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

Monday, May 30, 2011

Remembering the Fallen (or...Thanks, Grandpa McGuire)

Scott Weldon, the son of Gradie Weldon, husband to Evelyn Froehlich, the daughter of Harold Froehlich, husband to Arline Keeton, daughter of Frederick Keeton, son of Harrison Keeton, son of Robert Keeton, son of Abraham Keeton, husband to Rebecca McGuire, daughter of John McGuire, son of Lt. James C. McGuire, born in Dublin, Ireland in January of 1734, killed in action at the Battle of Blue Lick Springs, Kentucky on August 19, 1782.

To many of you that means nothing. To me, it’s a reminder that our family heritage includes many who have served this nation, including my great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather who died in our nation’s fight for independence.

I briefly mentioned this connection back in March, around St. Patrick’s day because of the obvious Irish connection. I mention it now because as we remember the fallen, those who have died for the national freedoms we enjoy, I can’t help but think of Lt. McGuire.

For those who have heard of it, or those who even care, the Battle of Blue Licks Springs, Ky is considered by many to be the final battle of the American Civil War. Even though it happened nearly a year after the Battle of Yorktown and the famous surrender of Gen. Cornwallis, signaling the official end of the war, battles like the one at Blue Licks were common on the frontier and are just as much a part of the battle for freedom as the others.

Daniel Boone, part of this same battle in which his son Israel also was killed, said this: "So valiantly did our small party fight, to the memory of those who unfortunately fell in the Battle, enough of Honour cannot be paid." His words are included on a monument dedicated on the anniversary of this battle in 1928.

So what’s the point? Simply this. On this Memorial Day, it is good for us to remember all those who fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy in this great nation. Most of us have in our family history some similar story of those who have given their lives in defense of our grand republic. Enough Honour cannot be paid. But we can certainly try by remembering their sacrifice.

Yesterday I preached a sermon in which I reminded our church that our focus ought to be on God as the true source of all blessings. We talked about the fact that our truest blessing is in Christ; that those who are truly blessed are those who “hear the Word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28). That is certainly true, and I wouldn’t change a word I spoke.

However, on this Memorial Day, it is only right and fitting that we also “remember the fallen.” It is right that we remember those who have given their all for this greatest of nations. Just as it is right that we continue to remember those for whom this fight is yet being waged.

So, to the families of those who died in service: thank you. To all those who have served: thank you. To those who are serving even now: thank you and you are in our prayers.

And thank you Grandpa McGuire. I hope that we can live in such a way that we honor your sacrifice. And to God, truly, be the glory.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On Second Thought (or is it Third?)

I figured it would only be a matter of time. Harold Camping has now stated that while he was a little "off" in his prediction of the Rapture, he still has the accurate details about the end of the world in October. He originally stated that the Rapture would happen on May 21, followed by a five month period of escalating "judgment", culminating in the final end in October. Now he says, "whoops, I misunderstood the first part, but the rest of it was right on." And this is after his previous failed prediction in 1994. Hmm....

Of course, he's not the first to try this. The more famous examples are people like Edgar Whisenant and his "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988." Of course, he did say "could be," but then on the inside he begins by saying that his book agrees "perfectly and in every detail with every verse in the Bible from cover to cover and particularly with the 886 end-time Bible prophecies perfectly and with all their included verses." (I should have known to question his accuracy when on the reverse cover of this book he sent me was the title for a second book attached called "On Borrowed Time." And the author's name there was misspelled "Edger." Not a good start)

Then, when the Rapture didn't happen, he reworked his calculations which were already in perfect agreement with Scripture (huh?), and came up with 1989. That didn't happen either, so then he went with 1993, and...well, you know.

And he wasn't the first either. Back in 1844, the world was supposed to end according to the followers of William Miller. The Millerite/Seventh Day Adventist prediction was wrong as well, leading to what many call The Great Disappointment. But not to be deterred, the Adventists simply changed their whole doctrine to explain away this false prediction.

Camping hasn't gone that far, but he had to do something, didn't he? He couldn't just ignore this major gaff. So his "absolute certainty" about the Rapture becomes a "miscalculation" and we're off the prophetic races again.

