Saturday, May 31, 2008
Very insightful post on Graeme Goldssworthy's "Gospel and Kingdom" by Blake White. Blake came across an inconsistent statement by Goldsworthy regarding the difference between the unity of the covenants and the uniformity of the covenants. While there is a common thread between all of the covenants, Jeremiah 31 clearly states that the new covenant is a different and a better covenant, not like the old covenant that Israel broke. The idea of the uniformity in covenants is key to paedobaptism, and when you show the difference between the covenants, their main argument falls apart. It is a good read, as are many of Blake's other posts.
In an ironic story in the Toledo Blade, the ACLU is threatening the school district in Findlay, Ohio because it is promoting religious indoctrination by Christian radicals! Well, not really. What they are really all riled up about is the school permitting students to leave school grounds for a few minutes, go onto a public sidewalk and get a Bible from the Gideons. Note that the Gideons are not on school grounds and kids are not required to leave to get them. No instruction in the Bible takes place:
FINDLAY - Findlay City Schools got a friendly but stern warning yesterday from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio: It's not legal to let children out of school to get free New Testaments.
In March, fifth graders at the district's five elementary schools were permitted to walk off school grounds during the school day to receive a New Testament from Gideons International.
The ACLU said that while the Gideons have a right to distribute their materials on public property, the public schools cannot sacrifice class time to help them in their religious mission.
"By agreeing to the Gideons' request, pulling them out of class, and walking them over to receive these Bibles, the school crossed the line," said Carrie Davis, staff attorney with ACLU of Ohio.
She sent a letter to Superintendent Dean Wittwer asking that he "immediately stop school employees from escorting students to visit missionaries during school hours."
I love the "stern warning" part. The ACLU, and in cooperation much of the media, has appointed itself as watchdogs of our society and is treated almost like a law enforcement agency, one not ruled by any sort of democratic process and unaccountable to anyone. I must have missed that rule in the Constitution, or that piece of legislation deputizing the ACLU as the arbiter of what does or does not pass Constitutional muster. I thought that was the role of the Supreme Court. Silly me! They even have a briefing paper with the banner "Guardians of Freedom". There is perhaps no group of liberals, a generally self-important group if ever there was one, that is more self-important than the ACLU.
What probably has the ACLU all riled up is this comment by Chris Brooks, one of the principals:
Chris Brooks, principal of Bigelow Hill Elementary School in Findlay, said for years the Gideons have distributed to students what they call a "pocket testament," a palm-sized booklet that contains the New Testament, Proverbs, and Psalms. He said he doesn't have a problem with it.
"To me, you've got to look at the context of the community," Mr. Brooks said. "This is a Christian community. I'm not saying everybody is, but that's where Findlay is."
That might raise their ire just a bit. The ACLU then passes muster on the Constitution again, and throws a quick threat out there
The ACLU said that's not the point.
Ms. Davis said courts across the country have consistently held that it's unconstitutional for schools to have activities like this during the school day.
"For decades, courts have said the schools cannot be doing this," she said. "They say it's the parents' right to control their children's religious upbringing, not the schools."
While the letter from the ACLU said the organization was "prepared to explore other options, including legal action" if the district didn't address the issue, Ms. Davis said nothing is planned at this point.
"Right now, the ball is in their court," she said. "We're waiting to hear from the school district in terms of their response to this and whether they intend to consider policy changes" or whether to allow this in the future.
In other words: Do what we say or we bring an expensive lawsuit and bankrupt the school (all in the name of freedom of course) ! That really takes the cake. Parents are allowed to control their children's religious upbringing, but the law in Ohio requires kids to attend public schools unless you jump through a bunch of hoops (Ohio has some pretty restrictive laws regarding homeschool), and in that public school a decidedly anti-religious viewpoint is taught. So you can teach your kids however you want, once the school is done teaching them what it wants. This is just a further example of mandatory, compulsory public education forcing a religious viewpoint by actively promoting an anti-religious message and pushing the religion of secular humanism in it's place. The ACLU and the acolytes of secular humanism, in their quest to quash religious dissent and freedom, go so far as to threaten a small Ohio school because the school (which is supposed to be a place of learning, I thought) is allowing students a couple of minutes of school time (in a school bought and paid for by their parents) to leave school grounds to get a Bible. The truth is that it is the radical secular Left that are the religiously intolerant and closed minded among us.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Stickin' it to homeschoolers, Subway style
The home school blogosphere was all abuzz the last few days because of a perceived slight against us by Subway of all places. A recent contest stipulated the following:
“Contest is open only to legal residents of the Untied States who are currently over the age of 18 and have children who attend elementary, private or parochial schools that serve grades PreK-6. No home schools will be accepted.”
The contest was for $5000 in playground equipment. Not something that most homeschoolers could use, but that wasn't the point.
Subway quickly recanted and apologized with this news release to the Homeschool Legal Defense Assocation.
We at SUBWAY restaurants place a high value on education, regardless of the setting, and have initiated a number of programs and promotions aimed at educating our youth in the areas of health and fitness.
We sincerely apologize to anyone who feels excluded by our current essay contest. Our intention was to provide an opportunity for traditional schools, many of which we know have trouble affording athletic equipment, to win equipment. Our intent was certainly not to exclude homeschooled children from the opportunity to win prizes and benefit from better access to fitness equipment.
