Saturday, November 11, 2017

Straight Leg Technique: Do Unto Others.......?

Straight Leg Technique is dangerous, harmful and foolish. It is ridiculous not to allow High School kids to bend their knees while marching. Have you tried walking without bending your knees? It is incredibly painful and puts a tremendous amount of injury-causing pressure on the knee joints. As Band Directors, just like coaches, we are responsible for the physical well-being of our students. The claim that "It's easier to clean," and achieve uniformity and win trophies is no justification whatsoever. 

A certain band here in the metroplex has used the so-called "straight leg technique" to go all the way to Finals at Bands of America Grand National Championships. They require their students to march without bending the knees AT ALL and because of their success, many other bands are now imitating them. In fact, I attended a clinic at Texas Bandmasters this summer in which they "addressed" the accusations that this is dangerous and basically blew them off, justifying their actions with empty words. They claim to focus on pushing their feet down into the ground, not on locking the knees, but I tried the technique myself, the result is the same. 

Do we want our marchers knees to be straight when their heal strikes with the toe at a 45 degree angle to the ground? YES, of course we do. No one wants to see a bent knee, lowered torso bicycle step.

Do we want our students heals to glide as close to the ground as possible? Again, YES. No one wants to see kids picking their feet up with EXCESS knee band.

But is it ok to force students to march stiff legged--which IS what is happening? Emphatically, I say, NO! In order to achieve a true uniform step, a GLIDE step that is smooth, natural, lends itself to healthy movement and provides a steady upper body to facilitate quality musical performance, the knee has to bend while moving through the stride. In fact, it is impossible for the feet to roll properly without an adequate amount of knee bend. 

Straight leg technique is a GIMMICK. It is a cheap, fast way to achieve "success." As with everything else in music, THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS!!! This gimmick is dangerous and is not fitting for people who are meant to be good stewards of the children who have been entrusted to our care for a significant portion of the high school career. 

Most of my posts have deep theological content. This one is much more simple:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31)

I tried this technique out. IT HURTS. It is horrible on the knees. It's painful and not at all suited for a quality musical performance. How would you like it if someone made you walk this way? It seems to me that in the rush for accolades and glory, it is easy to exploit children along the way and justify it by claiming to make them winners. Everyone is trying to make a name for themselves and seek glory and fame. Communities want to use children to get glory for themselves as well. Too much of the self-esteem of schools, communities, coaches, teachers, band directors and parents is wrapped up in the so-called "successes" and "failures" of its students. It is time to take a step back and re-evaluate WHY we teach. It is a WONDERFUL thing for a town to be proud of its children. We should be proud of kids when they give their highest level of effort. When students work hard to perform their best and the grown-ups support them, That is the GOOD kind of community pride. But it is an awful thing to be Prideful about the achievements of students. When the self-esteem of adults in based on the achievements of children, THAT is the pride the Bible warns about when it says:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly of spirit with the humble than to divide plunder with the proud. (Proverbs 16:19) A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor. (Proverbs 29:3)

How many bosses out in the world are using people to further their own career, make them money, achieve their own personal goals? Using people is the worst kind of usury. And it has become so prevalent in our society that it is accepted as normal and even applauded and called "great leadership." 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Don't we want to help a generation of students rise up who will be good, kind and considerate stewards in the workplace? Who will make other people's lives better? It is our responsibility to teach students to care for each other and that starts with how we care for them. Jesus said that there is no greater commandment than to:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength....and Love your neighbor as yourself.  (Mark 12:30-31)

Hard work is good. Goals are good. Comradery is good. Using people is Bad. Taking shortcuts is bad. The Best Practices are Healthy Practices. Every aspect of what we teach as Musicians should be positive, beneficial and helpful. It might take longer to teach kids to march correctly. It might require more patience and diligence. The right way is rarely the easy way. But I have to believe it will be best for everyone in the long run and lead to the highest caliber of excellence, not just in musical performance, but in life. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

REFORMATION: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Martin Luther's Views on Jews

Imagine, for a moment, that you got off work today to find your phone and social media blowing up with messages, memes, news and notifications that a religious hate group had poisoned your town's water system with Uranium and people were getting cancer. Imagine if you found out that very same religious group had placed Doctors in your local hospital who were purposefully poisoning patients and deliberately botching surgeries to cause the deaths of Christians. Imagine that the dead and dismembered bodies of children had been found in neighboring towns in what appeared to be ritual sacrifices conducted by this same group of religious zealots.......Now imagine that you had been advocating for these people, reaching out to them, ministering to them........Welcome to Martin Luther's shoes. I added a few modern details, but these 3 RUMORS are what he was told about the Jews--that they had poisoned Protestant water wells, their Doctors were killing Christians and that they had kidnapped, murdered and dismembered children. These accusations were unproven and unfounded, but the RUMORS persisted. Luther was furious and he penned one of the most controversial works of the Reformation, partially in response: "The Jews and Their Lies."

