Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Walk at Home

Since March, many people have the option (required?) to work from home. Online schools, Zoom meetings, live stream events are a way of life for a lot of people now. It's a blessing for some ,but a curse for others. The BBC reported that during the first seven weeks of their lockdown, the police received one domestic abuse call every 30 seconds. For many women and children, the government locked them in a prison and doomed them to far worse suffering than COVID. Sadly, we don't know how many homes are not what they ought to be or even appear to be on the outside. Psalms 101:2  "…I will walk within my house with a perfect heart."

You are who you are at home. If you are a paradigm of piety in public but a scoundrel at home, I can tell you which persona is the real one. David was the same man at home as he was in public. He sang of God's mercy and judgment in public worship as well as private. David's faith had feet. He "walked" in his home, which is talking about his character, his integrity, and the principles that guided his life. His guiding principle for public and private life, was the Word of God. David's goal was to walk with a perfect heart everywhere, but especially at home. Charles Spurgeon called it, "The Psalm of Pious Resolutions." Most agree this was written as prior to David becoming king, and maybe before David was married as he thought about life as the head of his home. When he thought about what it meant to lead, he didn't imagine using and abusing authority, but he purposed to do what was right, even when he was out of the prying and critical public eye. When he came home and sat down to rest, away from his enemies and away from the public pressure of being a man of authority, he wasn't going to give himself over to sin because he "deserved a break." But he loved God in the public square, and loved him at home. David's resolution was to be a holy man, starting and especially at home. Some Christians get so wrapped up in their testimony to the lost and yet never give a moments consideration to their testimony at home. Do you treat your family better or worse than your co-workers?

If you know your Bible, you might be reading with a furrowed brow of disapproval, thinking, "David wasn't much of a family man, look at what he did in his life!" Which is true. David was a sinner and he wasn't the best husband who ever lived, or the best father. But consider all David's problems in his later years came from his failure to walk in his house with a perfect heart. It should be your desire to walk with integrity in public, but just as much in private. Christ must be Lord of your life, and that includes your home.

 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Integrity


“The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them,” Proverbs 11:3. Integrity means to be whole, complete, or sound. A building, with structural integrity, will stand strong when the storm comes rolling in. Or, when people talk about the “integrity of our elections,” they are talking about the soundness and reliability of the process. If a person has integrity they are morally whole and sound. To have integrity you need convictions and the gumption to stand upright by them. A man of integrity stands upright. But what’s the difference between a man of integrity and a hardheaded individual? Many confuse their cantankerousness for conviction but how can we distinguish the two? To stand with integrity, you need a foundation. If the structure of your conviction is going to have any integrity, it needs a strong base, the truth of God’s Word. It’s hard to remain upright slipping and sliding in the mud, no matter how confident you are about your footing. Having opinions and sticking to them isn’t necessarily a recipe for holiness. Being truly convinced and being wrong is not a good road to travel. Know truth and stick to it.

When your foundational belief is to do whatever benefits them in the moment, your own crooked ways will be your doom. The sin and their deceitfulness used to get what you want, in the end, becomes your own judgment. Like wicked Haman, in the book of Esther, who built the gallows to hang his enemy Mordecai in a treacherous and murderous plot, was in the end, the one who was swinging from them when his plan backfired. Having no core convictions or compromising the truth can be beneficial for a little while, but in the end, you’ll pay a heavy price.

The man of integrity is not going to bend due to public pressure. He won’t be swayed by the popularity of his positions. He won’t change, even if he knows it will cost him. In Paul’s letter to Titus, the second chapter deals with issues he wanted Titus to preach. To the young men in the church, he wanted them to be sound in doctrine and their life. They should believe the truth, speak the truth sincerely and live the truth with integrity (Titus 2:7-8). If you want to be a person of integrity you need to have integrity in your belief. When Moses sent Joshua and Caleb to spy out the promised land before entering, they came back with an honest report. But the people didn’t like what they heard. The tide of public opinion was beginning to turn against them. Because they were men of integrity, they stood on the promises of God and rebuked the people for their lack of faith and exhorted them to take the land. The result? The people wanted to stone them. Men of integrity are rarely popular while they live because the have to stand against the majority. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

I’m Offended


Are you offended? Seems like most people are today. Offend came from the Latin word offenden, which means “to sin against,” and offendere, which means to “attack or to strike.” But, since our culture no longer has any moral common ground, and has forgone the Biblical doctrine of sin, we have no basis for offense, other than our feelings. I think the last thing we all agree is wrong is hurting someone’s feelings. We are more offended by being told we are wrong than sin itself and demand apologies for our words. But we shouldn’t apologize simply because someone is offended when we simply state what we believe. You definitely should apologize if you sin against someone but not for saying something that makes some sensitive soul’s bottom lip quiver. 

