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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Confession and A Commitment

It’s hard to admit when we might be wrong. Not that I would know, since I’m never wrong, but theoretically…for the rest of you. Seriously, it’s humbling to admit that maybe, possibly, you might be wrong about something. So here’s my confession:

Not that I’m saying I’ve been wrong about things I’ve said here (because again, as we’ve established, I’m never wrong!), however, I will admit that often I may be guilty of being wrong in motivation and method. Let me explain.

Sometimes I think there is a conspiracy out there to get my attention. Have you ever had that? All at once you’re hearing and reading the same thing from numerous sources. That happened to me in the last couple of days.

Our daily Bible readings this week included the center section of 2 Corinthians. In chapter 6, Paul is speaking of the nature of his ministry, which should be the goal of all our ministries, and he mentions that his ministry is done “by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love.” (2 Cor 6:6, ESV)

In putting this together, it seems obvious that we should be concerned about Spirit revealed knowledge of the truth and sharing that knowledge; but it must be couched in those other elements: purity, patience, kindness and genuine love. I admit that so often I’m so concerned about the truth that I overlook sharing in patiently, lovingly and kindly.

This is especially true of internet debates. It’s so easy to hear a quick quote from someone and then go off on the deep end criticizing and condemning when we don’t even know the whole story, or even the person behind the story.

So, here’s the conspiracy part. Even though it’s three months old, I just came across a video of a discussion between Mike Horton, Tim Keller and Matt Chandler about how Christians ought to disagree. They include a discussion of the internet debate mindset. It’s a great discussion, albeit humbling and challenging. Take a look:

Chandler, Horton, Keller on How to Disagree from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Then to top it off, as I was going to my blog site to draft this post, I saw a post from the Caffeinated Calvinist site dealing with this same basic issue (read here)

Man, talk about ganging up on a guy. So here’s the deal. I apologize for those times when I’ve been quick to judge, not getting facts right, maybe lumping too many into one big glob that I then attack. It’s not fair, it’s not loving or kind, and I should know better.

And I want to commit to try and do a better job in the future. I don’t intend to keep my mouth shut (that’s pretty much an impossibility). I plan to still be open and direct about things that are simply wrong, i.e. my last post about “undocumented” persons (thanks to my cousin Dwayne for pointing out the PC term). I will probably still stick my foot in my mouth (or keyboard as the case may be). But I will try my best to do so more thoughtfully, and with a more intentional effort to be kind and loving in the process.

The internet is both a blessing and a curse, as the boys in the video point out. Here’s hoping we can work on making it a more constructive and compassionate tool, instead of a bludgeoning device.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Which Part of Illegal Do You Not Understand?

It’s been awhile since I wrote a completely political post in this space. Now’s as good at time as any.

I’ve struggled for some time about the debate over “illegal” immigrants. Now, here me very clearly here. My beef is not with the “immigrant” part, but with the “illegal” part. Illegal, as in “prohibited by law; against the law.”

The latest move by the President to provide “amnesty” to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens has really brought the issue to the front of my mind. This is crazy. I mean, why are we even having this debate? If it’s illegal, it’s illegal and should be stopped. Period, right? Why are we fighting for the “rights” of illegal aliens, and why are we giving government benefits to illegal aliens. They aren’t here legally, and shouldn’t be supported by tax payer dollars.

I know it sounds harsh, but change the wording a bit and you see how ridiculous it is. How about this: The government should provide illegal drug users with amnesty. Of course no one would go for that. Or how about: The government should give amnesty to illegal embezzlers, giving them permission to continue working here. Not on your life.

My favorite part of the whole thing is that the President’s policy speaks of “illegal aliens who don’t have a criminal record.” What? Illegal aliens with no criminal records? I know we want to jump up and say, “but these people aren’t criminals” and I’ll be quick to admit that it’s not like we’re talking about ax murderers here. But they have already broken the law; they are illegal aliens!

To further show that the administration has no concept of what “illegal” means, the entire policy is a violation of the US Constitution. Article I, section 8, clause 4 of the United States Constitution plainly gives Congress the power to establish a “uniform rule of naturalization.” In short, Congress is charged with making rules concerning citizenship, not the Executive Branch. The President’s policy is illegal.