To address the inadvertent limitation of our current contest and provide an opportunity for even more kids to improve their fitness, we will soon create an additional contest in which homeschooled students will be encouraged to participate. When the kids win, everyone wins!
So that crisis is averted. But some bigger issues remain. The bigger issue is the idea that if your kids aren't in the public schools, they aren't being "socialized" and aren't part of the broader community. In order to be a good American, you have to be part of the community. To be part of the community you must submit to government indoctrination, i.e. mandated education in your child’s most formative years. If your child is not in public schools, you are not part of the community, irrespective of the fact that your kid plays with other kids, goes to the same library, that you pay property taxes that go to prop up the educational bureaucracy and get no benefit for them. Public schools make it as difficult as possible in many cases for students to benefit from any of the resources that public schools monopolize through confiscatory taxes. Try sending your home schooled kid for just a math class. You either submit in whole to their program, or stay away. When you submit to government control of your child’s education, you relinquish virtually all rights to have a say in or be informed about what and how your child is being taught.
I am not all that upset about the specific exclusion of homeschoolers from the contest per se. I am not sure what we would do if our kids won, maybe buy a sweet jungle gym or some sports related x-box games. I am glad that Subway quickly recognized their error and apologized, hopefully to do something soon that will appeal to kids of all educational streams: public, private or homeschooled. (HT: Michael R. Jones)
Along the same lines, there is a new article on Monergism by Blair Brown from 2006 titled: The New Religious Establishment: A Reforming Dissent. I am not sure who Blair Brown is, but the article is excellent, a little more intellectual than normal webpage fare, but not at the level of a PhD dissertation. He asks and then seeks to answer this question: Has America, under the guise of furthering civilization through compulsory public education, established a religion that adheres to the letter of the Constitution while alienating its spirit? Clearly the answer is a resounding yes.
Mr. Brown lays out the case that the infamous separation of church and state has less to do with keeping religion out of government than it does with keeping the temporal and spiritual aspects of life in the appropriate sphere, i.e. the government has power over the temporal to combat crime, defend the borders, etc while the spiritual sphere is left ideally left outside of the government's control. In other words the government should pursue and punish criminals but not tells us what to think.
His point has much to do with the notion that compulsory public education has an inherently religious nature, although one that is less obvious and perhaps unexpected, and through compulsory public education we are in effect establishing a state sanctioned and majority controlled religious position that stands in contrast to the First Amendment’s prohibition on religious establishment by the government.
“This problem strikes at the heart of our American ideals. The First Amendment bars any establishment of religion; we have heeded the form of this prohibition, while neglecting its substance. The First Amendment checks government. It excludes it from commanding conscience—any state forcing ideas and beliefs descends into unjust absolutism. Our freedoms of religion, speech, press, and association strip government of the power to exact intellectual obedience and enjoin ideas and beliefs—we circumscribe government’s power in order to free our citizens’ consciences. Does the state serve liberty by compelling children into a state-controlled educational establishment that teaches ideas offensive to the conscience of a minority? Some point to the provision made for private or homeschooling—they disregard that some families eke out an existence and can ill afford such luxuries. They also ignore that the state injures this minority in its indifference towards their conscience. These families must combat ideas they consider contrary to conscience using their slender resources; they must fight a system larger and more powerful than themselves. Families who can afford these alternatives retain conscience at a price, one that others do not bear. Is this liberty? Is this justice?”
While I don’t agree in lockstep with all of his opinions, he does raise some excellent points and generate a great deal of thought on yet another facet of compulsory public education that not many people give much thought to. It is certainly a worthwhile read and a worthy addition to the copious literature and reasoning against compulsory public schooling, and in favor of school choice, all from a decidedly and intentionally Reformed position.
Mr. Brown’s closing summary of the options facing us is perhaps his most powerful statement:
“America confronts three uncomfortable choices. First, we can continue to ignore this threat to liberty, and pretend that compulsory public education and freedom of conscience are compatible. Second, we can surrender liberty of conscience in favor of compulsory public education by affirming the current policies, and in so doing repudiate our experiment in liberal republicanism. Third, we can strip the state of the power to compel attendance at state sponsored schools. America can compel and fund education through the state, but confer the choice of the school on parents. These options can include state-sponsored public, private, or home schools. School choice is unpopular, but no other reasonable alternative exists. We must sever the state’s current control over conscience, if the American experiment is to succeed. Some argue that this will destroy compulsory public education, but the alternative furthers public schooling at the expense of liberty. A choice confronts us: which is more important, the freedom of the conscience and the American experiment in liberty, or compulsory public education?”
Ought we not in our society favor liberty whenever possible?
Monday, May 26, 2008
Memorial Day, May 26, 2008
What is today? Just a day we get off work? Banks are closed (yeah!), post office closed.
It has lost lots of it's meaning in a country that makes lots of noise about "supporting the troops", but isn't bothered to think about these men and women who are in cruddy tents in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in places all around the world. They are away from family and home, and in harm's way. Some are the best and the brightest but most of them are just regular kids who have chosen to serve our country. Whatever their motivation is, they defend us and do for this nation what most of us are unwilling to do. Most come home, many do not, and those that do often are scarred physically and emotionally. But we live in a sinful world with people who want to kill us and destroy our way of life. Thinking nice thoughts won't get it done. Sometimes you have to defend freedom and that freedom comes with a cost. So on Memorial Day, set down the remote and step away from the grill and remember those in uniform, those who are serving now and those who served in the past at places like Yorktown, Gettysburg, Midway and Baghdad and paid the ultimate price.