After the Lord’s famous teaching in John 6, some disciples who followed said (in John 6:59-65) it was a “hard saying.” This doesn’t mean the Lord’s sermon was difficult to understand. It means they thought Jesus harsh, intolerable, and offensive (compare Matthew 25:24 and James 3:4 where it’s translated “fierce”). The Lord’s message wasn’t a hard saying because it was difficult to understand. It was a hard saying because it was completely understood. These students were offended by the Teacher. There are two main themes in Jesus message, the sovereignty of God in salvation and the exclusivity of salvation by grace, through faith, in Christ alone which is the true teaching and meaning of the Lord’s teaching on “eating his flesh and drinking his blood.” These doctrines are offensive. I believe in God’s sovereign grace in salvation and sometimes that doctrine is labeled as unloving, or cold or callus, but it’s interesting the same charge was levied against the Lord. Jesus never sinned with his words but he certainly offended people. God’s sovereignty in salvation hurt their feelings and their pride, so they said the problem was with the doctrine. 

Are you offended by the sovereignty of God?  Will you be offended if you see Jesus coming again in the clouds? Will you be offended by his sovereignty THEN? Would you be offended at the sight of the glorified and risen Christ? Then why be offended at the sovereignty of God now? It’s the Spirit that quickens. It is the Spirit that gives life. They were offended by God’s sovereignty because they loved their perceived  “autonomy” but the flesh profits nothing. The flesh doesn’t give life, but it is the sovereign Spirit. The words, this truth, the gospel, they are life. And despite this truth, there are some who will not believe because they are dead in their sin. That’s why Jesus said, no man can come to him, except it were given unto him of the Father. Jesus didn’t apologize when he lost the crowd. The truth of the gospel is offensive but that’s not the gospel’s fault. Don’t apologize for believing what the Bible says just because someone is offended by truth. Jesus didn’t. 


Friday, September 25, 2020

The Root Cause


Someone recently told me everything was political. I disagreed because I took a walk that evening and saw the sunset over the hills and enjoyed a crisp September evening and there wasn't a thing political about it. Oh, but that's where I was wrong. Because, as I was informed, if we don't tackle climate change, then there won't be a sunset in the future and the fact that I couldn't see it was proof of my privilege. I was blind and need to be given eyes to see, apparently. Everything this fellow thought about was filtered through a political ideology. It's a sad way to live your life. Imagine ordering your life by a political ideology dreamed up by power hungry individuals. I made a trip once and used my GPS to guide me. When it said I arrived, I was in the middle of a Country Road, neither taking me home, nor to the place where I belonged. Either the GPS was busted or the address I was given was off, or maybe user error. But I trusted a lie and ended up in the middle of nowhere. What happens when we believe a lie about a diagnosis to a problem? I knew someone who had terrible wrist pain. They tried medicine, ointments, wrist braces, but nothing worked. Come to find out, the problem wasn't the wrist, but they had elbow tendonitis. The pain in the wrist started with a problem in the elbow. All the treatments to the wrist were never getting to the root cause and the more they tried the worse things got.

We live in a country where a good portion of children are raised by government schools and taught government morals. Parents are more concerned if their boy can shoot foul shots or field a grounder than their souls. Little girls are dressed up like harlots and told that's empowering. No amount of money or good teachers can counterbalance disregarding Exodus 20:12. Children are raised to be selfish and full of themselves. It's never little Johnny's fault. He got bad grades because his teacher didn't like him (Proverbs 23:9). He didn't make the team because the coach had a grudge against him (Proverbs 16:2). He can't get a job because the employers are against him (Proverbs 10:4). Why, the whole world is against him (Proverbs 12:15). What else can he do, but riot (Proverbs 17:19 ). It's the system – it's the nation that's at fault and rigged against him (Proverbs 14:34). It can't be Johnny's fault, he's not to blame (Proverbs 17:15).

We are applying the wrong medicine to the wrong problem and no presidential election will ever fix this. Parents raise their children in a lie, to believe a lie and then wonder why they end up adrift. Don't talk to me about politics and tell me your answers for the ills of this nation if you don't have your kids in church. You don't know enough about the problem to provide an answer. 
“When the youths of a nation grow up with the idea that it unmanly to honor their parents, or to venerate old age, or to respect authority, I say of this nation that, whatever be the richness of her natural products, or the spread of her commerce, or the wealth of her revenue, or the bravery of her citizens, or the learning of her scholars, or the genius of her statesmen, or the grandeur of her history, her foundation stones are already unsettled and heaving and that it only needs the slightest jar, and all that shall remain to tell of her prosperity and liberty and richness and glory will be the magnificent terribleness of her ruins. Believe me, the surest guarantee which the patriot has that the people of the next generation will be a prosperous, virtuous, law-abiding people, consist in the fidelity with which in this generation parents enforce and children obey the commandment “Honor thy father and thy mother." - GD Boardman

Or, if we were wise, we could look at the problem and work backwards. We have a nation of riotous, unfaithful, slothful, unthankful, and unholy citizens. How did we get here? If our society is rotten to the core, should parents work hard to make sure they fit in to and conform society? 

Maybe it's not just the 5th commandment. Maybe it's because Americans have spent the last 40 years of Sunday's glued to TV sets watching men play football instead of worshiping Christ. Maybe, its because we said church was important to our kids, but found every excuse not to go and then are shocked when they don't think it's important either. Maybe we condemned fornication at church and then laughed at it on television, or we condemn those "Hollywood elites" and all their filth and spend so much of our time and money consuming their goods and drinking their poison. 

2 Chronicles 7:14  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.**


** I know it's popular to scoff at men who quote 2 Chronicles 7:14. Indeed, this was a promise to Israel and not America, but let me ask you this - what would the United States look like, if God's people humbled themselves, prayed, sought his face, and turned from their wicked ways? What would the consequences of such revival be? The evangelical elites would do well to keep their mouth shut when God's people call for self-examination and repentance. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Known Knowns

Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

In 2002, Donald Rumsfeld, speaking about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq said, “…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know.” This of course, sounds funny (especially the way he said it) but it is true. I know I don’t know astrophysics (I’m sure you are shocked) — but there are things in the vastness of the universe no one knows are there, so we don’t know exactly what it is we don’t know. There are also things we think we know, but don’t. I read a book published in 17th century on Romans 8. He was illustrating how bad things can work for good and said even the leeches work for our good, by sucking out only the bad blood. He knew his theology, but not medicine. He knew the “settled science” of the day, but didn’t know the consensus was wrong.

There is a lot we don’t know. The Bible says we don’t know what we should pray for as we ought (Romans 8:26). We don’t know all the blessed details of the future glory (1 John 3:2). We don’t even know what is going to happen tomorrow (James 4:14). We don’t know the hearts of other people, though God knows the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). 

But we do know this —  “All things work together for good, to them that love called, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” We don’t “feel this”. We don’t “assume” this. We know this truth. We know from God’s Word.  The Word of God doesn’t go through revisions to change doctrine with the times. Truth is eternal and unchanging, so when we know God’s promises, we really and truly know, and can know we know (1 John 2:3). We know from God’s character all things work together for good. We know that our holy, wise, sovereign, loving, merciful Father has called His people, according to His purpose, that “none should be lost” and be presented before Him holy and without blame in love, so that in the ages to come, he would demonstrate his kindness through eternity toward us, in Christ (Ephesians 1:4; 2:7).  And I know that if my Father, who has adopted me, and made me, not only a child, but an heir and if an heir,  joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, has promised me eternal life and a glorified body in the resurrection, and has so perfectly ordained eternal redemption for me, I can trust him and know that all things that are happening now for good to them that love God.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Everything's Against Me?


Jacob lived a hard life and most of his difficulties were the consequences of his own bad decisions. He cheated his brother out of his inheritance, twice, and then ran from home to avoid getting murdered. His father-in-law took advantage of him for over two decades. He had 13 kids by four women and married two of them at the same time. If he wasn’t gray-headed by that point, the way his boys turned out likely finished the job. When Joseph, Jacob’s favorite boy, told the family about his dream, how one day they’d all bow down to him, the brothers made an odd choice — murder? Reuben, the voice of moral reason, made the case against murder. Judah also came down against fratricide, they’d just sell him into slavery. After turning  a quick profit, they made up a story about how wild beasts slaughtered Joseph. It broke Jacob’s heart. Joseph was gone.

Joseph lived a hard life and most of his difficulties were because of persecution. He was sold twice. Became the head servant of a powerful man in Egypt, then falsely accused of an impropriety by his wife. Because they believed all women in Egypt, Joseph went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. In jail, he met up with a couple of other men who fell on hard times. Joseph interpreted their dreams  and in return, he asked the incarcerated butler for help getting out jail when he was released. But he forgot, until Pharaoh had a dream and needed interpretation. Pharaoh like Joseph’s skills and became Pharaoh’s right hand man and shepherded Egypt through 7 years of feast, to prepare them for 7 years of famine, predicted in Pharaoh’s dream.

In the famine, Jacob and the boys got hungry and they heard there was corn in Egypt, so he sent the boys to get some groceries. Little did they know it was Joseph they had to buy from. Joseph, orchestrated a few scenarios in which he sent the brothers back home, first without Simeon and then wanted to keep Benjamin. When the brothers told Jacob what happened, he said in Genesis 42:36, “Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.” It only seemed that way.  Because he was loved of God, all things were not against him, but all things were for him (Romans 8:28). All these troubles worked together for his good, though he couldn’t see and didn’t see it for a long time. But Joseph saw it. When the brothers feared retribution, Joseph said “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” There is no pointless suffering for the people of God.  Look at life, through eyes of faith, like Joseph. If you are in Christ, nothing is ever really “against you” but all things are for you.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Works for me


I’m sitting in the parking lot of the hospital. I can’t go in with my wife because of restrictions. The parking lot is full of other people, also sitting. Also waiting. Also not able to go in. There is an “Expecting Mothers” section and the spaces are all filled. The sign has a very pregnant woman with a heart in the womb. There is a lot going on this morning at the hospital. Surgical procedures, dying patients, newborn patients. There are big tents set up for coronavirus testing. And those of us who sit in the parking lot and wait. A dragonfly keeps buzzing past my car. I haven’t seen a single bird all morning, which is odd. It looks like it’s going to rain and it’s getting hot. My brother lives in Texas, right on the gulf. He and his family evacuated and are safe and sound. My dad texted me and told me his dog died. It was really my Mom’s dog, but Rupp out lived her by a couple years.

