The Whole Bible… in a Nutshell

4 05 2009

[Excerpted from The Art of Prophesying, by William Perkins]

perkins01The sum and substance of the message of the Bible can be summarized in an argument (or syllogism) such as this:

Major Premise:  The true Messiah shall be both God and man, from the seed of David. He shall be born of his heavenly Father’s bosom. He shall satisfy the law. He shall offer himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the faithful. He shall conquer death by dying and rising again. He shall ascend into heaven. In due time he shall return for judgment.

Minor Premise: Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary, meets all of these requirements.

Conclusion: Therefore Jesus is the true Messiah.

In this syllogism the major premise is the scope or principal burden of the writings of all the prophets. The minor premise is contained in the writings of the evangelists and apostles.

Advertisements




Are the Vandals at the gate?

31 10 2008

[The following thought-provoking essay was written by a friend of mine, whose grasp of both doctrine and history always make me sit up and pay attention when he offers a viewpoint. Here are his thoughts on the upcoming election and his reasons for casting his vote for John McCain. As always, your thoughts and feedback are welcome.]

 

…The new dark age may already be upon us.   As an amateur historian, I am often impressed by observing that cultures and civilizations often meet their demise suddenly and (to them at least) unexpectedly.  Alexander and fall of Darius’ great Persian empire, Attila and his sweeties (Huns), the Vandals before the gates of Hippo (quick Augustine write a book explaining all this), the Byzantines and the Arab Muslim invasion (conquering from Iran to Spain in a century), Lindisfarne and the Vikings (it helps to have some berserkers),  the Mongols and the Khwaresmian Empire (just look it up – I like the part where the Mongols drank the blood of their horses from their flanks), Montezuma (a lot of good your revenge did you) and Cortez,  Hitler and his 1000 year Reich, Bill Maz (using hidden vigorish, not to mention the green weenie) and the 1960’s Yankees — are a few of the many examples in history when the world suddenly changes.  And the nice life of the losers ends.

 

Americans always presume that their comfortable lives will continue as things have for years.   History (and Scripture) teaches otherwise.  With the ascension of Obama, Pelosi and Reid’s supermajority will all that change?   With the most radical Socialist government since 1932, will we descend into a new dark age?  Will our speech be silenced?   Will preaching the Gospel be a hate crime as it is in Canada?  Will our guns be confiscated?   Will our children be required to go to government schools for indoctrination?  Will all the evils of paganism be forced upon us?  Will the economy crash?  Will we experience what Augustine and the monks of Lindisfarne experienced, the loss of civilization itself?

 

Is America doomed?  Europe is already doomed — with Europe’s welfare states dying both economically and demographically (quick, name the most common boy’s name in Belgium?  In Amsterdam?  In Malmo Sweden?  What is the fifth most popular name in the United Kingdom?  If you said Mohammad, give yourself a free beer!).  Europe, with a birth rate of 1.4 or less, is losing population.  It is tough to support the welfare system without kids!  European Muslims, with a birth rate of 3.5, are doubling in population.   Soon, Shria law will rule in Europe and America will stand alone.  And stand alone with what?  Obama?!   Am I wrong?   Well, check back with me at the end of Obama’s presidency in 8 years – if I don’t have a more bushy beard and 3 more wives, then I was wrong.

 

OK, so maybe I am over reacting.  Maybe things won’t be so bad.  Maybe only a few more thousands of babies a year will be aborted than under Bush (and what’s a couple of punctured heads to get upset about), maybe only a few more guns (like shotguns) will be outlawed.  Maybe the new Supremes will only seem to look like Janet Reno, maybe it will be good if our daughters are in the draft, maybe only normal homosexuals (like Patrick Elias) will be able to get married at Manchester RP, maybe I will like to belong to a union this time.  We can all adapt to that. 

