Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Book of the Prophet Habakkuk

My favorite Old Testament book is Habakkuk and am constantly in need of being reminded of its message.  As a result, I want to post this entire short book here on the blog.  Thanks to Bible Gateway for making the text available online for free.

Habakkuk 1

Chaldeans Used to Punish Judah
 1 The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw.  2 How long, O LORD, will I call for help,
And You will not hear?
I cry out to You, “Violence!”
Yet You do not save.
3 Why do You make me see iniquity,
And cause me to look on wickedness?
Yes, destruction and violence are before me;
Strife exists and contention arises.
4 Therefore the law is ignored
And justice is never upheld.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
Therefore justice comes out perverted.
 5 “Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder!
Because I am doing something in your days—
You would not believe if you were told.
6 “For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,
That fierce and impetuous people
Who march throughout the earth
To seize dwelling places which are not theirs.
7 “They are dreaded and feared;
Their justice and authority originate with themselves.
8 “Their horses are swifter than leopards
And keener than wolves in the evening.
Their horsemen come galloping,
Their horsemen come from afar;
They fly like an eagle swooping down to devour.
9 “All of them come for violence.
Their horde of faces moves forward.
They collect captives like sand.
10 “They mock at kings
And rulers are a laughing matter to them.
They laugh at every fortress
And heap up rubble to capture it.
11 “Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on.
But they will be held guilty,
They whose strength is their god.”
 12 Are You not from everlasting,
O LORD, my God, my Holy One?
We will not die.
You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge;
And You, O Rock, have established them to correct.
13 Your eyes are too pure to approve evil,
And You can not look on wickedness with favor.
Why do You look with favor
On those who deal treacherously?
Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up
Those more righteous than they?
14 Why have You made men like the fish of the sea,
Like creeping things without a ruler over them?
15 The Chaldeans bring all of them up with a hook,
Drag them away with their net,
And gather them together in their fishing net.
Therefore they rejoice and are glad.
16 Therefore they offer a sacrifice to their net
And burn incense to their fishing net;
Because through these things their catch is large,
And their food is plentiful.
17 Will they therefore empty their net
And continually slay nations without sparing?

Habakkuk 2

God Answers the Prophet
 1 I will stand on my guard post
And station myself on the rampart;
And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,
And how I may reply when I am reproved.
2 Then the LORD answered me and said,
“Record the vision
And inscribe it on tablets,
That the one who reads it may run.
3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.  4 “Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.
5 “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man,
So that he does not stay at home.
He enlarges his appetite like Sheol,
And he is like death, never satisfied.
He also gathers to himself all nations
And collects to himself all peoples.
 6 “Will not all of these take up a taunt-song against him,
Even mockery and insinuations against him
And say, ‘Woe to him who increases what is not his—
For how long—
And makes himself rich with loans?’
7 “Will not your creditors rise up suddenly,
And those who collect from you awaken?
Indeed, you will become plunder for them.
8 “Because you have looted many nations,
All the remainder of the peoples will loot you—
Because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land,
To the town and all its inhabitants.
 9 “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house
To put his nest on high,
To be delivered from the hand of calamity!
10 “You have devised a shameful thing for your house
By cutting off many peoples;
So you are sinning against yourself.
11 “Surely the stone will cry out from the wall,
And the rafter will answer it from the framework.
 12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
And founds a town with violence!
13 “Is it not indeed from the LORD of hosts
That peoples toil for fire,
And nations grow weary for nothing?
14 “For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,
As the waters cover the sea.
 15 “Woe to you who make your neighbors drink,
Who mix in your venom even to make them drunk
So as to look on their nakedness!
16 “You will be filled with disgrace rather than honor.
Now you yourself drink and expose your own nakedness.
The cup in the LORD’S right hand will come around to you,
And utter disgrace will come upon your glory.
17 “For the violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,
And the devastation of its beasts by which you terrified them,
Because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land,
To the town and all its inhabitants.
 18 “What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it,
Or an image, a teacher of falsehood?
For its maker trusts in his own handiwork
When he fashions speechless idols.
19 “Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’
To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’
And that is your teacher?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
And there is no breath at all inside it.
20 “But the LORD is in His holy temple.
Let all the earth be silent before Him.”

Habakkuk 3

God’s Deliverance of His People
 1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.  2 LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear.
O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
In the midst of the years make it known;
In wrath remember mercy.
 3 God comes from Teman,
And the Holy One from Mount Paran.

His splendor covers the heavens,
And the earth is full of His praise.
4 His radiance is like the sunlight;
He has rays flashing from His hand,
And there is the hiding of His power.
5 Before Him goes pestilence,
And plague comes after Him.
6 He stood and surveyed the earth;
He looked and startled the nations.
Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered,
The ancient hills collapsed.
His ways are everlasting.
7 I saw the tents of Cushan under distress,
The tent curtains of the land of Midian were trembling.
 8 Did the LORD rage against the rivers,
Or was Your anger against the rivers,
Or was Your wrath against the sea,
That You rode on Your horses,
On Your chariots of salvation?
9 Your bow was made bare,
The rods of chastisement were sworn.

You cleaved the earth with rivers.
10 The mountains saw You and quaked;
The downpour of waters swept by.
The deep uttered forth its voice,
It lifted high its hands.
11 Sun and moon stood in their places;
They went away at the light of Your arrows,
At the radiance of Your gleaming spear.
12 In indignation You marched through the earth;
In anger You trampled the nations.
13 You went forth for the salvation of Your people,
For the salvation of Your anointed.
You struck the head of the house of the evil
To lay him open from thigh to neck.

14 You pierced with his own spears
The head of his throngs.
They stormed in to scatter us;
Their exultation was like those
Who devour the oppressed in secret.
15 You trampled on the sea with Your horses,
On the surge of many waters.
 16 I heard and my inward parts trembled,
At the sound my lips quivered.
Decay enters my bones,
And in my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us.
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
18 Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19 The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.

*  Currently I am in the middle of a sermon series on the book of Habakkuk.  Watch the pastor's blog for updates on the series along with audio and notes of the sermons themselves.

