Monday, November 26, 2007

Apology: The Revelation of God

As I elaborated in my last post: I believe that there is one personal, eternally existant, all-powerful creative being and that He is properly to be regarded as God.  From there I move to the next major head of apologetics: Has God revealed Himself to us.

By definition, if God actively hid Himself from us then we could never hope to discover anything of Him.  His transcendent existence, wisdom, and power would render that a futile enterprise.  So, anything that we know of God must be knowledge, at the least, allowed by God.  If God has not revealed Himself we cannot be held in anyway responsible to relate to Him.  It would be all the same as that He did not exist.

So we ask, “How does God reveal Himself to us?”  Many hold that God speaks to people spiritually in many places and many times.  The problem with the view appears to be that of all the religious writings extant that speak of the divine, hardly do two agree on any major point.  Many things have been written that claim to be the revelation of God to man but few can meet the test of veracity.

So, this leads me to believe that God has revealed Himself to man.  For any revelation to be considered true it would have to meet several tests.  First, it must be universal.  It must address how every man, from first to last, lives and relates to God.  Most religious texts fail in this test.  The Bible however gives consistent principles of sin and forgiveness throughout its pages.  While many have attacked the Bible for inconsistencies, all of these are easily beaten back by careful reading of the entire book.

Second, it must be verifiable.  I do not mean that everything it teaches must be testable and verifiable today.  But when it speaks of history and science it must be verifiable.  The Koran and the Book of Mormon fail on this test for both are blatantly inaccurate historically.  The Bible talks about some events that are have not been verified but it speaks of nothing that is historically impossible.  As to science many how have been indoctrinated with the tenets of evolution would scoff at my calling the Bible scientifically accurate.  I do not have the time, inclination, training or resources to go into a detailed argument here, however, many others have and the argumentation is available.  I will simply state here that a God that is worthy of that name would certainly have to have the power to be able to create the world.

In the third place revelation must be knowing and purposeful.  That is if God has a man write something that He is revealing, then the man must understand he is being used.  The Bible meets this test as it repeated asserts that it is speaking in direct quotation of God.  The New Testament takes this farther in making direct statements about all the writings being from God and inspired by Him.

Lastly, there must be consensus.  Now let me be clear: the consensus did not create the canon but it does confirm ex post facto the existence of the canon.  The consensus of the church has been clear for 2000 years that the book we call the Bible contains all that God has wished to reveal to all men, everywhere, for all time. 

Thus I believe that God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible.  That it contains not all that we need to know about everything but all that God has chosen to reveal to us and certainly “all things that pertain to life and godliness.”  I believe that the Bible is not at odds with history, math, medicine, astronomy or any other scientific discipline.  I contend that however the canon came to be (and again, this is too lengthy a subject to enter into here), 2000 years of consensus can render us certain that we have all that God intended us to have.  A god ao capricious as to hide or impotent as to be unable to accurately transmit and preserve his revelation is no god at all.  But God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible–the ultimate standard of truth.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Apology: The Existence of God

The first subject of any apologist must be the existence of God.  For if there is no god, all religion is merely part of the population manipulating another part to some end.  If there is no spiritual dimension, no metaphysicial reality then there is only nature: the observable world and religion is simply a vain affectation.  Certainly many who hold themselves to be scientific embrace this view.

First, I maintain that there is a metaphysical reality.  I hold this view for several reasons.  There is a universal acceptance of the spiritual sphere.  Not that every person in the world holds this for they do not.  Rather that every people group in the world is religious.  Perhaps I had best pause and define religious as: of or relating to the worship of or a doctrine concerning a divine being or beings (from the New Oxford American Dictionary.)  It is apparent that by this definition even atheism is a religious belief!  Every tribe and nation believe in some kind of religion.  Spirituality is ubiquitous.  Surely if this were merely human invention it would not have been invented everywhere by everyone.  Think of how the wheel and alphabet are not ubiquitous.  But religion is universal.  In contemporary America as we have become more “scientific” (i.e. more convinced that evolution is true and there is no supernatural world) in reality we have become increasingly superstitious.  There has never been more belief in angels, demons and ghosts since the middle ages.

Second, if there is a spiritual dimension either it is either inhabited or not.  If it is not inhabited by beings (other than whatever spiritual dimension we may possess) then it is of no concern to us.  If however it is inhabited then we must be concerned with the beings that live there as they undoubtedly have power to influence our natural world.

Third, what do we can a superhuman being? The New Oxford American Dictionary defines god as: a superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes.  So if there is a spirit world and it is inhabited at least some of it's inhabitants may properly be called gods according to our understanding.  Again, if these beings have no power over nature or human fortunes than they are not gods and we need not concern ourselves with them.

Fourth, the existence of God.  If there are 2 or more gods then relating to one or all of them may be problematic.  What if we relate to a god who is overpowered or destroyed by another god?  What if we worship a god who is capricious or untruthful?  What if the gods interfere with each other's revelation of themselves to us?  In pluralistic deity there can be no sure relationship with any divine person and hence we are hopeless to discern a right and wrong way to relate to such a reality.

So if there is a metaphysical world inhabited by a being of power that necessitates the existence of God.  A God powerful enough to create the world and reveal Himself to us.  A God righteous enough to truthfully reveal himself and just enough to rule over and administer the world fairly.  Thus I posit the existence of one God against all forms of atheism, naturalism, pantheism, polytheism and dualism.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Apology: An Introduction

From the New Oxford American Dictionary:

apology noun ( pl. -gies)

1 a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.

2 ( an apology for) a very poor or inadequate example of.

3 a reasoned argument or writing in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.

I trust, dear reader that you understand I do not intend to write in the spirit of the first or second definition but in the third.  I have long thought of how to organize this essay and finally have worked up the courage to start writing it down.  As always my goal is to see if it sounds as cogent in writing as it does in the echoing recesses of my mind.  Undoubtedly it will not if past projects have taught me anything!  Equally I am hopeful that this will have some reasonableness about it and that my thinking will be refined by the exercise of setting these things down on paper and the interaction that may follow.

What is it that I will seek to defend here?  It is simply this: Christian Orthodoxy.  St. Peter tells us, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  So that is what I set out to do: to answer for my Hope.  And the measure of my answer is this: that it conforms to the Word of God.

A voice says, “Cry out.“

And I said, “What shall I cry?“

“All men are like grass,

and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.

 The grass withers and the flowers fall,

because the breath of the LORD blows on them.

Surely the people are grass.

