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

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Hypocrisy of "Tolerance"

I’ve said for a long time, as have many others, that when liberals speak of tolerance, they have redefined the word.  Tolerance has shifted from a mere acceptance of another’s beliefs, opinions, etc. to a requirement to support certain beliefs. Of course, it usually means supporting those beliefs, causes, opinions held by the anti-Christian liberal arm of our nation. And it’s a decidedly one way street.

In other words, it’s not just enough for me to tolerate those who disagree with my Christian beliefs, according to today’s definitions.  It’s not just enough for me to say: “You have the right to disagree with me on abortion, gay marriage, 2nd Amendment rights, etc.”  No, instead I must change my beliefs to not only allow you to disagree, but basically to admit I’m wrong and you’re right.  That’s “tolerance.”

Think I’m overstating things?  Think I’m being fanatical?  Case in point: the latest dustup over gay marriage stemming from the stand taken by Chik-fil-a.  Dan Cathy, the company president and son of the restaurant chain’s founder, was quoted as saying he believed in the biblical standard for marriage.  He said that his company was built on Christian principles and they were proud of that stand.

Immediately, the outcry of “intolerance” from the pro-gay liberals was deafening.  How dare this man have an opinion that differed from theirs.  How dare he not only have those opinions, but operate his business based on those opinions.  He’s not being “tolerant.”  In other words, “he doesn’t agree with us, and so he’s not tolerant.”

To further prove the point of this one sided re-definition of “tolerance”, consider the reaction in Chicago.  City Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno has said he will block the attempt by Chik-fil-a to open a store in his north ward district because of this issue.  Not only is Mr. Cathy not allowed to have his own opinion if it contradicts the liberal wackos, but he won’t be allowed to conduct business either, unless he changes his beliefs.

Again, I’m not overstating this.  It’s not just that liberals want Mr. Cathy to somehow state that he would tolerate gay marriage in the sense that he would allow others to believe in that if they choose.  No, to truly be “tolerant” Mr. Cathy would have to go out of his way to promote the liberal’s agenda.  

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune:  Moreno, meanwhile, said it will take "more than words" to get him to reverse course. "They'd have to do a complete 180," the alderman said. "They'd have to work with LGBT groups in terms of hiring, and there would have to be a public apology from (Cathy)."

You can’t just tolerate, you must be “tolerant;” which means you must support the liberal agenda.  You can’t just allow others to have their own views, you must support the liberal’s views.  In this case, any failure to actively support gay marriage is anti-tolerance.

This is the height of hypocrisy.  If the roles were reversed, if those of us who are Christian operated by the same definition of tolerance, we would have to say something like this:  It’s not enough for you to simply say that Christians have a right to their own beliefs.  In order to be tolerant, you must pass out Bibles in your stores and work with a group of Christian leaders to be sure you’re hiring the right number of Christian workers.  Do you hear anyone making that argument?

This isn’t an isolated case.  Not too long ago we all heard the idiocy of the “anti-bullying” speaker who bullied and berated Christian students for refusing to stay and listen to him insult God and His Word.  The anti-bully bully; the intolerant “tolerance” promoters.  The theme is repeated over and over.  Hypocrisy at its best.

The saddest part is how many people bow to this “tolerance” hypocrisy.  It’s sad how many companies are confronted by this kind of ranting and pull back from their convictions in order to not appear “intolerant.”  I hope and pray that Dan Cathy and the folks at Chik-fil-a will stand firm.  I hope they will not bow to pressure, but will truly stand for genuine tolerance which says they have the right to believe what they want and run their company according to those beliefs, even if it doesn’t line up with the liberal agenda.

On the bright side, it's nice to see how many people are supporting the restaraunt, even launching a "Chik-fil-a Day" on August 1st.  Personally, I love Chik-fil-a because they have the best chicken sandwich around.  But I will go out of my way to visit their store as often as I’m able to support their stand, and to make a statement for genuine tolerance.  It’s time to end this one-sided redefinition of tolerance; and if I can get a some waffle fries at the same time…Bonus!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guns Don’t Kill People; Sin Kills People

It didn’t take long for liberals to start sounding the “gun’s are bad” drum after last weekend’s tragedy in Colorado.  One article blames the carnage on everyone from the NRA to every supporter of the 2nd Amendment.   Of course, the media eats up that angle.

Never mind the fact that they completely ignored the “other”shooting in Aurora.  Back in April, in this same city, a man walked into a church, much like that movie theater, with the intent to wreak havoc.  In this case, however, an off duty police officer with a conceal carry gun took the shooter out after only one person was killed. 

