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Archive for September, 2013

1820-Country-Wedding-John-Lewis-Krimmel

The Coming of the Kingdom (Luke 17:22-37)

22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.  25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.  28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.  31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”  37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

Jesus refers to two historical events in this passage on the coming of the kingdom of God and the accompanying judgment to follow.  Both would be familiar histories to the Jewish people at that time.  He speaks of the “days of Noah” and the “days of Lot,” two periods marked by great evil and inescapable judgment.

Of the days of Noah, we are told, “The LORD saw the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6, italics mine).  Of the days of Lot, we read, “the outcry against both Sodom [Lot’s hometown] and [the nearby] Gomorrah was great and their sin was very grave” (Genesis 18:20).  There were not even ten righteous souls to be found to save Sodom from destruction (vv. 22-33).    The men of Sodom were “wicked, great sinners against the LORD” (Genesis 13:13) and “did an abomination before Him” (Ezekiel 16:50).  Sodom’s guilt extended to pride, overfed and prosperous ease and a disregard for the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49).  2 Peter 2:7 speaks of the “sensual conduct of the wicked,” and Genesis 19:4-11 records the sin of their lusting homosexuality, even to the extent that when struck with blindness, they “wore themselves out groping” for their intended victims.

Jesus might have used any of these vile examples to warn his listeners of mankind’s sure and coming judgment.  Instead, though, Jesus surprises us by commenting not on the excesses and gross wickedness of those in Noah’s day or Lot’s day, but on their apathy and disregard of anything other than their material world, even up to the point of their doom.  Judgment came upon them before they realized their error in neglecting their need for salvation.

It seems mankind’s tendency is to play down his sins, to disregard the assault our sins are to the character and nature of our maker, whose image we bear in the world.  If we acknowledge our shortcomings or sins at all we often subconsciously rank them in relation to the scope of other worldly sins.  Such phrases as “at least I don’t ____ like so and so,” or, if we’re very nearsighted, we may even try to recommend ourselves with such thoughts as, “I’m, basically a pretty good person; I do _____ for so and so and _____ for thus and such.”

But, again, what is the great warning Jesus gives in Luke 17?  It is a warning to those who go through life nonchalantly, ignoring the reality of God around them and believing they have all the time in the world to address their spiritual selves.  Of all the sins in which the people in Noah’s or Lot’s days participated, the sin Jesus highlights appears to be just good, simple living—eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, buying and selling, planting and building (vv. 27-28); nothing we would consider “evil.” Nevertheless, their days ended abruptly in sure judgment.  They were caught unaware, and there was no time left to address their need for deliverance.

So it will be for all mankind, either at the point of physical death or in the day of the Son of Man— “There will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left” (vv. 34-35)

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

___________________

Thank you to Pastor Dave Monreal for the above insight (09-15-13).

[Painting by John Lewis Krimmel, Country Wedding, 1820]

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winding path
At a staff meeting at my school last winter, we were
encouraged to write a personal mission statement.  I’m not really wired that way… to make a life statement.  I can’t even commit a single creative stroke to a blank sheet of paper, how could I be expected to commit on paper to the mission of my life, all within a 20 minute time frame?  The expectation, however, was that each would give it a try and be willing to share our results in the end-yikes.  Under pressure, then, I began the suggested process, which went as follows:

(1)  First, we were asked to list some personal characteristics that we felt good about (these should be nouns).

Examples included (these are not from my lists): computer expertise, energy, charm, physical strength, enthusiasm, good looks, sense of humor, wit, artistic abilities, mechanical genius, sales ability, creativity, people skills, happiness, patience, athletic abilities, imagination, up-beat, etc.

 (2) Next, we were to list ways we have successfully interacted with people (these are to be verbs).

Examples included: teach, study, manage, produce, lead, motivate, educate, love, plan, encourage, help, act, stimulate, inspire, sell, direct, command, lead, sing, etc.


(3) Visualize what your perfect world looks like.  What are the people doing and saying?  Write a description of this
perfect world.

“My perfect world is a place where…”


(4) Combine two of your nouns, two of your verbs and your definition of your perfect world. 

Example: My life purpose is to use my energy and my people skills to teach and motivate people to know their destinations and enjoy their life journeys. 