Everything I see around me has a story. Every parking lot-waiter has a loved one inside and every parked car has a story. Some have “minor” surgery, defined as any surgery I’m not having, while others are clinging to life. Still others wait for that precious baby to be born. Every person that’s walking by here is here for a different reason, and to them, it’s the most important. All of our stories have intertwined this morning and we are all here today for one reason or another, but all for God’s reason. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28. Even that dragonfly, that can’t seem to decide what it wants, came into this world at God’s time and has avoided getting zapped, squished, eaten, or sprayed so he could annoy me in my car for the glory of the Lord in His might work of providence. God works all things together. Every event in the world, big or small. Every sickness and every birth. Every storm cloud, every drop of rain. It all works together, in one glorious tapestry of Sovereignty. Why do bad things happen? That’s not a question I can answer. But I don’t assume there is only one reason why anything happens. Maybe my wife is in surgery and I write about it, so you can read about it and be comforted, if you know Christ, that everything is working out, together, according to God’s plan, for my good. There is no such thing as suffering without a purpose for God’s people. This verse is not a lesson in stoicism. It’s a comfort to the children of God, who love and are loved, enduring trials as part of His master plan, for our ultimate joy in Him. Life usually doesn’t work out like I want it, but it works together for good. 


* We're home now. Surgery was a success. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Zombie Apocalypse


The CDC, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, has a "Zombie Preparedness" teaching program to get people thinking about disaster preparations using a zombie apocalypse as the framework for the curriculum.  My understanding is it started as a joke, but became so popular, they capitalized on the interest. For several years, people watched zombie movies and television shows and the next day at work, I heard them talking about what they would do in the "zombie apocalypse" and how their unique set of skills as a hunter or fishermen would prepare them for anything. Then, when we had a toilet paper shortage, some of the same people lost their minds. As Mike Tyson said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

What is a Zombie Apocalypse anyway? According to etymoline.com the word zombie comes from "West African origin, originally the name of a snake god." Later, in Haitian and New Orleans cultist voodoo practices, it came to mean a reanimated corpse. But you already knew what a zombie is supposed to be. But what about apocalypse?  That's a transliteration  of a Greek word which means revelation, a disclosure of truth, a laying bare of something previously hidden. Which is also the last book of the Bible, Revelation 1:1, "The Revelation (apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ…" Biblically, the apocalypse is the disclosure of the truth of future events culminating in the New Heaven and New Earth and future glory of Christ Jesus and His people. The apocalypse is only scary if you don't know Jesus. Much of Revelation is glorious in its revelation of God's power, holiness, justice, and mercy.  It's the other parts, of God's judgment of sinners and the world religious system that captures the attention of many.

God has prepared his people for the "last days".  God has prepared his churches for the last of the last days, leading up to the times of judgment. The Bible gives many words of warnings to the churches for the last days, but they are not warnings against zombies, political powers, or pandemics. God tells his churches to beware wicked men and false doctrine. The last days are full of perilous times, a decline in truth, morality, and a further descent into depravity (2 Timothy 3:1). It will be a time of false teaching and  denials of Christ (1 John 2:18; 4:3, 2 Timothy 4:1-2). The last days are also characterized by people who deny the return of Christ (2 Peter 3:3-4) despite the clear and truthful prophetic revelation of the nature of the times. Immature Christians and false professors prepare themselves for the wrong trials. They build bunkers, store food and water, and read all about the Illuminati, but don't read their Bible or attend church. They study this political leaders and insidious groups taking counsel together, straight out of the second Psalm. But they neglect the Lord's instruction for his people in the last days. They prepare for a zombie apocalypse because they never read the Apocalypse.

 

Friday, August 14, 2020

In These Uncertain Times...

 “In these uncertain times…”  Did something happen to change “certain times” to “uncertain”? No, I haven’t been asleep for the last 6 months, but what is the difference between this year and last year? All that has changed is last year, we were certain about the times. The times are not uncertain today but what most put their faith in is uncertain. We are not in uncertain times, we trust in uncertain things. 

1 Timothy 6:17  Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-mined, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. The affluent are tempted by pride in their possessions. They live in “certain times” because their life is relatively stable. Houses are certain. Jobs are certain. March Madness. College Football. Vacations at the beach, family traditions. The “certainty” of the American way of life. God has shown you they are not certain at all. 

Advertisements about these “uncertain times” are selling you something other than toilet paper. News outlets are preaching to you when they talk about uncertain times. They want to be the “rock” to keep you on point. Trust in your car insurance company, a big box store, the government, or favorite news channel and they’ll see you through these uncertain times, because when it gets bad, they are the anchor. Thanks, but I’ll pass. We put faith in uncertain things and when they fail, we get troubled. We put our hopes in uncertain people and are disheartened when they can’t deliver. We put our faith in uncertain ways of life, then are distraught when they change. Rather than trust in the uncertain ways of life, we must put our faith in the LIVING God.  Malachi 3:6 says, “For I am the LORD, I change not.” The times change. Situations change. But the Living God never changes and the times are sure (Isaiah 46:9-11). By believing our way of life was certain exposes the idolatry of our hearts. It’s the living God, not the dead idol, that is certain and unchanging. It’s the living God who gives us all things to enjoy who never waivers and is faithful to trust, but we have things backwards. We trust in the good things God gives for us to enjoy and ignore the God who gives them. 