 The grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of our God stands forever.”

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Christian Missions

“You haven't been writing much recently, Jon,” you say. “What have you been thinking about?”
OK, I know no one really said that but anyway here it is since I am a blogger and I share what I think regardless of whether anyone cares!
Missions. There has been a fair amount of stuff written in the blogosphere about Christian Missions. No bible-believer doubts the need for some kind of mission to share the gospel. The main thing right now in 2007 is that I think we are working with the wrong paradigm. There is an adage: armies always prepare to fight the last war. I think this is true of missions. We don't even blink at spending $50,000 or more to send an American to live in a foreign country and plant a church. We are unfazed when every fourth year he brings his whole family back to the US and travels to his 60-100 supporting churches. We are unconcerned that there are churches supporting multiple missionaries when they are not honoring their pastor by supporting him financially.
“So,” you ask, “what paradigm should we be using.” The NT one of course! Paul did not try to go to every town in an area. He makes this clear in Colossians 2. He did go to the big population centers and then sent people out from there to plant churches in the hinterlands. So, where are our big populations centers. New York, L.A., Singapore, Hong Kong, etc. If we could do some really effective gospel outreach in these places we could reach the world!
My second thought is that missions is cyclic. There are periods when the focus is outward and there are periods when the focus is inward. For instance: can you name a great missionary from the reformation? No, the focus was on building up the church with a renewed focus on God's Word. From that we get later great missions outreach. My thought here is that the great American missions movement came from a church that was domestically healthy and growing. Is that still the case today? Perhaps we need to focus missions on really building up american churches and sharing the gospel with the growing number of our fellow citizens who have never been to church or heard the gospel.
American missions has historically done a huge work in evangelizing the whole world. We have sent missionaries to every nation and translated the Bible into hundreds of languages. But the now the church is failing to reach our own Jerusalem. A huge majority of those in evangelical churches will never give the gospel message to anyone. Yet we hold fast to the idea that we, as Americans, have shouldered the burden of world evangelism and the idea that we should deviate from that in any way is unquestioned. Until now.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Church Membership Revisited

In the past month while I have been too crazy busy to write, the blogosphere has been alive with the Grudem-Piper discussion of church membership and baptism. So, I figure I can plunge in in the wake of the other million-plus bloggers!
The issue, I think, has been very much clouded by references to the universal body of Christ and the doors of heaven, etc. Let us ask this question: Are there people who claim to be Christians and are not? The New Testament makes clear that there are. And there are even church leaders who are wolves in sheep's clothing. So how do we mark out those who are not real? This has traditionally been done by confession. The course of church history has been the refinement (note: not the invention) of these confessional points. But with the postmodern rejection of propositional truth we have arrived at the idea that these confessions are moot.
Today there are many people (i.e. Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, et. al.) who call themselves Roman Catholic but do not agree with the Pope's position on human reproduction. The problem is that to be a member of their catholic church you have to believe what the church teaches or you are a heretic. And the church teaches that the pope is infallible. Ergo, if you believe that abortion is OK then you are a heretic in the eyes of Rome. The problem is that the Roman church has lost all it fire to tell people that kind of thing. Not to mention they have lost the moral ground to talk to others about their morals.
But confessions are important. The history of modern american evangelicalism was the confession of the truth of the gospel against modernism's refutation of inspiration, inerrancy and miracles. So there has to be a confession of some absolute truth by a person before they can be considered to be a christian.
Also, early in church history we see a division of the visible church over cultural and interpretational issues. Let us not forget that the Roman and Greek churches were greatly divided hundreds of years before the Pope and the Patriarch excommunicated each other. But until that open divide the differences did not hinder the churches from fellowship and agreement on the major doctrines: Trinitarianism, Christology, Pneumenology, etc. The protestant reformers could not even come to an equitable understanding about the eucharist!
Personally, I have recently joined a baptist church after 12+ years in a bible church. I am not particularly ready to have the baptist distinctives tattooed on my arm! But I also believe that God Sovereignly led us to a baptist church so I don't fight against them. If God had placed us in a town where the only bible-preaching church was a Wesleyan Brethren assembly I would not be trying to convert them all to the doctrines of grace! So why would a presbyterian want to join a baptist church and not be baptized?
What if it was the other ordinance? If you visited a church that practiced closed communion, would you insist that they allow you to participate because you believe in open communion? I think most would think it quite rude and uncharitable. Why would a divergent stance on baptism be any different?
Let us call it what it is: consumerism. People want what THEY want and they have a RIGHT to have it! I believe the Bible teaches that God is providentially ruling the world. Any church that is doctrinally sound that God places me in deserves my commitment and submission. If they are some place theologically that I am not then I need to submit to that. That means, if I were a preby and was sprinkled either as an adult believer or as a child, I would submit to submersive believer's baptism. Remember, part of submitting to Christ is submitting to the authorities God has placed in our lives. It is where the tire of divine sovereignty meets the road.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bob Bixby's Thoughts on the Emerging Middle

Bob Bixby has a very interesting article over at Pensées (see the right sidebar). It is one of the best articles I have read in a while. I wanted to respond at some length so I decided to make my own post instead of taking up too much of his comment thread.

Abstract of “The Emerging Middle”
There is a new circle forming in the middle ground between fundamentalism and evangelicalism. This circle is made up of men who are uncomfortable with the fringe elements of their respective circles. This terra media is the historic ground of all true evangelicals and fundamentalists. Within this pale are men like Bauder and Dever, MacArthur and Doran. The old taxonomy of evangelicals and fundamentalists is flawed and obscured by the fringe loonies and will be done away with as more good men move into the emerging middle.
The emerging middle will triumph for several reasons.
1) The revival of “calvinish” doctrine over the Finney-esque methodology.
2) The failure of the old taxonomies to differentiate between good men in the movements and the fringe elements.
3) The liberation of pastors from “presentism”. Presentism is projecting the values, goals, and methods of the present on the past. Presentism has forced fundamentalism into the post-50's mold of separtism while there was previously a strong brand of non-conformist fundamentalism.
4) The waning power of institutionalism. Pastors and churches are less and less drawn by institutional loyalty.
5) The blessing of God on sound doctrine and practice. All movements eventually fail but the truth of God marches on.

