Wednesday, December 05, 2007
But also my spirit is improving- the Lord is good!
Some of my most sincere prayers have been "HELP"
And the Father is good to hear and answer.
I hope I get off the floor in time to enjoy the beauty of Christmas!
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Wasn't major- torn meniscus and some arthritis- orthoscopic in and out.
I have a lot on my mind and a lot to pray for- I am hoping for a recovery of knee, body, and soul
One thing that I noticed immediately was the absence of the nagging pain that I had been limping around with since September-
I had gotten used to the pain- to not have it now is shockingly distinct.
I think we carry around pain a lot and it becomes 'normal' to us
So I am in the winter blues- but hopefully on the rebound
Lord, I need some healing help!
Monday, October 08, 2007
“All men are sinners. I fully believe that. But, what I don’t get is why we as Christians let God totally off the hook for that. Why? Seems like if we are God’s creation and 100% of us are sinful (Born that way), then there is a huge quality control issue. As the saying goes, ‘When they made you, they broke the mold, and then beat the mold maker. Why is God not at least partly responsible?”
Thanks for the question. This question comes up from time to time. “Why am I responsible if this how I am made? God, why did you make me this way?”
This is such a natural part of human reasoning that the apostle Paul addresses this exact topic in Romans, Chapter 9. I encourage you to read the entire chapter, but here is the excerpt on this question:
In addressing your question, you need to know that our concept of God, our understanding of His authority, our comprehension of His love and wrath, and the understanding of our sin is so far short of reality that we usually come up with incorrect presuppositions and conclusions in these matters.
The ultimate answer is that He is God. We have a hard time with this in our western culture and rugged, independent heritage. Cultures who have a King understand the sovereign rights of a ruler much better than we. In fact, it flies all over us to say, “He is King and can do as He wills”. Regardless of how we feel about that it is, nonetheless, true.
Is there a quality control issue with God? How do you control quality?
The Bible makes it very clear that things have gone wrong. Man was created perfect with a freedom of choice and man chose to serve the creature rather than the creator.
Most makers, it would seem, would then begin to smash and burn to correct the error.
But this maker is different, He loves His creation! He does not desire that any should perish.
He does the unthinkable; He becomes the piece of clay! He enters in, demonstrates the proper way to address the Creator and live for the Creator and then suffers the crushing penalty reserved for vessels of wrath. He then returns from the destruction to proclaim good news- “I offer restoration and forgiveness”.
This sacrifice now allows for the salvation of flawed creatures while, at the same time, still keeps perfect standards of quality and purity. There is now a way that the flawed creatures do not have to be destroyed!
Sadly, most of the creation, it seems, will not accept the correction. They still shake their fist at the maker. This is the great, uncorrectable flaw and rejecting the Son will heap up a fiery furnace of incredible wrath from the Maker. When we turn our backs on the good news, we are rejecting our only chance to survive inspection!
There is precise and perfect quality control from God. He will one day separate the flawed from the unflawed. Those stamped by the Son will be declared perfect. Those who resisted because of pride and sin will be discarded to their shame and misery.
At that point, the factory will once again be perfect to the glory of the Maker. Only now, the creation will see Him in a new light- not only our Maker, but also our sacrificial Lover! To Him Alone Be the Glory!
A final note- we are responsible for our sin.
One of the founders of Princeton, Archibald Alexander summed up judgment day like this:
“The things which shall be brought under the eye of the Judge, and exhibited to the view of the universe, are, all deeds done in the body — whatsoever a man hath done, whether good or bad. Every secret thing. "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Ecclesiastes 12:14. Every idle word. "I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give a account thereof in the day of judgment." Matthew 12:36. The thoughts of the heart shall also be made manifest. Every unholy desire; every proud, envious, or malicious thought; every secret purpose of iniquity; every unhallowed temper; every rebellious and discontented and ungrateful feeling towards God and his government, will be brought into judgment.
And the inquiry will extend not only to positive acts; but also to omissions of duty. Great as is the number of the acts of wickedness, the catalogue of omissions will be greater, and not less criminal. The first sin of this sort which will claim the attention of the Judge, will be the omission to entertain and cherish right sentiments towards God. No more heavy charge will be brought against any individual on that day, than that he neglected to love the Lord his God with all his heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. This is the total violation of the first and greatest command, and the fountain of all other iniquities. The neglect to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ when he was offered to us a complete Saviour in the gospel, will, to the unfruitful hearers of the word, be an accusation of the highest kind.
O reader, whoever thou art, let me entreat you to inquire without delay, whether you are prepared for the scrutiny and judgment of this coming day. Have you made you peace with God? Have you repented of all your sins? Are you in union with Christ by faith? Have you any clear scriptural evidence that your sins are pardoned? What says conscience to these inquiries? Be assured, if your own heart condemns you, God, who is greater than your heart, and knoweth all things, will much more condemn you. But your situation is not like that of them whose day of grace is ended. You are yet in the place of reconciliation. You have yet a little time before you — God only knows how much. Now, then, hear the voice of warning — hear the voice of mercy. Now "strive to enter in at the strait gate." Now forsake your sins, and live. Accept the offered grace — "lay hold on eternal life.’” (The Day of Judgment, Archibald Alexander)
Monday, September 24, 2007
This is an issue all believers grapple with from time to time. Am I free or am I programmed? Is God fully in control or not in control? If everything is programmed, why work? Why pray? This issue becomes even more problematic when we see evil and suffering? How can a good God who is in control allow evil?
As we look at Scripture, we see truths that cannot be ignored. The Scripture makes frequent references to God’s sovereignty (it would be impossible to list all of those). But scripture also supports humans as volitional beings.
Dr. Robert Peterson at the latest Reformed Men’s Club listed four human freedoms in the Bible. There is ample Biblical support for these.
Freedom #1- Man in the Garden- Man was given responsibility and choice in the garden. This freedom is a beautiful gift that glorifies the Creator. This freedom also allowed the possibility (and I say probability) of evil entering it. Which it did.
Freedom #2- Man After the Fall- The Bible indicates that Adam’s sin was cursed and passed on to humanity. According to many places (Ephesians, for example) we are born dead in trespasses and sin. Our freedom now is a bondage. We are bound to sin. Isn’t it interesting that when we revel in our freedom and rebellion, we actually are chained? We cannot choose God because of our nature. We are inconsistent in good and evil choices.
Freedom #3- Man After Conversion- Once the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to our sin and the need of a Savior and respond to His call, we repent and put our faith in Christ. At that point, we have a new freedom, the ability to respond and serve the Creator. I John makes it clear that we are inconsistent in that new freedom. But we now have many helps to follow the path of sanctification.
Freedom #4- Man After Glorification- In heaven, it will all be clear and glorious. God allowed sin and evil to make salvation more glorious, the harder the struggle; the greater the victory. We will say with Joseph, “What was meant for evil, God meant for good.” We will no longer choose evil in light of the gloriousness of God. If sin never happened, we would not know God’s mercy. We would not see God’s sacrifice. We begin to see how truly great God is.
You may hate this answer, but the Bible indicates that God is sovereign and that man makes choices. Our choices do not undermine His plan. He even channels evil intentions to His holy purpose. The clearest example of this is the cross. The Roman soldiers freely chose to hammer the nails, God clearly decreed the exact moment and it was according to His plan put together before the foundation of the world.
This blows our mind. It makes God majestic and mysterious. It keeps us responsible for our choices and keeps us secure in His sovereignty. He is THE LORD!
Friday, September 21, 2007
On top of that, though, there are some characteristics that have caught me off guard, but make me more appreciative of how He directs me. The fact that God is surprising should not be surprising. He is God and far beyond my ability to grasp.
Surprise #1- God Loves Competition
Our God is a warrior God who seems to relish competition. We pick up some of this in Job where God welcomes Satan’s challenge. We also see it in Revelation and OT references to battles. God is not removed from competition; He puts Himself right in the middle of the battle. We see it in more personal detail when He wrestles Jacob. Christ also shows incredible competitive ability against Satan, flipping the tables and enduring the cross. As a coach, this is encouraging as I seek to teach young men how to compete. Some Christians over the years have challenged me on this (“should Christian schools have football?”) and I have always believed that the natural tendency to shrink from a hard competition does not glorify the Lord. We must, at times, step up and compete! The main attribute missing is us in intensity.
