Monday, January 27, 2014


Based on Luke 2:29-32 Our Lord, now let the saints depart in peace according to Your Word. For our eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people, now and evermore, world without end. Amen.

In Him

Our Father, the Lord Jesus emptied Himself, being found in the form of a servant. He gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice that ended all blood sacrifice.  He is our High Priest, forever, at Your right hand, ruling Heaven and Earth until all His enemies are subdued beneath His feet and all the nations stream to Him in peace. In Him, we live and move and have our being. Thank You for Jesus. Amen.


Our Father in Heaven, we consider the lilies of the field and that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. You have clothed them with glory and so we add to our faith and take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? for after all these things do unbelievers seek.  You know that we have need of all these things. So, we seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto us. We praise You for this through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.


Our Father, we confess unhealthy rivalries with others. We confess sinful thoughts, words and deeds. Forgive us, O Lord, and teach us to love and serve one another by the power of the Spirit in the name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

Prayer of Praise

Our Father in Heaven, we come here to corporate worship by the Spirit to fulfill that which You call us to do. Like Simeon, we take up Jesus and are taken up by Him, blessing You and saying that we, Your servants, are filled with peace according to the promises of Your Word. Our eyes see Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to lighten the nations and the glory of Your people Israel. With Mary and Joseph, we marvel at Your work through Your Son, Jesus and Your Holy Spirit. With them we give You glory and praise, now and evermore. Amen.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Served by Jesus

The Lord’s Supper is the climax of our service. The entire service is designed to draw us into the Godhead. He is our God and we are His people. The motion goes from those standing outside, summoned into God’s presence, to those standing before Him, welcomed into His presence, to those seated at His Table as His special guests.
         The entire service builds to this point of a special dedicated meal in our honor. The Lord, Himself, is serving us. It is like Jesus, at the Last Supper, who girded up His loins and washed the disciples’ feet. We are in just that privileged position as we sit to dine with The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.
         The fact of God serving us may make us blanch a bit, as Peter did, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" But Jesus insisted and told them in John 13:14-15 "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."
         So, too, we are washed by Jesus and fed. And we must learn to serve each other, loving, washing and feeding as there is need.

Worship God in Spirit and in Truth

At the beginning of our service in the Call To Worship, I say, “Let us worship the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit” and we all say, “Amen! We will worship God in Spirit and in Truth.”
This means a couple of things. First of all, we are relinquishing our own spirit to God’s Spirit. We desire to do that which He calls us to do. In this statement, we are laying down our own lives and wills and taking up the life of God, in His Spirit, and promising to walk in His Spirit. Furthermore, we understand that we cannot do this on our own. So, we are calling upon God to send us His Spirit and to lead us by His Spirit.
         Secondly, we are promising to worship God in Truth. There is a sense in which this Truth is Jesus. We are in Christ and we come to the Father in the name of Jesus. This is our bold confidence. But there is a simple sense to the word as well. We are coming honestly, truthfully, without hypocrisy and lies. We admit we are sinners and we confess our particular sins. We agree with God’s Word, even if it means we are out of discord with God. This truth calls us back to faithfulness. It may cause us guilt and shame in our disobedience but then we also remember the truth that Jesus is our Advocate and in Him we have access to the God of Heaven. Thus, we must believe God’s Truth in every area of our lives, in our failures as well in God’s declarations of friendship through Jesus.
         Thus, we worship God in Spirit and in Truth.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gospel Optimism

Each year I do a State of The Church address and try to say something meaningful about the International, National, and Local Church. Below are some statistics and observations. The statistics were lifted from the Pew Research on the Global Landscape on Religion and the Gallop poll on religion.

The stats and remarks are sort of random. You'll have to do your own analysis. Here are the links for the statistics. 

Christianity vs. Other Religions
         2.2 Billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 50% of Christians are Roman Catholic
1.6 billion Muslims (23%)
1 billion Hindus (15%)
500 million Buddhists (7%)
14 million Jews (0.2%)
1.1 billion have no affiliated religion (16%)

 Those five religions make up over 77% of the Earth’s population.

The Asia-Pacific region also is home to most of the world’s Muslims (62%). About 20% of Muslims live in the Middle East and North Africa, and nearly 16% reside in sub-Saharan Africa.
Fully 97% of all Hindus live in the world’s three Hindu-majority countries (India, Mauritius and Nepal).
This is an exciting number. In 1900, we really began, in earnest to evangelize the Dark Continent. Now, Africa is home to 24% of the world's Christian population. Additionally, sub Saharan Africa is 62% Christian! I think the next 100 years is going to really change the face of Asia for Christ, especially China and India. If The Church has the same kind of success in China and India in the next 100 years as we had in Africa in the last 100 years, the world will be very nearly a Christian world. This conclusion does not square with the trends. But I would propose that a 1910 analysis of Sub Saharan African Christians would not have revealed the prospect of 500 million Christians there in 2014, either! Jesus rules China and India. I can't wait until all the Chinese and Indians find out!