For more:
GBC - May 22, 2011 | Habakkuk 1:1-2:1 - Praying From the Watchtower:  When God's Answer Leaves Us Unsatisfied    
GBC - October 18, 2009 | 1 Peter 2:21-23 - Christus Exemplar  
GBC - Stomach Virus and the Humanity of Christ:  Moore on the Suffering and Sick Servant
GBC - Theodicy as Evidence of a Theos  
GBC - Some Helpful Answers To Common Questions: DA Carson Weighs In
GBC - Sunday Night - "The Agony of Job and the Sovereingnty of God
GBC - Weekly Recommendation - "A Grief Observed" by CS Lewis
GBC - January 2, 2011 | Matthew 8:1-17 - "Be Cleansed":  The Great Healer & His Great Gospel  
GBC - MacArthur on Matthew's Use of Isaiah 53   
GBC - Theology - The Immutability of God: Its Truth and Relevancy - Theodicy and God's Sovereignty

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pray for the Persecuted: Memorial Day & the Persecuted Church

Today we rightly honor those who have given of their lives in defense of the nation.  But as Christians, let us also use this national holiday to also honor those who have given their lives in defense of the gospel.  Everyday Christians are forced into hiding, worship in secret, and are believers in Christ at their own peril.  Everyday Christian missionaries put their lives on the line to spread the gospel into places that have never heard of the gospel. 
Consider, for example, the following article from CNS News which is reporting on the ongoing violence and persecution in Pakistan.  They report:

Anti-Christian violence continues in Pakistan and police are not pursuing the perpetrators, according to news reports.

A May 26 article in AsiaNews.it described the gang-rape of a Christian woman and the desecration of Christian tombs in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad. The publication called it “ordinary violence visited upon Pakistan’s Christian minority.”

The Pakistan Christian Post first reported the violence, including information about Muslim landowners using tractors to desecrate a Christian graveyard. Buried caskets were broken and bones of the dead were brought to the surface, the newspaper reported.

 One could add to this countless other stories of abuse, rape, and persecution against Christians in Muslim, secular, and communist counties.  The gospel is an offense (1 Corinthians 1:18ff) and as a result, violent men and violent regimes will stop at nothing to silence them.  Let us keep our persecuted brothers and sisters in prayer as they go from house to house in secret worshiping their (and our) Savior.  At the same time, let us pray for boldness.  Though their lives and livelihood may be in danger as a result of their firm belief in Christ, let us also pray that they will not be ashamed of the gospel.  Christ said that His followers will love Him more than anything else including family, friends, and yes, our own lives.

Let us also, as free Americans be grateful for what we have here.  Certainly everyday is another challenge that Christians must face and as we continue down this slide of secularism, we can see before us a nation that tolerates hate crimes and uses the tax code to persecute believers in Christ.  But let's be honest, paying more in taxes or told that we cannot condemn homosexual practices is not the same as being raped by an angry mob or being hunted by the government.  Though persecution may be coming here, it will likely not be anything like it is throughout many other parts in the world.

So let us make this a Memorial Day wherein we pray about the gospel.  Certainly we ought to honor our fallen national heroes, but let us also honor those who throughout the centuries have given of their lives for the sake of the gospel.  The blood of the martyrs and the persecuted is in fact the seed of the Church.  Just like their Savior they have given of their lives counting all as lost.  Just like the Savior who bought them.

CNS News - Anti-Christian Violence Continues in Pakistan  

For more:
Blogizomai - Pray For Our Brothers and Sisters in Iraq  
Blogizomai - Coming Out of the Closet As Christians?:  Welcome to the New World  
Blogizomai - Punishing Prejudice By Being Prejudice:  The Lesson and Legacy of Hate Crimes 
Blogizomai - Marriage and the Limits of the Law and Courts:  Why Only the Gospel Regernerates & Changes Behavior 
Blogizomai - What's the Big Deal:  Christianity and Homosexuality   
Blogizomai - Christianity Without Christian Distinctives Based on Christian Doctrine is Not Christianity:  The CLS and Our Fear of Discrimination
Blogizomai - Jesus is into Offending People:  Its Time For Christians to Admit the Obvious and Proclaim with Boldness
Blogizomai - "Friendship With the World is Enmity With God": Rick Warren Tries to Have it Both Ways
Theology - The Stipulation That Paralyzes: Tony Jones and the Limit of the Emergent Worldview 

Being Who We Think We Are: Moral Bondage, the Gay Gene, and the Gospel

Should we say congratulations for being who you are?

That's the answer (in the form of a question obviously) given by CNN anchor Don Lemon on the Jay Behar Show on Headline News when asked if she should say congratulations to someone who has just come out of the closet as a homosexual.  There is more said in the conversation than one blog post could cover, but it does strike me how Behar considers anyone who has a moral concern with homosexual marriage must mean they are bigoted and homophobic (not that I'm surprised).  She names current Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum as a homophobe simply because he is against gay marriage.

But consider Lemon's article published on CNN's Belief Blog titled My Faith: How I learned to stop 'praying away the gay' which tells Lemon's gripping story, as a Baptist child in a Catholic school, of regularly trying to pray away his homosexuality.  From this point one can already see where he is going with this.  As a black man Lemon sees a direct connection between his race and his  sexual so-called orientation.  The connection is simple.  One does not choose their race.  Likewise one does not choose their sexual orientation.  Racism is morally repugnant and prejudice ought to be condemned and legally prevented (such as with the Civil Rights Acts 1964).  Likewise, homophobia (as it is called) is morally repugnant and prejudice ought to be condemned.  Just as other races ought to have equal rights so too homosexuals ought to have equal rights (read the right to be married to a person of the same-sex).  Lemon writes:

What we're doing to our young gay people now is child abuse. It's plain old bigotry and hatred. And if African-Americans don't know what that feels like in America, I don't know who does.

This is an old argument by now.  Lemon is not the first to make the case and he certainly won't be the last.  It is based on the assumption that sexuality isn't chosen.  Instead we are born with it.  Thus the debate over gay marriage shouldn't be debated as a moral issue but as a civil rights issue. To be against something like gay marriage or the normalization of homosexuality is be equated with racism and sexism.

