Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

At this time of year when people are thinking about what they will do differently in the coming year, here are some resolutions made by Jonathan Edwards in 1722 & 1723. Edwards resolved to read these every week to help keep his mind on the things of God and his life on track.

These are available several places on the web, I found this particular list at the Center for Reformed Theology & Apologetics website.

May God bless you as you enter the New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

When People are Big and God is Small by Edward Welch

This is by far one of the best books I've ever read. Among other things, Welch takes on the idea so common today that things like shyness and so-called low self-esteem are morally neutral psychological problems to be overcome and calls them what they are, the sinful fear of man.

The book's main theme is that the fear of man is idolatry which must be repented of and replaced by fear of the Lord. It is broken into two main parts. The first part concerns how and why we fear people and part two discusses what how to overcome that fear and replace it with the fear of the Lord. I will give an overview of each part using quotes from the book.

"Low self-esteem usually means that I think too highly of myself. I'm too self-involved, I feel I deserve better than what I have."

"We are more concerned about looking stupid (fear of man) than we are about acting sinfully (fear of the Lord)"

"Fear of man is always part of a triad that includes unbelief and disobedience."

"When feelings become more important than faith, people will become more important and God will become less important."

The bottom line for this section is that the fear of man is a work of the flesh. The flesh cries out for significance, to be petted and indulged and given free reign. When it cannot have those things, it pouts, becomes jealous, gets depressed, experiences "low self-esteem," etc. Only by taking our eyes off of ourselves and putting them onto God can we quench the desires of the flesh.

We Must Grow in the Fear of the Lord

"The person who fears God will fear nothing else"

"Since there is no room in our hearts to worship both God and people, whenever people are big, God is not."

"The goal is to establish a daily tradition of growing in the knowledge of the Lord."

"When a heart is being filled with the greatness of God, there is less room for the question 'what are people going to think of me?' "

"The key to learning the fear of the Lord is to stay in scripture."

We must Biblically Examine our Felt Needs

"When psychological needs, rather than sin, are seen as our primary problem, not only is our self-understanding affected, but the gospel itself is challenged."

"Jesus did not die to increase our self-esteem."

"Jesus does not intend to satisfy my selfish desires. Instead He intends to break the cup of psychological need (lusts), not fill it."

"To look to Christ to meet our perceived psychological needs is to Christianize our lusts."

"Without repentance, our desires remain the focal point instead of God's glory."

Know Your Real Needs

"The most basic question is 'how can I bring glory to God', not 'how will God meet my psychological longings'. "

"Self-serving needs are not meant to be satisfied; they are meant to be put to death."

Delight in the God Who Fills Us

"God's word, not feelings is our standard."

"If we want to be filled so that we can feel happy and better about ourselves, then we will never be truly deluged with God's love."

"The blessing of being more like Jesus is greater than the hardship of the refining fire."

"...repent of seeking God so you can feel better about yourself. Then think about Jesus through the story of Hosea. Ask God to teach you about this (kind of) love."

Love Your Enemies & Your Neighbors

"Need other people less, love other people more."

"Pick and enemy and a neighbor and being to pray for them."

"Look for opportunities to surprise someone outside the body of Christ with love."

Love Your Brothers & Sisters (Christians)

"Christians need less and love more."

"People-pleasers can mistake 'niceness' for love."

"It (niceness) may mean that we will entrench the sin patterns of other people."

As with Solomon in Ecclesiastes, Welch comes to the 'conclusion of the matter,:


Certainly easier said than done but absolutely worth the effort! As one who has often struggled with the 'fear of man' this book was very helpful to me. It helped me to frame the issue correctly, understanding that when I fear men I am in sin and need to repent. It also helped me to frame the issue of love correctly. I love others when I am truthful with them about the gospel and about their sin when necessary. Fear of man keeps me from saying things that need to be said for fear of disapproval whereas fear of God allows me to love a person enough to tell them what they need to hear, regardless of what their reaction may be.

I would highly recommend this book to any believer who struggles with this issue or who just wants to be more in tune with God's will for their life and their relationships.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Isaiah 44 - The Redemption of God's People & the Folly of Idolatry

Here Isaiah again identifies Israel as God's "chosen" (v.1). The Lord has created not only the world in general but has specifically created Israel within it as His people (v.2). This belies the deist belief that God has not been involved with His creation in an active way since it's inception.

Not only has God chosen the people to whom Isaiah writes but He has chosen a people in the future as well, a people who will identify themselves as belonging to the Lord just as Israel does in Isaiah's day (Vv. 4-5). This is one of many Old Testament references to the conversion of the Gentiles which was part of God's plan all along. The Church is not a "parenthesis" or a "plan B" as some theologians teach today.

Verses 6-20 of this chapter are an extended discussion of the folly of idolatry. The Lord reiterates that no God exists but Him (Vv. 6, 8) and because of this all who make other gods are "nothing" (v.9) and will be put to shame.

The foolishness of idolatry is emphasized by pointing out that the one who fashions an idol is himself weak, subject to hunger and fatigue. How could such a being create a god?! (v.12)

In addition, the one who makes an idol from wood uses part of the tree for fuel to cook with and to warm himself and the other part to fashion a "god", essentially worshipping fuel! (Vv. 14-17). He is expecting mere ashes to deliver him! Why do people do such foolish things? Because their eyes are blinded to the truth (v.18), their hearts are deceived (v.20)

Still today we often take the things God has provided for our use and turn them into idols. Money, like wood, has a legitimate and God ordained use but when we look to money or anything else to do for us what only God can do, we are no different from the example given here of the man who carves an idol from a tree.

Quotable Quotes - Part II

"When fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross." - Sinclair Lewis

Chilling words.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Quotable Quotes

"God doesn't need your good works, your neighbor does" - Martin Luther

"The problem is not that Christians are not where they should be, the problem is they are not what they should be where they are." - Os Guiness

"One of the most dangerous things you can do as a Christian is to determine your theology by your experience" - R.C. Sproul

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Wiles of the Devil

I'm currently reading The Christian, His Conflict And His Armour by Charles Simeon. Simeon lived from 1759 - 1836 and was minister of Holy Trinity Church Cambridge for 54 years. He was a contemporary of William Wilberforce and, according to the end notes of the book, was instrumental in encouraging many to give themselves to missionary service.