Furthermore, the policy will reverse standing federal law in the case of some 300,000 illegal immigrants currently facing possible deportation. Reverse; as in violate standing law by a branch of government that doesn’t have the Constitutional right to do so. Talk about illegal.

To top it off, by offering “work visas” to 300, 000 people who are in the country illegally, this also has the potential to affect that same number of jobs for current American citizens in an economy that is already struggling with unemployment. That may not be illegal, but it is certainly unwise and unethical.

Now, here me again. I’m not passing judgment on any particular individual in the “illegal alien” camp. I know folks are often escaping hardship, etc. I'm not trying to be just heartless and cruel. But there are legal ways of entering the country; legal ways of applying for citizenship; legal groups set up to help with these things; all legal. All constitutionally approved. But then again, who really cares about the Constitution anyway, right?

(For the record, lots of people care about the Constitution. Find out more about them at the National Constitution Party website!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Is Your Soul Storm Proof?

For the last week, we saw story after story of people preparing for the coming of Hurricane Irene. People boarding up homes and businesses, sandbagging to help combat the flooding, doing all they could to try and be sure they could withstand the coming storm.

As the storm has come through, we’ve seen that their preparation was wise. The destruction was widespread, and there will be weeks and months of cleanup in the aftermath. Still, people took the warning seriously and did all they could to prepare.

So why is it that so many are unwilling to heed the warnings to prepare their very souls for the storm that is to come; the storm of God’s wrath. I know in this day of “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” that speaking of God’s wrath is out of vogue. But Scripture couldn’t be more clear about it’s sure arrival. Christ will return, God’s wrath will be poured out, and the devastation to lost souls will make hurricanes look like a summer breeze.

Is your soul storm proof? Let me just offer these three brief quotes from the sermons of my favorite preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. In them, we see the reality of God’s wrath, the imperative need to prepare, and the only way to truly make that preparation. Consider:

Oh! ye that hate my God; oh ye that despise him; the day is coming — perhaps to-morrow shall be the day when ye shall ascribe greatness to my God;” for ye shall feel his great foot upon your loins, and his great sword shall cut you in sunder; his great wrath shall utterly devour you, and his great hell shall be your doleful home for ever. May God grant it may not be so, and may he save us all for Jesus sake. Amen. (The Great Supreme. No. 367)

If any man be not sure that he is in Christ, he ought not to be easy one moment until he is so. Dear friend, without the fullest confidence as to your saved condition, you have no right to be at ease, and I pray you may never be so. This is a matter too important to be left undecided. Instantly should every man of prudence make assurance doubly sure; and bind all things fast that he may find them fast for eternity-for eternity I say, for thus saith the Lord. Never risk your souls, for your souls are yourselves, your real selves, and nothing can make up for their loss. If you lose your own souls, it will be no recompense to have gained the whole world. Be careful, then, leave nothing insecure, carefully measure and weigh every important step; consider and examine, lest being so near to the kingdom any of you should seem to come short of it. (The Reason Why Many Cannot Find Peace. No. 1408)

If salvation were by merit, there would be no gospel; but as it is of mercy, free mercy, rich mercy, here is good news for you. Dear heart, if thou wouldst be forgiven, Christ is ready to forgive; if thou wouldst have peace with God, that peace is made. If thou believest in the Lord Jesus Christ thou shalt be saved, even as they are who are this day rejoicing in his complete redemption. The Lord bring thee this day to confess thy sin humbly, to look up to Christ believingly, and to find salvation through the blood of the Lamb. (Fat Things, Full Of Marrow. No. 1316)

The storm of God’s wrath will come. Are you prepared in Christ?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Homeschooler Moment #7

Last Tuesday night, we were given some tickets to the Springfield Cardinal game, where our youngest caught a foul ball with his face (you can read about the whole night here).

He was fine, and was first in line to "run the bases" after the game. While standing there waiting, he was showing off his swelling face to the stadium worker who was organizing the base running. The guy, trying to make him feel better, said, "Oh, the girls at school will love it!"

Kenaniah, who's 7, without explaining that he was homeschooled, just gave the guy a funny look and said, "The only girl at our school is my sister!" It was the stadium worker's turn to give a funny look, until we explained that we homeschool.

It's priceless the way our kids just see homeschooling as a normal part of life; shaking their heads at the "odd" things other people talk about!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Revive Us Again!