Points of Agreement
I agree with Pastor Bixby that there are good things in both movements. I heard a pastor say recently that he was NOT an evangelical. He was very proud of this fact. He was also proud to be KJVO so there you have it. But I am evangelical. And I want to be more evangelical. By that I mean that I want to be about the gospel. Many of my recent posts are my musings about how the gospel should be infecting different areas of my life. It always concerns me when people don't want to be labeled fundamentalists. All true christians should be concerned about the truth of the doctrines once delivered to the saints. Indisputably there are goofy people within both these movements. So good men who want to please God and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world should be able to identify the good and bad and associate with what is good in both these movements.
I concur with Bob that this growing ground of commonality will eventually become its own movement and will move beyond the old labels. I hope that good men will rally around truth and dispense with the foolishness that goes on at the extremes of both left and right. I think that this will take place for four of the five reasons he lists. Namely reasons 2-5.
The failure of past definitions is apparent. I grew up in a fundamentalism where if your where not fundamentalist it was highly suspect if you were even saved. While I would not agree with everything that John MacArthur has done, I have heard his ministry disparaged by fundamentalist leaders while it is apparent from his writings that he has made tremendous contribution to the cause of defending sound doctrine and building churches that stand for the gospel.
Bob's bringing up David Beale's explanation of presentism is masterful. I have struggled with this for years. I have often viewed this as a matter where one must choose when to be a Puritan and when to be a Pilgrim. Remember that the puritans where historically those who stayed in the established Church of England and strove to keep it scriptural. The pilgrims where those from among the puritans that felt that they must leave and establish churches outside of the established church. Which were right? They both were! Early fundamentalism understood this. Men like “Fightin' Bob” Schuler stayed in the denominations and fought for truth just like Piper and Dever do today. Many of the early fundamentalists came to believe that they could no longer stay in the denominations, that the battle was lost and they needed to separate and be independent or start new associations like GARBC. Unfortunately at some point fundamentalism stopped being either/or and became exclusively separatist. I think this opened the door to sectarianism. No longer was it about emphasizing doctrinal unity over denominational distinctive but rather lining up with others who agree with you in your definition of what is important. We need to get back to being citizens of the Kingdom and not worry so much about who belongs to our little principality, earldom or county.
Institutionalism goes hand in hand with the last point. As fundamentalism became more separatist and then sectarian the institutions became a handy way to keep track of with whom you could play and with whom you would be polluted. I remember so vividly a dear christian friend saying he didn't feel like he fit in at our church because he had not gone to BJU. I never want anyone to feel like a second-class citizen in any church of mine because of where they were educated, what version of God's Word they read or what kind of music they prefer.
The continuation of sound doctrine is the story of church history. As my dad says, there have always been men who were fundamentalist and there always will be men who hold the position that doctrine is important and worth fighting for whatever they are choose to be called.

Points of Disagreement.
I disagree with Pastor Bixby's first reason for success. While I would certainly subscribe to his definition of “calvinish” since I am a little uncomfortable trying to fit myself into the full mold of calvinism. However, I think that he falls into the trap of presentism here. The fact is that the furtherance of the gospel in the last 400 years has never been completely owned by either arminians or calvinists. I would further posit that the greatest gains where seen when good men from both leanings came together for the sake of the gospel. Think of the Wesley/Whitfield revival and also of the early fundamentalism to illustrate this point.
My second point of contention is the characterisation of BJU as arminian. The founder was a Methodist and so he was certainly arminian in his leanings yet he was also not afraid to preach about the truth of a sovereign God and His grace. It is hard to swallow this too since Ian Paisley (indisputably a full Five-Pointer if there ever was one!) has been a close friend and frequent guest of four generations of Jones presidents. The only calvinists that got in trouble in my 30 years of recollection where some people who were manifestly and unabashedly hyper-calvinist.
One of the problems with institutionalism is that pastors have run out to suck up to institutional officers. I remember a case (that I do not think is unique) where a pastor brought a dispute to Bob Jones III. In the same vein why would someone hold a conference and invite Stephen Jones to preach on how to pastor? Dr. Jones is certainly well trained and a gifted preacher but perhaps not the most qualified to speak to men in the trenches of pulpit ministry. But this has gone on for years and happens in evangelicalism too. I think that a man like Dr. Jones can certainly encourage pastors in their ministry and I am sure he has ever put himself forth as an expert in pastoring any more than Kevin Bauder or other such administrators would. There is still the danger of a shift to a different kind of institution: the conference. Conferences are a wonderful way for men in ministry to be ministered too and encouraged. At the same time there is a risk of being swept along with every wind that blows through these conferences. I was listening to the Whetstone Conference recently at Pastor Bixby's advice and thought that Dr. Minnick did a great job in saying that there were men who had good things to say but do not have the same sensibilities that we have in fundamentalism. I think that is a great balance point. But the same is true with each movement not every fundamentalist is all right. We need to listen to all men who are concerned to give the whole council of God and weigh everything they say with Berean nobility.

Pastor Bixby has done a good job of summarizing the current situatution in what I think of as broader evangelicalism. He has made a prediction that good men in the middle will come together to stand for the gospel and fight for the fundamentals. He posits that this is the historic position of both these great movements. And, he points us to the fact that God is building a kingdom that cannot fail to succeed! All Glory to Him who reigns on High!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What kind of judgment do we face?

Next time you get a speeding ticket try this: show up with your records of charitable giving. Bring your friends, neighbors, co-workers, children, spouse, et aliud with you to testify to how good you are in various aspects of your life. I really think it will work! Oh, Oh, here is another one: deny the authority, legitimacy, or existence of the court. There is a couple in New Hampshire that was recently in a standoff with the feds after being convicted of not paying taxes because they denied the existence of the law that required them to pay the taxes. And there were the dinosaur people in Florida that are in jail now for the same plan.
Really now, who would be dumb enough to try that? Yet that is exactly the plan that many people have in mind to do at the final judgement. Among other places Paul confronts this in his letter to the Colossians and Laodiceans when he says, “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”
We all understand this, right. If you speed or steal or murder, it really doesn't matter what else that person has done that is good, they are guilty. We often bridle to hear that some rich person gets off with a light sentence for DUI or tax evasion or some other infraction of the law because they have the ability to hire some great attorney for $500 an hour. Yet we instinctively feel that God is going to use this same kind of standard in his court.
We must remember that one of the great teachings of the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments is that God is the righteous judge. One day He will have every person stand before Him and He will judge them based on the wrong that they have committed and He will do it without partiality, without respect for different persons/stations in life or favoritism.
The good news is that we all have equal opportunity and access to hire for ourselves the greatest Advocate ever! Who could ever be a better person than the Son of God? What better person than one who never, ever even thought about transgressing any of God's righteous standards? And, the news gets even better! There is no retainer, no fee, no quid pro quo! All there is, is to ask Him to represent you at that tribunal.
That is the Good News. We can all have the lawyer that will get us off because He has already paid the penalty for our violation of God's law, for our unthankfulness and He can assure us of a good verdict! This is the message that we need to share with our friends and neighbors.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Do you Belive In Magic?