Surprise #2- God Ordains Defeat as a Part of His Ultimate Glory
I hate losing. But I am convinced that God has ordained my defeat at times to show our opponents how we are supposed to be in the loss. I don’t think He favors us over other teams because we are a Christian school. There are believers at the other schools and sometimes a greater blessing is to lose. Who can understand the myriad of His purposes? When I pray, I ask for a win, but there are times when I know He has said ‘No’. It hurts, but I know I am to shake the opponent’s hand, offer congrats, and seek opportunities to still honor my Savior. These defeats teach us humility and keep us from loving the world. Dealing with pain is a part of the ministry of football. Undefeated seasons are special, but persevering in hard times may be more beneficial. It does not give us an excuse to not compete. These defeats go beyond football- Death, tragedy, broken relationships, betrayal, unfair treatment, are all channeled by Him in my life for my good and His glory.
Surprise #3 God Loves to Play the Hero- Showing Up When All Seems Lost
Is there anything more dramatic than a last second win or a comeback? The Lord is the king of comebacks! If history is “his story”, it is a story of awesome drama! The resurrection and many other great Bible stories are winning against all odds. Of course, the Lord is the ultimate hero with every quality admirable one could wish for! Those attributes are ingrained in us as we have His imprint on our hearts.
Our God is full of surprise- it is what will make eternity unbelievably exciting!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
We are reminded of I Peter 3:15, which says, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
One of the biggest issues in apologetics is the futility of reasoned arguments to non-believers. I Corinthians 2: 14 says, “ The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
This leads us to some important foundations of defending our faith.
#1 The goal of a Biblical apologetic is not to win arguments, but be used of God to present the claims of Christ and His wonderful gospel. Evangelism and apologetics are very close.
#2 Reasoned arguments alone will not talk anyone into accepting the message of faith. We do offer answers for our hope, but we will not get discouraged if these answers are found to be unacceptable in the world’s eyes.
May the Lord of Glory open the eyes of your heart to His existence and His truth. In Him is life, true freedom, and peace!
Friday, September 14, 2007
What is the problem? There is a world-view battle raging between Neo-Darwinists and Theists over the boundaries of science and what should be allowed in the context of debate.
Is it a fair fight? The answer is “NO”- the Darwinists pull a great sleight of hand in the debate. Their basic premise is that evolution is science and ID proponents are theologians. Evolution is good science while I.D.’s (or they like to call them “creationists”) lack any scientific credibility.
What is the trick? Well, evolution is not exactly what they purport it to be. No one debates micro-evolution. It is accepted and proven that species do successfully adapt to environmental changes. But that is where the science ends and “speculation” begins.
There is no consensus that “macro-evolution” is proven. Macro-evolution extrapolates the concept of micro-evolution in theorizing that , over time, these slight, successful variations produce new species.
So when Darwinists say evolution is science and intelligent design is not, it is an unfair comparison. Both materialists and theists accept evolution, but both differ as to what the universe is telling us about origin and diversity.
Is it random chance or intelligence? There is good and reasoned debate on both sides.
There needs to be a legitimate debate about the theories of origins and there needs to be respectful hearing of both sides.
Isn’t it ironic how history has flipped? The famous Scopes trial was about the unwillingness of conservative Christians to include evolutionary theory in the classroom. In the famous portrayal, Inherit the Wind (more drama that truth), the Christians are shown to be bigoted and mean. The hero is the lone science teacher who just wants a fair debate in the classroom.
Looking at the trail of fine scientists who have been villainized over mentioning design including denial of tenure and media attacks- the question is “Who are the bigots now?”.
Friday, August 31, 2007
The Authority of Scripture - Martyn Lloyd-Jones
This past Sunday evening, we had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Robert Peterson, a distinguished Bible professor from Covenant Theological Seminary.
As I sat and listened to him, I was impressed with his precision perfect handling of the Word of God. He said what it said. He did not editorialize, he did not justify- he did no philosophical maneuvering.
He paused and allowed for questions. I raised my hand and asked a question that had popped in my mind during his discourse. He answered that the scriptures did not contain an answer to my question. I brought up that John Milton had thought about my subject and explored it in Paradise Lost. Dr. Peterson looked at me and said somewhat sternly, ‘Nice literature, but it is not God’s Word.” I took the criticism well.
We all tend to add things in the gaps where the God’s word is silent. Sometimes we feel a need to justify God or play philosophy over the “whys”. But Dr. Peterson is the most correct- Stand on the WORD! Let is say what it says. That is exactly what Jesus did when He was face to face with the Tempter.
Thank-you Dr. P- that was an admonishment I needed.
II Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
This Sunday we have a new room- we will meet in the choir practice room behind the sanctuary. Our topic will be “Sola Scrpitura” Scripture Alone. My prayer is that it will always be our only rule of faith and practice!
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
It can’t be a miracle can it? Death is an enemy. It is what we fight against and what we fear. It can encompass more pain and agony than life can seem to bear.
Birth is a miracle. Death is a disaster. Right?
She said to her it seems like birth is God exhaling life. He breathes the life giving force on the jar of clay.
As she was with her sweet dad, a hero of life and faith, she watched God…inhale.
He was absent from the body and present with the Lord. She said it was a miracle.
We had all prayed for his healing. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1998. We all were hurt. This man was a husband of 53 years, the father of 6 wonderful children, and 17 beautiful grandchildren.
God responded to our prayers with another 10 years. They were tough years, especially at the end. But they were special. Life is special, regardless of the toil.
Then, as an 81 year-old hero who fought death to the bitter end, it was time to move on. Our prayers were answered fully as he was now eternally healed! Oh the hurt! To love much is to hurt much.
My wife was blessed to be there. She watched God inhale. And His sweet breath translated this man of a deep faith in Christ into paradise. He was loved by Jesus and reunited with his spiritual family.
John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
One day we will join them. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And with every purpose fuses him:
By every act induces him
To try his splendor out--
God knows what He's about.
Seeing the whole story from beginning to end gives ample evidence that God is great and that He is good.
But what about the middle? Think about those long, dark nights. Imagine all the hauntings and accusations Scott must have felt. Is God there? Does He care? Why don’t you answer me God? Am I being punished? HELP!
“God will not give us grace for our vain imaginings. It is when we are actually
in the time of trial that the grace is given.”
(Dr. Lane Adams, former pastor, Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis)
“If you want a comfortable religion, do not pick Christianity” CS Lewis, God in Dock
Aragorn in “Lord of the Rings”
"Hold your ground! Hold your ground my brothers,
I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.
A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.
An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down,
but it is not this day!
This day we fight!!"
Thursday, August 09, 2007
But I am always riveted by what these men say. These men represent the best of the best. They are the elite in a sport that requires a warrior like spirit and an incredible will to win. Most of these men play from 8 to 15 years in the league. I cannot imagine what that is like on the human body.
What they say is always inspiring. Hall of Famers have talent, but talent alone does not get you into Canton. These men have leadership skills and character. Here are quotes that are more common than rare:
Roger Wehrli (Cornerback, St Louis Cardianls)- “Finally, many of you know me as a man of faith. I believe that God has guided each and every move I've made. He's put the right people in the right places to bring me here, and I thank Him with all my heart for taking a little guy from a little town with little dreams and making me fit to wear the title of Hall of Famer.”
Bruce Matthews (Off. Line, Tenn Titans) I'd first like to say how honored and blessed I am to be here. If someone had told me when I was a kid that one day I would play in the NFL and let alone be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I wouldn't have believed them. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be standing up here today, and I'd like to thank the Lord Jesus Christ for blessing me and my family so much…I've never been more aware of how much the Lord Jesus Christ has blessed me and loves me than at this very moment, and I want to thank Him again because that is where the credit is due. Thank you all for this amazing honor. Thank you.
Thurman Thomas (RB, Buffalo Bills) “To my wife Patti, what a design only God could have planned. I was a senior at Oklahoma State when I met a freshman golfer from Buffalo, New York. We dated my senior year. I got drafted to her hometown of Buffalo, New York. That's been almost 20 years. I sit here today and I say thank you, Patti, my friend, my wife, my mother, mother of my kids. It's been 20 years since we've been together, and I would like to take this time and this opportunity to let it be another 20 years we can spend together, but also with the plan of asking you, Will you marry me again? I love you.”