The devil that Martin Luther fought against is the same devil we wrestle with today, pitting brother against brother and preventing the spread of the Gospel any which way he can. The Jewish leaders had the same type of stronghold the Catholic leaders had, keeping the true Gospel away from their people. Martin Luther had turned his heart toward the Jewish people and sought to include them in the Reformation for most of his life...but something changed...

So that slippery old Satan,
that evil mean Grinch,
that nasty Non-Mensch,
he thought of a trick,
he hatched up a plan
and he cooked it up quick.
He could send over gossips to bend Luther's ear,
or tempt young miscreants to prey on his fears
by committing misdeeds so rash and so bold
they would turned his heart cold,
hardened like stone,
...against Jewish folk. 

Luther dealt with the same type of divisive lies, false teachings, racial tensions and sneaky rumors that we face today and we can learn as much from his mistakes as we can from his successes. He wrote some angry and disturbing words in this book. He also revealed much about the false teachings that were being used by Pharisaical leaders to keep Jews from coming to Christ. And if we look carefully, we can learn more about how to minister effectively to Abraham's prodigal children, our long lost brothers and sisters the Jews, and how to combat the false religious teachers of our own day. 

Martin Luther highlights specific types of false teaching that were occurring in the Jewish synagogues. Let's have a look and see what we can learn from his observations: 

The Prosperity Gospel:
According to Martin Luther, the Rabbi's of his day were teaching a type of Prosperity Gospel which claimed that the Messiah would come and take away the gold and silver of non-Jews and give it to people of Abrahamic descent. He was incensed because he felt the Jews of his day were committing usury by taking advantage of non-Jews and twisting Scripture (Deut. 23:19-20) to do it. He spoke and wrote against such usury with the same passion, intensity and anger with which he wrote against the abuses of Catholic Church leaders in taking advantage of others. He was wrong to stereotype all Jewish people as users and should have focused his critique on the teaching itself and the leaders who perpetuated it, the same way he focused his attentions against Catholic leaders who did the same. But he was right to preach against this false prosperity gospel and we should follow his example today because this is one of the primary tools Satan is using to ruin the teaching of the church and cause would-be-believers to mistrust and fall away. 

Luther reported that the Rabbi's of his day called Jesus tola, which means a hanged malefactor. They lied about Jesus and Mary, referring to Jesus as the bastard son of a whore, the offspring of a smith with whom Mary had intercourse. LIES! One rabbi called her Haria instead of Maria, which means "a heap of mud." Not only was there outrageous and blatant disrespect which is blasphemous, but they were committing outright heresy by claiming that Jesus was not the Son of God. Martin Luther was right to be angry. If those words don't bother you, you probably aren't a Christian. Luther's responses may have been offensive and incendiary, but they were heavily provoked and much more about religion than race. All believers should be zealous for God and for His name. But we should also be wise about the manner in which WE represent that name and carefully guarded in our reactions. 

Racist Theology
Luther believed that the Jewish leaders were teaching a type of racist theology similar to what alt-right white supremacist cults teach in America today. According to Luther, they claimed to be God's only people and to be of "high, noble blood, birth and descent" from Abraham and that all other people were less than human, regarded as worms and unworthy of salvation, including Gentiles, whom they called Goyim. According to Luther, they denied the image of God in all people and the truth of Scripture which declares: Understand, then, that those who have faith are the sons of Abraham. They refused to acknowledge that: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And they failed to believe the prophecy given to Abraham: And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command. (Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:28, Genesis 22:18) 

Martin Luther got overheated in his response. I think that most of us have written something in the heat of the moment and later realized that our words could have been more "gracious," "seasoned with salt" and "wise toward outsiders," the way the Bible says they should be. But opposing these false teachings was correct, appropriate and necessary. It is unfortunate that in correcting them for their failure to recognize the image of God in all people and to honor the value of all people, he devalues and degrades the Jews with his own words. 

The real trouble lies with Martin's advice to the government which appears in 6 points:

1. He recommends avoiding Synagogues and Jewish schools.
I have seen many online sources that claim Luther called for synagogues and Jewish schools to be burned down. The book translation I read simply calls for them to be avoided, but He does say that he believes Moses would have burned them down. In the Old Testament, it was appropriate and required that God's people tear down pagan altars, remove Asherah trees/poles and destroy the "high places" of Ba'al worship. This does not apply to synagogues at all and I strongly disagree with Luther on Biblical grounds. The disciples and apostles regularly taught in synagogues. In fact, these meeting places were one of the primary venues where early Christianity was taught. Acts 17:1-2 records that Paul and his traveling companions came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as was his custom, went in to them and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures. He journeyed on to teach in the synagogues of Berea (Acts 17:10), Athens (verses 16-17), Corinth (Acts 18:4), and Ephesus (18:19). Apollos was also received and taught in the synagogue (Acts 18:26) and then Paul returned on a different trip to the synagogue in Ephesus (19:8). The synagogue was a place where the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was worshipped and early Christianity was proclaimed directly inside its doors. When a synagogue turned them away, they would teach in a different location, but the synagogue was usually the first stop. 