Two thoughts before I get into this one.

One: Yes, I cannot help but think of that old song that someone (?M&Ms?) used for a commercial back in the 70's or 80's.  A quick Google informs me that it was sung by a group with the inspired name of The Lovin' Spoonful.

Two: Yes, I heard that an obscure movie about some guy named Harry did come out this week.  I have been thinking about this post for a least a month.

Magic is one of those words that is pretty nebulous.  It can mean a lot of things in a lot of different contexts.  While some would object to using it in any Christian kind of sense it is in the KJV (you may find it as “magik”) so it must be alright.  Also, a lot of people have problems (understandably) with Hogwart's Magic but are not bothered by Aslan's or Gandalf's magic.  If you are oblivious to the references in the previous sentences then you probably ought to stop reading now.

I am not particularly taken with Potter but one thing I do like is that all the magic spells are just good ol' Latin!  And some of my favorite magical phrases are found in my Latin Bible.  But, I get ahead of myself.  What I am talking about here is the power of words.  The kind of words that when you hear them your heart leaps or your hair stands up.  Phrases that conjure up so much more than the sum of the words.  I want to share a few of my favorites and I would love to hear some of yours.  Yes, you, O Silent Reader.  I am attempting to draw you into clicking that little link that says “comment” and typing a few little words.  …Please?

Ecce homo!  Of course these are the words of Pontius Pilatus and they indicate the first vestige of the sufferings of Christ and are a small token of what is to follow.   This phrase is also powerful because where so many saw a mere man, some were starting to see much more and the whole point of the story is that this is no mere man being crucified!

“I Am”  This is perhaps the pre-eminent example.  First we see it in the story of Moses.  Then when they came to arrest Jesus.  What a power to make those wicked men step back by the mere speaking of the to be verb!

“But God…”  A common occurrence in the New Testament this phrase always catches my breath.  We often see it in the midst of a contrast between our natural condition and God's natural grace and mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ.  What a great truth is contained in these three little words.  The divinity, the humanity and the mission are combined in this name.  The whole gospel really is represented here.  That God would become man and die to redeem sinners is all encapsulated in that title for the savior!

Those are my four favorites so tell me about yours!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Gospel and Good Discipline

Many good churches are bringing back church discipline. There is a renewed teaching and understanding of the proper balance between confrontation and restoration. The Gospel is central to this balance. We must be confronted anew by the death of Christ because of sin and His resurrection to assure us of our new life in the Kingdom of God. Church discipline exists to call back erring brethren who are straying so that they can renew their life in Christ. It also exists to keep the church pure so that the Gospel message may be clearly heard in the world.
But there is another kind of discipline. Within the church members must hold each other accountable to live according to God's holiness. But between churches there is also a need for accountability. It cannot function exactly like discipline within the church but it still needs to exist. Think with me: a pastor is getting carried away with some fad. It is a fad that tends to blur and downplay the message of salvation. His fellow pastor friends see this trend and confront him. If he does not listen to them they cannot really call him up on disciple but they might end up separating from him. This separation should not be motivated by spite (“He didn't listen to me!”) or a false piety (“I just cannot be around someone like that.”) but by the Gospel. The desire to exert all our influence to bring that person back to the clear preaching of the good news of the Kingdom.
I believe much of the abuse of separation in Fundamentalism has been the failure to keep the Gospel as the central theme of separation. To maintain contact with those in evangelicalism who were really carrying out ministry in a manner that obscured the Gospel. We must separate from those who are not upholding the truth of scripture but we must leave the door open enough that we can continually call out to them with the Gospel, remind them of the need to stand and clearly proclaim the Good News and show by our love that the repentance and faith are at work to change our hearts.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Last July 4 was hot in Woodruff, SC.  I slept in since I did not have to go to work.  Also I was worn out from a late night party at Tom Williams house the night before!  About mid morning I was reading some blog articles.  I wanted to comment on one but I needed to have a account.  So I signed up for an account which meant I needed to have a blog name.  Once I had a blog I figured I would post something on it.  And that is how Standing on the Rock got started.

This is post number 37.  I have tremendously enjoyed the exercise of writing.  At the time I started I was midway through a professional writing course that I subsequently finished with an A.  One of my main goals was to continue writing to refine the lessons I learned in the class.  I feel that I have accomplished that goal.  I also wanted to get feedback from trusted friends on my writing.  In that goal I have not succeeded.  I have only seen a handful of comments from a fraction of the readers of this blog.  I do have several friends who faithfully read the blog and email me or personally tell me their thoughts on the articles.  I would like to see more online feedback however.  So that will be a goal for the coming year.

I never set out to compete with Tim Challies,  SharperIron, or the Pyros but I do look in on Site Meter from time to time to make sure that terrorists are not monitoring my words.  It has been amazing to see that people in Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Ireland and all over the US have stopped by.  I hope that one thing I wrote might have an impact on some of these visitors.

So, being nostalgic and historic, this post marks the end of one year of blogging.  We will have to see what the year ahead holds! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Gospel of Grace & Truth

I have been studying in Colossians since my pastor is preaching through the book.  Paul says something in the first chapter that jumps out at me.  He says, “…since the first day that you heard and understood the grace of God in truth….”  This is in the midst of a passage where he is talking about the Colossians accepting “the word of truth, the gospel which came to you.”  So he links the gospel with two key elements: grace and truth.  What is the link?

I think the tie-in here is that we are saved by grace and truth.  It is the truth about our standing in Adam that drives us to seek by grace to stand instead in Christ.  It is the grace of God giving us redemption and forgiveness of sins instead of damnation that drives us to share the truth with others.

As we grow in sanctification and the gospel becomes more and more central in our lives, truth and grace should increasingly be characteristic of our actions.  How can we tell others of the God of Truth and His infallible, inerrant word if we are people who are not truthful?  How can we freely avail ourselves of God's matchless grace and not be willing in turn to forgive even our enemies and be gracious to those who abuse us?