Rayfield Wright (2006 inductee, Dallas Cowboys) “First of all, I’d like to give praise and thanks to our father in heaven and through his son Jesus Christ that has given me the ability to play sports.”
If you read the transcript of the entire speeches, you will see that these are not token mentions.
These men have inspirational stories of family and faith.
The point: Jesus Christ makes a difference. He not only saves, He changes men. If you looked at Hall of Famers in all walks of life, you will see that Christ produces champions.
Let us allow Him to make champions out of us!
Saturday, August 04, 2007
One of our activities was to begin writing a CPA football creed. This was based on the inspiring “Commodore Creed” that Coach Bobby Johnson uses at Vanderbilt. We have challenged the seniors to work with the coaches to come up with a creed that expresses the special process of CPA football and include our Christian distinctive.
I split the seniors into three groups and made it a competition to see which group could come up with the best “creed”.
Here are some of their individual lines within the results:
“Alone you will fail, together we will succeed”
“We suffer together so that we can persevere together”
“Be bold to stand against culture”
“Train and play like a champion”
“Live with humility”
“Honor your brothers”
“Christ, Brothers, Soldiers”
The coaches and seniors will work on this throughout the season and present our results at the football banquet in January. I know this will be a great process and these seniors will write a great creed. They have Christ as their example and God’s word as the standard.
Football is a special game. The pressure of competition and the physical contact creates a need for “brothers”. The heat and humidity of tough two-a-days and the soreness of a body from intense hitting forges a relationship that is very hard to communicate. It is the hard work and sacrifice that makes “Friday Night Lights” a significant rite of passage for millions of young men in our culture every year.
I am also confident that this process will be more than words. These guys are writing a creed that they will live by.
It is more than a game. It is a mirror of my soul and a molder of men.
It has taught me that a team is better than a man.
That service is better than selfishness.
That sweat and tears and toil is the path to victory.
That respect is earned and “free and easy” is cheap.
One day my journey will end.
The “two – a – days” I hated will be gone.
The sound of contact will only be an echo.
The hours of weight lifting and running- no longer required.
No more film, no more practice, no more ice bags.
Gone too will be the glory-
The thrill of Friday night and heartbeat of anxious moments
Singing silly songs of victory in the locker room
Experiencing quiet pleasures of a job well done
But for everyday I breathe on this planet
I will never forget
That I am a Lion
My Savior is the King
And my brothers are with me every step along the way.
Soli Deo Gloria
what’s right and say a word against what’s wrong even if you get
walloped for saying that word. Now I may sound like a Bible
beater yelling up a revival at a river camp crossing meeting, but
that don’t change the truth none. You do the one or the other. You
do the one and you’re living, the other and you’re dead on your
John Wayne, The Alamo
I have been thinking about this classic quote all week. Jo House did a nice job
of showing two things- culture has changed, but even the “oasis of
civilization” without Christ doesn’t solve the problem of sin.
Our HERO is even better than John Wayne. True grit on the cross and he rose
from the dead to boot.
How tough and tender was our Lord! Have you ever thought about the fact
that Jesus kept His scars? Those scars were proof of the battle He had
endured. We often want the easy road. But the hard road offers the greatest
Saturday, July 28, 2007
I'm already praying for us to stay healthy.
I believe we will be successful- the question is...can we achieve our dreams?
It will come down to becoming a TEAM.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Week two was tough because my father-in-law is extremely ill and seems to be slowly fading. It is hard to see such a good man and family suffer this way. It also is a mirror of my own fragility.
So I have had two long nights- feeling the pressure of life and spending time crying out to the Lord.
I have been overwhelmed at my sin and lack of spiritual temperature. The Westminster Confession speaks of those "Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved:"- when I see the depth of my passive and active sin, I can't help but wonder sometimes if I really belong to Christ.
I went over in my min all types and degrees of sin and confessed them one by one. If my salvation were left up solely to me, I would be in big trouble.
So I fully cast myself on Him- I am so tired right now- Lord, I need Your strength. It's been a hard days nights.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
You have given me a wife. May I learn to love her as You love the church. It is a hurdle I will never eclipse. May I be found faithfully leaping until my dying breath.
You have given me three beautiful girls. May I love them enough to teach them and mentor them in You. Let it be real enough to take them through this difficult world.
You have made me a football coach. May I never forsake that calling to train young men. If I am not a great coach, I have no foundation to speak into their lives.
You have made me a Bible teacher to young and old alike.
I accept the reformed faith as a sacred trust and a personal possession- make me not only a teacher…but a spiritual force for Your kingdom.
I want our football program to be the finest Christian program in the nation.
I want our school to prepare the students and defend the faith like Princeton college and seminary in its golden age of effectiveness.
Make me like the great Presbyterians of old:
“hard-headed, long-winded, stout-hearted Presbyterianism”
“We may well be thankful that the Presbyterian Church has so largely escaped the prevailing doubt and dissatisfaction with the ancient faith delivered to the saints. From the old bed-rock we have taken no new departures. It was the honest boast of Dr. Charles Hodge, that Presbyterianism has made no new discoveries in Bible Theology….Thank God! The past of American Presbyterianism is secure.” THEODORE CUYLER, Princeton College and Seminary Graduate May 24, 1888
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The Message to the Churches in Revelation
Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 may be the most important passages to post-modern Christians in the 21st century. Our human tendency to take this important book and chart it or plot it or over cook it which usually leads to confusion and ineffective application.
I claim no hidden or special expertise here- I am simply a reader. But the word “Revelation” means to “move the veil”. It is God’s unveiling of the “right now”.
So I challenge you to read, reflect, and ask yourself deep probing questions. Then statistically, 72% of us need to do some serious repenting.
Jesus asked the question in Luke 18:8 “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” I have always been intrigued by that question.
There are both specific messages and general messages in Revelation 2 and 3. These were actual letters to actual churches. Each letter had a specific exhortation based on current circumstances.
But there is also ample rationale to see a bigger picture here. Why limit the number to 7? There were more than seven active churches in Asia Minor at the time. Seven is a symbolic number in this apocalyptic book, so it hints to a symbolic representation as well as actual, specific places. And each letter contains a loaded Biblical phrase, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. “ The letter is to one specific church, but the fact that we are encouraged to have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches (plural) gives clear encouragement to study, learn, and apply these situations personally.
So what do we learn from Christ’s message to His churches?
I Christ is present, active, and extremely interested in the local church. The introduction in Chapter 1 shows a glorified Jesus in the midst of the lamp stands, which are the churches. He is represented in personifications that will be attached to the different churches. Jesus sees, He knows, He is acquainted- He desires holiness and faithfulness to Him. There is a universal, invisible, and triumphant church that will be the over comers, but Jesus is intimately walking and present in the visible church as well. The local church, its ministry and mission, is subject to the Lord.
II For the most part, the church is in a mess. Please don’t ever get caught up in wishing the church could be glorious like the old days. From the 1st century on, the visible expression of God’s kingdom is chaotic and messy. But that is the nature of war on the battlefront. In Chapter 4 of Revelation, there is a scene change to the Throne. All is at peace there. D-day has already happened. These are the final battles that inevitably will determine V-day. Church splits, embattled pastors, compromise, idolatry, misguided distractions, ineffective blustering, flame outs – is just par for the course. Of the 7 churches only 2 are found to be not requiring repentance, and those two are on life support with the Lord coaching them to hang in there.
Ephesus- great doctrine - no love
Smyrna- faithful- but poor and facing unrelenting attack
Pergamum- manipulative rationalization and compromise
Thyratira- idolatry and compromise
Sardis- social acceptance without any meaningful ministry
Philadelphia- faithful and steady- not out of the woods yet
Laodicea- Materialistic- nauseating lack of effectiveness
I noticed, though, that in each case, the struggling churches were sick, but not dead. It was a mixed bag. Some of the sin in each church was threatening its extinction, but none had been removed. Jesus is even patient with Jezebel- “I gave her time to repent”.
In many of these sick churches, there are faithful individuals. The encouragement is to them. Stick with it- I know it is hard- stay the course- Winners (conquerors) get to eat of the tree of life, will not get hurt in the 2nd death, get to eat heavenly food and is given a special name, will rule with authority, will get the morning star, will be cleansed and secure in the book of life, will receive a crown, will have a place in the new city, will sit on the throne.
