Thursday, December 14, 2006

Answering Bakker & Brown

The online edition of CNN,, recently ran an article by Jay Bakker and Marc Brown Bakker, the son of former PTL Club leaders Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner, is pastor and co-founder of “Revolution Church”.

Jay Bakker and Marc Brown
Bakker and his long time friend and staff member of Revolution Church Marc Brown, severely misunderstand Biblical Christianity. While I agree with the premise that Christianity should not be co-opted by a political party, the fact that one political party adopts platform planks more amenable to Christians, does not equate to Christians be co-opted by a particular party. The other party has rather shown itself to be antagonistic to many positions Biblical Christians hold dear.

Bakker and Brown then imply that Christians supporting laws which force others to live by their standards is somehow bad. Christians do support laws which reflect the Judeo-Christian background from which the legal basis of our republic was fashioned. Every law reflects someone’s standards. The idea that Biblical Christians should not be an influence upon society is ludicrous, especially from those who purport to teach Biblical Truth. Jesus, Himself, called His followers the “light of the world”, the “salt of the earth”.

The mis-guided Bakker and Brown then attempt to explain that people are turned off by the hypocrisy and judgementalism of Christians. They seem to suggest that Christians should simply accept each person as they are, and even go so far as to imply that Christ accepted them as they were. That simply is not consistent with Biblical teachings. While The Lord Jesus Christ did indeed receive everyone who came to Him just as they were, He didn’t expect them to remain that way. In fact, to the woman caught in adultery, He admonished, “Go and sin no more.”

Jesus first message was one of repentance. Though people flocked to Him, we’re told in John chapter two that He did not commit Himself to those whose hearts were not right because He knew what was inside them. Jesus’ last message to the church in The Revelation was also one of repentance. Repentance is much more than simple acknowledgment of a truth. It ultimately means to turn from one’s sin.

The conundrum faced by those who purport such positions as Bakker and Brown is the determination of what is sin. I agree with their statement that such things as homosexuality and abortion should not divide Believers. I honestly believe that all Biblical Believers should adamantly oppose those practices as sin. However, the tenor of the article leaves me believing that they meant something much different than my position.

Bakker and Brown go on to explain that the rhetoric surrounding homosexuality and abortion is too shrill and that we should just love everyone. I agree. Those pushing the liberal agenda of homosexuality and abortion are extremely shrill in their pronouncements. They need to experience Christian love. The Biblical kind of love which confronts them in their error and calls on them to repent. Christian love is not irresponsible acceptance of error, but rather the willingness to suffer in order to communicate Biblical truth. Jesus loved those misusing the temple so much He took a whip and drove them from the premises.

We are admonished by Bakker and Brown to love people as they are, without an agenda. I contend that those who are genuine followers of Jesus Christ must have an agenda. We are commissioned to go and make disciples. That includes confronting them with the Biblical Truth and trusting The Holy Spirit to convict them of error. Convincing them of their error is not our mission. However, neither is it our mission to make such accommodation for them as to enable comfort in their error.

While Jesus did admonish His followers to minister to the poor and needy, it was a relatively small part of His message. He taught that men whose focus is on Him will act differently toward the needy than those focused on the things of this world. He vividly pointed the wrong mindedness of those who should be spiritual leaders by showing how they abused those in need. Yet, He seemed to teach that there are some things more important than caring for those in need of physical help.

Having said all this, I still think the greatest error promulgated by Bakker and Brown is the idea that the survival of Christianity is somehow dependant upon the actions of puny man. Almighty God has an agenda. It is a supernatural agenda, which cannot be overturned nor curtailed by humankind. Such belief demonstrates the exaltation of man, and the subtle denigration of God by churchmen of this age. We, who believe in the God of Creation, believe also in His sustaining power. All the events of this age are drawing us ever closer to that time when all men everywhere must give account for their actions based on a personal relationship with The Living God.

© 2006 Mike Rasberry

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Second Christmas; Post-Katrina

Throughout the last few months many of you have asked how things are developing here in Slidell. As we approach our second post-Katrina Christmas several items stand out:

1. While much progress has been made, hundreds of homes remain unlivable.
2. The business community is recovering nicely, but still suffers from a severe lack of workers.
3. Evidence is piling up that a large segment of the population mis-used their FEMA and insurance monies.
4. The temporary spiritual awakening is coming to a close. People still appreciate the efforts of churches to help in the restoration, and they still will listen to our story with courtesy, but they seem to have fallen into spiritual dullness.
5. Human personal needs are accelerating at an alarming rate.
6. Believers are growing weary of bearing an increased ministry workload due to more unchurched in the area, and fewer Believers.
7. Ministry teams and work groups seem to no longer sense an urgency to minister here.
8. Financial resources in the churches are dwindling, even as the demands are spiraling. Food, diapers, blankets, and personal care items are in continual demand; and the sources for such items seems to have almost dried up.
9. The inability or unwillingness of officialdom in New Orleans to effectively handle crime and political malfeasance seems to be affecting the willingness of people to commit to helping the North Shore, which has dealt very effectively with those issues, as this area is usually lumped in with New Orleans in the minds of most people throughout the country.