It’s still a tragedy.  One senseless death is as tragic as twelve.  But that one armed citizen was able to keep the tragedy from escalating.  Had there been such an armed citizen in the theater that night, who knows how many might still be alive or even uninjured.  The media won’t report on that “other” shooting, however, since it doesn’t fit their anti-gun agenda.

Still, all of this misses the point.  We can argue all day about the “guns kill people” vs. “people kill people” slogans.  The truth is we have to look at the real culprit here.  It’s the same culprit that has been responsible for every death since the beginning of time:  sin.  Guns don’t kill people, sin kills people.

Go back to the beginning.  After the initial act of rebellion that brought sin into the world, the first act of sin recorded for us in anger which led to murder.  We are shown immediately that sin leads to death.  The first death we read about isn’t Adam slowly drifting away from old age, but Adam’s eldest son killing his own brother.

Scripture doesn’t say how Cain killed Abel.  Could have been with a rock.  Could have been with a club.  Could have been with his own bare hands.  Personally, I think we weren’t told for a reason.  It kept the liberal media of the day from starting a “ban rocks” campaign; or “ban the club;” or maybe even “ban the hand,” that one has a nice poetic sound, doesn’t it? 

Whatever Cain used, I can guarantee that is was a 9mm, or a .38, or a shotgun, or any other firearm.  Guns don’t kill people, any more than rocks kill people, or clubs, etc.  It’s not the instrument, folks. It’s the heart.  Sin kills people.

Sin is killing all of us, in fact.  Death exists because of sin.  Apart from sin, there would be no death.  Apart from sin, tragedies like the one in Colorado would be unheard of.  It’s time to stop blaming the instruments, stop looking at the externals and realize that the true problem is our sin nature.  And without addressing that sin nature, nothing will ever change.

Dr. Al Mohler from Southern Seminary had a wonderful response to this event.  He concluded in part by saying:

We are reminded that evil can be answered only by a cross. We must grieve with those who grieve. We must pray for Gospel churches in the Denver area who will be called upon for urgent ministry. We must pray for our nation and communities. And we must pray that God will guard ourselves from evil — especially our own evil. And we must point to the cross. What other answer can we give?

Indeed, what other answer can we give?  The answer isn’t passing more gun laws.  More gun laws merely disarm law abiding citizens and prevents them from defending themselves.  Criminals are criminals because they don’t follow the law; because they are sinners.  

Let’s instead address the real issue.  Sin is killing us.  We need to point people to the cross, because only there will we find a cure for sin, and thus a cure to the results of sin.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Working Hard at Real Rest

Rest is at a premium around our place these days.  In addition to the bustle of the regular summer stuff, I’ve been doing some extra services for a local camp and then weddings and this week started Vacation Bible School.  Not much rest in there.

Maybe that’s why I was drawn to pick up and read Richard Baxter’s classic The Saint’s Everlasting Rest.  Just the word in the title made it appealing.  But as soon as I started, I was reminded that “rest” never comes from a lack of activity.  

Now, let me be sure and point out that the kind of “resting” in God that Baxter is talking about is not like the “rest” of taking a nap.  He’s talking about soul satisfying rest in God, ultimately our final resting in Him in death and eternal life.  But again, it somewhat took me aback to be reminded that this resting is hard work.

Let me just give you the line, written right up front in Baxter’s work, that got my attention. He writes:  May the Living God, who is the portion and rest of his saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly that loving him, and delight in him, may be the work of our lives.

Resting in God involves a lot of hard work.  God works in us to produce spiritual minds out of carnal ones, heavenly hearts out of earthly ones, and then we work at loving and delighting in Him.  This is the work of our lives.  A lot of work going into this rest.

Of course, this is nothing foreign to us.  When we stop and think about it, our leisure is something most folks work very hard at.  People work long hours, trying to build up bank accounts so that they can then afford vacations and weekend getaways and bigger and better entertainment systems and more comfortable home furnishings; all for our leisure.  We work hard at resting.

Why should we do any less for true rest; lasting rest; eternal rest?  Hear me clearly.  I’m not in any way suggesting that we work to earn our salvation.  We know that is all a work of God.  And yet, as Baxter says, as the recipients of His grace, pursuing Him, loving Him, and delighting in Him ought to be “the work of our lives.”

