The Advantage of a One Answer Response for Everything

Tuesday is for Thinking

You will be persecutedWe live in an interesting age. There is more information available to people than ever before but people seem more ignorant of history and even current events than ever before. Nevertheless, people will pontificate about what they “know” to be true without the slightest relation or reference to actual facts.

At the same time, the appeal of one answer to complex issues is becoming knee-jerk common place.

Drought in California, floods in Texas, heat in the Mid-west, cold in the Mid-west, hurricanes (or not), tornado’s (or not), shark attacks on the Atlantic coast, bee hive demise, wettest June on record, increase of Canadian geese, —all of these are attributed within hours of reporting to be related to global-warming.

Global-warming is the easy answer to explain all natural phenomenon.

Maybe it is.

But it is all very convenient to attribute nearly everything that happens in the physical, material world to one simple all encompassing explanation. 

Now something new is on the horizon of culture.

The easy answer, the convenient answer, the all purpose answer that explains nearly all lack of “progress” in culture is now attributed to “traditional or conservative Christians.”

We will see a lot more demonization of those who stand for traditional interpretation of Scripture on a whole host of issues from

  • homosexuality
  • same-sex marriage
  • the doctrine of hell
  • the deity of Christ
  • the triune nature of God
  • the authority of Scripture
  • polygamy
  • transgender related issues
  • the definition of pederasty
  • abortion
  • adoption
  • and many more

Prediction: all of these issues will engender increasing and virulent attacks by the “progressive” mavens of culture in the post euphoria celebration of the formerly Supreme Court of the United States.

In the face of that one simple answer, “Conservative Christians are holding the culture back and need to be brought into compliance with the new world order” Christians need to remember:

1.   Christ and the apostles promised this would happen:

  • Matthew 5:11–12 (ESV)

    11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  • 2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV)

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

2.   Christ’s command to love our enemies is still in effect:

  • Luke 6:27–30 (NASB95)

27“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.

  • Luke 6:35–36 (ESV)

35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

So let’s stand for truth but stand in love. Let’s stand and love those who will revile, and persecute and say all manner of evil against us falsely knowing that the one we follow is still “the way, the truth and the life and the only way to the Father” (John 14:6) and the best and only hope for the world.

Powerless Ministries are Easy to Explain

Prayer Image 2There are so many ministries that are so busy. So many churches that are so busy with so many programs. Lots of activity. Lots of zeal for the work. And the work is important. But still, so many are so powerless. Here’s the reason.

For more see:  Powerless Ministries are Easy to Explain.

Learning from the Saints of the Past How to Stand in a Hostile Culture

Sunday Afternoon Musings

Belgic ConfessionI was reading, the Belgic Confession this morning before the first service.  (Don’t ask why. I just picked it up and started reading. I think God just wanted to give me one more illustration before I preached.) What I have recorded below was part of the introduction that set the confession in historical context. Guido de Bres, the author of the confession, was a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, and died a martyr to the faith in the year 1567, just six years after writing what has come to known as the Belgic Confession.

Will the American Church be as faithful and courageous in our generation as this brother and the brothers and sisters of his generation where in theirs? 

“During the sixteenth century the churches in this country were exposed to the most terrible persecution by the Roman Catholic government. To protest against this cruel oppression, and to prove to the persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were not rebels, as was laid to their charge, but law-abiding citizens who professed the true Christian doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures, de Bres prepared this confession in the year 1561. In the following year a copy was sent to King Philip II, together with an address in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, but that they would ‘offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire.’ rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession.

Although the immediate purpose of securing freedom from persecution was not attatined, and de Bres himself fell as one of the many thousands who sealedd their faith with their lives, his work has endured and will continue to endure.

Here’s another link to a Trevan Wax “rewrite” of Daniel 3. It was written in February of 2014 and packs a powerful application for all who stand for the truth of the word of God.  If Daniel 3 Were Written Today.

