In search of the next reformers

Before the Reformation began nearly 500 years ago today, Christ followers were very much in the dark regarding the Scriptures. Please take the time to read the blog at this link – http://headhearthand.org/blog/2014/10/29/whats-the-state-of-theology-in-america/  Its speaks to where we find ourselves as the people of God with reference to the Bible and theology today. We as a people are once again in the dark. We started the New York Institute for Biblical Studies to help the God’s people to be equipped with God’s Word to do God’s Work in the 21st century. We are trying by His grace to combat the problem of Biblical and theological ignorance.  Our next seven week semester begins this coming Monday night. Check out our web site at http://www.NYIBS.net to see our class offerings. We have a Theology track, a Bible Survey track, a Church History Track and two Christian Counseling Tracks. Check this link out  to get a sample of what a class looks and sounds like – https://vimeo.com/110608115 . You can register on line, by phone at 718-354-9971 or in person this coming Monday night, November 3rd from 6:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M. at 30 Maple Parkway, the facilities of Calvary Chapel. Staten island NY 10303

What’s a Christian to do?

Over the last twenty-four hours we New Yorkers have seen our city experience the first case of Ebola. Dr. Craig Spencer is in need of our prayers as he combats this deadly disease that he picked up while serving with Doctors without Borders in West Africa. In addition, we’ve  seen four rookie NYC Police officers attacked by a hatchet wielding man with radical Islamic views in what may have been a terrorist attack. One of the police officers (Kenneth Healey) was struck in the head by the hatchet and is in need of our prayers.  Couple these events with the two terrorist attacks in Canada this week and the ongoing Ebola concerns nationwide and we find that many of us are a little on edge. What’s the Christian’s response to all thus supposed to be? Does our faith provide us with any answers? Does our Christian world view make a difference in the midst of these troubling situations. Join me today at 3PM on 570 WMCA or at http://www.wmca.com as we seek to answer these questions as I guest host the Kevin McCullough Show live from Manhattan

Please pray for Dr. Craig Spencer
Please pray for Dr. Craig Spencer

The letter – Is this a threat?

Election2014Here is a letter I got today. The envelope was addressed to me personally so I am taking it personally. I have highlighted the parts I find particularly offensive. If Mr. Lynn is trying to intimate a group of Pastors or churches he picked the wrong group here in New York City. My response is in the form of an Evangelical Christian voter guide below:

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Who then shall lead us?
Reflections on Election 2014

In a couple of weeks Americans will go to the polls and pull a lever to elect leaders to run our country. We are truly a privileged people. Christians in centuries past had to put up with maniacal dictators who persecuted and martyred our forbearers. Even today, there are many places in the world where Christ followers are suppressed and oppressed. Because of our freedoms, I hope you will avail yourself of the right to vote. Being a good Christian means being a good citizen, rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, so go out and vote on Tuesday, November 4th.

A sample of Internet sites from and for Christians will yield a multitude of reasons to vote for one candidate or another. Many times we are told to pray and seek the Lord’s leading as to who we should vote for. I do believe we should pray. However, I don’t think we should so much seek a leading as we should seek discernment. We need discernment to see through the media’s hoopla and the candidates’ smoke and mirrors. They are, after all, politicians. But there is more.

As Christians we have been given the infallible, life-changing, inspired Word of God. From these Scriptures we can discern, at the most, which candidate we should vote for or, at the least, which candidate not to vote for. It seems to me that there are five timeless truths in Scripture that give to us guidance that should be a tremendous help.

These truths are:

Principle #1 – A commitment to a pro-life position – All life is sacred in and out of the womb because we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27-28). The life of the innocent unborn is indeed precious. The Scriptures teach us that God supervises our creation in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16) and that He has a purpose for us from before we were born. In Amos 1:13, God promised to judge the Ammonites for their mistreatment of the unborn and their mothers. God is clearly on the side of the unborn, so the person we vote for should be fully of that persuasion as well, both in their personal and political convictions.

Principle #2 – A commitment to a pro-traditional family position – From the time of Creation, God has defined marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman. (Genesis 2:22-25 & Matthew 19:3-6). Same sex marriage and or polygamous marriages are outside of God’s design. A society cannot survive without strong traditional families. Every effort should be made to hold this Biblical model up as the standard. What’s more, any deviation of God’s original design for the family is both dangerous and destructive to a society. The person we pull the lever for should share God’s view of marriage and the family.