Nearly nine-in-ten Christians (87%) are found in the world’s 157 Christian-majority countries. This report listed 232 countries in 2010, so 67% of the world’s countries are a majority of Christians.
The top ten Christian countries make up 50% of all Christians.
The top ten Muslim countries make up 66% of all Muslims.
Muslims are a majority in 49 countries, including 19 of the 20 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Only 21% of the world’s countries are majority Muslim.
 Of the major religious groups covered in this study, Christians are the most evenly dispersed. Roughly equal numbers of Christians live in Europe (26%), Latin America and the Caribbean (24%) and sub-Saharan Africa (24%). Significant numbers of Christians also live in Asia and the Pacific (13%) and North America (12%).
The largest share of all Christians live in the United States (11%), followed by Brazil (8%), Mexico (5%), Russia (5%), the Philippines (4%), Nigeria (4%), China (3%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (3%), Germany (3%) and Ethiopia (2%).
As a whole, Christians are older (median age of 30) than the overall global population (median age of 28). Among the six regions analyzed in this study, Christians are youngest in sub- Saharan Africa (median age of 19), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (27), Asia and the Pacific (28), the Middle East and North Africa (29) and North America (39). Europe has the oldest Christian population (42).

 Other interesting numbers
         There are 350 Million Pentecostals in the last 100 years.
         From 10 Million to 516 Million African Christians since 1900.
         From less than a few million Chinese Christians in 1900 to as many as 100 million today.
         In the Asia-Pacific region, which includes China, we have seen the Christian population grow from 28 million in 1910 to 285 million in 2010.
World Christian Breakdown           %
Roman Catholic                       49
         Pentecostal and Charismatic     26
         Evangelical                               13
         Orthodox                                   12

         Clearly, there is much work of reformation to do in the church throughout the world.  But we must also recognize that the predominant world religion is Christianity.  In fact, we must even get beyond this and begin to think in the terms of Christendom.  We must think of a world that is as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters that cover the sea.

         2014- The PCUSA and the American Episcopal Churches continue to bleed members and member congregations at a rapid rate. Most of these Christians and churches are going to more conservative churches and denominations. This is a return to the Bible and should be applauded.
         American traditional churches are struggling and many of them are embracing more liberal views or simply modern, contemporary worship in an effort to stem the drain. The result is less Bible in the churches. We have yet to see significant reformation and revival in the United States.
         The trending numbers of Christian affiliation seem to be somewhat steady. There are two notable movers. One, the number of non-denominational Christians is growing slowly but steadily. Also, the number of people with no religious preference is growing at about 1% per year.
         Phil Robertson makes my list- The flap with what Phil said revealed a great deal about our cultural shift. The opposition to Phil’s view that marriage and sex should only be between and man and woman in marriage is now universally rejected in the mainstream media and academia. This rejection also includes the sports and entertainment world. Furthermore, this opposition extends in great strength to our government schools. There is no freedom to support anything Phil said or the reasons he said what he did. In the government school arena, Phil is just what A&E had hoped to make of him, a neanderthal, swamp-boy, redneck, uneducated bigoted, backwards, antiquated, extremist Christian.
         That is the story told daily on the nightly news, the evening sitcoms, the government school public speak network, and even on ESPN. This is so astonishing because most Americans still don’t think this way. Most Americans are still somewhat traditional. But the left has been enormously successful in shutting down any public spoken opposition.
          That is why the Phil Robertston deal was such a breath of fresh air. And we should all learn to speak the truth in love. Sure, we should love. I think we’ve got that part but we have been kowtowed into silence and we need to repent of that.
         I hope we feel the weight of how much we have capitulated to the world. I know I do. Basic biblical beliefs about marriage, creation, God’s view of pregnancy and babies, are vehemently resisted and attacked in the mainstream media, the government schools and the sports and entertainment world. And for some reason, we shut down when these real haters pipe up. We need to get a bold voice! 

Some Interesting National Numbers
A significant question in the Gallup poll is, 
Do you think religion is increasing its influence or decreasing its influence in American culture? The number of Americans who think religion is decreasing in influence has grown from 39% in 2001 to 76% in 2013. No doubt some of that is the political winds but many Christians are very frustrated with what is going on in our culture. But instead of being bold and biblical, we keep our heads down.
         Do you believe in God? 87% yes, 11% no
         Do you believe in Heaven? This number is pretty constant over 40 years, about 85% of Americans believe in God.
         Do you believe in Hell? Surprise! This number has grown significantly from 66% to 75%.
         Do you believe in the devil? Suprise 2! In 1990, 55% of Americans believed in the devil. By 2007 (the latest stat I found on that one) that number had risen to 70%! Wow, I guess liberalism in the Church and politics is working! The number has to be getting close to 99% doesn't it?

Grace for Persecutors

Having said the previous remarks about the actions of aborting mothers, let me follow up with the grace of the cross. I do not retract anything I have said about aborting mothers but I am not without empathy. There is a sense in which they really are victims. Victims of bad parenting, victims of abdicating fathers, victims of effeminate pulpits, victims of mass media, victims of the success of feminism, victims of their own self-deceit, victims of foolish choices. There is no shortage of persecutors, without and within. But don't turn on the baby!

But what do we do with all of that? Once we have been on the wrong side of persecution, where do we go? Jesus was persecuted from virtually every angle. Even his own disciples joined in the mockery. Judas sold him for thirty pieces of silver. Even bold and manly Peter said, "I swear to God, I don't even know him!" Can you imagine, throwing stones at Jesus when you were his best friend? The Apostle Paul exhorted the frenzied crowd who murdered St. Stephen.

But Jesus is full of grace and mercy for Peter. Peter is fully forgiven. Paul became the chief writer of the New Testament.

But Judas hangs himself. What is the difference? Peter believed Jesus and repented of his sins. Judas could not find a place of repentance. He sought to give back the money but that only revealed remorse for his greed, not repentance and a revelation of his new found faith in Jesus.

