Tuesday, August 31, 2010

God, the Gospel and Glenn Beck

I've warned both on the air and in other venues about Christians compromising the Gospel. Among other things, that means allowing partnership over political matters to bleed over into spiritual idolatry.

In this Christian Post article, Russell D. Moore sounds that same warning, and much more eloquently than me.

Read, ponder and pray.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Volcano Watch - Sinabung and Rainier

The news is all aflutter today about a long-inactive volcano in Indonesia coming to life. Mount Sinabung apparently has not had an eruption in some 400 years. It just goes to show you that living on the slopes of a volcano is dangerous business.

In 1980, Mount St. Helens in Washington state woke America up when it awakened after a 100-plus year nap. Suppose Mount Rainier decides to turn over in bed? The map I've posted here gives you an idea of the scope of possible damage. I finally saw Mount Rainier in person when visiting Seattle for the first time last year. It's an impressive sight. And I imagine it would be a very impressive eruption that would dwarf the St. Helens cataclysm.

I hope people are paying attention.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

If Violence Doesn't Work . . .

This Week's Installment From The Fundamentals

by Philip Mauro

But, violence having failed to rid man of the Bible, other means have been resorted to in the persistent effort to accomplish that object. To this end the intellect and learning of man have been enlisted. The Book has been assailed from every side by men of the highest intelligence, culture and scholarship. Since the art of printing has been developed there has been in progress a continuous war of books. Many books against THE Book—man's books against God's Book. Its authority has been denied, and its veracity and even its morality have been impugned, its claims upon the consciences of men have been ridiculed; but all to no purpose, except to bring out more conspicuously the fact that the "Word of God is LIVING," and with an indestructible life.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thyatira: Jezebel's in the Camp!

Today, let's look at the message of Jesus to the church at Thyatira. And yes, false teachers are in our midst again.

On the pro side, the Lord commended them for their love, faith and service. In fact, they were serving greater today than in earlier days. But . . .

This next part of the Lord's message ought to give some pause to those today who parrot loudly that "love" is all that matters. They shriek this especially loudly at anyone who has the temerity to challenge false or aberrant doctrine.

Jesus whacked the Thyatiran church for tolerating false teachers who advocated worldly compromise. He used the name "Jezebel" as epithet for a prominent woman in the church who undermined loyalty to God by advocating such compromise. The original Jezebel can be found in 1 Kings 16:31. King Ahab was responsible for bringing her into the picture . . . It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him. So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.

Did you note what was said there at the end of that passage? Ahab by his actions had "done more to provoke" God than all the kings of Israel who had preceded him! And those kings had done quite a lot of provoking. "Jezebel" at Thyatira had encouraged the church toward the so-called “deep things of Satan," an early form of Gnosticism. Later Gnosticism taught that to defeat Satan, one had to experience evil deeply, or in other words, sin it up as much as possible. It shouldn't have taken a very bright bulb to detect that error, but people fell for it anyway.

Jesus gave His warning to the church: He who searches the minds and hearts (in other words, He examines will and affections). He graciously gives time to repent, but will eventually bring judgment. The Lord notes that there are those who are in the church who do not go along with the false teachers, and on them the Lord places no other burden, but charges them to hold fast to what they have – His truth. In other words, hold on and hold on tight. Truth is easily compromised when vigilance slips.

Let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Timely Warning About Glenn Beck

You can say one thing for certain about Glenn Beck. He sure can generate passionate feelings on both sides of the political spectrum. Some see him as right on when it comes to political things, others see him as a total wack-job.

Personally, I agree with quite a bit of the things Glenn says about American history and politics when he's not being overly theatrical. However, I disagree sharply with his Mormonism, and that's where some of the danger lies when Christians get too enamored of him.

Brannon Howse (pictured) of Worldview Weekend recently wrote this linked article warning about crossing the line between political co-belligerence and spiritual camaraderie. Christians cross that line all too easily these days.

It reminds me of a story once told by a well-known pastor-teacher about another very well known conservative Christian leader some years back. They were together at a Christian event, and the leader in question was telling the pastor-teacher about taking a limo ride to a political function with the then-head of the Mormon church. The pastor-teacher asked the other Christian leader, "Did you share the Gospel with him?" The leader looked aghast and said something along the lines of "Oh, no! That would have jeopardized the political coalition I am trying to build."

Political coalitions at the expense of the Gospel. I'd like to see that one explained at the Judgment Seat.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pergamum: No Compromise Allowed

We've been looking off and on at the Lord Jesus' messages to the seven churches in Revelation. Today, a brief look at His message through the Apostle John to the church at Pergamum.