With this in mind there are some applications:
I need to repent- I am materialistic, unfaithful, I have a lack of zeal, unloving, prideful, lured by sexual immorality, I compromise and shrink in cowardice, I quit too easily, I am relegated to ineffectiveness by my worldliness.
Oh Lord, break me- I am afraid to even voice that prayer- but I don’t want to be lost in this stinking and dying world, do what you need to make me effective and faithful.
I need to stand. I need to be a faithful and true witness. It means being unpopular at times and getting hammered by culture, I have not experienced much of this – but it will be coming. I need to persevere in the truth.
I need to serve my local church and seek to see her as “Philadelphia”.
For my church:
We have to stop measuring success by the world’s standards. The large, rich churches with great reputations may not be what they appear.
The great church- does not worry about status.
The great church- takes seriously God’s word
The great church- keeps God’s word
The great church- does not deny Christ when the pressure is on
The great church- patiently perseveres in hard times
The great church- is steady and true- faithful to the King
The great church- is loved by Christ
Oh Lord, make my church a Philadelphia. Let it start with me.
While we have time- let’s keep serving our King- He is coming soon.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Any browsing on 'you tube' or other sites and you see them growing more callous and caustic everyday.
The farther we drift from the mystery and majesty of God, the less flesh trembles at the prospect of truth.
I say over and over- it is a sleight of hand. We all argue in broad brush sound bites and universal ignorance. WE ALL LIVE BY FAITH.
Materialists stand firm on their inner rationale. Deists stand on the precipice of revealed objective truth claims.
Revelation 4:1 “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’”
The phrase “must take place” in the great book of Revelation comes straight from the glorified Jesus. It points to God’s divine pre-destination. He doesn’t say what will take place, which might tempt us to think of His divine foreknowledge. No- Jesus, from the sovereign headquarters in heaven, is still in the control room. He shows John what ‘must” be.
“We must crush this spirit of this age under our feet that says ‘I don’t want to think, I want to feel’. God’s sovereignty is not theological lumber you can live without. It is not a philosophical conundrum only for the intellectual elite. God’s sovereignty is a soft pillow for a weary head. A sovereign God is a comfort to the church under attack. It is a message to Christians facing opposition and even martyrdom. Jesus says to John, ‘Come up to the control tower and watch what must take place’.”
“Should we say, "perhaps you should try Jesus as your savior"
...almost with a consumer market oriented mentality"?. "There are
lots of religious options and if you try this particular religious
option you might like it." ... No... rather, Jesus is Lord and he will
soon be invading with His armies. He is offering pardon in advance
of His invasion and should you receive the pardon and ally yourself
with Him now before He invades, when he comes you will be
considered His ally and He will raise you to Kingship. The
alternative is to be under the wrath of the king. It is not some kind
of religious option. It is an announcement that a new king is on the
throne and he'll be invading. The gospel is not an invitation to an
array of a buffet style choices, it is a command. Will you heed the
command? Jesus is Lord, repent and believe.”
I am a simple man. But I will continue to say to all who courageously blaspheme, mock, and attack. Are you really prepared for the incredible possibility that you may be wrong?
Saturday, June 16, 2007
I have been struggling the last few months with my insignificance and low organizational authority. I am like most people in that I have no power.
And I get frustrated. I see things happening, decisions made, people mistreated - and I have no ability to get things done.
But this morning the Lord encouraged me. He is the authority. He has the keys. He has the access. He is in control.
So I repent. I repent of my losing attitude. Lord, you control my state and my finances. You could care less about my status. All You desire is that I will be faithful to You.
My attitude has hampered this. Please forgive me.
I Corinthians 1:26" For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'"
Lord, You are Sovereign and in control. You know my desires and my evil manipulative ways. Please forgive my frustration of not patiently trusting in You. Your ways are not my ways. I now humbly seek You and Your timing. Whatever my circumstance, may I glorify You in my joy and steadfastness. My discontentment is sin. Amen
Sunday, May 27, 2007
“I admonish you again and again, that you read the sacred Scriptures in a far different manner from which you read any other book: that you approach them with the highest reverence and the most intense application of your mind; not as the words of a man, nor an angel, but as the words of the Divine majesty, the least of which should have more weight with us, than the writings of the wisest and most learned men in the world.” Von Molsdorf
The Bible students should be possessed of sincere and ardent piety. They should be students “taught of God”, “conscious of their own insufficiency, but confident of the help of the Almighty. Those that seek to understand the Scriptures therefore ought not to lean on their own understanding, but by continual and earnest prayer should look unto the Father of Lights from Whom proceedeth every good and every perfect gift; who has promised to give wisdom to those who lack it, and ask for it.” Dr. Archibald Alexander, Princeton 1812
Religion without learning or learning without religion are equally injurious.
“Thus it was that with no buildings and but slender resources, save the Church’s faith and energy, Princeton Seminary was established” George Tybout Purves
Samuel Miller’s 7 Resolutions (greatly paraphrased)- I will endeavor to:
1- Remember more deeply than I have ever done that I am not my own
2- Model the attitude that piety is more vital than qualification
3- Conduct myself to my colleagues in respect and delicacy, try to avoid giving offense
4- To resolve disputes and suffer well the offences of others (willingness to overlook and bear with)
5- Keep separate matters of office and ministry (family and work)
6- Double guard against jesting and levity
7- Work to keep a dignified and holy example to all by the grace of God
Compliments on Princeton’s Faculty: (I pray this will be said of our faculty and school)
The professors were full of faith and the Holy Ghost.
The students were genteel, friendly, and pious
Indeed, one of the traits here that everyone possesses is "particular politeness"
Thursday, April 26, 2007
I ended up INFP
Slight I- Clear N- Slight F- Slight P
"Idealistic- loyal to values and to people who are important to me- want an external life to be congruent with my values- curious- quick to see possibilities- catalysts for new ideas- seeks to understand people and help tghem fulfill their potential- adaptable, flexible, and accepting unless a value is threatened"
Introverted-focuses on inner world
Intuitive-focus on future and possibilities
Feeling-values person centered decisions
Perceiving- flexible and spontaneous- prefer to keep options open.
Recruited for two years, the reluctant Witherspoon stepped ashore on Aug 7, 1768.-He was a heavyset man of 46, with wife and 5 children and 300 books.
Princeton’s condition was poor. It was potentially bankrupt and struggling with all of the tragedies it had endured in the first years. Under Witherspoon finances, faculty, and student body increased.
He introduced lecture as a teaching method and he purchased a mechanical model of solar system. He also introduced the philosophy of Common Sense Rationalism from Scotland.
“It is always safer to trace true facts upward, than to reason downward from metaphysical principle” Witherspoon
Witherspoon’s vision was to produce consecrated Christian students with an integrated and thoroughly Biblical world view. “Our faith is the grand concern to us all- whatever our calling or profession”
He also held onto the philosophy that learning without piety is ruinous to us and pernicious to others.
In the late 1700's, the Princeton campus was ripe with revolution.
Witherspoon had a helpful sense of humor. He suffered from insomnia, and his tendency to drowse, particularly after dinner, led him, during one of the two terms he served in the New Jersey legislature, to move that the daily sessions be concluded before dinner. When his motion lost, he informed his colleagues that ``there are two kinds of speaking that are very interesting . . . perfect sense and perfect nonsense. When there is speaking in either of these ways I shall engage to be all attention. But when there is speaking, as there often is, halfway between sense and nonsense, you must bear with me if I fall asleep.'
Princeton produced 114 clergy during his administration of 26 years.
Other grads founded ten colleges- 13 became college presidents- 1 president of US (James Madison)- 1 VP- 9 cabinet officers- 21 US senators- 3 supreme court justices- 12 state governors- 39 judges
Example of student Asbel Green- faith was shaken by Deism- under teaching of Witherspoon- “ These advocates (of false ideas and heresy) show us what are the dictates and legitimate conclusions of human reason, but when we become satisfied that we find God Himself impressing His signet on His own word, there is an end to all doubt and distrust”
He later said that he owed “whatever of influence or success” to Witherspoon- He also said in his valedictory address- … on roads to fame or wealth. If you wish to do good, and prefer approving conscience, I have no hesitation in saying that you ought to preach the gospel”
Witherspoon's later years were filled with difficulty. The college had suffered extensive damage to its building and instructional equipment, and its finances were in disarray due to damage from the battle of Princeton in Rev. war. Two years before his death he became totally blind- though he continued to preach. His wife died in 1789, and a second marriage in 1791 to a young widow of twenty-four occasioned more than a little comment. Through these later years his son-in-law, Samuel Stanhope Smith, increasingly carried the responsibility for conduct of the College's affairs.