 

So yep, I am voting for McCain.  I know many conservative Christians are sitting this one out with some waiting for the worst to happen so America and the Republicans can learn their lesson.  Except it took over 1000 years for western civilization to come out of the dark ages.  Augustine’s Hippo never recovered.  The problem was, Augustine’s Rome voted for Obama or stayed home or voted for the Constitution candidate (these guys felt good about themselves when the Ostrogoths wacked off their heads).

 

Certainly our refuge is in the Lord and His provision in Christ.  We must be like Habakkuk and live by faith (Hab 2:4) though the Chaldeans come.  But if Habakkuk had the vote, what would he have done (WWHD?)?





18 steps in the progression of unbelief

14 10 2008

 

 

This blog comes from a sermon I preached awhile back on Numbers 13:1-14:4. If you haven’t read Numbers recently, I strongly recommend it. If you’re a pastor and you haven’t preached through Numbers, you really should. Numbers is the story of God’s people in the wilderness wanderings, when they were called to go up and take possession of the Land of Promise but failed because of their unbelief. The Apostle Paul tells us that the things that happened to them were recorded for our example, so that we might learn NOT to repeat their mistakes.

 

The big turning point comes when spies are sent into Canaan to bring back a report to Moses and the people. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, encourage the people to trust in God and claim His promise. The others are intimidated by the size and number of the enemy, and they convince the people to abandon all hope of entering Canaan. Numbers 13:1-14:4 records these sad events, and shows us how unbelief is planted, takes root, and springs up in the midst of God’s people.

 

Here is a step-by-step progression of unbelief that every believer should avoid…

 

Step 1: Hesitating in the path of obedience (Deuteronomy 1:19-21)

 

God gave a command to the people to go up immediately and take the land that He had promised to give them. The first step toward the ultimate apostasy of the wilderness generation was a false step… they hesitated instead of instantly heeding the command of the Lord. Stopping to consider whether or not immediate obedience to a clear command of God is necessary inevitably gives doubt a foothold. Consider the good example of Peter and Andrew recorded in Matthew 4:18-20: “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” In contrast are the hesitators, whose story is recorded in Luke 9:57-62:  “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’ And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'”

 

Step 2: Rationalizing procrastination through “practical considerations” (Deuteronomy 19:22)

 

Of course, the people were ready to provide a reason for their lack of instant compliance with God’s command.  After all, God expects us to be realistic.  He doesn’t want us to take leaps of blind faith without carefully weighing all of the facts, right? Surely God would not have us go up to possess the land without doing a demographic survey first to determine what we are up against! The fact that God graciously and patiently condescended to their weakness does not make their hesitation any more defensible. The longsuffering of God is a testimony to His goodness – not a justification of man’s weakness. God also bore with the people in order to test them, and in the end their initial hesitation would prove to be the beginning of a steady slide toward hardened unbelief. We may try to rationalize procrastination in the course of obedience, but given the inclination of our hearts toward sin, it is invariably dangerous to allow “practical considerations” to exercise a controlling interest in our decisions. Besides, when did practical considerations ever dictate what God is capable of doing?  The testimony of the Scriptures is the triumph of God’s power in spite of “practical considerations.” We are able to devise all sorts of reasons to put off immediate obedience to God’s commands, but in the end they only amount to excuses for our lack of faith and trust.

 

Step 3: Prayerlessness

 

There is no proof text in the passage before us to establish that the lack of prayer was an integral part of the people’s slide into sheer unbelief. It is an argument from silence… but the silence is deafening. Nowhere in the whole course of the narrative is there the slightest indication that the spies sought the face of the Lord in prayer as they set about their mission. We may be sure that Caleb and Joshua approached their task prayerfully, but it is clear from the conclusions of the other ten that seeking the direction and wisdom of God never occurred to them. The weeds of doubt grow thickest in an atmosphere of prayerlessness.

