19 September 2014

This 'n' That

photo credit: Dekcuf via photopin cc
Well, I’m typing this in the dark with the last vestiges of my laptop battery. The power is out here and so is the internet, so I’m typing in a Word document, hopeful that both will be restored before I leave for work so that I can quickly paste this into Blogger and get this post published on Friday as per the usual schedule.

Of course, things like this never happen at a convenient time. Do you know how difficult it is to research for and write a term paper in the dark with no computer? It’s crazy. It’s like I’m living in 1887 or something. Or maybe even 1987, before the time when we all had computers in our pockets. It truly is amazing how spoiled we are, isn’t it? Indeed, we are blessed.

Well, I’m going to end this before my battery runs out. Hopefully you won’t have to sit in the dark while you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

17 September 2014

The Comfort and Conviction of the Word

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12–13)
photo credit: Big Grey Mare via photopin cc
There is no better description of the Word of God than that which is provided by the Word itself. It is a lamp to light the path of righteousness (Psalm 119:105), it is settled, immutable, unchanging (Psalm 119:89; Matthew 24:35), it is truth (John 17:17). But of all the synonyms and adjectives that are provided in the Word about the Word, there is perhaps no more searching reality than that which is quoted above from Hebrews 4.

The Word of God is the Christian's greatest source of comfort and his greatest source of conviction. In times of trial or sorrow, Scripture brings joy to the one in despair. But in times of self-confidence or complacency, it can cut to the quick for the one who is being polished and sanctified by the Lord.

12 September 2014

This 'n' That

It rarely happens that I am outside at 12 noon during the week. But, if it so happens that I find myself traipsing from meeting to meeting between office buildings at this midday hour, I cannot help but smile. That’s because my workplace is wonderfully positioned near an old church that faithfully rings its church bells every hour, on the hour. It gets better, though. At noon, they not only ring the church bells, but the bells actually play through several hymns—hymns that, for those who know the lyrics—proclaim the deity, goodness and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I know absolutely nothing about this church’s teaching, but I am thankful at least for their appreciation of these old, lyrical treasures. As you regular readers well know, I adore the older, biblically true hymns of the faith. I am less of a fan, of course, of today’s contemporary so-called “praise and worship” tunes. This is, for the most part, a matter of personal preference, and I’m thankful that the church bells across the street share my affection for these hymns.

I can't really explain why I love church bells so much. Perhaps they exude a reverence that is sadly lacking in so many contemporary church contexts. Regardless, surely by the time this article is posted it will be almost noon, so if you need me, you know where to find me. While you strain your ears to hear if, perhaps, a church near you is also ringing its bells, take some time to also enjoy your week in review (kind of):

11 September 2014

Sovereignty in Tragedy: Remembering 9/11

Goodbyes were spoken too quickly, too flippantly, too curtly that day.

"I love yous" were mumbled, barely detectable beneath the breath of busyness.

"I'm sorrys" and "I forgive yous" were neglected until an evening that never arrived.

photo credit: paulwoolrich via photopin cc 
"Jesus Christ lived the perfect life that you cannot and died that you may live. Repent of your sin and believe upon Him, the only true Lord and Savior"—utterance of these words was postponed until a more convenient day. But that day never came.

Thirteen years ago today, millions around the world stood in bewildered astonishment, mouths agape, tears silently rolling, as inconceivable terror and tragedy took aim at a seemingly impenetrable America. Shock could not begin to describe the first reaction of most. Shock, followed by grief, followed by fear.

But there is One who was not shocked that day. One who knew exactly when and where each plane would strike. One who knew each soul whose life would end. One who knew the unspoken words of the hearts of those souls. One who knew the eternal destination of each and every soul that perished. One who had long ago ordained the end from the beginning.

05 September 2014

This 'n' That

Well, last weekend was a long weekend for those of us here in America. And with the Labor Day holiday, there was no shortage of sales at various retailers. This extended even to our furry companions, as I spied a sale ad from a local pet store in my email, which exclaimed:

'Essentials' are on sale? Well, that's a good thing! It's always helpful to be able to purchase things you need at a good price. And if you have pets, then there are certain things you need to have in order to care for those animals. So, let's see, essentials…food? Bowls? Collars? Litter? Well, let me scroll down and see exactly what kind of essentials are on sale…
Oh. Okay. I've never really considered a Halloween consume to be an essential item for anyone, let alone my pet, but to each his own, I guess. At least they did also have some true essentials, like food, on sale.

Man certainly can have a skewed sense of priorities, can't he? Thankfully I know all of you have perfect priorities, and that's why you're here to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

30 August 2014

'God's Glory Bible' — A Blasphemous Display of Patriotic Idolatry

It is an unfortunate reality that many self-professed Christians in America equate patriotism with Christianity. As a result, patriotic idolatry is rampant in this country as many seek to "turn America back to Jesus" or "return America to the Christian nation it once was." These people do not realize that Christianity is not a national identity, it is a matter of personal faith. Might a nation be dominated by one particular faith? Yes. But are we as Christians called to create a "Christian nation"? No. Further, nowhere in Scripture does our Lord say that America is His chosen land. Nowhere has He said that He loves America more than all others, or that He has blessed America above all nations. In fact, if one desire to be technical, it is Israel that God once chose as His people, and it is she who is the apple of His eye (Zech 2:8). But that is a matter for another day.

As 'America for Jesus' rallies, prayer events and other patriotic shenanigans occur in the name of Christianity, there may be perhaps no greater demonstration of the blasphemy of patriotic idolatry than in the recently released 'God's Glory Bible.'


The website description reads:
God’s Glory™ Bible is a symbol of God and Country united. Its cover is a Star Spangled Banner of red, white and blue and you know it is the Holy Bible from its size, shape and gilt page edges. Instantly putting both of these images together – it looks like the Holy Bible wrapped in an American Flag. God’s Glory™ Bible – One Nation Under God. (Source)

29 August 2014

This 'n' That

photo credit: UNDP in Europe and Central Asia via photopin cc
Once again, Mark Driscoll has dominated the landscape of evangelical headlines this week with his announcement of a 6-week hiatus from ministry until charges against him are reviewed. There are a myriad of ways we could respond to this. Many jump first to sarcasm and snark, but it would be my prayer that we would not do that here. Sometimes our unsolicited wit and opinions are simply unhelpful. Rather, we ought to pray, among many things, that the men who are “investigating” the charges against Driscoll would humbly submit to Scripture, not to Mark Driscoll, and in doing so would realize that he was never qualified to be an elder or pastor, and he certainly has only disqualified himself more in the years since he began his ministry. It is not a time for the elders of Mars Hill to be ‘yes-men,’ but to be overseers.

We also must learn from this. What has happened at Mars Hill Church and at other churches across the world, whether mega or mini, is not only an example of God’s purpose for including the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, but also demonstrates an abuse of such biblical mandates for elders as Hebrews 13:17:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
The Bible is clear that believers are to submit to the elders who have been charged with overseeing them and the well-being of their souls. Yet this is not a commission to be taken lightly by elders, for they “will give an account.” What a weighty call! And it is no doubt one that, if not undertaken by qualified men with prayer and humility, may result in a swelling of pride and an exercise of decidedly unbiblical control and governance. To the men who are serving in such a capacity, let me urge you to remember that you do not “call all the shots”—God does.

This is why such passages as Hebrews 13:17 cannot be acted upon without the balance of other passages that also address leadership in the church. I think especially of 1 Peter 5:1–4 in this instance:
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
“Be examples to the flock,” dear pastor, dear elder. Do not lord your authority over the flock that God has graciously given to you. You have been given that flock not for your glory, but for God’s. They are His people, not yours. The sheep in your care will joyfully submit to you and to your example when they see you magnify Christ and submit to Him in all things and all situations, whether favorable or unpleasant. The sheep in your care will willingly submit to men who lead, not as the world leads, not as a dictator leads, but as Christ leads. And when the sheep in your flock see you exemplify the fear of God that no doubt accompanies such a serious task as eldership, they will joyfully pray, encourage, and support you in the ministry that God has given you—for the glory and honor of His name.

Of course, I write as one who is not an elder and who will never be an elder. But I write as a member of a flock. I write as a sheep. I write as one who has seen at least mild consequences of abuse firsthand. I write as one who has experienced elders stepping outside of the boundaries of their authority. I write as one who has witnessed the ungodly intimidation tactics of men who were more loyal to another man than they were to Christ. I write as one who prays for the men who bear the burden of ministry. I write as one who loves the Lord and grieves when His name is disparaged because of the ungodly antics of men like Mark Driscoll. I write as one who pleads with elders everywhere to stand firm where Scripture stands, and to love as Christ loved.

Have you been blessed with church leadership that glorifies God in such a way? Leadership that holds one another accountable to Scripture and to Christ? Thank them. Pray for them. And then take a few moments to enjoy your week in review (kind of):