It is also worth mentioning, that in addition to the synagogue in Athens, Paul also taught at the Aereopagus, or Mars Hill, in Athens. This was a place where multiple altars and monuments were erected in honor of numerous false gods. Centuries earlier, there had been a plague in Athens, they consulted with one of their famous poets, Epimenides, who instructed them to let some sheep loose on that very hillside and in the place where the sheep laid down to rest, there they should build an altar to the unknown God. They followed his instructions and the plague abated. That day at Mars Hill, Paul introduced those Gentiles to the once unknown, but now knowable God, the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Paul's method was reason and Biblical teaching. Paul did not tear down the physical monuments because He was much more concerned with breaking down the walls and idols people had constructed in their hearts. This is the same attitude and position we should take as believers. It would have been appropriate to walk right into those synagogues and share the good news about Messiah Yeshua (Jesus the Christ) just like the early disciples did, and then if they told lies about The Way, AVOID the synagogue and teach somewhere nearby, as Paul did (Acts 19:8-9). Respectful dialogue and patient, long-suffering teaching are they way we share and spread our faith. The Old Testament tearing down of pagan places of worship was a type and a picture of the spiritual battle we fight now. When Paul wrote in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, verses 10:4-5 about tearing down strongholds with God's word, he wasn't talking about demolishing buildings, but rather breaking down the walls and lies that keep people from coming to God. 

His 2nd piece of "advice," was to not let Jews own their own houses. This makes me sick to my stomach. This type of speech is inexcusable and absolutely horrifying. He has judged all Jews by the alleged actions of a few and there is no justification for this to be found anywhere within the pages of Scripture. He was wrong. 

His 3rd word of counsel was to take away Jewish prayer books and the Talmud. I do not advocate or approve of censorship like this. The people at Ephesus voluntarily incinerated their books of witchcraft, but there is perhaps some historical information to be gleaned from the pages of the Talmud--the writings of rabbi's. The problem is that the Jews have always depended much too heavily on extra-biblical literature and have elevated the writings of rabbis too high. They consider books other than the bible to be Holy books and this IS wrong and dangerous. It was the proliferation of extra-biblical writings that helped corrupt the Pharisees. No rabbinical writings are equal to Holy Scripture. The book of Titus bans mythical Jewish tales and requires overseers to protect the church from them, for example the book of Enoch is full of mythical and wrongful teaching which contributed to some of the racist theology mentioned above. It is wrong to take away prayer books. 

4th--He wanted to forbid rabbi's from teaching
The synagogue section covered the appropriate ways to engage our opponents. While it would be absolutely right for a pastor/overseer to refuse to allow a false teacher to teach in a church or synagogue, it is dangerous and unwise to suggest that the government should have this power. 

5th--Medieval Travel Ban
He wanted to remove protection for Jews from traveling. Considering all of the Old Testament admonitions for God's people not to harm sojourners (foreigners) living among them. I believe this applies to Christians treating foreigners well. I realize that he was viewing all Jews in the same way we might view religious terrorists, but this sounds very ominous. The Gospel was spread because of the ability of Jews to travel throughout the Roman empire, under protection as citizens, especially in the case of Paul. I fail to see merit or value in this ban. 

6th--He forbid the practice of usury.
Ending usury, or taking advantage of people is good, but taking people's money and possessions because you SUSPECT that everything every Jew owns is stolen--this is absurd and absolutely ridiculous. It seems that there may have been some predatory lending or shark-like banking practices occuring and certainly this is wrong for anyone claiming to be one of God's people. But the Gospel calls for us to give up materialistic pursuits willingly, NEVER to take such things away from someone else. 

1. The Gospel of Greed, or Prosperity Gospel is a false gospel that leads people away from the one true God and causes them to take advantage of each other

2. Racist theology is contrary to Scripture, drives a wedge between brothers and sisters and prevents the spread of the true Gospel.

3. Satan wants to corrupt children by corrupting the teaching in churches/synagogues, schools and homes. We see this actively occurring in our society. 

4. You can't judge an entire group of people based on the actions/alleged actions of a few. Stereotyping is bad. Look at how all of our nation's police have been judged by the actions of a few the same way it seems Martin Luther judged all of the Jews, and realize how unfair it is. We should also remember not to judge all Muslims based on the actions of Islamic terrorists. They are also the appropriate recipients of the good news of Jesus Christ. 

How Should We Carry On?

1. Our attitude must always be redemptive and centered on the good news of Jesus

2. Our language must always be redemptive, as speaking to those created in God's image and must minister grace to those who hear it

3. It doesn't matter how much knowledge we have, if we don't have love, it all goes to waste and we will be fruitless. 

4. For all the good that Martin Luther and the other Reformers did, they also made mistakes. We can respect their courage, honor their positive contributions and appreciate their work, but we must also take seriously our sacred responsibility to study the word for ourselves, catch their mistakes, and correct them. 