 

Step 4: Elevating man’s judgment above God’s

 

With gracious forbearance, God agreed to the proposal of the people and commanded that twelve spies be appointed to go up into the land. In His wisdom, the Lord designed the mission in such a way that possible disputes over the results would be less likely. There was to be a representative from each tribe, in order to eliminate any charge of partiality or vested interest. Those chosen as spies were to be recognized leaders in their tribes, so that their judgment would be respected. The design of God in this arrangement was that spiritually mature and seasoned men from each tribe would act as His representatives, reporting on the circumstances and encouraging a response of faithful obedience. God did not design the spy party as a means for group deliberation over whether or not to obey His command. Sadly, fallen man has an unfortunate knack in distorting a God-centered design into a man-centered one. It is a subtle shift that transforms God-centered representation into decision by majority vote. But in the process of the shift, the judgment of man is substituted for the will of God.

 

Step 5: Failing to discern God’s purpose in preparing His people (Num. 13:17-20)

 

God graciously agreed to permit the people to send out a spy party. His design, however, was not for them to evaluate whether or not they would obey. He allowed them to see the blessings of Canaan, along with the obstacles, in order to strengthen their courage. When God allows His people to anticipate the difficulties of their appointed tasks, it is not to discourage them, but to spur them on to greater resignation to Him and deeper trust in His ability to fulfill His promises. Failure to understand God’s purpose in revealing the obstacles ahead of us is the result of focusing on ourselves and our abilities rather than on the power of God to fulfill His promises. When God charged the spies to “be of good courage,” He was not calling on them to summon up their self-esteem, but to remember as they observed the challenges ahead of them that the Lord was with them. Rather than being overwhelmed with fear that they were not up to the task, they were to be moved to humble reliance on the Lord and filled with confidence that no challenge is too great for Him.

 

Step 6: Going through the motions of faith (Num. 13:21-25)

 

The twelve spies dutifully went about their mission, examining the lay of the land and its cities, and bringing back some of its produce as they had been instructed. But their minds were really made up before they left the camp. Once they caught a glimpse of the descendants of Anak, the rest of their mission was a mere formality.

 

Step 7: Dwelling on Circumstances (Num. 13:26-29)

 

It is not surprising that the report of the spies lists the positive and negative observations they  made with regard to the land.  This is what they were told to do. What is striking is that this is ALL they reported.   There is not a single mention of God, His power or His promises in the entire report!

 

Step 8: Magnifying the obstacles (Num. 13:28-29)

 

Also notable in the report of the spies is the decided “spin” they placed on their observations. Those given to doubt will always accentuate the negative. The blessings of the land are altogether lost in the emphasis placed on the down side. Worse yet, the power of God to conquer the mightiest of enemies, which the Israelites had certainly witessed in their deliverance from Egypt, is brushed aside.

 

Step 9: Dismissing the exhortations of the faithful (Num. 13:30-31)

 

The words of Caleb break through the gloom of the spies twisted report like a bright ray of sunshine piercing through the dark clouds of despair… But his words go unheeded by the gloom-and-doomers, casually dismissed as the unrealistic and impractical observations of a dreamer.

 

Step 10: Categorically denying the promises of God (Num. 13:31)

 

The strong statement of the unfaithful spies in verse 31 is nothing more than a bold-faced denial of the sure and certain promise of God. As doubters gain the support of the people, they become more and more bold in their unbelief.

 

Step 11: Stirring up discontent (Num. 13:32a)

 

Not wishing to lose their momentum in convincing the multitude to join them in their mutiny against God, the spies laid aside all pretense of “objectivity” and gave the people a bad report. The word used here is “dibba,” which means “whispering.”