In chapter two of the book Simeon deals with the wiles of the devil. He says that Satan always has two purposes, to lead men to sin and to keep men from God. He expounds on those two main themes throughout the chapter.

To Lead Men to Sin

  • "Satan considers the weak part of every man, and directs his artillery where he may most easily make a breach." We must therefore be aware of our weaknesses in order to know his most likely place of attack.
  • "Satan is sure to embrace an opportunity when we are alone, withdrawn from those whose eye would intimidate or whose council would restrain us." We should therefore remain connected to the Body of Christ and pursure discipling relationships that will prevent us from being isolated. Christianity is to to be a lone pursuit.
  • " leading us to the commission of sin, he will use sometimes the authority of magistrates, of masters, or of parents, and sometimes the influence of our dearest friends or relatives." We must therefore be sure that our final authority is the Word of God and that we are willing to "obey God rather than men" when the council of men conflicts with the Word of God, even if that council is from someone we respect or to whom we are close.
  • "He for a time conceals his full purpose: he pleads at first for nothing more than the gratification of the eye, the ear, the imagination." We must always realize that Satan's goal is our enslavement to sin. The attractiveness of sin to our senses is only the bait. If we take that bait and indulge our sensual nature, we are also taking the consequences that go along with that sin - things which are at first hidden from us.

To Keep Men from God

  • "He will begin with misrepresenting to his captives their own nature." Simeon says Satan will either try to convince us that we are not that bad and therefore do not need a savior or that we are so bad Christ's work is not sufficient for us. Either way the result is the same.
  • "...he will misrepresent to his captives the character of God." Again, Simeon says Satan pursures one of two extremes. He either paints God as too merciful to punish anyone eternally or as unwilling to forgive the most grevious sinners because of the demands of His justice.

I found much wisdom in Simeon's discussion of the wiles of the devil. I also found it interesting that the enemy's tactics have not changed much in the 150 or so years since Simeon wrote this or indeed in the several thousand years or so since he first deceived our first ancestors in the Garden. We would do well to continually remind ourselves of these tactics in order to be prepared for them when they come our way.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Reason Shooters Choose Schools

They gym I've been going to has a sign on the door as you enter declaring that firearms are forbidden on the premises. I've been meaning to speak to the manager to let him know how safe this makes me feel. After all, I'm sure if a maniac with a gun started to enter the gym in order to kill people, that sign would stop him dead in his tracks!

In this write up Timothy Wheeler, M.D., director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, makes the point that people bent on killing others with a gun choose venues like schools precisely because they are gun-free zones. In places like this, the shooter is assured that his victims will be unarmed and have no hope of defending themselves.

Friday, September 28, 2007


One of the most often used arguments by those who promote the idea that music which imitates current popular music should be used in Church worship is “well the hymns of old were contemporary in their day.” After thinking about this argument for a while, I’ve come up with a deep theological response to it…well duh!

Since “contemporary” means “existing, occurring, or living at the same time; belonging to the same time” then by definition, something that was written during a certain period of time is contemporary to that time. Saying, therefore, that a hymn was “contemporary” at the time it was written states the obvious but does nothing to bolster the idea that Church music should mimic the pop music of the current culture.

Current “contemporary” music can run the gamut from Classical to rap (if one considers that music). This was as true of times past as it is in our time. “Contemporary” music for any era has always been a number of different styles of music. The real question is not were the hymns of old “contemporary” at the time they were written but were they attempts to mimic the popular music of their day? Despite the tired old argument that “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” was written to the tune of a German beer drinking song (not true), there is really no evidence to suggest that to be the case.

Hymns written during the 1880’s and 1890's were not in the form of Straussian waltzes, nor were the hymns written during the 1920’s jazzy numbers to which one could dance the Charleston. Even up through the 1940’s and 1950’s church music did not mimic Big Band or Rock and Roll styles. In fact, this idea that the music of the church should sound like the music of the world is unique to the late 20th century western church.

My question is why are so many people willing to embrace this idea with open arms when many of those same people, if a doctrinal issue came along that had not been introduced to the church prior to 50 or so years ago, would look at it with suspicion?

I'll explore some of what I think the reasons are in a future post.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

General Pace Gets it Right...Almost

There has been quite a firestorm over the last couple of days regarding remarks made by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace. He was apparently asked to clarify remarks he made earlier regarding homosexuality and the military.

The following was reported regarding General Pace's remarks:
Are there wonderful Americans who happen to be homosexual serving in the military? Yes," he told the Senate Appropriations Committee during a hearing focused on the Pentagon's 2008 war spending request.

"We need to be very precise then, about what I said wearing my stars and being very conscious of it," he added. "And that is, very simply, that we should respect those who want to serve the nation but not through the law of the land, condone activity that, in my upbringing, is counter to God's law.

I'm thankful for a man willing to stand up in the halls of power in this land and tell the truth about this issue. Heaven knows there are no others of General Pace's stature willing to do so. However, I wish he'd not qualified his statement with the phrase "in my upbringing". This really has nothing to do with the General's upbringing. The law of God is the law of God. Homosexuality is a sin whether the general was brought up to believe so or not.

His attempt to soften his remarks only panders to the belief that the issue is really one of personal opinion. "I believe this is a violation of God's law because of how I was raised" is a different statement from "this is a violation of God's law."

Again, I applaud General Pace for even saying what he did say. He is going to be ridiculed and vilified to the maximum over this. I'm sure he knows that and counted the cost before he spoke. He's obviously a man of courage. However, I don't believe the trouble he will face over this would have been any worse had he just made an unqualified statement that homosexuality violates God's law and should not be encouraged or condoned by the laws of our land in any way at all.