Christ's message begins with some praise and recognition of the church's particular circumstances. He knows where they dwell, and it's amid much evil - the center of emperor worship in Asia. Thus far, the church as a whole had held fast to Christ’s name and did not deny Him even in the face of death.

Then the tone changes, with the Lord noting that He “has a few things against you.” There are some in their midst (in the church) who follow false teachers. These masqueraders are deceiving believers into compromise with worldliness. Even if there are those in the church who aren’t following the false teachers, they are rebuked for tolerating it in their midst. I see that as a warning to those who de-emphasize church discipline in order to "not make waves."

As an aside or supplement to what the Lord says to the Pergamum believers, take a look at 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, and then 2 Corinthians 2:6-8. Repentance and restoration is always the goal of church discipline, not self-righteous judging.

The Lord's warning is stark. Repent, or judgment will come and war will be made with the sword of Christ’s mouth. The sword symbolizes Christ's judgment, which begins in the household of God. However, to those who overcome, hidden manna and a white stone with new name. Hidden manna is the heavenly food available to those who overcome, as compared to the unclean food of the Balaamites. The earlier reference to Balaam should have been sobering, because Baalam had advised the Mideanite women on ways to lead the people of Israel astray and away from God. The Pergamum church also had a few that were antinomian in behavior (Nicolaitans).

It is interesting to me in this study that each church has its own set of circumstances, but the ones who are in error seem to stumble in many of the same ways.

And it hasn't changed in 2,000 years.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Bad Fruit of Biblical Critics

This week's installment from "The Fundamentals"

by Dr. F. Bettex, D.D.
Professor Emeritus, Stuttgart, Germany

Now, if these people were of the truth, and if they would only believe Him who says, "I am the way, the truth and the life," they would not be under the necessity of tediously working their way through the numerous publications (statistics show that there appear in Europe and America annually some 800 of these works); but they would find in His teaching a simple and sure means for testing the character of these critical doctrines. "Ye shall know them by their fruits," is what Christ says of the false teachers who came in His name. "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matthew 7:16). Are the fruits of modern criticism good?

Where are the grapes or figs that grow on this thorn-bush?" Has not this criticism already robbed, and perhaps forever, thousands of people of their first love, their undoubting faith, and their joyous hope? Has it now sowed dissension, fostered pride and self-conceit, and injured before all the world the authority of both the church and its ministers? Has it not offended Christ's "little ones?" (Matthew 18:6-7) And does it not furnish the enemies of God with opportunities for deriding and scorning the truth?

Where are the souls that it has led to God—comforting, strengthening, purifying and sanctifying them? Where are the individuals who even in the hour of death have continued to rejoice in the benefits of this criticism?

In the study room it ensnares, in lecture halls it makes great pretenses, for mere popular lectures it is still serviceable, but when the thunders of God's power break in upon the soul, when despair at the loss of all one has loved takes possession of the mind, when remembrance of a miserable lost life or of past misdeeds is felt and realized, when one is on a sick-bed and death approaches, and the soul, appreciating that it is now on the brink of eternity, calls for a Savior— just at this time when help is most needed, this modern religion utterly fails.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another Hit on Biblical Inerrancy

In this Christian Post article, the always astute Dr. Albert Mohler takes up the issue of biblical inerrancy. Far from being over, the battle is heating up once again.

And, as Dr. Mohler points out, the enemy is inside the camp, not outside. Undermining from within.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Dangers of "Hip" Christianity

Churches these days are obsessed with being "hip" and "relevant." Hmm. Perhaps they should rethink the idea.

Take it from this 27-year-old." In his column for the Wall Street Journal, the author makes the case that being cool and hip isn't what his generation is looking for.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Egghead Scoffers

Every now and then, I come across something pretty irritating in my reading. (I bet you never would have known that, eh?) It's the usual slap at the Bible record from the halls of academia, and it's doubly irritating when it isn't really expected.

I'm reading Robert Burchfield's book, "The English Language." It's a brief primer on the history of our written language, and is overall pretty engaging and interesting. However, it's too bad that I had to begin with irritation when I came across this paragraph in the first chapter . . .

"The origin of language is unknown and all theories about this problem are spurious. No languageless human society has ever been discovered on the earth. The faculty of speech therefore precedes recorded history and it is unhelpful to speculate about the circumstances of its origin. The doctrine of Hobbes, and of many Christians, that 'all this language gotten, and augmented by Adam and his posterity, was again lost at the tower of Babel, when by the hand of God, every man was stricken for his rebellion, with an oblivion of his former language' (Leviathan, I .iv.12) is an engaging but unacceptable myth."

Oh, really? On what basis does Mr. Burchfield make that sweeping assertion? Was he around at Babel? Suppose a story is passed down from generation to generation before it's actually recorded on paper. Does that lack of printed transmission until later mean somehow that the story is false?