The gospel must be central to all we do: how we behave and how we relate to those around us.  And that gospel that should be core to our existence should be seen by those around us in grace and truth oozing out of our lives.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Doctrine, Wisdom, Conviction

There has been a lot of furor over Joe Zichterman's departure from fundamentalism and his embracing the emergent conversation.  If you have not already read Dan Miller's article “Why Do They Leave Fundamentalism?” then you really should.  Dan was a classmate of mine in college and his reasoning ability has been refined over the years to be very good.

In the article Dan ends up largely discussing the issue of music.  If you are a Fundamentalist and you have not wrestled with music then one wonders where you have been for the last 30 years.  The fact is that there are modes of worship that we are comfortable and familiar with and there are modes that we feel are not best.  Music a key area where this happens.

Dan shares his personal testimony of how he ended up,for a brief time, in a church that was not fundamental.  He found that while much of what they did was what he thought of as worldly and unwise that it came from a heart that was redeemed and that was striving to worship God.

This is the key.  We have too often forgotten as Fundamentalists what the fundamentals are.  The fundamentals do not include liturgical styles, music, specific translations, ordinance modalities and soteriologies, to name a few.  Now, these things are all informed by our view of scripture, creation, atonement and escatology, and well they should be.  However, we must be careful to not take our views of wisdom and conviction issues and artificially make them into doctrinal issues.  Our common sense is often not so common as we would like to imagine.

This actually does come back around to my soap box du juor: the Centrality of the Gospel.  We must embrace as brothers all those who are repenting of sin and trusting in Christ alone for salvation.  It is incumbent upon us to treat as fellow-citizens all who are looking for the Kingdom of God.  And we may not behave arrogantly toward others who are fellow bond-servants of Christ.

Doctrine is important.  We are commanded to pray for wisdom.  Our convictions should be informed by the Word and cultivated by the Spirit.  But we must be careful not to confound the three or we cease to be Fundamentalists and become simply Donatist sectarians.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Hypocrisy of Paedobaptism

This is just a little thought that has been brewing for a while. There seems to be a real hypocrisy in many Baptist churches. They would turn red and blustery at the evils of paedobaptism. Many Baptists could hardly say the word without spitting! But then they will turn around and baptize little Bobby or Suzy who prayed to “ask Jesus to come into my heart” last week after a sermon on hell. Now before you start quothing “let the little children come…,” I must quickly say that I am in no way opposed to little children being led to the Lord. What I am saying however, is that if we are going to practice believer's baptism should we not have a clear definition of what that is.

My definition of a believer is, “one who has repented of sin and believed in Christ alone for salvation from the wrath of God.” This requires not just a prayer and an altar trip but some time to show that it is real repentance and faith. This is one reason why the early church often made converts wait years to be baptized.

I think everyone knows some child, born into a church-going family who made an early profession of faith and was baptized only to go astray as a teenager and end up as an adult who has no interest in church. How hard would it be to allow such a child to grow and mature and defer their baptism until the age of say, sixteen. Would it really be so bad to examine teenagers and ask if they are really showing a life characterized by a love of God and love for others?

Is there not a fundamental hypocrisy in standing on the doctrine of believer's baptism and then baptizing those who have been given no time to show that they truly are believers.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Centrality of the Gospel

Well, our move is over and we are getting settled in here in Maine. I thought I might try blogging again!

I have been pondering the centrality of the Gospel. This is one of those things that I think we lose sight of sometimes. While there are many important things, personal holiness, right doctrine, God-honoring worship, et cetera, we must view all these through the lens of the Gospel.

I was thinking of the issue of personal holiness this morning. I am afraid that many of us have made that a central issue in our lives. Now, please do not mistake what I am saying. It is very, very important. But it is important because it puts emphasis on the Gospel. When our neighbors see us living holy lives they ought to be able to see from their interaction with us that it is the Gospel that empowers sinful men to be good. But when holiness is the main thing then we become "good people." The problem with being good is that the worldling already believes that most people are good and that God will not punish people who are basically, on balance, at the end of the day, good. But the message of the Bible is that All are wicked and the only good in life is God! The only hope we have to offer is that the righteousness of Christ can change our innately warped nature and make it into a new man.

If we do not keep this Gospel focus in the forefront of our minds we run a real risk of being in the place of the Pharisee of Luke 18:9-14. I would much rather be the publican in this parable!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Appologetics: The Law of Large Numbers

In continuation of my last post I want to discuss another issue that came up recently in an argument with an atheist. When confronted with the idea that Ockham's Razor works much better for the theory of creation than for that of evolution, he turned to the Law of Large Numbers. This is a common tactic. Obviously that probability of life happening randomly is very small. Actually the probability is zero. And the probability of it happening over and over is even smaller. P(A∩B)=P(A)*P(B). That is the probability of A and B happening is the product of their individual probability. Remember, that when you multiply 2 fractions (i.e. very small number; less than one; approaching zero) you get an even smaller number. So, the laws of probability say that there is even less chance of having 2 highly improbable events occur. Now, the evolutionist grants all this ("The probability is zero but we are here…") and then trots out the Law of Large Numbers to argue that in an infinite amount of time anything could happen. Here are my 2 responses.
Remember, that when you multiply 2 fractions (i.e. very small number; less than one; approaching zero) you get an even smaller number. So, the laws of probability say that there is even less chance of having 2 highly improbable events occur. Now, the evolutionist grants all this ("The probability is zero but we are here…") and then trots out the Law of Large Numbers to argue that in an infinite amount of time anything could happen. Here are my 2 responses.

First, this kind of reasoning means that any kind of miracle could happen, right? I mean, if a random electric shock could make a protoplasm coalesce into a living single-celled organism then is it any less likely that some how the Sun could stand still for Joshua for a few hours? Or that a virgin could conceive a child? Or that a man could come back to life? Basically, the naturalistic philosopher wants to reserve this kind of magic for his own presuppositions!

Second, this is not what the Law of Large Numbers really says anyway. Without being too technical the Law of Large Numbers throws out outliers instead of proving their existence as the evolutionist is trying to use it to do. Let us examine a common example of the Law. There are 2 sides of a coin. So naturally we know that the chances of getting either a "heads" or a "tails" is 50% on any coin toss. As we toss multiple times we expect to see about half-in-half of the two sides. But if we actually start tossing we may see 7 of 10 heads and 3/10 tails. Is our probability wrong? No, the Law of Large Numbers says that while at low sampling we may see this kind of aberrancy, that as the numbers get large these numbers are going to converge on the expected 50-50. So, while we may see 70% heads on 10 tosses, the chance of seeing that 70% on 10,000 tosses is effectively zero. When you start talking about millions you just won't see anything outside of ±0.01%.