The Puritans often spoke of “going hard after God.”  Seems strange to think of that pursuit when coming from a people who so fully understood God’s pursuit of us.  And yet, if we are truly to find our rest in Him, we must work hard and delighting in and loving Him.  

To be quite honest, I think I still need a nap.  I’m pretty worn out these days.  But in the end, I know if I’m to have any true rest, it’s something I will have to work at, even as God works in and through me for His good pleasure.  I pray that I will work at least as hard, even harder, at resting in Him as I do trying to find time for that nap.  What are you working for, and where is your rest?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Missouri Prayer Amendment is a Sad Commentary

When the Continental Congress first met on September 6, 1774, their first official act was to call for prayer.  In spite of their denominational differences, all agreed and on September 7, 1774, day two of the Congress was opened with prayer by Episcopal minister “Rev. Mr. Duché.” He read several prayers, the 35th Psalm, and then launched into an “extemporaneous” prayer.  Said prayer was offered “in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior.”  

John Adams, in a letter to his wife, said of this event: I never saw a greater effect upon an audience.  It seems as if heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning.  After this, Mr. Duché, unexpectedly to every body, struck out into an extemporary prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present.  I must confess, I never heard a better prayer, or one so well pronounced. (quoted from America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations by William J. Federer)

This is but one example of a repeated pattern in the history of this nation’s founding.  Prayer (most often in Christ’s name) was a foundation of every major gathering of our nation’s leaders as they sought Divine guidance for nearly every move.

My how far we’ve come.  In just a couple weeks, Missourians will go to the polls in large part to narrow the field for November’s elections.  But on the ballot will also be Amendment 2.  You’re welcome to follow the link and read the full text, but in essence this amendment is simply that it will ensure the rights of Missouri citizens to pray in public.  It seeks to protect student’s rights to pray on school grounds, to allow citizens to gather peaceably on government property to pray, and even allow for elected officials to begin public proceedings with prayer.

Isn’t it sad that we have to have an amendment to the state constitution to protect those rights?  Given the central role prayer played in our early national life, and yet we now have to pass special legislation that would allow us to do the very same things our founders did naturally.

What’s even sadder is that most of the threat today is against Christian prayer in particular.  It’s well documented how traffic in New York is often brought to a halt by Muslim cab drivers stopping for prayer at their appointed times; in public.  And many of those folks are actually praying against our nation! But that’s OK.  However, Christians better not be seen standing around a flag pole somewhere praying for our nation’s health and well being.  For shame!

Yet, here we are, folks.  And so good, God fearing people must again step up and stand firm.  Much of the reason our nation has come this far is because too often Christians have sat quietly by and watched our nation’s heritage be hijacked.  It’s time to change that.

Hear me carefully.  I’m not one of those radical folks who thinks America is the new Promised Land.  It’s not.  As far as I can see, America is never mentioned in Scripture.  Our primary allegiance is to our true King, Christ Jesus.  Our highest aim is to forward His Kingdom through the preaching of the Gospel and seeing men, women and children come to a saving knowledge of Him.

Yet, we are also commanded in God’s Word to be good citizens.  And in this nation, that means to be involved in the process, to make our voice heard.  Furthermore, I do recognize (as did our founders) the extreme blessings God has poured out on this nation.  In sheer gratitude, it’s incumbent upon us to stand up for the freedoms those blessings have afforded us.

So, Missouri brothers, you’re not being asked to take up arms and fight for your freedom from the oppressive regime across the sea.  But you are being asked to take up your right to vote and fight against those who would make this nation even more oppressive than that of King George.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Homeschooler Moment #13

Last night the youngest asked if he could do a little “concert” for us.  Being a lover of music, I enthusiastically said yes.  He returned in a few moments with the insert to a kid’s worship cd and his instrument:  a paper towel roll.  He then “played” one of the songs, moving his fingers on the roll, intently watching the “music” in front of him, while he hummed through the roll.

We all watched as straight faced as possible until he was done and asked if we knew which song he had played (it was Amazing Grace, a fairly easy tune to recognize, thankfully).  We all started laughing as he then asked if we wanted another song.  This time, the laughter was harder to control, even for the performer.  He had to stop and “compose” himself a couple times.(His "composure" gestures just made the laughter increase, unfortunately).

Then, we decided to make this our family worship for the evening.  Each member of the family “played” one song from the music sheet, while others sang along.  Granted, the older ones took a little more convincing, but they eventually played along.

