Friday, January 30, 2009

Pristine Christianity - #3

So why have so many people fallen for the various restorationist groups - particularly the ones that are so clearly UN-Christian?

Some writers suggest that it was due to the powerful abilities of the original proponents - their personalities and writings. Some have pointed to the American sense of independence leading to a desire to break from traditional denominations. Others have pointed to a frontier sense of autonomy in anti-education, anti-establishment, "I can do it just as well myself," attitude.

I will accept all of these as contributing factors, but I think that in the 1800's and 1900's people were primed for the restorationists and even some other utopian groups by theological changes that took place at about the same time in American religious life.

The "Great Awakening" of the 1730's was a time of sober theological preaching (e.g., Jonathan Edwards) that tremendously affected people with passionate desire to yield to God and serve Him. By mid-century, the response to such preaching had died down.

By the end of the century people remembered the passionate response and emotional outpouring with nostalgia and wondered how it could be revived. The outworking of this was the "Second Great Awakening." In this case, however, the preaching was much less sober or theological.

Preachers like Charles Finney pioneered the use of fiery rhetoric, sad stories and extended and impassioned appeals called. All across the frontier, people flocked to camp meetings which were, at the very least, events that encouraged emotional release and exuberance.

Were these individuals genuinely converted by the power of God in their lives, or were they only swayed by the emotional appeal of the moment? Some of each, no doubt. Even genuine converts to Christ were planted in shallow theological soil and often lacked the basic education necessary for Bible study.

Having been swayed by this new emotionalism and the humanistic appeal of Arminian theology, people were sitting ducks for the fakers and charlitans of the era. What mattered most was style and emotional appeal. The salvation by works or ritual messages of false religion found receptive hearers. The promise of utopian escatalogical renewal was just what they wanted! They flocked to the restorationists no matter how un-Biblical or un-Christian the teaching and saw it as "Pristine Christianity."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pristine Christianity - #2

In my previous blog I wrote about how different restorationist groups started with the espoused purpose of restoring "Pristine Christianity." They did not see themselves as being in the flow of Christian history, but rather a brand new beginning.

So, how did they do?

Well, the Quakers emphasized Christian ethics, but their pursuit of mystical insight opened them to all kinds of theological variations. Could all of these be "Pristine Christianity?"

The Stone-Campbell movement moved from a Presbyterian background to a more Baptist looking practice (baptism by immersion and congregational church government). But they also eschewed any written creed to clarify their interpretation of scripture. They generally hold to some form of baptismal regeneration and some are clearly teaching salvation through continued participation in church and weekly communion. Since they have no creed and don't respect any church history older than 1800, they also fracture into splinter groups as frequently as anyone. Is this "Pristine Christianity?"

Other restorationists have definitely come to beliefs that are certainly different from historical Christianity. The Latter Day Saints teach a polytheistic cosmology in which every man can become a god with a universe of his own to populate and rule. Salvation is by being a good LDS person and going through LDS rituals.

Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe that Jesus is Jehovah, but a man who became "a god." They don't believe in hell. They believe they are somehow the 144,000 Israelites mentioned in Revelation. Salvation is by being a good JW and working hard at their various ministries.

Other groups have landed on observing the Saturday Sabbath as essential. Others profess unitarianism (no trinity), or universalism (everyone is saved). Others insist that they have the first century gifts of healing and special revelation. They even claim they can raise the dead.

How can any of these be "Pristine Christianity?"

If you had someone come to you and tell you that he had special information or insight that would restore "Pristine Christianity," how could you be sure he was not in the right? Some people have been unbiblically gullible!
(1John 4:1) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

(2Corinthians 11:13-15) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

(Galatians 1:6-9) I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,
7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pristine Christianity - #1

I've been reading lately about "restorationism." The ideal of the restorationist movement is to bring back pristine Christianity - the beliefs and practices of the Christian Church as originally constituted under the Apostles in the first century.

To most Christians, this sounds like a great idea! Isn't it our goal to follow the precepts of the Bible - especially the New Testament - the way that the first century believers did? Hasn't that been the goal of all Christians down through two millennia?

