Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

Invest Now!

March 29, 2010
The tentative state of all things economical has spawned more commercials for banks, investment houses, and retirement programs than I've seen in a long time. The message sounds a little like, "Hurry! While you still have some money! Invest now!"

Undoubtedly there is wisdom in seeking to make the best decisions about long-term financial needs. So I don't begrudge these commercials; they're just trying to encourage people not to get so bogged down in the present gloom that they lose sight of the light they'll want to have at the end of the tunnel.

Actually, this is a message I'd like to hear more of from churches. Not with a financial focus, of course, but with a view to eternal rewards. The focus in churches these days seems to be, in large part, on trying to get as much as we can from God here and now, whether what we seek is material prosperity or just peace of mind. The faith of Christ is, in the main, presented as proffering something for everyone, whatever you need (within certain moral bounds, of course).

But, "Hurry! Invest now!" is really the Lord's message to all who choose to follow Him - right out of the parable of the talents (Matt. 25.14-30). The servant who was most commended was the one who, having received his endowment, "immediately" set about working to create a return on investment for the Master.

Everything we have comes to us from the grace of God. None of it is our own. We are not our own. We belong to the Lord, and He calls us to invest everything we have and are, all we say and do, every relationship, role, and responsibility, toward bringing the knowledge of the glory of God to light in our everyday lives.

Whatever lies ahead of you today, whatever you do with whatever you have, "Hurry! Invest now in the Kingdom of God!" The servant in that parable who did not follow this tack, you will recall, was the one from whom his endowment was taken, and he was cashiered.

T. M. Moore
I think I first began to be aware of how powerful the idea of feelings had become in our society back in the early '70s. Olivia Newton-John sang, "I love you, I honestly love you" in a breathless voice that seemed so sincere. Then she explained that she knew this was a true and genuine love because "it's comin' from my heart and not my head."

Thus she enthroned the idea that if you feel something really strongly - "honestly", as it were - it must be true. Feelings have become more reliable for many people than even sound reason. Christians are not exempt from this folly.

Matthew Mutter provides a solid overview of the state of thinking about feelings in a review article in the current issue of The Hedgehog Review. In a survey of recent scholarship on feelings Mutter explores the wide range of ideas about what feelings are, how we can assess them, what is the nature of their relationship to reason, and so forth. It's clear that, even at the highest levels of thinking about feelings, we're as confused today as we've ever been.

Mr. Mutter suggests that what would help all this muddle is if we could decide on some moral framework for thinking about feelings. This is what Jonathan Edwards supplied in his work, A Treatise on the Religious Affections - still the best book you'll ever read about emotions, why they matter, how they work, and how to discipline them for godly living.

Simply feeling some way is no valid criterion for acting according to your feelings. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17.9). We need to keep a close watch over our feelings, in order to make sure that they do their proper part in helping us to serve the Lord (Prov. 4.23). Feelings are important, and the world is confused about them today. So perhaps there is an open door of opportunity for Christians here, to rediscover the proper role of feelings in our lives, and to fine tune our feelings in such a way as to show the love of God to our neighbors. Edwards is as good a place to start as you'll find.

T. M. Moore
The Fox News network is the most powerful and influential cable news network in the world. Two of its star commentators, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, are near the top of their field. Each of them commands a large following, both on television and through talk radio; each is devoted to a conservative political agenda; and there is in the programming of each them an overtone of revival that, we might think, would cheer a revival-hungry heart like mine.

But it does not. The view of revival hawked by Glenn Beck is misguided and misleading, and the self-serving way that Sean Hannity promotes revival is flatly offensive.

Beck's program on Fox News is routinely filled with all kinds of God-talk, especially when he harangues his audience about the faith of America's founders. He has even created icons of three of the founders with the words, "faith, hope, and charity", inscribed beneath them. Beck wants a revival of the civil religion that became the faith of America early in the 19th century and survived until the 60s. He's not really interested in a genuine revival of God's Spirit in His Church.

Hannity has a vulgar way, in "comforting" his audience, of saying "let not your heart be troubled" as he smiles his reassuring smile (Sean has landed; the situation is well in hand), as though Sean Hannity were the key to overcoming our present fears and discovering the way to a new future.

I find each of these men offensive, misleading, and misguided - which is not to say that I don't agree with much of what they preach. America does not need a revival of civil religion, and we don't need demagogic pundits who think their latest book is the answer to all our needs to rally us toward a conservative political renaissance.

America needs genuine revival, and genuine revival is God's work, which we must seek from Him in prayer. For if we do not, we will not be revived, and, given the state of things economically and morally in this weary land, not even a conservative renaissance will stay the hand of judgment against us.

