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Gamaliel's Desk
Friday, September 23, 2005
The Hand Of God
The same God that rained down fire on Sodom and Gomorrah because of their evil, wicked lewdness is still raining down his wrath on this world today. Two weeks ago hurricane Katrina roared down on the cesspool of sexual immorality, drunkenness, thefts, murders, homosexuality and heathenism that make up that foul place known as New Orleans. It is a den of pagan witchery, debauchery and godlessness. The only thing more amazing than God’s watery judgment is the fact that he waited so long to bring it to pass. However, the Bible assures us that God endures with much longsuffering the deeds of the wicked, not willing that any of his elect should perish. I suppose the only thing restraining God’s hand up to this point were the few just persons whose righteous souls, like Lot, were vexed with the wickedness every day and God had to wait until they were safely out of the way before he could rain down his fury on them.

There are some Christians who question whether Katrina was really a sign of God’s wrath or just a chance natural disaster. One of the objections I hear is that if God was really serious about wiping out wickedness he would have hit Las Vegas instead of New Orleans. What these people don’t understand is that God has a cup of wrath and he does not pour it out until it is full. Las Vegas has only been a hotbed of vice and corruption for less than a century, not even coming into the full depth of its perversion and rottenness until around World War II. New Orleans, by contrast, has been a haven for witches, pirates, gamblers and prostitutes almost from its inception. Clearly, the city had plenty of time and more wicked people working to fill up God’s cup of wrath beyond the brim than Las Vegas. Give that town a little more time and surely God will find a way to bring it low too.

Other Christians argue that there were godly people still in New Orleans who were equally victims of the hurricane as the godless heathen. How can we say it’s God’s judgment, they ask, when so many good people suffered as well? They point to the devastation of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) as an example of a godly institution not being spared the destruction of the wicked. First of all, I question whether this liberal seminary under the auspices of the Southern Baptist Convention is really a godly institution. They have compromised the truth of God’s word by embracing Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church philosophy and succumbing to the siren song of the Church Growth movement. Beyond that, they had no business setting up a theological seminary in such a wicked place as New Orleans. There are plenty of cities where they should have established themselves so that young Christians would not be tempted by the allures of Satan. They need a place where they can concentrate on their studies without worldly distractions like Pensacola, Florida; Greenville, South Carolina; or Lynchburg, Virginia.

Most of my critics, however, point to hurricane Rita as “proof” that these disasters are mindless acts of nature rather than the divine hand of God. They say that it rains on the just and the unjust alike. Since Texas is populated with one of the highest concentrations of Pharisee churches in the country, this seems to indicate that God isn’t punishing people through the hurricanes after all. While I might agree with them that God isn’t punishing everyone through these hurricanes, it is clear to me that these folks have an oversimplified view of God and need to improve their understanding of the divine imperatives.

Hurricane Rita is no more a punishment from God than any other natural disaster. If anything, it is a test for true believers to improve their faith. Possibly, it may be the chastening hand of God on some churches for their flirtations with the New Evangelicalism and the Church Growth Movement but most sound Pharisee churches know better than to mess with these liberalizing influences. More likely this is God’s way of testing our resilience to see if we will indeed remain faithful in the face of adversity. So if God does rain on the just and the unjust alike, we need to be able to distinguish His purpose in the rain. Katrina is God’s wrath falling on the ungodly and Rita is God’s test of his faithful servants. Only a simpleton could mistake one for the other.

Monday, September 05, 2005
Appealing to the Flesh
Modern worship has moved from the realm of exhortation and admonishment to entertainment. These “productions” include worldly music, instruments and sound systems. Kim Smith has written an excellent book called Oh, Be Careful Little Ears: Contemporary Christian Music that warns of the dangers of allowing modern music into our midst. As if this isn’t bad enough churches have started to include drama as part of their morning worship and even scheduled special services around their dramatic productions. Technology has enabled them to use presentation media to bring movies into the church along with the tools of the world such as PowerPoint to “facilitate” worship. If you ask me, it is all an appeal to the flesh.

As you know, our church has eliminated any vestiges of fleshly appeal from our worship services. We have no professional musicians performing and if there were any in our midst, they certainly wouldn’t be welcome. Our instrumental accompaniment is restricted to only godly instruments like piano and organ. We don’t sing any songs that are less than 25 years old and you won’t hear very many songs that are less than 50 years old. We make no concessions to modernity in any form with the exception of an excellent sound system for proclaiming and recording my sermons.

But I fear that we still have an area which is a blatant appeal to the flesh. The fact that this has remained one of the traditional staples of our Pharisee denominational heritage makes it no less carnal. I know that I am treading on dangerous ground here and run the risk of offending my fellow Pharisee preachers, but if we are going to be consistent in our walk, we need to make sure that our standards apply to every aspect of our worship. What might that be, you ask? It is the traditional carry-in dinner. Using the same line of reasoning found in “Biblical Guidelines for Christian Music” I will show how our church is removing all fleshly appeal from our carry-in dinners.

First of all, our meals are designed to glorify Jesus Christ. Any cooking that glorifies either the cook or the attractive presentation is an abomination to God. That is not to say that our dinners are unattractive or unappealing, but that we make no effort to glorify those who prepare and present the food. We may thank the ladies for their effort but never single any of them out for praise. Instead, all the glory for the food goes back to God.

Christian food is for the Lord, not the world. As Christians we should not have the same tastes as those who are still mired in worldliness. The world in fact finds our food unappetizing, unappealing and unattractive but the spiritual Christians know that we are cooking for the Lord’s benefit, not our own. If the world finds our meals pleasing, attractive and delightful in their own right, then we have succumbed to a fleshly appeal that is dishonoring to God. Godly churches serve food that only Christians appreciate, not the unregenerate.

Christian food is new food, not old food. Anyone who looks to a worldly cookbook to find food to feed Christian bodies is just as bad as someone who uses worldly songs to feed the soul. We should look strictly to the Bible for our ingredients and recipes. If it isn’t found in the Bible, then we shouldn’t include it in our cooking.

Christian food should be clear and easy to understand rather than vague and deceptive. Pate de fois gras may be fine for those fancy dinners hosted by worldlings, but Christians should be content to call it what it is – smashed goose liver. Better yet, if it is something the world is likely to serve, then we shouldn’t put it on the Lord’s table.

Christian food should emphasize the message of the gospel, not the food itself or the cook. Hot cross buns are a clear testimony to the risen savior but a Waldorf salad is a testimony to a carnal hotel. And if one is going to serve fried chicken, it better not come in a red and white cardboard bucket.

The food we serve should be suitable only for church rather than something one would find in fine restaurants or served by professional caterers. Our food should appear strictly in a Christian setting, and should never be comfortable in the world. This is one of the ways we ensure that our food remains holy food – it is only used in service to God. Holy food, just like holy music, is that which is dedicated solely to God and does not serve a common or mundane purpose.

Christian food should feed the soul and not the flesh. Our meals should be primarily to uplift the spirit, not the body. Any nutritional value or enjoyment should be incidental to the main purpose of bringing our lives into conformity with Christ. Our dinners should be dedicated to the Lord – not to the world.

Those of you who want to be truly spiritual will follow the lead of our church in making sure that you dedicate your church’s dinners to the Lord and eliminating any appeal to the flesh from your feasting together. Remember, it could be something as simple as a salt shaker that sets you on the path back toward carnality and lasciviousness.

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