What must we do? Repent and believe. See your sins for what they really are and then turn to Jesus in confession, repentance and faith. Persecuting Peter was a rock in the Church. Persecuting Paul became the preacher to the Gentiles. You, too, shall we receive grace and mercy in Christ.

For the repentant, God has no end of mercy and grace. Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. Come to Jesus.

Satanic Persecutors

Girard does another favor for us in revealing the power of the gospel in the Earth. Even in our modern, Christian opposing world, Christianity's concern for victims is received. Even the vile practice of abortion is couched in the terms of victimhood. The young mother in a crisis pregnancy is presented to us as a victim. Our concern for the victim is galvanized and the mother is protected against her persecutors.

This narrative is particularly Satanic. It presents the truth of our faith in a twisted and confusing format. Single expectant mothers are victims and so we should protect them. But who are they victims of?

Of course, in extreme cases, and Satan loves the extreme cases, she really may be a victim. She may have been attacked by a rapist, whether in her own family or a stranger. She may be the 'victim' of a rare disorder that causes her life to be in danger in pregnancy.

But in the normal sense of the word, victim, how is a pregnant woman a victim? Is she a victim of bad choices? Well, let's kill those choices. Is she a victim of a rare disorder? Let's do our best to kill that. Is she a victim of a rapist? Let's kill him. Is her dad a rapist? Let's kill him.

But, how on God's green Earth, can we make her a victim of her baby? That just won't do, not even for liberals and god-haters, but I am redundant. A little embryo, a fetus, a babe in utero, won't do as a perp. So, let's change the language when we need to. It is then not about her victimhood but her choice. Oh.

In terms of the Christian principle favoring victims, the choice is easy. Christian martyrs always die to save others. They do not commit terror to save themselves. Set in this context, a mother who aborts her baby is using the means of terror. She is attacking life to save her own. She is not giving up herself to save another. Nietzche would applaud her action. Jesus opposes it.

There is a sense in which our culture of death has sought to categorize embryos as the threat, the one whom a woman must save herself from. And this collective violence against innocent victims is a form of the single victim mechanism in Girard. The babies are the scapegoats. But the Cross reveals the truth of this horrific lie. The martyrdom of the innocents is a ghastly evil.

Aborted babies are the only martyrs in this scenario and the persecution of martyrs is always Satanic.

Revealed Lie

Girard has a great discussion about Nietzsche, whom I have read but little. Nietzsche opposed Christianity because Christianity opposes human sacrifice. Nietzsche says humans need human sacrifice to move forward.

In analyzing Girard, I have found it difficult to reconcile his views with the truth that the Church advances by the blood of the martyrs. One of his main theses is that the Cross of Christ reveals the lie of the need of the one victim mechanism, sacrificing an individual for the good of the people.  I have wondered how exactly that squares both with the need for Jesus to die for the people and also for the need of Jesus's people, His martyrs, to continue to die for the people.

You will need to read Girard to get all the nuances and there are many. Anyway, once Girard brought in the discussion of Nietzsche, it all made sense to me. The reason the Church advances by the blood of martyrs is exactly because martyrdom really does reveal the lie and wickedness of the single victim mechanism. This is completely anti-Nietzchian. The martyrs are sacrificed for humanity but because they are so obviously innocent, their martyrdom reveals the lie. They expose the work of Satan in the world and the Church advances as a result.

Martyrs further reveal the Cross. Like Jesus, they are innocent of the accusations, and so reveal the futility of freeing the members of society through human sacrifice. In the old order, in ancient paganism, the victims were considered guilty by the persecutors and that narrative is the one that prevailed. But since Christ, the completely innocent victim, the lie is utterly revealed for what it is. A sham to assuage the conscience of the guilty persecutors.

This reality also gives us some handles to make distinctions between Christianity and other religions. The two major competing religions, Islam and Hinduism, are not champions of real victims. Islam attacks victims while fully justifying the perpetrators. It now claims martyr status for murderers. Hinduism continues to leave the poorest and neediest, (a form of innocence?) of its members as outcasts. Qualifier- By innocent, I do not mean completely morally innocent. We are all born sinners. I mean innocent of crimes against humanity or even crimes against the persecutors.

Faithful Christianity never claims martyr status for murderers. Her martyrs always willingly sacrifice themselves to the hands of the violent for the sake of saving others. Islam now has suicide bombers and likens them to martyrs. We need to understand how thoroughly unChristian, un-Jesus like such a position is.

Christianity cannot abide terrorism. We cannot have suicide bombers. Our 'suicides', if you will, always die trying to save others. This is the powerful revelation of the Cross that reveals the truth of the Satanic impulse to attack victims.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Well Pleased

I have made mention before that our Father in Heaven is well pleased with us. These are words of assurance to all of you but they can also be an admonition to you parents to learn to be like God, well pleased with your own children. One of the reasons we have a hard time believing God, the Father, is pleased with us is because we have not learned how to be pleased with our own children. We then project our displeasure towards our children onto God in being displeased with us. It is not hard to do. Like our children, we have many faults and do not have to look too deep to find them.
         But we have it all backwards. We need to get our theology right so we can learn how to live before God in our homes and in our church. The Father is well pleased with Jesus. You are in Jesus, clothed with Christ, filled with God’s Spirit, washed clean in the blood of Christ, justified in the Resurrection of Jesus, declared righteous by a Holy God and nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. Dear Saints, it is true, God, the Father, is well pleased with you. Receive this pleasure and pass it on.