Though on the surface this makes sense, it is biologically, scienctifically, philosophically, theologically, and yes morally inaccurate.  Biologically there is no such thing as a gay gene in spite of countless efforts to find one.  But even if there was such a gene, it would not automatically mean that homosexuality is moral.  As a heterosexual, I prefer women, but that does not mean that it is moral for me to cheat on my wife with as many women as I want.  And if I blamed my sexual perversion on my genes arguing that I have a genetic tendency to sleep with multiple women without emotion connection or concern with how it would affect my wife, no one would consider me moral, but as a pig.  Or consider if I was a drunk and claimed that I was born that way.  Would it make it moral?  In other words, what is natural does not necessarily mean it is moral (as I have argued more fully in a number of other blog posts linked below).

This is the real problem with science.  Science is not a measuring rod of morality. Just because something can be scientifically proven (and the gay gene has been disproven) does not mean it should be rationalized, normalized, or legalized.

Furthermore, Lemon's argument that God made him gay is simply unfounded.  As a former Baptist raised in a Catholic school, he ought to know better (though he confesses I'm no longer the member of any church but I do believe in a higher power.). However, the abandonment of his religious upbringing still does not get him off the hook.  It is amazing how easily, like Lemon here, we can abandon a God we don't agree with.  Our prayers, all too often, become a means by which we can usurp God.  Instead of submitting to God as He is, we seek to coerce Him to be and do what we want Him to be and do.  This can only mean that whether we seek to "pray away the gay" or simply ask God to fix our ingrown toenail, we are worshiping ourselves seeking a god to do our bidding.

All of this is to say that though Christians must be careful about sounding vitriolic at the cost of the gospel, we must be honest enough to say that our culture's many efforts to normalize what is morally wrong is farce and is rooted in our blind depravity that sees in moral bondage natural liberation.  Those who "come out of the closet" do so seeking liberation, but the gospel is clear that such attempts do not liberate, but enslaved.  Anytime we seek to restore our own personal Eden through sexual freedom (homosexually, bisexually, heterosexually, transgenderism, polygamy, or whatever) or through any other non-sexual means (a large family, a better paying job, a robust career, academic honors, or whatever), we do not find peace, contentment, joy, love, satisfaction, fulfillment, or the respect we want.  Instead, we become slaves to our own depravity.*  Like a dog endlessly chasing his own tail.

As Christians we ought to be reminded of the gospel here.  Man will do all that he can to rationalize his sin whether it be sexual or not thinking it will make him happy and content.  But the gospel sees a much better way.  Both the heterosexual and the homosexual stands condemned before God for acts connected and disconnected with sex.  We are both idolaters who will either die trusting in our false god, or will live humbling submitting to the true God who put on flesh, faced our temptations, and overcame them at the cross and the resurrection.  The gospel is truly liberating.  It is the freedom that allows us to nail our old self to the cross in order to be raised in newness of life in the resurrection.

I am not a gay American.  I am not a straight American.  I am a Christian - a slave of Christ and an adopted son of God.  Christ has freed me from my idolatry.  Instead of obeying unquenchable lusts (sexual or not) that will never make me truly satisfied, I can finally nail such fruitless efforts to the cross and find my contentment in He who died in my place.  So much so that it doesn't matter what the laws are.  Laws will never make me happy.  So much so that it doesn't matter who gets elected.  Politicians will never answer my prayers.  So much so that it doesn't matter what others think.  The world didn't die for me.

I will pray for Lemon, not because he has come out publicly as a homosexual because, like everyone else I see, he is an idolater who needs Jesus.  I will pray for him in the same way that I pray for the man who just got out of jail on drug charges and continues to destroy his life.  I will pray for him in the same way that I pray for the young woman who thinks that a boyfriend's arm means contentment even though they are attracted only to her body, something she is more than willing to sacrifice.  I will pray for him as I pray for workaholic dad who thinks his wife will respect him if he makes enough money though he is absent from the home.

At the end of the day what we need is not bondage cloaked in the name of freedom, but the gospel.  It is time that Christians start to proclaim the gospel and not mere moralistic legalism.  At the same time, it is time for the world to open its eyes and see that it is not as free as it thinks it is.

*  The use of words slave & bondage are purposeful but is not inherently racist.  I am speaking in theological terms that are rooted in Scripture.  Slavery was a major part of the Roman world during New Testament times and slavery then was not based on race.  Racism of all forms is repugnant and flies in the face of our creative God who has blessed us with His diverse brush stroke.  Also, the language of slavery in Scripture should not be watered-down simply because it is uncomfortable.  Slavery was as undesired then as it is now.

CNN Belief Blog - My Faith: How I learned to stop 'praying away the gay' 
YouTube - Joy Behar - CNN's Don Lemon on Coming Out  

For more:
Blogizomai - The Missing Gene and Ray Boltz: The Theistic Argument, Did God Make Him This Way?
Blogiozmai - The Missing Gene: The Failed Search For the Gay Gene
Blogiozmai - The Piling Evidence:  Homosexuality Is a Choice  
Blogizomai - Is What is Natural Moral?:  Homosexuality and the Animal Kingdom (Part 1)
Blogizomai - Is What is Natural Moral?  The Great Chasm Between Nature and Morality (Part 2)
Blogizomai - Is What is Natural Moral?:  The Way Forward is Backwards - Cave Men and the Return to Amoral Sexuality (Part 3)  
Blogizomai - Is What is Natural Moral?:  Monogamy and What Jealousy Says About Naturalism (Part 4)
Blogizomai - The Slippery Slope: From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 1
Blogizomai - The Slippery Slope: From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 2
Blogizomai - The Slippery Slope:  From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 3
Blogizomai - The Slippery Slope:  From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 4   
Blogizomai - The Next Step: Is Polyamory the Next Sexual Movement?
Blogiozmai - Coming Out of the Closet As Christians?:  Welcome to the New World 
Blogizomai - Where Does The Madness End? The Dire Destination Of The Homosexual Agenda - Part 1
Blogizomai - Where Does The Madness End? Where the Homosexual Agenda Leads - Part 2
Blogizomai - D'Souza: The Equal Protection Hoax
Blogizomai - Marriage and the Limits of the Law and Courts:  Why Only the Gospel Regernerates & Changes Behavior 
Blogizomai - What's the Big Deal:  Christianity and Homosexuality   
Blogizomai - Christianity Without Christian Distinctives Based on Christian Doctrine is Not Christianity:  The CLS and Our Fear of Discrimination
Blogizomai - Jesus is into Offending People:  Its Time For Christians to Admit the Obvious and Proclaim with Boldness
Blogizomai - "Friendship With the World is Enmity With God": Rick Warren Tries to Have it Both Ways
Theology - The Stipulation That Paralyzes: Tony Jones and the Limit of the Emergent Worldview  

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Weekly Recommendation - "America: The Last Best Hope," Volume 1 by William Bennett

In honor of Memorial Day, here is a great book on American history.