T. M. Moore
Everywhere I look, the nation feels adrift. Politically, we're more untethered from our founding concepts and ideals than we've ever been. The economy is in a state of flux, obviously. Even though Wall Street seems to be on a rally, it's difficult to tell if this is the harbinger of a true economic rebound or just the effects of artificial government props and promises. The schools are devoted to relativism, materialism, and individualism; pop culture undermines long-standing values and all things non-trivial; the nature of the family is up for grabs; and the churches are more marginal than they've ever been.

And, of course, there's more. The Republicans, meanwhile, intend to make a run for the Congress by focusing on everything about President Obama that they're against. Very inspiring. The Tea Party Movement continues to grow, but they don't seem to have many serious ideas or people in their entourage. The only clear and resolute vision for the country is emanating from the White House, and, increasingly, most Americans are not in favor.

A people without a vision becomes grasping and opportunistic; we hold on to whatever is familiar and seems secure as we lunge for whatever promises to deliver us from whatever we dislike or fear. No one seems to have a vision to capture the imagination of the American people. This is the fruit of a generation devoted to the pursuit of self. Self and the satisfaction of its needs does not a compelling vision make for the nation as a whole. And where there is no vision, the result isn't pretty.

Shame on the churches of the land, and, in particular, the preachers. Why is there no vision resonating from the pulpits of the land such as moved our forebears to stand up for liberty even at the cost of their fortunes and lives? If this country continues to unravel as it has over the last two generations, don't blame the politicians, and don't blame the Wall Street financiers. At least, not in the first instance. Blame the churches, and especially blame the preachers of God's Word. Here is a Word filled with hope, wisdom, and power for newness, reconciliation, righteousness, peace, and joy. But, for some reason, we don't hear much of that, nothing like a vision for the revival of the Church, the renewal of the nation, and the awakening of the world.

Those preachers who turn the faith of Christ into a salve for the self will have to give an account one day. Do them - and all of us - a favor: insist that your preacher search the Scriptures for a new and compelling vision of what God might do in our midst, then insist that he preach it and preach it until we begin to hear and are revived.

T. M. Moore

The Shame of Rome

April 07, 2010
I am not one to be a knee-jerk critic of the Roman Catholic Church. As a participant for fifteen years in the discussions known as Evangelicals and Catholics together, I have made many friends within that communion and have come to appreciate - without wholeheartedly embracing - its theology and methods, as well as its heritage and vision.

The sex scandals coming, with increasing regularity, to light within the Church, however, leave me disgusted. Why does it always seem that the Church's first response is to protect the Church from embarrassment, by hushing allegations, moving offending priests away into safer confines, and refusing to discover and resolve whatever the root causes of this horrible evil might be?

The Church in all its communions exists as the Body of Christ to overthrow the works of the devil, not to shelter them. Our first response when sin comes to light must not be to protect offenders but to purify or, that failing, purge them.

How can any communion of Christians expect its message to be taken seriously when the most visible communion acts as shamefully as Rome does each time these perversities come to light? It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God, no matter where it needs to fall. And let the other communions of the Body of Christ take note and take action to cleanse themselves of whatever shameful little secrets they are presently refusing to address.

This is an occasion for tears. All the Body of Christ stands convicted in the shameful actions of one of its members. Do we need yet more evidence, or any more pointed word from the Lord, that the time for repentance has come? If we condemn Rome, while holding on to our own sins, or if Rome treats this latest round of scandal they way it has in the past - only acting with a modicum of justice when they're finally outed - then the Church as a whole will suffer yet more scorn and despite.

If, however, we repent with tears, pleading with God to cleanse and renew us, our tears of sorrow for our sins, coupled with earnest prayer for reviving grace, may bring a season of refreshment at last.

T. M. Moore
The growing number of lawsuits by states against the new health care reform law is bringing to light a troubling underside of American politics. I watched last night as Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell explained why he would not support his Attorney General's desire to join other states in their suit against the federal government. The governor explained that doing so was a waste of time and, besides, when the opportunity was at hand for so many Pennsylvanians to get health insurance for the first time, he wasn't going to let anything stand in the way.

Not even the Constitution? The challenges being mounted by state attorneys general have to do with the constitutionality of this law, in particular, the requirement that each American purchase health insurance or be subject to fines, the collection of which would be supervised by the IRS. Governor Rendell is not the first I have heard make this response to these suits. An Illinois Congressman even went so far as to say that, when it came to matters this urgent, he wasn't going to allow the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or anything else to get in the way.

So has politics in America been reduced to sentiment and power, merely? It would seem. Not even the health care of American citizens is more important than following the Constitution. If the current reform law is unconstitutional, we need to know, so that we can pursue one that will conform to the law of the land and satisfy the demands of its supporters.

But it seems, increasingly, that may politicians feel only the loosest of couplings to the Constitution. If that's the case, then these lawsuits are good, if only to draw such people out into the open so that they are compelled to state their views clearly.

