Wednesday, September 29, 2010

False Tolerance

I always enjoy reading David Brickner's columns in the Jews for Jesus newsletter. This month's column is a keeper.

Titled "Outside the Camp," David's column talks about the reluctance of Christians to share the Gospel in the name of "building relationships" or "earning the right" to share it. He also rightly raps the modern notion of "tolerance." Here's a quote . . .

True tolerance is treating people decently regardless of how they may differ from you. The false tolerance demanded by today's society requires that you accept all beliefs as equally true, or if you can't do that, you keep quiet about it.

Keeping quiet about the Gospel is not an option for us as believers. If we wait to "earn the right," we'll never get around to sharing it. I'm still trying to learn that lesson, and for an introvert like me, it's not easy. But it's a must.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Degrees of Heaven and Hell

This week's installment from The Fundamentals

by Sir Robert Anderson

We have seen then that man is a sinner in virtue both of what he is and what he does. We do what we ought not, and leave undone what we ought to do. For sin may be due to ignorance or carelessness, as well as to evil passions which incite to acts that stifle conscience and outrage law. And we have seen also that every sin gives rise to two great questions which need to be distinguished, though they are in a sense inseparable. The one finds expression in the formula, "guilty or not guilty," and in respect of this no element of limitation or degree is possible. But after verdict, sentence; and when punishment is in question, degrees of guilt are infinite.

It has been said that no two of the redeemed will have the same heaven; and in that sense no two of the lost will have the same hell. This is not a concession to popular heresies on this subject. For the figment of a hell of limited duration either traduces the character of God, or practically denies the work of Christ. If the extinction of being were the fate of the impenitent, to keep them in suffering for an aeon or a century would savor of the cruelty of a tyrant who, having decreed a criminal's death, deferred the execution of the sentence in order to torture him. Far worse indeed than this, for, ex hypothesi, the resurrection of the unjust could have no other purpose than to increase the capacity of their suffering. Or if we adopt the alternative heresy—that hell is a punitive and purgatorial discipline through which the sinner will pass to heaven—we disparage the atonement and undermine the truth of grace. If the prisonor gains his discharge by serving out his sentence, where does grace come in? And if the sinner's sufferings can expiate his sin, the most that can be said of the death of Christ is that it opened a short and easy way to the same goal that could be reached by a tedious and painful journey.

But further, unless the sinner is to be made righteous and holy before he enters hell—and in that case, why not let him enter heaven at once?—he will continue unceasingly to sin; and every fresh sin will involve a fresh penalty, his punishment can never end.

Next week, Sir Anderson deals with what he terms a "false argument" on this subject.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Slap Em' Down Again, Maw (the judge, I mean)

Looks like a federal judge in the 9th circuit has done it again, according to this news item today. For those not inclined to click away, here's a brlef clip . . .

A federal judge says the Air Force violated the constitutional rights of a highly decorated flight nurse when it discharged her for being gay, and ordered that she be given her job back as soon as possible.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton issued his highly anticipated ruling Friday in the case of former Maj. Margaret Witt. She was discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays serving in the military and sued to get her job back.

Time to end the nonsense of redefining sexual immorality as a civil right and creating a new protected class like in the fashion of a racial minority. Time for Congress to impeach a judge for abusing his authority. Time for Congress to use their constitutional authority to restrict the jurisdiction of the courts, and even to abolish a court that has become infamous for idiotic rulings.

It's time, and way past time. But this nation is in rebellion and thusly increasingly under judgment, and when a nation is under judgment, people lose their ability to think.

You do not have the right to do what is wrong.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bede for Today

Lately (amid crises) I've been trying to read some of the works of the Venerable Bede (late 600s-early 700s). Here's a sample:

When the depredations of its enemies had ceased, the land enjoyed an abundance of corn without precedent in former years; but with plenty came an increase in luxury, followed by every kind of crime, especially cruelty, hatred of truth, and love of falsehood. If anyone happened to be more kindly or truthful than his neighbours, he became a target for all weapons of malice as though he were an enemy of Britain. And not only the laity were guilty of these things, but even the Lord's flock and their pastors. Giving themselves up to drunkenness, hatred, quarrels, and violence, they threw off the easy yoke of Christ.