So if you get into a debate with an evolutionist who just cannot except miracles and creation here is some ammo to refute them as we stand ready to give an answer of what we believe.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

April 17 & thoughts of appologetics

Well, friends this blog has gone from deep thoughts on life to a bulletin board. But fear not, I do not plan on staying like this. I have been busy with philosophical pursuits like pressure washing and painting. I have hardly had time to skim through the 100+ blog articles a day that I normally consume let alone post.

One quick thought that I have been turning over: I was in a discussion the other day with an atheist. He tried to use Ockham's Razor. (Aside: if you never saw the movie Contact the venerable razor plays a prominent part in this movie about faith and science.) I realized a key point. Ockham's Razor says that when choosing between 2 viable options the simplest answer is the most likely. This really works to the advantage of the Bible since it is much simpler to believe that an all-powerful God spoke and the kosmos came into being. But the real crux is that the naturalist/rationalist/evolutionist cannot use the razor! He has presuppositionaly disposed of the idea of God and thus is not using it to distinguish to options but to ratify the one he already believes to be true! I pointed this out to my pointy-headed friend and he moved on to the Law of Large numbers. More on that next time.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Paean

Christ is arisen
Joy to Thee, mortal!
Out from His prison,
Forth from its portal!
Christ is not sleeping,
Seek Him no longer;
Strong was His keeping,
Jesus was stronger.

Christ is arisen,
Seek Him not here,
Lonely His prison,
Empty his beir;
Vain His entombing,
Spices and lawn,
Vain the perfuming,
Jesus is gone!

Christ is arisen,
Joy to thee, Mortal!
Out of His prison,
Forth from its portal!
Christ is not sleeping,
Seek Him no longer;
Strong was His keeping,
Jesus was stronger!

Christ is arisen,
Joy to thee, Mortal!
Empty His prison,
Broken His portal!
Rising He giveth
His shroud to the sod;
Risen, He liveth,
And liveth to God!

This is the song that I woke up singing on Easter morning. I wanted to share it with you.

I also decided to find out where it came from since Goethe is not often ranked with Watts and Wesley! It actually comes from the play Faustus and below is the original. Thankfully Gordon Young not only wrote a beautiful score for this piece but formed it into a great presentation of the Easter story. It is very difficult to sing not because of the music but because it is so powerful in the comparisons that it makes.

Chorus of Angels.
Christ is arisen!
Joy to mortality,
Whom earth's carnality,
Creeping fatality,
Held as in prison!
Chorus of Women.
Rare spices we carried
And laid on His breast;
We tenderly buried
Him whom we loved best;
Cloths and bands round Him,
Spotless we wound Him o'er;
Ah! and we've found Him,
Christ, here no more.
Chorus of Angels.
Christ is ascended!
Blessed the loving one
Who endured, moving one,
Trials improving one,
Till they were ended!
Chorus of Disciples.
Though He, victorious,
From the grave's prison,
Living and glorious,
Nobly has risen,
Though He, in bliss of birth,
Creative Joy is near,
Ah! on the breast of earth
We are to suffer here.
He left His very Own
Pining for Him we miss;
Ah! we bemoan,
Master, Thy bliss!
Chorus of Angels.
Christ is arisen
Out of Corruption's womb!
Burst bonds that prison,
Joy over the tomb!
Actively pleading Him,
Showing love, heeding Him,
Brotherly feeding Him,
Preaching, far speeding Him,
Rapture succeeding Him,
To you the Master's near,
To you is here!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Good Friday

Holy Week is quickly passing. All around people are enjoying spring break and spring. I hope you have been thinking about what we celebrate this week. Christians should really make this time into something that stands out. Is not the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the very heart of the Gospel?
In that vein I am looking forward to Good Friday. We started celebrating this special day about 10 years ago at our church. It is one of the highlights of my year. Some have questioned why or if we should celebrate or commemorate Christ's death. My answer is that while, "Christ rose for our salvation," it is also necessary to remember that, "Christ died for our sins." I think there is also a parallel between celebrating Christmas as bigger than Easter. Christmas is meaningless without Easter. And the resurrection is meaningless without the cross. Imagine if Christ had drowned in the sea or at the foot of a cliff or been stoned. He could have risen from the dead and it would not be at all the same as His death on the cross and resurrection 3 days later.
The counterpoint of a bright Easter morning is the darkness of the night when we take time to think about what Christ did on the cross; when we take communion; when we sing a hymn as those eleven friends did on that night long ago.
I hope that even if your church does not observe Good Friday that you will set aside some time this week to meditate on the awful, horrific, bloody sacrifice that Jesus Christ willingly made to fulfill His Father's will.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Current thoughts

Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Psalm 73:24-26

We are in the midst of a very large change in our lives. We are relocating to the Bangor, ME area and are facing a new job, new church, new house, new weather! I have taken this passage from the Psalms as my encouragement during this time.

I look forward to getting settled and getting back to my writing. I have very limited time to even read blogs these days. I have watched with interest the renewed firestorm of the Pyromaniacs and the Charismatics. Also, Bob Bixby has an excellent post about Fundamentalism and blogging. Beyond that I am just waiting for the Apple iPhone to come out!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Note from the Road

Hello friends. I have not been on lately because we have been very busy. For those who have not already heard, we have been considering for the last 15 months whether the Lord would have us move to Maine. This is prompted largely by a desire to be closer to my wife's parents who are in their 70's. So right now I am in Moncton, New Brunswick and in a few hours we will drive back to Bangor, Maine. We have been here church-, job-, and house-hunting in that order. Divine Providence led us to Faith Baptist Church and Pastor Dave Natale in Orono, Maine. We were blessed to be able to worship with them last weekend. I had 6 straight hours of interviewing at Eastern Maine Medical Center on Monday and that went well despite doing without lunch! I am hopeful that they will offer me a job in the ER and OR. And lastly we made an offer on a house in Bucksport yesterday and we will see what happens today.
114 Franklin St, Bucksport, ME

On the blogging front: my old friend and childhood neighbor Larry Rogier has a very good treatment of the divorce/remarriage question in his article, A Second Look at the First Exception. I would highly recommend you read it. I made some comments to the article and Larry has responded to my comments and the comments of others.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

How to leave a church

Frank Turk over at Pyromaniacs has stirred up a very interesting dust storm. He talks about people leaving a church because, "things aren't right." I have been ruminating on this subject for some time as it goes along with my previous posts on the nature of the church.