 When you build your life upon uncertain things, you are building your house on sand. In 2020, for a lot of people, the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house and great was the fall (Matthew 7:27). But here is a certainty — Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Turn your heart from your idols and trust in Christ Jesus, who is the Lord of time, and is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Are the times uncertain because of a virus? Job 14:5, "Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass." Our days are numbered by the Living God. That's a certainty. It's also a certainty that our time here is short (Psalm 89:47). The government wants you to be afraid. The news media wants you to be afraid. Then they want you to look to them for guidance and help because of the "uncertain times". 

The Bible says, because our times are short, the days are evil, and our Holy Father judges our hearts and works, we should pass our sojourn here in fear. Not the fear of viruses or riots, but the fear of God (1 Peter 1:17-25). The world wants to live forever and fears death. The Bible will tell you the truth. You are going to die, therefore fear the Lord, because He alone can give everlasting life. He gives life through Christ, when in the fullness and certainty of the ordained time, the Lamb of God entered into this world. There there is hope because in the certainty of the times, he "was manifested in these last times for you, who by Him do believe in God." The times are certain. Your times are certain. 

We live in stupid times. We live in dishonest times. We live in perilous times (Jeremiah 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:1). But we do not live in uncertain times. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Foundation Seal



I take comfort in the fact God does not and will not change. In Paul’s day, there were a couple of men, Hymenaeus and Philetus, who taught a false doctrine saying the resurrection had already passed. Decades from Christ’s ascension, false teachers were creeping into the churches. Wolves in sheep’s clothing defiling and harming the churches. The house of God under attack from without and from within. 2 Timothy 2:19, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

Let’s walk over to the institution of God’s church and a closer look. After almost 2,000 years since her founding, the house of God remains and is sealed with and inscription. The seal in ancient times was used to authenticate messages, ensure and guarantee the ownership of  what was sealed. The church belongs, not to men, but the Lord Jesus. The foundation is laid, and the Chief Corner stone is set. The gates of Hell have not prevailed against her. While times change, people change, countries change, governments change, Christ never changes and the institution of His church, is sure. The foundation of God standeth sure. As the tides of time beat upon the house, the foundation standeth sure. The storms of persecution blow, but the foundation stands sure. The storms of heresy blow against the house, the foundation stands sure.  Time has not destroyed the Lord’s church. Heresy has not toppled her. Persecution only spread the gospel truth and message. As we walk closer to examine the foundation and you’ll notice an inscription engraved on the cornerstone. It’s sealed on two sides with a message. The first says,  “The Lord Knoweth them that are His.” The Lord hasn’t forgotten his people. The Lord also is not confused by who is and who is not his children. Though men apostatize and Christians fall away or are carried away, the truth remains, the Lord knows his own. The Almighty is not deceived by the wolves and will protect his sheep. 

If we walk to the other side of the stone, there’s another inscription. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Those who name the name of Christ do not live in iniquity, but depart from it. Those who are in Christ walk in the Spirit and if you have not the Spirit of Christ, you don’t have Christ. Do you doubt we live in perilous times? Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and tell me that doesn’t describe our times. In fact, the passage could be the description of any number of “news” segments you might have the misfortune of watching. But the people of God depart from iniquity. No matter what the culture says or what is permitted, encouraged, or even commanded — God’s people depart from iniquity. The impish plans and works of the wicked will not frustrate the Lord’s work. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Ignatius of Loyola

Today is the Catholic feast day of Ignatius of Loyola. He's the founder of the Jesuits. Looking through some articles about the feast, I saw this picture from St. Nicholas Church. That's Ingatius, the founder of the Jesuits with his foot on Martin Luther. Not what you would expect in Saint Nick's place? In my attempt to verify, I found it hard to find any information on this piece. If you go to the the Wikipedia page and look on the interior picture, to the left of the altar, you can see it. 



2 Timothy 2:24-26  And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

Or, stab them in the neck with a pitch fork. Either way. 

This is why I like statutes. I like to know where everyone stands. As a Baptist, I like to know who Saint Nichols was and what his followers think about justification by faith. I also like to know how they honor the founder of the Jesuits

Speaking of wolves, here's the family crest of Loyola. It's supposed to represent generosity. The family was so generous in feeding soldiers, after the men ate, there was enough for the wolves, OK, I guess? I'm no heraldist, but if I was going to depict generosity and love, I don't think I would use ravenous wolves around a pot as the symbol. It's now part of the symbol for many Jesuit schools and institutions. Which, it's a little too on the nose, don't you think? 



Thursday, July 23, 2020

No Profit

2 Timothy 2:14  Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.

In the context of this letter, Paul is in prison, at the end of his life, writing to his friend and colleague Timothy, who was the pastor at the church in Ephesus to him to encourage him to continue following and serving the Lord Christ in perilous times. He told Timothy some hard truths, which were difficult to hear. But it wasn’t drive-by spite or courage at a distance. He loved the elect of God (2 Timothy 2:10) and loved them too much to lie or flatter. He was going to speak profitable words, and to borrow a phrase from Baxter, he wrote as a dying man writing to dying men.