I pray that General Pace will be given the strength to remain firm in the face of the persecution he's likely to receive especially since I'm fairly certain he'll receive no support for his position from his boss, the "conservative Christian" current occupant of the White House.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Psychiatrists Least Religious of All Physicans

A new study has found that among physicians, those specializing in psychiatry are the least religious. The study author, Farr Curlin, speculates that it may be because of psychiatry's:
"...historical ties to psychoanalysis and the anti-religious views of the early analysts such as Sigmund Freud..."
I think there's much truth in that, however, I think it goes deeper. The fundamental belief of psychiatry and psychology is that problems of the soul and spirit can be dealt with apart from God. The entire discipline was in fact founded by those who sought to cut God out of the process of dealing with such issues.

Martin and Deidre Bobgan in their excellent book Psychoheresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity say this:

"Because they rest on different foundations, move in contrasting directions, and rely on opposing belief systems, psychotherapy and Christianity are not now, nor were they ever, natural companions in helping individuals."
There is a belief of course among some practitioners that "religion" can be helpful to the person struggling with "psychological problems" but the idea that such problems are really manifestations of man's fallen nature and can be dealt with completely and thoroughly using Biblical principles, in fact must be dealt with that way for true solutions to be found, is foreign even to most practitioners who call themselves Christians. God is helpful, of course they would say, but by no means required. I have even known counselors over the years who claimed to practice from a Christian perspective yet had unbelievers as clients and saw no problem in "treating" them using psychological methods without seeking their conversion.

What I'm always driven back to when looking at this topic is the 1800 or so years of church history prior to Sigmund Freud. How exactly did believers deal with problems of the soul and spirit during those 1800 years? They dealt with them through the application of Biblical principles to the situation. There was no need for a professional class of "healers" because these principles were ministered to people through the church. People might even sometimes have continued to be "depressed" or "unhappy" for a while as God used that in their lives to increase their dependence upon Him or to teach them other Biblical principles. This is of course anathema to the "you must be happy and fulfilled all the time or there's something wrong with you" mindset of today. The idea that God may actually want us to be uncomfortable for a season for our own good never even enters most people's minds today, including many of those who practice "Christian psychology."

All in all, I think psychiatry is the least religious medical discipline because it is the only one founded upon the assumption that God is irrelevant to its practice. When something is founded upon a faulty assumption then the techniques developed out of that assumption (techniques used by both psychiatrists and psychologists) will be faulty as well. As the scriptures tell us, a bad tree does not bear good fruit (Luke 6:43)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Here We Go Again

Yet again a child has been abused and murdered because the adult who should be protecting them instead placed them in harms way. This sad story on Fox News reveals that the prime suspect in the rape and murder of a six year old is her mom's 'live in' boyfriend.

Women with children who shack up with men who later abuse or murder those children are a regular feature in the news these days. The mother in this case is quoted in the article as saying "I wish I could punish this person myself" speaking of the killer. What I wish is that this mother would be charged as an accessory quite frankly. If she were more concerned about raising her daughter than about fulfilling her own desires (notice I didn't say 'needs') its doubful this predator would have been living in the house with her and his victim.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Bread & Circuses

In the last year I joined a new health club that opened across from my office. It's called Lifetime Fitness and its truly one of the nicest 'gyms' I've ever belonged to. They have everything, squash, two pools indoor and outdoor, personal training, all kinds of equipment, all kinds of lessons from ballet to marshal arts and even a restaurant. The building is large and modern, the atmosphere upbeat and designed to appeal to the senses of the upscale community in which the gym was built. Greeters are at the front as you enter to call you by name and wish you a 'good workout'. I've enjoyed exercising there very much.

One day last week it dawned on me as I was walking out of the gym after being told to 'have a nice week' by the man who works in the locker room that the only thing Lifetime Fitness is missing is a worship service on Sunday. Add that one thing and you'd never know the difference between it and any number of 'evangelical' churches across America today.

Of course, I don't expect to see a worship service added to the menu of options at Lifetime any time soon. They seem to understand their calling. Would that that was true of many in the church today as well.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pro Libertate: The Highway to Serfdom

"No person shall be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." United States Constitution, Amendment 5.


Pro Libertate: The Highway to Serfdom

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A SIMPLE PLAN by Scott Smith

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” I Timothy 6:10 (ESV)

I rarely read fiction but recently I picked up a copy of A Simple Plan by Scott Smith after having being intrigued by the description of the plot. It revolves around three men who find a downed airplane in the woods containing a dead pilot and $4.5 million in cash. One of the men, the main character, comes up with ‘a simple plan’ that will allow them to keep the money, later splitting it among themselves. However, the plan quickly proves to be anything but simple.

What I found most interesting was the insight the author gives us into human nature. The first thing we see is that the characters are not as ‘good’ as they might have thought when their stated beliefs are put to the test. It’s very easy for example for the other two men to talk the main character into trying to find a way to keep the money after his initial feeling was that they should turn the money in. Even more telling is his interaction with his wife about the money. He begins with a hypothetical story about finding a large sum of money and she responds that of course it should be turned in to the ‘authorities’. However, when he produces the huge bag of cash and reveals that the story is not hypothetical, she begins to justify keeping the money with, in the end, her only criteria being can it be done without them getting caught. Absolute standards of right and wrong go out the window in the face of incredible wealth, showing that in reality these standards were not ‘absolute’ in the character’s minds to begin with.

Secondly, the author does an excellent job of showing that once one of our standards of morality has succumbed to pragmatism, it becomes much easier to cross other, more serious boundaries of morality. Before the story is over, the main character ends up murdering several people, including his own brother, in an attempt to keep the money and avoid apprehension. His decent from mild mannered accountant and “good” family man to serial killer is swift and gruesome, almost unrealistically so at times.

Finally, we see the almost unlimited capacity of human beings to justify themselves in the face of their wickedness. The protagonist and his wife end up convincing themselves that since everything they did was to avoid getting caught, they were really acting in self-defense. They didn’t want to do those evil things of course, but they had to, they were forced into it by circumstances beyond their control.