Let me first say that while I don't want to bash fundamentalism, this is a huge problem in the movement. See, we started out historically coming out of bad, compromising churches. Now that is not a bad thing. Throughout history God has led some to be puritans and some to be pilgrims. If you disagree, I suppose you are still a member of the Roman or Greek Churches! Otherwise it is disingenuous to believe that is was right for Luther to split with the Pope but it is no longer right for us to separate from apostates. Unfortunately this is one of those areas where there is no black and white so we must rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit. However, too many people leave a church over things like, "I'm not being fed"; "I don't like the way the preacher is preaching"; or a hundred other non-essential, non-biblical things. Here in upstate South Carolina the problem is compounded by there being hundreds of churches.

So, when should you leave a church? I disagree with Turk's comments in the meta–a pastor that no longer believes in a literal hell and a need for repentance is in apostasy. If he will not repent and other church leaders will not support removing him from the pastorate then the church is in apostasy and there is a clear scriptural command to separate from that church. I think that is a cut and dried issue. The danger is calling things apostasy that aren't. For instance, if you believe that there is one inspired english translation of the Word and your church doesn't that is not heresy. Really, it's not. If your soteriology is not lined up with your pastor that is not cause to leave as long as you are both within the pale of orthodoxy. I think there is a huge struggle with a lot of peripheral issues like music, preaching styles, service schedules, organizational methodologies. I think all these things fall under the following principle: if it was like this when God led you there then you should submit to it and stay. The thornier question comes when these things change. Your church used to sing only hymns, now you are mixing in some more modern songs. The church used to meet Sunday morning and night and Wednesday evening, now you are meeting in small groups. The last pastor preached expositionally and the new one preaches more topically. You had a great youth pastor, now he left and the new guy just isn't connecting. These are hard questions. This, I think, is where a lot of conservative evangelicals start church hopping. But if you cannot tie your leaving to some principle of scripture then you shouldn't leave.

My last principle ties into my question, "How should you leave a church?" I firmly believe that you should never sever any relationship by just walking out the door. Would you leave a job by just walking out and never saying a word? But, people do this every week in churches all over the country. We have had good friends, people we loved and were close to, leave our church and never even tell us goodbye. We are to be family. How would you feel if one of your siblings just moved away with no explanation, no farewell, no forwarding address? If you are committed to building up the body of Christ in the church where God placed you, and if you must leave, it seems only reasonable that you should be able to stand up or write an open letter and explain to every one of your beloved brothers and sisters why you are leaving. If you don't feel like you can articulate publicly why you are leaving and severing your relationship with that particular body of believers then you probably shouldn't leave.

To recap: you have valid reason to leave a church if you are moving away from the immediate vicinity; if you are called to minister in another body that is more in need of your giftedness than your current church; or if your church leadership is in apostacy. The main principle in play is our commitment to building up the body of Christ. We should be able to articulate that God led us to join a particular body and that God is leading us away from that body. We should be able to do this within the bounds of "speaking the truth in love." Even if faced with apostasy we should be able to sever our relationship with a tearful admonition to the entire body to turn away from error and submit to the Word of God.

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (Eph. 4: 14-19)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Reflections on Reading

"I had, God knows, more sincerity than knowledge, in all the methods I took for [Friday]'s instruction; and must acknowledge, what I believe all that act upon the same principle will find, that in laying things open to him, I really informed and instructed myself in many things that either I did not know, or had not fully considered before; but which occurred naturally to my mind, upon my searching into them for the information of this poor savage; and I had more affection in my inquiry after things upon this occasion, than ever I felt before; so that whether this poor wild wretch was the better for me or no, I had great reason to be thankful that ever he came to me: my grief sat lighter upon me, my habitation grew comfortable to me beyond measure; and when I reflected, that in this solitary life, which I had been confined to, I had not only been moved myself to look up to Heaven, and to seek to the Hand that brought me thither, but was now to be made an instrument, under Providence, to save the life, and for aught I knew the soul, of a poor savage, and bring him to the true knowledge of religion, and of the Christian doctrine, that he might know Christ Jesus, to know whom is life eternal; I say, when I reflected upon all these things, a secret joy ran through every part of my soul, and I frequently rejoiced that ever I was brought to this place, which I had often thought the most dreadful of all afflictions that couldpossibly have befallen me." (page 225; The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe from the Gutenberg Project )

I have been reflecting for a while on the concept of "christian." That is, is it accurate to talk about christian books, christian music, christian films, or whatever? I recently decided to reread the story of Robinson Crusoe. It must have been 20 years since I read it. As a child, I had an abridged, illustrated version that I reread till the covers fell off. I had never read the entire book. I knew that there was a lot of religious material in the book that was cut from my abridgment but I had no idea how much. What an awesome book. The author continuously goes back to theme of Divine Providence and the thankfulness toward God that the protagonist often reflects on after his conversion. The passage I quoted above is after Robinson rescues Friday and then undertakes to convert him to Christianity. He does this not by compulsion but by convincing him of the existence of God and his own rebellious state in lieu of God and then pointing him to the Savior. It is all so beautifully laid out. Yet this is not generally considered to be a Christian book. It is simply a good story where a man finds himself on an abandoned island and there learns that His Maker has not abandoned him! If you have not read this book, I would encourage you to get it. I have been encouraged by this fictional character to be more thankful, more in love with God's Word and more outspoken in sharing the Gospel. This is truly a Christian Book.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Selecting Leadership in the Church

Most evangelical churches are congregational, meaning the the assembly of the members has a say on matters of church business. Most also have some form of leadership that is more or less selected by the members to exercise that role. Some may have a more authoritarian form like a pastor that is voted in but once there has a very strong voice in any decision making. Some may have a more diverse group like a plurality of elders who are picked to lead the body. Some, like the Brethren churches have very little centralized leadership.

Leadership is biblical. We see leadership in the church laid out in the New Testament. We are given qualifications for what kind of men can be in leadership. But the thing I have been considering is the choosing or appointing of leadership. Appointing a leader can be a very top down thing like the president appointing a secretary of state but it can also be a bottom up concept like a congregation voting on a pastor.

We see both of these approaches in the scriptures. Paul appointed elders in every church that he established. He instructed men how to appoint pastors. But there is the other style of appointment too. Do you remember? In Acts 1 the whole assembly was to decide who should take Judas's place as one of the twelve apostles.