As Christians, we should have compassion on our prodigal brothers and sisters, Jews who have not yet accepted Jesus as their Messiah. One Saturday, while in Seminary, I was cleaning at McKinney Bible church, which is near an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue. We looked out the window to see an elderly couple walking through the parking lot in the Hot Texas sun on their way to and from synagogue, observing the Sabbath. They could not start their car, because that would be considered starting a fire, and their Pharisaical interpretation of the Law forbids it on the Sabbath day. Jesus taught that the Sabbath was created for US, not the other way around. It was created to give us REST. It took tremendously more labor for them to walk a mile or two to church than it would have taken to simply turn a key and drive. This is the futility of their belief system. 

The greatest sadness of Martin Luther's tirade against the Jews is the harm it did to the cause of Christ. His biggest mistake was to think that God had rejected the Jewish people and forsaken them forever. It is true that God punished Israel. But even during their exile, Jeremiah wrote to them: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.....For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God. (Jeremiah 29:11, 51:5) Isaiah 54:7 further explains: For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. God returned them to the promised land and sent the Messiah to them. Romans 11:1 asks the question directly in a New Testament context to show us that God still has His heart turned toward Israel: Has God cast away His people? Certainly not.....God has not cast away His people... Paul then explains that we Gentiles have been included, grafted on to Abraham's family tree, and God is more than willing, even eager, to re-attach Jews who place their faith in Jesus. The book of Revelation reveals that many Jews will come to Christ. Our position toward them must always be redemptive. Our posture is that of an outstretched hand. As Peter and Paul encouraged, Our speech should be gracious, respectful, seasoned with salt so that it will minister grace to the hearers. Our words should be carefully chosen with the Gospel in mind. Our writings should do the same.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What Does the Bible Say About "Open" Marriage, PolyAmory and Polygamy?

You cannot call yourself a Christian and participate in a so-called "open" marriage or "plural" marriage. Polyamory and Polygamy are in direct and blatant defiance of Biblical teaching and anyone who engages in these behaviors cannot claim to be a follower of Christ, for Jesus clearly taught against these things. 

This behavior is forbidden throughout Scripture, receiving special attention twice in the 10 Commandments, first in Exodus 20:14 where it is written:

You shall not commit adultery

and again in Exodus 20:17 where it is written:

You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.

The term Adultery, which is na'aph in Hebrew, means to have sex with anyone other than your own spouse. Covet, or chamad, means to desire or lust after another man's wife and to desire her because of her beauty, or to want to take pleasure in her. 

These teachings are given special emphasis by Jesus in Matthew 5:27 when He said: You have heard that it was said, "Do not commit adultery," But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

I will give attention to false teachers by naming them, but leading voices in their movement have claimed that polyamorous relationships where a married couple choose to "swing" with other married couples or allow each other to have sex with multiple partners are loving or even based on Jesus love-based ethic, etc. As it happens, the commandments not to commit adultery or covet are repeated in Romans 13:9. Do not commit adultery and Do not covet , where they are presented along with other relational commandments including Do not murder and Do not steal in the context of Love your neighbor as yourself. It goes on to say Love does no harm to a neighbor. The BIBLE defines loving your neighbor as NOT desiring his or her spouse and NOT having sex with them. And it defines adultery as harming your neighbor. 

Liberals love to cite the fact that David took multiple wives and concubines (2 Samuel 5:13) and that his son Solomon took 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). But did you know that they were sinning? God's law in Deuteronomy 17 read:

Kings of Israel shall not multiply wives for themselves.

In fact, no one else is recorded as having more than one wife after  the Law was given unless it was in a sinful context. Even the Father of Israel, Jacob's polygamy was clearly forbidden to future generations by Leviticus 18:18:

You are not to marry a woman as a rival to her sister and have sexual intercourse with her during her sister's lifetime.

Since Christians are repeatedly referred to as brothers and sisters in Christ, this passage may be properly understood to forbid all plural marriages when applied to a New Testament context. It is disrespectful and mistreating to use one another this way. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 4 admonishes us not to take part in any type of sexual immorality or lust and shows that we are not to misuse our Christian brothers and sisters this way in verse 6 which delivers this stern warning:

And that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The LORD will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.

The Letter to the Hebrews which outlines the New Covenant in the same format as Deuteronomy declares in verse 13:4

Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.

One of the major claims by the promoters of this wicked movement is that if a spouse gives their partner permission to have sex with someone else, then it isn't adultery. That is an outrageous lie. You can no more give someone permission to commit adultery with another person, than you can give them permission to steal from another person, or to murder another person. Marriage is a covenant before God, so it is God you are sinning against, as well as yourself and another person who you are either taking advantage of or causing to sin. The fact that adultery is a sin is upheld by James 2:11 which states For He who said Do not commit adultery also said Do not murder. These are both equally valid commandments for New Testament Christians.. 1 Corinthians 6:9 calls it wickedness saying:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral....nor adulterers....nor covetous....will inherit the kingdom of God 

This passage is immediately followed by encouragement that God forgives and saves people out of those lifestyles. But you cannot claim to be a follower of Christ and teach others to sin in this way. These are lifestyles Christians teach against and urge others to repent from. In fact, church leaders are forbidden from polyamorous and polygamous activity. 