Well now, that turns out to be the real question. Most of us in the mainstream of conservative evangelicalism see church history as a story of challenges, errors and corrections in which we can identify the strand that brought us to our present denominational and theological position. In that denominational and theological position we claim that we are being true to the New Testament.

But the restorationists take the view that the first century truth was lost to all churches of all branches and all denominations. Consequently, they see themselves as the unique new beginning of Christian purity.

Sometimes this "purity" is derived from their own fresh study of the New Testament without letting themselves be influenced by the centuries of previous scholarship or church creeds. (e.g., Stone-Campbell Churches of Christ - early 1800's, Christadelphians - mid-1800's).

For others the restoration of "purity" comes through someone who claims to have special revelation of new scriptures. The mysticism of the Quakers in the 1700's is probably an example of this - belief that all other denominations are deficient, but that every person can bring direct revelation from God through the "Inner Light." More modern examples include Joseph Smith's Latter Day Saints 1830's, Ellen G. White's Seventh-Day Adventists (late 1800's) which led to Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God (1930's), and Charles Taze Russell and the Bible Student Movement (1870's) which led to Judge Rutherford and the Jehovah's Witnesses (1930's). In the 1900's the same basic forces were at work in the beginnings of the pentecostal movement which then led to the charismatic restoration movement. Like the Quakers earlier, they believed they could receive direct revelation from God that would restore the church to pristine Christianity. Who can argue with that?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Soda Pop!

Do you know the fresh taste from the first sip from a newly opened can of Coke?
Right after you pop the top you can get a sort of citrus scent as you sip.
A little hint of metal taste. A bit of effervescent Coke flavor.

Back before plastic bottles, when glass bottles were bottle capped, there was magic in the first sip. You fished your bottle out of the cooler, wiped it dry, then used the bottle opener on the corner.

Sizzz-Pop! Now don't let the cap drop...

That first sip was special, and with your bottle cap, you could reprise that fresh flavor by tasting the cork liner in the top of the cap. A bit of metal taste. A bit of effervescent Coke flavor - not too sweet. It didn't last for long... just long enough to be worth doing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

God's Will and God's Word

(Isaiah 55:10-11) “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

People tend to take this passage to mean that whenever God's word is proclaimed it will accomplish God's purpose in the people who hear it. But keep in mind that in the context, "my word" means the things God has said will happen for the purification and restoration of Israel according to Isaiah's prophecy. What it means is that what God says He will accomplish, will indeed be accomplished in due time.

God is infinite, omniscient and omnipotent. He is sovereign and He will do His will according to His plan and His pleasure. So what does this mean about our proclamation of the word of God? He says,
(2Timothy 4:2-4) Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

So, in fact, we are to preach God's word with the full realization that many of our hearers will reject it and turn from the truth to fables.

This should not discourage us from the preaching of God's word. God is still infinite, omniscient and omnipotent. While we do not want to misapply Isaiah 55:10-11, we still know that God will indeed accomplish His perfect will through the preaching of His word.
(1Corinthians 1:21) For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

As we preach God's word in the gospel of Jesus Christ, God works to bring people to salvation. Apart from proclaiming God's word, people will not be saved.
(Romans 10:14) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

Our sovereign God will accomplish His purposes and He is pleased to use the preaching of His word for His purposes of salvation. But it isn't automatic or magic. It is our infinite and transcendent God personally working in our fallen and finite world to bring salvation to the rebels by His sovereign grace.

Praise God!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Christ In Our Preaching

Christ said that all of the Scriptures were about Him. He is the focus and the fulfillment of all of the Bible.
(Matthew 5:17) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

(John 5:39 NKJV) You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.
After His resurrection He instructed His disciples from all of the Scriptures - showing how they taught about Him.
(Luke 24:25-27) Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”
27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
One point about this is that even though Paul said he was determined to know nothing among the Corinthians except "Jesus Christ and Him crucified," it does not mean that he only said those five words over and over again. (1Corinthians 2:2)

The whole Bible is about Jesus Christ and Him crucified. What Paul means is that he wasn't relying on human philosophy or rhetoric to win people to the message of the Gospel. At the same time he WAS teaching and preaching about Christ from the scriptures.