 

Step 12: Distorting the truth (Num. 13:32b)

 

As the tension builds, a blatant contradiction becomes apparent in the words of the spies. In their initial report, they had said, “We went to the land where you sent us.  It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.” Now, as their personal stake in convincing the people to follow their wicked counsel escalates, they reverse their initial statement and assert: “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants.” In retrospect, their lie is transparent, for they go on to emphasize the “great stature” of the men who dwell in the land – far from being “devoured” by the land, the inhabitants seem to have been quite healthy. Notice too how it is now asserted that ALL the people of the land were of great stature! But the people, now being in a mode of complete panic, seem to have been unable or unwilling to discern the obvious inconsistency of these statements. What mattered was convincing the people that disobedience was in their best interest, and whatever lies or exaggerations were necessary to accomplish that end were fair game.

 

Step 13: Exalting the power of the enemy (Num. 13:33)

 

The next step in the progression was to focus on the apparent power and strength of the enemy. Once the power of God is factored out, and the circumstances are reduced to the appearances of the flesh, it is quite easy to become paralyzed with intimidation at the supposed advantages of the opposition. History abounds with examples of the successful employment of this strategy by the devil and his minions. In reality, the biggest giant we face is our own wicked inclination to doubt the power and goodness of God. When we see ourselves as grasshoppers in the sight of God’s enemies, it is because God is seen as less than a grasshopper in our eyes. David was certainly a “grasshopper” in the eyes of the Philistine giant, yet he boldly predicted Goliath’s defeat, announcing, “I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty… whom you have defied!”

 

Step 14: Wallowing in self-pity (Num. 14:1)

 

Having quite convinced themselves of the hopelessness of their situation, the people resorted to their tents and further solidified their doubts by weeping and wailing in complete self-pity. They did not cry out in prayer, asking the Lord for faith and strength and wisdom. Instead, they assured themselves that all was lost, and mourned their wretched predicament. The more they cried, the more sure they became of their plight. Self pity is like that.  It only serves to strengthen doubt. Weeping is good when it is the weeping of humble conviction and repentance. That kind of weeping proceeds from a heart that is deeply troubled by the offense it has caused to God. But the weeping of self-pity proceeds from a heart that is deeply troubled by the offense that God has caused to me!  It is the weeping of sheer rebellion and selfishness, and the more it is indulged, the tighter the stranglehold of rebellion becomes. Self-pity is like an intoxicating drug.  It is addictive and captivating.  It provides a deceptive sense of relief, but it is the illusion of a depressant that produces a temporary euphoria in those who take it in large enough quantities.  It merely feeds the selfish desire for affirmation, while ultimately plunging the soul into deeper despair.

 

Step 15: Discrediting God’s ordained authorities (Num. 14:2a)

 

Having fully indulged their foolish doubts in a night of weeping, the people had to face reality in the morning. When they awoke, Moses and Aaron would be waiting.  As God’s spokesmen, their task would be to proclaim the Word of God, calling the people to forsake their sinful disobedience and take hold of the Lord’s promise by faith. There is nothing the heart bent on rebellion hates more than a faithful preacher of the Word, especially when he is specifically appointed by God as a direct authority in his life! The best weapon of self-defense against such meddlesome preachers is to discredit them in the eyes of the people. So the people began to complain against Moses and Aaron.

 

Step 16: Giving in to irrational despair (Num. 14:2b)

 

The first part of the complaint of the people recorded in Numbers 14:2 is a glowing example of the irrational nature of unbelieving despair.  The people said, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in the wilderness!” This is not exactly a rational line of argumentation.  There is no reason given as to precisely how the people would be better off to have been killed by their Egyptian taskmaster, or to have dropped dead in the desert from plague or starvation. It is really pointless to inquire why death in Egypt or in the wilderness would have been better. There was no sound reasoning behind their statement.  It was the irrational expression of fear which had gripped the hearts of the multitude. At this point, they would have said anything to convince themselves that they were justified in their unbelief.  But what they did say amounted to this:  “We would be better off dead than trusting God to fulfill His promise to us!”  Truly, the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  And the man who denies God in the face of opposition is a fool indeed.