Last night, that was the title of the evening message. Looking at Psalm 85 we spent some time talking about God’s past blessings and how we have so often frittered those away. We stand today in a great need for revival and need to cry out to God to “revive us again.” I know I didn’t preach the most moving message on the subject. But I stand by the old saying “others may preach the gospel better, but no one can preach a better gospel.” So regardless of my efforts, the need for God’s people to cry out for revival is just as great.

I’ve found that I quote Charles Spurgeon way too much. So I purposely didn’t read anything by the Prince of Preachers as I studied Psalm 85 this week; until today. I’m so sorry that I didn’t. On August 14, 1887, Spurgeon preached from this same text. The opening lines, based on the plea for God to “revive us again,” say this:

BRETHREN, if you will pray this prayer, it will be better than my preaching from it; and my only motive in preaching from it is that you may pray it. Oh, that at once, before I have uttered more than a few sentences, we might begin to pray by crying, yea, groaning, deep down in our souls, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”

Notice the style of the praying here; it is in the form of a question, and in the shape of a plea. There are very few words, and none that can be spared. Godly men, when they prayed of old, meant it. They did not pray for form’s sake, neither were they very particular about uttering goodly words and fine-sounding sentences; but they came to close grips with God. They put interrogatories to him, they questioned him, they pleaded with him. They drove home the nail, and tried to clinch it. I see that in the very shape of the prayer, “Wilt thou not -wilt thou not-wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”

Oh, that we knew how to pray! I fear that we do not. We are missing the sacred art, we are losing the heavenly mystery; we are but ‘prentice hands in prayer. Compared even with such a man as John Knox, whose prayers were worth more than an army of ten thousand men, or compared with the prayers of Luther, how few of us can pray! Luther was a man of whom they said, as they pointed at him in the street, “There goes a man who can have anything he likes to ask of God.” He was the man who, by his prayer, dragged Melancthon back from the very gates of death; and, what was more, the man who could shake upon her seven hills the harlot of Rome as she never had been shaken before, because he was mighty with God in prayer.

Oh, that I could but stir up my brethren and sisters to be instant in season and out of season, if there be such a thing as out of season with God in prayer! Let us get away to our closets; let us cry mightily to him; let us come to close quarters with him, and say, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?

I wish I had read this first! He says more in these few lines than I did in nearly 30 minutes. And of course, he says so much more in the rest of his sermon. I highly recommend reading it (here is just one source to find it).

The point is simply this. There is a real lack of crying out for revival. We are indeed “missing the sacred art” when it comes to this prayer. Don’t give up because you’ve prayed it before and seem to have seen no results. Now more than ever we need to heed the call and pray for our God in His mercy to “revive us again.”

I’ll leave you with the closing words from Pastor Spurgeon, as he invited his church to join him in praying:

Lord, revive us again. Lord, revive me. We would each one of us say “Amen” to that petition. Lord, revive the pastor. Lord, revive the church officers. Lord, revive the workers. Lord, revive the members of the church. Lord, revive the backsliders. Lord, revive those who did seem to live, but have grown careless. Lord, revive the church at large throughout the whole earth. Spirit of revival, come upon us now, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen. And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Spirit, be with us evermore! Amen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Battle That Never Dies

By reading the title, you may think that I am once again going to address the issue of alcohol consumption. It certainly seems to be the battle that never dies. To date, by far the most read article on this site is the one I wrote over FOUR YEARS ago dealing with alcohol. The debate continued in the comments, and I even wrote two follow up posts (here and here).

The issue has again become a great hot potato since John MacArthur dared to out the “scared cow” of some in the “Young, Restless and Reformed” movement in a recent article. My, oh my, how the blogopshere erupted. I don’t even have time to post links to all the responses, and counter responses. You’ll have to go fishing for yourself. But I can’t really say anything on that matter I haven’t already said. You can read those three earlier posts if you really want to know what I think about all that.

Here, the battle I’m talking about is the battle against the flesh (hmm, maybe there is some connection here…..nah). I’ve been reading a great little book by Brian Hedges called Licensed to Kill. I picked it up because I thought it was a James Bond book, but… just kidding, folks. He’s talking about killing sin, or “mortifying” sin. I picked it up because I have this great little deal with Cruciform Press in which, for a small subscription price, they send me an e-book copy of their latest book each month. This happened to be one of those.