An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of ONE wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable and able to teach. (1 Timothy 3:2)

Adultery is any sexual relationship outside of one's covenant marriage between one man and one woman. Jesus said:

If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments: You shall not commit adultery....

There is no such thing as an "open" marriage. Polygamy and Polyamory are clearly and defiantly sins against God. Jesus clearly defined marriage and all who are His followers must accept Him as the absolute and final authority on the matter. He said:

From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his WIFE and the TWO will become ONE flesh, so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate. (Mark 10:6-8)
Here are some helpful links on this subject:

Here is a link to a related post on this blog:

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Asherah Poles and Marching Band Shows

Band Parents should be alarmed about the amount of pagan imagery and idolatry that is appearing in marching band shows. I have been seeing more and more productions featuring young, impressionable students bowing down in front of sacred trees, phallic symbols, and goddess-costumed colorguard performers. In fact, one of the most common elements between contemporary shows is to see performers gathered in a circle around an uplifted goddess figure, bowing in homage and worship. I saw it again live, just over a week ago.

In the video shown below, the colorguard members were told that they were "a goddess the whole world worships and adores." This sounds alarmingly similar to Acts 19:27 when the head of the silversmith guild (idolmakers) referred to the ancient goddess:

There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty

In the ancient cults, young girls were often used as stand-ins, or the physical personification of the goddess. This video shows a colorguard performer with wings at the center of the circle as the object of worship:

Here is an image of students bowing down before what appears to be a type of phallic symbol. 

There are many who believe that the Asherah poles forbidden in the Old Testament were phallic symbols. I personally, tend to believe they were sacred trees, and just this last weekend I saw a band whose entire show revolved around a sort of sacred tree, they even bowed down before it. The temple at Ephesus had such a tree, which I believe represented the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which was bowed down before and worshipped. This represents preferring and honoring the knowledge of man and the craftiness of Satan over the Wisdom of God. Here are some passages of Scripture about this type of worship:

You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself. -Deuteronomy 16:21

But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim. Exodus 34:13

They tore down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars that were high above them he chopped down; also the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images he broke in pieces and ground to powder and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. -2 Chronicles 34:4 

It is possible that not every band director realizes what their drill writers and show designers are doing. Hopefully, this will serve as a wake-up call. I confess that I once programmed Danse Bacchanale, from the oratorio Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saens. Even though it was based on a Bible story, it turns out that the Bacchanale was the bad, pagan part of the story. A Bacchanale is a tribute to the false god Bacchus, god of wine and revelry and is basically a big Ba'al worshipping orgy like the event that occurred when the people of Israel bowed down and worshipped the golden calf. (Exodus 32, Acts 7:39-43)  So, famous or not, the piece was a poor programming choice which I am deeply ashamed of and regret. And I believe that there were spiritual consequences to that decision. But we certainly did not have inappropriate visuals or pagan worship. I thought it was a cool sounding song with a neat Egyptian melody from one of my favorite drum corps shows of all time. Now that I think of it, Phantom Regiment had an absolutely shocking and filthy visual in that show........ This type of wild, out of control, pagan worship event is precisely what Igor Stravinsky portrayed in his piece The Rite of Spring, which incited a riot at its premiere. As it happens, this piece was featured in a show at the BOA Regional last weekend. 

I also saw a tribute to Destiny, with the image of a woman in silhuette on Banners behind the band--clearly in reference to the goddess herself, not the concept of Destiny. Isaiah 65:11 warns against worshipping this false god:

But as for you who forsake the LORD and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword and all of you will bow down to the slaughter. 

The words fortune and destiny refer to the worship of The Fates, which, not surprisingly, yet another band offered tribute to at the BOA Regional, titling their show "Fate." Spreading a table and filling bowls of mixed wine represent having communion, and welcoming the presence of this false demonic god into your life. 1 Corinthians 10:20 warns against any type of worship to a false god. 

The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.

Why is this such a big deal? Fatalism, the belief that human decisions don't matter, is antithetical to Christian hope. Equally concerning is that this IS the Ba'al worship of ancient Canaan, the same fertility cult worshipped in Babylon and eventually Israel, which caused the nation to be destroyed. Ancient pagan psalms reveal that this false faith is the very same wicked religion as the ancient Mesopotamian fertility cult which Abraham was called to come out of, which descended from the original cult of the moon goddess, Sin. This cult was the very incarnation of evil and the origin of the widespread worship of Satan. The cult of Ba'al and Asherah featured widespread prostitution, the objectification and misuse of women (and men), drug and alcohol abuse (mixed wine was laced with drugs), demon worship, false prophecy from demons, ritual cutting, child sacrifice and every deep, dark lewdness imaginable. The open worship of this cult is not only an affront to Judeo-Christian values and the fundamental ethics of civilized society, but a defiance of decency, an abandonment of morality, a degradation of human dignity and nothing less than the open celebration of prostitution and the objectification of women, which are the hallmarks of the cult. In short, it is a SIN against God. And this corrupting influence is being deliberately pushed into the lives of American children.