Covenant Meal

As we think today about the State of The Church, Christ’s Church, we should be encouraged. God is doing His work at His speed for His purposes. This is resulting in the glorious expansion of His Kingdom. That is a given. But we need to make sure that we, that each one of you, is part of that expansion. You need to be in Christ, today, tomorrow and all the days to follow. Believe in Him. Trust in Him. Hope in Him. Rest in Him.
         We know God will be victorious but we do not know what our own lives will be like tomorrow. We do not know what troubles await us. We know we will have trouble. We will have sickness. Eventually, we will die. Our country may return to Christ or keep drifting away from Him. We do not know. But these uncertainties ought not to cause us fear if we rest in Christ. In Him, we possess all things. In Him, we face the future without fear. In Him, our rest and hope is absolutely certain. He is our rock. In Him, there is no weapon, no fear, no sickness, no death that can separate us from the love of God.
         This meal is a testament of God’s covenant with you in Jesus. Eat and drink in faith, resting in the hope that is Jesus Christ. As you are in Him, He will never leave you or forsake you.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sacrifice of Judah

Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. In fact, it was Judah who suggested it. As Girard points out, the brothers sought to kill their younger brother and then settled for selling him off to Egypt. Many years later, when they come to Egypt to seek help, Joseph is the Prime Minister of Egypt and has them for an audience. Although they do recognize Joseph, he recognizes them.

Joseph tricks the brothers as they depart, putting a cup in the gear of Benjamin. When he sends his officers to search the gear, the cup is found and Joseph demands that Benjamin be apprehended. Thus far, easy.

This is where the story gets interesting.

Judah, who sold Joseph into Egypt, now takes his role as a type of Christ. He offers himself in place of Benjamin. This holy action undoes Joseph and he reveals himself to his brothers and they are saved. When the sacrifice is offered, the son is redeemed.

It is interesting that Levi is not the savior. It not the priesthood that saves but the one who shows himself the true and faithful son. It is Judah from whence shall come the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Imprecatory Psalms

Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, I will repay. The Lord’s wrath is grace to His people. It is not unchristian of us to desire God to fight our enemies. In fact, it is particularly Christian. We must be willing to lay down our weapons so that the Lord gets the glory. This is why the Scriptures say that our weapons of warfare are not carnal but they are mighty for pulling down strongholds.
         I wonder how David felt at such a time when Saul was pursuing him to kill him? We don’t have to wonder. He wrote it down for us in Psalm 59. He called upon God to fight his enemies and to show no mercy to them if they continued as enemies. He reminds God that the evildoers run around like dogs barking at their enemies because they think they can do so without anyone paying attention, without accountability. But God sees.
         David reminds God, himself, and us, that God hears. God watches and like Psalm 2, God laughs at them. God will let us get the last laugh with Him as He avenges us against our enemies. We have to laugh with God for what is in store for those who think they have immunity from God's judgment seat.
         They are taken in their pride. They assume that their view of the world is the real one but they are self-deceived. David says, Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. To us modern Christians, this sounds vindictive or mean spirited. But we must pay closer attention. David is not taking revenge on his enemies. He is calling upon God to do so. David knows that God acts righteously and will judge as the matter deserves. It seems that David does not trust himself to do this with any level of objectivity, so he leaves it up to God. Far from being haughty or wicked in any way, David shows himself humbly willing to submit to the Lord’s will.

Christian Success Breeds Opposition

The powers that be are never more fearful than when they see the success of the godly. This fear is built into the satanic world. Satan has lost but is unwilling to submit himself to the Lordship of Christ. Every institution that will not do so sees a rival in the Lord’s anointed. When God blesses His people, we should expect opposition from the powers. If we are not being opposed, then we simply are not successful.
This success can end up in putting down the opposition. There was a day when David became king. He was then able to defeat his enemies and bring them in subjection under his feet. But even then, those who would resist his authority were agitating beneath him. This may require that at certain times and places, until the victory is secure, that Christians run the risk of failure and defeat. We also may need to flee the moment and bide our time until the Lord raises us up in victory. It will probably require both, some initial martyrs who pave the way to victory.
Christians ought to be very careful about making alliances with political parties, politicians, or any level of beaurocrat. For the most part, these people are in it for what they can get out of it, not a fundamental commitment to do that which is beautiful, true and good. Their motivator is not the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We should never expect them to be anything more than what they are, sinners and very often, opportunists. So, be ready to end the alliance and to cover your back side as you make tracks.

Unhealthy Rivalry

At the end of chapter 18, Saul knew that the Lord was with David. God had given David wisdom and favor with men. Saul should have rejoiced at this since David was a loyal servant of his. However, his response is one of intense jealousy. Instead of honoring David, Saul seeks to kill him.
         David is a good example of a model who then becomes a rival. As long as he is a model and one to be imitated, all is well. But Saul would not do that. He saw David as a threat and so the good man becomes a rival that must be eliminated.
         We have much to learn from David and from Saul. We are called to imitate others. We should imitate those of sound character. We should imitate men and women that we know have the wisdom of God and whom the Lord is with. If we follow God’s Spirit we will do just that. We will look to good examples and seek to emulate them. But if we see them as a threat to us for some reason, then we end up doing them harm rather than extolling their virtues.
       This is a very real danger in the life of the saints. We look to imitate others for various reasons. They may be good at a particular task that we would like to improve upon. This might be homemaking, sports, speaking, work, Christian disciplines, some Christian virtue, say kindness. We notice this and we strive to work on it. But then we realize that they are getting recognition that we feel like we should get. Then, our admiration turns and we seek to downplay the same virtues we were trying to copy. Or worse, we run down other parts of their character to make them look less godly so that we appear more so.
         Whenever a model is seen as a threat to us, we run the risk of an unhealthy rivalry. In Saul’s case, he literally sought to murder David. But the Bible says that to call your brother empty head or fool is tantamount to murder. It is murder in the heart. It is the same impulse.
Incidentally, real fools are not a threat to us. We do not mind them. It is only when our models are a threat that they become rivals and we feel compelled to murder them with our tongues. So, it is an odd by product that we end up lashing out at the godly and befriending the fool. Rivalries make strange bedfellows and help us to understand how people justify making the enemy of my enemy my friend.