I can't speak for Hobbes and Leviathan, but the biblical record mentions mankind being together, and then God confusing their languages at the Tower of Babel. Not hard for me to believe at all. The biblical text doesn't say that every single person had a different language. It says that God confused their language and then scattered people around. But I guess I'm quibbling.

As an aside, I have to remember what C.S. Lewis once chided biblical critics for doing (at least I think it was Lewis). He said they doubt the miracle because they doubt the text, and doubt the text because they doubt the miracle.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The Church of Smyrna: Trusting God and Trouble Ahead

I have yet to post this week's installment from The Fundamentals, so I will probably forgo it until this weekend. We'll see how my schedule goes.

In the meantime, let's continue our look at the messages of Jesus to the churches in Revelation. This time, I'm focused on the church at Smyrna.

Smyrna was one of two churches out of the seven in Revelation 2 and 3 that received no rebuke from the Lord. Instead, He had much to commend. The Lord knows of their tribulation, and their endurance of great poverty (but they are rich in spirit). They stood firm against their theological opponents who were blasphemers. You see, the city of Smyrna at the time eagerly went along with emperor worship, and to refuse to bow to the Roman emperor came at great cost. Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John and bishop of Smyrna, was an early martyr.

There was no rebuke from the Lord for any sin in the church, but there was a warning. More tribulation and testing lay ahead. The Lord encouraged them to persevere, and at the end He would give them the crown of life.

The other church to receive no rebuke was Philadelphia. In their case, the Lord promised to keep them from (or through) the "hour of testing" that the whole world was to experience. At first glance, I don't know why God allowed differing circumstances for these two churches. Again, it is not my purpose right now to look at the future prophetic implications, but rather to look on the more immediate message that had been delivered to a real church at a specific time in history. That immediate message is timeless, as all churches then and now have their issues.

We do know that God has His purposes, and those purposes are good, and are for His glory. The message I take from it today is that we must stay faithful no matter what. Trouble may well be ahead. But we know who is sovereign, and who has our times firmly in His hand.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

There's More to Britain than "Cool Brittania"

New British prime minister David Cameron is an interesting fellow. Now he's said something that's really caught my attention, and for which he deserves some applause.

In this recent BBC article, Mr. Cameron is quoted as saying that Britain needs to market itself more in keeping with its rich heritage, rather than the "Cool Britannia" approach pushed by the previous Labour government.

I couldn't agree with him more. In fact, history is "cool Britannia" as far as I'm concerned. Today's silly pop culture will not be remembered for much except its deleterious effects. But Hadrian's Wall and the Yorkshire Moors are still there.

While I'm indulging my inner Anglophile, let me highly recommend British Heritage magazine. Editor Dana Huntley and team do a marvelous, entertaining and informative job covering subjects and historic places of all sorts.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Losing the Candlestick

Not too long ago, I preached on the "Message of Jesus to the Churches" found in the second and third chapters of Revelation. This post is a clip from the sermon, looking at the message to the church at Ephesus.

The general pattern of the Lord's message begins with what the churches are doing right, followed by a rebuke for what they are doing wrong. There are two exceptions -- Smyrna and Philadelphia -- where there was no rebuke.

As far as Ephesus was concerned, here's what they had on the pro side. They had good deeds, perseverance, hard work, and had intolerance of evil men. They were willing to put false teachers to the test, they were endurant, not growing weary. They hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which was a heretical sect that had sprung up. The Nicolaitans distorted spiritual liberty in Christ to mean they could still practice idolatry and immorality — antinomians in essence. This is an example of 2 Peter 2:1 where we are warned about those who rise up within the church and sow false teaching.

Now for the con side. The Ephesian church members had left their first love — the love they had at first for one another and for Christ. This might seem like a minor offense, but it's really not minor at all. This will in time impact the whole ministry of the church and its outreach. Here are a few verses about the kind of love we are to display -- John 13:35 – "all men will know you are His disciples by your love for one another." 1 Corinthians 12:25: "so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another."

How about Ephesians 4:2, "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love." Then there's 1 Thessalonians 3:12: "and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you.: Then in chapter 5 of the same letter by the Apostle Paul, "See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people."

James, the brother of the Lord, wrote: "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16). The Apostle Peter (1 Peter 4:8): "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins."

Christian love for one another is pretty important, isn't it? The Lord thought so -- enough to end his message to Ephesus with a warning: Remember and repent, or the Lord will remove the lampstand – the congregation itself.

I should hasten to point out that we have more than a few teachers these days who twist biblical love into meaning that you can't discipline sin or correct false teaching in the church. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, biblical love demands such correction. However, correction and biblical truth divorced from pure, sincere love from the heart becomes nothing more than a clanging gong.