I didn’t follow the guidelines to a tee, but the structure did help me overcome my reticence.  What developed was put together hastily that late afternoon, but even after time has passed and some tweaking, I think what came together is pretty near what I’d like to pursue the rest of my days.

 My life purpose is to live a quiet and constructive life, honoring Yahweh and exhorting others to know and love Him better through his Word.

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Jonathan Edwards studying

“Since wisdom is found in the Word of God, we must apply ourselves in study and meditation to know the Word and do it. ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.’ (Psalm 19:7). Therefore, we must devote ourselves to know and understand the testimonies of the Lord. And here I commend not only faithful Bible study, but also regular reading of great books on theology and biblical interpretation, books that distill the wisdom of the greatest students of the word over the past 1900 years.

“Now, I know what you are thinking: I don’t have the time or the ability to get anywhere in books like that. So I want to show you something really encouraging. When this was shown to me about four years ago by my pastor, it changed my life. Most of us don’t aspire very high in our reading because we don’t feel like there is any hope.

“But listen to this: Suppose you read about 250 words a minute and that you resolve to devote just 15 minutes a day to serious theological reading to deepen your grasp of biblical truth. In one year (365 days) you would read for 5,475 minutes. Multiply that times 250 words per minute and you get 1,368,750 words per year. Now most books have between 300 and 400 words per page. So if we take 350 words per page and divide that into 1,368,750 words per year, we get 3,910 pages per year. This means that at 250 words a minute, 15 minutes a day, you could read about 20 average sized books a year!”

                                                                                       ~ John Piper, May 24, 1981

 

“Give yourself unto reading… He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read.”

~Charles H. Spurgeon

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t Jefferson II

As mentioned in my previous post, Christian Resistance, part I, I am finding my heart these days for Christian resistance to be more about what is happening inside the walls of American churches than outside them.  However, I still agree with Edmund Burke:  The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.  The parable of the faithful and wise manager, reminds us that to him who has been given much, much is required and from him in whom much has been entrusted, more is demanded (Luke 12:48). 

The confessing church in America still maintains many God-given freedoms to “work the system” and fight for the issues that touch the heart of God.  Much will be required of us who have been given much in this country.  To this end, I believe, we need to steward well our domains of influence and what freedoms remain, looking both inside our churches as well as outside, bringing the character and nature of God to bear on current issues… while it is day.  As R.R. Reno said, “The Church did not need constitutional protections in order to take root in a hostile pagan cultures two thousand years ago.”  

To this end, I share Doug Wilson’s summer post on “Ground Level Tactics of Christian Resistance.” As stated in my post, Reaping the Whirlwind, we must remember who our real enemy is.  Wilson does a good job at drawing our eyes away from the skirmish to see the battle for what it is.  Just as one might coach someone afraid of heights to “not look down,” Wilson encourages us away from despair and tells us to keep our eyes on our Commander for our courage and direction. 

Wilson says of his tactics for Christian resistance that some are tactical versions of larger principles, some are Christian restatements of Saul Alinsky’s tactics, and some are just free information from somewhere else.  There are 21 of them listed below and expounded further on. 

1. Think cosmically, act locally.
2. Cultivate personal loyalty.
3. Relate everything to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
4. Courage is exhibited on the individual and family level.
5. Don’t be a jerk (we have a tendency toward this, unfortunately).
6. Worship God every Lord’s Day.
7. Provide your children with the best Christian education you can find.
8. Defend free markets at every opportunity.
9. Do not assume that government regulators have the authority to tell you what the true meaning of Romans 13 is.
10. Do not accept any sexual bribes (duh).
11. Love and encourage your wife and children, constantly (see why).
12. Do whatever you can with whatever you have.
13. Utilize social media (discriminately).
14. Cultivate a robust sense of humor.
15.Make your adversary live up to his own rules.
16. Don’t fall for abstract calls to repentance (ala John, the Baptist).
17. Keep the pressure on.
18. Enjoy yourself.
19. Keep your weapons sharp.
20. Conflict is always personal, and so don’t be shy about keeping it personal (read further for clarification).
21. Accept and acknowledge what our ultimate goal is… the reestablishment of a mere Christendom.