Thank God for great men like John Witherspoon!
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Plowing of fallow ground – America at the end of the 18th century had lost some of its spiritual passion. Some have called this a "Spiritual Dullness" that was characterized as boredom with Gospel. God's grace poured out on this apathy in a controversial movement that we now call the 1st Great Awakening.
During this time, Princeton was in its infancy.
During the fall of 1739 the college was a log house containing 7 or 8 worthy ministerial candidates. George Whitefield visited them and wrote that they were "almost ready".
“The devil will certainly rage against them; but the work is of God and will not come to nought” George Whitefield
Good Providence and Problems at Yale-
The revival had a lot of fallout. David Brainerd was expelled at Yale for “intemperate, indiscreet zeal”. This mis-step was sovereignly used by God to ready men for change.
It caused Jonathan Edwards and others to begin the plan that became Princeton.
New Jersey College received its charter from the Governor on Oct 22- 1746. The intial board of trustees consisted of 4 ministers and 3 laymen of the Presbyterian Church- all but one was a Yale grad.
NJC (Princeton) was modeled after the English dissenting academies:
Emphasizing religion, math, English
Encouraging scientific research- "confident in its ability to reveal truth".
The original mission of the college was to raise up ministers AND men that will be useful in other learned professions. The graduates would become "ornaments of the State and Church".
EARLY DAYS AND HARD TIMES
The school had 8-10 students in 1st year. The 1st President died 41/2 months later. Aaron Burr took over and was frequently visited by Jonathan Edwards and Whitefield. Burr died at 41- the job of teaching, administration, and fund raising put him in his grave.
The next day the trustees picked Jonathan Edwards- Jan 1758- He died in March 1758 of a small pox vaccination. They loved him much and encouraged the vaccination to preserve him.
The school then chose Samuel Davies in May 1759, but he died in 1761 on pneumonia at age 37.
The college became dismayed and “spread a gloom all over the country”.
The hard times were about to turn, however, as John Witherspoon reluctantly agreed to take over the struggling school.
How does an institution slide into a sea of liberalism and decay?
My next few blogs will consist of notes from this amazing body of work!
Princeton University is a coeducational private university located in Princeton, New Jersey. By most standards, it is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the U.S.(1746) and is one of the eight Ivy League universities. Established by the "New Light" Presbyterians, Princeton was originally intended to train Presbyterian ministers- Wikipedia
Various Quotes and Reactions:
“From 1812 – 1929, Princeton Theological Seminary presented a coherent, continual effort to teach and practice what the Princetonians believed was historic Reformed Christianity. In this they were, in my opinion, successful.” David Calhoun, Covenant Seminary
“They taught theology as they found it in the Bible” and it honored the faith and findings of Augustine, Calvin, and the Westminster Standards. They not only taught it- they lived it. They may have made mistakes, but they stood squarely in the great stream of historic Christianity and orthodox Calvinism.
Quote on Princeton’s Teachers:
These men were not all alike, but they spoke the same thing and there were no visible divisions among them. Their unity was a product of their closeness and their common spiritual faith.
Monday, April 16, 2007
I am swept up in a glorious design of God decreeing – “I will be their God and they will be my people” which is the theme of the New Covenant.
I partake in a glorious sacrament that is the blood of the New Covenant- the sacrifice of Christ.
I boldly proclaim these things in true humility. How? It is all about the glory of Him. In my pride, I can be humiliated in that I truly view myself in my arrogance, my sin, my wretchedness- but point to the Sovereign Lord and His glorious Son Jesus Christ, the Savior.
This message is foolishness for so many. There is nothing I can do for you to see it in any other way. Some in the world look on me in mockery. I am silly. “What a fool this man is”. They mock my Father with twisted humor in a thunderous applause of an entourage of sneering onlookers.
Some look on me in anger. How dare I be so intolerant and disgusting? How dare I say I believe in the violent and oppressive and dogmatic message of Christianity.
Some look in pity, some in disbelief. And some don’t think of me at all.
I can’t change how you look on me….. but God can. God can open the eyes of your heart that you see Him in all His truth and all His glory.
And once you see Him in His truth, you will see me accurately. You will learn to love Him and you will begin to love me.
The final point is that it doesn’t offend me that you see me in such a poor light. All that matters to me is how God sees me. And His Bible tells me that He sees me as His adopted son. He loves me. He purchased me as one who has infinite value.
In Christ, I have an impeccable record in God’s eyes.
I want so badly for God to see you that way too. May God give you repentance and faith in Him today. Read the Bible and plead for the True God to save you – even now.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
How completely different from the Scriptural mandates to love, serve, forgive, and bear with one another.
But on another level are we missing the Biblical message? What is the church? Or better yet, “WHO” is the church? The basic message of the New Testament is that God dwells no longer in buildings, but in His people.
II Peter 2 says, “1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Notice all the messages we miss:
Put away malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and ALL slander. To put it away admits that it is present. Churches today have many of these evils. Notice that these basically are a part of man to man problems.
I imagine that some of these congregations have good attendance, and good giving, and good worship and good preaching – but they tear each other apart.
“Like newborn infants” seems to refer back to our Lord admonishing us to become like children if we want to enter the kingdom. It speaks of our need for humility and dependence. It encourages us to almost be naïve in our ability to accept our brothers and sisters.
“Long for the pure spiritual milk” seems to speak of our need to thirst for Christ and His truth. We do not know it all. We need to hang on the preaching and be eager to do it.
“Living Stones”- I wonder if Peter flashes back to the Savior telling him that “on this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”? Christ is the builder, we are the stones- living stones. Sturdy and reliable.
We are poor building material today. We are soft and seem to crumble in adversity. Pain produces profundity. Trials temper steely character. We cry at the least discomfort.
Have you read lately some of the comments of our church fathers? Can you hear the strength of their character?
Martin Luther to Phillip Melancthon during a daily crisis: “You are worrying yourself sick because you cannot know how or where it will all end. But were you able to understand it all, then I would have nothing to do with this cause!”
John Calvin: “But when I remember that I am not my own, I offer up my heart, presented as a sacrifice to the Lord” (1541).
Have you become weary of the Church?
I challenge you to start today to become one living stone and let God build the church on you.
When Jesus promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail, do you understand that it is hell that is on the defense there? Gates were defensive. When the church puts away malice, becomes childlike, longs for spiritual truth and grows- it knocks the devils down flat.
Oh Lord Jesus Christ, build me into a battering ram TODAY! AMEN!
Saturday, April 07, 2007
On Saturday- I tilled a garden to the glory of God. I froze!
On Sunday- I will worship the living creator and my Savior on the most holy day!
Whether I play, pray, or plant - I can glorify my God.
Holiness implies being set apart for God.
I live a happy and holy life because of my Savior! It is a celebration!
The Old Testament was filled with water and unleavened bread- a great trainer to God's high standards.
Jesus turned the water into wine!
The New Testament is a celebratory feast!
Because of Jesus- we dance. Death is conquered- THERE IS NO FEAR!
HAPPY EASTER TO THE WORLD!
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
”I have measured my life in coffee spoons” -Prufrock
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What advantage does a man have in all his work which he does under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 1: 2,3
Quarter - filled cups of coffee,
Shadowed stains below the band.
Cooled liquid, thick and soiled,
Etched foam, marked by hand.
Appearance of apparent progress,
Concrete marks of constant time.
Accompanied by piles of paper,
Crumpled calendars, plans sublime.
Of what reward do hours meed?
Riches and honor untold?
What state does watched time translate?
Unused potential to save and hold?
Three - quarter empty cups of coffee,
Symbols unfinished and undone.
Epochs spent on early ambition,
Numerous laps short, the race not won.
Lurking depths of unrequited desire,
Taciturn anger behind the smile,
Endless action churning piles of perception,
Steps no closer to the next mile.
Will the minutes always last?
What price is one to pay?
When activity is ambiguous and prostituted
and success is a shade of gray.
The trap has sprung inescapable.
The suction stronger than my will.
No one there to loose or care,
Fractions of effort to close the sill.