One point brought up was that people still dress up for funerals, but even that changes as we try to make funerals into "celebrations of life". The idea of funerals as a celebration has come up because if you are a non-Christian you can’t face death so you try to dress it up as a celebration. If we wear a Hawaiian shirt at a funeral, maybe it won't seem so mournful.
Ken Jones said that this new in formalism in the church is nothing less than a new sort of strange fire offered to the Lord. What a powerful indictment that is. We dress down for church not because it doesn't matter how we dress, but because we rebelliously want to worship God on our own terms. Church isn't that important, the Bible isn't that important, the Gospel isn't that important, hey even God isn't that important. Why not wear shorts?
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I love this famous line from Barry Goldwater at the 1964 GOP Covention in San Francisco...
I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
Welcome to Hockeytown ladies!
You know you are in trouble when this happens getting on the ice to start the game.
Nice way to start the game, having your goalie who is about to face the Wings and their Swedish onslaught trip coming out of the gate. Doesn't bode well. And you see the results below as Marc-Andre Fleury gives up one of four goals last night. He had to be pretty happy that his team got outshot almost 2-1.
We had the wondrous blessing today on seeing two more of our children baptized. It has been something we have needed to do for some time, but circumstances have prevented us from being able to do so. Providentially we find ourselves in a new area but at a Bible preaching church where a man of God, who understands what the Bible teaches about baptism, presided over the sacrament of baptism for my children.
What a wonderful experience to speak with your child, talk about the significance of baptism and hug your child who has come to faith in Christ and welcome them into the church. To have them understand what baptism is, what Christ has done and what being a member of the church means.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
In the second show, Dr. Mohler spoke with Bob Kauflin, worship dude from Sovereign Grace Ministries who led the singing at Together for the Gospel. Bob has a great understanding of the role of the worship leader, i.e. that it is a teaching ministry and that the role of music is not to be the worship but to be part of the worship, typically leading up to the pinnacle of the worship service which is the proclamation of the Word of God. Bob is a voice of reason amidst the din. His book, Worship Matters, was one of the giveaway books at T4G, and I am looking forward to reading it and then perhaps passing it on to someone involved in the music ministry and planning at church.Dr. Mohler gave a brief, two word description of what our worship should look like: Humble and holy. Music has the power to bring great emotional reactions from people, and often in "worship" services that is the case. People think that they worshipped because the music made them feel uplifted and maybe even shed a tear or two. It is not a sign of poor worship if people cry, but if that is the goal then the point is missed. Music is not the end of worship but the beginning. Music in church services should teach, should prepare, should exalt Christ, ultimately it should enhance the sermon instead of replacing the sermon. In too many churches, people think the worship ends when the music does and the sermon is just a interruption between the people in the pews and their lunch plans.
This is not intended to be a blanket rejection of all worship music made after 1900. But what characterizes much of modern "Christian" music is: a lack of Christ focus, doctrinal/theological shallowness (or more likely complete absence), exaltation of man rather than God, weepy sentimentality that hardly befits the Lion of Judah, music that is shallow as a mud puddle and nutritious as a marshmallow. It seeks to appeal to the world by looking like and catering to the world. We should look and sound different from the world, otherwise why waste your Sunday when you stay at home, listen to a couple of cheesy 80's love ballads and save the trip to church?
But why all the fuss? Does God even care how we worship as long as we do worship Him? What does the Bible say about worship and whether it matters to God? Let's check, shall we?
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD has said, 'Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'" And Aaron held his peace. (Leviticus 10:1-3 ESV)Kind of sounds to me like God cares, at least a little bit. God is many things: just, loving, holy. But He is also a jealous God, jealous of His name and His position. He brooks no disrespect or irreverence towards Himself. Our worship should be reflective of our recognition of His holiness, our sinfulness and the gratitude His people share in the common unity of those bought with the blood of Christ.
Friday, May 23, 2008
A recent article in the Detroit Free Press touts yet another "new kind of church":
Pastor hopes to draw families, professionals
It's not going to be like your mother's church. Your grandfather's either.
The pastor might wear jeans and a sports coat. Movies may be incorporated into lessons, and the hour-long service might have a concert feel.
The Macomb Township church is so casual organizers haven't even named it yet. They're holding an online contest through May 31 allowing the public to help choose its name.
The goal of this modern approach is to attract young professionals and families to worship.
The church is joining a recent push to target twenty- to fortysomethings in metro Detroit -- whether it's through the establishment of new churches or creating more relevant programs for young people at older, established congregations.
"I think most people believe in God but for the most part have given up on church. This is a way to reengage them and get them to come to church again," said Josh Hossler, 29, pastor of the new church. Services would include media technology, contemporary music, pop culture and slang -- to replace stiff religious vernacular.