As music teachers, we perform both sacred and secular music. This is something we treasure as Americans and is supported strongly by the Music Educators National Conference and case law. But it is an outrageous abuse to require students to engage in acts of pagan worship. Personally, I believe that immoral and lascivious individuals are doing this on purpose to not only indoctrinate children, but perhaps to provoke a response that would end up in legislation forbidding all religious music in schools or altogether like Russia has done, plunging us into darkness and hopelessness, instead of a beautiful country that was once founded on freedom to practice the Christian faith.

For this reason, this issue must be dealt with shrewdly. It needs to be taken care of discretely, not publicly, but through private parent conversations with the Band Director, demanding that the offensive choreography be removed. Of course, polite conversation and concerned correction is preferred, but if that fails, then men of integrity on local school boards need to have private, in person conversations where it is made clear that exposing communities to such pagan filth will result in non-renewal of contracts.

While I personally know many, many wonderful people who are band directors, who work with students for every right reason and noble purpose, there are, sadly, certain influential individuals within BOA, DCI and WGI who have been pushing inappropriate behaviors, attitudes, deviant sexuality and points of view and indoctrinating impressionable students for many years. I have personally heard the stories of Christian students suffering persecution in these programs. It is time to take a stand. It is time for it to end. It is time to take back the ground that has been lost.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Totally Destroy" North Korea??? Or LIBERATE North Korea??? 3 Principles of Just War.

Today, President Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea. While I would support a military effort to LIBERATE North Korea from its evil dictator and his regime, destroying a country full of many innocent citizens is outrageous. It is true that government has a responsibility to protect its citizens. But there are also rules for conducting just and necessary warfare. The President said our cause is a "righteous" cause. If that is so, then we must conduct ourselves Righteous-LY. Here are 3 Principles of Righteous, or Just warfare:  

1. Offer Terms of Peace

When you go near a city to fight against it, then proclaim an offer of peace to it. And it shall be that if they accept your offer of peace and open to you, then all the people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you and serve you.

The ancient world consisted of city-states, which were like individual kingdoms. God's army, Israel, was not allowed to attack without first offering terms of peace. If the city laid down their arms and surrendered, they would become like a territory, paying tribute to Israel, but also receiving the protection and blessings of the Kingdom. There was peace, protection and prosperity in the surrender.

It is appropriate to offer North Korea terms of peace that include surrender, require the immediate end of its nuclear program and surrender of all ballistic missiles, nuclear devices and technology. But it is also important to offer mutually beneficial trade, like the peace and prosperity which are frequently mentioned in Scripture with regard to foreign relations. This includes food, goods and services and most importantly religious freedom and protection for its own citizens and for missionaries and foreigners within their borders.

2. Do Not Harm Innocents
The rules of Holy War were for ancient Israel only, not modern America or any other nation for that matter. We should never even use the term Holy War, because our nation is not Israel and because it incenses radical Islamists, who we do not need to provoke. But there are aspects of God's righteousness displayed through these rules that we can learn from.

If they refused to surrender and war was fought, all the men of the city would have been considered its fighting force--army--not innocents. But the women, children and even livestock were never allowed to be harmed. They would have become part of the nation of Israel and became their responsibility to take care of. Going to war against a nation's leadership means that we become responsible for the citizens of that nation. We have neither mandate nor permission to kill every single member of an enemies army as Israel did. The world lives under a different covenant. But I believe we are justified in going to war against them when necessary. And we DO have a clear Biblical mandate to protect the innocent. This means that dropping a nuclear bomb on a city or country with innocents present is absolutely wrong, completely out of bounds and never an option. Surgical strikes to take out military targets, weapons and tech are highly advisable and if peaceful options fail, the deaths of North Korean soldiers, while sad and tragic, fall within the boundaries of justifiable warfare. We also have the option of offering terms of peace on multiple occasions, even after hostilities begin and we should pursue these options to the fullest extent possible.

3. Don't Destroy The Land
When you besiege a city(state) for a long time while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them if you can eat of them. Do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is MAN'S FOOD.

We should avoid warfare that destroys land and food or prevents people from returning to a good and peaceful life when the war is over. We have read about not destroying cattle and not destroying fruit trees. Again, this speaks to caring about the well-being of our fellow man and for those who will live there after war has ended. Nuclear destruction and fall out violates this principle. The New Testament calls on us to feed our enemies. This goes beyond the Old Testament mandate to simply not destroy something and calls on us to do better in our treatment of other human beings. When we go to war with a nation's leadership or army, we become responsible for its innocent citizens.

We must have compassion on the citizens of every nation. War is destructive and all peaceful means of resolution should be pursued first. Just war seeks to preserve peace by putting a stop to evil. The ultimate goal is not to display power, but to protect human life. My sincere hope is that if we show mercy, compassion and genuine human concern for the well-being of the citizens of North Korea who are suffering under the regime of this tyrant, perhaps hardened hearts may be softened and wisdom will prevail.