And I’m glad a picked it up. At least, I think I’m glad. You know how it is when we read something that is true, that hits home, etc. We’re glad for the insight, but not so fond of the “pain” that comes from seeing ourselves. In fact, one of Brian’s points in the process of mortification is to get a clear view of our self through God’s eyes. A spiritual self-examination; an exploratory surgery of the soul.

John Owen wrote that “Indwelling sin always abides whilst we are in this world; therefore it is always to be mortified.” He says not to assume that sin will cease waging war on us, but that “Sin doth not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still labouring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion.” In fact, to assume that sin no longer acts, or that we can find some sort of perfection in this life, Owen calls vain, foolish and ignorant.”

Hedges would agree. He says, “while perfection is our ultimate desire, we will not attain it this side of glory. We will contend against indwelling sin all our days in this life (Romans 7:14-25).”

The point is that we need to be aware of this. Too often we take sin too lightly. Not only do we dishonor Christ and His sacrifice by making too little of the seriousness of sin, but we are foolish and arrogant to pretend that we don’t have to continue to wage this war; as if sin is some little plaything. Again, Hedges writes, “Evil cannot be domesticated. Sin is poised to attack your faith at any moment.”

Often, because we think we have a handle on certain outward behaviors, we think the battle is over. “We should not assume that the lack of certain behaviors means that sin is mortified or the heart is pure,” because as Hedges reminds us, this is really a heart matter. It’s the core of our being that causes the behavior, not just the behavior itself.

And never doubt, sin has a goal. Our enemy wants to destroy us. As John Owen said, and Brian Hedges quotes, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” So should we walk around in fear, constantly cowering before our sin nature? No. No. No. That’s not the point.

In Christ we do have victory, and we will have victory. But even though that ultimate victory is secure in Christ for those who are truly in him, we can’t act as though our sin nature doesn’t continue to rebel, and we can’t fail to fight against it. Because as Hedges painfully points out: “If we keep on sinning with no repentance, what assurances do we have that wee are genuine Christians at all?”

Sin is a serious matter. We ought to take it seriously. We ought to seek God in His Word on a regular basis, asking Him to point out those areas of sin that need to be killed, mortified, obliterated. Obviously I would recommend Hedges book in helping with this issue, as well as Owens’ classic work (which has the amazing complete title of: Of The Mortification Of Sin In Believers; The Necessity, Nature, And Means Of It: With A Resolution Of Sundry Cases Of Conscience Thereunto Belonging. You know it’s good when you have to take a breath just to get through the title!)

Be on your guard. Stand firm in God’s Word. Rest in His power at work within us, to deal with ongoing indwelling sin. We should not live in fear, but in hope of the great victory we have in Christ. But we should also continue to very aware that until He returns, this battle isn’t going anywhere. It’s even more tenacious that a bunch of us reformed guys arguing about drinking beer. And you know how agitating that battle can be!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Does Your Fruit Last?

Sunday night we took the time to look at 1 Corinthians 3:5-17. We were trying to glean from Paul’s words some insight into what it means to be a strong church. So many these days tell us so many different things about what the church should be. Sadly, we often listen to them. Even to those who have no idea about what the church is.

I remember several years ago sitting in a Doctoral Seminar at Midwestern Seminary, and one of my classmates, Victor Clay, made this profound observation: "People come into the church not knowing what the church is, but we let them define what it ought to be." (I haven’t seen Victor since then, so I hope he doesn’t mind my using his words!)

What he was pointing out is the sad reality that much of our church “work” is done based on fads and fashions, polls and popularity contests. We want folks to come, we want them to come back, and so we go to some strange lengths some times to accommodate them. And, truthfully, sometimes it works. Or does it?

Paul speaks in that passage to the Corinthians about building on the foundation of Christ alone. Hopefully we know that. Hopefully I don’t have to chase that one down. Jesus Christ and Him crucified, that’s our message, right? But how do we build on that? And how do we know if it’s a good building?

The answer is simple: does your fruit last? As I pointed out Sunday night: “Unfortunately, we often put a lot of time and a lot of effort into functions that may not produce lasting fruit. We spend all kinds of effort and money and energy into some whiz bang event, and we draw big crowds and every one has a great time. We may even get folks to respond in some way, say that they’ve made commitments to Christ, or whatever.

