Friday, April 30, 2010

Language, Law, Church, State- Loving Across the Divide

Earlier this week I posted gubernatorial Tim James commercial on facebook and predicted (as with everyone else) that it would stir the pot nationally. Indeed, James was on O'Reilly last night getting grilled by Juan Williams.

It generated an amazing outpouring of comments on my facebook page as well. Even prompting a mini-debate in the process. Hard to present point/counterpoint in a Reply bubble.

It points to an interesting list that I sometimes refer to. There are buzz terms that we react to in a negative way, but in the end actually help support the Christian World View. Even as I am about to write a few of these, I can already feel the visceral reaction and prepare for the objections.

"Big Bang"- we rail against the idea and think that it is counter to Genesis 1 when in actuality the discovery by Edwin Hubble (and actually noticed by Einstein in his theory but he backed away from it) showed that the universe was not static and supported a beginning and not eternal matter of a cosmos that is just 'here'.
"Evolution"- we bash this observation of the mechanism of change as the environment changes, but actually this beautiful, genetic wonder aids the Genesis account of a worldwide flood and the awesome variety of life as we now encounter it.

and there are others.

But let me shift to another one- 'separation of church and state'. Now hold on... I am not saying that recent Supreme Court actions against prayer and 10 commandments is justified (in fact I think our Government has promoted a 'religion' of secular humanism), what I am saying is that most denominations do see value in separating the ministry and work of the church.

My denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America, makes it clear many times in the Book of Church Order that 'No religious constitution should be supported by the civil power further than may be necessary for protection and security equal and common  to all others' (BCO Preliminary Principles). In his commentary on this issue, Morton Smith writes, "This principle reflects the American scene, where the civil authority is not to be exercised over the church, other than in provision and security." (Commentary on the BCO, pg 20).

So, our government has a responsibility and duty and our churches have a responsibility and duties. The Church builds and expands the Kingdom of Christ, while the state seeks to 'form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourseves and our posterity'.

What does this have to do with the Tim James debate?

We are not a unified country. The polarization of right and left, fueled by strong and influential 'shaping' sources has us as divided and weak as we have ever been. The fragmentation of American culture has put us close to Lincoln's famous Biblical allusion- "A house divided against itself cannot stand".

My personal belief is that this is because we made one major change in our thought process. We have made "Liberty" our god and forsaken God as god. Liberty without a common set of core values is lawlessness.

That is why our leaders, no matter the political persuasion, point to the 'rule of law' as vital. The point of freedom of expression and freedom to vote is to debate, disagree, decide, and then do.

I also believe the current grass roots anger is actually a frustration that 'the people' have no real representation. The cultural elites seem to be saying, we actually know better what you need so back away be quiet and obey.

This is where I will get very controversial. Our only hope of unity is to proclaim a world-view and a language- and be willing to be who we are, no matter the difficulty.

There should be no restriction for our Gov't to say that our laws come from a tradition of Judeo-Christian thought. We believe in a Creator, we believe in absolute truth, and that compels us to defend the constitution including all of the Bill of Rights. A vacuum of truth creates a world view. Liberty comes from God and is held in check by His standards.

America without this framework cannot stand. Even capitalism must be held in check by Biblical teaching.

The Gov't only takes what is necessary to do its limited role. And it does NOT run a deficit.

I also think there is nothing wrong with adopting an official language. We welcome all- but we write our documents in English. It is just common sense.

We allow all kinds of language to be written, spoken, used in the arts, studied, taught. But we do official transactions in English. A wise businessman seeks to reach out to other nations in their native tongue, but we assimilate under American values and an American language.

This does not mean everyone must be a Christian or Jew. We must protect the rights of people to believe or disbelieve- but our framework is Biblical- mainly because whether Deist or not our Founders worked and lived in this framework.

The church then recognizes where She must serve. She feeds the poor, speaks the gospel in all types of tongues, cares for the widow and orphan, goes into all the world. Christianity is not American, but America at her best is Christian.

The biggest loser in all of this is the next generation- we have trained them in our own schools that God is compartmentalized and liberty is King.

I have to run..... more on this later.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Instructions for a Godly Home by Baxter

I have been reading "The Godly Home", newly edited by Randall J. Pederson, but originally came from the pen of English Puritan,  Richard Baxter (12 November 1615 – 8 December 1691).

As with all 17th century puritan writers, this is no 'easy' read, especially the introductory chapters. But when Baxter gets to the applications of Scripture you find real gold.

I am going to list some of the best parts of this fine book, but it is almost like getting a rib bone without meat.

For each point I list, Baxter has an exhaustive list of Biblical passages that he applies and uses to thoroughly back up each point of application. He also goes into amazingly minute detail in explaining the issues.