Suddenly, a terrible plague struck this corrupt people, and in a short while destroyed so large a number that the living could not bury the dead.

Food for thought, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some Badly Needed Levity

It's been a bit of a rough week or so around The Seventh Sola house. Due to some health issues in my family, I've been neglecting the blog pretty badly. I didn't get this week's installment from The Fundamentals up, nor did I get the final installment of my Revelation series posted. In lieu of these items, I am offering up this bit of hilarity from a Bulgarian designer. He has taken world and regional maps and used them to highlight stereotypical images of various nations. Some of them are pretty funny, while others make me wince. And hopefully things will get back to normal soon so I can post more regularly.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Constitution Test

This week, we celebrate Constitution Day in the United States, or at least, we ought to celebrate it.

Thursday evening, I heard a disturbing story in the news that many school districts across the country are getting away from studying the Constitution, which if true is tragic. So, in honor of Constitution Day, I am happy to link you to this little quiz on the Constitution.

And do something yourself locally. If your school district isn't teaching the Constitution (and I don't mean from a liberal revisionist standpoint either), raise plenty of cain until they get back to it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Faithful and True - Philadelphia

The church at Philadelphia is the next stop in our review of the Lord Jesus' messages to the seven churches in Revelation. Note to the unbiblically-minded -- we're not talking about Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Our Philadelphia is a bit further east, and our biblical text begins in Revelation 3:7.

The Philadelphian congregation is the second church that receives no rebuke from the Lord. Jesus begins by stating that He knows their deeds, and tells them that He has put before them an open door to the kingdom that no one can shut, because they have a little power. More than that, they have kept His Word and not denied His name (and perhaps that's why they have a little power). The Philadelphia believers persevered no matter what Satan could throw in their path.

In addition to their steadfastness, the Lord tells these faithful believers that they will be an example to the unbelieving and the persecuting, and in the end, they will have their tormentors bow before them. He will also keep them from the hour of testing that is about to come on the whole world. The Greek in this particular passage (referring to the hour of testing) can mean "keep from or keep through." As I stated earlier, I have no desire or intent with this series to get into the eschatological significance of these seven churches and Christ's messages to each one. My desire is to have us reflect on what God is telling us about how a church is conduct itself now. For the church at Philadelphia (and for all of us), the main thing to carry from this particular message is that God is faithful.

The Lord has no rebuke for the Philadelphians, but he does have a final warning. He tells them to hold fast to what they have, so that no one will take their crown. We have already seen from some of the Lord's messages to the earlier churches that not all of them held fast to what they had. Several had already drifted into apostasy. We are warned in Scripture . . . Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). Error is not far from any of us, and we must cling all the closer to the Word of God, and reliance on the Holy Spirit, who is our seal and keeper.

In this day and age of deception, it's a warning we'd better take to heart.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Beckoning" Christians

In this week's issue of World Magazine, columnist and editor Marvin Olasky sounds a warning similar to the one I raised a while back about Christians getting sucked into the Glenn Beck phenomenon.

Again, it's not so much a concern over what Mr. Beck wants to accomplish in a political sense, i.e. drawing America back to its constitutional roots. We're all for that. Rather, it's out of concern over the danger of spiritual syncretism. Marvin's warning is spot on, and otherwise biblically-astute Christians would do well to heed it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Fatherhood of God

This week's installment from The Fundamentals

by Robert E. Speer

And what new courage and hope (the fatherhood of God) it brings into a man's life. You say to me, "Man, you have got to be like God," and I reply, "Take your preposterous blasphemy away. To be like God?" But you say to me, "He is your own Father, and you are His son. We are not asking you to become like that to which you are essentially unlike; we are simply asking you to become like your Father. It is His own nature in you that He will develop until restored to its full relationship to Him from Whom it came."

You talk that way about our duty as men in the world, and it makes all the difference between life and death to us. If God the Father did not come near to men in Jesus Christ, I do not know what I am going to do; I do not know where to find the help that I know I need. Nowhere else in the world has any voice arisen to offer it to men. But if God came near men in Jesus Christ and thereby guaranteed our own kinship to Him, I may believe that I can become like Him Whose son I am. It is on just this ground that St. Paul makes his appeal: "Be ye therefore imitators of God as dear children.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

An Implied Threat?

The back and forth has been getting interesting in the New York City mosque flap. First, check out this Fox News story (which quotes a CNN interview with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf). Here's an exerpt . . .

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told CNN that the discourse surrounding the center has become so politicized that moving it could strengthen the ability of extremists abroad to recruit and wage attacks against Americans, including troops fighting in the Middle East.

"The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack," he said, but he added that he was open to the idea of moving the planned location of the center, currently two blocks north of the World Trade Center site.

"But if you don't do this right, anger will explode in the Muslim world," he later said, predicting that the reaction could be more furious than the eruption of violence following the 2005 publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal had something to say about that in his column today . . .

What was initially marketed as a gesture of conciliation has turned into a protection racket: Give Rauf what he wants, he tells us, or there's no telling what those angry Muslim extremists might do. Rauf's outrageous comments ought to erase all doubt that the construction of the Ground Zero mosque would be a victory for terrorism.

With this development, I'm inclined to agree with James. Now that we've got an implied threat, my own view has hardened a bit. I'm certainly not going to burn Qurans in protest, but as long as we have to proceed under blackmail, my feeling is "no mosque."

You don't give in to a child having a temper tantrum. And you certainly don't give in to people rioting, burning and killing to get their way.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Book Burning and Boneheads

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to weigh in on the Quran-burning controversy, for what it's worth.

The controversy was ginned up by Terry Jones, the pastor of a fringe-Pentecostal church in Florida known as the Dove World Outreach Center. He says he's protesting radical Islam by burning the Quran, and in so doing has drawn world-wide condemnation. He's even drawn the attention of U.S. General David Petraeus, who is concerned that the church's intended action will place our armed forces and people in even greater danger. The radicals will, of course, use this to help recruit for the jihadist cause. They really don't need much encouragement.

Let me be clear. As a Bible-believing, conservative evangelical Christian, I am no fan of Islam -- no matter what stripe it is. I consider it a false religion that will ultimately lead to people being separated from God for eternity. However, I am also not a fan of boneheaded gadfly "pastors" who apparently don't know their own Bibles, yet style themselves as spiritual leaders.

This is a horrible witness. No doubt, he and his supporters will point to the actions of Muslims around the world in burning Bibles and desecrating Christian churches through the years. Are Christians supposed to act like that too? Are Christians supposed to purposely cause offense to others, especially given the Great Commission charge of Christ to win others to Him? I think not.

In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul serves as a tremendous example of how to deal with other religions and cultures. Let's look at the passage together . . .

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”--because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.

And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? “For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’

“Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” So Paul went out of their midst
(Acts 17:16-33).

You'll notice in that passage that Paul didn't try to burn any of the idols down. Instead, he respectfully and prayerfully preached and witnessed to the Athenians, trusting in the Holy Spirit to do what only the Holy Spirit could do . . . draw people to Himself in saving faith.

There is only one area in the New Testament where the burning of books is referenced. That is in Acts 19, where . . . many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. The people who owned the magic books brought them out and burned them in repentance. They didn't burn them in protest, or to purposely offend anyone. No comparison at all to what is going on in Florida. The only way it could be similar would be if former Muslims decided to throw their own Qurans into the fire. That isn't happening, to my knowledge.

I think what we have here is the leader of a fringe group that seems to be out for publicity. He certainly isn't being a faithful and effective witness for Christ. Being a witness for Christ doesn't even seem to the paramount thing on his mind. And that ought to tell us something.