A second point is that we should never preach from the Bible without looking at how it points to Christ. Any attempt to change people's moral behavior that doesn't involve the Gospel of Jesus Christ amounts to man made religion of human works.

Graeme Goldsworthy in Preaching The Whole Bible As Christian Scripture asks, "Can I Preach a Christian Sermon without Mentioning Jesus?" Part of his answer is:
Any sermon, then, that aims to apply the biblical text to the congregation and does so without making it crystal clear that it is in Christ alone and through Christ alone that the application is realized, is not a Christian sermon. It is at best an exercise in wishful and pietistic thinking. It is at worst demonic in its Christ-denying legalism.
Amen! Let us preach Christ!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Who Is In Control?

Today President Obama begins work. I am praying for him and for the USA.
(1Timothy 2:1-3) Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,
2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,

But my hope is in the Lord! God will work His plan and accomplish His will for His glory. May we be faithful in every circumstance.
(Proverbs 21:1) The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Foolishness or Wisdom?

People are rational beings (except when they are being irrational). Generally we like things to make sense to us. We like things to follow logical lines of thought. We want to feel like things are reasonable.

Many people think that the Christian gospel doesn't make sense.
  • How could God become a man?
  • Why would He?
  • How could a humble man like Jesus, be Creator God?
  • How could one man take the punishment for many people's sins?
  • How could that be "fair?"
  • How can people be saved if they don't deserve it?
  • How can God save some, but not all, and still be just?
  • How does supernatural salvation by God fit with human moral freedom and responsibility?
The list could go on endlessly, but God's answer is simple.
(Isaiah 55:8-9) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

God's view of things is fundamentally different than the view of His creatures.
(1Corinthians 1:25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Apart from God's special revelation to humans and God's work of salvation in individuals, no one would ever understand.
(1Corinthians 2:13-14) These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

It seems to me that this is the explanation of why there is such a disconnect between people who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and people who do not. To believers it all makes sense. To unbelievers, it seems like foolishness. Believers feel frustrated. Unbelievers are bewildered.

But that is OK. Believers don't need to make the gospel into something that makes sense to unbelievers. That would destroy the Gospel of Grace and replace it with some version of humans saving themselves by their good works or religious rituals.

Instead, we continue to preach the gospel - salvation for sinners by the grace of God through the finished work of Christ on the cross - available freely to all who believe. Then, when people demonstrate genuine faith through repenting of their sins and throwing themselves on the mercy of God for salvation through Jesus Christ, we see the power of God at work in them. Then we know it was not our own persuasive arguments, but the Spirit of God working in their hearts.
(1Corinthians 2:1-5 NKJV) And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I'm pondering...
Why would a church leadership introduce something that would inevitably lead to division and loss? My dear friends just endured just such a move. Their church leaders, because of two potential candidates for pastor who have been divorced and remarried, introduced a constitutional change allowing divorced and remarried men to be pastors or deacons in the church.

It was a sure loss situation. If the measure was defeated they would lose offended divorced and remarried people and some of the leadership. If the measure passed, they would lose those who are uncomfortable with divorce and remarriage in pastoral and deacon leadership.

It passed, but with less than eighty percent of the vote. Should they be happy to lose 20% of their church? Will they be able to attract one of the two candidates that they had in mind when they made this change? It remains to be seen.

Another thing...
Why are some people more conscientious about their participation in almost anything than they are about their attendance at church? I'm not even thinking about work, which might create some serious conflicts with attendance at some services.

I have long observed that some members will regularly attend only one service a week - and even that might be undependable. But they will be very devoted to showing up for their (enter the sport of choice here) practices and games every week. They often give more time to that game (or other hobby) than to church and they certainly are more faithful and regular there.

What gives?

Clearly they have more delight in these other things than they have in participating in the worship of God and the fellowship of the saints. I think this is a symptom of spiritual weakness. People are controlled by the frivolous passions of this world, rather than by a love for the eternal God.
(Acts 2:42 NKJV) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
(Deuteronomy 6:5 NKJV) You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


The snow falling in fine flakes.
Straight down for hours.
Cold and dry - Bright white.