The same old refrain, the same broken record. New, culturally relevant, exciting, engaging, anything but boring and old. That is what churches are after these days because that is what they think people want. They are partly right. That is exactly what sinners want and it draws them in. The problem is that these churches never get past the marketing to the meat. The claim is that they are just seeking ways to reach out to people so that they can give them the Gospel, but these churches get trapped by their own method. They suck people in by entertaining them, but they can never stop because they fear they will lose them.
Warren Community Church Pastor James Thompson said it's a privilege to help the new church, even if he loses members.
"Church planting like this is probably the most effective way to reach people in our present church culture," he said. "So many older churches are dying and many are closing, and there's just a whole new level of commitment and excitement in a new church plant that is much more effective than trying to revive a church that is on the down side of growth."
Churches that are dying are not dying because of their methods, but because they have abandoned the Gospel. Most stodgy mainline Protestant churches long ago abandoned the Gospel and Christians have slowly abandoned those churches to the point that they stopped being true churches long ago. There is more to a church dying than fewer people in the pews. Churches can and do die spiritually and it is less obvious to the naked eye. I am sure that these guys in "The church to be named later" think they are doing the right thing but they are doing what they are doing to appeal to the sinners eyes and ears, not on what the Bible commands us to do.
In marked contrast, and a welcome contrast, is a blog post by Thabiti Anyabwile warning us to be careful in how we grow the church: Be Careful How You Build: A Plea for Boring Preaching.
So here's a plea. Please, please Lord build your church on "boring" preaching and "regular" personalities owned and fired by your Holy Spirit, so that your people will find excitement and emotion that comes from the truth and their affections will rest on You rather than the earthen vessel that proclaims your Name.
Not many people call for boring preaching but Thabiti does and he does has a very valid reason: when the pastor is called upon for theatrics or entertainment, the Gospel is lost. I know that not everyone finds Gospel preaching to be stimulating, but it really shouldn't be. If a sermon is entertaining to a sinner, then they aren't hearing the Gospel. I love hearing the Gospel proclaimed and the Word of God unfolded chapter by verse by word. When the Word if proclaimed and explained and exhorted from the pulpit, THAT is preaching. What goes on in "seeker sensitive churches", emergent types, and other aberrant forms of worship is not preaching in any sense of the word.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4 ESV)
Thursday, May 22, 2008
The Third Court of Appeals in Austin said the state failed to show the youngsters were in any immediate danger, the only grounds in Texas law for taking children from their parents without court action.
Try to take this event and overlay it on a more familiar setting. What if someone at Willow Creek or some other mega-church was accused of abusing children, so the cops came in and took away all of the children of every family that were members of the church? What if the cops showed up in Dearborn, Michigan based on an anonymous phone call that Muslim parents were raising up children as terrorists, so the police took all of the children from their parents in the assumption that if one Muslim family was raising a child to be a terrorist, they all must be. The probable cause the police used here would never hold up in any court for any sort of offense. I have no idea what possessed the authorities in Texas to assume that they were free to round up whole families of children. It was certainly made easier because of the odd temple, the closed nature of the sect, the fact that they dress like extras on Little House on the Prairie. But being an oddball is not a crime in this country, at least not yet.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I read this headline on the Detroit Free Press webpage:
Group: Hate crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered people up 133%
Sounds horrifying, right? But when you dig into the story and get beyond the headlines, here is what you find.
The Triangle Foundation said Tuesday that the number of violent crimes against Michiganders because of their sexual orientation that was reported to the Detroit-based group jumped 133% last year over 2006.
There were 226 reported incidents during 2007 involving violence or violent threats against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered people, according to the report, which was released in conjunction with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. By comparison, the foundation said, there were 97 reported incidents in 2006.
Among the 226 reports last year were two homicides, 21 cases of vandalism, 46 assaults and 101 incidents of intimidation or harassment, the report said. In addition to the violent incidents, the foundation reported 72 cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
So how many homicides did we have in Michigan last year total versus the 2 that were labelled as "hate crimes" How many cars and homes were vandalized? How many people were "intimidated" in one way or another? This is a prime example of a news story that seeks to push an agenda. We have something as amorphous as "intimidation" labeled a "hate crime" and with probably inflated numbers from the Triangle Foundation. The entire story is based on suspect numbers and vague definitions. But to read the headline, you would come to the conclusion that Michigan is in the midst of a crime wave against homosexuals.
Is it any wonder that fewer and fewer people turn to mainstream newspapers and news programs to get their news? I long ago stopped giving an credence to what is peddled as news by the mainstream, left-leaning media. Maybe that makes me a right wing kook. I guess I am OK with that, unless of course that qualifies as "intimidation".
Pray for Senator Edward Kennedy
That seems out of place on my blog, huh? One of the biggest news stories this week is that Teddy Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor. The prognosis is not great. Serves him right, doesn't it? Good conservative partisan that I am, I should be gleeful, right? Not hardly.
A Scripture comes to mind when I think of Ted Kennedy:
"If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. (Luke 6:32-35 ESV)
I have a special affinity for this particular issue. My brother died as a result of a very similar, very nasty brain tumor some years ago. It is a horrible kind of cancer and one I wouldn't wish on anyone. Much as I dislike who Ted Kennedy is as a person and his politics, I would never wish him ill like this.