“But what happens in the next few months, the next few years. Are the people who say they were affected by that event walking with the Lord, growing in their faith, maturing as followers of Christ? Or has their life shown little change at all. And if there is no change, have we really built on the foundation of Christ with lasting things?”

I’ve been doing some evaluating on my own here. I’ve been reflecting back on the last 20 or so years of preaching, thinking about the events we held, the sermons I preached, the things I taught. And I’ve thought about the lives that were impacted, or at least I hope were impacted. All those folks who claimed to follow Christ, who were baptized, who said they were impacted in one way or another by those ministries. Where are they all today? Are they still living for Christ? Are they growing and maturing in their faith? Has the fruit lasted?

And my reflections yield a mixed bag. Some folks I know are still actively and effectively serving Christ. Some, to be honest, I just don’t know; we’ve lost touch, etc. And sadly, some; well, some seem to have walked away and are just nowhere to be found in the church.

Now, I realize that it’s not always the fault of the preacher/church/ministry when folks fall away. Jesus Himself came to a point in His earthly ministry where He had gathered quite a large following, but because of the hard teachings of His gospel, “ many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66; I’ve always found that a particularly appropriate reference number!).

As Albert Barnes pointed out regarding those who turned back: "From this we may learn…not to wonder at the apostasy of many who profess to be followers of Christ. Many are induced to become his professed followers by the prospect of some temporal benefit, or under some public excitement, as these were; and when that temporal benefit is not obtained, or that excitement is over, they fall away.”

It’s the hearts of the individuals that cause them to turn away. It’s not “our fault” in one sense. It certainly wasn’t Jesus’ “fault,” He surely didn’t use the wrong ministry methods.

And yet something about Barnes’ comment strikes me as significant. He said, “Many are induced to become his professed followers by the prospect of some temporal benefit, or under some public excitement… and when that temporal benefit is not obtained, or that excitement is over, they fall away.”

I can’t help but think that if we are the ones causing that “public excitement” just to draw a crowd, and the results may be quick and large; but they don’t last; does that not constitute building with “hay, wood and straw” as Paul says? If we are implying some temporal benefit in our teaching that Scripture never promises, and folks respond only to turn away when it doesn’t manifest itself, aren’t we to blame? Shouldn’t we examine our methods and ministries to be sure that we are producing fruit that lasts, not just big crowds and lots of “decisions?”

I’ve been involved with events which have great turnouts, and lots of folks raise their hands or mark a card or whatever. But I often wonder, where are those folks now? Are they truly living for Christ? Has there been a genuine change? And if not, are our efforts in that kind of event/ministry/teaching really worth it; are they lasting fruit kinds of things.

I guess, ultimately it’s a decision each church, each minister has to make on their own. You have to do your own evaluations. But I think that’s the real problem. We’re not doing much real evaluation. We only look at the immediate results, and if it looks good, we say it worked. I don’t think we’re doing the long term evaluation that we need to do to see if what we’re doing as a church is really building with gold, silver and precious stones. Some times it may take years to see if the fruit is real, and then we may still wonder if it will last.

Yet there will come a day when the answer to that will be seen. The fire will test our work. And my prayer is that we would spend more time listening to God and to His Word, building on the right foundation; and less time focusing on polls and pragmatism; so that in that day the One True Judge will say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What To Do With “Boring” Preachers

If you were to call my preaching boring, I doubt I would much argue with you. There are links on the side bar of this blog to Faith Southern Baptist Sermons, and you can hear for yourself if you’re that brave. Personally, I think the CD copies we provide at church should come with a warning label: “Do Not Use While Driving; May Cause Drowsiness.”

So maybe I’m being a bit defensive with this post. I recently read a couple blog posts by Carl Trueman over at Reformation 21 in which he begins by simply saying that boring preachers should be fired. (You can read the original and the follow-up here and here.)

He actually makes some good points about the need for the presentation of God’s Word to incite worship, and than when doxology doesn’t result from the doctrine, it’s not good. He’s also careful to point out that engaging talks may be just that, with no real doctrine, so that can be even more harmful.