The comment was made that is was a little unusual for family worship, but I reminded them that the night before the message at church (preached by yours truly) had pointed out our need to praise God every day, to look for ways each and every day to praise Him, to praise Him for all things…and that includes paper towel roll songs. Ahh, the teaching moments at home. 

How will you praise Him today?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Hypocrisy of our Lifeway Bookstores

Once again, I’m late to the party, but I can’t just ignore this one.  It seems that Lifeway, formerly known as Baptist Bookstores, has pulled the movie “The Blind Side” from its shelves because of language and racial slurs.  Our new SBC president has applauded the decision.

Now, hear me on this.  I don’t think we should promote “racial slurs” and I think we ought to be very mindful of promoting foul language.  Whether or not you think this particular movie is offensive enough in those categories to be removed from Christian bookstores is a matter of opinion.(This is especially interesting when you consider that in 2009 Baptist Press released a review calling this "one of the best of the year", and in which the reviewer actually says the rating for the movie was too harsh.)

However, Lifeway has long had a reputation of selling less than orthodox books and material.  Walk into any local store and you’re likely to be greeted by a large display advertising Heaven is For Real.  Or walk down the aisles and find several books by T. D. Jakes who denies the Trinity.  And yet we somehow think a movie like “The Blind Side” is so much more harmful to the average Christian?

More damage is being done to the body of Christ by selling heretical teachings than will ever be done by folks being exposed to a couple bad words.  People have this notion that because they “bought it in a Christian bookstore it must be good” and so they swallow anti-biblical tripe like The Shack and various trip to heaven books and Word Faith health and wealth teaching.  They read this stuff and their view of God is altered to become something less than biblical, and yet we’re ok with that.  But for heaven’s sake, don’t say a bad word.

This is not only hypocrisy, but it smacks of moralism and legalism at its worst.   We’re focused on the outward things (language, etc.) and not at all concerned with the inner reality (sound theology, etc.).  Wake up, folks. 

Again, please let me re-emphasize.  I’m not condoning offensive language and so on.  We regularly edit our movie watching list based on content such as that.  And yet, if we are truly worried about Christ honoring lives and God exalting language, Lifeway had better clear its shelves of a lot more than this movie.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

On Pastors and Churches – A Word from John Owen

When our oldest daughter was about three, she said she was going to preach a sermon.  No, I don’t believe Scripture allows for women preachers, but she was only three and we were all alone at the church.  So she stepped up to the front, opened her Toddler Bible and said, “God loves you very much and you should do what God says.”  Not a bad summary.  Sometimes, simple is better. If we would just do that, we’d all be better off, wouldn’t we?

Recently I re-discovered a work by John Owen called Introduction to the Worship of God.  Published in 1667, it’s written in the form of a catechism and focuses on the makeup and operation of a Christian Church.  In there, I found a similarly helpful summary of things that we’d all be better off if we’d just follow.

Our Sunday School class, in our ongoing study of 2 Corinthians, has been looking off and on at the relationship between a pastor and his church.  What are the responsibilities of one to the other?  There are obviously hundreds of books that have been written addressing that issue in one way or another, but I’ve found these two questions from Owen and their answers to be a very helpful summary.

Question 27 — What are the principal duties of the pastors or teachers of the church?

Answer — (1)To be examples unto the flock in faith, love, knowledge, meekness, patience, readiness to suffer for the name and gospel of Christ, with constancy therein; (2)to watch for the souls and take care of all the spiritual concernments of the whole flock committed to them; (3)to preach the word diligently, dividing it aright; (4)to preserve and contend for the truth; (5)to administer all the ordinances of the gospel duly and orderly; (6)to stir up and exercise the gifts they have received in the discharge of their whole work and administration of all ordinances; (7)to instruct, admonish, cherish, and comfort all the members of the church, as their conditions, occasions, and necessities do require; (8)to attend with diligence, skill, and wisdom unto the discharge of that authority which in the rule of the church is committed unto them.

(1) 1 Tim. 3:1-7, 4:12; 2 Tim. 2:3; Col. 1:24; Phil. 2:17, 3:17. (2) Heb. 13:17; Acts 20:28. (3) 2 Tim. 2:15, 4:2; Rom. 12:6-8. (4) 1 Tim. 6:20; Acts 20:28; Jude 3. (5) 1 Cor. 4:1, 2; 1 Tim. 3:15. (6) 1 Tim. 4:14-16. (7) Acts 20:18-20, 25, 27; 1 Thess. 3:5; 2 Tim. 2:24, 25. (8) Rom. 12:7, 8; 1 Tim. 5:17.