I love history.  And American history is particularly fascinating to me.  One of my biggest frustrations with American history (and history for that matter) is how often the telling of history has a liberal bent to it.  Recently while on vacation I sat down to read the first volume of William Bennett's history of America called America: The Last Best Hope (Volume I): From the Age of Discovery to a World at War.  As the title suggests, the author has a high view of America and its place in history and this particular history covers over 400 years of American history from Christopher Columbus (and the "Age of Discovery") to the brink of World War 1.

Bennett, known for political commentary and radio show, is quit the writer and historian.  Everything is footnoted and carefully studied and articulated.  In many instances, the author sets the record straight apart from traditional liberal spin.  The author sets the record straight on issues of slavery, Western conquest, the treatment of the Indians, etc.  Though he readily condemns slavery, how America treated Indians (especially Andrew Jackson's sad "Trail of Tears"), the author seeks to give a more historically, less politically motivated, history of the events.  For exmaple, the author notes that though the slave trade was abominable, many Africans were sold into the trade by fellow Africans.  That does not make slavery any less evil, but it does force us to think more thoroughly behind the motivations and reason for slavery.

What I particularly liked regarding this issue is the author's defense of the Founders.  Clearly the Founders could have abolished slavery at the birth of our nation and we all wish they would have.  However, in quoting Frederick Douglas, the author shows how by the age of Lincoln, what the Founders set forth in defining liberty for all men, slavery inevitably would be abolished as contradictory to the American experiment.  Furthermore, the author showed how trends at the time mixed with some of the language of the new government implied that slavery would soon die out in America.  Let us not forget what the invention of the cotton gin did in the South.  It took a dying institution and made it popular (unfortunately) again.

The book as a whole is excellent history covering all of the major events.  My main beef with the book is that the book primarily traces the political history of America.  By this I mean that the author shares a lot about the political aspect of our history oftentimes forgetting the moral, economic, and cultural history of our nation.  This does not mean that the author doesn't deal with these issues, but he primarily does so through a political end.  For example, the author says little about Western expansion (though he does mention the Donnar party and other issues), but says much about Presidential policies, Congressional debates and compromises, and Lincoln's struggle to find the right general to win the war.  All of these things are important, but oftentimes I felt that the author was neglecting other extremely important aspect of American history.

Overall, though, this is an excellent book.  Anyone wanting to know more about American history should seriously consider picking up this book.  It reads fast (at least it did for me) and the author presents an impelling history that makes it difficult to put down.  At times it is humorous, at times it is inspiring, at times it is insightful, and at times it is simply amazing.  We have been given a rich heritage by God in our nation, let us not take it for granted.

For more:
Reviews - "A Century Turns" by William Bennett
Reviews - "A Patriots History of America" 
Reviews - "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine 
Reviews - "The Preacher and Presidents"
Reviews - "American Gospel"
Reviews - "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage"
Reviews - "The Story of Abraham Lincoln
Reviews - "Lincoln's Advocate"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Did You Hear?: Piper Interviews Warren

Did you hear that John Piper recently released his interview with Rick Warren?  Anyone who follows the blogosphere is well aware of this fact as everyone seems to be talking about it.  I have listened to about a third of the interview and it is fascinating although sometimes it seems like it is more of a conversation Piper is having with himself by which Warren continues to interrupt, but for the most part it is interesting.

Dr. Denny Burk offers some helpful resources regarding the interview.  Here is the breakdown of questions an what the two discuss during the hour and an half interview:

0:00 Introduction
3:29  The glory of God.
7:16  David Wells and the weight of God’s reality.
9:00  Would you write the book the same today?
12:00 The sovereignty of God.
18:47 How do you speak of God’s sovereignty in the presence of tragedy?
22:01 How do all things work for bad for those who reject Christ?
24:14 Do you hedge on Larry King?
27:00 Unconditional election.
30:18 The importance of eternity.
34:42 How do you conceive of eternity: in heaven, on earth?
38:53 What is the Gospel?
42:00 What did Jesus achieve on the cross?
43:40 Repentance.
50:50 Why don’t you call yourself a Calvinist?
53:09 Propitiation.
54:39 Prevenient grace.
1:00:01 Total depravity.
1:03:00 Hell.
1:09:10 Eternal destiny of those who never heard.
1:12:40 The extent of the atonement.
1:17:00 Do unbelievers always do the devil’s bidding?
1:18:40 Your view of the Bible.
1:22:40 Expository preaching and doctrinal depth.
1:28:10 Rick Warren’s sacred trust.

Desiring God (John Piper) - John Piper Interviews Rick Warren on Doctrine
Christianity Today - Rick Warren Answers His Critics  
Denny Burk - John Piper Interviews Rick Warren 

For more:
Blogizomai - John Piper on His Support of Minnesota's Marriage Amendment  
Blogizomai - "Friendship With the World is Enmity With God": Rick Warren Tries to Have it Both Ways
Theology - Pinata Theology: Ignore the Issue and Swing at the Distraction - What Piper Has Taught us About the Church 
Blogiozmai - Is What is Natural Moral?:  The Great Chasm Between Nature and Morality - Part 2  
Theology - Piper on Helless Preaching 
Theology - Piper:  Don't Waste Your Retirement 
GBC - The Gospel Animated 
Reviews - "Finally Alive" by John Piper
Reviews - "A Bitter and Sweet Providence" by John Piper
Reviews - "The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World" edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor
Reviews - "When I Don't Desire God" by John Piper 
Reviews - "The Supremacy of God in Preaching" by John Piper 
Reviews - "The Purpose of Christmas" by Rick Warren
Reviews - "The Purpose-Driven Church" by Rick Warren

Around the Web: Links For Your Weekend - 5/28/11

Doug Wilson (Blog & Mablog) - 10 Things an Effective Minister Must Remember | This is a great post from Dr. Wilson.

