This World or the Next? – by Dave Palcsak

The worst day with the Lord is better than the best day without Him. This may sound like a cliché, but it’s absolutely true. I know. I was agnostic from about age twelve until age fifty. I was raised Catholic, but it never took. I learned just enough to recognize the blatant hypocrisy of my church. That’s rather amazing when you consider my upbringing. The only thing I had any kind of passion for as a kid was sports. I went to church because I had to. That’s also the only reason I went to school (Catholic). I wasn’t a very good student, and I certainly had no interest in theology. If you could ask my kid-self anything about football or baseball I would have probably known the answer. Not so much with any other topic. I was far from well-rounded even for a kid. That begs the question: How does a myopically-focused ignorant lad of twelve recognize hypocrisy in a wealthy parish full of high achievers? I don’t think Occam’s razor applies because the simplest answer of the dumb kid flat out being wrong isn’t correct. No, I’ve reflected on this extensively, and I was right. That parish was horrible about teaching anything except obeying the overlords (priests) who were, not surprisingly, very focused on tithing.

I’m not singling out that particular parish or Catholicism. The sad fact is, I’ve attended many churches (denominational and non-denominational) and found them to be almost all, across the board, void of preaching the full gospel. The one common thread I’ve found is this: tithing is of utmost importance. This is absolutely not a knock against generosity. I certainly believe in giving of both money and time. What I have a problem with is supporting a business model which is what most institutional tithing is about. It stifles rather than supports the Word of God. You can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). Professional preachers have bosses or boards or something else they depend on for their sustenance. But true preachers and servants of God solely depend on Him and are beholden to no man. Folks can certainly financially support their ministries, but they can’t censor or dictate to them. Religious hierarchies are dependent on man, and unfortunately, that’s what the institutional church model conforms to. And you need to appease those in your pews, so the money keeps rolling in. Is this model biblically consistent?

Jesus told those following Him that if they didn’t eat His body and drink His blood, they had no part in Him (John 6:53-56). You must consider how that sounded to the Jews He was addressing. They were under incredibly restrictive dietary laws and the very notion of cannibalism would have been beyond appalling to them. Many deserted Him after He spoke these words (John 6:66). In verse 68 of John 6, Peter, who was a Jew, told Jesus that although he didn’t understand what He meant, he nonetheless, still believed in and trusted Him, and that was enough. The ones who departed (some of whom hopefully came back post resurrection) believed in the Law of Moses which prophetically spoke of Jesus. Yet, as Isaiah said, their spiritual eyes were blinded, and they didn’t recognize the One Moses wrote about in their midst. They failed to realize that Jesus was the Very One the Scriptures pointed to! Those who stayed had faith in Jesus Christ – the very fulfillment of the Law of Moses. This identifies a problem that has persisted throughout time and certainly exists today. People are so stuck in legalism (and all of its forms) they don’t see or comprehend the spirit behind the law. And this “seeing and comprehending” is only visible in, and by, faith. As Paul wrote: “The letter kills, but the Spirit imparts life” (II Cor. 3:6).

To get a concept of the comparison between “legislated/dictated behaviors” (laws) and faith, read chapter 7 of Romans and Hebrews chapter 11 among many others. In a very small and insufficient nutshell, laws demand obedience to legislated procedures and behaviors which are an end to itself, whereas faith is the doorway to salvation. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Paul repeats time and again that the law was/is beneficial. He also says the law is for the lawless (1 Timothy 1:9), and that it’s simply a necessary tutor for the spiritually immature (Gal. 3:24). Think about that as it pertains to the institutional churchianity of today. Obedience to law and order has many obvious benefits. The alternative is chaotic anarchy. In the U.S. and all over the world there is an alarming trend towards exactly that. Survey after survey and common sense show us that you don’t find church-going Christians attending violent protests where rampant looting and vandalism abound. People of faith and law-abiding citizens very rarely, if ever, engage in such behavior. Respecting law, institutions, elders and the common good have served this society well for many generations. The benefit a collective modicum of faith gives us is substantial; until it erodes into apathy.