So what are we to do with this? The media is loving this because they like to lump all "Christians" together, and they think this makes us look pretty stupid. Of course, in many ways it does. If you preach the Biblical truth about Christ's return and the coming judgment right now, folks outside the church are going to have a real good laugh. So how do we respond?

Should we just join right along with all the others who are mocking Camping and his predictions? Denny Burk has some good words about that. Do we give Camping a "pass" in compassion? I don't see Paul giving that kind of compassion to the false teachers of his day. So what do we do?

How about this? How about we just keep on preaching the true Good News of Jesus Christ and let God work out the details. I mentioned to our SS class on Sunday that it would be great to see true believers as committed to the True Gospel as these deluded folks are committed to the Lie. We heard of people giving their life savings to Camping's cause, spending hours and hours spreading the word of the coming judgment. What if the True Church was that committed to the Truth of God's Word? How amazing would it be to see what God could do with that kind of passion and commitment.

I love the way the book of Acts opens. As Jesus is about to depart this world, His disciples want to know "When are You coming back?" And Jesus says, "'It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.' And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'" (Acts 1:7-11, ESV)

I love that because not only do we have the words of our Lord Himself telling us not to worry about setting dates for His return, but then we have the correction of the angelic messenger basically telling the disciples to stop standing there with their mouths hanging open and get busy. That's our mission as well. Stop staring at the sky with your mouth open, waiting for this or that date, and get busy. Preach the Word.

Our response to all this false teaching is to be sure we are continuing to teach the True Gospel with all our might. Jesus never said, "Oops, on second thought..." He said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)

Amen, Come Lord Jesus!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I'm Still Here

I'm still here. Is this good news, or bad?

Of course, I wrote this on Saturday morning, scheduled for Sunday morning, so I guess it's possible that I'm not really still here. But...

The saddest part of all of this is the fact that false teachers such as Camping give a "black eye" to all of Christianity. I think Dan Nuckols put it well:May we be faithful in proclaiming the real Good News while we still have breath, for one day Christ will return, and I for one want to be found faithful. After all, I am still here, so there is work to be done.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

This May Be My Last Post

I know I’m not as diligent as so many others in keeping up with the blogging thing. My posts average about once a week, sometimes more, but sometimes even less. I’m just grateful that anyone takes the time to visit this little corner of the blogosphere from time to time to see what my rants and raves are about. But this may be the last time I’ll post here.

Knowing my average is only once a week, if I post today, that means I may not get around to posting anything else for several days. And as we all know, the world is ending on Saturday evening. More accurately, Christ is returning at 6pm on Saturday, May 21st. (I’m not sure if that’s Eastern, Central, Mountain or Pacific. It may be Jerusalem time which would make it….oh, never mind)

In case you haven’t heard, well known prophetic preacher Harold Camping says he has it absolutely accurate this time. “This time” of course referring to “last time” when he predicted the end of the world in 1994. But this time he has it right. Absolutely, without a doubt, as clear as a bell in Scripture, accurate prediction of Christ’s return on May 21, 2011 at 6pm.

So, since I don’t plan on blogging from heaven, this will be my last chance. Seriously, though (as if you thought I was being serious up to this point), I don’t want to spend all of my time here knocking a heretic like Camping. Instead, it has brought to my mind the very serious subject of “what if this really was my last chance to share a message with anyone.”

If I truly knew that this was my last chance to say anything, my final breath so to speak, what would I say? I’ve always liked John Newton’s last words: “My memory is almost gone, but I remember two things; I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” Not a bad summation of things.

I’ve also admired the strength and persistence of George Whitefield. Before preaching his last sermon on Sept. 29, 1770 he prayed “Lord Jesus, I am weary in thy work, but not of thy work. If I have not yet finished my course, let me go and speak for thee once more in the fields, seal thy truth, and come home and die.” Before going to bed that night, a group that had gathered where he was staying asked for one short message. With his all but dying breaths, he gave them that message, speaking until the candle went out.

Reminds me of the words to a song I’ve quote here before, from the O. C. Supertones: “I will keep preaching till I'm took out, Till I'm in Heaven en route, No sell out. Last breath before the candle flickers out, I’ll speak the name of Jesus.”

So if this was my last breathe, I’d want to speak the name of Jesus. If this was my last post, I would want you to know that there is salvation in on one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

My plan for this Sunday is to preach from Luke 11:24-26 about what true conversion is. I say “my plan” because the truth is, heretic prophecy or not, I don’t know for sure I’ll be here Sunday. None of us are promised another breath. Christ may return or I may die; we don’t know, only the Father does. But my plan is to share a few thoughts about genuine conversion.

It’s not about morality. It’s not about religion. It’s not about joining a church. It’s about regeneration. It’s about justification. It’s about the name of Jesus, the sacrifice of Jesus, the finished work of Christ on the cross and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. And there are real evidences that should accompany that true conversion. Not just a cleaned up life, not just religious ritual, not just church attendance. Genuine change.

J.C. Ryle said “There is no safety except in conversion… We must not only be reformed, but born again… Conversion is more than mere external, moral renovation. It is a heart which has been changed and transformed and softened and given new and eternal life by the work of the Gospel by Jesus Christ.”

If this were my last message, I would say this: Have you experienced that transformation? Has Jesus truly changed you life? Are you truly born again? Has His Spirit produced a genuine conversion in your life? Have you come to Christ in faith, turning from your sin in true repentance, trusting fully in His saving work?

If not, come to Christ. Turn from your sin and trust in Christ alone. The truth is, the world will end one day. You will die. You will draw your last breath, as will I. Come to Christ now, before it’s too late. Glorify Him with every breath you have now, or glorify Him by your own judgment in the Day to come. So if this is my last post, so be it. To God Be The Gory!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Note to Some Friends

In light of my rant a few days ago regarding the state of marriage in particular, and some specific marriages in our own “realm” of existence, my wife asked me to post this.

This is an old song from one of our favorite Christian bands of days gone by called the Allies. For the last couple weeks, as we’ve seen the struggles in our friends’ lives, Cheryl said this song has been going through her mind. While the song is obviously meant to be addressed to God’s people, an encouragement from our faithful God to not run away from His love, she hopes that the message will also be clearly seen/heard by many as a call to not run away from anything right, including marriage.

Here are the lyrics, and you can listen/watch the link below. I pray this is an encouragement to you today.

Don’t Run Away

I’m givin’ you the answer
Before you ask the question
You say it sounds too easy
Because you’ve heard it all before
It’s a life changing story
That time can never alter
And I can tell that it touched you
Though you’re walkin’ out the door

I keep on sending you those cards and letter
That lay it all out on the lines
I keep on telling you there’s something better
You’ve come too far, to leave it behind

Don’t run away, don’t run away
Don’t run away when someone loves you
Don’t run away, don’t run away
Don’t run away when someone cares for you

Your mind won’t admit it
But your heart would like to listen
And you can tell in your spirit
There’s no greater love around
Now it all seems so strange
You’re afraid you’ll never feel it
Put your faith where your heart is
There’s a treasure to be found

(second chorus)
Don’t run away, don’t run away
Don’t run away when someone loves you
Don’t run away, don’t run away
Don’t run away from where you know you should be
The life that you were meant to lead
Don’t run away from what you know is right

Copyright 1985 Light Records

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Homeschooler Moment #5

So we're sitting at the table, just enjoying having the oldest home from college for a couple weeks, when the youngest pipes up out of nowhere and says: "I'd love to go to school, but you'd have to walk all the way to a bus stop." Yes, the walking distance to the nearest bus stop is our primary reason for homeschooling.

However, later in that same meal we discover that this 6 year old has been contemplating the real value of home education while the rest of us have been having other conversations. He concludes: "When I get bigger, I wanna be home colleged."

Monday, May 9, 2011

What in the World is Going On?

