Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Wind Blows Where it Will...

It goes without saying that Western culture continues its slide into moral chaos and darkness. Here in the United States we debate and get all in a frenzy about who gets to use what public bathroom. It is obvious that at many different levels in American culture, Christianity has been minimized and marginalized. There simply is no "moral majority" as it was once defined back in the early 1980's. We see that specifically in the course of our national politics during this current Presidential election year.

The time will soon come and is already knocking at the door when American culture's growing animus and hostility towards Christian faith will flush away the remains and residue of any easy pop "Christianity", and we will find out that to be a Christian and to be faithful to the Gospel is going to cost us those privileges we once thought inviolable. Are you ready to continue giving financially to your church even when you can no longer declare that giving as a charitable deduction on your Federal income tax return? Or what will you do when your church and ministry buildings become subject to local property tax assessments? Those question are just the tip of the iceberg when outright scorn and ridicule and persecution of Christian faith becomes an entrenched part of public policy.

My concern is that amidst the ever growing signs of the approaching whirlwind of God's judgement on a godless secular materialistic narcissistic culture, the church, and the broader evangelical church in particular, will still be caught up in a "we can fix it" mentality where we desperately seek the right incantations to speak and the right rituals to perform that will somehow twist God's arm to the point where He will be forced to take up our "cause".

News flash: God only has one overarching cause, and that one cause is His own glory period. Everything else is subsidiary to His glory.

Our problem in the broader church at large is we have not been brought to the point of utter desperation where all our confidence in our fancy programs and latest evangelical fads and ideas have been stripped away and we are flat on our back with nowhere else to look but up. God will not allow us to claim any glory that rightfully is His alone. We can not make "revival". Revival is the work of the almighty free and sovereign God; the free and sovereign moving of the Holy Spirit working through the proclaimed word of God in the hearts and minds of lost and desperately needy sinners.

We desperately need an outpouring and movement of the Holy Spirit in our own lives, in the lives of our local congregations and our wider local communities, in the church at large, and in an increasingly viciously wicked culture. We can not bring that about by anything of our own saying or doing. It will only happen as a free and sovereign work and moving of God for His own glory. We are left to pleading and begging and desperately crying out that God in sovereign merciful grace for His own glory would grant that outpouring and movement of His Spirit. And in the meantime, revival or not, persecution and distress notwithstanding, we are to remain a faithful remnant; faithful to the Gospel once delivered to the saints.

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!

~ Isaiah 64:1-2

Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!

Better a Millstone...

As much as I would rather not, I find I need to say a little something about the recent issues/scandal at the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE). The Christianity Today story regarding the Donn Ketcham affair can be found here. As well the ABWE statement regarding this long festering sad tragedy can be found here.

A number of years ago I had providential occasion to see the effect of this sordid affair on one of Donn Ketcham's children. The scars this adult son was carrying were obvious and clearly deeply felt even though at the time I did not know the source of that pain in his life. I also have an acquaintance who was an ABWE MK, and whose family was serving in Bangladesh at the time Ketcham was there engaging in his wicked acts. It is clear that very serious errors in judgement were made by a number of ABWE leaders at several high levels that resulted in justice and righteousness being denied. That said I affirm my personal confidence in the spiritual integrity and honesty of the individual ABWE missionaries around the world that our church currently supports. May God give much grace, mercy and healing to the victims of this obviously evil man who now has had to more fully answer to Christ's church for his wicked actions.

I get angry when I see a church or organization use the "tell it not in Gath" excuse to cover up serious, even criminal wrong doing, or attempt to generalize or minimize such a scandal instead of facilitating fuller public disclosure that would shed light on how deep the actual failure of a particular person, usually a pastor or other "respected" leader was. Inevitably in those cases the victim is victimized again and justice and righteousness is not realized. The result is, as it has been in the ABWE-Ketcham case, the gospel and the work of the gospel is harmed by an even worse scandal.

" Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!"

~ Matthew 18:4-7

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Death Destroyed

"Now, if it is by the sign of the cross and by the faith that is in Christ that death is trampled down, then, if judging by truth,it is none other than Christ himself who shows the trophies and victories against death and renders it fully weakened. And if formerly death was strong, and therefore fearsome, but is now despised, after the sojourn of the Savior and after the death and resurrection of his body, clearly it is by him, the Christ who was raised upon the cross, that death has been destroyed and conquered."

Athanasius, "On the Incarnation", (translated by John Behr)

Monday, April 04, 2016

Come My People

(Excerpt from a recent lesson I presented to our adult Sunday school classes at my church.)

The Protection of the People of God from the full fury that is coming - Isaiah 26:20-21

Isaiah 26:20: “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.” (ESV)

To the Israelite living in Isaiah's time these words would evoke Passover imagery: The angel of death passing over the houses marked by the blood of the Passover lamb. Those first born who were in the houses with the Passover lamb's blood on the doorposts would be spared. Those who were outside of the marked houses would die.

This imagery reflected in Revelation 18:4-5 – Judgment on “Babylon”:

“Come out of her, my people,lest you take part in her sins,lest you share in her plagues;for her sins are heaped high as heaven,and God has remembered her iniquities."

What is this “fury”?

Isaiah 26:21: “For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.”

The main point of this is not about wondering or arguing if Christians will be preserved "from" the great tribulation or if they will be preserved "through" the great tribulation. It is not about if we hold a pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation view of the end times. It is about what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:1:

“There is therefore now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

True Christian believers, those who are "in Christ Jesus", are NOT nor ever will be under the WRATH of God period! They may suffer tribulation and distress and even death itself. They may experience the loving discipline their heavenly Father exercises toward His wayward children. They may face persecution even unto death for the sake of the name of Christ. But be very sure of this, they will NEVER be recipients of the wrath of God; that wrath they deserved was put on Jesus’ head at the cross, and those who are in Him are forgiven and declared righteous for His sake.

(The complete outline and notes for this lesson are available here.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Into this Alien Land...

"We are not left alone in this frightful world. Into this alien land God has come to us."

Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline; (as quoted by Stanley Hauerwas,With The Grain of the Universe)

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The Day After the Michigan Presidential Primary

So as the Donkey & Elephant Circus leaves town today, the Rube is left contemplating the massive transmission failure that left him in the dust of Brutus Buckeye and the Texas Cactus.

On the other side Maleficent remains stunned by the totally unexpected upstaging of her easy pickings by the Magical Mr. Magoo.

Meanwhile the circus clown, masquerading as the Wizard of Oz, goes merrily on his way having once again deftly maneuvered the smoke and mirrors to avoid detection as the man behind the curtain.

We hope you enjoyed the show. Thank you for coming.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

War and Propaganda

  "It is not a nice thing to see a Spanish boy of fifteen carried down the line on a stretcher, with a dazed white face looking out from among the blankets, and to think of the sleek persons in London and Paris who are writing pamphlets to prove that this boy is a Fascist in disguise. One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting. The P.S.U.C. militiamen whom I knew in the line, the Communists from the International Brigade whom I met from time to time, never called me a Trotskyist or a traitor; they left that kind of thing to the journalists in the rear. The people who wrote pamphlets against us and vilified us in the newspapers all remained safe at home, or at worst in the newspaper offices of Valencia, hundreds of miles from the bullets and the mud. And apart from the libels of the inter-party feud, all the usual war-stuff, the tub-thumping, the heroics, the vilification of the enemy —all these were done, as usual, by people who were not fighting and who in many cases would have run a hundred miles sooner than fight. One of the dreariest effects of this war has been to teach me that the Left-wing press is every bit as spurious and dishonest as that of the Right."

"Homage to Catalonia", George Orwell