But here’s my beef. My undergraduate degree was a double major in Communication and Religion. As a communication major it was drilled into us that messages are not sent unless both speaker and listener are putting in equal effort; therefore listening is just as crucial as speaking. So then, if the sermon is boring, is it because the speaker is really that pathetic, or is it because the listener isn’t putting in any effort at all? Or is there some sort of middle ground?

Christopher Ash has a wonderful little book called “Listen Up! A practical guide to listening to sermons.” I think it should be required reading in every church. He reminds us that Jesus Himself tells us in Luke 8:18 “Take care then how you hear,” or “Consider carefully how you listen.” Ash points out that listening is an active thing, something that should be approached with purpose.

When we come to hear God’s Word, we should expect just that: God’s Word. We should go in expecting God to speak, go in prepared to apply what we hear, looking for truth that God intends for us to live out in our own lives. When we have an active approach to listening, you’d be surprised at how much less boring something might be.

Now, that’s not to say there aren’t bad sermons, and quite frankly bad preachers. Ash’s book even has some advice on how to handle those. If it’s bad in the sense that it’s unbiblical or even biblically inadequate, those are different stories. Yet those guys aren’t the target of Trueman’s “Kick ‘Em Out” campaign.

Here’s some of what Ash says: “Let us suppose, however, that this dull sermon is biblically faithful and accurate, and delivered by a preacher who believes the truth, has prepared as best he knows how, and that the sermon is surrounded both by his prayers and yours. If this is so, we ought to do all we can to listen with the aim of profiting by it. We may be able to encourage the preacher to get help with presentational skills. Certainly we should pray for our preachers, and encourage them whenever they show signs of improvement…

“But above all, we must search our own hearts and come to the sermon praying for God’s help to listen as attentively as our bodies will let us (caffeine may help). My advice is…to ask God that some part of it may stick and be turned in us to repentance and faith. Try taking notes,…try going with a friend and agreeing together not to spend lunch lamenting the preacher’s inadequacies, but rather, sharing positive Bible truths that you have learned or been reminded of, and praying together for God’s help in putting them into practice.

Wow, that’s a lot different than “fire all boring preachers and teachers” isn’t it? Pray for them. Encourage them. Put effort into it yourself. The truth is, sometimes sermons are boring because they fall on dead ears, and only God can change that. Can these bones live? Only if God makes them live. So pray for life, both in the preacher and in the pew.

Again, I’m not saying this as an excuse for shoddy preaching. I still am responsible before God to put in the time, effort, prayer and study required to faithfully proclaim His precious Word. I’m still accountable for the accuracy of the messages I give. Not because I’m concerned about boring people vs. entertaining them, but because I’ll have to give an account to God for it!

But the gift of preaching ought to be seen in the same light as any other gift in the church. We don’t kick folks out for not using them to the best of their abilities. We encourage, pray for, nurture that gift in any way we can. If a person truly doesn’t have the gift they think they have, then maybe we gently urge them to seek some other service. That’s much different than Trueman’s admonition that “elders should make sure they fire consistently boring teachers and preachers.”

Again, maybe I’m just defensive because I might be one of those. I’d like to think I’m just trying to be more gracious in my approach, as well as helping folks to see that the sermon is a two way street: you have to put in the effort as well. So get yourself all prayed and studied up and get ready to go hear a good sermon this Sunday.

Addendum: In interest of equal time, here is an excellent and brief article on how to have Better Teaching By This Sunday.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Add Some SALT to Your Diet

Our family had the wonderful privilege of spending time this weekend with Jim and Cindy McDermott and their amazing family. The McDermott’s are the force behind SALT Magazine which is a publication dedicated to, what else, being salt in the world; especially how that relates to the family and family issues, especially homeschooling families.

Awhile back, Jim had read some things here on this blog that led him to believe I might be someone to speak at a family conference they were planning. I know what you’re thinking. Someone else actually reads this stuff?? And he actually found something worthwhile??

Well, to be honest, the one article that caught his eye at first was the post I wrote for my son’s birthday a couple months back, and actually it was mostly just quotes from J. C. Ryle. So when Jim first contacted me, I tried to point that out. I said, “you realize that this stuff was written by someone else, you really don’t want me, you want J. C. Ryle to speak!” And he said, “Yeah, we know, but he’s dead so you’ll have to do.”

No, no, that’s not true. I’m just teasing a bit. Jim is way to classy a guy to say something like that even if he was thinking it. Still, I did tell him I didn’t really feel qualified to speak at the event, but would be honored to do so if he really wanted.