 

Step 17: Seeking to justify disobedience (Num. 14:3a)

 

The next step in the progression of unbelief was to construct a rationale for the essentially irrational. Somehow, the people must convince themselves that the sinful course they desire to follow is really the way of prudence and responsibility. In his commentary on Numbers, Gordon Keddie aptly states:  “All unbelief comes down to this: a wicked and foolish decision is laundered by a show of rightness and wisdom.” And so the people come up with a justification for their cowardice. First, they imply that Moses and Aaron have obviously misinterpreted the will of God.  “Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword?”  Surely God would not do such a thing Moses!  You have clearly led us astray! Notice that by this point the people have firmly concluded that their entrance into the land of Canaan necessarily means that they will be killed.  There is not even a remote possibility in their minds that maybe… just maybe… they would prevail. Next, they concoct a high-sounding justification for their fear:  The truly responsible thing is to look out for the interests of our wives and children.  Those bent on pursuing a course of disobedience rarely come right out and admit it.  The heart is desperately wicked, and very adept at finding some plausible-sounding pretext to make foolish unbelief seem like the height of wisdom, and sheer cowardice seem noble.

 

Step 18: Formally rejecting God’s command (Num. 14:3b-4)

 

The course of self-deception being complete, it remains only for the people to formally announce their conclusion.  Having concluded that it would actually be “better” to walk in the exact opposite direction from the will of God, they said to one another:  “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.” The majority voted to impeach God and His servant Moses. It wasn’t the last time that a faithful minister of God would find himself on the losing side of a vote cast by a rebellious congregation. Fear triumphed over faith in their hearts… unbelief dressed up as “practical wisdom” resulted in a formal repudiation of God’s promised inheritance. The lot was cast, and the plague of apostasy had smitten an entire generation.

 

The remedy is found in Psalm 27 and Romans 8:28-39

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Why is God a stranger?

19 09 2008

O the Hope of Israel, his Savior in time of trouble, Why should You be like a stranger in the land, And like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night? Why should You be like a man astonished, Like a mighty one who cannot save? Yet You, O LORD, are in our midst, And we are called by Your name; Do not leave us!”  (Jeremiah 14:8-9)

 

This passage of Scripture was written during a very bad time in Israel. The people had strayed from the Lord, in spite of many repeated warnings, to the point that God had become like a STRANGER in the land. They had grieved away His presence, and the result was that they became vulnerable to their enemies.

 

If God’s presence was seen among them, it was only like that of a man who was passing through. The sense of God’s nearness and readiness to defend His people from their foes was no longer felt in the land.

 

How does this apply to us? Can it not be said that God is a stranger in our land as well? Once He was our Savior in times of trouble, our Hope, the imminent One who dwelt in our midst. Now, if He is noticed at all, it is as if He doesn’t belong… “like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night.”

 

Consider the evidence that God is a stranger in our land…

 

1.       Think of how FEW CONVERSIONS there are among us. I’m not talking about people walking down aisles, repeating a forumula “sinner’s prayer,” then continuing to live the same sin-drenched lives they always have. The lack of genuine conversions can be seen in the lack of a transformed culture. When Jesus changes lives, the whole dynamic of society is changed – from the individual, to the family, to the workplace, to the church, to the city, state and nation. When God is moving among a people, things CHANGE. The fact that our neighborhoods and our nation are not only NOT CHANGING, but actually digressing further and further into sin is a sign that God is a stranger in our land.

 

2.       Think of how much DEADNESS there is among professing Christians. While those who name the name of Jesus pursue their own advancement and claim financial blessings as a right of faith, the lost are ignored and the oppressed are passed by. Religion is not a license to sin, or a guarantee of a prosperous life. James gave us the most concise definition of religion: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). Nothing about health, wealth and prosperity there! Not even a mention of doctrinal orthodoxy, as important as that is. God defines pure religion in terms of personal holiness and sacrificial service. The lack of these defining attributes in the vast majority of those who call themselves Christians is further evidence that God is a stranger in our land.

 

3.      Think of how BOLD sinners are to continue in sin. When God’s Spirit is present among a people, there is a restraint upon wickedness. In our land iniquity parades itself through the streets. Wicked leaders boast of their plans to silence God and overthrow His truth. Men and women in the streets pursue lust and practice deceit and ungodliness with the pride of people who are doing heroic deeds. This too is a sign that God is a stranger in our midst.

 

The withdrawal of God from our land is something greatly to be feared. One of the chief ways that God judges a people is simply by giving them over to their own sinful ways and desires. When He removes the restraints of His grace, a society crumbles under the weight of its own evil. We are far down that path, fam!

 

It’s not that God hasn’t been seeking to get our attention. Wars, calamities, and disasters have been His messengers. A few bold prophetic voices have been raised, but they are invariably ignored and marginalized. For the most part, preachers have been content to build their own empires, “choosing rather to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin than to suffer affliction with the people of God” – a virtual reversal of the faithful example of Moses in Hebrews 11:25. 

 

Among the people there is little interest in hearing the Word of God. Give us short sermons and lots of entertainment! Prayer has not only been banished from the public square, but also diminished in the home and family. And the vast majority of people aren’t even sensitive to the fact that something is wrong! Much less are they aware of the only source of hope and salvation, which is Jesus Christ.

 

It is time for the people of God to wake up! The prayer of Jeremiah needs to become the fervent prayer of our own hearts…

 

O the Hope of Israel, his Savior in time of trouble, Why should You be like a stranger in the land, And like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night? Why should You be like a man astonished, Like a mighty one who cannot save? Yet You, O LORD, are in our midst, And we are called by Your name; Do not leave us!”  (Jeremiah 14:8-9)





The “Todd Factor”

17 09 2008

              

Media coverage of the 2008 presidential race has spotlighted, as it traditionally does, the spouses of the Republican and Democratic contenders for the Oval Office – our country’s potential First Ladies. What is striking in this election cycle is the copious amount of attention being given to the spouse of Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin – Alaska’s “First Dude,” Todd Palin. Even in 1984, when Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro as the first female V.P. running mate in U.S. history, there was nothing to equal the media obsession currently raging around Todd Palin. Can anyone remember Ms. Ferraro’s husband’s name? (It was John Zaccaro). But times have changed.

Consider the current race. Have you seen any special reports or news features focusing on Jill Biden, the wife of Democratic V.P. candidate Joe Biden? Me neither. And why not? Well, quite frankly, it’s just not news. If Senator Obama wins in November, Jill Biden will be nothing more than the wife of the Vice President – not a position that generally draws much attention. Even if the election sets the stage for Biden to mount a Presidential campaign of his own in four or eight years, Jill would simply join the ranks of First Ladies. And make no mistake. The current focus on Todd Palin has nothing to do with his relationship to a potential Vice President and everything to do with his relationship to a potential President of the United States.

So why all the to-do about Todd? You might chalk some of it up to novelty, but that doesn’t fully explain the current phenomenon. Remember John Zaccarro? Me neither. Things are different in 2008 than they were in 1984. We have experienced a full-blown cultural shift. Todd Palin represents the consummation of this radical transformation. It’s not so much about a woman’s rise to power. It is also, and perhaps even more-so, about a man’s recession to the background. Feminism is not about gender equality – it is about role reversal – the subordination of man to woman. That’s what makes Sarah and Todd Palin so important to the feminist agenda. Here is Todd Palin – by all accounts a rugged, masculine, man’s man – a commercial fisherman, outdoorsman, and entreprenuer – and he is willing to assume the role of the fawning, adoring, supportive “help-meet” to his wife as she stands poised to assume the office of the second most powerful leader of the free world. Should she parley that role into a successful Presidential bid in 2012 or 2016, the conquest will be complete.