All right, I’ll admit it. I’m a bit down, confused, depressed, discouraged…pick your adjective. In the last few months we’ve been dealing with way too many friends, church members, fellow ministers who are dealing with devastating issues in their marriages. Two fellow pastors are facing divorce. Several of our church families are having major crises in their marriages. Hence the question: What in the world is going on?

And just as I’m trying to get my mind around this seemingly heightened attack from the enemy against the foundational institution of marriage, I read this article from Dr. Al Mohler in which he shares the report of one “expert” who is touting the demise of marriage as an institution. You’ll really have to go and read the article. Some of what this guy says is just jaw dropping for anyone with any sense of morality or biblical faithfulness.

Which is really the whole point. This whole thing is just jaw dropping to me. OK, the “death of marriage” coming from worldly, sinful, godless people is hardly a shock. We’ve been heading for that little cliff edge or some time, and we’re now starting to feel the pebbles begin slipping into oblivion. I get that. I’ve said repeatedly that we shouldn’t expect unconverted people to behave in any other way except as unconverted people. So maybe I should pick my jaw up there.

But when we’re dealing with the marriages of people who claim to know Christ, who have been supposedly walking with Him for decades, in some cases have been in ministry for decades; I’m sorry, the jaw on the floor is going to have to stay. What in the world is going on?

Of course, I think my answer can be found in the question. In most, if not all, of the situations I’m personally aware of the problem comes from that phrase “in the world.” There is too much worldliness in our marriages, in our families, in our homes. Hearing the issues involved in some of these marriage issues, it’s nothing more than the result of having been bombarded with the world’s messages of what “success” and “happiness” and “personal fulfillment” are all about.

Too often, my Christian friends, we spend more time in the world, hearing the world’s ideas, being subtly swayed by a secular worldview that comes through our workplaces, our friendships, our entertainment, etc. And we spend too little time in the Word, listening to God’s ideas, being swayed by a biblical worldview that is supported by our friends, our entertainment, etc. After awhile, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when we start to think like the world.

In nearly all of the situations I’ve been involved in, a desire for biblical faithfulness is thrown out the window in favor of being “happy” or “fulfilled.” I’ve even heard the idea that “God wouldn’t want me to continue living in an unhappy relationship like this.” God save us!

Folks, marriage wasn’t our idea to begin with. We don’t have the freedom to throw it out, to change the parameters of what it means, or anything else. God created marriage to be a portrait of the relationship between Himself and His people. We see that all through Scripture, but especially clearly in Ephesians 5 where Paul directly states this truth.

Now, given that, let’s do a little rethinking. God has entered a covenant relationship with us. Yes, with us: sinful, selfish, faithless people. We fail to live up to that covenant in so many ways (do I really need to remind you of Israel’s history here?). Ask yourself, is God “happy” and “fulfilled” when we repeatedly turn our backs on Him, thumb our noses at His Word, live more for the harlot of the world than for our faithful Spouse? And yet we’re willing to throw our own marriages away for some worldly ideas about what happiness entails. WAKE UP!

Yes, I’m yelling. I’m frustrated. I’m grieved. I’m overwhelmed by the sinful hearts and actions of those who are supposed to love Christ and seek holiness. I know we all still sin. I know we’re not perfect, and all of that. But folks, this isn’t some game. Our marriages are supposed to be sacred covenants. What are we telling our children about commitment, about covenants, about even our covenant with God when we so easily turn our backs on those things by our actions?

I know this is just a rant. But I don’t apologize. We need to rant about this. We need to go to our brothers and sisters in Christ and show them the seriousness of their sin, and the grief they are causing their families, their church families, and yes, even God Himself.

And maybe more practically, I want to shout to all of you out there (or should I say both of you who read this). Protect your marriages! Get in the Word and out of the world. Don’t fall for the lie that a little of this and a little of that won’t hurt. Don’t walk along that edge of sin and temptation thinking you won’t fall off. It can happen to you.

Love your wives, men. Honor them. Serve and sacrifice for them. Seek their good above your own. Not just when things are good. Not just when they are making you happy. Do it because God commands it.

Ladies, submit to your husbands in a biblical way; honoring and respecting them. Love and serve them. Seek their good above your own. Not just when things are good. Not just when they are making you happy. Do it because God commands it.

It’s time the church stood up and made this a bigger priority. It’s time we stop looking the other way and just saying “oh, that’s just the way it is these days.” Stop it! If people don’t hear it from the church, they won’t hear it at all.

And pray. Oh, for all that’s holy, pray! Pray for your wives, men. Pray for your husband, ladies. Pray for the marriages in your church. Pray for your friends and family. Pray that this assault from the enemy would be stemmed, and the foundation of the family would again be made strong. Pray for hearts to be drawn back to Christ, for His honor and glory. And pray for yourselves, that God would keep you from falling into these same traps. God save our families.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thank You, Lord

Let me keep this very simple. I thank God for my wonderful mother.

And I thank God for the beautiful wife he has given me as a mother to my own children.

God is so good.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bin Laden - My (Borrowed) Two Cents

Over the last few days I’m sure you’ve read various responses to the death of Osama Bin Laden, just as I have. And I’m sure that you’ve heard a little bit of everything, as have I. On the one hand there are those who are celebrating like Mardi Gras. On the other side are those who say that we should never rejoice over the death of anyone, especially someone now in hell (unless you believe Rob Bell. On that note: see this wonderful take)

I have nothing really to offer on the subject, other than to say that the truth is somewhere in the middle. I think Scripture certainly allows for “rejoicing” at the demise of those who are enemies of the Church and humanity in general, which this man certainly was. At the same time, we should take solemn note of the reality of his destiny and know that we deserverthe same. Only the Sovereign Saving Grace of Christ stands between any of us and the same reward.

So since I’m really too poor to offer my own two cents, let me borrow a few pennies from someone else. The following thoughts come from C. H. Spurgeon regarding the “imprecatory” Psalms, those that curse and wish for the destruction of an enemy. The first is his own, the second is a quote from another included in Spurgeon’s Treasury of David. Hope you find them helpful.

“If this be an imprecation, let it stand; for our heart says "Amen" to it. It is but justice that those who hate, harass, and hurt the good should be brought to naught... This present age is so flippant that if a man loves the Saviour he is styled a fanatic, and if he hates the powers of evil he is named a bigot. As for ourselves, despite all objectors, we join heartily in this commination; and would revive in our heart the old practice of Ebal and Gerizim, where those were blessed who bless God, and those were cursed who make themselves a curse to the righteous. We have heard men desire a thousand times that the gallows might be the reward of the assassins who murdered two inoffensive men in Dublin, and we could never censure the wish; for justice ought to he rendered to the evil as well as to the good. Besides, the church of God is so useful, so beautiful, so innocent of harm, so fraught with good, that those who do her wrong are wronging all mankind and deserve to be treated as the enemies of the human race. Study a chapter from the "Book of Martyrs", and see if you do not feel inclined to read an imprecatory Psalm over Bishop Bonner and Bloody Mary. It may be that some wretched nineteenth century sentimentalist will blame you: if so, read another over him.” (C. H. Spurgeon)

“Imprecations. —I cannot forbear the following little incident that occurred the other morning at family worship. I happened to be reading one of the imprecatory psalms, and as I paused to remark, my little boy, a lad of ten years, asked with some earnestness: "Father, do you think it right for a good man to pray for the destruction of his enemies like that?" and at the same time referred me to Christ as praying for his enemies. I paused a moment to know how to shape the reply so as to fully meet and satisfy his enquiry, and then said, "My son, if an assassin should enter the house by night, and murder your mother, and then escape, and the sheriff and citizens were all out in pursuit, trying to catch him, would you not pray to God that they might succeed and arrest him, and that he might be brought to justice?" "Oh, yes!" said he, "but I never saw it so before. I did not know that that was the meaning of these Psalms." "Yes", said I, "my son, the men against whom David plays were bloody men, men of falsehood and crime, enemies to the peace of society, seeking his own life, and unless they were arrested and their wicked devices defeated, many innocent persons must suffer." The explanation perfectly satisfied his mind.” —F.G. Hibbard, in "The Psalms chronologically arranged", 1856.