I recommend reading the other messages to the churches in Revelation. There's something in there for us in each one.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Grace, Not Graces

This week's installment from The Fundamentals

by Rev. Thomas Spurgeon
London, England

Our own graces can never satisfy as does God's grace. He who is not far from the kingdom, nevertheless inquires, "What lack I yet?" One might as well think to lift himself by hauling at his boots, as expect to win heaven by the deeds of the law. The fact is, that fallen human nataure is incapable of perfectly keeping the law of God. It is well when this is understood and humbly acknowledged; it may be the dawn of better things, even as it was with one of whom I have heard, who was brought to Christ by the Spirit's application of the words, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?

Gulliver tells of a man who had been eight years upon a process of extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers. The sunbeams were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in inclement weather. This was folly indeed, but it is even more ridiculous to think of extracting righteousness from a depraved heart. "They that are in the flesh cannot please God."

That was good advice given to a seeker: "You'll never know peace until you give up looking at self, and let all your graces go for nothing." The black devil of unrighteousness has slain its thousands, but the white devil of self-righteousness hath slain its tens of thousands. Salvation is by Grace, not by Graces."

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Filming the Police and "Anchor Babies"

Two stories of note and comment today.

First, filming the police. As a conservative, I've typically been very pro-police over the years. I believe in law and order, except when the law becomes lawless in its behavior. That includes all branches of government.

However, this little case in Time Magazine puts me on the other side -- on this issue at least. The case in question stems from a person pulled over by an off-duty policeman, out of uniform and brandishing a pistol. The man being pulled over filmed the incident, and now they're trying to put him in prison for five years.

This needs to be disobeyed en masse. When someone under the cover of law begins abusing their authority, it is the inherent right of the citizenry to expose it and deal with it. I am reasonably confident the courts will slap this down, but if not, film them anyway, and in droves. "We the people" still means something. And if legislators won't address it as they ought, replace the legislators.

Next, the always fun Ann Coulter (herself a Constitutional attorney), discusses so-called "anchor babies." For those unfamiliar with the term, it's what they call the infants of illegal aliens -- aliens who take advantage of a constitutional provision originally intended only to deal with the children of slaves after the Civil War. Illegals come here on purpose to have babies, and the babies are then considered U.S. citizens. Outrageous, but as Ann points out, you can thank the late Justice William Brennan for it. Brennan has since assumed room temperature, but the damage he did while on the Supreme Court still lives.

It's time for either a legislative remedy or a constitutional amendment. Brennan wrongly and unilaterally re-interpreted the Constitution to mean something the Founders never intended. Removing this so-called "anchor baby" provision will, in my humble opinion, will in part help reduce incentives for illegals to violate our borders.

It remains to be seen whether the gutless wonders in our Congress and legislatures will do it.

A late addendum: I should point out that the individual in question who filmed the officer hardly appears to be a paragon of virtue, and was allegedly driving very recklessly. He needs to be prosecuted if that is the case. My point is more aimed in general at the idea of someone being prosecuted for wiretapping for filming a police officer. It shouldn't be done willy-nilly, but if there is legitimate abuse going on, I'm all for it being exposed.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

From Atheism to Faith

I enjoy encountering the stories of formerly vocal atheists who were brought to the world of faith, sometimes kicking and screaming. C.S. Lewis was in those ranks, only to become a devout believer and able apologist.

In this Christian Post article, educator Holly Ordway talks about her own journey from unbelief to belief. To her -- in the end -- it just made the most sense.

And it does!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

When It Rains . . .

So much for "hiatuses."

When I last posted, I mentioned all the activity with the garden and getting stuff canned or frozen. Since then, we indeed did get quite a bit done — only to have it interrupted when my stepfather sustained a couple of bad falls at home. He ended up in the hospital, but the Lord was in this because we were able to finally find out what's been making him so unsteady on his feet in recent months.

Turns out that it's something called non-pressure hydrocephalus, which amounts to fluid on the brain that isn't draining properly. It's apparently not all that uncommon in elderly people, and we're hopeful that a procedure done by a neurosurgeon will fix things up.

All of these events of late have caused me to ponder anew the maturing of my Reformed theology, or better yet, the NEED to mature it. God is sovereign. Nothing escapes His notice, nor happens out of His loving watchcare over His children. When troubling things happen, our natural, fleshly tendency is to get upset and to curse the darkness. Worse yet, we even begin to question God's dealings in an inappropriate way. Instead, our faithful response ought to be, "Lord, what are you teaching me through this, and how can I best bring You glory?" After all, isn't bringing Him glory one of our main tasks as believers?

I still have much to learn!