Principle #3 – A commitment to a pro-Israel position – God promised Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you. And I will curse him who curses you.”(Genesis 12:1-3) This Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional and carries through to today. It behooves our nation then to bless Israel, to support her. This is a Biblical conviction we should embrace and hold to. It doesn’t mean we don’t confront Israel’s evils and faults. Israel doesn’t get a free pass to do whatever it pleases. However, it is clear that the Jewish nation is still the apple of God’s eye and we and the person we vote for should see them that way.

Principle #4 – A commitment to a pro-Judeo/Christian values position – Proverbs 14:34 tells us that “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people”. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount reflect what the Lord means by righteousness. Psalm 94:20 asks, “Shall the throne of iniquity which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You?” The Lord says He will have no part with the kingdom/nation that legislates evil behavior. As Christians, we should support those who share our values. We live in a pluralistic country, but we are under no obligation to vote for those who don’t share our Judeo/Christian values. These values are a major foundation for the goodness of our land.

Principle #5 – A commitment to a pro-compassion position — Psalm 9:17-18 tells us, “The wicked shall be turned into hell and all nations that forget God. For the needy shall not always be forgotten, the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.” It is clear that God cares about the poor and needy. The Church should have that same concern and so should those we vote for. Turning our back on those who are genuinely in need can result in God turning His back on us as a nation and a people

I encourage you to use these five simple principles to determine which candidate would best reflect our Christian values. As believers in Jesus Christ we are told to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. Thus, we don’t vote a political party but our Savior’s priorities. We cannot vote our color, but His creed. We don’t vote our ethnicity but His ethics. We don’t merely vote for “A Change we can believe in”, we vote according to “God’s Unchanging Word that we can count on.” We don’t vote “Country First”, we vote “Christ’s Kingdom First.” We don’t even vote according to our pocketbook, but rather, we must vote according to His principles. In the end, our prayer is not for what we want but what He Wills.

If you aren’t sure where a candidate stands, Google that candidate and the principles above. Check out their web page and look at their positions carefully. As election day looms ahead of us let’s be sure we search the Scriptures, search the internet, search our hearts and on Tuesday, November 4th search out our polling place and vote.

As a citizen of the United States of America I am grateful for the privilege of voting to elect our public officials. As a citizen of heaven I am grateful for the knowledge that the Lord ultimately selects our leaders. Daniel 2:20 tells us that the Lord “changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings”. He is always in control. First, foremost and always though, you and I are committed to follow whole-heartedly only one person. That person is our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is our only real Hope both now and eternally.

In His Service,

Pastor Dave Watson

Premises and Pictures

Brittany Maynard’s video about her hope of a peaceful, dignified death has gone viral. As of this writing, it has over 5 million hits on YouTube. One cannot help but be touched by Brittany’s heart and hope. Her video is a beautiful, professionally produced short film done through the organization Compassion and Choices. You may not recognize the organization’s name — let me help you. They were originally called the Hemlock Society, an organization founded in California in the year 1980 and named after Socrates, who infamously ended his life by drinking a beverage laced with hemlock.

Here is what I find interesting. The Hemlock Society, in its early years, was not in any way thought of as mainstream. They were thought of by the vast majority of Americans as a fringe group.  I dare to say that now 50 percent (or more!) of Americans would agree with their belief that a person should be able to determine when they want to die. In fact a Gallup Poll from this past June shows 69% of American believe Doctor assisted suicide should be permitted. What has changed?

Since 1980, thirty five years ago, there has been a dramatic shift in thinking. The shift comes because of a slow erosion of two foundational ideas. The first foundational idea is the premise that God is the Author of life and thus life is a stewardship we are entrusted with and for which we are accountable.  That has been replaced with the concept that life is an accident, a product (both generally and specifically) of an evolutionary process. Thus it is “my” life, “my” body to do with whatever I desire.

Our thinking has “evolved” (or devolved) from “This is God’s body and life; He gets to decide when my lease is terminated,” to “Don’t you dare tell me what to do with my body and life; I have the right of self- determination.” This is a world view issue. The God-centered world view is that there is a Sovereign God who rules the universe to whom I give an account. The man-centered view is that man is the highest evolved being and should be able to do whatever man wants. He is accountable only to himself.