This issue is maddening to me for another reason. There are indeed abundant good reasons to protest Islam. It's not just a typical world religion out there being practiced quietly in temples. That is not its history. There is a political component of Islam — a conquering and dominating component. That needs to be resisted, and vocally. But there's a right way and a wrong way to do it, especially when Christians and their churches are involved. The most important thing for Christians and their churches is the Gospel. That MUST be paramount. Anything that hinders the Gospel is something to be eschewed.

So let's witness our faith. Let's call attention to human rights abuses within Islam. Let's sound proper warnings. Let's be factually and historically accurate. But most of all, let's lovingly share the hope, forgiveness and freedom that exists only in Christ. Let's not be boneheads and do things that only result in our witness being ignored.

Monday, September 06, 2010

James Lee and Discovery

As part of your Labor Day reading today, I highly recommend this post by Robert Wood regarding the deceased eco-terrorist James Lee. A good reminder to look beyond the mere surface headlines when contemplating incidents like this.

Sardis - Bring Out the Dead

For Labor Day, I'm posting another installment from my brief overview of the Lord Jesus' messages (through the Apostle John) to the seven churches in Revelation. Today, we're in Sardis, and it's not a pleasant visit.

The Lord begins immediately with rebuke. The church in Sardis has a name and a reputation. Specifically, they have a reputation of being “alive.” Things are really happening at this church, or so the talk goes. But God sess not as man sees. What man approves of isn't necessarily going to get kudos from Him. In fact, the church at Sardis is really dead. The only “pro” statement from Him in His message to the Sardis believers is that there are a few people who have not soiled their garments. God always has His remnant. I can well imagine this "remnant" being very grieved and distressed at what is going on in their congregation. Yes, things are indeed happening. It's a "happenin" church. But apparently at the cost of truth.

The Lord issues His warning to Sardis. They are to "wake up and strengthen what remains." Their deeds are not complete in the sight of God. They must REMEMBER what they have received and heard, and then keep it. How often are we told in Scripture to "remember?" Do not "forget?" These things are written as a "reminder." Human beings are fickle and prone to forget what is right, good and true. Worse yet is when you haven't forgotten it, but don't do it.

The Sardis congregation is commanded by Christ to repent of their laxness. If they don’t wake up, the Lord will catch them unawares and bring judgment to them. In this instance, Bible scholars don't think Jesus is referencing His Second Coming, because here His coming depends on their refusal to repent. To those who overcome, they will receive white garments — His righteousness. He will confess those who confess Him, and deny those who deny Him. And it must be real saving faith.

In Matthew 7:22, the Lord references so-called believers at the judgment who plead with amazement after He pronounces His judgment against them. "Did we not say, Lord, Lord, prophesying in Your name, in your name casting out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?" His reply is “I never knew you.” There are plenty of hucksters out there hawking all sorts of sensational displays and performances, all in the name of God. Lots of glitz, blow-dried hair and makeup. Some boast huge congregations, and those congregations love what they hear.

Too bad it's not what they need to hear. We're supposed to get rich teaching from God's Word when we assemble together, not motivational claptrap that could just as easily be heard at a salesman's convention.

Instead, we need to heed what the Spirit says to Sardis-type congregations. That is, if we have ears to hear.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Moral Glory of Christ

This week's installment from The Fundamentals

by Dr. William G. Moorehead

The Lord's moral glory appears in His unselfishness and personal dignity. The entire absence of selfishness in any form from the character of the Lord Jesus is another remarkable feature of the Gospels. He had frequent and fair opportunities of gratifying ambition had His nature been tainted with that passion. But "even Christ pleased not Himself;" He "sought not His own glory;" He came not "to do His own will." His body and His soul were with all the faculties and activities of each were devoted to the supreme aims of His mission. His self-sacrifice included the whole range of His human thought and affection and action; it lasted throughout His life; its highest expression was His ignominious death on the cross of Calvary.