Now we have cold. Crunchy cold. Icy cold. Cutting cold.

How wonderful!

I love this weather (as long as the furnace works!)

Everything in bright and clean looking. Leaves and the litter of branches from our silver maple trees are buried under this snowy white comforter. Like sins washed away through Jesus!

The cold is invigorating - it pushes you to keep moving. Don't breath too deeply! Wear layers of clothing. Cover your ears and fingers.

Cafeteria Christians

I have noted in previous blogs that while some people think the church is growing by leaps and bounds, the result is extremely shallow. I noticed an article today on Yahoo News that highlights, underlines, italicizes, and bolds my point.
Most US Christians define own theology

In the Barna survey, 71 percent of American adults say they are more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a defined set of teachings from a particular church. Even among born-again Christians, 61 percent pick and choose from the beliefs of different denominations. For people under the age of 25, the number rises to 82 percent.
This article goes on to note that many also pick out some beliefs from non-christian religions!

Christians expressed a variety of unorthodox beliefs in the poll. Nearly half of those interviewed do not believe in the existence of Satan, one-third believe Jesus sinned while on earth, and two-fifths say they don't have a responsibility to share their faith with others.

The most striking divergence from orthodoxy, however, was first revealed in the 2007 US Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. That comprehensive survey of 35,000 Americans found a majority of Christians saying that people of other religions can find salvation and eternal life.

And why did Jesus say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me?" (John 14:6)

The poll confirms a broad rejection of religious exclusivity. Among all religious adults interviewed, 65 percent say many religions lead to eternal life and only 29 percent say theirs is the one true faith. Sixty-nine percent of all non-Jews say Judaism can lead to eternal life and 52 percent of non-Muslims say that of Islam.

Forty-two percent of religious Americans also say atheists are able to find eternal life.

As you might expect, humanists are rejoicing.

"It's just part of a 200-year working out of ideas about personal autonomy and equality that are sort of built into the American experience," says Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. "The notion that someone is going to burn in hell because they have their own beliefs is just not resonant within our larger political ideals."

They might call themselves religious, spiritual, or even Christians - but people with this kind of belief are NOT true disciples of Jesus Christ. They do not believe the basic gospel: All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.

(John 14:6 NKJV) ¶ Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

No Time Like The Present

Are you planning to do something?

There is no time like the present!

This is not just a cliche. The fact is, that you can't do anything a moment ago and you don't know about the situation tomorrow. You only have the present.

We'd best not forget it. There is no time like the present to...
  • Tell someone you love them.
  • Pray for someone in need.
  • Read your Bible.
  • Apologize and make up.
  • Tell your neighbor about the Gospel.
  • Visit a friend in the hospital.
  • Call your mom.
  • Send a note of encouragement.
  • Give a testimony of praise.
(James 4:14-16 NKJV) whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”
16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
Thank God for His blessings in giving you this day. Use it to the fullest for His glory!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What's In Your Mail?

In the old Beetle Bailey comic strip, General Halftrack was always expecting that today there would be a letter in the mail from the Pentagon.

I have always been fascinated by the mail. You never know what you might get in the mail. Maybe I will get a check in the mail - an unexpected windfall. Maybe I will be summoned by the government leaders for my wisdom about the current world situation. Maybe today is the day that I will finally receive the recognition or opportunity or satisfaction that I have been longing for.

Let's see... A credit card offer. A book store sale flyer. The dog's license for 2009. A registration packet from AAA. (Haven't they heard of Google Maps?) A coupon from Office Max. A flyer from a company that sells choir robes and vestments. (We don't use vestments in Baptist Churches.) A notice from Verizon Wireless about my opportunities to upgrade my phone (for a fee.) A notice from a Christian Music Publisher. Yet another opportunity for my wife to buy some sort of insurance through the NEA. A packet of coupons and flyers from area businesses. And something from an investment company.