Those dreams seem marathons away.
No tunnel light, no ray, no rule.
Only a vast wasteland of utopian ideas and funny ambition.
I laugh at myself - the fool.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
We have many in my midst today struggling with the sovereignty of God through the mis-steps of man. A lot of my dear friends are saddened by a perceived sea of error, sin, cover-up, and bungling.
How do we respond to these times of disappointment without it seeming so weak and trite to quip “God’s will, man”?
We know the scripture of Romans 8:28 and Joseph saying “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” But that doesn’t help me right now.
So let me do some more examples from Church history. Can God be glorified through the splinters of theological and doctrinal disputes?
Is He glorified on a missed field goal or a botched fly ball?
Is the gospel going forth as stories unfold of slander or suicide?
When we say God is in control and victorious- you need to understand that there is nothing trivial about that answer.
We don’t get hurt so much today. We live with pain, but I want to suggest that it is less than the saints of old. Just over a hundred years ago, it was not uncommon to lose children. Old gravesites show us a world of lost infants, and toddlers, and sweet school children.
People did not have access to Tylenol or Advil. And there were not “Docs in a Box” on every corner.
Families did not have acu-weather red icons of tornados rushing to their city and almost no way of calling for help in an emergency.
I guarantee you that I am making someone mad right now when I propose that we don’t hurt as much anymore.
“You are a fool- I know pain” You say, and I know you are right. But even a diagnosis of cancer is done in the light of prognosis and MRI’s and understanding. It is not the mystery of the day of darkness – and that helps.
AND it hurts. We win more than we lose. We get our way. We have food and clothes. We have enough peace for leisure and recreation. We have holidays and celebrations. We have so much good that we lose our need for God.
As I study history, especially church history, I am amazed at God’s good sovereignty. He allows the pain and screw-ups for reasons. Some of the times, the mystery remains- but in most cases time reveals the whys.
We want the “why” NOW!
For example, Why did the Ottoman Turks advance and threaten Europe during the 16th century? How could God allow such to advance?
Some would say that it is judgment of sin. And they would be right.
Others say rain falling on just and unjust. And they would be right.
The muslims would say 'Allah's will". And they would be wrong.
I say it was also to the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel and the growth of the church.
How? One way is that Charles V was prevented from wiping out the Lutherans because of his distraction of the Turks and his desire to keep a unified populace in a time of tension.
God allowed secular and sacred events to provide the right climate for growth and sustaining of The Reformation!
Please, don’t run from God during times of trial or trouble. Don’t distance Him in distress. Instead press in to Him. Have the confidence that He can and will work things out!
Romans 4:20 "No distrust made him (Abraham) waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification."
Does this answer all questions about our part? Do we stay “frozen chosen”? My answer is absolutely not. Step out in courage and go- but please, don’t wring your hands in defeat and keep a loser’s look and lean.
“You are worrying yourself sick because you cannot know how or where it will all
end. But were you able to understand it all, then I would have nothing to do with this
cause!” Martin Luther to Melancthon
“Human life without knowledge of history is nothing other than a perpetual childhood, nay, a permanent obscurity and darkness.” Philip Melanchthon
KEEP ROLLING AND TRUSTING- IT’S TIME TO SHINE!
Monday, April 02, 2007
You write the e-mail.
You hit the keys hard and the anger is white hot.
I have a great piece of advice: Do not press "send".
Is there a Biblical basis for this? Absolutely.
Proverbs 17:27 "Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding."
Eccl 5:2 "Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few."
James 1:19 "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger."
Why do I write this?
I have sent e-mails before that I regret. But this occassion is a recent e-mail I received.
A very smart person sent me an angry e-mail. He was upset about something that was published by me. I see where his misunderstanding came about- but he missed the context, very badly.
I replied with an honest apology- and I am only guessing that he re-read my article and his e-mail. .... I bet he wished he had sat on that for at least 24 hours.
May we all learn this lesson- let that thing cool. E-mail is way too fast!
“What a coward every man is! and how surely he will find it out if he will just let other people alone and sit down and examine himself. The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner." - Mark Twain, Mark Twain in Eruption
I pride myself on being a keen observer of human nature. It has never been hard for me to accept the idea of the radical deprivation of humankind. I see these things deep within me and lash out when I see it displayed in others.
The one that frustrates me the most at this time is a general and wide spread infection of cowardice.
Not only has our culture become a cess pool of cowards, we have also begun to turn on anyone who even thinks of standing out as bold.
The current cowardice starts out as anonymity. I am so tired of listening to talk radio and hearing names like ‘Bob from Boston” or “Bamaboy”. Why should I consider any unsigned e-mail?
In the passage above, we have the classic illustration of our common practice of complaint without confrontation. The Pharisees do not go to the Master; they go to the disciples.
Sadly, we do the same thing. We air our complaints in safety. We test them as trial balloons and observe what winds will buy them. Sometimes it is an effort to see how risky our stance is and what cost the comments will be. Even worse, we pass much of the information along third hand. Gossip is so pervasive that we have turned it from sin into an art form.
Jesus doesn’t play this way. He overhears and confronts. He is a man to man- eyeball-to-eyeball kind of guy. He is strong, and loving. He answers without slander.
I wonder what would happen if we committed to this type of practice today? Think of how many pastorates would be built up instead of torn down? How many churches would begin to flow with grace and not criticism? What kind of harmony could be discovered? How much less ammunition would the power of darkness have?
I challenge every man reading this today to pray for courage.
Find your child or spouse and have that awkward conversation.
Look up the offended brother and accept the consequences.
Refuse to participate in negative criticism without approaching the source.
Ask your fellow critic to pray more and opine less.
Try to see the path your opponent walks in and consider his ways.
Take the initiative to have a spiritual conversation with a neighbor.
Walk up and hug your dad.
People want to know where the great men are today?
My answer is… they are tucked away in comfort blankets of cowardice.
It is time to step out in the light- your nation and church needs you!
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
About 10 minutes up the trail I could hear my car alarm going off and feared the worst. I hustled back and found my drivers side window smashed and to my dismay discovered that I was a victim of theft.
A very kind man had heard the alarm and chased away two men who sped off in a car. He called the police for me and a park ranger arrived very shortly after his call.
The criminals got just enough to make it a difficult loss for us. They got my wallet (drivers liscense, bank card, credit cards, business contacts, and 150.00 cash)- my wife's purse (wallet, cards, cash). And a broken front window.
I am thankful to have insurance, but it will still be a loss. Depending on how we file it, we will lose. Auto coverage will be a loss of 100.00 deductable, and homeowners (for stolen items) is a 500.00 deductible.
Then there is the loss of time. It has been a headache cancelling credit cards, re-ordering driver's liscenses, having to monitor accounts.
And the loss of innocence. My 8 year old especially was hurt. She slept with us that night. These thugs have all of my personal information and your mind wanders as to what they will do with it.
These types of random crime seem to be growing. A lot of it is tied directly to the scourge of rampant drug addiction that is slowly sucking the life out of our country.
I must admit that I am having a hard time thinking of anything but destruction for these hoods. I prayed all day that the Lord would make their life miserable.
Does anyone want to argue that man is not corrupt?
So I agree with the bumpersticker- "Losing faith in humanity: One human being at a time"
So I pick up the pieces and move forward and pray that things could be different. This world needs the Lord.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
But I cannot absolutely be certain or uncertain. If I absolutely say that there is no god, I hold myself as unlimited in experience and knowledge of the whole universe.
If I absolutely say that I cannot be absolutely sure that one cannot know if God is there, then I hold myself up as an expert of all of the evidence for the existence of god.
I have a big problem: I have no absolute knowledge within myself. Yet I cannot make any statement that wipes away the existence of absolutes.
Who can set me free from this dilemma?
God, who exists, has revealed Himself in space and time and history. He is my absolute! My trust in Him gives me the ability to proclaim absoluteness without all the exhaustive evidence.
Whew! That was a relief. Now, I just need to find out what has He said.
and put away your indignation toward us! 5 Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations? 6 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
How often I forget one of the most important prayer requests. How can I forget to cry out as the Psalmist here does? “Restore us please!”
As I pray this, I am reminded of God’s glory and His sovereignty. “Revival is a work of God where He enlivens His people by accelerating and intensifying His work in individual’s lives” (Jonathan Edwards). If enough people have this personal renewal at any one time and in any one place, then the reality of God’s presence is demonstrated in spiritual sensitivity and a community pursuit of holiness.