1. You are a minister of Christ, for the people. You are not a minister of the people, for Christ. Always preach Jesus.

3. Your principal credentials for ministry are maintained, or not, within your marriage and family.

7. You are to preach, teach, lead, admonish, and encourage with authority. Don't do it like a muttering scribe.

9. Attack sin from the pulpit. Proclaim grace from the pulpit. You have a high vocation that should require some level of courage. Thunder the Word.

10. In the fulfillment of the Great Commission, never forget the big picture. The point is the success of the army, and your church is simply a platoon. You should want a successful platoon, of course, but only to the extent that it advances the larger mission. And always remember that Jesus is the supreme commander.

Thabiti Anyabwile (9Marks) - Don't Make Your Pastor a Statistic | These are just sad, but as a minister I can confirm these to be true with myself and with other fellow pastors.  We need the gospel as much as those we are preaching to and ministering to.

Hours and Pay

  • 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
  • 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
Training and Preparedness

  • 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
    thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
Health and Well-Being

  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
    they could, but have no other way of making a living.
Marriage and Family

  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
  • 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
  • 80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
Church Relationships

  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
  • #1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.

  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
  • out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
  • Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month, many without cause.
  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.

Credo House - Gallup Poll: Over 60% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in most circumstances
| This is encouraging as it shows the amazing change in opinion regarding this controversial issue.  But let us remember, polls don't determine morality.  Just look at similar polls that suggest that support for gay marriage is on the increase.

More than 60 percent of Americans in a new Gallup poll believe abortion should be illegal in most circumstances, a six-year high that puts them at odds with Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion for virtually any reason.

Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances or legal in only a few circumstances, compared to 37 percent who say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances. The 61 percent is an increase from 56 percent last year and is the highest since 2005, when 62 percent answered similarly.

Euongelion - Why I Am Not a "Red-Letter Christian" | This is just good. I concur here.  For those who don't know the Red-Letter Christian movement is spear-headed by Tony Campolo and is nothing more than a postmodern liberal social gospel movement pure and simple.  Just read the book Red Letter Christians: A Citizen's Guide to Faith and Politics.

1. It effectively and improperly privileges a canon within the biblical canon, implicitly elevating Jesus’ words above the rest of inspired scripture.

2. As I age my eyes have difficulty reading red letters against a white page. I prefer to read the Bible without straining my vision.

Resurgence - The Danger of Moralistic Parenting | This is helpful.  Here are the reasons given:

1.  Turning God into Santa. 
2.  Teaching Good Manners instead of Salvation
3.  The Bible isn't a Book of Fairy Tales

Kevin DeYoung - Thinking Theologically About Memorial Day | This is helpful and important for us to think about.  How are we as Christians, and as pastors, to think about Memorial Day?  DeYoung offers some of his thoughts.  Here is his list:

1.  Being a Christian does not remove ethnic and national identities.
2.  Patriotism, like other earthly "prides," can be a virtue or vice.
3.  Allegiance to God and allegiance to your country are not inherently incompatible.
4.  God's people are not tied to any one nation.
5.  All this leads to one final point:  while patriotism can be good, the church is not a good place for patriotism.

Said At Southern/SBCVoices - 10 Reasons Why Sissies and Pastoral Ministry is a Bad Mix |  Ministry ain't for wimps no doubt!

7. You will fight legalism and liberalism, along with laziness, ignorance, tradition, and opposition.

6. Not everyone will respond positively to your preaching, teaching, or leadership. You will bring people to tears with the same sermon: one in joy, another in anger (I have done this).

5. You will be criticized, rarely to your face, and frequently behind your back. This criticism will come from those that appear to love you, those that obviously do not like you, and pastors and Christians that barely know you.

3. You will be persecuted for preaching the truth, mostly from your brothers and sisters in the pews.

1. You will probably pastor a church that is barely growing (if at all), is opposed to change, doesn’t pay well, has seen pastors come and go, doesn’t respect the position as biblically as they should, doesn’t understand what the Bible says a pastor’s or a church’s jobs are, and will only follow you when they agree with you (thus, they’ll really only follow themselves).

Politico - Rudy Giuliani Leads New National Poll | Two things surprise me here.  First, Guiliani might run.  I thought after 2008 he would give up since he has disappeared from the public eye since.  Secondly, he is leading in some polls.  But don't forget, he was the clear front runner in the early stages of the 2008 Presidential primaries and didn't make it past Florida.  May the Presidential primaries will be more interesting than I thought since now some are getting in that many didn't think would consider it.  Is Rick Perry running?  Sarah Palin?

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national poll shows the former New York City mayor atop the slow-forming Republican primary field.
The survey shows Giuliani getting 16 percent of independents and Republicans, with nominal frontrunner Mitt Romney a point behind at 15 percent.

Sarah Palin gets 13 percent.

For those interested, here is Representative Paul Ryan's explanation of his Medicare plan.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Repost Friday | To Be Undragoned: Aslan, Christ, and the Gift of Regeneration

With the release of the new movie The voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third movie installment of CS Lewis' epic masterpiece book series The Chronciles of Narnia, I thought I would post my favorite scene from the book.  Though this scene does appear in the movie, it isn't as dramatic and central as Lewis makes it in the book.  The scene surrounds Eustace, the annoying British boy making his first trip to Narnia with his cousins.  As a result of his greed for gold, Eustace gets turned into a dragon and is miserable and embarrassed.  He so badly wants to be a boy again but can't.  It is at this point that he meets Aslan, the great untamed Lion who created the world of Narnia.

“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn't that kind of fear. I wasn't afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it - if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn't any good because it told me to follow it.”

“You mean it spoke?”

“I don't know. Now that you mention it, I don't think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I'd have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I'd never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden - trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.

“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells - like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words out loud or not.

“I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

“But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

“Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

“Then the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them.

“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me

“Dressed you. With his paws?”

“Well, I don't exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes - the same I've got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”

“No. It wasn't a dream,” said Edmund.

“Why not?”

“Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been - well, un-dragoned, for another.”

“What do you think it was, then?” asked Eustace.