Is the situation hopeless? Certainly not! However, we are standing at a critical juncture. The true test of the will of a people is the ability to function efficiently and effectually in the midst of continuing adversity. Baptists are known as "People of the Book". They have always felt it to be a Biblical mandate to do good whenever it was within their ability to do so. Baptists have stood strong against the evils of the last century by denouncing Fascism, Nazism, Communism, Racism, and Liberalism. They have immersed themselves in the culture in such a way as to affect change. They have sacrificially given their sons and daughters to fight for freedom around the globe, to serve as missionaries to spread God's Good News, and to feed and clothe those ravaged by disaster.

The problem we Baptists seem to face is a kind of innate impatience which manifests itself when there is no measurable progress. We are not very good at "staying the course". We easily become disenchanted with projects which show little discernible progress. We appear to look for "instant gratification" and expect those we help to immediately demonstrate some sort of self-sufficiency. This attitude is demonstrated again and again by Baptist agencies and individual churches who desire such progress as will "justify" their continued support of a particular project. Little thought seems to be given to the fact that myriads of small almost indiscernible victories usually lead to large victory celebrations in the indeterminate future.

I'm often reminded of my friend, Samuel Babu, who I met in Hydrabad, India. Samuel was visited by a man from Nashville, Tennessee during the early 1970's who was leading a WIN (Witness Involvement Now) Clinic. That man shared Christ with Samuel, but Samuel did not receive Christ at that time. However, Christ's Holy Spirit eventually drew Samuel to Christ. That man never knew that Samuel became a Believer. Samuel has led thousands to faith in Christ, and that man probably would think his visit was in vain. However, when that man steps through the pearly gates to begin his first ten thousand years with The Lord, untold numbers might greet him and say, "Thank you for going to India, and to the home of Samuel Babu."

We Baptists need to rediscover the art of going where God says go, and trusting Him for the results. We need to be prayerful in our commitments, and we need to stay the course until a definite word from God tells us to change course. That is certainly true of Southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Promises of support and help which never materialize, or which are discontinued when higher profile opportunities arise create an opportunity for the Evil One to seize the moment and disparage the entire body of accomplishment, leaving immature and growing Believers with a jaded and disillusioned perspective on the value of commitments.

Perhaps, the geographical location of Southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast leads most to think those areas are part of the Bible Belt and therefore filled with mature believers. In fact, the area from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi through Louisiana via I-10 to Orange Texas bears little similarity to the traditional Bible Belt other than geographical proximity. The overwhelming preponderance of citizens of that area are old line Roman Catholics with a smathering of Island Voodoo, and other mystical religions thrown in. Their heritage is French, Creole, German, Acadian, Spanish, and Caribbean Pirate. They are intensely loyal to family ties, and often remain suspicious of outsiders. These are the people who have been impacted by the outpouring of support by Baptist and other Christian churches over the past year.

We must NOT grow weary in well-doing. Who knows but that the very next person reached for Christ will become the Samuel Babu of Southeast Louisiana. Who knows but that untold numbers will greet you and say, “Thank you for going to South Louisiana.” Please take this Christmas time, the time of selfless giving and re-evaluate your commitment to this region for Christ's Sake.

© 2006 Mike Rasberry

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Culture Rot

While pondering the topic of “Culture Rot” from Stanley Crouch’s “All American Skin Game”; I remembered a song of the fifties sung by Faron Young which contained the lyrics: “I want to live fast, love hard, die young, and leave a beautiful memory.” That romanticized notion was perpetuated by the James Dean generation, and today has taken a much darker turn.

Today’s edition of the notion is encapsulated in the “Gansta Rap” which glorifies the most anti-social behavior imaginable. Women are represented as mere objects to be used in unspeakable ways and discarded as easily as empty toothpaste tubes. The value of human life is continually disparaged by these molders of culture for large segments of society. Accumulating those objects which reflect prestige within that subculture is promoted with a seeming lack of concern for the means used to accomplish the task.

The most common expressions of this lack of societal restraint are: drug abuse, prostitution, murder, and robbery. Sociologists, psychologists, and talk radio hosts inundate the air waves with discussions of the phenomenon, all the while studiously avoiding the specific cause. Their humanistic philosophies lend themselves toward training more role models to demonstrate positive social traits hoping they will provide the wayward youth with a sense of “hope” which leads to purpose in life.