So as I pray this, I am reminded that revival begins in me.
Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence—
2 as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
4 From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
Do I really desire this? Is there not a sense of fear that God would actually do this? Is there not a subtle secret doubt that God actually can or will do this anymore?
J.I. Packer gave a lecture at a “Desiring God Conference” in 2003. He made some interesting points about the nature of revival that come from his study of the theology and thoughts of Jonathan Edwards.
#1 Revival is more about holy living than new conversions
#2 We cannot pray revival down – we cannot force God’s hand. It happens in His timing.
#3 Revival will not solve all of the churches problems. It can even create more!
#4 Revival is tied up in a deep desire to glorify God.
#5 Revival causes a deep repentance, responding in holy living, which draws outsiders in.
I ask that Saints everywhere join me in keeping this a regular request- Soli Deo Gloria!
Friday, March 09, 2007
In saying all of this though, I must confess that God is not bound at all by doctrine and Theology. He seems to thwart our best attempts to define Him. He is not to be studied, He reveals Himself at His choosing (Deut 29:29).
At the same time, however, there is sound and unsound doctrine. Theology can be labeled “good”, “better”, “best”, and “bad”. And never forget that heresy is always at the door to rob the church of the power and freedom of Christ’s gospel.
In my study of God’s word, I am more confident that the system of doctrine that best suits the message and mystery of the Bible has technical terms like Calvinistic, reformed, covenantal, monergistic, and Christocentric.
Yet, it must be said with great frustration that those with the correct technical leanings can still completely miss the mark. Calvinists can be combative and arrogant, using their seemingly superior sensitivity to hammer the weak with unmerciful floggings. It is like whipping a child with a large, raw, cold T-bone steak.
Laurence Vance presents this dark side of doctrine with the following indictment:
“Nothing will deaden a church a church or put a young man out of the ministry any more than an adherence to Calvinism. Nothing will foster pride and indifference as will an affection for Calvinism. Nothing will destroy holiness and spirituality as an attachment to Calvinism….The doctrines of Calvinism will deaden and kill anything: prayer, faith, zeal, holiness” (quoted in Philip Graham Ryken, What is a True Calvinist?, 2003 P&R Publishing).
I read a lot of reformed websites on the internet. Calvinists do a great job of telling us what is wrong with every Christian view out there. They do a great job of pointing out problems, yet I never get a feeling that some of them really like anything.
As I read over some of my past blogs, I too sound arrogant and combative at times. Sometimes it is just the jagged edges of truth, but at other times it is my smugness and stone casting.
Does this discount the value of the doctrine? Absolutely not! But let me openly confess and constrain myself to the following assertions.
My need and desire to glorify God is always brightened by my desire to love others.
I glorify God the most when my desire for Him flows out to a service to others.
I am not the Holy Spirit and I should lift up and protect weaker brothers.
Confrontation should always be lubricated with the lotion of love.
I should desire to win souls more than win arguments.
I don’t have to defend God, I need to faithfully share truth. He can take care of Himself.
Even if others preach Christ out of pretense, I can rejoice that He is being proclaimed.
Father, forgive me for showing my warts so often. Please allow me to love your Word more than good books. Help me to realize that many of the men I seek to follow were fully pursuing Christ. Please always help me remember that Scripture is my filter and my doctrine must give way to Biblical authority. Forgive me when I have done it the other way around. May people see my love more than my theology. May my life be a fragrance of love to my Savior rather than the rot of ideas without service or action.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
‘The natural man does not accept the things of the spirit of God” (I Cor. 2:14)
“so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom 5:12)
“the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” (Rom 8:7)
“men walk in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God.” (Eph. 4:17-18)
Everything we touch is tainted by sin. Even our good deeds are soiled by our agendas, motives, and pride.
Our commitment to autonomy is ultimately our undoing. Do I really believe this?
We are so bad, that we are even inconsistent in our badness. We arrive at truth because we are corrupted at being bad.
Everyday we ignore the Lordship of God- We distort His nature- we misuse His name- We refuse to worship or show gratitude for Him- We pollute His Sabbath- We corrupt His temple- We usurp His authority- We harm His children- We steal His goods- We testify falsehood- and refuse to trust His provision…. Surely… not me?!
We even dare criticize Him for His wrath.
In my futility, I judge Him by my yardstick of carnal ignorance.
I sit back and watch countless people smear the name of His son.
I have kicked Him off the throne of my heart- I am asserting my own kingship.
Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
How bad is it? I’m afraid it is terminal. If I stay committed to my own independence, I am storing up a crap load of wrath.
Be afraid…be very afraid. An eternally atomic bullet is hurling toward my pride. I sit and laugh and party and sing and fart around. The momentum of this single sin caliber weapon will splatter me to splinters. My stained fingers and tongue wags at the shooter. I act as if it will never hit me. Surely it is going at another.
As I heartily justify my pitiful excuses, I don’t even pause to notice a love soaked brow stepping in the path of my destruction. I am a slime ball piece of filth. Lord, please don’t even dare look my way.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
But, alas…still a problem. His intelligence has hidden a most evident fact. It is no small thing that looms over his head as an unseen noose.
You see - the smartest man in the world does not understand…that he is limited.
Though he commands a wide range of topics and logic, his perspective limits him.
Things he once knew…have changed.
As creatively and laboriously he works, he cannot expand beyond himself.
But THE LORD is uncontained. God is unbound.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than your ways and God’s thoughts higher than your thoughts (Is 55:9)
Compared to God, the smartest man in the world’s thoughts “are a mere breath” (Ps 94:11)
Man is DEPENDENT on the revelation of God.
Our best knowledge is merely a mystery (Deut 29:29).
However- the existence of God is not in the realm of the mysterious:
A simple man knows good because he is made in the image of God.
A child knows love because of the imprint of the creator.
All men evaluate and discriminate as a reflection of the Creator.
Logic is logical in the creation of the God of order.
Reason is reasonable because the nature of God is to reason.
Science is systematic because God is a God of design.
The smartest man suppresses his limitations and limps incautiously to eternity.
The simple man sees his limits and reverently casts himself on the Great Unlimited One.
In the full light of this truth…who is the real fool?
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Hey! We have been around each other a lot lately and I have loved getting to know you. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to have this conversation with you. I hope you will allow me some time to share some things with you today.
I am taking a lot for granted. I am assuming that you want to discuss these things. We both should agree that they are important. I’m assuming with your intelligence you have from time to time asked yourself some questions about the foundation and direction of your life. Maybe you have gone as far to question about death and whether there is an afterlife. Deep down you may ask, how do I know that there is no God?
I hope I am not being too intrusive and you can stop me at any point, but I really desire to discuss with you our differences. I want to hear what you believe and deeply desire to share with you why I am confident of my belief in God.
To start with, I want us to talk about our past. We both have studied the psychological debate of nature and nurture. We both live in a world that seeks to make all truth relative and discount faith as completely separate from any reason. My desire to share this with you is social taboo because I am supposed to keep all of this quiet.
One of your first arguments against my faith will be that I was brought up to believe these things, while you were not.
My answer is that I don’t deny this at all, I was taught to follow God early in my life. But my childhood was not a cocoon. I have heard all the reasons why not to believe and I have observed a lot of people who live differently than me. In spite of issues within and without myself, I am more convinced of the truth of God’s existence than ever before and I am more in love with the Christian gospel than ever before.
You see, without God, nothing in this world makes any sense. Because of God, the whole of history and civilization makes complete and perfect sense. I am so convinced of this that I dare propose that if God is not in back of everything, you cannot find meaning in anything. I can’t argue for God without taking my belief in Him for granted.
Here’s the kicker- I contend that you can’t argue against Him unless you take him for granted also. You see, when I listen to you argue about God I realize that He has given you the very air to breathe the very words, that comes from the very thoughts that come form the very intelligence that He has given you.
After I listen to your arguments, they make no assault on my position of faith, because I believe you argue from the darkness while I stand in the light. You believe the opposite is true.
So, in love, I want to continue my story and then we can proceed.
I come from a family of faith. It doesn’t discount truth to be in it at a young age. Our family wasn’t a bunch of holy rollers, but it was a family impacted by the Christian worldview.
I see you are ready to jump out of your skin to counter me- go ahead.