Guess today was not the day to get something great in the mail! (The dog got the best mail today.) Every now and then I really do get something good. On Thursday or Friday I always get a nice letter from my mom.

Once I did get a summons from the government enlisting my assistance. I was a potential juror for the municipal court! (Alas, they canceled for the day I was supposed to show up.)

So what is it that makes me keep dreaming of getting something really life changing in the mail? On the one hand, I suppose it is possible you might get something like that... you never know. On the other hand, it is the dream that keeps the lotteries and scam artists in business. "My big break is just around the corner." "My life is not going to be ordinary and mundane forever... someone will rescue me."

So we wait for the mail. We check the e-mail. We dream our lives away.

Don't do it! If you let yourself be sucked into these dreams you will miss the most important mail you could ever receive... and you won't appreciate its value.

We have already received the mail that we need to lift our lives out of the ordinary. We have God's own word in the Bible. God calls us out of our mundane lives into a personal relationship with Him. We have eternal riches in glory through Christ Jesus. We have meaning and purpose that put new urgency into all of our responsibilities and relationships. We know that someday we will be reporting to someone more important than any president or king - the King of Kings and Lord of Lords Himself - Jesus Christ.

This world's system is corrupt and can never deliver what you really need.
(Matthew 6:33 NKJV) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Check out your mail from God and you will feel much less concerned about the mail (or lack of mail) you get from the post office.

Friday, January 9, 2009

On Slippery Slopes

Some people who are dear to me are in a painful situation because their church deacons are working to lower the leadership standards for their church by removing the standard that pastors and deacons cannot have been divorced.
(1Timothy 3:1-7 NKJV) This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;
3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;
4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence
5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);
6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.
7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Any suggestion that divorced men should be included requires explaining away the clear teaching of scripture. Nobody reading these requirements automatically says, "Clearly divorced men are the people being described."

Instead there is an unceasing flow of rationalizations.
  • It isn't fair to divorced people who are otherwise godly men.
  • All our sins are forgiven when we are saved.
  • Some great Bible characters were polygamists.
  • "Husband of one wife" doesn't necessarily mean "not divorced."
  • The Bible gives some "just causes" for divorce (e.g., a wife's immorality - Matt. 19, or an unbelieving spouse's refusal to be married to a believer - 1Cor. 7).
But these are all just human rationalizations. The text clearly teaches that the requirement is men who are of the highest possible qualification as evaluated by their relationships - especially with their families and with other people so that they are BLAMELESS as far as having anybody inside or outside the church who can pin charges of ungodliness on them.

It is not a question of fairness to divorced people who may well be godly people. It is a question of God's qualification. A person who had lost one eye might be perfectly fit in every other way, but he will be disqualified from being a jet fighter pilot.

It is not a question of sins forgiven - but a question of God's qualification. God makes it very practical, "... if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?" A man's marriage and child rearing are his first priority from God. If he hasn't been able to keep these things in order (and that without the additional stresses of Christian ministry) why would you give him the responsibility of a similar task in caring for the church family? This is not a matter of sin or a question of whether the person was saved or not saved - but a matter of proven ability.

Rationalizers are sure to suggest that people who used to be promiscuous, or people who used to be drug addicts, or people who used to be criminals might be free by these standards to serve in leadership after they are saved. But not if the formerly promiscuous person has a long trail of broken lives and children behind him. How could he claim to have a good testimony among these who are outside the church? Not if the former drug addict needs to spend all of his time fighting his addictions, or if he has burned out his brain so that he can no longer think straight. Not if the criminal is in prison for his crime or is forbidden to be around children because of his past. He may be forgiven by God, but his past actions have a direct effect on his present life situation.

Does "husband of one wife" mean "not divorced?" Those who promote allowing divorced men to serve, throw a flurry of grammatical and technical arguments at this phrase. Let me put the argument differently. Which of these is absolutely beyond the shadow of a doubt qualified as a "one woman man?" 1) A godly man and good husband who is married and has never been divorced or 2) a godly man and good husband who has both a wife and an exwife?