 

1. Think cosmically, act locally. This is a rip-off of the progressive bumper sticker which urges us to think globally, act locally. What they mean by that is think in gauzy abstractions, act irrationally in the moment. What we mean by it is that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, and that all authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Him, and that therefore we must spend our time discipling all the nations of men, teaching them how to honor and follow Him.

2. Cultivate personal loyalty. Your only absolute loyalty is to God and His Word, but because of this, He has required that you love your wife, love your neighbor, and love your enemy. Everybody you meet will be at least one of those. Not only so, but God has defined for us in His Word what love and loyalty look like in each one of those instances. Your love for God, your loyalty to Him, must be constant. Because it is the one constant, your love and loyalty to your family and companions, and adversaries, can look very different at different times. But it must be the same constant thing, looking different, not different things, falling apart.

3. Relate everything to the lordship of Jesus Christ. This will help you break down the walls of arbitrary dualisms in your head. Think in such a way that you learn to relate your opposition to gun control, your support of free markets, your love of mercy ministry, your embrace of new media, and so on, to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Doing this makes you a biblical Christian, and not a Republican or a right-winger. People will call you that — except for the secular Republicans, who will consider you a dangerous hazard to all their hopes and dreams.

4. Courage is the testing point of every virtue, and because the point of every conflict is always local, courage is exhibited on the individual and family level. Be sure to love and encourage your wife so that she is with you in it. Be sure to love and teach your children so that they grow up in such a way as to stand with you in the city gates. Do not neglect your family for the sake of “the cause.” Your family is part of the cause . . . an essential part. One of John Knox’s daughters was named Elizabeth, and she married a great preacher, a man named John Welch. He was exiled to France for many years, until his doctors told him that he would have to return to England for his health. So Elizabeth (Knox) Welch came to the court of King James to seek for permission for him to return. She was told by the king that he could return to England if he would submit to the bishops. She lifted up her apron and said, “Please your majesty, I’d rather kep (receive) his head there.” She was on board.

5. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t let the martial spirit overtake you in such a way as to justify all your personal failings. Of course, if no one ever complains about you, you aren’t doing your job. But it does not follow from this that if people are complaining about you, that you are doing it.

6. Worship God every Lord’s Day. Confess your sins. Sing psalms. Listen to sermons that are preached out of the Bible. Confess your faith. Take the Lord’s Supper. Between worship services, read your Bible daily. Pray without ceasing. Read books. Prepare for next Sunday.

7. Provide your children with the best Christian education you can find. There is no excuse for Christians giving their children over to the enemy for their education. There is no sense in giving them over for education in “the neutral parts,” for there are no neutral parts. Christian children must have a Christian education.

8. Defend free markets at every opportunity. It is not possible to understand the gospel of free grace intelligently if it does not lead to a love for free markets. Free grace creates free men, and free men trade in free markets. If you have a biblical worldview, you cannot be a libertarian. But if you have a biblical worldview, you will be accused of being one.

9. Do not assume that government regulators have the authority to tell you what the true meaning of Romans 13 is. We are to submit to the governing authorities, but not in everything, and not in the ways stipulated by them. Understand the important role of civil disobedience, and realize that it can occur in areas other than worship or gospel preaching. Gideon was threshing in the wine vat because he was hiding from the tax man. The apostle Paul ran a road block at Damascus. David spent a good deal of time in the wilderness evading a man whom he acknowledged to be the Lord’s anointed.

10. Do not accept any sexual bribes. Chesterton once noted that free love is the first and most obvious bribe to be offered to a slave.

11. Love and encourage your wife and children, constantly. What the world needs first is gospel, and your family is the best place to showcase the gospel to a lost and wandering culture. The gospel must be preached by anointed evangelists, but what we desperately need is a chorus of amens coming from families that live out this gospel.

12. Do whatever you can with whatever you have.

13. Utilize social media, but not in a way that identifies you as a vapid waster-of-time on the one hand, or a certifiable crank on the other. If you are the kind of person who sends Instagrams of your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with updates on your periodic potty breaks, you are wasting a precious resource. But on the other hand, if you are in deadly earnest all the time, and will tweet nothing not found in Leviticus, then we all hope that the concerned furrows on your brow don’t stick that way.

14. Cultivate a robust sense of humor. Use irony, satire, and ridicule, as appropriate. Whether or not it is appropriate should not be determined by the target. The target never likes it.