Here is the truth about Senator Edward Kennedy, arch-liberal, enemy of morality, supporter of abortion rights and homosexuality, raiser of taxes and frequent boozer and at least one time a commiter of vehicular homicide:
But for the grace of God, I am no different and you are no different than Edward Kennedy.
So pray for Senator Kennedy. Pray for his family. Pray for his salvation. If God can save Saul, if He can save me, if He can save you, He can save Ted Kennedy if it is His will.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
My new modem/router from AT&T puked after all of two weeks, so I am back to no Internet access at home, and my laptop is giving me trouble as well so I am in a library at the public computers. Needless to say, not very happy. At least I can check my email and set my rosters for my fantasy baseball teams...
Thursday, May 15, 2008
The right of Americans to vote is a cherished one, one not always shared by all Americans but through struggle and violence has been extended to every citizens. Some of the greatest stories of American perseverance come from the fights, first for independence for Britain, then for women's suffrage, and finally for voting rights for blacks. But every year that goes by, that struggle becomes more of a mockery as the judiciary takes away those very rights to govern ourselves, to be replaced by a ssmall elite who are progressive and educated enough to tell us how to think.
Today the California Supreme Court has overturned the definition of marriage that existed in California.
In striking down the ban, the court said, "In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual's sexual orientation — like a person's race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights."
This decision has been predictably hailed by the Left...
"Today the California Supreme Court took a giant leap to ensure that everybody -- not just in the state of California, but throughout the country -- will have equal treatment under the law," said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who argued the case for San Francisco.
Well actually what has happened is the California Supreme Court has taken a giant leap to overturn the rule of the people of California by legislating from the bench. The people voted to have marriage defined as being one man and woman, and the legislature has overturned that decision and arbitrarily created a "right" to marriage for homosexuals. This is the exact sort of decision that we saw in Roe V. Wade, where the court made their decision based on the desired outcome and then formed the law to fit their decision, which is exactly what happened in Roe v. Wade. A "right" to have an abortion exists nowhere in the Constitution, just as the "right" for two guys to solemnize their perverse relationship by calling it "marriage" and demanding the same legal and societal rights as married heterosexual couples. Watch for the flood of lawsuits as homosexuals "marry" in California and then go home to their own states and demand recognition of their union.
What we see is an extension of the nanny state, where people cannot be trusted to save for their own retirement, be responsible for bad loans they enter into, certainly cannot be trusted to educate and make decisions for the own children, and are allowed to vote to make them feel part of the process, but when they cross the Left it is perfectly permissible and moral to overturn the voting decisions of knuckle-dragging reactionaries. It is reflective of the disdain towards the unwashed masses held by the elites in the government, judiciary and academy. We are turning into a nation that is no more a democratic republic than Soviet Russia was. We are permitted to vote, but it is really irrelevant because the decisions on policy have already been decided by our betters.
No one should be surprised by this (in the state that banned homeschooling, how dare parents educate their own children!), but also no one should be so apathetic as to shrug our shoulders and say "Oh well". If God found marriage between one man and one woman important enough to specifically command it in the Bible, isn't it important enough for His redeemed people to stand up for and unapologetically say that this is wrong?
Still think it doesn't matter who wins the 2008 presidential election?
(Dr. Albert Mohler, as should be expected, featured this travesty on his radio show today. Very worthwhile listening, Dr. Mohler as always is sober and yet firm in his assessment)
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
One of the most important mission fields in Christendom is within the four walls of the church building. Mission work, in our minds, involves sending missionaries off to faraway lands, getting the occasional postcard and once in a while a PowerPoint presentation. We give them a check and send them on their way, and feel good about ourselves with no oversight and no accountability to the local church. But at the same time, we have churches full of young people who get nothing meatier than Veggietales in church children and youth programs, and we wonder why they wander off and abandon church when they hit 18 or why they can’t articulate basic Bible truths (or even know that there are basic, fundamental Bible truths!)
I know that for many Christians, VBS, AWANA and Youth Programs are considered untouchable, pillars of the church on par with the greatest of truths, but when you examine a couple of realities, we should really be asking some hard questions:
1. We see an enormous number of children and youth at events, many if not most of whom come from non-Christian homes and never exhibit being truly born-again. I know people get saved through VBS etc (including my son Noah) but is it the exception rather than the rule. The decisional structure of most VBS and Youth groups leads to lots of “decisions” and very few Christians.
2. Our children are leaving the church at an alarming rate when they hit 18 and we also see the ones that are staying in church drifting off in to aberrant systems like the emerging church or entering adulthood with a functional illiteracy in basic Biblical concepts. After years of feel-good, man-centered sermons poorly done, is it any wonder that they seek out the same sort of bubblegum sermons just done with more entertainment value and more comfortable seats?
Given this, where should the church focus our limited resources? I shudder to make this overly pragmatic or make it sound like I am approaching this like a banker, but when faced with tough economic times (I am certain giving is down in most churches) and quite frankly the system is broken as it exists today, it is vital to show good stewardship and put our efforts in the efforts that have most impact on eternity.
Let me suggest this: Christian education for our children should be a primary focus of the church. Let me go a step further: if we are not spending at least as much time and money on discipling Christians in the church as we do on foreign missionary work, we are failing in our responsibility as a church. Why are we so willing to throw ourselves into VBS and foreign missionary work, but utterly disinterested in true, deep discipleship of our children?
This applies equally to adults and the adult Sunday school program. Week after week, month after month of how to live a better this and how to be a better that, and not a lick of actual Bible teaching. Is it any wonder that so few people know how even the most rudimentary truths of the faith?
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Hagee has often made references to "the apostate church" and the "great whore," terms that Catholics say are slurs aimed at the Roman Catholic Church. In his letter, Hagee said he now better understood that the Book of Revelation's reference to the Catholic Church as "the apostate church" and the "great whore" are "a rhetorical device long employed in anti-Catholic literature and commentary."
He stressed that in his use, "neither of these phrases can be synonymous with the Catholic Church."
Sermons will not be marked by authority and power unless they are marked by truth that the Holy Spirit can honour. The word of God is to be exegeted and explained. That has to be the heart of the sermon. There is a real danger that we become over concerned about such things as delivery, while the New Testament is insistent on the content: "let him speak as the oracles of God." The authority of the preaching comes from the text of Scripture. It is God- given power which honours his own word.
I especially like one definition from Dr. Murray. This is such a great definition of what preaching, true Bible preaching not the theatrics we see so often today, really is: “Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.” What better definition can there be! Standing up and delivering a moralistic or self-help message is not preaching. A lecture on the fine points of theology is valuable, but it is not preaching. Being full of "fahr" and hollerin' and thumpin’ your Bible with a message devoid of content, all heat and no light, is not preaching. Preaching is the declaration of the oracles of God, God Himself revealing Himself to man, through His Word, accompanied by His Holy Spirit by a man who is on fire for God. A man of God is one who, like the words of Jeremiah describe, “If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," there is in my heart as it were a burning shut up in my, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. ” (Jer 20:9)
More from Murray...
“The men most used of God in their pulpits are those who know they had fallen far short of the wonder that should characterise the preaching.”
Humility is a precious commodity for the preacher, and yet is a hard one. In a society that embraces the culture of celebrity, far too often it is easy to get caught up in the office and forget the purpose. It is easy, believe me, to start to crave adulation and congratulations and post-sermon praise. Despite talk to the contrary, it is far too easy to start to attribute a powerful sermon to one's own education or intellect or natural speaking prowess and forget that any good sermon is a product of the Word and the Holy Spirit. That is not to diminish the role of preparation and prayer leading up to the sermon, but all the prep work in the world will not make a sermon devoid of the Word contain any power to impact lives.
That does not mean that preaching should include false humility or a forced attitude of being soft. Paul was not some nancy boy who whined and simpered for people to let Christ save them. Paul was self deprecating about himself, humbled by his own sin and humbled by his own inability but he was bold as a lion about the God who saved him, the God he served. Most preachers are defeated before they stand in the pulpit by their own lack of resolve and their own lack of recognition of the authority of the Word of God. One final quote...
“DMLJ's faith came out in what he preached, that man was under the wrath of God, depraved and lost. He preached this with absolute conviction, and he followed it up with the cross, week by week. ”
That is what it really comes down to. Any sermon that preaches salvation without preaching sin, that preaches the empty tomb without also preaching the expulsion from Eden, any sermon that proclaims garments as white as snow without also telling of rivers of blood in the temple, is not God honoring preaching. The total depravity of man and the ultimate grace of the cross. Those are the bookends of Bible preaching. If you lack those two factors, any and every sermon will fall down.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
We read through this Psalm tonight in our daily Bible reading and it really resonated with me...
18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:19 that he looked down from his holy height;from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,to set free those who were doomed to die,21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord,and in Jerusalem his praise,22 when peoples gather together,and kingdoms, to worship the Lord. (Psalm 102: 18-22 ESV)
The image of God looking down in pity on those who are prisoners, prisoners of their own sin and doomed to die and in His mercy setting them free is a wonderful one, but also a sobering one for the Christian. Too often we think of God as being somehow obligated to save someone, but that is not what the Bible portrays. Equally often Reformed theology is caricatured as God looking down at a bunch of deserving, well-meaning people and arbitrarily saving some and tossing some into hell. But the reality is that God looks upon humanity, and sees us all in bondage to our sin, enslaved by our own rebellion and in His mercy He set some free. They why is only in God's mind but it is all for His glory, that His name be exalted. If you are saved, always remember that you once were imprisoned by your sin and but for the grace of God you would still be there. If that doesn't quench the urge for boasting, I don't know what will.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Pastor Harris makes some salient points in this video clip. There can be a tendency to point fingers at one another and quite frankly I know some people (online) in the homeschooling camp who are pretty pointed in their criticism of those who send their kids to public schools. I have also seen, and this got little mention from Josh, a number of comments on blogs that are pretty critical of homeschoolers (i.e. Tim Challies and Pulpit Magazine), suggesting that homeschoolers are somehow sheltering our kids, not being salt and light, hiding our lamps under baskets etc.
I get what Joshua is saying, I do. But...I don't agree entirely.
A couple of lines I take exception to...
"This is not just an education issue... this is a Gospel issue"
That smacks of a shut down comment. There are lots of issues that are Gospel issues, but that doesn't mean that we ought not discuss the ramifications of them. Being an issue of the Gospel doesn't mean that we are obligated to gloss over very real issues.
"This is not a moral issue we are talking about"
It's not? It sure seems like one.
"There are so many different ways..."
Is there not a difference in educational choices? The choice we make in how we have our kids educated, in my humble opinion, is not a value neutral decision. Blue tie or red tie is a value neutral decision. Folgers or Maxwell House is a value neutral decision. But rearing and educating our kids in a decidedly and intentionally Christian environment where God and His Word are key components of the education process is markedly different from sending our kids to be educated by "experts", where not only is God not welcome, but His Word is refuted or even worse is mocked. Telling our kids that their view of the world starts with "In the beginning God..." is not morally equivalent to telling our kids "In the beginning was a Big Bang and you descended from monkeys". Many fine Christian parents choose to send their children to a secular institution, and that is their choice. But to pretend that there is no difference between homeschool and public school is an exercise in self-delusion and perhaps even pandering to avoid conflict.
Is there anything more midwestern than a cornfield? It is just a part of the landscape for those of us who grew up in places like Ohio, Indiana, Nebraska. We knew the seasons as the snow melted off the bare fields, the tractors started plowing and planting, corn started sprouting, grew tall, turned brown, got harvested and it all started over again. Cornfields are what people from the coastal cities fly over when going to a different coast.
Everyone complains about gas prices, but most people haven't a clue as to what is causing this or what the ramifications are. That is not intended to be self-congratulatory because I have taken a couple of courses in Econonomics at college, but rather just a fact that most people have had little exposure to economics and spend little time really thinking about how everything works together. Most people view each economic event in a vacuum. Gas prices are just arbitrarily changed. Milk prices inexplicably go up. Things just happen and aren't related to one another. That is simply not the case. Our economy and the world economy in general is tightly interwoven.
Ethanol versus oil production
There is a growing problem in America that gets little notice. Corn production is expected to be down from 13.1 billion bushels in 2007 to 12.1 billion bushels in 2008, and of that crop 4 billion bushels will be used for ethanol. As corn prices rise and as more and more corn is used for ethanol, it makes feed for cattle, chickens and hogs more expensive. It makes milk more expensive. It drives up the prices of other crops which in turn drives up the cost of rice and flour and other staple foods. Yet our agricultural and energy policies bear little resemblance to reality.
We have spent tons of money getting farmers to not plant crops, and meanwhile urban sprawl has been eating up farmland. We find ourselves late to the game, trying to replace oil with ethanol when oil prices are spiking instead of developing this technology when prices were still low. Fear mongers on the radical environmental fringe have convinced us to fear nuclear power, which could provide all the electricity we need with virtually no greenhouse gas emissions and yet those same radicals carp constantly about not signing the Kyoto Accord. We could cut back on all of those coal fired electrical plants but it isn't an overnight process and we have lost decades where instead of building and improving nuclear plants, we are shutting them down at huge expense and belching pollution into the air from coal plants. The same mentality is true of our agriculture policy, made in the halls of monstrous office buildings in D.C. by people who probably have never driven a tractor or seen livestock outside of a county fair or petting zoo.
Agriculture should be our second greatest strategic asset after our military forces, given our climate and vast areas of arable land. Food should be to us what oil is to the middle east. But we have squandered that advantage and are importing grains from other nations when we could easily grow our own. Is it any wonder with policies like this that our food prices and gas prices are spiking?
Gas prices are what motorists see because they pay attention to the gas prices and the news makes a big deal out of it, but what is missed are the more subtle price increases in food and staple goods as it becomes more expensive to move freight by train, truck and plane. Just this week, Fed Ex lowered profit expectations again because of increased costs. This filters down as it becomes more and more expensive to do business and profits shrink, jobs are lost. It is all interconnected. I fear that we are not seeing the worst of the economic slowdown, but rather are just beginning.
Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. Taiwan and Sri Lanka can make computer chips. Japan and Mexico can make cars. Europe can...well, most of the workers in Europe are unemployed so they don't make anything. Saudi Arabia and Qatar can drill oil. But no one else can feed the world as efficiently as we can. That we have forgotten that is a national tragedy and a strategic error. It is high time we start to figure out how to maximize our food production capabilities before our food supply becomes hostage to foreign powers the same way that our energy supply has become, before Hugo Chavez uses food against us the way that thugs in the Middle East do. The American farmer has for decades fed the world and that must continue if we are to avoid becoming a Third World economy.
Friday, May 09, 2008
I heard this stuff on the radio coming home. When I have to work later than normal, I miss the Paul Edwards show and get some oddballs on the Christian talk station. Today I heard from "Politics and Religion" Check this out...
So according to this guy, if we don't get the congress to repeal the national Real ID act, it will turn into the mark of the beast mentioned in the book of Revelation. So what is the Real ID, the tool of choice of the anti-Christ? From Wikipedia...
The REAL ID Act of 2005 is U.S. federal law which imposes certain security, authentication and issuance procedures standards for the state driver's licenses and state ID cards, in order for them to be accepted by the federal government for "official purposes", as defined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. Currently, the Secretary of Homeland Security has defined "official purposes" as presenting state driver's licenses and identification cards for boarding commercially operated airline flights, entering federal buildings and nuclear power plants. The Act is a rider to an act of the United States Congress titled Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005.