Friday, January 10, 2014

What Do They Teach Them in These Schools?

That C.S. Lewis line was uttered in a day in which most of what was taught was from the legacy of Christian culture. However, it was waning and that is what he was lamenting. In our day, the education racket has been cornered by a monopolistic federal bureaucracy. And one that by definition, has been historically aChristian but is now unashamedly and vehemently anti-Christian.

Many Christians have realized this fact and headed for the tall grass. In the tall grass are home schools, co-ops and many different sorts and levels of Christian schools. Christians should continue to pull their children out of the machine where they can be adequately and actually raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

For those Christians who still think it wise to support the system that defies them and Christ, may God grant you wisdom to see the truth.

I make an appeal not only to Christians but also to conservatives of every stripe, many of whom are Christians. I understand that there are many nominal Christians and even some that consider themselves liberals. If a liberal Christian is the same thing as a democrat, I do not see how that position at all squares with the Bible? The democrat agenda includes sodomy, baby-killing and increasingly a full-blown socialism that is now moving rapidly towards marxism.

How do Christians square their Christianity with such views? Well, easy. Logic taught at the public schools. How is it that an infertile lobby like the sodomite agenda reproduces itself? They are not having children. How do they propagate? They have a captive audience. Government schools. For thirteen or fourteen years they teach your kids that mommy and mommy are just fine, that daddy and daddy is a good thing, that their friend Johhny who wants to be called Janey is a okay. And if your kids raise their little conservative or Christian voices to say that maybe mommy and daddy are better and that Johnny better get a hold of himself before he loses himself, some teacher or administrator will soon make him see the light. How about a day or two at home to deal with those hateful thoughts?

Folks, as an adult, you would probably not stand a chance of surviving with your morals intact after twelve years of browbeating. How, on God's green earth, do you think your little children can survive? The fact is that many of them are NOT surviving. They get the drill. They go along. They make do by not making waves. That is the conforming power of culture.

So, Christians, sure, but even you nominal Christian conservatives out there should be on the housetops yelling for the end of government indoctrination of school children. End the government schools.

Privatize the schools. All of them. Let the liberals, sodomites, unbelievers and advocates of other religions try to make do without government subsidies. Many of them will end up in OUR schools and then we get to do with them what they have been doing to us. Only in our case, we teach their children the truth and the Truth will set them free. I have no delusions that this will happen any time soon. But if it did, we could win back the country in one generation!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Visionary Death

Bonhoffer does an excellent job of focusing our eyes on reality in his great book, Life Together. One of his main points in the first section is how deadly the visionary is to the life of the saints. By visionary, I might more accurately say the idealist. This person is always trying to reach some goal of perfection. They have an ideal or a vision of what the church, or their local body of believers, ought to look like, and they love that vision.

The problem with this, as Bonhoffer points out, is that the vision is an ideal in your head, or might we say an idol in your head? The people that you are called to love are not the perfect ones in your imagination. They are the flawed, broken and needy ones in your church.

Of course, we should make plans, disciple, do the work of an evangelist. The Lord calls us to these things. But the 'vision' we are working towards is quite simple really. We want to be a church full of people who love Jesus, worship Him in spirit and in truth, confess our sins to God and one another, freely give and receive forgiveness, are transformed into the image of the Son by Word and Sacrament, and then attempt by God's grace, to do it all again as we raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, trusting God to grant us the promise of our children and their children, forever.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Forgiveness, Peace, Newness and Hope

It is with great hope we begin this new year. We know that Jesus has been born, lived a perfect life, died on our behalf, rose from the dead, ascended up into Heaven and is ruling Heaven and Earth until all of His enemies are subdued beneath His feet. That is glory enough for great rejoicing.
But He has done even more than this. He has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell with us and to assure us of His love. His Spirit convicts us of sins so that we turn to Him for grace and His grace is always sufficient so that wherever sin abounds grace doth much more abound. He also teaches us and nurtures us so that we grow up in wisdom and in favor with God and men. We see real progress because God’s Spirit gives us real victory through Jesus Christ. We have forgiveness and peace and we have newness and hope.

Naked Souls

We are all naked souls before our Father in Heaven. This image seems scary to us. Who wants to be fully exposed to God? Our God is a consuming fire and so standing in His presence on our own, in our own skin, is frightful.
But being a naked soul before God does not have to strike fear in us if we are clothed in Christ. If we have put on Christ, then it is not our own sinful inclinations or even actions that the Lord sees. Rather, He sees us covered in the image of His own Son. He sees us as we shall be when we have fully put away sin and death and have no reason for our fears. 

But this is not merely something that is future. There will be a day when we will sin no more, when our bodies and spirits are in perfect harmony. But even then, it will be because we are clothed in Christ. We will still be living by grace. But the reality will have arrived. 