But even if you took "husband of one wife" out of the passages on qualifications - what is there about "blameless" and "rules his own house well" that suggests divorced men as qualified? How can they have their children in submission with all reverence when their children live with the former spouse? (Or should we rationalize that children by a former marriage are no longer his children?) Do you really think that blended, mixed and shaken families are what are in view in these passages?

How about the Bible's just causes for divorce? How would they qualify a man as a pastor or deacon? Even in the best of circumstances, divorce is not part of God's design for marriage.

The Bible is clear that "God hates divorce." (Mal. 2:6) When the religious scholars of Jesus day tried to use the "just cause" argument on Jesus, He said that these laws were given because of the hardness of their hearts and not according to God's design. Jesus' standard was the highest (Matthew 19:6 NKJV) "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” The only relief that the exception clause in verse 9 provides is that if your wife is immoral then you didn't inititate the immorality - it doesn't recommend divorce. The disciples understood this as prohibiting divorce and said it would be better to remain single under such a strict rule. (Matt. 9:10)

Serving as a pastor is not a person's inalienable right. Serving as pastor or deacon is not something for which you are assumed qualified until proven unqualified.

No! You must be proven first and your marriage history is part of the proving ground!
(1Timothy 3:6 NKJV) not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.
(1Timothy 3:10 NKJV) But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.
But, alas for my dear ones who are undergoing this barrage of rationalization to change the standard at their church. There is no way to stop this train.

The rationalization is already a loss. When people are willing to decide what they want to do and then rationalize their way through the scriptures to do it, it is too late... They have already made a fatal error. They have already abandoned their commitment to the Bible as the authority for faith and practice. Instead of taking it at face value, they are willing to manipulate it to get the results they want.

They should have been more careful. The modernists of the early 20th century played the same basic game. Why not divorced men? What about men who have been divorced two or three or four times? Why not men who were divorced after they were saved but now have been "restored?" The rationalization works for any of these.

While we are at it, why not women pastors? Are not some women more qualified than some men? The Bible say that in Christ, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NKJV) So why not have women as pastors and deacons? And then, why not homosexuals, lesbians and transgendered people?

Why indeed? The modernists all ended up there, because once they abandoned the authority of the scripture - the plain sense of scripture - the standards of God as opposed to the rationalizations of men - they had nothing to stop them from going all the way down.

It is a slippery slope.

How sad.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Everybody Knows Everything...

Of course it is not really true that everybody knows everything... but many people THINK they know everything!
(Proverbs 9:8 NKJV) Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
In other words - it is only a problem if you are trying to teach somebody something. If they are sure they know everything they will render themselves unteachable (and obnoxious.) But, people blessed with God's grace can learn!
(Proverbs 3:34 NKJV) Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.
My purpose is not to scorn the scornful, but to remind myself not to be one of their number. I need to be humble, to listen humbly to rebuke, and to run away from complacency and pride.

God, help me to keep on learning and growing! I want to be a true man of God!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Know God Better & Trust Him More

We tend to worry.

Why not? We don't have any power to control the future. There are many threats to our well-being. How do we know if we will be healthy or sick? How do we know if we will have enough food, shelter, clothing? How do we know if we will have a job or not? How do we know if our loved ones will live or die?

We tend to worry.

But worry is the opposite of faith. We have no power to control the future, but the future is under control. We are safe in the care of God. Whatever He allows into our lives will come by His loving care for us. Whatever the difficulties we face, God is there as our sufficiency. He will never leave us or forsake us.

The Lord chides His disciples for their "little faith."
When they worry about food, drink and clothing...
(Matthew 6:30) Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
When their boat is in danger of sinking...
(Matthew 8:26) But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
When Peter starts to sink while trying to walk on water...
(Matthew 14:31) And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
This always used to bother me. Isn't it natural to worry about imminent death? Even though Jesus knows what He's going to do, how are the disciples supposed to know? It seems unfair to call them people of "little faith."

But Jesus was serious. He wanted them to know Him better and trust Him more. They needed to get over being worried, fearful and timid so they could be bold witnesses for Him.

That's what we need too. Continue to follow Jesus. Read and believe God's word. Commune with God in prayer. Know Him better and trust Him more. Have faith in God.

Plan well, work hard and be smart - and trust God. It is not your plan or your hard work or your brains that will supply your needs, but God's sovereign care for you. Rest in Him and be free from panic and terror and anxiety and angst and depression.

The world is out of your control and you don't know what is coming up next, but God is in complete control and is working everything out for His perfect plan. He won't drop you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sweet Rest While Blogging

Blogging for me is a leisure activity. If I don't blog one day or another, you can pretty much count on the fact that I am wildly busy.

This raises the question of why I am blogging right now, since I am buried with work projects - all of which have rapidly approaching deadlines. The answer is that since I have been "ON" every hour of every day for the past week and I only got about 4 hours of sleep last night, I am too fried to work right this moment.

This blog is a substitute for a nap. (Maybe I should go ahead and take a nap... who wants to read a blog by someone who is mentally fried?)

Two blog ideas came to mind this morning.
1) In Genesis 11 God confuses the languages to keep people from banding together against Him. I wonder if this could be why most churches are so small. God knows that when people band together it is rarely for the good. The bigger we are the bigger our influence for evil. At least the effects of our errors are magnified.

2) It seems to me that the churches have slid away from a passion for precision and purity in doctrine and practice over my 50 plus years. Pretty much anything goes. "Let's all find the least common denominator and ignore everything else." "Let's not worry at all about standards of godly living and purity > different strokes for different folks." So many churches don't talk much about serious doctrine - it might divide (and shrink) the church. "Let's all just feel good together in the name of Jesus."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Goals For A New Year

Why do so many people make fun of New Years Resolutions? Isn't this the natural point in a year to evaluate our lives and set new goals? Don't we have things to accomplish this year and things about our lives that we should change?

Of course many New Years Resolutions are silly and are soon forgotten. I also suspect that most people are too proud to be successful in changing bad behavior and bad habits. Since we are proud we don't admit that our habits are all that bad. Since we are proud we can't humble ourselves to the discipline and help we need to be successful in change.

When it came to bearing fruit for God, Jesus said, "Without Me, you can do nothing."

Don't think for a minute that you are going to change yourself through your own efforts and careful planning. Genuine growth and positive change only come by the grace of God. We need to plan well and work hard - but all in the context of throwing ourselves on God's mercy and grace. When we really do grow and change God is glorified because it is His work in us that brings the success.

I have several new goals for 2009. I want to get more exercise and lose some weight. I want to spend more time with people in the community. I want to write some new things. I want to read more this year.

By God's grace these things are all possible - but I need to seek them through seeking Christ.

(Matthew 6:33) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Only One Life

I googled yesterday's poem and came up with this:

Only One Life

By Charles Thomas Studd, Missionary to China, India, and Africa

Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life's busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in 'that day' my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life,' twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God's holy will to cleave;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e'er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;
And when at last I'll hear the call, I know I'll say 'twas worth it all”;
Only one life,' twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

This morning I got up and put my 2009 Day-Timer Calendar together. It is a normal part of staying organized and helps me get a perspective on the year. (I was especially blessed to realize that the meeting I thought was next week is really the week after... I needed the extra time!)

Later, David Andrew, Lola and I were all in the quiet living room starting out the annual Bible reading program. This is the 22nd year in a row that I have followed this program for reading the whole Bible through in a year. It is exciting to have my precious loved ones doing it as well. There is nothing more important to living the Christian life than to be reading the Bible.
(Psalms 1:1-2 NKJV) ¶ Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.
So we have a new year stretching out before us... what will it hold? The hymn writer, Ira Stanphill put it this way...
I don' t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine, For its skies may turn to gray.
I don't worry o'r the future, For I know what Jesus said,
And today I'll walk beside Him, For He knows what is ahead.
Many things about tomorrow, I don't seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow, And I know who holds my hand.*
Another poet said, "Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last." My hope and prayer for myself and for you is that you will live every moment of 2009 for Christ. May God be glorified!

*I Know Who Holds Tomorrow," by Ira Stanphill, copyright 1950 by Singspiration Music