Posts belonging to Category Exhortation



Good advice upon graduation

This is the probably the last commencement speech Judge Antonin Scalia gave. It is filled with wisdom and the late Supreme Court Justice’s trademark humor. Having attended many graduation ceremonies, I would welcome more speeches like this. Enjoy!

Joy of Anticipation

This is a wonderful time of year, and not just because of family/friend gatherings. Advent is upon us. The time we remember Jesus’ first coming and anticipate His second coming becomes more and more special each year. In the past I always thought of this time as anticipation for Christmas, but learning what Advent means (coming) adds to the fruitfulness of the time.

Last night our Advent reading was I Thessalonians 4:13-18, a passage I (until recently) never would have thought of relating to this time of year. The apostle Paul exhorted the church to comfort one another with the message of Christ’s coming. Comfort can be drawn from the fact that when Jesus comes the second time we will be forever with Him, in addition to being with all those who died “in the Lord.” This motivates us to live obediently now, in addition to knowing that one day we will be reunited with all those we know who died in Christ. This second coming is indeed a blessed hope (Titus 2:13).

The blessingsof our daily tasks

While reading a meditation by Abraham Kuyper here, I was impressed by several insights he drew from the text about the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. One of those insights deals with how the shepherds performing their tasks in obscurity. He said that if they hadn’t been doing their jobs, they would have missed the glorious message from the angelic hosts. I would add that in this they also were made the first human heralds of the Incarnation.

We all have daily tasks, just like those shepherds did. What is the payoff? It is in these tasks that God comes to us. Think of Peter, James, and John. They were about their daily routing of cleaning their nets when Jesus called them. Elisha was plowing in the field when God’s calling came to him through the prophet Elijah. It is easy to become discouraged in our work routines. We don’t think that our work accomplishes anything; but in doing this work, you avail yourself to the ministry to which God has called you, prepared you, and empowered you.

Your vocation enables you to be salt and light in the world. Don’t despise it.

Wrestling with new beliefs

It has been a rocky trip over the last year as I have changed my views on baptism. Having been a life-long Baptist, I didn’t think I would change, except for the nagging feeling at times that I was inconsistent in my Reformed beliefs. Oh well, Spurgeon had no problem admitting he was inconsistent so I didn’t think I should either. But then I started studying covenant theology and boy did it make sense. I already believed covenant theology in a Baptist sense but as I read more about it, things really fell into place. But I still didn’t have a problem being inconsistent; wasn’t everybody to some extent? (By the way the answer is yes, we all are to a point. The key is recognizing and acknowledging those inconsistencies rather than pretending they aren’t there.)

Then some things happened which I can’t speak of here. Suffice to say I was suprised by several things I witnessed in ministry that opened me up to paedobaptism. I believed the Lord wanted something else from me than I had been willing to give. I prayed about what those areas might be and came to the conclusion that paedobaptism might be it. I studied the subject heavily over several months. I read many books and articles by Baptists and some by paedobaptists; the number of the former dwarfed the latter. I didn’t want to leave my heritage lightly and I wanted to expose myself to the best arguments that Baptists had. But I will confess, there was a draw to paedobaptism. It seemed more consistent with a reading of Old and New Testament, rather than just consistency with the New Testament.

I’ve told people before, the disagreement between Baptists and paedobaptists comes down to your understanding of the Old and New Covenants. If you see greater discontinuity between the Old and New covenants, you will hold to believer’s-only baptism. If you see greater continuity between the two covenants, you will hold to paedobaptism.

Even though I had deep respect for reformed theology, I would never have considered paedobaptism without the Lord opening me up to it. When He opened my heart to it I stopped studying the subject and started wrestling with it. I’m convinced that most Baptists never truly wrestle with paedobaptism, nor do paedobaptists wrestle with believer’s-only baptism. Not that wrestling is for everyone. Most are perfectly content to remain in their beliefs without questioning them. And it’s impossible to wrestle with everything. There was a time when I wrestled with Roman Catholicism in my early twenties. The Lord preserved me from that belief system and I’m thankful. I have no plans on wrestling with the beliefs of Islam; I will study them and attempt to refute them to evangelize Muslims but I will not contemplate that Islam is true. The same is the case for Eastern Orthodoxy. Having said that, why do I think Baptists and paedobaptists should wrestle with different baptism beliefs?

Perhaps I should define what I mean by wrestle. To wrestle with a belief is to open oneself up to the possibility that it might be true and deal with all the facets of the issue, all the while being willing to change if you are convinced it is true. It requires making yourself vulnerable and having the courage to change if you become convinced that it is true. Consider Jack, a young man who watches professional wrestling. His favorite wrestler, Mr. Wonderful is about to face William the Giant, a seven-foot-tall, four-hundred pound brute who flosses with barbed wire. While watching his beloved Mr. Wonderful receive the worst of a pounding, Jack says, “All he has to do it put the Giant in a choke slam and it would be over.” We observe here a disconnect with reality. On paper a choke slam would probably do the trick, but in this case neither Jack nor Mr. Wonderful is able to put the theoretical into practical use.

It is easy to listen to others make arguments against paedobaptism. It’s even easier when you interact with straw men, and I admit that building straw-men is something both sides do in the discussion. Because I’ve had a long-time goal of being faithful to the entirety of God’s Word, once He “put me in the ring” on this subject (to borrow from the earlier metaphor), I discovered that my theoretical Baptist arguments couldn’t hold under the weight of studying God’s covenant promises to man.

“That’s great for you,” you might say. Why write about it? For this reason: everyone faces transition points in his or her life. You have to decide whether to continue as you have before or open yourself up to new possibilities. When you arrive at one of those points, think carefully yet openly about it. You might just grow in the process.

Why reading Marx might not be a sin

 

It is time I make a confession. I’ve read a little of Karl Marx. What’s more, I’ve appreciated a few things I’ve read by Karl Marx. That’s not to say I agree with him, but he makes several appropriate criticisms of the capitalist economy in the way it currently operates. It might not be as bad since I’m an economics, political science, and history teacher. Nonetheless because we’ve been taught that certain people are wrong no matter what: Hitler, Karl Marx, Rousseau, etc., to admit that you’ve read them brings out an amount of surprise and sometimes scorn. “Why waste your time reading pagans and atheists?” The only thing worse would be to read a Roman Catholic or Arminian. The answer goes like this: Just because they are wrong on many fronts doesn’t mean everything they say is evil. This would likely be admitted, but the response would be along the lines of, “But there are so many better things to read.” And that’s true. But many times our enemies point out problems that are real problems. They may even point to accurate causes of those problems. We must be willing to call the truth the truth. It reminds me of a Doug Wilson saying that went something like this. “Reading liberal commentators can be helpful because they are willing to say exactly what the text means since they don’t feel the need to believe it. A conservative is not willing as often to fully explain a text because he knows he must believe it.”

So how can I in good conscience read Karl Marx or anyone else and even appreciate some of his criticisms? By breaking down books and articles in several parts (modern educators call this analysis; classical educators called it reading). 1.) Explaining the problem, 2.) explaining why that particular happening is a problem, 3.) listing the causes and symptoms of the problem, 4.) giving solutions to the problem, 5.) explaining the end result of applying said solutions, a.k.a. how this would create almost utopia.

When reading a book or article, you can appreciate any one or more of those five points without valuing all of them. I agree with Marx that capitalism as he defined it is a stepping stone to revolution. It erodes tradition, religion, family ties, and intermediary groups that serve as a buffer between man and the state. In other words, I agree in large part with his explanation of the problem (#1) and the symptoms of the problem (#3). But even in his explanation of the problem, I disagree with him. He doesn’t see capitalism as a problem but a stepping stone to revolution, which is part of his solution to the problem. I see the erosion of the tradition, the family, etc. as something that should be stopped; he wants that erosion to continue because it will prepare the world for revolution. In other words, while I agree with him on part of #1 and #3, I disagree sharply with the rest.

So why read him? Because his analysis of the problem is crucial to understanding the why’s and how’s of world revolutions, from the French Revolution until now. People have followed what Marx described even before he described it. Many have been students of his philosophy; but the problem has not been those who agree with his analysis of the problems and their symptoms; it has been with their attempts to put the rest of his plan into practice.

So what does this have to do with reading other authors? It tells you how you can read those outside the faith without falling prey to their solutions. I’ve discovered, just like with Doug Wilson’s comment on commentators, secularists have some good things to offer in the realm of social criticism. Theological writers like N.T. Wright have wonderful books that describe things about the Lord and His Word that can’t be found anywhere else. But sometimes their solutions to the problems are beyond terrible. Does this mean they shouldn’t be read? No. It does mean that all our reading should be with caution. Unless you train yourself to break down what you read into these five areas and analyze each one, you are a sitting duck for false teaching. Even then you should proceed with great caution before reading just anyone. If you stay in a room with the hash smokers, even if you don’t smoke things will get pretty hazy for you too. If you don’t open your mind to the sea breeze of God’s Word and timeless good books (Pilgrim’s Progress, Institutes of the Christian Religion, the Works of Shakespeare, etc.), your thinking will get fuzzy. And having an older brother or sister in Christ who will direct you through these things is helpful as long as you actually listen to him/her.

Is it a sin to read Karl Marx? Not always. Could reading someone like him lead you into a trap? You bet. Therefore in all your reading, read with balance and care.

What are they waiting for?

There’s a nice article up at Slate about marriage.  Julia Shaw tells about her life marrying her husband at 23, which is young by today’s standards.  She says the same thing I’ve said for a long time:  there’s no reason for people to wait late into their twenties or even thirties for marriage.  The opportunities for falling into sin are too great to ignore the call to marriage.

Of course some can’t marry early for various reasons, like they’ve not found anyone who would marry them.  And this is not a call to lower your standards to less than what the Scripture calls for.  But it is important to not put off marriage for selfish reasons, and most of the reasons I hear from young people in the world today just happen to fall in the selfish category.

They must be reading my mind

Years ago I watched an episode of Murder She Wrote in which Jessica, the main character, was selected to temporarily fill in for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Throughout the show she solved the murder (when did she not?) and in the end got a bill that she had proposed passed.  I don’t remember much else about the episode but I remember thinking what it would be like to be nominated temporarily to the House.  What would I do?

Recently that thought came back to my mind and I determined that  I would present a bill that would add many cumbersome regulations to the abortion industry.  Some might fault me for not introducing a bill that would stop all abortions but that bill would not even make it out of committee.  That’s not where we should stop, but it would be a start.  Any regulations added to a business make it more difficult to operate, if not impossible in some cases.

I was glad to see the Alabama House of Representatives passed a similar bill earlier this week.  If this bill passes the Senate and is signed by the governor, it will go a long way in making abortion more difficult in our state.  I pray for the day it is impossible for a woman to get an abortion in Alabama, in the South, or anywhere in the U.S. for that matter.  But we must be patient, support the political leaders who stand for life, and financially support those who support life for all ages.  May the Lord bless this to pass.

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is a wonderful holiday.  Drop your misgivings about the election and the country in general.  Forgo worry about the state of this or that.  Read Psalms 89 and 105.  Give thanks to God for all His wondrous works.  Love someone who needs to experience the love of God.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Never a wasted vote

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” – John Quincy Adams

How can we do it?

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. – I Corinthians 15:10

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. – Philippians 2:12-13