For now, we do this by faith. We believe God’s declaration of love for us because we know that Jesus is our Savior. So, there is no hiding from God. But we don’t have to hide like Adam and Eve. We are covered with Jesus. He bids us to come to Him, to sit and eat and drink and be comforted in His presence.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Sweet Doctrines of Grace

One of the fundamentals of Reformed Theology is God's absolute sovereignty over all things. This truth produces peace in the faithful as they face life's various uncertainties. Uncertain to us, at least. My wife and I planned on going to Monroe, Louisiana today to the Auburn Avenue Pastor's Conference. We had hoped to learn much at the conference, visit some dear friends and even head over and see the Duck Dynasty folks. Alas, it shall not be. Our flight to Atlanta was delayed which meant we would miss the next flight to Monroe. There are no alternate flights today and we would arrive too late tomorrow to take in much of the conference. So, we had a nice breakfast and headed back to Lynchburg. In God's wisdom, Lynchburg is the place for the Hurts this week.

Shorter Catechism
Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Now that our trip has come and passed, we know the decree of God, one of His eternal purposes, according to the counsel of His will that this was foreordained for His own glory.

That is a sweet doctrine, and peaceful.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Immortals Do Not Fear

Dear Saints, Jesus is victorious. He was victorious. He is victorious. He will be victorious. Nothing can change that. He is God in the flesh. He is our God in the flesh. And we are now seated with Him at the right hand of the Father, ruling with Him until all of His enemies are subdued beneath His feet. We still battle, not all enemies are yet subdued. But the outcome is certain. The victory is secure. Satan is defeated and all of his minions will be reigned in, judged and put away forever. And we will always remain with Jesus forever.
         This is as certain as the sunrise, the changing of the seasons, the birth of the Christ by a Virgin, the death of Jesus on the cross, the Resurrection of our Lord from the dead, Jesus’s Ascension into the Glory Cloud, the seating of Jesus, in power, at the right hand of the Father, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to dwell with us always, and the Final Consummation of all things in the General Resurrection at the Last Day. We are immortals with Christ. Whom shall we fear?

The Vanity of Rivalry

As we start this New Year, we often make new resolutions about ourselves. We want to eat better, exercise more, read the Bible more consistently. This is good but it sometimes leads to increased guilt and shame because we set ourselves up for failure. But we are made to imitate and the Bible even calls us to imitation. Imitate me, Paul said, as I imitate Christ. So, it is good to find a model and seek to improve, physically, sure, but much more importantly, learning to be like Jesus.
         What is the essence of Christlikeness? Service. The Lord was a servant. We talk a lot about this but sometimes struggle to convey what we really mean. I want to suggest that the heart of all antichrist behavior is some level of rivalry. The devil was a rival of God and set this satanic theme in motion in the world. Cain killed Abel and the wicked have mocked the faithful ever since. But even brothers rival brothers. Jesus brothers mocked Him. The apostles jostled for position against one another. Peter even had the audacity to seek to put Jesus in His place and Jesus called him Satan.
         So, imitate the righteous but do not allow yourself to compete with the righteous for gain, recognition, power, prestige, perceived spiritual maturity, authority in God’s Kingdom, or influence in the world. Jesus served, even unto death and the Lord highly exalted Him. That should be our goal, exaltation from the Father. But in order to get that, we must humble ourselves before Him and His Saints. Rivalries are futile because they are satanic. They birth bitterness, revenge, spite, strife, division, and murder. Let us choose rather to serve.

The Certain Victory of Jesus

Our Hope is in The Certain Victory of Jesus
Psalm 2- Psa. 2:1   Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?  2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,  3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 
Folks, does this not sound like modern liberals? Like postmoderns? Like libertarians? Like sodomites? Like Ayn Randian Capitalists? No constraints, we will do what we want because we can! Who can stop us?
Saints, do not be discouraged by this. It is the way of the devil and until Jesus subdues all of His enemies, Satan will act like Satan.

4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.  5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.  6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
What is God’s response? He laughs. He laughs because they are trying to prevent the Kingship of Jesus but God has already established Him King. There is nothing they can do about it, no matter how much they rage. They try to discourage us that our resistance is futile but God, in His ironic way, laughs because He knows that their resistance is futile.

Psa. 2:7   I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.  8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.  9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
Jesus will rule. His Father gave Him ALL of the nations. Jesus always does His Father’s will and that will is to break them with a rod of iron. That rod is the Word of God, the Bible, the Gospel. It breaks some by breaking their hearts and making them servants. It breaks others by crushing them to pieces under the load of their rebellion.

Psa. 2:10   Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.  11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.  12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
The Gospel- Be wise. Serve the Lord with fear. Rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and ye perish in the way. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.

He Who Laughs Last

As we face a new year, we face uncertainty. The future is always like that. We know it is coming, we just do not know what it involves. Like the old joke, the light at the end of the tunnel just might be a train. Or, as any minister can tell you, things are never so bad that they can’t get worse.
         Cheering words to start the year, eh? Especially after we got all geared up with new resolutions, rejoiced with hope, grasping the future with ever fleeting waves of faith. We try to bolster ourselves up with a positive mental attitude. I am all for a positive mental attitude and waves of hope but unless they are rightly placed, they come and go like the waves on the sea. We have it then we don’t. We are sure then we are not. We are solid until we sink.
         As we look at the society around us, at least in its public form; film, music, entertainment, sports, politics and even the church, there is plenty we can be disheartened about. We hope these things will get better but the message being pounded into our heads is that they really won’t, so we may as well embrace the chaos, the futility, the absurdity, the meaninglessness.
         I think we are often sold a bill of goods. Satan is a good showman. He can elicit despair by the mere show of the futility of resistance. The show says resistance is futile and therefore we wrongly assume that victory or even resistance is impossible. Satan’s ploy is to get us to give in, to give up and to become insignificant. By Satan, I do not mean the Devil, per se. I do not think the devil, as a person, is organized enough for such haughty and deliberate opposition. There is a real devil, the one that tempted Eve in the garden. But he has been judged by Jesus and will be tossed into the lake of fire. But there is a satanic influence in our culture, the culture that embraces death, the abortion mills, the sodomite agenda, those that legislate away our freedoms, and the prosper at any cost capitalists. We live in era in which we see every day, displayed by a media that has succumbed to these influences, that resistance is futile. The wave has rolled over us.
         To some degree, this satanic method is successful. Christians act defenseless, are frustrated and seem resigned to the downward spiral. This ought not to be the case. Professing Christians make up 75 % of the American culture. That is a high number. I am not saying that these are all faithful evangelical Christians. But 75% of Americans in a recent poll identified belief in God and associated that belief with Christianity. Only 17% consider themselves unbelievers. 5% are adherents of other religions. That leaves 3% in some other category.
         When we consider how successful the immoral minority has been in controlling most of the media outlets in our country, it is truly astounding. The abortion mills and the sodomites have nearly silenced a nation that ought to overwhelmingly defeat their antichrist agenda. What has happened to us?
         In the recent flap with Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, the contrast has become stark. A man speaks and presumably 75% of Americans agree with him at some level. The extreme leftist minority chimes in, with the megaphone of mainstream media and 200 million Christians cower in fear or start making qualifying statements. Folks, find a voice. Do not fear the devil, no matter what sort of clothes he dresses in. He can dress like your nightly news anchor, a homosexual Episcopal priest, a professional basketball player, Miley Cyrus. The devil creates the chaos, so that the crowd can affix its gaze at its victim. In the latest case, the victim was Phil Robertson. But what happens if the victim will not be victimized? What happens when the victim refuses to be sacrificed?
         Folks, we have to stop being the victims. This does not mean that we return evil for evil. We do not lash out with the same sort of violence that verbally attacks and is willing for more murderous rage. But we do not cave into the demands of the devil. We do not agree with him. The bible says to resist the devil and he will flee from you.
         Is this a surprise to you? Christians have been led to believe that if we resist the devil, he will run right over us. But the devil is a bully and bullies cannot defeat Jesus. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
         Folks, the devil is running a show with smoke and mirrors. The reality is that Jesus is the victor. Time to stand up to him, like Jesus, making a show of him openly, triumphing over him, in the cross.
         Why is sodomy bad? Because Jesus died to save such sinners. Why are the abortion mills bad? Because Jesus died for the innocent, including the unborn. Why is seeking profits at any cost wicked? Because Jesus took the side of the widow and orphan. Why is seizing political power not the way to win the world to Christ? Because Jesus washed the disciples feet and served though He was the creator of all.
         We have the answer to these questions and the answer is not traditional marriage, or the Judeo Christian ethic, or conservative politics. We have been fighting those losing battles far too long. The answer is that Jesus came into the world to save sinners and He is doing just that.
         Phil Robertson had the gall to call men sinners. This was their only hope in being saved, to recognize their sin and turn from it and to Christ. Instead, they tried to laugh Phil into scorn. But the scornful do not get the last laugh. Our Lord watches this all from heaven. He holds them in derision and laughs.

Old Fashioned god

In a recent post, I confessed that I had not realized how much I thought of God as American. I know, theologically, that is silly. But practically, we are Americans and think like Americans, and make the mistake of thinking that others think like we do. Our greatest other is God but we are to think like Him and not make the mistake of thinking that He thinks like us.

Today, as I was musing about this once again, and also thinking about some of our modern foibles, entertainment, internet, technology, I realized that I often think back with nostalgia and the good ole days. That is not all bad if we are trying to reform where we have gone astray from God so we can get back on track. But it is a great mistake if we think God was the God of the 1950s, or the 1517's, or the early Christian era, or New Testament times. God is not Father Knows Best.

God is not looking at the modern world and wishing it were the 1950s again. He is not lamenting the advent of technology, the television, the computer, the internet, or cell phones. This is His world and it is developing in the way that advances the Kingdom of Christ to the very ends of the Earth. God is not likely to move out to a little plot of land far away from the city, grow some organic food and remain off the grid. That is a god we have made in our fear laden image.

The world is His and all the fulness thereof.

Friday, January 03, 2014

It's All In Girard, Man

I am rereading I See Satan Fall Like Lightning. I have heard the phrase somewhere in the past, "It's all in Girard, man," and now have used it many times myself. Its true. Girard captures the heart of conflict. Understanding this is very helpful for a pastor, particularly, but would be equally helpful in every area of Christian endeavor; marriage, family, vocation, church relationships. I highly recommend this book and suggest you do a quick read through of the general concepts every few years.

On New Year's Eve, each member of our family answered the question, "Other than the Bible, what is the most influential book you have read?" Different members of the family answered the question for different reasons.

My answers were two.

1. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, which I read as a senior in college. I was a philosophy major but not really a reader. I read what I had to read when I had to read it. The Hobbit was one of the first fiction books I remember reading that I really, really enjoyed. After that, the Trilogy and a march through all the classics of Western literature. It was the beginning of my education.

2. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, Rene Girard. I first read the book four or five years ago. His explanation of mimesis and then mimetic rivalry will answer many questions you have about why people act the way that they do. Instead of being constantly puzzled and frustrated by the behavior of folks, you will gain a grounded understanding in the meaning of fallen man. What's more, Girard points to the answer of fallen man, the man Jesus, in whom Satan, the accuser of the brethren, is toppled and the end of mimetic rivalry becomes a reality. I have got a few of my friends to read the book and some have said that it is tough sledding. I think it is worth your while. At the very least, get the book and read the excellent summary and introduction by James G. Williams.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Strong Meat Hebrews 5 Part 3

Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:  2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.  3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.  4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.  5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.  6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 
This Melchisedec is the meat. This has to do with an eternal High Priest, pointing to Jesus Christ. This eternal priesthood points us to settled truth, that Jesus is and always will be our high priest. This points to the fact that old age is passing away and that the time for all other earthly priests was ending.

7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;  8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;  9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
He learned obedience by the things which He suffered is meat. Since Jesus is the perfect perpetual priest, He is the author of eternal salvation unto those who obey Him.

Heb. 5:10   Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.  11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.  12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
He is exhorting them to teach rather than needing taught. Of course, you need a teacher. Our teacher is the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself. He has appointed teachers in the church.  Paul stirred up the faithful with continual reminders. He wanted them to press on into the deep things of God but was unembarrassed to remind them again and again of the foundation that is Christ.
As Paul pushes his argument about the priesthood of Melchizedek we see that he is talking about Christ. Christ had no beginning and He has no end. He is the new order of priesthood and now the only priest, the perpetual priest. All the speculation about the Christ, who He is, what He means, what that means to those who have faith in Him and those who reject Him, is all settled. We do not need to continually lay that foundation. Instead, we look forward to that which God will do to us, for us and with us, in Christ. We press on to the higher calling. We expect God to fulfill His promises to us in Jesus.
         These deep things have to do with God’s purpose in history. It is just as certain as the foundations that God has laid down in Christ. But unless our foundations are sure, we have no faith in the security of the rest of the building.
         Chapter 6 says if you have been enlightened in Christ and have tasted of Him but turn back, then it is hard to revive you again to faithfulness. So, don’t do that, press on. We believe better things for you.
         Minister to the saints. This gives you assurance of God’s working in your lives. Assurance is one of the deeper things of God. Stop doubting God’s goodness and rest in it. Do you love the saints? This is a testimony of God’s active work in your life. Endure that you might inherit the promises of God in Christ.
         As we look forward, we see Jesus in heaven at the right hand of the Father, our high priest, in the Holy of Holies for us, taking away sin, praying for us. This is the anchor of the soul.
         Jesus is the High Priest on the power of an indestructible life. That ought to give us great hope.
         Heb. 8:1   Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a ahigh priest, who has taken His seat at bthe right hand of the throne of the bMajesty in the heavens,  2 a aminister 1in the sanctuary, and 1in the btrue 2tabernacle, which the Lord cpitched, not man.
13 1When He said, “aA new covenant,”He has made the first obsolete. bBut whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is 2ready to disappear.
         The message here is clear. The New Covenant is a greater covenant based on better promises. The Old Covenant is old and about to disappear. This will usher in an era where the people of God stream into His Kingdom in unprecedented numbers.
         Heb. 10:11 11 And every priest stands daily ministering and aoffering time after time the same sacrifices, which bcan never take away sins;  12 but He, having offered one sacrifice afor 1sins bfor all time, cSAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,  13 waiting from that time onward aUNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.
         Heb. 10: 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.
         Jesus has perfected those who have faith in Him, once for all. This has to do with our eternal rest in Christ. This is the full assurance he is speaking of. As long as we look to Jesus as our High Priest, our eternal salvation is absolutely secure.
         Heb. 10:19   Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,  20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;  21 And having an high priest over the house of God;  22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.  23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)  24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:  25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
         I am glad we say this each Lord’s Day. We are assuring ourselves that we can draw near to God because we are in Christ and Christ is at the right hand of the Father.
         It is still possible to trample under foot the blood of the covenant but we believe better things for you.
Heb. 10:35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.  36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.  37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.  38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.  39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
So, let us continue on in faith, believing God. We get the great faith chapter 11, of all those who believed God but never fully saw the promise. Nevertheless, they have received it now. We are to have faith like them as we look and walk forward. God is not slow about His promises, so have faith, Heb. 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Heb. 12:1   Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
Chapter 12 speaks of discipline. The Lord chastens those He loves. This is so that we can grow up, eat strong meat and stay faithful. This, too, is the deep things of God, and ought to give us assurance of His care for us.
Heb. 12:28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:  29 For our God is a consuming fire.13:1   Let brotherly love continue.

Having said all this, what does he then tell us to do? It sounds like the basics but it is built upon the foundation and the deep things of God, the enduring priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Chapter 13 says,
1.    Love the brothers.
2.    Entertain strangers
3.    Remember those in bonds and those that suffer adversity
4.    Be faithful in your marriages and no fornication or adultery
5.    Don’t covet and be content
6.    Take the Lord as your helper and do not fear man
7.    Remember your elders and imitate them as they imitate Christ
8.    Don’t follow strange doctrines and food fads
9.    Continue to offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving
10. Obey your elders so they can watch over you with joy instead of grief

Finally, he bestows a blessing on them and we will end with the blessing. Because Jesus is our eternal High Priest, we look to Him in faith as the author and finisher of our faith.  We can rest assured and we can live out our days doing that which He has called us to, mainly, love God, love the brothers. So, we know that if we look to Jesus, our works are indeed well pleasing in His sight.
Heb. 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,  21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.