“I think you've seen Aslan,” said Edmund

The reason I love this scene should be obvious.  Lewis masterfully illustrates the gospel message. No matter how hard Eustace tries, he can never save himself from his dragon skin.  Without Aslan, Eustace will be trapped as a dragon without any hope.*  In the same way, we too are like Eustace trapped inside bodies that we cannot get out of.  We are enslaved to sin and our only hope is for Christ to redeem us and He did that through the cross.  It isn't by accident that the Christ figure in Narnia, Aslan, is the one who does all the work in saving Eustace for it is Christ, and Christ alone, that continues that work today.

This is something that the movie misses.  In the movie, Eustace redeems himself by helping the Dawn Treader at which point Aslan saves Eustace from his dragon skin.  I understand why the movie made this change, but it does loose the power of Lewis point and meaning.

For more:
Blogizomai - He is Not a Tame Lion:  Aslan, Jesus, and the Limits of Postmodern Inclusivism 
Blogizomai - Lewis on Practical Theology  
Blogizomai - Lewis on the Why of Democracy
Blogizomai - From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics     
Short-Blogizomai - Voyage of the dawn Treader Released  
Short-Blogizomai - Beyond Narnia:  A Great Documentary 
Short-Blogizomai - Disney Drops Voyage of the Dawn Treader   and fan
Reviews - "Finding God in the Land of Narnia
Reviews - "Surprised by Joy" by Lewis
Reviews - "Jack:  A Life of CS Lewis"  
Reviews - "The Great Divorce" by Lewis 
Short-Blogizomai - Prince Caspian in Theaters Now 
Short-Blogizomai - Prince Caspian in Theaters Next Summer 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Expelled: A Film About Freedom, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Expelled: No Intelligence AllowedOne of the most important movies of recent years, in my opinion, is without a doubt Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed narrated by Ben Stein.  Stein, known for his monotone voice among may other things, takes on atheism in the academy and their denial of academic freedom primarily towards fellow scholars who hold to Intelligent Design.

What I love about this movie is how it exposes the censurship and bias of academia and it exposes the dangers of Darwinianism and atheism.  Anyone who has been on a college campus is aware of how liberal and suffocating it can be for a conservative or someone who disagrees with the academic status quo.  In this movie, Stein reveals that both students and scholars who question the basic tenants of evolution are "expelled" and ostacized.  Stein offers names and testimonies of those who are scholarly, smart, and well-qualified to make their scientific and mathmatic assertions but because they disagree with the status quo are shut out of the conversation.  This is a huge problem with campuses.  Christians are mocked and conservatives are considered fools.  Though most campuses claim that they are free and open to discussion, it is all a lie.  Stein seeks to confront such hypocrisy.

One of the ways that Stein defends Intelligent Design is by exposing the empty argument of Darwinism.  Stein particularly raises the question of origins.  When did we go from mud to living organisms?  Darwinism offers no scientific answers but instead must rely on faith.  They trust that it happened by chance and accident, but neither logic or science can prove it.

Likewise, Stein's exposes the dangers of a culture that fully embraces the implications of atheistic evolution.  Life has no dignity, truth is relative, life has no meaning, we become nothing more than animals, eugenics is rationalized, etc.  This explains his discussion on Nazism. He is not saying that everyone who affirms evolution are Nazi's, but that a necessary component of Nazism is naturalism.  And he is, of course, right.

I cannot encourage you to watch this movie enough.  I have shown it to our church and to our youth.  Some parts may be difficult to follow, but I believe it is well worth the view.  Enjoy!!

For more:
Blogizomai - Expelled:  A Movie We Must Take Seriously 
Blogiozmai - D'Souza:  Ben Stein Exposes Richard Dawkins 
Blogizomai - Collision:  An Important Documentary About Faith and Atheism  
Blogizomai -The Atheist Debates
Blogizomai -Atheism Is Not Great - The D'Souza and Hitchens Debate
Blogizomai -John Lennox: The New Atheism and the Gospel 
Blogizomai - Causation and the Existence of God:  How Scientists Continue to Prove Aquinas's Point  
Blogizomai - Creation or Manipulation:  The Limits of Man and the Evidence for God
Blogizomai - Natural Morality:  The Disconnect Between Darwinism and Morality  
Blogizomai -D'Souza: Are Atheists Cultural Christians
Blogizomai -Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Blogizomai - Re: Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Blogizomai -Freud's Wish Fulfillment: Why Atheism Can't Explain Atheism
Blogizomai - From White Sheets to White Coats:  Abortion and the Ongoing Struggle for Civil Rights  
Blogizomai - Eugenics in the Present Tense: Eugenics in America Today - Part 1
Blogizomai - Eugenics in the Present Tense:  Eugenics in America Today - Part 2
Blogizomai - Eugenics in the Present Tense:  Eugenics in America Today - Part 3
Blogizomai - Abortion Reduction:  The Danger of Compromising on Life
Blogizomai - Abortion: Is Common Ground Possible?   
Blogizomai - The Follow of Abortion Reduction: A Lesson in Common Sense
Blogizomai - Social Conservatives Take Heed: 100 Days of Change
Blogizomai - The Slavery of the Unborn: Why Abortion Reduction is Not Pro-Life
Blogizomai - From Life to Choice to Economics: A New President and a Change in the Debate Over Life
Blogizomai - Colson: The March of Death
Blogizomai - "No We Won't": Obama and the Lie of Abortion Reduction
Blogizomai -The "Personhood" of Animals: The Argument is Made . . . Again
Blogizomai - Hitler Is Alive And Well: Repeating the Mistakes of the Past
Review -"Atheism Remix" by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Review -"The Delusion of Disbelief" by David Aikman
Review -"The End of Reason" by Ravi Zacharias
Review -What's So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D'Souza
Shortblog -The Conversion of Francis Collins
Blogizomai - Remember 9/11:  102 Minutes That Changed America  
Blogizomai - Beyond the Gates of Splendor:  A Must Watch Film 

Theology Thursday | The Immutability of God: Its Truth and Relevancy - Theological Applications

We have finally come to our final post and look at the theological subject of God's Immutability.  We've discussed its importance, its biblical foundation, biblical challenges, and various theological challenges, and now we must discuss its application.  Since all theology is practical, we have not done our job until we have applied our theology.  Theology was meant to be practiced and the doctrine of immutability applies directly to our lives.