In many ways, I think the contrast of these two views can be seen in the contrast of the American and French Revolutions.  The American Revolution came after a time of great spiritual awakening. This spirituality fueled much of the thought among this country’s founders. The French Revolution boasts in its founding document, Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, that their revolutionary thoughts were borne out of secular natural law. This fueled a humanism so arrogant that Maximilien Robespierre formed his own religious system known as “The Cult of the Supreme Being.” The French Revolution produced anarchy. The American Revolution produced an enduring democracy.

A second foundational idea that has factored into this shift is with reference to how we come to believe something is true. For nearly four hundred years, we determined truth primarily through reasoning it out. We became passionate about those ideas, which were well thought out rationally. Now the thought process must compete with how we feel about something. Our convictions are based somewhat on what we have reasoned out, but equally about what we feel. As a result, we are often passionate about something only because we feel it is right.

Here is where it becomes complicated. What we feel is greatly impacted by what we see and hear. Our feelings, and thus our concept of what truth is, are easily shaped and often manipulated by a picture, a movie or a song. So, in a YouTube world, how can anyone argue with a beautiful, serene video of Brittany Maynard showing us how she wants to go out of this world?

Determining truth this way is so dangerous and misleading. Two dimensional images on a screen, canvas or in a picture frame cannot convey what is really happening. They show you a reality that is often contrived. Bulletin: Reality shows aren’t real. Pictures do lie.

As a Christian it is important that I understand what is going on behind scenes. It is fruitless to argue the correctness of my point without addressing the question of world view. I think that is what the apostle Paul is getting at when he says “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”(2 Corinthians 10:5.) In addition, we must also be aware of the images that cause feelings that certain convictions are based on. We need to help our audience work through the process of finding truth that transcends feelings, which are easily manipulated and always changing.

Beyond all this we must become experts in why our worldview works and why the truth we find in Scripture is indeed the truth. I wish it were simpler and easier but it’s just not. Christians, equip yourself with the skills necessary to contend for your world view. Christ follower, know what you believe and why you believe it and then stand for it.

Blessings

Pastor Dave Watson

The Day That I Became a “Jesus Freak”

fall-foliage-berkshires     I love fall. I am a New Englander by birth. I was brought up in Western Massachusetts. Some of prettiest fall foliage on this earth can be seen in the Berkshires from late September to early November. The mountains surrounding the Housatonic Valley are truly spectacular as the trees are all decked out in their harvest colors.

There is another reason I love fall. It is the time of year that I became a Jesus freak. I use that term unashamedly because that’s what a few of my acquaintances began to call me after my conversion experience “back in the day”. I think they probably labeled me aptly. I was never really someone who took their faith half-way serious. For me, for whatever reason, it was “all in” from the start.

My family was not perfect. Whose is? My dad died of cancer when I was nine and my mother remarried a wonderful man two years later. She and my step-dad made sure we had more than enough and raised us in a very strong moral home that I will always be grateful for. My mom made me and my younger siblings attend Sunday School every week. We went religiously to Old Parish Church in the center of Sheffield.  I went without a fight because I could go to Silk’s Drugstore right afterwards to buy candy. One of my Sunday school teachers was King Hunt, a basketball star for Mount Everett. I don’t remember if he was a good teacher but I do remember it was easy to divert him from the lesson to talk about basketball.

It was at Old Parish that I encountered Percy Holmes. Mr. Holmes was an old man in his seventies by the time I got to him. Every sixth grade boy and girl had to go through Percy Holmes’ class. He was the first teacher I had that used the Bible… not the little books everyone else had used. He spoke of Christ like he knew him and of a coming judgment like it really would happen. His words and manner of life impacted me. His faith was real, alive, life-changing.

Soon, the dominant thing in my life was sports. Really, from the sixth grade on all that was important to me were the three balls; football, basketball and baseball. It seems silly, but I went to school to play ball. I wish I could say I excelled at any of these but in reality I was only an average athlete. I envied my friend Steve Brown who could throw a football nearly fifty yards in the air (the coaches moved me to running back because it was clear I was never going to beat him out for the quarterbacking  job). I could only dream of being like my friend Peter Gunn who was the same height as me and could nearly dunk a basketball (I struggled to get half-way up the net with my best jumps). I longed to pitch a baseball like my friend Randy Koldys who threw hard with pinpoint control (I did, however, break-up a Koldys’ no-hitter in Little League when he mercifully threw me a knuckleball). Still, sports were a major source of happiness for me.