Why the Christian God? Well I believe in Him and you do not. Let me argue from what I know than from what you can’t know.
Why do you not see Him? Well surely you don’t expect me to bring Him in the room so you can see Him? If I were able to do that, He wouldn’t be the God of Christianity.
What I want to offer to you are reasons to believe. People want proof, but all that exists is evidence. That is true for any worldview. I serve a reasonable God- He invented reason, and organization, and orderliness.
Why are you so agitated? Calm down, I am being a friend. We can stop at any point a get a cup of coffee and talk football.
You ask me why you are agitated? Well, you know what this conversation means. If you change your belief about God, you will have to see yourself in a whole different way- and that may bother you.
Hang with me a little longer- I want to continue my story.
When I was little, our family believed. We said prayers at meals and went to worship services on a regular basis. If I told my mom I was afraid of monsters she would give the answer that you would expect – “ There are no monsters and I shouldn’t be afraid anyway” “Why mom?” “ Your body and soul belongs to your Savior who died for you on the cross and rose again that no one should be afraid.”
That’s the way we talked from time to time at our house. It was the atmosphere of our home. We still watched TV and talked about everyday stuff and even fought! But there were Bibles and Christian music and occasional family devotions.
As I went to Sunday school and Bible camps, I began to grow accustomed to the grand old stories of Abraham and Moses and Paul. All of these things began to condition me. I cannot help but believing. The love of Christ rained on me in soft showers of gentle moments that seemed very insignificant at the time.
Let’s stop there and parallel what you have told me about your life. Your family did not believe in God. Your parents worked hard to keep your upbringing free from the trappings of religion. They spoke to you of hard work and freethinking. They worked hard to cultivate an open mind. Where I was conditioned to believe in God you were left free. But were you free? I dare say that you were conditioned to not believe. You think that religion was poured down my throat and I counter that anti-religion was poured down yours. And that becomes the first truly awkward moment of our conversation. Can you agree with me at this point?
My story goes on. My parents sent me to a Christian school and my conditioning continued. I was daily instructed by a formula – it said that I had been conceived in sin, like all men. But I was now a child of the covenant of grace- redeemed by Christ- and part of my parent’s responsibility was to bring me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Part of that training was to constantly teach and remind me of what God’s Word taught about the world.
This environment prepared me for the day of my conversion- where I personally committed my trust in Christ’s death as the only means of salvation. According to God’s word, at that moment I was justified and adopted into God’s family. I now began a road of being set apart for God’s work and His glory. I wish I had been completely faithful to this and understood it with the depth I know now. I have done a lot of harm in the name of Christ. I still have sin in me.
You tell me that your schooling was much different. You went to a “neutral” school. Your school outlawed religious expression and remained secular. God was never mentioned in your study of nature or history. Even allusions to the Bible in literature were kind of skipped over as teachers became very fearful of what might happen if they were accused of “bias”.
I hope you are smart enough now to realize that the classroom was not neutral. To secularize the classroom becomes a worldview itself. An unbiased, neutral classroom is just a thin disguise of a negative attitude toward God. Can you agree that the person not for God is actually against him?
I see that you don’t agree with me. Let me put it this way. God is plainly seen everywhere. This is His world, He made it. He made the majestic mountains and encoded our DNA. We are living by His decree and are we are living on His property. You don’t see them, but His ownership signs are everywhere. His stamp is on every song, picture, and poem - He is the expression of life and love and beauty.
If you stay “neutral” to Him- is it not the supreme insult? Atheists will say, ‘God has not given me enough evidence, so how can He blame me?” But our counter is that the evidence is as plain as the engineering of their pinky. If they cannot see, it is because they are blinded by sin. See, the Bible says that we are dead in trespasses and sin. That deadness is also blindness. I am telling you that unless God opens your eyes, you will see me only as a “goody- goody” and will resent my proposition of truth as arrogance and intolerance.
My Christian schooling continued. Can you see the difference in my conditioning? All my teachers pledged to teach their subjects from the Christian worldview. It wasn’t just Bible class. Even Algebra was presented under the authority of God’s Word! We were taught that to leave God out of the picture would prevent us from understanding the framework of truth.
We studied non-Christian teachings and philosophy. I have a keen understanding of Darwinism and existentialism. We read Plato, Kant, Emerson, Freud, and Marx. I was taught the best logical reasons to not believe in God. I heard all these things, but was also given sound refutations of these arguments and philosophies.
My Bible classes became exhilarating. I was exposed to systematic theology and read from great minds like C.S. Lewis. Martin Luther, and Blaise Pascal. I had great teachers explain Biblical history and geography. I learned how to defend the reliability of the Bible and argue my faith through apologetics. I was taught about evangelism and missions. I also heard countless testimonies about the life changing effect of the gospel. I became equipped in sound doctrine and Church history.
I am finished with my background. You know the God to which I am testifying for. This God was behind my parents, my teachers, my youth leaders, and many of my friends. It was He who conditioned all that conditioned me. He is the God of Christianity. He is the All-Conditioner.
Believe it or not- He also conditioned everything that conditioned you.
I love that laugh of yours. I hear it as one of incredulity.
What do I mean by this you say? He is real and outside of us. He is objective truth. He is the God who controls all things. In Him all things exist and are held together. The counsel of His will controls all reason. We do not condition him - he conditions us. My belief in Him does not make Him anymore real and your disbelief in Him does not make Him less real.
Think about this. I have heard of all of the best arguments against His existence. All of these theories of life and philosophy have been propounded for centuries of discourse and dialect.
I can tell by your gestures, that you cannot understand how anyone acquainted with the facts and arguments can believe in a God who created the world. Well, I am one of many who hold to the faith in full view of what science and philosophy is telling us.
If you give me time, I will be happy to show you where science ends and where faith begins. But again, let me warn you- that all men are biased and all live by faith. The scientist pulls a little sleight of hand and wants you to believe that he lives by fact.
The bottom line is this. When someone rejects God- that person offends Him. God’s displeasure rests on the rejecters. Do you worry about this at all? You and God are not on speaking terms. You feel like you have very good reasons that He does not exist. Now, if He does exist, you are in trouble. Your anti-God glasses are not an excuse for refusing to acknowledge or thank Him. Even the good things in your life heap up wrath because you never thanked Him for any of it- you took all the credit. You have tasted all His goodness without offering even a dime of reverence.
I am about to offend you without apology. I am telling you that God has made His existence and presence plain to you. I can give you all the sound arguments- but you will counter them all. I say creation- you say evolution. I say providence- you say accident. I say prophecy- you say human agenda. I say miracle- you say human ignorance. You ignore him because you want to.
So what am I to do?
I want to win you to Christ. But in every technique of trying to win you I cannot offend my Savior.
I apologize that the Christian church has let you down in this way. The American church in particular is a poor and impotent expression of the true gospel of Christ. We have marketed a messiah to consumers instead of boldly sharing the truth.
But again, in spite of my shortcomings, in spite of the churches failings throughout history, - the sacred canopy of salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, understood by scripture alone, to God alone be the glory still stands in victory and momentum.
What am I to do? …….. I just did it.
I am to share my story and my faith. It should be plain to you by now the sort of Savior I believe in. It is God, the All-Conditioner. It is God who created all things, including you. It is He who by His providence conditioned me, making me believe in Him, and by His grace makes me want you to believe in Him. It is by His love that I can say that I love you. It is by His word that I want to serve you. It is by His truth that I will not compromise for you.
So our debate is really over. From now on, you need to take it up with Him. Down in your heart, you know I am speaking the truth. I am praying right now that God will open the eyes of your heart. But that is up to His pleasure. I do not have to save you. I cannot save you.
I have peace- do you have peace?
I am not afraid of death? Are you?
I have joy, true Biblical joy? Don’t you want to find that?
I have a purpose? Can you define yours?
I base my belief in a God inspired authority called the Bible? What is your source of truth?
Trust Christ now, please! Each moment you reject Him, the more hardened you get to Him. Your callousness will one day seal an unimaginable doom. God is a gentleman. He will give you your desire- a life without Him.
Just know that at some point the decision will be permanent. The gates of hell are locked from the inside.
I will be your friend. I hope you appreciate that I shared all of this with you because I believe I owe it to you. If I held it back, it would say one of two things. Either I really did not love you or I really did not believe this to be true.