You certainly don’t need to profess Christianity to be law-abiding. But speaking of our country, Judeo-Christian values have shaped our moral backbone from conception. Despite the well-funded campaign to revise history, whether you like it or not, the United States was founded as a Christian country. Christians believe in God and an incredibly critical aspect of acknowledging a Supreme Being is understanding that He provides moral guidelines. Consider the current raging societal debate about drag queens performing in front of kids. Until very recently, the idea that grown men dressing as women and gyrating in front of children could even happen once, would have been beyond absurd, and absolutely unthinkable. It was, and still is, immoral. How can any sane person question this? But today, almost the entire entertainment complex, the mainstream media, the democrat party, and others, claim it’s immoral to denounce drag queens performing in front of kids! This cross-dressing lunacy aimed at children is one example of so many ills illuminating the division in America today. At the core of it all is objective morality. For example, the statement, “it’s wrong to torture children for fun” is objectively true. It doesn’t matter who believes it or who doesn’t. Every sane person would agree that it is “objectively” wrong. That’s a very obvious claim, but it does demonstrate that there is a moral line. Where that line is becomes the question. Formerly, our society looked to the God of the Bible for those answers. Now, faith in God as our moral arbiter is at an all-time low in this nation. If it’s not God, who qualifies as the moral arbiter? Men agree and disagree on many topics, and as we see, moral objectivity has traveled well down the slippery slope into the sewer. Quite simply, if man determines objective morality, objective morality ceases to exist. Our country is on the brink of collapse, and it can be directly traced to the beginning and continuation of removing God’s Divine influence. We were never perfect; but on the whole we have been, until recently, a God-fearing people. A God-fearing people would stand on His Word and fearlessly reject this and other heinous behaviors. For the most part, we sit quietly in our pews doing little to nothing. How did we come to this?

Christianity, by its very nature, can’t be coerced. Catastrophic attempts to do so (contrary to Jesus’ teaching) have shown us this. You don’t have to be a Christian to be an American. That’s as it should be. But it’s a fact that our steady climb to become the greatest, freest, and most generous country in the history of the world parallels our overall commitment to God. Virtually every institution of higher learning was founded on biblical principles. The Bible was the most important book in schools. The vast majority of our population identified as practicing Christians. Out of wedlock births were rare and so were divorces. Mass shootings and violent protests were unheard of. It’s certainly a different world now.

In 1963 the Supreme Court banned publicly-funded school-sanctioned Bible reading and prayer for religious and moral instruction. The mantra, “’separation of church and state” took off despite the fact that folks were totally ignorant of the origin or meaning of that phrase. It was commonly claimed to be an important part of the Constitution. It’s not. Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase in a letter to a Baptist congregation in Danbury Connecticut. In that letter, he assured them that the government would stay out of the church. It said nothing about the church staying out of the government. Fast forward to June 28, 2006, President Obama said this in a speech: “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation…” Google presidential quotes about God. You will find a reverence that is currently absent.

What if any impact should this have on Christians today? “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). All these things Matthew mentions are basically your daily needs. I doubt many would argue that it’s a common thing for folks (Christians included) to put anything, including Christ, ahead of their daily needs. Is that even what Matthew really meant? If you believe the Word of God, yes it is what he meant. And you see that same sentiment repeated many times in many ways throughout the Bible. As we will continue to see, it has become easier than ever to “humanize” the Bible. Disrespecting the Word of God is the main reason Christians are facing unique challenges in these turbulent times. “Grocery store Christianity” – picking and choosing according to what you want – leads to the opposite of commitment, and also erodes credibility.