The electorate can decide from there what must be done.

T. M. Moore
quailPresident Obama is on a roll. The successful passage of health care reform, a delayed victory after so many early triumphs (stimulus, auto takeover, banks bailout), has emboldened him in new directions.

A second, albeit much smaller, "jobs" stimulus package was rushed through without much fanfare.

Now the first star shots have been fired in the direction of a Value Added Tax to help pay for all these triumphs.

Education reform is underway.

The President will be nominating a new Supreme Court justice over the next few weeks (look for a liberal to replace a retiring liberal).

He has authorized limited off-shore oil exploration (which, truth be told, is not really an advance, but a further delimiting of previous Congressional approval).

And we can expect cap-and-trade (which will affect even how sale-worthy your home might be) and who knows what else over the next few weeks and months.

This is a lot of new government presence and pressure on the American people. But, so far, the people, Tea Party activists excepted, seem OK with all the new intrusions of government into areas formerly reserved for personal or corporate responsibility. If, as the President promises, immediate benefits of the health care reform package are beginning to reach the public by November, then the revolution Republicans are promising might never occur. The people will snap up the hors d'oeuvres of this biggest ever government pig fest, and they'll be smacking their lips for the main courses.

Let's hope, even if November provides merely a continuation of the political status quo, that, over the next few years, the people will get too much of government junk food in too short a time, and become sick from their own over-eating. Like the quails God gave to Israel in the desert, we can hope that too much government junk food too all-at-once will make the people sick to their political stomachs, and they'll re-examine their cravings - whether freedom or serfdom is the better diet for the long term.

T. M. Moore

Dim Eyes

April 14, 2010
glassesTimeless truths have a way of sneaking up on you. I was re-reading the poems of Anne Bradstreet, America's first lady of verse, when I came across this among her meditations: "Dim eyes are the concomitants of old age, and shortsightedness in those that are eyes of a republic fortells a declining state."

I immediately read this to Susie, thinking to apply it to the present Administration, which, it occurred to me, doesn't seem to be thinking much beyond the next couple of elections. Susie, however, disagreed. She's persuaded - and now I am, too - that the present Administration has a clear long-term vision of what this nation should be, and it is working as hard as it can to put the pieces in place to ensure success to their project.

The shortsightedness in this scenario is on the part of the electorate, who, if we will allow ourselves to be wowed by the promise of short-term benefits at somebody else's expense, run the risk of forfeiting the long-range health of the economy and the nation.

"We the people" are rapidly becoming "we the dependents" - not the makers of an independent republic, but the takers from what is becoming a nation of elites and serfs. Over 60% of the federal government goes to fund entitlement programs of one kind or another. We keep our bellies full while we drain the reserves from the future. We can see up close and present; it's the future that seems to elude our dim eyes.

God warned Israel about rulers who accrue too much power, garner too much wealth, and end up enslaving our sons and daughters. This would be, I think, a good time to revisit that warning (Deut. 17).

T. M. Moore

A Time for Tears

April 16, 2010
In just a few minutes I'll be joining a conference call with people from all across this country to unite our voices in praying for revival. I love this group, these people - most of whom I've never met, but all of whom I feel close to because of what I hear in their prayers. These are people who really understand the Church's urgent need for revival.

I read through the various revival psalms on a regular basis - 44, 67, 80, 102, 126, and others. Many of the situations described in those psalms fit the contemporary Church in this country: spiritual shallowness parading as genuine faith; compromises with worldliness in various ways; loss of effectiveness in persuading others; becoming a byword to our unbelieving neighbors; signs of decline. There is one recurrent condition in these psalms, however, that I don't see in the contemporary Church.

Tears.

We have not reached the point where we are aware of our lamentable condition, ashamed of our little faith, deeply sorrowed by our hypocrisy, and earnestly seeking the Lord for repentance. In Ezekiel 9 the Lord is preparing to judge His sinful people in Jerusalem. They were a people in need of revival but who would not admit it, and so kept pressing on in their frivolous, foolish, and foul religious practices, supposing that God would accept just any old thing from them. The were about to learn otherwise, as Nebuchadnezzar was massing his armies outside the city walls.

Before the judgment fell God sent a messenger around the city. Every person that man encountered who was weeping for Jerusalem and her plight, sorrowful and mourning for her transgressions and seeking the Lord with tears - every such person was marked on the forehead, and, as a result, spared through the judgment.

Where are the weeping and lamenting people of God today? Revival is the great need of the hour in the American Church, but true revival must begin with tears, as the psalms indicate. The time for tears has arrived, friends. But where are the people to weep them?

I'll be with some of them in just a few moments. Pray, won't you, that their ranks will increase?

