arguments that blunted the effect of the original source a bit. I chose to respond in principle with the following:

Thank you for the heads up and the article link as well as your detailed personal thoughts. It offers some good points. Your personal experiences with several key figures is very helpful. Another pastor also referred me to http://www.dennyburk.com/have-southern-baptists-embraced-gender-inclusive-bible-translation-not-by-a-longshot/

Clearly, I’m not a scholar of ancient Greek or Hebrew and Bible translators are flawed sinners like all the rest of us. Since their work product is presented to the public as the perfect, inspired, inerrant, Word of God, they have an enormous responsibility on their shoulders.

C.S. Lewis said, “For every new book you read, you should read at least one old one.” His reasoning was that every writer—or in this case translator—is subject to the biases of the culture of his time. Reading books—or perhaps Bible translations—helps neutralize or offset differing biases. When the Bible is translated, even a discussion of gender or gender inclusivity carries the risk of introducing the biases of our modern culture, despite the very best efforts to avoid it.

A writer of material in my morning devotions in the last two days, wrote, “Satan hangs out false colors and comes up to the Christians in the disguise of a friend, so that the gates are opened to him, and his motions received with applause, before either be discovered…Satan also tempts Christians in his gradual approaches to the soul…Thus Satan leads poor creatures down into the depths of sin by winding stairs, that let them not see the bottom whither they are going.”  William Gurnall, British Puritan preacher (1616-1679).

Denny Burk cites the Colorado Springs Guidelines so frequently, he practically elevates them to scriptural authority. The article I cited offers some interesting points; the two articles you referenced provide some powerful arguments. Rather than attempt a detailed compare and contrast, I believe we would agree that translating Gods Word, is risky and fraught with danger. It’s likely that Satan will attack Bible translators with greater persistence and subtlety than the rest of us.

It seems that translators should work with the objective of translating as close to the original language as possible, defining words as close to the original definitions as possible and as understood by the culture of that time. God inspired the original writers who were looking through the lens of their time. At the same time, a direct word-for-word translation can result in text that is unusually difficult or cumbersome for the modern reader; some smoothing of the language is necessary. The big caution is that any discussion among the members of a team of translators, driven by some aspect of our modern culture can lead to very subtle forms of error that become compounded over time.

If you’re still with me, thank you very much.

 

What TV shows are far better than American ones? (Part 2)

While The Ten Commandments in the first table (refer to Part 1 of this blog) exposes the differences between American and Asian entertainment, the second table reveals the effects of the glaring differences. Take a look! Once again, the flashing neon-like table needs no further amplification.

American Asian TV Ten Commandments 2

To the seasoned Western viewer, the tables may be intellectually satisfying and spiritually appealing, but may seem emotionally a bit wimpy, begging the question, “Exactly, what is the source of dramatic power in the Asian productions?” For there to be a struggle between good and evil, there has to be some form of evil.

In Asian TV dramas, the villain is not necessarily a murderous, unlawful villain; more often the “villain” is an unscrupulous emotional or spiritual villain resorting to various forms of skullduggery to break up love triangles. The most popular Asian TV dramas contain several overlapping love stories, because, “love covers a multitude of sins.” [1 Peter 4:8 NASB] For the sources of dramatic power in Asian TV dramas, here is the list:

  • The storylines are amazingly creative unlike anything American have been able to produce. American cultural decay has produced one-dimensional movie/TV characters with a keen intellect and a severely limited range of emotions. Asian TV still produces three-dimensional characters using the full range of God-given intellectual, emotional, and spiritual faculties.
  • Characters are fascinating, played by outstanding actors with endearing personal characteristics
  • Selected characters have a vibrant sense of humor, backed by a soundtrack that demonstrates musical humor
  • Drama aroused by conflicts and misunderstandings regarding ordinary and major life obstacles (romance, competition, illness, injury, separation, death)
  • Rich interpersonal relationships among the characters fully engage the viewer
  • Dramatic satisfaction is rooted in compelling illustrations of applying Biblical principles, producing the best possible results
  • In a love triangle, the leading man invariable ends up with the girl who routinely meets the needs of others.
  • Many scenes varying from heart-warming or heart-wrenching to heart-breaking, but nearly always reflecting positive character goals
  • Dialogue exhibits amazing wisdom in ordinary and challenging situations—characters seem to say precisely the right thing at exactly the right time. The expressions of rightness paint spectacularly beautiful word pictures
  • Most characters, other than villains, are positive role models. Even the villains repent by the end of the series.

American movies/TV routinely and aggressively break all ten of the commandments and then celebrates the outcomes. Asian TV celebrates godly virtues and character building.

So why not follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition, “…whatsoever things are true…honest…just…pure, whatsoever things are lovely…good report…think on these things.” Why not entertain ourselves with the good and the beautiful, rather than the sleazy, ugly, and evil. We cannot continue injecting ourselves with a dose of evil every time we turn on the TV or go to a movie.

If you have never seen any of the Asian dramas, you must try at least one. If you are curious, try “Autumn’s Concerto” (Taiwanese), “Descendants of the Sun” (South Korean), or “Tomorrow’s Cantabile” (South Korean). They are available on Netflix and other common outlets.