Positive role models are indeed important for every segment of life. However, should the focus continue be on the accumulation of “things” for one’s sense of self-worth and accomplishment; such role models face a very unenviable task. Hard work, delayed gratification, and self-denial do not lend themselves to a favorable comparison with the “easy money” obtained through the depraved counter culture activities mentioned above.

The answer, I believe, lies in the restoration fidelity to Biblical Principles by those who profess a belief in the God of The Bible. Today’s society is not unlike the first century Christian era. Although Rome had conquered Greece and her generals militarily, Greece had conquered the world culturally. Immorality and public decadence were commonplace in that Hellenized world. Yet, the followers of God, by personal faith in Jesus of Nazareth, so completely overwhelmed the culture that by 1776, the United States of America was founded based upon Biblical Principles.

Genuine followers of Christ have never been in the majority, but their influence was felt far beyond their numbers because they possessed something which could not be duplicated by education, religion, heritage, or economics. They were indued with power from on high. They acted as if they were on a divine mission to accomplish a directly appointed task. They did not conform to contemporary societal mores, rather they were transformers of the corrupt societies in which they found themselves.

How then, have we fallen to the point where prominent authors, and radio talk show hosts are speaking of an endemic “
Culture Rot”? The answer, I believe, is that those who call themselves followers of God, by faith in Jesus Christ, no longer truly believe the principles of The Bible. We no longer are willing to stand alone against the tide of corruption. We desire to be well spoken of by those in the world, and we believe they will not speak well of us if we stand tall for what we believe. In actuality, I believe the opposite is true. I believe the world is looking for those whose beliefs cannot be compromised by the “lust of the eye”, the “lust of the flesh”, and the “pride of life.

How long must the nation endure this “
Culture Rot” while we who claim to know God personally sit by with a wringing of the hands decrying the situation, all the while contributing to it? How Long? How Long?? One man has said that sin which once slinked down the back alley, now parades down Main Street, and barely raises an eyebrow.

I often wonder if one can genuine believe the principles of Scripture without acting on them. The answer to broken homes is to make Christ the center of those homes. The answer to a lazy workforce is to make Christ central in one’s work. The answer to careless living is to make Christ the focus of one’s daily living. When that happens, and people focus on Christ and His principles, the selfish motivations of contemporary living will be transformed into a selflessness which will transform “
Culture Rot” into “Cultural Revival”.

© 2006 Mike Rasberry

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A few interesting photos from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

This house; along U.S. Highway 11 in the southern edge of Slidell, Louisiana near Lake Ponchatrain; graphically demonstrates the vagaries of Hurricane Katrina's destructive force. The photo was taken less than one week after Katrina wreaked her havoc on the area. Every other home in the area was destroyed or heavily damaged.

The steeple for Lakeshore Baptist Church was located several hundred feet back in the woods. The blue tarp served as a roof for the church for several weeks. On weekdays it became a relief center, and on Sunday a church building. Today a Quonset Hut, office suite, and bunkhouses along with a kitchen occupy the area as volunteers live there in order to rebuild the village of Lakeshore, Mississippi.

The remains of once majestic homes facing the Gulf of Mexico in Waveland, Mississippi. The ruins of these homes were washed several hundred yards inland.

The Immanuel Baptist Church Children's Building. Volunteers cleaned everything up. Insurance is allowing the three buildings which were destroyed to be combined for the construction of a multi-purpose building.

Gas lines stretched for more than a mile everytime a station would have the magic combination of gasoline and electricity.

Part of the tree damage to our house. We had water throughout and we lost three rooms and a bathroom with tree damage. We hope to be back in the house before the end of 2006.

© 2006 Mike Rasberry

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Government Education and The Pledge of Allegiance 11/11/2006

The students at Orange Coast Community College recently voted to drop the Pledge of Allegiance One student argued that the pledge: (1) inspires nationalism. (2) violates the separation of Church and State. (3) is irrelevant to the business of student government.

A spokesperson for the district said the decision is up to the students, because they run their own show.

The event and the response to it demonstrate why so-called higher education is in large part to blame for the continuing failure of government elementary and secondary schools throughout the land.

First let me say that students are generally supported by tax dollars, and therefore should be subject to the taxpaying public, not the whims of immature student leaders. Students should learn responsibility and decision making, but it should be under the guidance of those tutors entrusted with the task. In other words, the taxpaying public should be able to set the parameter under which they are taught.

When I hear students bemoan the fact that “The Pledge” inspires nationalism, I groan in my spirit. We are Americans and we should be proud of that fact. I’ve traveled widely in the world, and other countries are much more nationalistic than America. We have been blessed to live in a land flowing with rich natural resources. Ours is a land which has stood for over two centuries as a beacon to the world that men can live free in a society where they can develop their talents to the degree they are willing to discipline and apply themselves. Ours is a land where one can travel the length and breath without having to stop regularly along the way to justify his movement. Ours is a land where a young man from a poor East Central Mississippi Community can travel the world and speak with leaders of states and countries as an equal. Ours is a land where one can choose the career he or she wishes to pursue. Ours is a land where a dramatic change of government can be accomplished without the firing of a single shot.