Question 29 — What is the duty of the church towards their elders, pastors, or teachers?

Answer — (1)To have them in reverence and honour for their office and work’s sake; (2)to obey them conscientiously in all things wherein they speak unto them in the name of the Lord; (3)to pray earnestly for them, that they may, and to exhort them, if need require, to fulfill the work of the ministry; (4)to communicate unto them of their temporals, for their comfortable subsistence in the world and usefulness unto others; (5)wisely to order things by their direction, so as that they may be amongst them without fear; (6)to abide with and stand by them in their sufferings for the gospel, and service of Christ among them.

 (1) 1 Thess. 5:12, 13; 1 Tim. 5:17. (2) Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 16:16. (3) Eph. 6:18, 19; Col. 4:3; 2 Thess. 3:1; Col. 4:17. (4) Gal. 6:6; 1 Cor. 9:14. (5) 1 Cor. 16:10. (6) 2 Tim. 1:16-18, 4:16.

If pastors would focus on faithfully fulfilling those first eight things, and if churches would do their best to fulfill the six things listed for them, the church would be a much better place.  God loves you very much and you should do what God says.  Sometimes the simply summaries should suffice. 

I don’t have much control over how people will respond, but I for one am going to resolve to do my best, by God’s grace and power, to hold up my end of the bargain.  Who’s with me?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pray For Rain

It’s hot.  It’s dry.  It’s nasty.  It’s scary.  Of course, it’s worse in other parts of the country, so I guess I should be thankful.  We’ve had a few fires crop up here and there in the area, some coming close to neighborhoods, one even caused by an Idiot (excuse me, a morally challenged individual) who shot a bottle rocket out of his car into a dry grass field.  But, still, it’s not as bad as Colorado and some other places.  Pray for rain!

But here’s what I’ve been thinking about.  Lately, it’s the thing on everyone’s mind.  The raging fires across the land, the record breaking heat, the severe deficit in rainfall, the damage to crops and animals and so on.  And all of this is indeed bad.  It’s nasty and scary as I said.  We should be thinking about this, and yes, praying for rain.

Yet it amazes me that these same folks can look at the dry and brittle landscape of their own souls, the life sucking spiritual drought in some of our churches, the real nasty and scary future our lost and hellbound neighbors are facing, and…nothing.  Doesn’t seem to be nearly as big a concern for us; not nearly the “hot” topic of conversation (pardon the pun).  We don’t seem anywhere close to being as motivated to pray for a solution to this drought as the other.  Why are we not praying for rain?

One of my favorite songs (I know, I say that about a lot of songs, but what can I say, I’m a musicaholic) is from a band called Day of Fire.  Ironic, don’t you think?  Anyway, it’s a song called Rain Song from their first release in 2004.  Here are the lyrics:

Bring rivers in this wasteland
Clouds into this sky
Bring springs of life into the wells that have been run dry

Rise up in this city
Gather in this light
Fall down on your people
Your glory and your life

Rain, Lord we thirst for water
Rain, We are desert Land
Rain, On your sons and daughters
Rain, Bring your rain again

Speak dreams into this water
And vision to this land
That oceans be divided
And bring forth life again

Rise up in this city
Gather in this light
Fall down on your people
Your glory and your life


Let the tide roll in
Washing over our lives
Let your water fall again

Bring rivers in this wasteland
Clouds into the sky


Bring your rain again
Let your water fall down
Bring your rain again now

As I think of our desperate need for rain, for an end to the scorching heat and drought conditions, I can’t help but think of our even greater need for Christ and for His power to be poured out in our lives.  We’ve grown too satisfied with dry hearts.  We don’t share the cry of David in Psalm 63:1 - O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

We need to realize that David wasn’t just using poetic license.   This is a true cry of the soul, a genuine recognition of our desperate need for God, a real life understanding of the dryness of our hearts and our need for God to rain into our lives; it’s a prayer for rain.  

I hope we are all seriously praying for those hit hardest by the hot, dry conditions and the wildfires.  Truly these are tragic things.  Pray for rain.  Pray God would have mercy and send showers of blessing in the form of actual showers on these barren wastelands.

I also hope we are seriously praying for ourselves, our churches, our nation, and our world.  Truly we are in tragic times.  Pray for rain.  Pray God would have mercy and send showers of blessing in the form of His grace, His power, His enlivening Spirit onto the barren wastelands of our hearts.  

Now, for you listening pleasure, and hopefully you’re edification, here is this wonderful song: