For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Give Ye Thanks

Three years after the Pilgrims’ arrival and two years after the first “Thanksgiving,” this proclamation was made by Governor William Bradford:

To all ye Pilgrims:
In as much as the great Father has given us this year and abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat , peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetable, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience;

now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the daytime, on Thursday, November ye 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all his blessings.

William Bradford, Ye Governor of Ye Colony

May all ye and ye’rs have a blessed day of Thanksgiving to the Almighty for His continued blessings.
Happy Thanksgivng!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Painful Lessons

In the C. S. Lewis classic, The Problem of Pain, he writes:

My own experience is something like this. I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends for the morrow or a bit of work that tickles my vanity today, a holiday or a new book, when suddenly a stab of abdominalpain that threatens serious disease or a headline in the newspapers that threatensus all with destruction, send this whole pack of cards tumbling down. At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasures is Christ. And perhaps, by God’s grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength form the right sources.
I came to identify with that description quite profoundly this week. Monday morning I was blessed with a trip to the emergency room with kidney stones. To those who have not had the pleasure, it is impossible to put into words the pain this involves. To say that a “stab of abdominal pain” will send your “pack of cards tumbling down” is an understatement!

Earlier in that book, Lewis makes the well known comment that “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Now I understand that he is making somewhat philosophical arguments to deal with the “why do we suffer” issue. But I must say, God certainly got my attention Monday.

As to what He was trying to tell me, I’m not entirely sure. But let me say this. I am much more appreciative of my daily “normal” life without that kind of pain. I certainly did a lot of praying during that time. And I was never so thankful to know my future rests in the firm hands of Christ than during that time I literally felt like I was going to die (I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but folks, that is some kind of intense pain!).

Furthermore, I have gained a new appreciation for the suffering of others, knowing that as far as “disease” goes, there are much worse things than this. And my little “suffering” can’t compare with what others are going through. Hopefully I will be a much more compassionate person in the future.

On top of all that, it gave me a great sense of appreciation for my wife who, though suffering from a little flu bug herself, dragged herself out of bed and drove me 45 minutes (screaming and crying like a baby the whole way!) to the hospital and stayed with me the whole time. And further appreciation for the blessing of responsible children that we could leave at home to care for one another, without any concern.

And finally, it is indeed a not-so-subtle reminder that this life is not what it’s all about. Comfort and happiness in this life may be nice, but my “true good is in another world and my only real treasures is Christ.” So though I dread to ever endure anything like that again (though I’m told in all likelihood I will), I’m thankful to God that “for a day or two (I’ve) become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength form the right sources.” May God not have to use that megaphone too often!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Voddie Baucham on the SBC & the "C" Word

This was posted a week ago (as usual I'm way behind), but I found this entry from Dr. Baucham to contain some good insights into the state of the SBC and the supposed threat from those who hold to the Doctrines of Grace.
Go HERE and enjoy.

Book Review: The Truth About You

Well, my career as a book reviewer may prove to be a very short one indeed. Thomas Nelson Publishers offered to send me the occasional book for free if I would read them and post reviews of them. Sounded like a good deal, but I’m afraid the first choice of books may prove to be the end of this endeavor.

English motivational speaker and author Marcus Buckingham’s The Truth About You, in my opinion, is the epitome of what is wrong with the Christian publishing market. It is a secular, humanistic, self-help, feel good approach to life and success that is in most cases in direct opposition to biblical principles. How’s that for an opening line?

Not that it’s all bad. This book is not just a book: it’s an experience. It comes complete with a 20 minute video, a separate “ReMemo” pad (for tracking “strengths” and “weaknesses”), and a variety of interactive exercises. Nice package. But the content is still more psycho-babble than anything.

The main themes center on finding your strengths, which are your interests, your ideas of what makes you feel good, fulfilling your needs, etc. To find those strengths, you are told to complete the statement, “I feel strong when…” The biblical response to that is…”when I am weak.”

For the Christian, it’s not about me, what makes me feel good, etc. It’s to be about Christ, growing in His image and likeness, serving for His glory, and allowing His strength to be seen in my weakness. This is the exact opposite of Buckingham’s statement that “as we grow, we become more and more of who we already are.” God tells us to die to self and become like Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. Buckingham has something in the idea of a group of folks all doing what they do best. But there is too much focus on self and self-reliance here. The biblical perspective on this is that this group is the result of God’s gifting, not forcing our own “strengths” on others.

I know this is longer than the 200 words Nelson asked for, but I’m trying to be as brief as possible. I realize this is a business text, not a theology text. But the point is that a “Christian” publisher ought to be focused on those things that are biblically based, regardless of the genre. If we want to write about success, we should be doing it from a biblical definition of success and so on.

Sadly, so much of Christian publishing these days is more focused on the feel-good psychology and self-centered individualism so prominent in our culture than on a solid biblical worldview. For all its nice packaging, this book is just the case in point for that problem.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Is It Time For Christians To Withdraw?

Cal Thomas wrote a column last week in which he suggests that the “religious right” get out of the politics business and back into the “church” business. No, he hasn’t traded sides. He’s just suggesting that we’ll never be able to change the culture through government, so let’s get back to the business of changing lives through the Gospel. To some extent, I agree.

I never thought I would say this, having the respect I do for Mr. Thomas, but I think he’s missing the point. He has set up a false “either-or” path for the church in America. It’s not about faithfully proclaiming and living the Gospel message OR working within the political structure to make a stand for morality. In the unique structure of the American experiment it can and should be both.

He is right in saying that our hope is not in government. It never has been, it never will be. Only Christ can change lives and change behavior as a result. Our goals should be Kingdom goals, and that is where our efforts should be focused. Once people have transformed lives in Christ, their faithful Christian lives will have an impact on the world around them.

However, part of the faithful Christian life is to be a good citizen of the state (Romans 13). In this great land, being a good citizen means being involved in the political process. Not to the neglect of our Gospel mandate; but as part of it.

1 Peter 2:17 tells us, among other things, to “Fear God and Honor the King.” Honoring the king in a monarchy means one thing. Honoring the king in the US of A means something different. The President is not the king. In fact, the battle cry of the American Revolution was “No King but King Jesus” (Not that many remember or believe that anymore).

In our government established of the people, by the people and for the people, the “people” are “king.” To honor the king then simply means to be a good citizen of the republic in which we live, which means being an informed and involved voter and participant in the process.

I agree that too many have put too much hope in that process. We have put more money and time and effort into the political battles than we have into the spiritual battle. But the answer is not to withdraw.

While we may not be able to “legislate morality” in the sense of truly changing a person’s mind, attitude and behavior by legislation; we do still have a responsibility to be involved in seeing gross sin (i.e. abortion, homosexual “marriage”, etc.) legislated out of our midst. Why? Because we are accountable.

Just one example. Proverbs 24:11-12 says, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”

If we stand by and watch our society decline into the abyss of sin while we had the opportunity to do something about it, both through Gospel preaching AND political involvement, then we will be held accountable before our Righteous Judge. Go back and read how many times the people of Israel were sentenced to judgment because they allowed injustice and immorality to occur. And how much more opportunity do we have as American citizens to influence our government and laws than did those Jewish folks?

So, Mr. Thomas is right. The way to truly change the culture is to see people changed one heart at a time through the power of the gospel. And we should devote ourselves to that end. Yet, at the same time, once those hearts are changed, they will understand that to live a godly life in this nation means to be a part of the process, to do what we can with our amazing rights and freedoms (a blessing from God) to see that that our children and their children will inherit a nation worth having.

To paraphrase Mr. Thomas’ column title: Rest in Christ’s peace and follow Him in humility; but don’t fail to do what’s right.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Do I Respond?

I’m struggling this morning. I can’t say that I didn’t expect the result of yesterday’s election; but I was holding out hope. I’ve resigned myself to the reality and to God’s Sovereignty in the whole thing. Yet I’m also more than a bit disappointed and frustrated. And that disappointment vs. acceptance battle is at the heart of my dilema.

On the one hand, I simply cannot believe that Americans are dumb enough to put a child-hating, pro-death, anti-family, anti-2nd Amendment, in many ways anti-God man like this in office. My heart truly weeps.

On the other hand, I am reminded that God is still on His throne, still has a plan, and if he can give Israel the godless kings they often had, who are we to expect better.

Since I have no wise insights, I’ll simply pass on two links that define the essence of my struggle. I find myself in agreement with both of these articles, hence my battle.

And here’s one more that sort of brings them both together

Other than that, let’s just pray: May God Have Mercy on This Great Land