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

 

What TV shows are far better than American ones? (Part 1)

American Asian TV Ten Commandments 1“…whatsoever things are true…honest…just…pure, whatsoever things are lovely…good report…think on these things.” [Philippians 4:8 KJV]

Entertainment is powerful—so powerful that it can be profoundly life influencing, if not completely life changing. Modern technology provides endless entertainment options and unlimited personal content choices. With such awesome power at our fingertips it makes compelling and inescapably good sense to entertain ourselves with the good and the beautiful, rather than sleaze and evil. Yes, there is an easy way!

Tragically, the American motion picture and television entertainment industries have declined to sewer levels. Although the decline is recently accelerating, decades of incremental decline have dragged many Judeo-Christian believers down along with the rest of the American culture. As Lot did long ago, we have in past decades pitched our tents towards Sodom and have long since moved in.

Many, especially younger believers, remain unaware of anything more than a modest cultural and entertainment decline. They persistently perceive themselves unaffected by it. Pride on steroids? You bet! Believers continue watching dramatizations of nudity, gratuitous violence, saturation profanity, rampant uncivil sarcasm, and people of low character portrayed as heroes. Once planted, the evil seeds grow in the intellect, emotions, and spirit. There is little or no understanding of the relentless and severe weakening effect on the viewers and virtually guaranteed future pain and suffering produced by weak character.

Although specifically Christian entertainment has improved greatly in recent years, much of it remains dramatically weak and—long term—there is not nearly enough of it.

However, there is a fascinating alternative, Asian television dramas made primarily in South Korea and Taiwan (available on Netflix and numerous other venues). The Asian dramas are wildly entertaining, sans the pervasive sleaze in American entertainment, and typically feature one or more strong moral themes.

The Asian dramas typically project a vibrant sense of humor and have captivating musical sound tracks using every imaginable musical genre. Most appealing are the endless dramatizations of beautifully applied Biblical principles. Examples are routine dramatizations of absolutely unconditional love surviving all manner of heavy duty obstacles and long periods of separation, forgiveness in particularly painful circumstances, and “love your enemies”—clearly one of the believer’s most difficult challenges. The overall message of the Asian TV dramas is that there is no conflict or misunderstanding that cannot be overcome in a loving, godly, manner.

Yes, you will likely have to read the English subtitles, but doing so does not weaken the drama at all. The viewer still enjoys and experiences all the emotions, laughter, and tears produced by the characters in the program. The actors speak just enough English for a Westerner to feel comfortable.

God’s very best floodlight for exposing the differences between American motion pictures/television and Asian television is The Ten Commandments. Consider the first table, comparing the attributes of American and Asian entertainment side-by-side with the Commandments. The contrast is so stark, it will seem like flashing neon to the reader. Since no mere mortal can one-up The Ten Commandments, no further commentary on the table is necessary.

While The Ten Commandments in the first table exposes the differences between American and Asian entertainment, the second table reveals the effects of the glaring differences. Take a look! Once again, the flashing neon-like table needs no further amplification.

To the seasoned Western viewer, the tables may be intellectually satisfying and spiritually appealing, but may seem emotionally a bit wimpy, begging the question, “Exactly, what is the source of dramatic power in the Asian productions?” For there to be a struggle between good and evil, there has to be some form of evil. Find out more in Part 2

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

I Must Decrease So That You Can Increase!

man looking at his big boss

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” [John 3:30 KJV] John the Baptist’s humble statement about his relationship with his cousin Jesus the Christ resounds loudly down through the ages. It applies to each of us today, regarding our relationship with the Lord and also our relationship with others.

Each of us must decrease so the love of God and the light of God can shine through each of our lives, becoming abundantly and conspicuously visible to others. Each of us must decrease so that others might increase. I (Lloyd Stebbins) must decrease so that YOU might increase. Humility demands it! God commands it!

Today, our schedules are voluntarily overcrowded with self; we have deliberately allowed little or no time to serve the needs of others. But wait! Serving others is an overarching Biblical imperative. Jesus, our perfect role model said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” [Mark 10:45 NIV]

We cannot draw attention to self and others at the same time. We cannot serve self and others at the same time.

Some say we must sacrifice self for the benefit of others. But scripture guarantees that the benefits returned outweigh perceived sacrifice. He said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you…” [Luke 6:38 KJV] The Apostle Paul, quoted Jesus saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive. [Acts 20:35 KJV] What do we have to give? Time, talent, and treasure!

It is a blessing to serve others. God blesses both the giver and the receiver, the benefactor and the one who benefits. If doubts linger, note that serving is not optional.  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37040 NIV] Service is an expression of love; service is love in action; serving others is love made visible.

The world says, “Have it your way” (old Burger King commercial and Frank Sinatra’s popular song, “I did it my way.”). It is YOUR choice, your way or God’s way.

As for me and my house, we will acknowledge that Jesus is THE WAY–“I am the way, the truth and the life…” [John 14:6 KJV]—and whole heartedly strive to live accordingly.

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?