This is not about “conservative” versus “liberal” politics. Governor Palin is known as a political conservative. She is pro-life, pro-second amendment, anti-big government, pro-domestic oil drilling. Yet, as a member of the group, Feminists for Life, she exposes the socially liberal ideology which has ultimately brought her to where she is today. Even the name of the organization rings of contradiction. Feminism has long been the champion of the pro-abortion cause. But Sarah Palin represents a new breed of feminist – which sees no contradiction between espousing and defending “conservative values” while at the same time advancing a liberal social agenda that undermines the traditional family.

Now, I am fully aware that the advocacy of traditional role distinctions between men and women is labeled as “sexist” by the popular culture. Dr. Voddie Baucham was branded with that label by a supposedly “neutral” news anchor when he recently defended those views in an interview on CNN. Yet, for the Christian, truth is not defined by popular culture, but by the Word of God which stands forever. This is the crisis facing our nation at this crucial stage of history, and this is what is at stake in the current presidential race. It’s about questioning and discarding the plain statements of the Bible, which is God’s own Word, in favor of our own preferred lifestyles and choices. Has God really said that woman was created to be the helper of man? Has God really said that woman is not to exercise authority over man? Has God really said that one of the marks of a nation in decline is that it has women in positions of leadership? Has God really said that a wife should be a keeper of her home? Has God really said that a woman who dedicates herself to the role of wife and mother will find great reward in this high and noble calling? It really comes down to a question of Biblical authority. Whose word is the supreme guide? God’s or mine? This is always where Satan draws the lines of battle. Don’t believe me? A 24 year old blogger named Michelle from San Francisco summed it up this way:

“Christianity is overwhelming proof of the prevalence of sexism in a America AND the most powerful force perpetuating it. Churches are still denying jobs to people based on their sex! How is this acceptable in a country where that is illegal for every other type of organization?? Patterson is obviously a nutjob, but please consider that ALL Christians (75% of Americans) look to the Bible for guidance. The Bible that says:

1. God is a male
2. Man came first and Woman was created from a derivative of man
3. Woman brought sin into the world
4. Men did everything that was ever significant short of the “virgin” birth (I am sure if men could give birth they would have been credited for this accomplishment too).

A LOT of old writings are sexist but still valued for their scientific, literary, or otherwise academic value. You could make that same argument for the bible – that we can look past the sexism and extract the value. But the difference between the bible and those books is that 75% of Americans don’t look to those books for moral guidance. They don’t use those books to back alogical political decisions. They don’t claim those books are written by God, or that they are instruction manuals for how to live our lives. They don’t read those books to their kids at bedtime.”

There it is. If you believe such outlandish things: that God is male; that He created man first and woman as a helper to man; that Eve sinned first; that God has established distinct and particular roles for men and women – you, my friend, are guilty of sexism! If you plan to propagate such antiquarian notions, I hope you’re ready to be marginalized, villified, ridiculed and dismissed as a right-wing nut job. Now that evangelicals are flocking to support Sarah Palin because of her political conservatism, those who hold to Biblical views on the distinction of roles between men and women in the church and society will find themselves on the radical fringe indeed.

When it finally does become illegal for churches to deny the job of pastor to women because of their sex, evangelicals will have only themselves to blame for not recognizing the subtle erosion of Biblical truth because it came packaged in the form of a capable and winsome leader and her smiling and supportive husband.





Three things that hinder prayer

12 09 2008

If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” (Psalm 66:18)

 

Love of the world and love of sin puts a barrier between man and God so that the heavens are like a ceiling of brass that bounces back prayer and keeps it from reaching God’s ears.

 

Have you ever felt like that? Have you complained that the Lord isn’t hearing and answering your prayers? Have you worried that He has forsaken or abandoned you because He doesn’t seem to listen to you? God has not forsaken you, but He wants you to forsake your sin and abandon your love of self.

 

Why is it that a man’s regarding iniquity in his heart (literally, cherishing or loving sin) hinders his prayers from being heard favorably by God? Here are three key reasons

 

1. If you cherish sin in your heart you cannot pray by the Spirit. All prayers that are acceptable with God are the breathings of His own Spirit within us (Romans 8:26). Without the intercession of Christ we can’t have our prayers accepted, and without the intercession of the Spirit we can’t pray rightly. If your spirit is infatuated with some sinful desire or activity, God’s Spirit within you is grieved, and your prayers are tainted.

 

2. If you cherish sin in your heart you cannot pray in faith. You can’t build a rational confidence upon any promise that God will accept you. The Bible teaches us that faith always respects the promise, and the promise of acceptance is made only to the upright in heart. As long as you cherish a love of sin in your heart, you fail to understand the promises of God, and so pray without understanding. At best, your prayers are presumptuous, because you are asking God to bless you while you are taking His grace and mercy for granted.

 

3. If you cherish sin in your heart you cannot pray with fervency. Next to sincerity, this is the greatest qualification for effective prayer that is acceptable before God. “The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much.” The cause of fervency or passion in anything that we seek is our love for it. The more we love something the harder we will pursue it. As long as the love of sin possesses our hearts, our love toward spiritual things is dull, heavy and inactive, and so is our pursuit of them.

 

This is a wretched error with which our souls deceive themselves. At the same time we love our sin and pray against it. At the same time we plead for grace, with a desire not to prevail. Such are the mysterious, intricate treacheries by which the love of sin will make a soul deceive and undo itself. Truth told, we pray sluggishly for spiritual mercies, because if we receive what we ask, we will have to put away our sin! The soul thus deceived cannot pray against sin in earnest. We fight against it, but with neither hope nor intent to conquer.  Like lovers in a game against one another, we fight with a desire to lose.

 

Do your prayers for deliverance seem to bounce off the ceiling? Then pray for God to give you a true hatred for your sin and a true and fervent love for His holiness and purifying presence. Pray that He will purge your heart of any lingering desire for the passing pleasures of sin. Only then will you be able to pray in the Spirit, in faith, and with the fervency that will reach the gracious ear of your patient and loving Father in heaven.





Where’s the love?

5 09 2008

Here’s a snippet from one of my favorite books, “Charity and its Fruits,” by Jonathan Edwards. In a series of 13 sermons on 1 Corinthians 13, Edwards challenges us to evidence the grace of God in our lives by exhibiting the characteristics of love toward one another.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

 

 

“What a watch and guard should Christians keep against envy, malice, and every kind of bitterness of spirit towards their neighbors! For these things are the very reverse of the real essence of Christianity. And it behooves Christians, as they would not, by their practice, directly contradict their profession, to take heed to themselves in this matter. They should suppress the first beginnings of ill-will and bitterness and envy; watch strictly against all occasions of such a spirit; strive and fight to the utmost against such a temper that tends that way; and avoid, as much as possible, all temptations that may lead to it. A Christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction. It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!

 

If you call yourself a Christian, where are your works of love? Have you abounded, and do you abound in them? If this divine and holy principle is in you, and reigns in you, will it not appear in your life in works of love? Consider, what deeds of love have you done? Do you love God? What have you done for Him, for His glory, for the advancement of His Kingdom in the world? And how much have you denied yourself to promote the Redeemer’s interest among men? Do you love your fellow-men? What have you done for them? Consider your former defects in these respects, and how becoming it is in you, as a Christian, hereafter to abound more in deeds of love. Do not make excuse that you have not opportunities to do anything for the glory of God, for the interest of the Redeemer’s Kingdom, and for the spiritual benefit of your neighbors. If your heart is full of love, it will find vent; you will find or make ways enough to express your love in deeds. When a fountain abounds in water, it will send forth streams. Let every Christian consider these things; and may the Lord give you understanding in all things, and make you sensible what spirit it becomes you to be of, and dispose you to such an excellent, amiable, and benevolent life, as is answerable to such a spirit, that you may not love only in word and tongue, but in deed and in truth.”