I have been ruminating on this for several days because I find it interesting. There are two components. First there was qualification. Peter articulated to the assembly that they needed a man that had witnessed Jesus's entire earthly ministry from His baptism to His resurrection. There were then 2 men Joseph and Matthias that were put forward as meeting the qualification. I find it interesting that they found 2 men who were qualified (and we are given no indication that one was more qualified) and then they chose between them. Often in politics we talk about the evil of two lessers in an election but here was two well-qualified men and the assembly had to choose one of them to exercise leadership.

Then they held a vote. Well, not really. Then they cast lots. Now I know that we see lots being cast throughout scripture although it is not entirely clear what this device was. Whether it was some kind of dice or straws or colored stones drawn from a bag is really immaterial. The issue is it was something definitive (not like tea leaves!) that could unequivocally answer a question. Not only do we see lots being used in scripture frequently but we see some commentary on their use. Most shocking to us is perhaps Proverbs 16:33:

33 The lot is cast into the lap; But the whole disposing thereof is of Jehovah. (ASV)

So, this is the question I have been asking: can you imagine your church selecting deacons, elders, presbyters, pastors or whatever by lot? I think an argument could be made that an election is a form of the lot, however, I have been considering what happens when you have no rational bearing on the outcome. A method "cast into the lap" where the "whole disposing" is in God's control.

I'm not suggesting this necessarily. But the exercise is this: our twenty-first century minds immediately become uncomfortable with such a low-tech and irrational idea. But this is something that scripture tells us that God commanded of His people in the Old Testament and we see it used in the New Testament. So before we just write it off as some vestige of the past we should at least consider it. Would you base your decision on your next leader on the role of a die?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

An Ideal Church

"A church is an assembly of baptized believers, joined by a covenant of discipline and witness, who meet together regularly under the preaching of the Word of God."

So what does this look like ideally? Obviously this is going to be opinionated. Also, I guess I should insert American or something since assemblies of believers will look different in different parts of the world at different times. However some of these principles will actually be the same wherever and whenever you see them even though the outward manifestation may not appear congruent.

While a church is not a building (according to our working definition) the place of assembly should look like a place set apart for the worship of God. It should not look like something that got thrown up overnight or like something that will fall down today. It should not be dwarfed by a Family Life Center, a bookstore, a school, a bus depot or other extracurricular structures. As you enter this building it should have a sanctuary that calls for a solemnity and consideration of the greatness of God. [Aside: I think that one of the huge problems of modern American Christianity is that we have allowed our churches to become multi-purpose theaters where many things take place and consequently our worship just become one among the many mundane things and is no longer holy and special. But I will take that up another time.]

The people that we see gathered should look as though they came here on purpose with preparation to do something that is unlike other mundane gatherings throughout the week. I do not espouse a certain kind of dress I simply say that they should dress in a way that is set apart, that indicates a reverence and desire to worship. As we look around at those assembled it should not look like a crowd at a football game or movie theater. It should look different because they are here for a different reason. The conversations overheard should be different than the everyday water-cooler fare. These people should be engaging in each other's lives and not simply rehashing the weather, the workweek and the latest TV show craze.

As the service starts, one would hope to observe in the liturgy (music, prayer, reading, speaking) a formality without formulaity that indicates that this is not just a political meeting or hobby club but a group that is coming before the Creator and Sustainer for the purpose of hallowing His Name. If the music is just like what you listen to while passing time on your commute then there is a problem for it should be more thought-provoking and stirring. The prayers should not sound like your dinner prayer they should be intoned and addressed as being from the entire group to God and they should stir up truth as we listen to the one praying. As we read the Word and it should be done with worshipful excellence not hurried through or stumbled through. It should not be done in antiquated language that is incomprehensible to the listeners. [Aside again: I always find it strange when preachers who never say "Thou" when talking to you will say it 17 times while preaching. What is that about?]

Lastly, the church has ordinances. We were given them for a reason and we should use them to accomplish the purpose for which they were intended. That is a whole topic in itself but suffice it to say that I believe we have taken these wonderful pictures that Christ gave to us and cheapened them almost to the point of insignificance. The ideal church should be making these ordinances a centerpiece of their mission to discipline each other to holiness and witness to the world of the greatness of God.

American Christianity is made up of many churches who do not have a clear purpose. They go through rituals without understanding the purpose and basis of what they do. Of course I do not believe that all or even most of the churches are completely lost but this is the kind of thing that creeps in on an assembly and starts to slowly choke out life. Thus it is incumbent on those that want to continue, while the Lord tarries, to see their bodies grow and accomplish the Great Commission to actively fight to maintain an assembly of baptized believers, joined by a covenant of discipline and witness, who meet together regularly under the preaching of the Word of God.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Welcome to 2007

Well, it's double-ought seven and I am still alive. My family has had the most relaxing, quiet and uneventful Christmas break ever. So I did not break up the quiet by blogging. But now I am back and I have several more articles in my church series that I will be working in.

I caught an interesting article over at SharperIron that I thought I should comment on today. According to that blog the top story in Evangelical blogging in 2007 was "Porn-it is not just for Perverts any more." Seems more like a story from 1999 (the year the internet really took off) but I will not belabor that. The gist however is that just as many men who claim the name of Christ are partaking of internet porn. And the church seems to not be doing much about it.

Galatians 6:1 gives us the very important command to restore brothers who we find in sin. But it also reminds us to be "considering yourself, lest you also be tempted." I am thankful that of all the struggles with sin I have, internet porn has not been among them. That is due in large part to a wonderful wife who has been very tech and internet savvy from the beginning. We have all the good rules: I try not to be browsing around the net when I am by myself; the computer is set where everyone can see the screen; the history is available for review. Despite such rules and the touting of accountability services the problem seems to be growing, not going away.

Perhaps it is time the we really get up close and personal. Imagine this. You arrive at church on Sunday morning. You see you buddy Fred. "Hey, man! Howz it goin'," you say. Fred says, "Great. By the way, have you been looking at any internet porn this week?"

WHOA! You can't be talking like that at church! Why not? Are we not to "consider one another to provoke to love and good works (Heb 10:24)?" Seems to me if this is a growing problem then people are not doing enough considering. We need to get beyond the weather and "How'r ya doin'" to something that means something regarding love and good works. I have a friend that consistently confronts me about my relationship with my wife. It is great because I know that when I see him, he will ask me if I am loving my wife the way Christ loves the church. That is the kind of thing that we need: relationships that help us have the discipline to witness to the world about the grace of God.

Try it this week.