As you read over this you may feel like I do: My home does not measure up. But let us cheer God's grace and pray to improve in any area that His Spirit points out. "Oh Lord, revive our homes today! May we receive from You the reminders and the motivations and the perseverance and the power and the grace to accomplish these crucial principles in our lives."

I will call this list:

Richard Baxter's Advice for Building a Godly Home 

It starts with marriage: 
"If God calls you to a married life, expect various troubles and make particular preparation for each temptation, cross, and duty that you must expect. Do not think that you are entering into a state of mere delight, lest it prove to be a fool's paradise to you."
"Take notice of the helps and comforts in marriage as well as the hindrances, that you may cheerfully serve God in it."
"Let your marriage covenant be made understandingly, deliberately, heartily, in the fear of the Lord, with a fixed resolution to keep it."
"Be sure that God is the ultimate end of your marriage- heartily devote yourself and your family to the Lord. Those who do so aim at His glory and do it to please Him and (end up)
finding God owning it and blessing it."

Growing as a Family in Private Worship:
"Worship is the honoring of God- giving Him blessed works of praise and thanksgiving- (and in doing so) receive more largely from God and enjoy more fully our happiness in Him."
Families are obliged to seek opportunities for worship and bound to improve them faithfully.
Worshiping God in the home will not only allow members to live in the presence of God, they will also "apprehend that presence".
Godly homes should include private worship, family worship, and corporate worship in a local congregation.

We all should desire to grow in this area: "It is a dead, graceless, carnal heart that must be cured before these men will be satisfied"- "a better appetite would help their reason"-
"That which men love not but are weary of, they will not easily believe to be their duty."

The Holy Government of Families:
The head of the house should maintain authority. "For if that is lost, and you are despised by those you should rule, your word will be nothing to them- you are riding without a bridle."
"Your authority over your children is great, yet only such as, joined with love, is needful for their good education and happiness."
Teach your family that your authority is from God and they are obliged to obey you in the Lord.
The more God appears to be with you- in your knowledge, holiness, and blameless life- the greater will your authority be in the eyes of those you are leading.
Do not lose your authority by not using it.
Seek to improve in your leadership skills-  study God's Word, and study your family.
Be a good husband and father and your family will find it easier to obey you.
If you seek to rule others, you must first learn to command yourself.
"Men's actions follow the bent of their dispositions. They will do as they are."
It is much 'cheaper and easier' to call others to strict disciple than to bring ourselves to it.

Let your family see you:
Devote yourself to God
Lay up treasures in heaven and make the enjoyment of God in glory to be the ultimate end.
Never making a small matter of any sin
Being full of love
Never being kept in idleness and flesh-pleasing nor overwhelmed with such busyness that distracts the mind

Motives for a Holy and Careful Education of Children:
God is the owner of your children
Consider how great a comfort it will be to have your children know God: to love and serve Him

Mutual Duties of Husbands and Wives:
Husbands should love wives with a true, entire, married love. Take more notice of the good in your wife than the evil.
Husbands and wives must take delight in the love, company, and conversation with one another.
It is their duty to live in quietness and peace and seek to resolve wrath and discord by patiently enduring when one is (overcome by temper, etc), confessing faults, asking forgiveness, praying together for pardon.

Specific Duties for Husbands:
Husband must take up his duty to lead his family.
He must exercise and work to maintain a united authority and love
He must protect/preserve the authority of the wife over the children
He must seek to improve in knowledge and be the principal teacher of the family
He should be able to pray and have a praying heart- he is the mouthpiece of the family.

Specific Duties for Wives:
Be loving and submissive to the husband with a softness and yieldedness.
Speak well of your husband.
Develop a cheerful disposition with your condition and take heed of murmuring or complaining.
Do not teach your children  to have a gaudiness of apparel or a troublesome curiosity.

 Duties of Parents to Children:
Understand your child is a sinner (which they received from you) and thankfully accept the covenant offers of a Savior.
Dedicate yourselves to God and give Him everything, including your children.
Teach your children,as soon as they are capable,the beautiful covenant blessings.
Train them  up in exact obedience- "and break their wills... do not allow them to act irreverently or contemptuously toward you" do not give them everything they want- tell them often and lovingly of the joy of obedience and how it pleases God.
Labor to possess their hearts with a fear of God and reverence for the Scriptures.
Speak with great honor and praise of authority figures (ministers, teachers, magistrates).
Though we labor diligently for spiritual health, we also work for the health of their bodies- appetites, sports, and recreations- but no so much that it carries away their minds from better things.
Speak disgracefully of the gallantry, pomp, and riches of the world- speak against pride, selfishness, and covetousness.
Keep a watch on their tongues: especially lying, unclean talk, and the Lord's name in vain.
Keep them away from ill company.