15. My fifteenth rule is Alinsky’s fourth. Make your adversary live up to his own rules. Turn in papers that act on the assumption of absolute relativism taught in the class. Apply for affirmative action scholarships because of your Scottish descent. Your clan was persecuted in the 14th century, and you are still dealing with it. Have your son try out for the girl’s shot put event. Make them say, “No, girls are different.”

16. Don’t fall for abstract calls to repentance, and don’t use abstractions to make you look like you are a courageous denouncer of sin. Call for “Repentance! Broadly considered!” and lots of people will call you The Thunderer. But call for repentance for homosexuality, or porn use, or confiscatory taxation, and people will suddenly say you have become “too political.” You have left off preaching, and got to “meddling.”

17. Wherever you are on the line, keep the pressure on. Do not spend your time worrying about how you are going to put out the fires that the adversary sets. Wake up in the morning thinking about the fires you can set. Let them be the fire department.

18. Enjoy yourself. God is in control. Jesus is on the throne.

19. Keep your weapons sharp. Read. Study. Reflect. Grow.

20. Conflict is always personal, and so don’t be shy about keeping it personal. As Alinsky stated in his 13th, we are to pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. But there is a caveat. This is a valuable principle, but we have to understand it in a Christian context. Because of the cross of Christ, it is possible to distinguish a sinner and his sin. This means that your adversary might wind up repenting, as Saul of Tarsus did, and if you have trouble with that possibility, you are being vindictive instead of being principled.

21. Accept and acknowledge what our ultimate goal is, which is the reestablishment of a mere Christendom. We do not insist on the whole thing now — we are incrementalists, and this is a long war — but we know what the point of our labor is. We must know the objective, and that objective, assigned in the Great Commission, is for every tribe and nation confess the name of Jesus, and bow down to Him. We do not believe we have to conquer Canaan in the next ten minutes, but we also don’t believe that we have the right to settle down and make peace treaties with Amorites.

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medieval priest
Doug Wilson wrote a mid-summer post , giving tactical advice for the Christian resistance.  It’s pretty good stuff, much of it unexpectedly calls the church back to its distinctiveness; some concerns itself with our handling of current issues that touch the character of God. 

As much as there is something tantalizing about being part of a resistance (I mean, they’re usually the good guys in any tale of history), my battle cry has been changing a bit this past year, especially since the last election and the bombshells of the last two Supreme Court sessions.  I see a great need for the American church to take care of its own orthodoxy and equip the saints for our day, a day that is increasingly becoming antagonistic to the one, true God.

The medieval church of old, which governed every aspect of village life, performed their Masses in Latin and established themselves as the sole arbiters of the Word of God.  They denied the peasantry direct access to the Word and warned them that it was only the clergy who were qualified to read Scripture accurately.  Instead of first-hand biblical knowledge, the ignorant common man was reliant on the priests to tell him what he should or should not believe.  Unfortunately, the modern American church looks very different, but acts under much the same mentality.

Biblical literacy in America is at an all-time low.  As pollster George Gallup summarized:

Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.

Virtually every home in America has at least one Bible. Four Americans in five believe the Bible is the literal or inspired word of God, and many of those who do not, still regard it as the basis for moral values and the rule of law.

A percentage of Americans who believe the Bible is the word of God, only one-third of Americans read it at least once a week—15 percent read it daily and only another 18 percent read it one or more times a week. Another 12 percent read the Bible less than weekly, but at least once a month. More than half of all Americans read the Bible less than once a month, including 24 percent who say they never read it and 6 percent who can’t recall the last time they read the Bible.

 

For the sake of gaining appeal, many American churches have willingly tossed aside their distinctiveness and have not valued the sacred trust they’ve been given from past generations, that of rightly handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) and implanting it in the hearts and minds of those in their seats every Sunday.  The message conveyed is that “we love the Bible, we talk about the Bible, but it’s not so important that we need to teach the Bible.  We’ll be sure to let you know ‘the good parts,’ the especially good nuggets we think you should know, but further than that, don’t worry about it.”  The clergy in these churches convey the belief that the Bible is too stodgy for everyday fare and fear it will keep folks from streaming in, those who come for the dramas and the “lights and big drums” (see previous post, Choosing a Church).  They redefine terms in the hope of making the gospel relevant and palatable for the unbeliever in their midst, thus effectively denying that “faith comes through hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).  As Mark Dever has said in his book The Deliberate Church, “What you win them with is likely what you’ll win them to. If you win them with the Gospel, you’ll win them to the Gospel. If you win them with technique, programs, entertainment, and personal charisma, you might end up winning them to yourself and your methods (and you might not!), but it’s likely that they won’t be won to the Gospel first and foremost.”      