T. M. Moore

Full Circle

April 19, 2010
Sales of recorded music are down for the fourth straight year. It seems fewer and fewer people are willing to invest hard-earned money on music CDs. Has the music gotten worse? Are people finally getting sick of pop?

Nope. In fact, pop music is more pop and ubiquitous than ever. According to Megan McArdle, writing in the May 1, 2010 Kindle issue of The Atlantic, the reason music sales continue to dive is because music theft is more rampant than ever.

Generation X types have come to expect that, if they can get their music for free, they should be able to - even if it's not legal. Good software is readily at hand, and all it takes is a few friends willing to swap and share. Modern-day pirates are raiding the music industry to a degree that would have made Black Beard smile, and there seems to be very little anyone can do about it.

Interesting. For years parents have complained about pop music that it undermines traditional values and urges kids to follow their passions more than sound reason. The latest generation of pop music-lovers, just like their parents, is taking their idols up on the exhortation, and are stealing them blind, just because they can.

Doutbless today's music pirates will say, "Hey, it's just a little transgression." Like Lot, turning away from God's clear command to "just a little" village, simply because he could. And as Lot's compromise led to more compromise and sin, a generation that can justify theft at the everyday level of acquiring music will learn to justify every other transgression as nothing more than what they're due.

T. M. Moore

Hardly Reassuring

April 26, 2010
You may have felt a bit of ethical satisfaction weekend before last when the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit against Goldman Sachs for a variety of corrupt practices. At last, it seemed, some clear-headed, sound moral thinking will be inserted to help clean up the ethical sesspool of the American economy.

Then came the disclosures about high officials at the SEC using government computers and time to search out pornography on the web. And not just a few hours - days, and thousands upon thousands of hours. And not just a few low-level paper-pushers with too much time on their hands. No, top officials as well were found to have indulged their smutty minds on the taxpayers' dollar.

So we have corrupt examiners watching over corrupt financiers, and we hope that's going to lead to a sound ethical judgment and renewed morality in the economy? Are we kidding? The corruption at the SEC and Goldman Sachs is just a sampler of the corruption that exists just below - and sometimes right on - the surface of our entire society.

Which is simply to remind us that moral recovery and ethical renewal cannot come from the engines and agencies of this world, driven and operated by the corrupt minds of self-interested men. Some of us may be hoping for a major renewal via the ballot box in November, but, if so, we're headed for more disappointment.

The corruption of sin is endemic in the systems of this nation because the men and women who run and manage those systems are corrupt with sin themselves. Unless we seek a route of renewal that is able to deal with the inherent problem of human sin, this nation, its economy, its government, and all our agencies and institutions, will continue their slide into the slough of destruction via the paths of self-interest.

Only real revival of men's souls can help us, and that revival is only available as we seek it fervently from God. If you are not daily praying for the revival of the Church, the renewal of our mission, and an awakening to truth throughout this land, why not?

T. M. Moore

It Ain't Workin'

April 28, 2010
For more than a generation now evangelical church leaders have been doing everything they can think of to make their ministries more appealing to younger people. Gone are traditional hymns; in their place, worship bands lead hip contemporary praise songs. Pulpits have been removed and preaching has had to make room for "drama" even as it takes on more of the character of a late-night monolog than a prophetic exhortation. Pews and traditional sanctuaries have been replaced by theater seats and kleig lights. Sophisticated sound and video systems have made it possible to do away with clunky hymnals. Doctrine has been shoved aside for the sake of anecdotal and "how to" preaching. All this "making contemporary" has been for the sole purpose of appealing to the 18-29 year-old segment of the population. And guess what?

It ain't workin'.

A report in yesterday's USA Today summarized a series of studies done on this age group relative to their religious commitment. 72% of those surveyed indicate that they're "more spiritual than religious," which means they prefer spirituality of their own concocting to that which they might get in a church. They're still seeking something transcendent on which to anchor their lives, but they aren't finding it in the Church.

Worse, even those of that age group who are in the Church and profess to be believers appear to be fairly squishy and uncommitted in their faith. 65% never pray with others. 38% never pray even by themselves. 67% of this church-attending population never read their Bibles. Is it any wonder their lives continue to reflect more a love for this world than for the unseen things of the Kingdom of God?

Those who collected the data in these surveys worry that not only are church leaders failing to attract, keep, or disciple the very people it threw away its grand tradition to reach, they also may be guaranteeing the closing of many churches in the years to come.

This is what happens when the Church tries to glom on to the spirit of the age in trying to make itself "relevant," rather than cling to the Spirit and Word of God for instruction in how to build the Church and win the lost. Before the last young person blows off the Church for good, church leaders need to repent of their presumptuousness in turning their backs on Scripture and the Christian heritage, and begin seeking the Lord together, with tears, for the revival of the Church and awakening in the hearts of the lost.

T. M. Moore

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