Yes, a thousand times yes, “The Pledge” inspires nationalism. I am now in the sixth decade of my life, yet I still have chill bumps when the National Anthem is played, or when someone sings “God Bless America”. We should teach nationalism. We should teach our children that being an American is a blessing that men and women the world over would die to have.

The second premise the young student argued was that “The Pledge” violates the separation of Church and State. Those who hold such views either ignorantly, or deliberately, ignore the fact that America was established on New Testament Christian principles. Godless, humanistic philosophers have somehow stolen away the Biblical heritage of our great country and relegated the dramatic intervention of Almighty God in the establishment of America to “good fortune”, “luck”, and “brilliant strategy”. No clause ever intended that America be a country separate from God. Founding father after founding father promoted the notion that we are a nation set aside by and under God. “The Pledge” is simply a latter day reflection of that which is posited in the daily record of the accounts of early legislative activity.

Yes, we are “under God”. Only the supreme egotist could imagine that we have risen to dominate the world as no nation in history because of our wisdom, goodness, and inherent strength. Our language has become the business language of the world. Our currency is accepted and coveted in the most remote regions. Our citizens are welcomed with open arms in the homes of citizens around the globe. Is because we of ourselves are so great? No. A thousand times No. For some reason Almighty God has chosen to raise us up at this time for His own unfathomable purposes. However, we need take care lest we like the Biblical Nebuchadnezzar be cast out into the wasteland as wild beasts.

The third premise espoused by the young student leader was that “The Pledge” is irrelevant to the business of governing. This premise also demonstrates the total lack of education of our young. Without a standard to guide us in the deliberations of life, we are will be blown thither and yon by whatever wind of public opinion is most pressing at the moment. For the business man it is a clearly defined business plan, the faithful and energetic execution of which he depends upon for his success. For the non-profit leader it is a succinct purpose statement so designed as to keep him focused on the ultimate goal. For those in government education, one purpose is the recognition that they have a fiduciary duty to promote allegiance to the government which represents the citizens who have made possible such education.

These students, should they be allowed to maintain their disastrous course, will set precedent the end of which is to lower the bar of responsibility throughout the government educational system even more than is already apparent. Somewhere, somehow, someone must step forward and exercise responsibility and authority to say enough is enough.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Right Thinking About Immigration

One unique thing about America is that God continues to send the world to us. Since our beginning, we have welcomed those from other countries who sought a new start, a new beginning, real hope. The words inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty there in New York Harbor reflect that philosophy. It reads: “ Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame with conquering limbs astride from land to land, here at our sea while sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch whose flame is the imprisoned lightning and her name is Mother of exiles. From her beaconed hand glows worldwide welcome, her mild eyes command the air bridged harbor that twin cities frame. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Throughout the years we have welcomed to our shores those very people, and they have melted into a single entity called Americans. They learned the language, the customs, and the values of this land of opportunity. They built entire communities and contributed to the greatness of contemporary society.

Today a new breed has arrived on our shores. They don’t seem to want to become Americans, and seem intent on dividing the culture by refusing to learn the language and expecting society to accommodate them. They often seem more dedicated to perpetuating the cultural norms which have kept their countrymen in poverty for generations, than in becoming integrated into the real fabric of our country. This is not the true meaning of Lady Liberty’s inscription.

Official government policy appears designed to facilitate such attitudes. Bi-and in some cases tri-lingual government offices encourage these aliens to continue speaking their native tongue with little pressure to learn English. Teachers are recruited with the intent of making life easier for the children rather than for the purpose of teaching children to learn English.

Please do not misunderstand. Cross-cultural interaction is a sociological necessity if we are to maintain access to America by immigration. However, Cross-cultural does not mean facilitating those who refuse to do what is necessary to obtain a working knowledge of the language. America is an English speaking representative democracy. Cross-cultural means that we reach across cultural, social, linguistic, and ethnic barriers to assist immigrants as they become immersed in the American way of Life.

America is richer, more colorful, and more flavorful because the influx immigrants touch us and affect us. We need them, but we also need them to become Americans. We need them to learn about the heroes who lived sacrificial lives in order to make our present lifestyles possible. They need to learn the values which moved men to subjugate their thirst for power for the general good. They need to learn of the blood which was spilled through succeeding generations to bring about the current freedom. They need to learn about our holidays and the men and women who are represented in them.

This is not the time to return to the isolationism promoted by many prominent personages. Ours is a blessed country and should we close our borders, we might lose the moral high ground which has characterized our land. But we must emphatically declare that the privilege of living in America carries with it the responsibility to become Americanized.