I don’t know if Scott Smith is a believer or not. However, he certainly has an accurate insight into the wickedness of man’s heart. I’m sure everyone reading this book myself included, likes to think they would not compromise their beliefs to this degree for $4.5 million. However, if we’re honest with ourselves, we must admit that that kind of evil lurks within all our hearts. It is only because of the grace of God through Jesus Christ that we are not all murderers and thieves or any number of other things.

The book definitely has some gruesome moments as well as a couple of sexual situations that I felt were unnecessary for the plot so I cannot give it an unqualified recommendation. Keeping that in mind, if you are looking for a book of fiction that not only has an intriguing plot but presents an accurate picture of the potential for evil lurking in the human heart, you may find A Simple Plan worth reading.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Separation of Church & State?

When is it OK for the Church to be an arm of the government? Apparently when we're being stripped of our civil liberties. I found this video quite disturbing.

I've been meaning for quite a while to read Hitlers Cross by Irwin Lutzer which outlines how the cooperation of the German church helped smooth the way for Fascism in Germany. Now seems like a good time to move it to the top of my reading list!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Isaiah Chapter 30 - The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

I'm continuing my study of Isaiah using the Allan Harman commentary: Isaiah; A Covenant to Be Kept for the Sake of the Church and this week my reading was Chapter 30. This, chapter, like Chapter 5 that I posted on earlier, has much to say to the church today. It is a wonderful picture of man's rebellion and God's redemption.

The chapter begins with Isaiah's description of the people's rebellion. Verses 1-11 reveal a pattern of rebellion common down through the ages and into our own day. In verse 1 Isaiah reveals that the rebellious take council from sources other than God and seek from the things of the world the protection they should be seeking from the Lord. In the case of Judah, this took the form of seeking an alliance with the nation of Egypt.

Harman says of this:
What Judah wanted from Egypt was 'refuge' and 'shade', two of the words often used to describe God's protection of His people. Judah is attempting to find in Pharaoh what she should have continued to find in the Lord.
How much like those of our own generation this is! Even inside the church today we're often seeking to do God's work by relying on the methods of the world or we are seeking our security in the material realm rather than in our relationship with Christ.

In verse 10, Isaiah further expounds on Judah's rebellion. He says they tell the prophets only to give them pleasant news, to stop bringing before them the 'Holy One of Israel'. Commenting on this Harmon says:
The people don't want what is true. Instead they would rather have fantasies and illusions
Or as Paul puts it in II Timothy 4:3-4 hundreds of years later, the people have 'itching ears' and turn away from the truth in favor of 'myths'. This seems to be a universal condition for those in rebellion against God.

Today 'fantasies and illusions' fill up churches far faster than the simple preaching of the Word. Cultivating a church membership in the multiple thousands that meets in a sports arena is really just a matter 'preaching' nothing but upbeat positive messages that tell people how to have a better life in the here and now. Few and far between today is the preacher more concerned about preaching the whole counsel of God than he is about filling a giant 'worship center' with lots of warm bodies; the preacher who views success in terms of adherence to the Truth of the Word rather than in numbers of members or baptisms.

Isaiah goes on to tell the people of Judah that because of their rebellion, they will face the judgment of God. However, all is not lost, for beyond the judgment of God will come His redemption. Isaiah makes it clear in verse 15 that salvation comes through trusting in the Lord and resting on His promises, not in the things of this world. By removing the things the people were trusting in, the Lord will bring them to a place of trust in Him.

Through adversity God will grant them the ability to hear His truth and take it to heart (Vv. 20-21). As a result of their repentance, the people will destroy the idols they've been worshiping saying to them "be gone!" (V. 22). Harman points out that "repentance will inevitably bring a new attitude towards idols." This is, in fact, one of the signs of true repentance, a desire to put away our idols. If I'm trying to hold my idols in one hand and Christ in the other, that's a sign that I've not been given true repentance. Just as the converts in Ephesus enthusiastically burned their occultic books (Acts 19:18-20) the truly repentant person will withhold nothing from the fire that served in the place of God in his previous life.

Isaiah finishes the chapter with the surety of God's deliverance of His people from those who oppose them and His coming judgment on the wicked.

This chapter both blessed and convicted me. It also made me realize, as the title of the post suggests, that the more things change the more they stay the same. The same kinds of things that plagued the people of Judah thousands of years ago, plague us today. Fallen man has changed not a whit. However, the good news is God has not changed either. He is still in control, still righteous and holy and willing to save sinners who turn to Him in faith.

Ron Paul on Just War

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Theology of the Orthodox Church

Having traveled to Moldova on several occasions in the last few years for missions work, I’ve become interested in the beliefs and teachings of the Orthodox Church. The picture attached to this post is one I took of the beautiful Orthodox Cathedral in Chisinau, Moldova. Many people who consider themselves Christians in Eastern Europe belong to the Orthodox Church so knowledge of its teachings is essential to missions work there. Sadly too, some of the persecution aimed at evangelical Christians in this part of the world comes from the Orthodox Church as well. I was therefore intrigued when I recently came across a theological website written from an Orthodox perspective. The site is called Orthodoxwiki and is set up along the same lines as Wikipedia and Theopedia.

The site was founded by a gentleman named Father John who’s a priest in the Orthodox Church in America out of Chicago.

Like the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church claims to be the one true Church, descended directly from the Apostles and founded on the Day of Pentecost.

My first foray into the site was a search using the word ‘salvation’. This brought up a page devoted to Orthodox soteriology. I knew already that Orthodox Christianity teaches salvation to be a process rather than an event and that one can never be sure of having been converted. Salvation is more a journey in Orthodox teaching, the goal of which is something called ‘theosis’. This site reinforced that teaching providing an explanation that was very clear and concise. In part it says:

“Salvation is the goal of Christianity, and the purpose of the Church. The theology of salvation is called soteriology. Orthodox Christianity strongly believes that God became man, so that man may become like God. This concept of theosis, rejects that salvation is a positive result to a legalistic dilemma, but a healing process. Orthodoxy views our inclination to sin as a symptom of a malady that needs treatment, not just a transgression that requires retribution.”

Needless to say the ways in which this paragraph is at odds with Reformed Christianity are many. The same page goes on to say of the final judgment:

“Christ will judge all people exclusively on the basis of how they have served him by serving each other, the least of the brethren.”