What You Can Do to Empower Dissent to Same-sex Marriage

WEEKEND LINKS

You cannot Save PeopleThese are challenging times for Christians who hold to the authority of Scripture. But that is not without its joys and opportunities. As one of my friends said, “Marty, when it get’s darker, the light always appears brighter.” Amen. Let’s shine all the brighter for Jesus and let’s remember to love everyone, including and especially those who will say the most bitter and unfair things about us now that the lid is off and same-sex marriage has been ruled constitutional. 

We can disagree with the ruling, we can say that SCOTUS has overstepped its boundaries, we can complain all we like, but the numbers are against us and we will have to lovingly take our lumps while we seek to give alternative, counter-culture testimony to the wisdom of the biblical teaching on human sexuality. The weekend links this week give some solid ways to think about how that conversation might be shaped and the texture of how it might proceed. To God be the glory.

Theology and Apologetics  (Believe these things)

Why the Church Should Neither Cave Nor Panic about the decision on Gay Marriage  —Russell Moore  (As the culture gets darker, the light of Jesus and the Gospel will shine all the brighter. Let not your hearts be troubled.)

Gay Marriage Still doesn’t Exist No Matter What the Supreme Court Says  —Matt Walsh  (Blunt, clear and helpful.)

An Open Letter from John MacArthur to Preachers  (You don’t have to be a MacArthur fan to recognize the wisdom and timeliness of this counsel for preachers and Christians in the post Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.)

Tim Keller on “Making Sense of Scripture’s Inconsistency”  —Tim Keller  (Media pundits, Talk Show hosts, anti-Christian bigots don’t always play fair. [To be fair, some Christians don’t either, and that is a scandal and blight on the name of Christ.] But Tim Keller does a good job of showing why it is not “picking and choosing” nor inconsistent when Christians follow some Old Testament texts and not others.)

Practice and Ministry  (Do these things)

Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn to Live as Exiles in Their Own Country  –Rod Dreher (Don’t miss this article.)

What Your Church Needs to Know and Do about the Supreme Court Decision —Erik Stanley and the Gospel Coalition (Very helpful article with a link to a great 22 page free downloadable manual on how to protect your ministry from legal challenge in the future.)

Why Gay Marriage is Good (and Bad) for the Church —Trevan Wax  (This article was actually written in 2013 but it has proven prophetic and continues to be helpful.)

7 Reasons Why High-Profile Leaders Like Tullian Tchividjian Fail  (Helpful, timely, sadly needed. Pray for pastors people.)

Pop Culture and Politics

TurningPointUSA.net  (Exciting young Illinois 21 year old who is making an extraordinary difference on the campuses of the entire country. Politics is NOT the answer, Jesus is. But politics cannot be abandoned and this young man is doing his part to change the status quo. Check him and his organization out [TurningPointUSA.net].)

5 Mistakes that Will Lead to the Fall of America  —John Hawkins  (All five have economic dimensions, at least three have religious dimensions, one relates to immigration policy.  All of them are important to digest.)

Book Resources

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?  Kevin DeYoung

Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.   Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality   (Wesley Hill)

You’re Not Crazy, Just a Wee Bit Depressed

Thursday is for Spiritual Formation

Ministry Burnout 1On September 12, 2012, Pastor Ray Ortlund, under the title You’re Not Crazy, posted the following open letter to pastors on the Gospel Coalition website. I’ve changed the title and added a postscript.

My brother pastor,

It’s Monday morning.  Yesterday you gave your all.  You’re spent.  You’re depressed.  You’re drinking a lot of coffee.

A friend of mine in campus ministry tells me that when he calls someone new onto his team, he gives them a plaque to hang on the wall of their apartment.  It simply says, “You’re not crazy.”

When the Lord catches us up in his work in the world today, we find ourselves swept away into something more demanding than we ever expected.  Sometimes we are tempted to think, “I must be crazy.  I must be crazy to be living this way, giving myself to this extent, paying this price.  What on earth is happening to my life?”

You’re not crazy.  You’re re-living the story of Jesus.  The Bible says, “He poured out his soul to death” (Isaiah 53:12).  There was no point at which Jesus said, “This isn’t funny any more.  This is becoming too costly.  I must be crazy.  It’s time to put a stop to this.”  He kept saying Yes to the will of God, pouring out his soul, moment by moment, all the way, even to death.  And he wasn’t crazy.  “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).

Re-living the story of Jesus is the only sane way to live, because God is there, with every promise he ever made, freely given to us through the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Yes, take time off.  Jog.  Nap.  Enjoy a hobby.  Laugh a lot.  Still, the advance of the gospel will cost every one of us dearly.  But we’re not crazy.  The promises of God are all over us.  Let’s believe that and relax and see it through, all the way.

Have a good day.

Your brother,

Ray

Somedays you will need such advice more than others. Keep serving the saints. Keep feeding the flock, even after they bite you. Sometimes sheep do that. Just remember that it is not them you serve. You serve Christ in them. See them as Christ. See them as an opportunity to serve Christ. Offer every effort to Him and He will not let your founded-upon-His-word-work be wasted. It’s why Paul wrote these words:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”  (1 Corinthians 15:58)

You are Either This or This or Disobedient

Wednesday is for Prayer

“There are only three kinds of Christians when it comes to world missions: zealous goers, zealous senders, and the disobedient.”

—John Piper

Question:

I agree. Now how do we get the whole church on board with this reality?

Answer:

  • Whatever answer we give, MUST start with prayer (Luke 10:2).

11 “Absences” that Prove the Descent of the American Church

There is incontrovertible evidence that the American Church is in decline in Western Culture. At the same time, there are encouraging signs too. More churches are being planted now than at any time in the last 100 years and mutliple thousands are finding new life in Christ every day. But to fuel the good trends, these “absences” must be dealt with and by dealt with I mean they must be repented of and saturated in prayer.

For more see:   11 “Absences” that Prove the Descent of the American Church.

He Died too Soon but He Died Well: Will You Die Well?

Tuesday is for Thinking

William TwisseFew even know his name today but in 1648 when he drew his last breath on July 19th at the age of 68 he was known as a scholar, a faithful servant of Christ and a powerful defender of the faith. Dr. William Twisse was appointed the presiding officer of the Westminster Assembly by the British parliment of the in 1643. Twisse was one of 8 pastors to die before the Assembly completed its work and delivered to the world the Westminster Confession, the Shorter and Longer Catechisms and a lasting legacy for all the churches of the world. He died 9 months before the last meeting of the Assembly.

Calvinists and Arminians alike are united, if not always in complete agreement, on the magnitude and value of what the Westminster Assembly produced through the process of its six years of discussion, disputations and writings.

Twisse was also a husband and father and widower tasked with the raising of four sons and three daughters. He took that charge seriously.

In his family he had conducted a monthly fast, and regularly ‘before dinner and supper, he read a portion of the holy scriptures, expounding the more obscure and difficult passages for the edification of his family.’

cited in Puritan Profiles: 54 Puritans, personalities drawn togther by the Westminster Assembly,
by William Barker (Christian Focus Publishing, 1996), 21.

Questions:

  • How will you in your time, in your family, take seriously your job to raise up a godly heritage among those among whom you have primary influence?

The Nation’s Only Hope is Getting More Knees on the Ground

Monday is for Praying for a New Country

PrayerYou’ve heard it said that to be victorious in a military battle you must have the “most boots on the ground.”
Conversely, to be victorious in a spiritual battle, you must have the most “knees on the ground.”

The mysterious character “Eli”
to his young pastor friend Elmo
in the novel

The Old Man and the Tea,
by McMillian Moody

Six months into 2015 and the Supreme Court has given new reason for the people of God to bend their knees in prayer. Wherever your church is,

North, South  East or West,

wherever it meets,

a home, a school, under a tree, a bar, a building, a warehouse, or a cathedral,

do everything in your power,
everything in your ability

to help your church put more “knees on the ground” for every spiritual battle you know of and for all the ones you don’t.

 Revised from an earlier post for a post Supreme court ruling on same-sex marriage.