Allegiance to God, or lack thereof, is the macrocosm of myriad microcosms. Until very recently in this country, God was the arbiter of morality. Every courtroom not only had a Bible, but it was so respected that witnesses placed a hand on it to swear they would be truthful. Courts now provide alternatives to swearing on the Bible. Our currency affirms our collective trust in God. As a whole, we no longer collectively trust Him, and our currency will soon, if it hasn’t already, cease to be the world standard. Roughly half the population believe, very passionately, that killing babies is a sacred right. Many, if not most of those same people, believe you can change the sex of your birth whenever the mood strikes you. What is morally acceptable is now up to the individual.

However you feel about these things, and clearly quite a significant portion of the population view these changes as positive, you have to understand that the complete erosion and eradication of true biblical Christianity is first necessary in order to facilitate such changes. The 1963 Supreme Court decision to ban public school Bible readings came a year before protests of the Vietnam war began in earnest. It’s not that protesters were wrong (you can make a compelling argument that it was an immoral war), but it also contributed to the youth/establishment conflict that created a generational divide such as we’ve never seen before. And most of the establishment were professing Christians, so abandoning Christianity became a big part of the youthful rebellion. True faith and passionate believers still existed but their moral influence was damaged and has now been replaced by a desire to be conciliatory above all else. It’s easy to see why. The young protesters of that day are now the leaders of today.

Parents love their kids and grandparents love their grandkids. If that weren’t true society would be absolutely horrific. Any man who doesn’t care for his own is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). You must love not only your family, but others as well, regardless of what they believe (Mark 12:30-31). So many folks who experienced the turbulence of the sixties get this, but miss the critical “other side of the coin.” Too many kids have been raised as buddies. It’s human nature to want to get along with your children, but what happens to a generation largely void of discipline? The Bible demands that we raise our children up to revere God (Proverbs 22:6). Christians who believe in the Bible (why be a Christian otherwise?) understand that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). We are supposed to be teaching our youngsters why fearing (revering) the Lord and obeying Him is to our benefit because He loves us so much. That type of fear (reverence) has largely been lost. How can you progress if you lack what God flat out told us was/is the beginning of wisdom? When you alter the standards of God’s Word in order to achieve peace, you miss both.

Christianity has for the most part ceased from influencing society. Society is influencing institutional churchianity. Jesus commanded us to stand on the Word of God in any and all circumstances, not persecuting others, but enduring persecution. The only recorded aggression Jesus engaged in was turning over the merchant tables at the Temple, in order to cleanse it. Every professing believer should seriously consider the ramifications of this; because as we see in 1 Peter 4:17, judgement begins at the house of God! Is the house of God operating, by necessity, as a body fearful of imminent judgement? Rick Warren brags that he ordains more women pastors than men. Churches ordain gay and lesbian ministers. Countless charlatans line their pockets with riches, and congregations cringe in fear that the government might revoke their 501(c)(3) status, and on and on. Many professing Christians, both clergy and laity, live in paralyzing fear of rocking the boat with government, society, and their fellow parishioners. We love our peace and comfort in this life. Shouldn’t we rather fear God? “Do not love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world the love for the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

For the most part, we don’t live like we believe what’s written in the Bible. If Christians waffle at the hint of conflict you can see how easy it is for non-believers to mock and dismiss us. If you can’t in love boldly stand for His Word, do yourself a favor and stop calling yourself a Christian. “So then, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth,” the Lord says (Revelation 3:16). Jesus is telling us that we are better off cold (a non-believer) than lukewarm (a casual believer). If you believe His Word you must also realize that His way is THE way. All will eventually come to the knowledge that He is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11), and our responsibility is to unashamedly proclaim the gospel (good news) and spread the Truth. I pray for our country, but whatever happens, I know this: the Kingdom of God will triumph regardless of everything else! Nothing our temporal world has to offer can compare with hearing this from our Creator: “Well done good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:23). Focus on serving Him above all else. If you don’t yet believe, when you do come to know that He is the Lord (whether in this realm or the next), submit not only humbly but also joyfully, for you will see that God is love!


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