Next I did a search for ‘justification’ and received the following response:

There is no page titled "justification".

Now, to be fair, it could be that the information on justification has not yet been posted, however, given the way salvation is defined, the more likely scenario is that the concept of justification simply does not exist in Orthodox theology. Like Roman Catholicism, they confuse justification and sanctification. In fact, when I input the word ‘sanctification’ into the search function on the site, I was taken to the page on ‘theosis’ which the Orthodox see as the end state of the salvation process.

This coupled with their belief that the dead are judged on the merits of their service to God rather than on the righteousness of Jesus Christ leads one to the conclusion that Orthodox Christianity is ‘another gospel’, a gospel of works where man’s salvation is, if not totally dependent upon him, at least unattainable without his help and cooperation.

What a belief system teaches about the Gospel is fundamental to understanding the other teachings they espouse. I plan to delve further into the teachings of the Orthodox Church on other theological topics in future posts.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Hindu Redux

Note to Harry Reid: Perhaps next time you can just have the Hindu priest dismember himself or sacrifice a rooster in the Senate chamber. Imagine the fun that will be when the PETA folks show up!

Man Cuts Off Hand for Hindu Goddess Offering

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Letter to My Daughter

My oldest child is about to start High School in a few weeks. I can hardly believe it. Is she really that old? Am I? This milestone has made me think of another milestone that seems like only yesterday - when she transitioned from Elementary School to Middle School. At that time, I wrote the following letter to her sharing my hopes for her as she moved on to middle school:

Now that you're becoming a beautiful young woman and are headed to middle school, I want to share with you my hopes for your future.

First and foremost, I pray that you will always love God and honor Him in all that you do. Read His word every day and go to Him in prayer. We can do nothing worthwhile in life apart from God so we must stay in contact with Him daily.

Secondly I pray that you and I will always be close. Feel free to come to me with any question, problem or good thing you need to share. I'll always be there for you.

Thirdly I pray that you will choose your friends wisely. Maintain close friendships with other Christians. Your sisters in Christ will be some of your biggest helpers as you go through middle school. Treat non-believers you come in contact with the way Christ would have you treat them, influencing them but never being influenced by them.

Finally, I pray that you will take the talents and gifts God has given you and use them to the best of your ability to honor Him and share His message with the world. Choose what you do with your life not based just on what you want to do but what can most effectively serve our Lord. Don't worry, if you choose that way, it will be fun too!

I couldn't love you more if I tried! I trust God for your future and ask you to always remember His love and the love your mother and I have for you as you go through life.

May God richly bless you in middle school!



John 15:4-8

God through His Grace has seen us through the Middle School years with these hopes in many ways realized. As I look towards the High School years with some apprehension, I will again have to rely on the Grace of God and pray that my daughter does the same. Over the next few weeks, I'll be working on the 'going to High School' letter. I pray that when I look back on it four years from now with College staring us in the face that I can again be thankful for God's Grace in my life and the life of my daughter.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Emerging Motivation

Phil Johnson has posted a series of satirical posters patterned after those motivational posters you see in various business contexts. These, however, are from the point of view of the emerging church. Here's my favorite:

The rest can be seen here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Sanctity of Canine Life

Gary DeMar has an excellent commentary on the Michael Vick situation. Vick has been thorougly villified for his participation in the barbaric practice of dog fighting while the barbaric practice of abortion goes on day by day in this nation with the full support of the government, media and educational institutions. The same people who are horrified at dog fighting, many of whom won't wear fur or eat meat, routinely support the right of a woman to murder her unborn baby because the child is an inconvenience. You have to wonder what kind of compartmentalized lives people like that must live in order to make such a world view work for them.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

It's A Woman's Pulpit?

Recently a Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia associated with the theologically liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship hired a woman pastor. This has resulted in no few comments in the media since it’s the first time a Baptist Church, at least one nominally affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, has allowed a female senior pastor.

Of course these comments are mostly sighs of relief that the Neanderthals of the SBC have finally wised up and gotten with the program, etc. Such was the case recently when Dick Yarborough saw fit to comment on it in the Gainsville Times

Mr. Yarborough took to task Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for daring to take the position that the Bible teaches differing roles for men and women and that one of the roles God has reserved for men is that of pastor. Of course Mr. Yarborough did not provide any Biblical support or theological analysis for his position. However, what he lacked in theological precision he more than made up for in snide comments and anecdotal “evidence”.

I won’t go into all the reasons here that orthodox Christianity has for hundreds of years viewed the pastorate as an office for men only. The burden of proof in this case is on people like Mr. Yarborough who want to overturn the orthodox position.

So what did Mr. Yarborough offer in support of his position? Gems like these:

“Methodists have had female ministers for a long time.

Well, yes, true enough, longer, for example than they’ve had homosexual or lesbian ones but how exactly does that bear on whether the Bible supports the legitimacy of a female pastor? I mean just because I’ve done something for a long time does that mean God approves of it?

“Now these many years later, there are a host of crackerjack female ministers in the Methodist Church, and we haven't been zapped by lightning yet.”

Oh, OK. So as long as we’re not immediately struck dead by God when we do something, we can take that as His approval for whatever it is we’re doing.

Then there’s this wonderful of theological insight:

“Do you have any divorcees in your church? Read what the scripture says about them (Matthew 19:9). And, finally, are there any women in your congregation wearing gold or pearls and/or plaiting their hair (1 Timothy 2:9)?”

I’m not really sure what he’s getting at here but he seems to be saying for one thing that he views Jesus’ emphasis on the sanctity of marriage to be over done and that it is just as passé to consider a person who remarries after an unbiblical divorce to be involved in adultery as it is to insist that pastors be men. The belief that divorce (with certain exceptions) is a sin and that remarriage after divorce is adultery is a position, supported by scripture, which has also been taught by orthodox Christianity down through the centuries. However, once you’ve eliminated one Biblical teaching by filtering the Bible through the lens of 21st century feminism, what’s a few more, right?