So, he did, and I did, and we had a great time. The weather was against us. The afternoon session was scheduled for outdoors, and it ended up being about 200 degrees (ok, only about 102, but still). I think that affected attendance a bit. I don’t think people stayed away just because I was speaking at that afternoon session. But anyway…

Jim spoke on some issues, their pastor Zech Schiebout spoke for one session and then I did my thing. The rest of the time was spent just visiting and getting to know some other families with similar interests. I especially enjoyed the discussion on courtship since our oldest daughter may be entering that area very shortly (sorry, Sunshine, is that gossip to publish that here?).

Anyway, all this is simply to say that you ought to pay these folks an online visit. Check out their website, browse through the articles there, read the blog, stop in at the store, and consider subscribing to the periodical. It’s some pretty good stuff. I know that the handful of people who will actually take the time to read this are not all homeschoolers, or maybe not where we are on family issues; but I think most can still find something there that will cause you to be blessed by this ministry. So consider adding a bit of SALT to your diet.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Who's "Preachy" Now?

For years the world has told Christians to stop being so preachy. We’re supposed to tone down our evangelism, stop being “in your face” by wearing crosses or carrying Bibles. Christian movies, books and even music are criticized for their “overly Christian” aspects. Of course, it was long ago that the school systems decided to rid themselves of that “preachy” Christianity stuff.

So, the question is, has the secular world rid itself of preachiness, or has it just traded in for another religion? As I stated in my last post, we just spent the week viewing some material on the creation vs. evolution debate, one of the areas where this fight over the “preachiness” of Christianity first erupted. Folks don’t want the biblical theory of origins to “confuse” students when the schools are trying so hard to ram down the even less plausible theory of evolution.

What’s remarkable here is that some evolutionists will actually admit that they are not relying strictly on the evidence, but are committed to their “beliefs” and “presuppositions.” My favorite line is from Professor Richard Lewontin, a geneticist (and self-proclaimed Marxist): “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

“It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door:’ (Richard Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons;’ New York Review, January 9, 1997, p. 31)

Any honest observer would admit that the religion of secular humanism and materialism, which are dependent on “faith” more than fact, have simply replaced Christianity as the model being “preached” in schools.

But it’s not just there. While the “arts” folks tell us how cheesy it is for Christians to preach in their books and films, the humanists and others continue to “preach” at us in their movies and books and so on. Hollywood has for years been working to make homosexuality seem normal. They say they are merely reflecting the “diversity” of culture even though less than 2% of the population is homosexual. You wouldn’t get that percentage from watching mainstream media, would you? You would assume we’re approaching a third to a half of the population it’s so prominent in most entertainment venues.

And now, we’re even going to start preaching it in our comic books. We all know that X-Men, one of the more popular franchises, is heavily laden with the evolutionary “gospel.” But now it seems that Spider Man, perhaps the most popular hero of all time, may be pushing the homosexual agenda in the near future.

Marvel Comics, in one of their “alternate universe” possibility series, has killed off the original Spider Man, and replaced him with a more ethnically diverse character. (read about it here). On the face of it, that’s not so bad. But the artist who is drawing this new character has stated that in the future, he could be gay as well in an effort to make a “gay hero” normal. So we kill off the character and replace him with a gay character so gays can be normal. No, nothing wrong here!

This is, of course, just the latest in a long line of well thought out, well planned efforts on the part of the secular humanists to “preach” their gospel and gain “converts.”

The saddest part of all is that so many Christians seem oblivious to this, and have simply laid down and played dead when the world tells them to stop being “preachy.” Folks, the truth is there is no such thing as neutrality. Either you have a biblical worldview which informs all your thoughts, actions, arts, etc. Or you have replaced it with another worldview that likewise informs you thoughts, actions, arts, etc. And every worldview is based, somewhere down the line, on faith “assumptions” regarding things like creation, redemption and so on.

So, which “Gospel” are we truly committed to? Which one will we stand for? Will we continue to let the world tell us to stop being “preachy” while they are left to freely preach their gospel of materialism and humanism? Or will we stand for the truth of God’s Word, which in the end is the only truth anyway? The answer is up to you.

By the way, here's just a short video for you edification (cause I can be preachy if I want!).