Duties of Children to Parents:
Dearly love your parents.
Honor them in your thoughts, speeches, and behavior.
Obey them- have in your mind a desire to please them and be glad when you please them.
Consider that your parent's rule is good for you and, even when in discipline, it is love.
Be content with your parent's provision.
Humble and submit yourselves to any labor that your parent's appoint you.
Be willing and thankful to be instructed by parents and teachers, especially in matters of God and salvation.
Patiently submit to correction.
Choose good company.
Take care of your parents at that time that you are able and they are unable.
Imitate your parents in all that is good, both when they are living and when they are dead.

Learn to understand your covenant vow to God and when you do- renew that covenant with God and deliver yourself to Him as Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, Owner, Ruler, Father, and delight.
Take heed of loving the flesh too much- eating too much or drinking, or play. "Do not set your hearts upon your belly or your sport; let your meat and sleep and play be moderate."
Subdue your will and desires to the will of God and those in authority over you.
Take heed of a custom of foolish, filthy, lying, or other sinful words.
Take heed of friends who entice and tempt you to sin.
Take heed of pride and covetousness. Do not desire to be glamorous.
Love the Word of God and all good books that would make you wiser.
Remember to keep the Lord's Day holy. Reverence the ministers and mark what they teach you.
When you grow up, with the guidance of your parents, choose a trade or calling that allows you the greatest helps for heaven and the fewest hindrances in which you may be the most serviceable to God.

A Few Practical Tips of a Parenting Pattern:
Teach words
Teach reading
Teach stories of the Bible
Teach catechism
Teach doctrine
Ask questions:
Teach them to pray
Put good books before them
Get them to teach each other
Do not tire them with too much at once
Labor to provide sweetness and pleasant experiences
Encourage them with kindness and rewards
Be kind to your children when they do well

If all of this seems too much to do: "I ask them to ask Christ, who died for them, whether  souls are not precious and worth all of this labor. It is a small labor compared to the everlasting end."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Possibilities, Probabilities, and Presuppositions: Our Test-Tube Mindset

I'm completely off the cuff on this Monday, but have had a number of conversations recently that ultimately focused on our prison of pre-suppositions.

What am I talking about? Ultimately, it relates to our nature as human beings, the indwelling of sin, the condition of our hearts, and how we are subtly trained in how to think and our ability to discern.

We are children of the enlightenment: our schools, consensus opinions, and cultural norms are not shaped in a vacuum- they are ingrained into our very core through powerful, cultural systems.

And that is what 'pre-supposition' is all about. It is the core belief system that we all hold to (even subconsciously) that filters, fits, and even shapes the information we receive according to our world-view.

Now, people react with various levels of hostility when I say that ultimately, all men live by faith. It is the one statement that makes Richard Dawkins lash out in a temper tantrum.

He and many others would say that we must divide reason from faith. The mindset is that reason/science is reasonable and faith is illogical. The concept is sometimes coined "NOMA" and stands for non-overlapping magisteria- and basically says let's compartmentalize faith/transcendence/religion/supernatural into the realm of private/unknowable/nuanced/mystic experiences and keep it totally separate from science and technology.

This thinking has had amazing consequences (intended and unintended):

  • All belief has become relative and personal. You can have your belief, but it better stay inside and it cannot claim exclusivity.
  • Science/reason has become secular- seeming to be without morals. We will only stand by what we can observe through the scientific method.
  • The realm of the supernatural is rather ludicrous to the modern thinker and only represents what has yet to be discovered by science.
  • Anyone who believes in the supernatural is relegated to irrelevancy and is suspected of being too lazy to close the 'god in the gaps".

I wanted to stop here and confess with great heartache that the Church has performed so poorly in this area. At a time when we should have been engaging culture with confidence that God's truth would still compete and stand in the marketplace of ideas- we committed two fatal flaws.

Flaw #1: Some in the church decided to hollow out the message of Christianity and replaced it with a Jesus of deeds and morals and denied any supernatural testimony. This slippery slope was driven out of a desire to 'save face' to the skeptics, philosophers, and intellectual elite. So scholars began to chip away at foundation claims of Scripture. Any hard truth was softened by explanations of natural cause and effect. Word began to creep in 'myth'- 'legend'- 'agenda'- and these defenders of the truth capitulated at every challenge.
Flaw#2: Others in the church (maybe seeing an easy out) decided to drop contentious doctrine all together. This thinking was something like: "All this fighting over doctrinal issues is complicating the matter, just give me Jesus". Whether realizing it or not, it was a vote for NOMA. I imagine these people saying something like this: "I don't care what they say. Jesus said it, I believe it. You either are from a monkey or a man. Don't confuse me with science, I have my Bible- you have your science". Sadly, this was a retreat that is not warranted in Scripture.