“Let's face it: God is a lot smarter than we are”

I have to give him credit for getting this one right. However, what Mr. Yarborough fails to understand is that God is smarter than we are even if what He tells us offends our 21st century egalitarian sensibilities. The Bible tells us in Proverbs that there is a way that seems right to us but in the end it leads to destruction.

That’s not necessarily immediately being struck dead, by the way Mr. Yarborough.

Decision Making & The Will of God

"Decision Making and the Will of God" by Gary Friesen is the best book on 'discerning' God's will that I've ever read, also the most Biblically sound. The author refutes the common belief that we can (and should) determine what he calls 'the dot' or God's specific will for our individual life. He shows that God's will has been revealed to us in scripture already and that we're free to make decisions consistent with that revelation without having to worry about 'missing a blessing' or inviting a curse because we're not living in God's 'perfect' will for our individual life.

For example, per the scriptures God's will is that I marry another believer, however, God does not tell me specifically which believer. As long as my marriage is to a believer I'm in God's will (at least where my marriage itself is concerned) and don't have to worry that I've missed marrying God's perfect match for me.

He also discusses the issue of a 'call' as it relates to missionary service, the pastorate, etc. Many, if not most, Christians today would say that the Lord often issues specific instructions to someone He intends to be involved in missionary service. Friesen disputes this saying: "rather than waiting for some kind of mystical "call" from God every believer should respond to the revealed will of God by giving serious consideration to becoming a cross-cultural missionary." Later he says: "We don't need a call, we've already been commissioned."

Friesen covers several other topics of interest to every Christian who wants to be a faithful servant of the Lord such as choosing a school, choosing a vocation, giving, as well as how to make decisions when believers disagree on non-essentials.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who's struggled with finding God's will for their life, especially if they've been told by well meaning Christians that they should be hearing from God specifically about day to day decisions. For someone wanting an overview of this topic in more compact form, Jim Elliff's little book Led By The Spirit: How the Holy Spirit Guides the Believer is an excellent choice covering the basics of the topic in only 48 pages.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

One Nation Under gods

It takes a lot to surprise me these days but I have to admit I was shocked that the United States Senate allowed a Hindu 'chaplain' to stand in its well and offer up a prayer to his pagan gods last week. I suppose it should not have surprised me, this nation abandoned the one true God many years ago.

Make no mistake, this is a sign that we are in dire straits in this country. Its one thing to ignore God as we've done for many years as a nation. It's quite another to pro-actively worship false gods and idols. I read an article not long ago relating how Christianity is leaving the United States and Western Europe and beginning to flourish in the so-called Third World. Is it any wonder that the Lord is calling His Church elsewhere with this kind of idolatry openly celebrated in our nation's capital?

And what has been the reaction of our citizens to this abomination? For the most part its been a non-event. The people of this country by and large couldn't care less.

"And Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." And the people did not answer him a word." - II Kings 18:21

Sadly we're like the people of ancient Israel during Elijah's day. We don't mind a little 'Christianity' mixed in with our yoga or as one element of our 'faith journey'. However, let someone take a stand for Christ as the one and only way and suddenly there will be plenty of people puffed up with righteous indignation.

I'm sad when I look back at what this nation once was and even sadder as I look forward to what it will be for my children. For unless the Lord grants revival, things will get far worse before they get better. I'm thankful, however, that we serve a God who is faithful to His people and that our trust and security ultimately do not rest in the state of affairs in the United States but in the hands of the Sovereign of the Universe. Whether God sends judgment or revival to this country He is still on His throne. Nevertheless, I pray that He will be gracious and grant us repentance as a nation before its too late.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Gospel Blimp by Joseph Bayly

"The Gospel Blimp" makes up about half of the little book The Gospel Blimp and Other Modern Parables which is a collection of Joseph Bayly's best loved short stories. Several of the stories, modern parables really, are excellent commentary on contemporary American Christianity but none is better or more hard hitting than "The Gospel Blimp".

The story begins with a group of people trying to determine how to reach their next door neighbors for Christ. They notice one evening while sitting outside that the neighbors, also sitting out on their patio, pause from their card game and beer drinking long enough to look up as an airplane passes low overhead. This gives our budding evangelists an idea. Why not develop a 'gospel blimp' that would fly over the town declaring the Word of God for all to see on banners and via a powerful sound system?

The remainder of the parable is about the development and outworking of this 'ministry'. Not surprisingly, an undertaking of this magnitude takes up enormous amounts of time and resources and because of its high profile presence in the town requires significant public relations efforts, none of which is directly related to simply sharing the Gospel with the original neighbors who sparked the idea. Bayly's point is that this kind of emphasis on infrastructure, facilities and public relations characterizes many ministries and even churches today. The amazing thing is that Bayly wrote this in 1960! I can only imagine what he'd say today if he saw how the evangelical landscape of this country is dotted with mega-blimps from coast to coast.

In the end, one of the original founders of the 'ministry' begins to see it for what it is especially after the ministry leadership decides to partner with secular organizations, agreeing to couple the message of the Gospel with some non-Gospel related messages in return for increased donations to the ministry. He realizes that the 'ministry' has become primarily about the continuation of the ministry above all things.

After leaving the the Gospel Blimp 'ministry' this man and his wife end up helping win their neighbors to Christ (the original neighbors from the beginning of the story) by pursuing a relationship with them and being intentional about sharing their faith.

This parable is a scathing indictment of the church in America today. It behooves all of us to ask ourselves periodically if we're more concerned about the 'blimp' or the Gospel. It is very easy to begin to place importance on the trappings of ministry and to let real ministry go by the wayside as a result.

I would highly recommend this book, it should in fact be essential reading for ministry leaders and pastors. In addition to "The Gospel Blimp", "I Saw Gooley Fly" and "Rehoboam's Gold Shields" are also great little parables about the integration of our Faith into our lives and are worth reading and taking to heart.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Innocent as a New Born Babe?

I came across an interesting article this evening in the British newspaper The Telegraph. It seems that babies are not as innocent as everyone (well, psychologists anyway) had originally thought. In this article researchers explain that children as young as six months already have the capacity to lie, something psychologists previously thought was not possible until about the age of four.

Why, it's almost as if human beings come into the world with a natural inclination to sin!

"Behold I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me" Psalm 51:5

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Death of Shame

There was a time in this country (in virtually any country for that matter) where a picture of a man kissing another man would have been the stock and trade of the blackmailer. A time when a person who had engaged in such behavior would have felt shame for having done it and would have wanted anything other than for a record of their exploits to be published for all to see.

Those days are gone.

This AP report highlights a firestorm created because a New Jersey high school obscured a picture in the yearbook of a male student kissing his 'boyfriend'. This student was 'embarassed' by having the photo NOT shown and is demanding a public apology from the school board, which I predict will shortly grovel at the altar of political correctness and give him one (they've already issued a written apology but that's not enough for the poor fellow).

What a sad day we live in when those things once done furtively and in secret are now flaunted publically and those who dare to be offended are the ones labled perverted. The scriptures tell us that when a people forget God they will begin to call good evil and evil good. They will not only feel no shame at their sin but will actually glory in it. This is the sitation in which we find ourselves in early 21st century America.

Only the Lord's intervention can save us from the destruction for which we're headed. I pray that He will be gracious and send revival.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Roman Catholic Idolatry

I received an e-mail the other day that, quite frankly shocked me. I of course know that Roman Catholics 'venerate' Mary but had no idea the lengths to which it apparently goes in some cases. Here is the text of the e-mail this gentleman sent with personally identifying information replaced with parentheses:

"I am not superstitious so I did not send this e-mail to you for that reason.

I sent it because I truly believe that more time needs to be spent in prayer with the Blessed Mother, Mary the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. She is the most direct link that we have with God.

I have not seen a picture of the Blessed Mother that has not touched my heart in awe. And over the past 3 years, (my wife) and I have traveled to 4 countries under the guidance of (our priest) and have been able to cast our eyes upon some Magnificent portrayals of Mary.

Hail Mary full of Grace,"

Below this was the picture of the Virgin Mary that you see in this post. Below the picture was this:

The President of Argentina received this and called it "junk mail", 8 days later his son died.

A man received this letter and immediately sent out copies...his surprise was winning the lottery.

Alberto Martinez received this letter, gave it to his secretary to make copies but they forgot to distribute: she lost her job and he lost his family.

This letter is miraculous and sacred, don't forget to forward this within 13 days to at least 20 people.

Do Not Forget to forward and you will receive a huge surprise!!

Not much commentary is needed here. Suffice it to say that the errors of the Church of Rome prevalent in Martin Luther's day are with us still despite what those within Protestantism displaying a more ecumenical stance towards Rome would have us believe. However, scripture is also as clear today as it was then. We have but one mediator, Jesus Christ, and our worship is to be directed to Him and Him alone. My prayer is that the eyes of this man and others in bondage to this kind of superstitious mumbo-jumbo will be opened to the Truth and that they will cast themselves upon Christ who alone can save them.

Monday, June 4, 2007

"Perspectives on Pentecost - New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit" by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.

This is a short book at only 122 pages but is packed with some very powerful theological arguments. Because of the depth of Gaffin’s arguments and his frequent references to scripture passages (which are not always included in the text) it took me longer to read this book than books twice as long normally do. This book must be read methodically and with an open Bible, it’s not a book to take to the pool for an hour’s diversion! However, it is worth the effort.

I’ve long been of the opinion that the so-called sign gifts (tongues, prophecy & healing) were not for the church after the apostolic age so I must admit to reading the book with a bias already in place for the author’s thesis. However, he does such a thorough and scriptural job of presenting his case, it seems it would be hard to disagree with him having read the book.

He begins the book by discussing in depth the events of Pentecost as recorded in Acts, making the point that “…everything said in the New Testament about the Spirit’s work looks forward to or traces back to Pentecost.” (p. 14)

He goes into much detail developing the point that the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost was a unique event in the history of redemption. Just as the resurrection of Christ was a unique event, never to be repeated, so too the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. It was not a ‘bonus’ to believers or representative of the experience all believers throughout time should expect but an event used by God to establish the church and initiate the work of the risen Christ in the world. It was not, Gaffin would say, primarily or even secondarily about the experiences of the individual believers present that day. He says: “Pentecost is nothing less than the establishment of the church as the new covenant people of God, as the body of Christ.” (p. 21)

In later chapters, Gaffin discusses specific manifestations of the Spirit such as prophecy and tongues. Here he takes a position I’d not previously considered, that prophecy and tongues are really two sides of the same coin, both being revelatory gifts. According to Gaffin, tongues, once translated for the congregation, are nothing more than prophecy. Once that connection is made, one only needs to ask if prophecy is still for today and the issue of tongues is answered as well. The author makes the point that the words of a prophet are “the words of God and are to be received and responded to as such.” (p. 72)

That being the case, the question of the cessation of prophecy (and tongues) is bound up in the question of whether or not the canon is closed. In other words, does God still speak today in addition to His revealed word, the Scriptures? Gaffin says: “…for prophecy, correctly conceived of, to continue on into subsequent generations of the church, beyond its foundational period, would necessarily create tensions with the closed, finished character of the canon. In fact, such a continuation would exclude a completed canon in the strict sense.” (p. 100)

Gannon’s final premise is that prophecy and tongues were revelatory gifts given to the church temporarily during its founding apostolic era. He sees them as inseparable from the ministry of the apostles (even though they were not exercised only by apostles) and believes they have been permanently withdrawn from the church just as the office of apostle has been.