He urges Timothy  not to be ashamed, not to be afraid, but, with boldness serve the Lord Jesus despite what the world may do to him. As a pastor, he had to take care of himself (2 Timothy 2:6) because he was charged to take care of others (2 Timothy 2:2) so he had to “endure hardness” like a good solider and carry on for the glory of the King. In verses 11-13 Paul reminds us that being united to Christ, we died with him. We died to the condemnation of the law. We died to sin, but we also, by faith, rose to live in Christ. And while we live in this world, we will suffer, but he has promised, we will reign with him when he returns in his kingdom. A few days of suffering in this life, to reign with Christ, after the resurrection is certainly worth it. But, if we deny him, he will deny us. 

Right after such a warning, Paul says to remind the church, and to charge them before the Lord of something very important. As a preacher, he wasn’t to suggest these truths and offer some friendly advice. Nor was he to find some uplifting words to make the church feel good and comfortable as if the preacher is supposed to be a motivational speaker to give you a boost to help you get through the week. Timothy had to preach divine truth. Sometimes, truth encourages the believer. Often times that charges, commands, or corrects the believer. I saw a TV preacher the other day telling how he came about his current sermon series. He was talking to his son and his girlfriend and gave them some marital advice. The problem was this was his advice. He didn’t provide any Scripture, or expound any text, but some things that came to mind in their conversation. Timothy had to charge the people before the Lord. The Lord who is coming again. The King they will stand before and give an account of how they lived since he saved them. I know we forget this truth. We can get wrapped up in the news or the goings on in our life that we forget the Lord is coming back. I think we also forget the Lord knows what we are doing and why we do it. If we are in God’s will, that’s a blessing. If not, well, that’s the point of this verse remember how you live — the Lord is coming.

The church is not to strive about words to no profit. Meaningless, useless, war of words, about words. Words are important. Douglas Wilson says the battle of our time is the battle over the dictionary. Some in our culture are trying to redefine reality by changing the meaning of words. Words have meanings and it's the art of the deceiver to subtly change the meaning of words to make things unclear. Defining our terms brings clarity to the discussion. But defining terms isn't fighting about words. Changing definitions is fighting about words. But if you tell me that marriage is union of some period of time between an indistinct number of life entities, then we are going to have a problem. That definitely is something. But it's not marriage. 

False preachers do the same. They redefine theological terms such as justification, elect, or even resurrection. Mormon's believe in Jesus if you ask them. Catholics believe you are saved by grace, if you ask them. But the Mormon's Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible and the grace of Catholicism is accompanied by works. It's grace, just not grace by itself. So if a person in the church is redefining grace or teaching we are justified by grace but not grace alone, then it's time to define some words which will probably start a fight, but a fight with a purpose and with profit. 

Words are important and that’s not what Paul addresses. He is addressing the far too often experienced fight about shades of meaning that have no answer. Fights with no profit. There is no end in the struggle other than to defeat your opponent and win. Win what? The argument? Congratulations. The end of the argument isn’t when someone wins, because once the shooting of words is over and the smoke clears, you see you’ve destroyed the hearers. 

One thing, most people don’t consider the collateral damage in such wars. You might be fighting with just one other person, but it never stays with just one person. Yes, you showed the preacher! You really proved yourself right. And you did it in front of his kids who get bitter about the church that hurts their dad so often. Yes, you really won that argument about whether Adam had a belly button in the garden and put Brother Jones in his place. But you also made half the church dread coming because they know they are going to have to be in the middle of a war. 

Paul was no snowflake. Take 15 minutes this week and read 2 Timothy and notice how many specific people Paul calls out. He wasn’t afraid of a fight or an argument — when they had a purpose, when they brought glory to God or protected God’s sheep. Paul called out Peter to his face, and said he didn’t put up with a false gospel, even for an hour. Why? The the “truth of the gospel might remain” with the churches (Galatians 2:5). Doctrinal precision, defining our terms is a crucial, profitable exercise. A shepherd can’t expect wolves to play nice with the sheep. Sheep are not aggressive animals. Usually. A ram can get a little feisty and so do ewes with lambs. God’s people are not aggressive. Usually. Brothers and sisters can get a little feisty. The Bible says to stop.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Little Lies

Little Lies

Gaslight, a movie starring Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten, is the story of a husband who tries to make his wife think she’s crazy. He dims the lights, makes noises, talks to himself and when his wife mentions it, he pretends like never happened and it’s all in her head. She knows she is seeing and hearing things — but her husband makes her question reality to drive her crazy. Gaslighting entered our lexicon to describe anytime someone purposely manipulates others to make them question their sanity by lying about a situation that is obviously happening. There was an old joke told in the U.S.S.R. that the future is known, it’s the past that’s always changing. The dissidents in Communist Russia knew they were being lied to but were powerless to do anything about it. How could you? In West Virginia, committing perjury will get you at least  one year, and up to ten in the pen. Swearing falsely in court can cost you $1,000 and get you a cot and three square meals for a year. 

Before I came to West Virginia, I had a book about lying and someone I knew asked if they could borrow it. They took the book and then I never saw them or the book again. I wish I had loaned a book about stealing. It was an fascinating book to pilfer. It was about a POW in the Civil War who was part of a conspiracy to escape. The plan hinged on deceiving the guards, however, one of the men refused. He said it was a lie and he wasn’t going to sin against God, even to escape. That set off a spirited debate (could you imagine being the one who came up with the plan!) in which the pro-escape party said there are justifiable times to lie, while the author held a lie was never justifiable. What do you think? The author finally did get out and decided he wouldn’t rest until he came to understand whether a lie was justifiable. He decided it’s worse to suffer than to sin.

Lying is something we all know is bad. Lying is universally understood to be wrong, especially when someone lies to you. A politician, whose bread and butter is spinning the truth and telling lies, will get furious when someone tells a lie on him. But, it’s the same with you. We think it’s OK to fudge the truth a little here and there to save us some pain or embarrassment. But woe until the unfortunate soul who lies against us. Lying hurts because too often, there is often no recourse once the lie has done it’s work. Lies can ruin lives, marriages, friendships, countries, and whole societies. It hurts, really hurts to be lied to. Often, the liar, just gets away with it —  no, strike that. The liar never gets away with it. “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape,” Proverbs 19:5. The Lord will judge the wicked, and all liars will spend eternity in the second death (Revelation 21:8). Maybe there is no such thing as a little lie?

Friday, July 3, 2020

Liberty

I’m writing this mere days from the Fourth of July. That grand day we celebrate our liberty in these United States. Or, the day we used to celebrate our liberty. Maybe I’ll watch virtual fireworks online which seems fitting to celebrate my virtual liberty. In 1828 Daniel Webster, in the dictionary that bears his name, defined liberty in a rather robust way. The entire definition wouldn’t fit in this column, but we can boil it down to it’s Latin roots, which  means free. Liberty is freedom from restraint, whether physical, or mental. It’s being free from the control of others. In Title 27 CFR 555.11, the Federal Government defines fireworks. There are different categories and depending who you are, what you are doing with them, and whether you have obtained a license from the ATF, will determine if you have the freedom to celebrate your liberty. 

Liberty is a gift. It’s something everyone wants for themselves and most people want to take away. To live with liberty means you can’t make everyone look, think, act, or believe like you do. I love liberty. But liberty comes at a cost. There is a price paid to get it, there is a price to have it, and a price to keep it. Our forefathers paid a price to give us this country and the freedoms we have. They are not my gods or saviours. They were not perfect, but I don’t need them to be perfect. I’m not either. We are learning now there is a price to keep it. There is also a price to have liberty. Liberty is dangerous. 
 
I was at the park recently to watch my boys play an outdoor, socially distance recital. It was nice to hear the kids playing music. Someone, in order to protect the kids (what about the children!) took away the seats to all the swings at the park. Our government hard at work to protect us. It was a sad sight, all those chains hanging from the swingset. But soon after, there were some little rebels who made their way from the concert to the playground and went straight for the chains grabbed hold and started having a blast. Was it safe? Nope. Could they have gotten the virus, or broke their arm, or skinned their knees or struck by lightening? All possibilities. But liberty is dangerous. Maybe these kids will have the courage to fight for their liberty, if we have any left to pass down to them. 

The Lord Jesus, the King of Kings, came to set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1). The Lord pronounced the blessed Jubilee of the soul and set those bound by sin free to walk in the light and liberty of the New Covenant. King Jesus gives liberty. Men try to squash it or take it away. But I’m Christ’s freeman, free from the condemnation of the law and free to live in Him. Free to serve him and free to love God and neighbor. Christ's liberty doesn't make a man selfish but in the Spirit we don't use freedom as a cover for sinfulness but to live for God's glory. Some people use their liberty to be jerks. So is the answer to stifle speech? I would much rather know what people really believe by hearing what they have to say than try to be the conscience police. 

The liberty of conscience we have in this country is a Baptist Heritage. That's dangerous. I believe you have the right to believe how you want. I will also take that same privilege for myself. I'll stand before the Lord Jesus Christ one day to give an account to him for my life and my words so I had better judge myself how I use my liberty. Is that safe? Ask Paul how safe being free is and how much it cost him. They took they liberty of his body but not his soul. Once you beat a man on the inside, he's beaten all together, no matter how strong and tough he is. The Romans, the Jews, the religious preachers beat Paul's body and hurt him all they could from the outside, but they didn't' whip his Spirit. To be free is dangerous because you'll loose friends. You'll loose opportunities. You can't be faithful, free, and popular with everyone. But being popular with everyone has a price all its own. 

Jesus set me free. The Lord Jesus lived to do the will of the Father and didn't care what men thought of him. My King gave me eternal life why should I bow the knee to the ungodly dictates of a pagan world? Why should I now have my conscience molded by ungodly infidels as to what is right or wrong? 

Let freedom ring. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Interesting Times



Secondary Issues
There are issues in the Scripture that have more weight than others. It's really impossible to deny (Matthew 23:23). It's also not debatable that you are not supposed to fight over matters of conscience (Romans 14:1). 

Then why are there so many fights? I believe it is because no one thinks they are the weaker brother and everyone appeals to Romans 14:14. I don't think I'm the weaker brother now. I didn't think I was the weaker brother 15 years ago on some matters, but looking back I know that I was. In most fights, I think we could define a secondary issue as, "any matter which I do not find important." 

For example, SBC President, J.D. Greear masterfully plays the secondary issues card. He recently said, "The flip side is the rancor and divisiveness of that 10%. They are focused on secondary issues, that you just have to wonder what that means about their priority and their love of the priority issue, the gospel."

Step one, you have to know someone else's heart. So if you disagree with Greear, you are unloving and don't focus on the gospel. Of course, what this implies is J.D. is on the right path with the right spirit.

Step two, is very subtle. There would be unity, if that pesky 10% would just get in line. Why do they have to be so hard headed. He singled them out as a minority, inconsequential group of people who don't fall in line, they are destroying the SBC and the unity that comes if you are truly following the gospel, like JD. 

But, he made a blunder. It was almost perfect play. In order to take the high ground, you can't appeal to specifics. You have to be very vague in the the standard of unity. But once he appealed to the basis for unity, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, he stepped in it. So if that's the basis of their unity, and that's what they've agreed are important issues, then he has to live by them, right? Or are they Secondary Issues?


Woke Word of the Week.
I used to like The Gospel Coalition. That was before they became, as Phil Johnson said, more Coalition than Gospel. They have a podcast publishes a sermon of the week. Recently, it was one on Racism. 


You can search it out if you want to listen to it, but I'm not going to link to it. But there were a couple things I found interesting. One, he called out Billy Graham for holding segregated revivals. I didn't know that, so I looked it up and sure enough he did. But, what you didn't hear in this "sermons" was that he also stopped.
In the 1950s, the majority of southern white evangelicals worried that civil rights activism was a communist fifth column designed to win the Cold War by destroying racial harmony in the segregated South. Many white evangelists, like Billy Graham, accommodated that paranoia by holding segregated revival meetings in the South. However, Graham's racial views started to shift as he spent time overseas. He realized that segregation horrified global Christians, gave the Soviet's a gift-wrapped opportunity for propaganda, and was not supported in the Bible.

Graham's first integrated crusade was in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1953. After the ropes cordoning off the black section of the auditorium were removed, Graham told the ushers who threatened to put them back up, "Either these ropes stay down or you can go on and have the revival without me." From then on, Graham permanently adopted the policy of holding only integrated revivals.
He went after men running for SBC president for encouraging people to vote for "conservative, racist, republicans". Then, called out black preachers for not preaching what he thinks they ought to preach (ie, George Floyd, racism, etc). So much for their stand on exposition

Exposition
Speaking of exposition, Kevin D. Williamson wrote a good piece in National Review about the nonsensical LBTQ Supreme Court decision. 
This is not jurisprudence. This is magical thinking. The law says whatever the wizards in the black robes say it says, and they are not very particular about distinguishing between what it says and what they think it should say. If a few lawyers can pretend to be persuaded by an argument, and everybody who wants the outcome it would produce also can pretend to be persuaded by it, then who are you to hold out? Did you go to law school?

And so we must rely on the ladies and gentlemen in Washington to interpret the scriptures for us. Can we trust them to be honest brokers and evenhanded? Consider that the day before yesterday, gathering for a church service was a crime against humanity and getting a haircut in Georgia was to offer human sacrifice to Mammon. And then — poof! — gathering in gigantic crowds of non-socially distanced, sweaty protesters chanting and looting and rioting and burning was an absolute necessity for the survival of democracy and the cause of genuine justice. Consider that the right to keep and bear arms, which is actually found in the Constitution, is severely limited (unless you are leading a left-wing militia uprising in Seattle!), but the right to an abortion, which is found nowhere in the Constitution, is considered virtually absolute. “You can’t see the emperor’s new clothes? Well, we know what you are, then!”
You can read the rest HERE. It's really rather strange that we give these non-elected individuals the power to change our country however they see fit. It's not a legal question but an epistemology issue. Mr. Williamson, a Roman Catholic, I suppose, misses the irony that he opposes men and women in robes interpreting the law for them, does allow for men in robes to interpret the Scripture for him. It's also somewhat ironic, that many Christians who opposed exposition of the Scriptures from the pulpit are pretty angry over the fact that the Supreme Court made a decision by leaving the original intention of the law and finding new meaning and application. 

From the OED

Simony, n. The buying or selling of ecclesiastical or spiritual benefits; esp. the sale or purchase of preferment or office in the church. Also sometimes more generally: trading in sacred things.

Etymology: < (i) Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French symonie, simonie (late 12th cent.; French simonie ), and its etymon (ii) post-classical Latin simonia the buying or selling of ecclesiastical or spiritual benefits (11th cent.; frequently from 12th cent. in British sources) < the name of Simon Magus , who offered money to the Apostles in return for receiving spiritual gifts (Acts 8:18–19)