Our goal should be to keep America and allies under threat from North Korea safe while providing food, safety, religious freedom, protection and the hope of a better life for the citizens of North Korea.

In the meantime, let us Pray:

I urge that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people--for kings and ALL those in authority, that we may live peaceful/tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Here is a link to my previous post on this subject which covers the same 3 principles of warfare, but elaborates on the differing roles of church and state, citizens and government in dealing with such problems:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

WE CRY OUT: What Does It Mean To "Call Upon The Name Of The Lord?"

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. -Romans 10:13

When I was a kid, there was one rule that everyone in the neighborhood abided by: If Mom calls, you better come running. We were free to ride bikes and play baseball and explore the woods, but we needed to stay within earshot of home. When Mom called, we were expected to answer.

The type of calling in this verse is a different type of calling. The phrase call on the name in Greek, is epikaleomai onoma, (eh-pee-call-eo-ma-hee). Kaleo means to cry out. It means to appeal to someone. It is a cry for help that requires humility and submission. There is a respect, reverence and recognition of authority in this type of calling.

Imagine if one of us kids got hurt while playing in the woods and needed help. If we were within earshot, then we could cry out for help and Mom, or Dad if he was home from work, would have come running. But what if we were up to something we shouldn't have been and were afraid of getting caught, but really needed help? Like, the time a certain principal's son accidentally set the woods on fire. We might have been afraid of the consequences if we had done something wrong, but help was only coming from one place, our loving parents.

We have a Father in heaven who is always within earshot of our cries for help and he already knows what we've done and the trouble we've gotten ourselves into. In fact, it's as if He is already calling our name to come home, holding out a helping hand toward us, ready to pick us up. God is ready to forgive and earnestly desires to help. But make no mistake, God expects an answer and a refusal to respond will result in punishment. The Bible tells us that God is calling all people everywhere to repent and that if we hear His voice, we shouldn't harden our hearts and ignore him, we should answer. (Acts 17:30, Romans 10:21, Hebrews 3:15)

All of us have gotten into trouble in this life. At some point, we are all spiritually sick, beaten down, sinful and in need of help. Calling upon the name of the Lord is our response to His call out to us. The word epikaleomai means to receive and invite his name. When we cry out to God we are asking, desperately appealing, to be called by his name, willingly choosing to become His child and to be saved and received as His own. Calling on the name of Jesus is our way of admitting we need help and receiving Him as our Savior. Our action is the crying out. His action is the rescuing.

This passage is about our initial salvation experience, where we place our trust and faith in Jesus to save and forgive us, heal and cleanse us and call us His own. To "call on the name of the Lord," Epikaleomai Onoma Kurios means to humble ourselves and CRY OUT to Jesus, APPEALING to Him for help, INVITING him into our lives, RECEIVING Him as our Savior. It means to call upon His NAME and everything it implies which includes surrendering to His AUTHORITY and honoring Him, His Word and His ways. It means that we are not only permitting ourselves to be called by His name, but are practically begging for it. Once we willingly choose to cry out to God, to receive His salvation and be called by His name, we are His child forever. He will always be there when we need Him. We can always cry out to Him.

Here is a link to another article I wrote on why we ask Jesus into our hearts:

Monday, September 4, 2017

Finding the 10 "Lost" Tribes of Israel

Some racist cults claim to be descended from the 10 "Lost" tribes of Israel and that these tribes were white, Caucasian, Anglo-Saxon people. The BIBLE disagrees. The tribes of Israel were never lost, we know exactly who they were and where they went.

Cults such as the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, Church of Israel, KKK and alt-right claim that the 10 so-called "Lost" tribes of Israel migrated to Europe and eventually to America and that they, themselves, are the lily-white pure-blood descendants of these people. They also claim that people with dark skin pigment are descended from Ham and are cursed and they consider themselves to be the "pureblood" descendants of Abraham, and his forefather Shem. They claim to be God's chosen people through bloodline and descent and are known for being anti-semitic, they hate Jews as much as they hate people of African descent. I've already debunked the "Curse of Ham" myth in my previous posts. Let's see what the Word of God has to say about their other theories:

Diluting The "Pure Blood" Myth
Beyond the fact that every scholar in the world knows the Hebrews were olive-skinned people and not "white," these claims would be hilariously ironic if they weren't so disgusting. Genesis 46:8-26 records the family tree of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. Joseph's wife, Asenath, was the daughter of an Egyptian priest, a descendant of HAM. So much for their bloodline theory. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, named after Joseph's two sons, are descendants of Ham. Geographically, a majority of the Northern Kingdom was occupied by Manasseh and Ephraim.

I have established in previous posts that Judah's first wife was a descendant of Ham, as was Tamar, who he also had a child with. Simeon had a son with a Canaanite woman as well, a descendant of Ham.