This is book is a very powerful argument for the cessation of prophecy and tongues and I would recommend it to anyone interested in this topic, regardless of his or her present understanding of this controversial issue.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wisdom in Proverbs 24

In my devotioal time one day last week I read Proverbs 24 and was struck (as I am each time I read Proverbs!) with the wealth of wisdom contained there. Just from Proverbs 24 alone, I wrote down the following, I'm sure you could find even more things there that I've missed:
  • Do not envy the wicked or desire their company (v. 1)
  • Do not forsake wise counsel when making a major decision (v. 6)
  • If my strength (of character or whatever) fades in the face of opposition, it was not really there to begin with (v. 10)
  • Do not rejoice in the adversity of others, even if they are your enemies (v. 17)
  • Do not judge people based on shallow things like appearance or the 'success' they've achieved in this life (v. 23)
  • Do not call what is wicked good (v. 24)
  • Do not indulge in the trappings of success (i.e nice house, fancy car, etc.) without the proper underpinning of hard work in order to pay for them. In other words, live within your means (v. 27)
  • Laziness leads to poverty (vv. 33-34)

What do you think? Have I missed some important points in this Proverb or misunderstood the one's I came away with?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Isaiah Chapter 5 - Back to the Future

I recently began a study of Isaiah for my personal Bible study time. The commentary I've chosen for this study is "Isaiah: A Covenant to be Kept for the Sake of the Church" by Allan Harman which I obtained from Monergism Books.

This morning I read Chapter 5 of Isaiah and was struck by the similarity between the situation addressed in that chapter and our situation here in 21st Century America. Though Isaiah was addressing the nation of Israel during his own day, I think we can learn from what is said to them though his prophecy.

The first six verses of the chapter are basically a parable, comparing Israel to a vineyard, a comparison Christ often made as well in His ministry (see for example
Matthew 21:33-41). In it God ask rhetorically "What more could I have done for you as a nation than I have done, yet you continue to disobey me and reject my law?" (Verse 4) Again, realizing the difference between the Old Testament Nation of Israel and the United States, we can still look back on the abundant blessings God has given this nation and wonder if He might not say to us "What more could I have done for you as a nation, yet you continue to disobey me and reject my law." Even within the Church itself (a closer equivalent to the Old Testament nation of Israel) we have rejected sound doctrine in favor of sound bites and the expositional teaching of the Word in favor of self-help and therapy. As a result our fruit is often not the sweet grapes God intends for his followers to produce but is more like the 'wild grapes' he saw in Israel in Isaiah's day.

The result of this rejection of God is that God promised to remove the hedge of protection from around His people (verse 5). The implication of this is obvious. We cannot flout God's Word and His instructions and expect God to protect us from the consequences that come. Indeed, in some cases, as happened with Israel, God deliberately sends trouble our way because of our disobedience (see also Hebrews 12:5-7 ).

Beginning with verse 7, Isaiah records a series of 'woes' against the people highlighting some of the wicked behaviors that were signs of their rejection of of God. According to Harman they provide a picture of society in Isaiah's day. It is a picture that is strikingly familiar to anyone living in 21st Century America.

Some of these are:
  • Drunkenness, revelry and wild partying (Vv. 11-12)
  • Calling good things evil and evil things good (V. 20). There are so many ways our culture does that I cannot begin to list them here.
  • The perversion of justice (V. 23)
The final section of the chapter (Vv. 24-30) outlines what the consequences are going to be for the people's rejection of God and His word. The Lord is going to summon a host of pagan nations to destroy Israel (V. 26). The Lord will actually enable the invaders with good fortune so that they may carry out His judgment on the people (Vv. 27-29)

Though not a prophecy to us today, Isaiah Chapter 5 has much to say to our current national situation and to the modern church in the west. We should read it with fear and trembling considering the fate that befell those to whom it was written. I pray that such a reading would lead us to repentance.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Is Al Gore 'Reasonable'?

I just read an exerpt from Al Gore's new book The Assault on Reason over at Time Magazine's website . In it he expresses a deep concern for the future of our country due to the many problems he sees in our culture. I cannot disagree with the notion that we should be concerned for the state of our country, nor can I deny that many of the problems he points out are real and serious. For example, he bemoans the lack of respect for truth in the public arena, clearly a problem we face from the federal level down to the local school board.

My disagreement with Mr. Gore would be with his identification of the root cause of these problems. It is our having abandoned 'reason' according to Gore that has lead to our troubles. He says we must have more "faith in the power of reason" if we are to save ourselves. He says:

Our Founders' faith in the viability of representative democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry, their ingenious design for checks and balances, and their belief that the rule of reason is the natural sovereign of a free people.

Perhaps Mr. Gore is not a student of history, but it occurs to me that a nation once tried to build itself on this concept of the sovereignty of reason and the result was that during the French Revolution the streets of Paris ran red with blood. "Reason" was literally the god of the French revolution but without the God of the universe in the picture, it was a disaster.

The missing element in our culture is not reason it is a desire to respect and honor the one true God of the Bible. Gore's assertion that reason was viewed as the 'natural sovereign' by our Founders is laughable. The sovereign our Founders looked to was the God of the Bible and without His influence in our culture, no amount of man-centered reason can save us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Art of Manfishing by Thomas Boston

Boston is one of the Puritan Divines and this short little book was a sort of diary that he kept. In fact, no one outside his family saw it until some 30 or 40 years after his death. The book is a compilation of his thoughts on how a Christian minister should conduct his ministry and much of the advice he gives is still needed by ministers today.

For example, Boston was a firm believer in "the law being a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." He would, I'm sure, be shocked at the minimal attention given the law by much of today's pastors and evangelists. He also saw conversion as something that was most often the result of sustained ministry in the life of a person rather than the result of an instantaneous, emotional response. It goes without saying that this message is sorely needed in today's church.

Boston speaks much of humility in the life of the minister. He emphasizes several times that a minister must realize that he can do nothing good apart from the Spirit's enabling. He is very critical of ministry which grows out of a man's own power and ability (i.e. excellent speaking skills) where that talent is not accompanied by an humble realization that apart from Christ we can do nothing.

Christ was sent to glorify God and to seek and save the lost. Therefore, Boston reasons, those same things should be the primary tasks of ministers. Anything which is a hindrance to those core things is to be jettisoned according to Boston. He says on page 98: " not needlessly involve thyself in worldly matters, to the hindrance of the duties of they calling and station."

Overall this was an a very helpful book, far better than many modern tomes on evangelism and ministry. I'm thankful that Thomas Boston thought to write these things down and that his family later saw fit to share them with The Church.