What should have been our response? What should be our response now?
I guess you know me well enough by now to know that Princeton is close to my heart. The old reformers at Princeton stayed in the dialogue with unflinching anticipation and eager excitement.

The Princeton goal was finding the essential unity of  theology and science.

They believed this followed the tradition of Calvin- “ Science is the elegant structure of the world and serves as a mirror in which we see God”.

    “Science gives us the full accord of facts. It costs the church a severe struggle to give up one interpretation and adopt another, but no evil need to be apprehended. The Bible still stands in the presence of the whole scientific community, unshaken”. Charles Hodge

An example of this is how Hodge and Princeton reacted to Darwin's theory.

Princeton received “Origin” with great interest in 1859- the year it was published.
In 1862, Charles Hodge noted Darwin’s own admissions: “His frank admission of  the difficulties of the theory and in the absurdity of its conclusion”.
Hodge’s main problem with Darwinism was its commitment to random chance and not directed by God.
According to Hodge, the fatal flaw of Darwinism is the denial of design in nature. “If you deny design,you in effect deny God. Darwin says he believes in a creator, but if the creator, billions of eons ago, called a germ in existence and abandoned its development to chance has pretty much consigned himself to non-existence. So what is Darwinism? It is Atheism.”

Hodge rejected Darwin’s views, with respect, in 1862.

Did this mean that these men were anti-science?
Listen to their own quotes:

Hodge: “Science has taught us, the church, a lot about the Scriptures”

Archibald Alexander: “Science and the Bible are allies in establishing truth. God is author of both revelations. The truth has nothing to fear from the truth”.

What Charles Hodge did believe in was what he called the "Two fold evil".
Evil of Science- Formulating theories that ignore Biblical truth
Evil of Church- Persisting in interpretations that conflict with well established objective truth.

Now, I have to stop here because of the quote 'objective truth'.

This goes right back to the top of this long diatribe.

Our pre-suppositions could cloud our acceptance of what is objective truth and what is subjective premise.

An example would be evolution- where there are parts of Darwin's view in jeopardy by those who have further tested and studied the theory. Indeed, so much has changed in science: our ability to see into the cell, our break throughs in genetics, our discovery of wonderful mechanisms in living creatures for adaptation.

Where evolution passes out of 'hard science' into pre-supposition is the extrapolation of the mechanism of evolution as the only explanation for all of life. In other words, we take proven observation of successive, slight changes in living species and deduce that this system explains the emergence of life and proof of a non-directed cause.

I'm sorry if I have lost you..... but there are legitimate competing views and enough valid questions to say: We don't know how life began still- can't we keep all the questions open? We can't prove undirected development- can we keep the question a possibility?

Sadly, our culture has said "NO"- because anything outside the natural realm is not allowed. To even contemplate the supernatural is to open yourself up to ridicule and mockery. "This guy still believes in something as hokey as the virgin birth or resurrection."

But I will close with this last thought. If you take the average highly educated, multiple degreed scientist,  who would never accept God in any shape form or fashion- he actually uses 4 'l-words' that are hard to explain outside the existence of the God of the Bible.

The first is 'language'- communication is such an interesting phenomenon. As we learn other  languages it does not seem to strike anyone of the homologous structure of language. This one is easily dismissed by skeptics, but the personal/intimate nature of communication is so intriguing to me.

The second is 'logic'-it was pointed out to me recently that the acceptance and context of logic is a  personal, not an immaterial relationship. Logic is used, challenged, and supported in the context of personality.

The third is 'love'. What would there be in a realm of un-caused non-personal circumstances to produce beauty and love? Can the non-personal create personality?

The final one is 'law'. Where does our sense of fairness and rightness come from. Skeptics will say that so many cultures have differering norms of right and wrong that this is a poor argument. But regardless of the shifting standards- there is still a sense of 'oughtness'. A law on the heart... again with a strange hint of personality or relationship attached.

Well- I have been going way too long- and will be subject to ridicule of the skeptic as he calls me an illogical fool or neanderthal.

So next time you are watching CSI-Miami where the 'test tube' often disproves the testimony... ask yourself a question: Is that true? Is science always 100% without bias? Is it without flaw? Is it limited in any way? What are its boundaries?

Again- do not be anti-science..... just be willing to have a healthy self-suspicion. All men live by faith, even if it is faith in our reason.

II CORINTHIANS 4:3-4 "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Dove Delivery System

 note: This is a download of my blog site:
The original site has links that allow for more follow up regarding specific information

I had the fun opportunity to attend the filming of the 41st Annual GMA Dove Awards on Wednesday. My wife and I had a great time and enjoyed our company very well.

The show will be televised this Sunday on GMA TV around 7PM (CDT).

A couple of observations:

It was interesting to see the television capturing process. There is a lot that goes on to build video for the final edited version. Crowd shots, do-overs, and stage set-up were all allowed in what will be edited to a sleek and quick final production. The Grand Ole Opry House is a neat venue to watch it.

It is also easy for me to get critical and legalistic when it comes to music. Sure, I wish Christian music had a little more Christ focus, gospel clarity, and Scriptural foundation- but this is the case where I have to say with the apostle Paul "Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed and in this I will rejoice."

I did notice that the songs performed which explicitly made bold stands about Christ, and taking the message of Jesus Christ to others received the most energetic applause.

The 'pop' songs that basically say warm fuzzies and power of positive thinking stuff was more lukewarm by the audience. But hey, I'm subject to presuppositional bias....

The bottom line was this: at the end of the night there were talented people in a category of 'Christian Music' which represented rock, pop, rap, southern gospel, black gospel, twangy country, and others all set to deliver a gospel message to any who would hear.

We should pray for these songs to be used by God's Spirit to open the eyes of unbelievers and encourage believers to live out the message of faith in Jesus Christ.

Sure, there probably are those who may be servants of mammon or self in the process....
This music may never be accepted by the Babylonian system of the city of man....
The message may be more nuanced than it needs to be...
Some believers may bristle at certain styles of music...

But we need to bear with one another and continue to hope that a new reformation will sweep the land. Lord, forgive me of my cynicism and criticism and please pour out Your Spirit on all flesh.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Iceland Volcano- Past, Present, and Future

 Look at the image below, taken during the recent- world disrupting volcano in Iceland.
It is an awesome display of beauty and power!

This event has meaning past, present, and future.

The Past: 2300 years ago a Punic warrior named Hamilcar had his 9 year old son put his hand on a sacrifice and vow a lifelong hatred of the Romans. His son was named ;"Blessed by Baal". It can't be proven, but it is possible that this was a child sacrifice to the mountain god of fire and thunderbolts. Based on urns dug up in the Valley of Tophet, sacrifice of a first born to Baal was done by the thousands. This young boy could have been a surrogate, being offered in his stead.
This boy was the warrior Hannibal- who may have been motivated in his travel over the Alps to invoke the blessing of Baal in his quest to carry out his vow to his father.

Compare this to Abraham, as Jehovah called him to take his only son- the miracle child of promise- up the mountain for a sacrifice. And the God of Israel showed a counter way. God himself would provide the sacrifice.

Think of Elijah- mocking the prophets of Baal- and then seeing God bring fire from heaven on the sacrifice to Jehovah. Wouldn't it be ironic if this were a mighty lightening strike- a final blow to the false prophets?

The Present: Every time a cataclysmic event like this happens, do you pause and think that there may be a message in the event. Whether it is the towers falling on 9/11 or the Tsunami washing away life, what do we do with the sheer power and unpredictable nature of this kind of fury?

Most of us ask, why did God allow this? It is interesting what Jesus said in Luke 13 about the Galileans who were executed or the victims of the tower collapse in Siloam. He basically says "Don't ask if this happened because their sin was worse that others", instead ask, "What would happen to me if I were taken out like this?" Jesus says this is a call to repent- the day of mercy is open still.

The Future:

Rev 6:12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

15Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"

When I read the imagery of the 6th seal- I think of a volcano. Maybe it was Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. A lot of Revelation is attached to the date it was written. Before AD 70 makes most of the visions applicable to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. A later date puts the visions more futuristic and either symbolic or literal depending on your millennial view.

If you want a further discussion of my take on Revelation please look over my past blogs or write me and I will send you my CD series 'Meditations on Revelation'.

When these 'signs' show: war, earthquake, famine, natural disasters- ask yourself... Am I ready to meet The King?

No one knows the day, but IT WILL happen. We got the first coming of Christ wrong... I know we can't predict the 2nd Coming. Just live each day like it could be today. And be thankful for the forgiveness and grace offered in the Lamb of God.

Remember what Peter wrote in 2 Peter- He said the Lord is not slow. To the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. The Lord is patient, not wanting any to perish.

Look back at the picture and pause. The God of this beauty and wonder offers freedom from wrath and justification from sin, and an adoption sealed in precious blood.

Let's stay awake and alert, God is speaking and we cannot ignore the message.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taking Christian Education Out of the Box

Been thinking a lot about our culture and what has been my long term prayer for the Christian School movement to produce culture changers and leaders in the next generation.

But I also look around and see the older generation, what we are losing, and wondering if we are training replacements.

So, I wanted today to throw out some off the cuff ideas, brainstorms, of how Christian world view training and education could be adapted in more non-traditional ways.

Out of the Box School #1
High Tech Christian Vocational Schools: We are losing skilled laborers in our country at an alarming rate. And we aren't producing much anymore. I wonder if we took the extreme technical interest our kids have and combined it with the coolest current tools- what would we create?

In my mind it goes like this:
#1 Find a unique building that is suffering in the commercial real-estate market (for some reason I think of empty Car Max lots and buildings because they look cool) and aquire it for almost nothing (see if there could be some gov't subsidy or write-off because of the educational component).

#2 Find christian men and women with high tech skills (lasers, robotics, high speed semi-conductors, chips, etc)- who would desire to train and mentor young men and women in technology and life.

#3 Develop a program that meets minimum state requirements for education (GED) but develops experience and skill in high tech tools and at the same time training them in general Biblical principles- reading, Bible, math, applied science, and technology)

#4 See what happens.

Out of the Box School #2 
Grammar, Linguistics, Language, and Editing

This one is a direct result of our post-modern loss of technical grammar and language. And because of this we are losing editors.

In this school- you focus in on linguistics and grammar.

A cool project would be to have classes that update Puritans and great reformed thinkers of the 16/17/18th century into a style that speaks to today's audience. Most of this is public domain. Could become a great publishing business.

These students would also be trained in ways to produce the Bible into native languages of unreached people groups joining Wycliff missionaries in the process.

Ok enough for now... what are your ideas?

Monday, April 12, 2010

History is "His Story"- Alexander the Great

I love learning about famous leaders- there is a small degree of separation in the lives of Hannibal, Napoleon, and Alexander the Great. History records some eerie ironies in the lives and providential circumstances of their lives.

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) was used in the providence of God in a couple of dramatic ways.

The first is his creating a land bridge to lay siege to ancient Tyre and fulfilling OT prophecy. Please read the article linked below:

Does Alexander Prove Ezekiel?

I used to shy away from this story because the skeptics seem to mock it until I read the above account and compared the 'research' of the skeptics to the above research.
No comparison- I now fully see Alexander's tactics to fully conclude prophecy in Ezekiel.

But I wanted to spend this blog post focusing on a second dramatic part of Alexander's reign. His conquests of the Mediterranean set the stage for the Greek language to be the delivery system of the New Testament and the Old Testament Septuagint.

The roads and language allowed the gospel to quickly spread and allow the message of the resurrection to begin sweeping the globe.

It is also neat that Greek is the language of the NT, because it is so clear and distinctive. When people say, "You can make the Bible say anything" clearly do not understand Greek. It is so specific and exact in terms of verb conjugation- there is little room for editorializing.

Alexander the Great was not moral or Christian, but his free acts of conquest was channeled under the sovereign Lordship of Christ to set the stage for a new kind of conquest- the advance of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I'm Still Here- What is This All About?

Call me a joker, call me a fool
Right at this moment I'm totally cool
Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife
I feel like I'm in the prime of my life
Sometimes it feels like I'm going too fast
I don't know how long this feeling will last
Maybe it's only tonight

Darling I don't know why I go to extremes
Too high or too low there ain't no in-betweens
And if I stand or I fall
It's all or nothing at all
Darling I don't know why I go to extremes

“I Go to Extremes” Billy Joel

Questions: What is your life about? If you are a believer in Christ, why are you still on the planet? Why didn’t God just catapult you straight to the heavens upon conversion?

Part of the answer is that we are in an amazing and miraculous period referred to as ‘sanctification” that is- we are being molded and set apart as a vessel of service to the glory of God.

There are many Biblical passages we can look at to investigate the process by which we are putting off (actually putting to death) the Old man of sin and putting on the righteousness of Christ.

There are two passages I want to use as a foundation for information to share with you what Christ is doing in my life and an outline of what we all can do to “walk in the light as He is in the light”.

The first passage is an introductory reminder in Psalms 119:1-10
1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.
8 I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments! Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!

We live in a “How to America”- How to win a million dollars, How to install surround sound. In our quest for How to we often miss the instruction book- We cannot neglect the Bible- Christian books, magazines, programs, music are all great- but don’t allow them to substitute the pure refined milk of God’s word.- The Holy Spirit will only be enabled to produce gospel fruit in your life with the tools available to Him by scripture- Holy Revelation. God’s word is fine tuned to steer us down the road of sanctification.
Michael Horton wrote a recent article called “The American Religion” I wanted to read a small section of that as food for thought.

Just imagine a first-century Christian hearing an average "testimony" in a modern church. Here's someone who has lost his job and has been imprisoned for believing that Jesus Christ is the only Savior and King. He may also be fed to lions or turned into a lamp for Nero's garden. And this first-century believer is sitting in one of our meetings listening to a well-meaning brother or sister saying something along these lines: "Since Jesus came into my heart, it's been one blessing after another. I got a new job and I've claimed prosperity and healing in all areas of my life. It fixed my marriage and made me feel good about myself for the first time in my life. So what do you have to lose? Try God! Give Jesus a chance! He'll turn your scars into stars and your sorrows into stepping stones." How do you think your first-century Christian friend would react to such a display of uniquely American religious pragmatism?

We do not find a single instance of conversion in the New Testament based on the usefulness of Christianity vs. other religions. Instead, the issue is always objective truth. Either Jesus did or did not rise from the dead. Either he was God incarnate saving sinners by his life and death, or he was a deluded imposter. So what if it "works" for you! Mormonism has worked for millions, as have other cults, sects and non-Christian religions. False religion is very good for people in this life, but the end thereof is death…this… falls short of St. Paul's assertion that "If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain....If we have only been able to trust Christ in this life, we are of all men the most to be pitied" (1 Cor.15:18). The Apostle, for one, saw the validation for Christianity in the truth of the resurrection as a historical fact, not in the utility of Christianity for living a jollier and fuller life.

An example of the Bible’s ability to steer us in the walk of sanctification is found in Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

What a great passage- we often leave off vs. 10 But it is a great balancing verse.

The Spiritual walk with Christ is a beautifully balanced and properly paced journey that needs to be enjoyed as much as endured.

We have an impossible time living this kind of life.

Why? Well we are sinners - the reformed idea of “total depravity”. It is a concept that is losing credence in our post everything world.
Total depravity does not mean that we are as bad as we can possible be. It means we are born in sin, it is in our very DNA, and we are comfortable with sin and are immersed in our own sin and the sin of others. Any good that man is a gift of the common grace of God and the remnant of God’s image on his life. Everything we touch is tainted by sin. Do you believe this?
We are subtly tempted to not believe this. The conventional wisdom of our day is that man is good. President Clinton was described as a good man who did a bad thing. Is this true?

C.S. Lewis described our sin as having two distinct personalities- our animal self and our diabolical self. Sometimes we join a church and clean up our animal self- we have 2 beers instead of 20. But our diabolical self so twists our thinking, motives, and imaginations that we begin to believe that we are good and pleasing to God and he is lucky to have us.

Now back to this passage:
We are not saved by our works. When we speak of sanctification, we are not putting a plan together to make God happy with us. The Great Solas of the Reformation still ring true today- Christ Alone- Grace alone- Faith alone. We never say “I am covered by Christ and I an active in men’s group”. Christ + nothing is where justification and adoption are found.

Without the redeeming blood of Jesus, we are still in our sins- dabbling with life and losing our very existence. Building up a day of wrath for not acknowledging the precious blood spilled for us and our blaspheming of God’s Holy Spirit.

Now this passage is like a beautiful highway- an expressway with day to day road signs and top down exhilarating travel.

The problem is that there are two huge ditches on either side of this road. And we often steer in them. On the right side of this road is legalism- our diabolical self comes in and says- Oh you are cleaning up so well- and you start feeling really good about yourself – and you start looking around at others- and in your desire to help them you package your rules and rituals and begin to try and help others. Before long, we find ourselves as self righteous Pharisees- looking down at sinners and trying to be everyone’s Holy Spirit.

I know the Pharisee well- I play him a lot. Our culture helps me play him very well. We have become the biggest opinionated and judgmental civilization in the history of man. We have talking heads on TV espousing one view after another and call it entertainment. I love it! I am an O’Reily junkie. The problem is that I began to love my arguments over loving people.

The worst part of my Pharisee legalistic self is my gossip and criticism of others. I am not loving- I am condemning. We point out the 10% bad and refuse to see the 90% good.

So I finally get out of the legalistic path and drink grace and liberty. Ahh! Christian freedom. It is glorious! Christ’s death frees us from the ceremonial and civil law. There is a better law- the moral law, written on my heart- the Sermon on the Mount puts it into my motives and mind- it is a beautiful thing!

But just beyond Christian liberty is license. It is a ditch as derailing as legalism. Paul wrote in Romans “How can we who died to sin, still live in it?” In this state, everything goes- all truth is relative, I do what I think and I feel- there is no suspicion of my motives or actions. I do what is right in my own eyes and put it under the blood.

I walk into a situation, run to sin, eviscerate my conscience and say “I am forgiven”. Before long, I am powerless, hardened, and my God is my comfort. The irony of the ditch of license is that we love people even less than the Pharisee. I don’t care about their eternal destination. I am afraid of confrontation. If I stand for truth, it will indict me. So I walk around and tell people all is fine when I know we are growing colder and darker by the second. Loving someone means saying no - and that includes to myself.

Out of that ditch I find this beautiful path- a balanced and tense walk with my Savior as He directs me by His Spirit and through His word in a new life- in this life I learn to love and lean on Christ- I become an admirer of people- I seek my way less and edify others more- I pour myself into relationships, especially my wife and children. I laugh- I cry- I get weary- I long for heaven- God picks me up at the right time- I fall in ditches- He cleans me off and starts me straight again- 1 step forward- 2 steps back- 3 steps- 5 back and when I lose hope- He allows the dust to settle and I look back and God’s kingdom has been built- in spite of me. To His praise and glory!

I wanted to list a few things that help me avoid these ditches:
Devotion to the Word and Prayer
Unflinching commitment to consistent worship
Private fasting- hobby/TV/delicacies
Prudent feasting
Small group accountability
Loving my wife well
Pushing work down my priority list
Crying out for God’s spirit- I am powerless to do it- I need to abide in the vine of Christ.

A final note: Be patient- God’s sanctification takes TIME. It is measured in decades, not in days.

Well as we close- we do all of this to live the greatest of all the Solas- To God alone be the Glory- may we be great beacons of light to the glorious life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ-

Saturday, April 03, 2010

History is "His Story"- Problems, Pressures and Presuppositions in the Dead Sea Scrolls

1947- the arid and lifeless cliffs of the Dead Sea region lead to an incredible discovery that has culminated in a story that reads like "Indiana Jones meets Dan Brown- works through the US Congress and has information covered by the New York Times"- what you get is a mess.

The story of the Dead Sea Scrolls can be seen as a test case of one of the problems with history- it is so intertwined with human presuppositions and sneaky human hearts, that it can be more 'Pravda' than promise, more fanciful than fact.

Now to be honest, we all do this. I have found Christian reporting on the Dead Sea Scrolls to have just as much dis-information as the skeptics that we cast aspersions to.

I am up front right away- I am not a historian, I have never been to the middle east- I cannot read ancient Hebrew manuscripts, etc. I am a Christian, I do accept the Bible as a God protected and God provided revelation. I do think that this foundational presupposition actually gives me a rule of faith and practice.

Now, the Bible says that all men are image bearers of God and in one of two camps: We are either regenerated and 're-born' to the truth of Jesus Christ and adopted as his son's and daughters by turning from our sin and rebellion and trusting in the life,death, burial and resurrection of Christ as our only hope of salvation or we are spiritually blind/dead image bearers in rebellion- trusting in ourselves and either denying God's existence or believing that we are 'not that bad' or just blindly hoping we are ok to stand under the Creator's scrutiny. There is no middle ground- we are either in the Kingdom of God or 'Earth-dwellers'.

This causes conflict... a battle of information and ideas. History is influenced by this conflict in various ways, sometimes subtle- sometimes deceptive- and we do have to grow in our ability to honestly discern and evaluate.

Let me illustrate this in the Dead Seas Scroll story.

Before the discovery of the Scrolls, skeptics who attacked the Bible pointed to the limited number of Old Testament manuscripts and questioned the accuracy of the testimony therein. Those who understood the reverence for the Scriptures that the Jews had were not bothered by this at all. The believers held firm knowing that Jewish scribes protected every jot and tittle in a worshipful dedication to the Law.

Leave it to God to allow the unique discovery at just the right time to defend the authority of His Word.

The entire story of the discovery by two Bedouin teenage boys in the region is very intriguing. The political intrigue in selling, hiding, and suppressing all the artifacts is sad but predictable. The mis-information that surrounds the Scrolls even today is frustrating.

For example, it is amazing how pervasive the myth of the Essenes and their 'gnostic' life is propagated as historical fact. Survey any popular bookstore and you will see numerous books to that story.

I want to point to Stanford University's, Patrick Hunt as one who has the most recent and most supported view of how the Scrolls got to the caves in the Judean desert. He is one of many archaeologists who see the Scrolls as hidden by Jews just before the inevitable destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in AD 70. It makes a lot of sense.

Hunt also outlines all of the political decisions and back room pressures that come into play around such a controversial find. I highly recommend his chapter on the Dead Sea scrolls in his book, Ten Discoveries that Rewrote History (He is an excellent writer and fun to read).

Hunt shows no Christian connection to the Dead Sea scrolls, which is no problem to me. He dismisses almost all of the Essene myth- especially since findings around 1996. And he does an excellent job showing how materialism and presuppositional prejudices creates an atmosphere of intrigue and even conspiracy.

However, the bottom line of common accepted evidence is quite compelling for the Biblical world-view. The Jews did value the Word even over the Temple. The texts of Isaiah and other Old Testament Books were accurate in transliteration and supportive of a Jewish Cannon of God's revelation. Liberal criticism and skepticism was once again shattered by cold, hard evidence.

I am begging the reader- please consider God's honest, supernatural, and revealed will to show all of history as his story of covenant-keeping promises. The past is pointing to a future. God says 'I will be Your God and You will be My people'- cry out to Him today.

Which of the two camps are you in?