Posts belonging to Category Uncategorized



Lord Keep Us Steadfast In Thy Word – Martin Luther

Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word;
Curb those who fain by craft and sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Thy Son
And set at naught all He hath done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Thy pow’r make known,
For Thou art Lord of lords alone;
Defend Thy Christendom that we
May evermore sing praise to Thee.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth.
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.

Engaged separation

Most of us are familiar with the warnings from Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Judges that if Israel didn’t remain a separate people in worship and live faithfully unto Him, Yahweh would give them into the hands of their enemies to be oppressed. What I didn’t know was that Jesus reiterated that warning in Matthew 5:13. There Jesus says His disciples are the salt of the earth. Then He says that if the salt loses its savor, it was good for nothing except to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. In other words, if God’s people in the new covenant age didn’t remain separate from the world in worship and obey His commands, they would be oppressed by God’s enemies just like old covenant Israel was oppressed when they were unfaithful.

But total separation is no option. Our standards are separate depending on how far away our civil realm has drifted from the law of God. But we must savor the world; if not we will be the slaves of our enemies.

Nice irony here

Most people who keep up with modern justification controversies are familiar with N.T. Wright, the former Bishop of Durham of the Church of England. He published a book on justification that was poorly received by many in the Reformed camp because it introduces some doesn’t fully embrace the traditional explanation of the topic.

I have been making my way through the four volume set of books known as The Fundamentals, written in the early 1900’s as a conservative response to the ascending liberalism within Protestant Christianity. When I came to the chapter on justification by faith (one which does take the traditional Reformed teaching on the topic), who should be the author but H.C. G. Moule. The name meant little to me until I read that he was at the time of publication Bishop of Durham in the Church of England. This is a nice twist to the justication discussion, don’t you think?

Too many similarities

“We don’t see humanists bowing down to their gods, we but we do see them studying them, lecutring about them, writing books about them. and we don’t see Christians bowing down to the Lord either, but we do see them studying Him, preaching about Him, and writing books about Him.

Thus, there is indeed a big difference between ancient religions and modern ones. Ancient man primarily worshiped his gods, while modern man primarily studies his. This is true both of pagans and of conservative, orthodox Christians.” – James Jordan, Judges, God’s War Against Humanism, p. 35

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.

God’s Infantry

In Psalm 8:2, we’re told that God ordained small children to praise Him “because of Thine (God’s) enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” That God determined for small children and infants to praise Him is wondrous enough. But the reason is even greater: the God’s enemies would be stopped. Don’t go Baptist on me and spiritualize who the babes are (a.k.a. new born spiritual children). While that is true, David was referring to actual babies.

When you think about the entire Psalm, one that extols God for all His majestic works in creation and how He has given man dominion over all the earthly creatures, this verse might seem out of place. But it is exactly where the Father intended for it to be. The first exercise of dominion over all flesh is the act of praising God, an act which begins in infancy. This same act is an act of warfare against God’s enemies. While they are born in sin just like you and I are, God never calls His covenant children “vipers in diapers.” It would be closer to calling them God’s infantry.

What’s New Out There?

I’ve been insulated as a Primitive Baptist pastor for the last five-plus years, which certainly has its advantages. There’s been a lot of change in the Evangelical world since then and I’ve just now finding out about it. I’ve noticed it mostly in the area of corporate worship, but that is just one of many areas. Being away for a few years has given me a fresh perspective. A few things come to mind initially and I hope to write a few posts about them.This list includes both Baptist and Presbyterian churches we’ve visited.

First of all, there has been a decline in reverence for worship. Now call me a stick in the mud (a term I’ve started to embrace) but since when did ministers stop wearing ties? Since when did members start dressing like they were going on vacation? I understand someone coming in from working 3rd shift wearing work clothes, but most people aren’t in that position. If this were the only symptom I wouldn’t suspect there was a disease, but it goes deeper than that. Worship in most churches has all the gravity of a kernel of popcorn. And this is in conservative churches. Of course this is not to say all churches are this way. But too many are. And the way people dress (at least in the South) is one indicator of how much priority they put on worship. Does this mean you don’t love God if you don’t wear a tie? Of course not. But when the people at Wal-Mart are better dressed than people in the church, it raises a few questions. (more…)

Only dead things drift

“If a republic is to live up to its ideas and  be what it could be, then it had better look long and hard at what it is in danger of becoming and devote conscious effort to controlling its own destiny, rather than continuing to drift along on the tides of economic materialism.”  – Donald Davidson, quoted in George Grant’s Buchanan: Caught in the Crossfire.