The American church has re-embraced the ideology of the late 19th – early 20th century, German theologian, Adolph von Harnack, who reduced the whole counsel of God to two precepts, believing the essence of the Christian faith to be (1) the universal fatherhood of God and (2) the universal brotherhood of man.  In other words, God’s love gives us all value and we’re all brothers in Jesus; we just need to love one another.  In these churches, the gospel lacks urgency, because there is no mention of God’s equally-true natures of holiness and justness.  If sin is spoken of at all (usually in terms of “brokenness” or “faults,” or “mistakes” etc.), it is only in terms of God’s over-riding love for us.  The second precept plays out in the oft-repeated message of service as the main method of sanctification for the believer (and unbeliever too).  Social justice is their battle cry and in an environment bereft of Scriptural grounding, the book of James, alone, keeps resurfacing in sermon series’ and Bible studies from year to year.                 

So even while embracing Wilson’s call to be calm and carry on, I am finding my heart for Christian resistance to be more about whats happening inside our church walls than outside them.

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As best as we can figure it my husband was about 4 or 5 years old when his family went to listen to a Jewish Christian pastor who had recently been released from prison.  He had been arrested for refusing to swear loyalty to the new communist government in Romania.  He would spend a total of 14 years in prison, three in a cell below ground in solitary confinement.  His wife, Sabina, served three years of hard labor digging a canal, leaving their nine year old son alone and homeless.

According to Persecution.com, when Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was ransomed from prison, he and his wife were urged to become a voice to the outside world and to spread the message of the atrocities that Christians face in the underground church around the world.  In a three day period, he penned the flood of memories of his experiences in prison.  The book that resulted is called Tortured for Christ.  In 1966, Pastor Wurmbrand appeared before a U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, where he stripped to the waist and revealed 18 deep torture wounds on his body. His story spread rapidly and led to more and more speaking engagements.  The Wurmbrands traveled the free world sharing stories of Christians suffering for their faith.

At one such Midwestern appearance, my husband was in the audience.  To hear Pastor Wurmbrand speak, one cannot miss the thick Romanian accent.  Yet the Holy Spirit overcame this barrier and unstopped the ears of this young preschooler to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When an altar call was given, his heart burned to go forward, but he did not.  He knew enough though of the workings of the Holy Spirit to recognize His call.  Later that evening or soon after, Dana remembers praying in his room, confessing the sins he knew of, and asking Jesus to be his Savior.  He then remembers a rush of love and well-being that flooded his little self.  He forever associates his salvation with the message preached that night by Pastor Wurmbrand.

Since that time, Dana and I have come to embrace the organization that Pastor Wurmbrand and his wife, Sabina, founded, a ministry committed to serving the persecuted church, called “Voice of the Martyrs” (originally “Jesus to the Communist World.”)   According to the influential work of David Barrett and Todd Johnson, from 30 A.D. to 2000 A.D., history has produced 70 million Christian martyrs, over half of which (45 million) were concentrated in the 20th century.  According to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, the top eleven persecuting countries (designated as “extreme persecution”) are:  North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea, and Syria.  If you would like to receive Pastor Wurmbrand’s book Tortured for Christ or receive the Voice of the Martyrs monthly magazine, you may do so at VOM’s website.

Here is a nine and a half minute clip of Pastor Wurmbrand made in the 1960’s as he discusses his experiences not only of man’s cruelty toward mankind, but also the very real presence and comfort of Jesus in the midst of such horrors.  It’s a long clip (~9:30″) in this fast-paced insta-everything day in which we live, but it is well worth your time.  If you’re a follower of Isus (Romanian for Jesus), it will leave you with comfort for the days of tribulation as well as a heart for those Christians who are currently sharing in the sufferings of Christ in restricted nations around the world. Isus is Lord!

 

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).

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