The Real ID Act implements the following:
- Establishing new national standards for state-issued driver licenses and non-driver identification cards;
- Waiving laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders;
- Updating and tightening the laws on application for asylum and deportation of aliens for terrorist activity;
- Introducing rules covering "delivery bonds" (rather like bail bonds but for aliens who have been released pending hearings);
- Funding some reports and pilot projects related to border security; and
- Changing visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australian citizens.
As of April 2, 2008, all 50 states have either applied for extensions of the original May 11, 2008 compliance deadline or received unsolicited extensions, meaning that the REAL ID Act will not become an issue at federal facilities and airports until December 31, 2009.
Who knew that having uniform standards for drivers licenses was the devious scheme of the Enemy all along! It seems every so often there is a new issue that becomes the mark of the beast or a sign of the anti-Christ. One lady called into the show and breathlessly suggested that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ. These people get on TV, claim to be Bible scholars and make false prediction after false prediction. They lure people in and proclaim a Gospel that is based on seeking signs of the end-times under every rock instead of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They need to be called out for what they are, false prophets and called to repent like any false teacher.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Dr. Mohler had a fascinating show on Thursday, The Land of Disappearing Children, looking at the dangerously low birth-rates in Japan and what that means for that nation economically, as well as what that says about changing worldviews where having more than a couple of children is seen as somehow odd or in some cases irresponsible. At the rate Japan is going, in the near future 70% of the current workforce in Japan will be retired and not replaced. The pattern is similar in Europe, Russia and many other industrialized nations including the U.S. to a lesser extent. Our workforce is being replace by immigrants, many of them illegal immigrants. Japan is in trouble but so are we. Social Security is already in trouble and add to the lengthening lifespan of Americans the reduction in workforce to replenish the Social Security coffers and it is little wonder that younger Americans have no illusion of receiving Social Security when they get older.
About 30 minutes into the program, someone named Jeff called in and asked if it wasn't better for Christian's to have fewer kids that could have a better life (i.e. economically) rather than be fruitful and multiply. As if the main responsibility of Christian parents is to buy their kids more stuff in lieu of obedience to the Biblical commandment to be fruitful. That in itself raises a disturbing question, because it (without knowing much about Jeff) exposes a dangerous worldview and a foreign understanding of what the Christian life is supposed to be all about.
It is not my contention that all Christian parents are obligated to have huge families, or even that they should have as many children as God gives them. There can be a case made for that, but the bigger issue is the worldview that this exposes. It becomes more important to have the right vacations and the right toys. Children are seen as a line item in the family budget instead of being the family. "How do you afford all those kids?" is a question we get all the time. You never ask someone, "How do you afford that wife?" do you? Societal pressures force many Christian parents to enroll their children in every activity under the sun, which requires running them to and fro all week long. Children are a hassle because we have made them a hassle in an effort to be better parents. Go figure!
It is a basic Biblical command that men and women should marry and raise families. It is not something that should be shunned (you would be amazed at the number of Christians who look at our large family with a mixture of fascination and horror!) or resented. I searched for "fruitful" in the ESV and was a little surprised by how often it pops up just in Genesis:
Genesis 1: 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.
Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
Genesis 8:17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.
Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
Genesis 9:7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.
Genesis 35:11 And God said to him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.
What is striking is not just the number of times God commands His people to be fruitful, but how He expresses it in the form of a blessing. It is a blessing to be fruitful, not a curse. There needs to be a radical rethinking of our attitudes in the church about families and their value. We have VBS, AWANA and Youth activities to reach other people's kids but don't want to be bothered with the full time responsibility of a large family. Believe you me, it isn't a walk in the park all of the time, but there is nothing that compares to having the whole family, all ten of us, in the room at the same time or playing together in the backyard. Sure it is fleeting because someone is going to kick someone else or do something else to break it, but in those moments you see the joy and blessing of a large family displayed.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:5 ESV)
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Brian Thornton at Voice of the Sheep, has been hashing over the whole credo vs. paedo baptism debate over the last week or so. It seems to be the topic of conversation among the Reformed in the blogosphere, and while it has led to a number of heated exchanges and some downright ugliness, it is a debate that needs to happen.
Brian's most recent post is a great compilation, very briefly, of all of the problems of infants baptizing. Titled My Problem with Infant Baptism, he manages to compile most of the arguments against infant baptism in one list. When you cut through all the obfuscation of the padeo position, you are left with a couple of obvious point from Brian's list:
The only explicit examples we have in Scripture of those being baptized are ones who have first expressed repentance and faith. This one requires no other commentary as it clearly speaks for itself.
The only command in Scripture we have telling us who to baptize says it is to be those who have first become disciples, which requires repentance and faith prior to the ordinance of baptism.
Right on target. There is no command and there are no examples of infant baptism anywhere in the NT, and that is the most damaging Achilles heel of the paedo position. Kudos to Brian for a well thought out post.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Came across a "What kind of..." quiz on a blog I stumbled across, Minor Mumblings, and thought I would give it a try....here are my results for "What kind of sports car are you?"!
I'm a Lamborghini Murcielago!
You're not subtle, but you don't want to be. Fast, loud, and dramatic, you want people to notice you, and then get out of the way. In a world full of sheep, you're a raging bull.
Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.
That pretty much fits. Subtlety is not my strongest suit.