The Inner Ring

Several years ago I read a speech by C.S. Lewis entitled, “The Inner Ring.” It is an excellent article about the dangers of trying to gain entrance into whatever group you wish to be a part of and how it is actually a trap. The article can be read here. The truth of that article came home to me recently as I was praying. As many know right now, my family and I are going through a transition. The Lord has blessed us thus far and we trust He will continue to, but as with any change, He has uncovered areas that I didn’t know existed and that need to be submitted to Him.

There is an innate drive in a man to gain access to a group that he thinks is unapproachable. These groups aren’t necessarily sinful; some of them are quite good. But our enemy says that if we can only get inside that group, we will have arrived. It’s about pride. This is where Lewis makes so much sense.

“I must now make a distinction. I am not going to say that the existence of Inner Rings is an Evil. It is certainly unavoidable. There must be confidential discussions: and it is not only a bad thing, it is (in itself) a good thing, that personal friendship should grow up between those who work together. And it is perhaps impossible that the official hierarchy of any organisation should coincide with its actual workings. If the wisest and most energetic people held the highest spots, it might coincide; since they often do not, there must be people in high positions who are really deadweights and people in lower positions who are more important than their rank and seniority would lead you to suppose. It is necessary: and perhaps it is not a necessary evil. But the desire which draws us into Inner Rings is another matter.”

His point is that our desire to pierce those rings leads to bondage. I’ve found myself at times clamoring for reassurance from a group when the fact is, the Lord doesn’t intend for me to be a part of it. The pressure, once inside, is almost double what it was to get in. Lewis went on to say,

“And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man’s face—that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face—turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected. And then, if you are drawn in, next week it will be something a little further from the rules, and next year something further still, but all in the jolliest, friendliest spirit. It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel.

That is my first reason. Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.”

And in a final quote, “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.” The Lord has given us all we need. It is important not to make a particular circle of people into an idol. It can cause more damage that we can imagine.

 

 

 

A Real U-Turn

I remember as a boy liking certain baseball players. One that I for some unknown reason appreciated was Darryl Strawberry. I thought he was a good player and was amazed by his strength and ability. At the time, most of the players I liked the most were from my team, the Braves (with the above mentioned exception, along with Ozzie Smith and Nolan Ryan). I remember being saddened when I heard the Strawberry was addicted to drugs. I reminded me that heroes shouldn’t be put on too high a pedestal.

Just today though, I read an article that reminded me of something else: God’s grace can change even the stoniest heart, and retrieve the most lost of causes. Darryl Strawberry is no longer in baseball. He’s in a profession that he said gives him more happiness than anything he’s ever done: he’s a pastor. In an article in the Washington Post (discovered by Dr. Gene Veith), Strawberry gave an interview of his new life. Tell me if this doesn’t remind you of someone in Scripture.

“The two-story, four-bedroom house sits on a corner in this planned bedroom community, and when the muscular 6-foot-6 man welcomes you inside, there is no evidence that Darryl Strawberry the baseball player ever existed. There are no pictures of Strawberry in a Mets uniform. No trophies. No plaques. None of his four World Series rings. Nothing from his eight all-star games. None of his 335 home run balls.

 ‘I got rid of it all. I was never attached to none of that stuff,’ says Strawberry, 51. ‘I don’t want it. It’s not part of my life anymore.’ Darryl Strawberry the outfielder and slugger from the 1980s and ’90s is no longer. But Darryl Strawberry the ordained minister is very much alive in this town 30 miles west of St. Louis. ‘I’m over ‘Strawberry,’  he says. ‘I’m over Mets. I’m over Yankees. I don’t want to exist as Darryl Strawberry the baseball player. . . .That person is dead.’”

As I read the article, I was struck by how much he sounded like the Apostle Paul. Saul of Tarsus too was a superstar in his own right. He was trained at the feet of an amazing master. He likely saw himself in the tradition of Phineas, the priest who killed a man and his harlot for fornicating near the tabernacle in the book of Numbers. He was the true definition of anti-Christ (opposed to Christ). But he gave it all up when he was struck down on the way to Damascus by the Lord Himself.

Paul said in Philippians that all he had before he counted as dung (read rubbish, manure, fill-in-your-own-synonym) for the sake of Christ. He left everything behind. He had to if he was to gain Christ. Darryl Strawberry did the same thing. He gave up all his stuff from his glory days. All the rings, the memorabilia, everything because it’s trash compared to Christ. That’s not his life. It makes me wonder what things I have that get in the way of obeying Christ completely.  How about you? What do you value more than the Lord of glory? What needs to be put on the trash heap in order to free yourself to serve your King?