In the fall of my freshman year of High School my family received Billy Graham’s Decision Magazine in the mail. I don’t to this day know how we got it and who it was addressed to if anyone in my house. I picked it up and read almost the whole magazine. I didn’t understand much of it but was annoyed by what I did understand. Graham, a world-wide famous evangelist, was really down on the world. His message was one of “get ready, Jesus is coming soon”. I thought he was too negative, yet his faith seemed much like Percy Holmes’ faith. It was real, it was alive. It was life-changing. I determined that I was going to find out what was up with Graham and his message.

One of our assistant football coaches at the time was a man named  Robert Duchardt. We called him “Coach”. He was also the team trainer. I had heard through the grapevine that he was “religious”. Almost immediately after receiving the Decision Magazine I started  conversing with him about Graham, the end of the world and his Christian faith. After my annoying questioning he invited me to join him and his family and two senior football players for a trip upstate to visit his brother at a Christian retreat center. The next day, having been defeated by Haldane 36-6 on Saturday, we all got into his VW van and journeyed upstate.

Arriving at our destination on Sunday morning we went to an evangelical worship service. The music was alive. The people were real. It was different from what I had experienced in my religious world. After dinner the three footballers and the coach sat and talked about matters of God, Jesus Christ and faith on a dock overlooking Schroon Lake. Coach Duchardt shared with us the same message that Mr. Holmes had shared, the same message Billy Graham’s Decision Magazine had communicated.

Opening the Scriptures, Coach talked about the fact that all men are sinners and that I was a sinner. I needed no convincing. The depravity of my sailor like mouth and the filthiness of my lustful mind and heart already told me I was a sinner. The Bible verses he shared just confirmed it (Romans 3:23). He also shared that all of our sin in general as well as my sin in particular separated me from God and that ultimately it would lead me to a permanent separation, an eternal damnation (Romans 6:23). I had always thought that whenever the Judgment Day occurred my good works would be weighed against my evil deeds and based on how the scale tipped I would go either to Heaven or to Hell. That day I understood that it is by God’s grace alone (God’s undeserved favor) through faith that a person is made right with God and that my good works we not the basis for having a relationship with Him. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As our conversation continued, Coach Duchardt read the Scripture that powerfully points out,  “But God demonstrated his love towards us in the while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”  Put in the simplest terms, this verse states that God loves me and that Christ died for my sins. I had heard He’d died for the sins of mankind but hadn’t made the connection. It was for Dave Watson’s sins that He died and rose. It was personal.

The last verse we talked about was John 3:16. Perhaps the most famous verse in the world but it was new to me. It states, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Duchardt encouraged me to insert my name in the verse to see how personal it is. “God so loved Dave Watson that He sent His only begotten Son that if Dave Watson would believe in Him Dave Watson would not perish but have everlasting life.“

Having personalized this verse, for the very first time, I believed that Jesus Christ died for me and my sin and that I could have a relationship with God because of Him.  I opened my heart to Christ by praying a very simple prayer. I said something like this:
“God I know I am a sinner, I know I deserve to be separated from you because of my sin. I believe Jesus Christ died for me, taking the penalty for my sin. Thank  you Lord that you rose again showing that God accepted your sacrifice. Jesus, come into my life to be my Lord and Savior, forgive me of my sins and change me from the inside out.”

I very much wish I could adequately convey what happened to me on that dock. I walked off knowing that I was a forgiven person.  I was clean. I rode home that day knowing God’s presence was real in my life. It was more than a feeling. I went to bed that night knowing I was a different person and that I had eternal life not because of what I’d done but because of what Jesus had done for me. I wish I could say I have lived a perfect life from that day until now but I haven’t. I am sure that to my friends, family and classmates I seemed over-zealous, argumentative, judgmental, and arrogant because I probably was. I was also a high schooler whose life was radically impacted and I wanted to share my new-found faith with others.

The day I have described here was October 7, 1973, 41 years ago today. That was the day I became a Jesus Freak.  It was then, and remains until today, the most significant day of my life. I have never been the same. Thank you Lord.
Dave Watson