This is a vital point that deserves much attention.  Many consider the study of theology to be a hobby for those who live in ivory towers or for geeks who have too much time on their hands.  I believe that part of the reason the Church is anemic is because we have failed to see the connection between theology and practice.  This is why we see many self-help and Christian living books at the local Christian book store while the theology books are somewhere in the back.  I want us to see that instead of simply looking to see what the Bible says about our sex lives or how to balance our checkbook, let us take the time to dig deeper into Scriptures theological truths and then see how they apply.

So in what ways is the doctrine of the Immutability of God applicable to me?  First, if God is immutable (and thus does not change), then His words, declarations, truths, and revelations are eternal.  This means that Scripture remains applicable for today.

In a world of news cycles, it is tempting to see God's Word revealed in Scripture to be only temporarily.  To do so turns the Bible into a fable or at the very least a document that is out of touch with our society.  Unfortanetly many (even among Christians) hold to this view.  For example, some would argue that due to recent scientific and historical evidences, portions of the Bible are outdated and irrelevant to today.  They knew nothing of microscopes, nuclear weapons, sexual orientation, or evolution.  To think that shepherds, farmers, ancient kings, desert prophets, fishermen, local-eating baptizers, or amateurish historians is relevent to today is simply foolish.

But if Scripture is God's Word and God Himself is immutable then the Bible is transcendent.  The message and meaning (not to mention application) of Scripture is not limited to age, time, or culture.  Since God does not change and does not contradict Himself, then what was morally wrong in the past remains so today.

What we really have here is a revelation of our true motivations.  The reason we wish to write the Bible off as out of touch is in order to justify our immorality and impurity.  Just as atheism is oftentimes a strong motive for vice, so too relegating the Bible to ancient literature and nothing more is a strong motive to ignore its moral implications.  If the Bible is not relevant, then neither is the gospel or the "thou shall nots."  But, as we have established, if God is immutable then we are accountable to what He has revealed.  Jesus was right when he said, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (John 3:19-20). Our desire to remain in darkness (thus veiled) remains strong.

Secondly, if God is immutable then His promises are certain and we can have assurance of our salvation.  One of the unfortunate theological debates that Christians have had (and continue to have) throughout history is the debate over the assurance of salvation.  The question is this:  if a person gets "saved" and then lives in sin, can or do they lose their salvation?

The question really misses the point of salvation.  For one, salvation is by grace through faith alone apart from our works.  Therefore, if works had nothing to do with our salvation in the first place then how can it rob us of our salvation after we've been redeemed?  This is no excuse for immorality (as many claim).  Instead, those who do fall away clearly never understood the gospel in the first place.  The problem here isn't assurance, then problem is with cheap grace.

But apply immutability to this issue.  If God had declared one justified will He then change His mind?  To suggest that one can lose their salvation either suggests that they gained in the first place (which is blasphemy) or that God changes His mind with the wind (which is theologically unfounded and contradictory of Scripture).  The argument in favor of assurance begins and (should) ends with God's immutability.  When God declares something He does not go back on His Word.  If Scripture is eternal, then so is our salvation.  Since it is God who declares us righteous, then only God can declare otherwise after the fact and since God does not change, neither will our standing before Him.

This means that we can have full assurance that though we make mistakes we are still in the arms of God.  Again, this is no license to sin and we must always be asking ourselves if we are truly redeemed and checking to see if we bear the fruits of redemption.  But for those who are justified by God will always be justified by God.

Thirdly, and very importantly, if God is immutable then the gospel is transcendent.  Virtually every major liberal attack on orthodox doctrine is a fundamental attack on the immutability of God and the transcendence of the gospel.  If God is immutable then His gospel has to be transcendent and not limited or redefined because of changes in culture, language, nations, or technology.  The same message that saved the sinners at Pentecost continues to save us today.  The cross and resurrection of Christ remains the fundamental message of Christianity and the gospel itself today.  For more on this subject, read my previous article and/or listen to a sermon I gave on the subject.

Any attempt to change the gospel or to update it for the 21st Century (which seems to be the goal of any and every heresy these days) is at its core a fundamental attack on the immutability of God. 

Finally, if God is immutable then the future is certain and we have no reason to fear.  Here we see God's Immutability connected with His Sovereignty and Providence.  Since God has already written the future, then we can be certain that His glorious plan will be fulfilled.  We will be redeemed.  Sin will be judged.  Righteousness will be rewarded.  We will be resurrected.  Justice will reign forth.  Since and injustice will end.  The effects of the Fall will be conquered and be no more.  Violence will cease.  The promises made to Israel will be fulfilled.  Satan will finally and forever overthrown.  And we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6).

This means that when I turn on the news, though I might be disheartened, I need not be afraid.  I know how the story ends. I need not be surprised by the events around me.  I need not fear that all is lost and there is no hope.  I am confident that God is still in control and knows what He is doing.  Whether it be the smallest of concerns to the greatest of unforeseen tragedies, we can have confidence that God is in control and we can rest at night.  God's soveriegnty and providence can only be possible if He is immutable.  God wins.

These are only just a few (and a drop in a bucket) of applications one can make from this wonderful doctrine.  I believe it is time for Christians to take it more seriously.  If God is Immutable then when have real hope, real joy, real contentment, real peace.  If Christians would become more willing to think through these issues and study the attribute of God we will be much better off than we are today.

In conclusion, I am reminded of a brief conversation Carl FH Henry had with Karl Barth.  The story goes that Henry was being introduced at an event for Barth as the editor of Christianity Today.  At that announcement Barth declared, "You mean, Christianity Yesterday!"  Without hesitation or thought Henry replied, "Christianity, Yesterday, Today, and Forever!"

Let us have confidence and let us boldly proclaim not just the Christianity of yesterday, today, and forever, but also the God and His Son Jesus Christ yesterday, today, and forever.

Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Introduction (Part 1)
Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Scriptural Foundation (Part 2)
Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Scriptural Challenges (Part 3)
Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Theological Challenges (Part 4)
Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Practical Implications (Part 5) 
Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Theological Applications (Part 6) 
Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Theodicy and Sovereignty (Part 7)

For more:
Sermon Podcast - April 26, 2010 - The Immutability of God 
Sermon Podcast - November 29, 2009 - The Transcendence of the Gospel
Theology - The Stipulation that Paralyzes:  Tony Jones and the Limits of the Emergent Worldview
Theology - Orthopraxy is Rooted in Orthodoxy - The Postmodern Return to Rome
Commentary - Accomodationism Breed Irrelevancy:  Why Liberalism Fails and the Transcendent Gospel Triumphs 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Coming Out of the Closet As Christians?: Welcome to the New World

Coming out of the closet, in many cities and nations, as a homosexual use to bring with it scandal and shame.  Now it brings pride, liberation, and an almost universal celebration.  The world has certainly changed and continues to change.  Homosexuality is increasingly being equated with race for the purpose of civil rights.  The gay gene myth has almost become a secular doctrine of faith and has convinced many that to deny homosexuals of their supposed right of birth to marry is as prejudice as enslaving blacks in America.  The two are not the same, but clearly the argument is being made and successfully propagated.

As has been argued repeatedly at this site and among many others throughout the years, the legislation and sanction of gay marriage will inevitably lead to some persecution of those who remain stubbornly against the redefinition of marriage.  Whether through hate crime laws or through the tax code, Christians and other citizens and groups who object to the new right of gay marriage will be attacked.  And the evidence of such is well documented and already taking place.

But consider this issue from another perspective.  Not only is there the future fear of the governments iron fist coming down on Christians, but there is a more private, subtle fear of not only objecting to gay marriage (and the automatic label of "bigot" and "homophobe") but of being open about their Christian faith.  Consider a recent article published in Europe on this very same thing.

I did a course called Christianity Explored in 2006. It’s basically Alpha without the [speaking in] tongues. One of the guys on my desk asked me to go along to a service at St Helen’s Bishopsgate on a Tuesday lunchtime. I did and now I’m a regular. We get hundreds of people most weeks. Huge crowds on Sunday nights.”

“Do your colleagues know you’re a Christian?”

“Are you joking? Of course not. It’d make things very difficult. The City isn’t immoral any more, it’s amoral. But if my boss thought I was relying on prayer to get me through the day, he’d look down on me. It would make me seem irrational. I tell him I’m going to physio when I go to church.”
“Is it tough to be a Christian and not tell anyone?”

“It’s sometimes very tough. When you have to entertain clients and they want to go to strip clubs or whatever, it can be awkward. That’s why Christianity Explored is so great, because you go there and there are others facing the same dilemmas. You can support each other through it.”

The article then says:

Eve Poole is a theologian who teaches business ethics on the MBA programme at Ashridge Business School. Describing herself as a “totally paid-up God squadder”, Poole worked at Deloitte Consulting before completing her doctorate on capitalism and Christianity at Cambridge last year. She is full of strong faith, yet with none of the smugness that sometimes seeps from believers. I tell her about my interviews with City Christians, how the younger among them find it difficult to combine their faith with their jobs.

“It’s often harder for young people to come out as Christians than it would be for them to come out as gay,” she says. “Because of the vocal atheists – Dawkins and so on – people think your judgement is impaired if you say you’re Christian at work. The problem of serving two masters is at the heart of it. There’s a worry that Christians are up to something, that they’re loyal to something other than the firm.”
In an age of openness and freedom, European Christians are quickly realizing that they are not only a clear minority but an unwelcomed one.  Because the label "Christian" comes with it certain stereotypes, many have become private believers in Christ.  Is it not amazing how quickly the tables have turned?  Previously, it was homosexuals ashamed of "who they were" in fear of the public repercussions, now it is Christians in many parts of the secular world afraid of their confession of faith.

We are living in a different world than the world of our parents and grandparents.  What was morally repugnant in their day is celebrated today.  As a result, the faith that condemns such immorality has become the new despised minority.  Now it is Christians who are forced out of the closet to face the hate of the culture that long ago rejected them.

But as Christians our response to "coming out of the closet" must be very different than that of homosexuals.  Homosexuals have traditionally come out of the closet to experience liberation and freedom.  They seek to be "who they really are" and to stop pretending to be someone else.  The out of the closet phenomenon was our depraved cultures attempt to experience moral freedom.  Christians, on the other hand, are very different.  As a rejected people, our coming out of the closet will not equal liberation or freedom, but confession.  After all, it is the gospel itself that frees us, not the public confession of it.  The gospel sets us free from the slavery of immorality.

This is the real paradox.  Homosexuals who come out the closet are not being liberated, but enslaved.  They are running towards bondage, not freedom.  Only the gospel offers real freedom and it is the message of freedom that Christians must preach.  This is why Christians must come out of their faith closet unashamed of the consequences of their confession.  We are freemen seeking to lead others to our redeeming Savior.  Christians must not be ashamed of their freedom regardless of the cost.  After all, persecution can't rob us of our freedom can it.

Thus this sort of article ought to concern us.  Christians are commanded to be honest, bold, and unashamed about their faith.  To enter the business world or the secular world trying to hide who we really are - sinners saved by grace commissioned to preach the gospel - is not true Christianity.  Do we not realize that our own Savior was executed by His own culture?  If He was heavily persecuted and killed, why not us?  Are we better than Him?  If we have truly nailed everything to the cross and our bearing our own cross, what do we gain by living in the proverbial closet?  Is God not greater than our businesses?  Is Christ not worth the cost of losing everything?

The future, on the one hand, looks rather bleak for believers.  We will be become more despised and hated and us coming out of the closet will not change that.  On the other hand, we are free in Christ and do not need the affirmation of a depraved culture to assure us of that.  Let us boldly proclaim the liberating, restoring gospel of Jesus Christ without fear.

I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).  Are you?

The Independent - God's Bankers:  How Evangelical Christianity is Taking a Hold of the City of London's Financial Breakdown 
First Things - God and Mammon in London  

For More:

Blogizomai - Marriage and the Limits of the Law and Courts:  Why Only the Gospel Regernerates & Changes Behavior 
Blogizomai - What's the Big Deal:  Christianity and Homosexuality   
Blogizomai - Christianity Without Christian Distinctives Based on Christian Doctrine is Not Christianity:  The CLS and Our Fear of Discrimination
Blogizomai - Jesus is into Offending People:  Its Time For Christians to Admit the Obvious and Proclaim with Boldness
Blogizomai - "Friendship With the World is Enmity With God": Rick Warren Tries to Have it Both Ways
Theology - The Stipulation That Paralyzes: Tony Jones and the Limit of the Emergent Worldview