Since the whole nation began with Jacob's 12 sons and their families, 70 people in total, who went down to Egypt and intermarried for over 400 years and since tribes frequently intermarried after the Exodus, it is absolutely ludicrous to think that the Israelites were some type "purebred" holy bloodline of white people, descended from Shem, in the way that these cults claim. God made a covenant with Abraham's family, not on the basis of some sort of mythological pure bloodline, but on the basis of faith.

Finding the 10 "Lost" Tribes of Israel
The claim that 10 of the tribes of Israel were "Lost," basically all except Judah and Benjamin, is equally ludicrous. They were never lost, we know exactly where they went. On 2 occasions, the Assyrians invaded Israel, ultimately conquering the tribes of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. 1st and 2nd Kings is the history of the Northern Kingdom. 2 Kings 15:29 tells us precisely what happened to them.

In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria.

In the first invasion, Tiglath-pileser, King of Assyria captured 8 regions of Israel including Galilee and all of the tribal region of Naphtali. He captured the cities of Hazor, Kedesh and Ijon. This shows us that he penetrated into the northernmost tribes of Israel, including the city-state of Dan (which had never conquered its original allotment down south) and then into Zebulun, Naphtali, Asher and possibly Issachar. It also tells us that he conquered Gilead, which is a term that refers to the area west of the Jordan River where the tribes of East Manasseh, Gad and Reuben resided. Some people from either 7 or 8 tribes of Israel were taken captive and carried off into Assyria. Relocating a conquered people in order to assimilate them into their new culture was common practice in the ancient world. 

2 Kings 17:6 records where the people were taken when Israel was defeated by the Assyrians in a 2nd invasion. 

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

In 722 B.C., Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, fell to the hand of Shalmaneser, King of Assyria. He finished the job Tilglath-pileser began, relocating the remaining residents of Israel to Assyria, placing them in Halah, and on the Habor River and in the cities of the Medes. The rest of Israel, including Issachar, West Mannaseh and Ephraim was conquered when the capital city was taken.

If you've been counting, you probably only came up with 9 tribes: Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Reuben, Zebulun and Naphtali. That's because, Simeon, located south of Judah was probably absorbed into the lower Kingdom and the tribe of Levi, who were the priests, lived among the other tribes.  

So, what happened to them? Some of them were assimilated into Assyrian culture, or at least adjusted to their new environment, building new lives in their new location. The entire purpose of the relocation was to integrate them into the empire and prevent revolt.

A remnant, however, remained in the land. 2 Chronicles 34 records some of the reforms of King Josiah of Judah. Not only did he rid all of Judah of idols, but he also cleaned out the rest of the promised land. He travelled through the ruins of the Northern Kingdom, to Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon and as far north as Naphtali, tearing down pagan altars and crushing idols into powder. In addition to collecting an offering from the people of Judah and Benjamin, the Levites also collected an offering from the faithful remnant of people still living in Ephraim and Manasseh and throughout the promised land.

Ultimately, Babylon conquered Assyria. They also conquered the Southern Kingdom of Israel, carrying off the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and the Levites to captivity in Babylon. Then Persia conquered Babylon, just as Daniel predicted. King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the Israelites could return home, just as Jeremiah predicted. Cyrus' father was a Persian, but his mother was a Mede. He may very well have grown up around Hebrews living in those Mede cities, or at least gained an appreciation of them from his mother. Either way, Cyrus' decree pertained to the entire Kingdom. While only the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and the Levitical priests are recorded as returning in mass, this makes sense because it had only been 70 years since the Southern Kingdom fell, but it had been nearly 200 years since the Northern Kingdom was conquered. None of them had seen the promised land and their families had lived in their new surroundings for generations. Nevertheless, all believers in the one true God were free to return. The Bible records that people returned from many cities in the Persian empire. Members of the northern tribes could have been among those who were unable to prove their descent from the nation of Israel. (Ezra 2:59) Others remained in their new homes in the Medo-Persian empire. Many of those who were scattered and did not return to the promised land, still maintained their identity as Hebrews. The book of Esther tells part of their story.

We know that some people remained aware of their heritage. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, Paul from the tribe of Benjamin, John the Baptist's father was a priest from the tribe of Levi, and Anna, the prophetess who encountered Jesus in the temple, was from the tribe of Asher. But after the exile, the Jews were viewed more as one people than as individual tribes.

The northern tribes of Israel were never lost. We know exactly who they were descended from and what happened to them due to the careful, accurate and faithful history which has been preserved for us in the Bible. After Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Jews were scattered in what is known as the diaspora, but they still maintained their ethnic, cultural and religious identity through the centuries, right up until the promised land was restored to them in 1948. Today, the descendants of Israel live all over the world, and are well aware of their heritage.

More importantly, we know that the true children of Abraham are those who have faith, regardless of who their ancestors were.

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. (Galatians 3:7)

It is just as the Scripture says: “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Greek: The same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on Him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:11-13)

Here are links to the other 2 posts in this series:
Here is a map of the tribal allotments. Sorry for the glare over Reuben, just underneath Gad: