I don't agree with the Daily Show very often, but I must admit that this convicted me. One of John Stewart's correspondents rightly points out the foolishness of ministries that tries to make their faith cool or trendy. The first pastor is concerned about the dwindling numbers and influence of Christians in America. In order to break this trend, the pastor from Tennessee teaches ultimate fighting.
This is what we look like when we abandon the gospel and try to be cool:
As I have noted before, I love WORLD magazine and particularly enjoy Marvin Olasky's articles in the magazine. At the end of their most recent issue (pictured here) which highlighted two books of the year that dealt with the question of Darwinism, Olasky sought to show why Darwin still matters today. The debate over creation, evolution, Darwin, young/old earth, the meaning and interpretation of Genesis, etc. affects our entire worldview. To make his case, Olasky raises a number of social issues hotly debated today (and one soon to be debated I'm sure) in which Darwinism has affected our moral understanding of the issues beyond the realm of biology.
He sumarizes his argument as:
We should make time for one big reason: If Darwin was right the Bible is wrong, and we are foolish to follow it. But evolutionary thought that ignores God also has other effects of which we may be unaware. (Ask a fish about water and he's likely to reply, "What's water?"—if he's sufficiently evolved to be a talking fish.) The theological objections to macroevolution are literally crucial because they tell us whether the Cross was necessary, but some secondary issues are also worth pondering.
He then turns to specific issues influenced by Darwinians. First is Politics:
Woodrow Wilson started federal government expansion in 1912 by opposing the "Newtonian" view that the government should have an unchanging constitutional foundation, somewhat like "the law of gravitation." He argued that government should be "accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. . . . Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice." Wilson was the president who started the modern pattern of disregarding the Constitution, and in the 2012 election we will either start a second century of governmental expansion or yell, "Stop!"
As the author suggests, any talk about a "living document" or a living government is rooted in Darwinian thinking. Secondly, economics.
Evolutionary thinking influenced not only Social Darwinists but socialists like H.G. Wells who thought it was time to advance beyond competitive enterprise. (Karl Marx in Das Kapital called Darwin's theory "epoch making" and told Friedrich Engels that On the Origin of Species "contains the basis in natural history for our view.") Many books and articles have linked Darwin's thought to Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, and Hitler: Darwin is obviously not responsible for the atrocities committed in his name, but evolutionary theory plus his musings about superior and inferior races provided a logical justification for anti-Semites and racists.
It isn't an accident that communism was dependent on Darwinism. Thirdly, Sex:
The mid-20th century's most influential academic was probably Alfred Kinsey, whose high-school classmates half-jokingly called him the "Second Darwin." Kinsey's 1948 and 1953 books on sexuality contended that adultery is normal and homosexual experiences not uncommon, for "the mammalian backgrounds of human behavior [made it] difficult to explain why each and every individual is not involved in every type of sexual history."
One cannot understand the debates we are having today on sexuality without return back to Darwin's theory of evolution. After all, we are just animals with desires, reproduction is a must, morality is relative, and religion/morality hold us back from reaching our full potential. All such ideas are drawn out of evolution.
Next regards abortion:
Evolution proponents contributed mightily to its legalization, and in a way more direct than the general teaching that human life has no intrinsic value. Robert Williams, president of the Association of American Physicians, said in 1969 that "the fetus has not been shown to be nearer to the human being than is the unborn ape." He talked of "the recapitulation of phylogeny by ontogeny"—the mistaken theory that an unborn child's development mimics purported evolutionary progress. The most influential pro-abortion legal expert during the 1960s, Cyril Means, argued that babies are sub-human—and the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision played off his mean-hearted briefs.
The debate over abortion is connected to the sexual revolution and to Darwin. After all, morality is relative, the orgasm is a sacrament, and eugenics is the best way to speed the process of evolution. Furthermore, eliminating the unwanted is just part of survival of the fittest. That leads us to the final issue, Infanticide.
I debated Princeton's Peter Singer in 2004 and had several conversations with him about his defense of infanticide. That year he said, "All we are doing is catching up with Darwin. He showed in the 19th century that we are simply animals. Humans had imagined we were a separate part of Creation, that there was some magical line between Us and Them. Darwin's theory undermined the foundations of that entire Western way of thinking about the place of our species in the universe."
Singer's ideas are growing in popularity as his students are beginning to go out into the world. Singer's radical ethics are clearly rooted in evolution. Unless our society accepts the dignity of human life, we will begin to executed unwanted children and not just unborn babies. The slippery slope easily applies to life as it does to marriage.
All of this is to remind us that what we believe about origins defines everything else. Remember, we are all theologians and evolution is a theology with bad social implications.
The lesson of wisdom is: Be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary ministerial experience.
Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward [Heb. 10:35]. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord who forsaketh not His saints. Live by the day—aye, by the hour.
Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. Trust in God alone. Lean not on the reeds of human help. Be not surprised when friends fail you; it is a failing world. Never count upon immutability in man: inconstancy you may reckon upon without fear of disappointment.
The disciples of Jesus forsook Him, so be not amazed if your adherents wander away to other teachers. As they were not your all when with you, all is not gone from you with their departure. Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret.
Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord.
Set small store by present rewards, be grateful for earnests by the way, but look for the recompensing joy hereafter. Continue, with double earnestness, to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you.
Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide. Between this and Heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our Covenant Head. In nothing let us be turned aside from the path which the divine call has urged us to pursue.
Come fair or come foul, the pulpit is our watchtower, and the ministry our warfare; be it ours, when we cannot see the face of our God, to “trust under the shadow of thy wings.”
Uninterrupted success and unfading joy in it would be more than our weak heads could bear. Our wine must needs be mixed with water, lest it turn our brains.
My witness is that those who are honored by their Lord in public have usually to endure a secret chastening or to carry a peculiar cross lest by any means they exalt themselves and fall into the snare of the Devil. How constantly the Lord calls Ezekiel “son of man”! Amid his soarings into the superlative splendors, just when with eye undimmed he is strengthened to gaze into the excellent glory, the word “son of man” falls on his ears, sobering the heart which else might have been intoxicated with the honor conferred upon it. Such humbling but salutary messages our depressions whisper in our ears. They tell us in a manner not to be mistaken that we are but men, frail, feeble, apt to faint.
By all the castings down of His servants God is glorified, for they are led to magnify Him when again He sets them on their feet, and even while prostrate in the dust their faith yields Him praise. They speak all the more sweetly of His faithfulness and are the more firmly established in His love.
Such mature men as some elderly preachers are, could scarcely have been produced if they had not been emptied from vessel to vessel and made to see their own emptiness and the vanity of all things round about them.
Glory be to God for the furnace, the hammer and the file. Heaven shall be all the fuller of bliss because we have been filled with anguish here below; and earth shall be better tilled because of our training in the school of adversity.
I can agree with this sentiment. Here is Louis CK's (whoever that is) right argument that we are so spoiled that even though Everything is Amazing, Nobody is Happy. There is a lesson here for us. Contenement, peace, joy, satisfaction, and love can't be found in ourselves or even in others, but only in Christ. Everything else is just idolatry.
*Warning* - There is some language in the video clip but is censored. There is also some scatological language as well.
The Inevitable Blows of Betrayal, Slander, Criticism
Depress God's Best Preachers
One crushing stroke has sometimes laid the minister very low. The brother most relied upon be-comes a traitor. Judas lifts up his heel against the Man who trusted him, and the preacher’s heart for the moment fails him. We are all too apt to look to an arm of flesh, and from that propensity, many of our sorrows arise.
Equally overwhelming is the blow when an honored and beloved member yields to temptation and disgraces the holy Name with which he was named. Anything is better than this. This makes the preacher long for a lodge in some vast wilderness where he may hide his head forever and hear no more the blasphemous jeers of the ungodly.
Ten years of toil do not take so much life out of us as we lose in a few hours by Ahithophel the traitor or Demas the apostate. Strife also and division, slander and foolish censures, have often laid holy men prostrate and made them go ‘as with a sword in their bones.’ Hard words wound some delicate minds very keenly.
Many of the best of ministers, from the very spirituality of their character, are exceedingly sensitive—too sensitive for such a world as this. “A kick that scarce would move a horse would kill a sound divine.” By experience the soul is hardened to the rough blows which are inevitable in our warfare. At first these things utterly stagger us and send us to our homes wrapped in a horror of great darkness. The trials of a true minister are not few, and such as are caused by ungrateful professors are harder to bear than the coarsest attacks of avowed enemies.
Let no man who looks for ease of mind and seeks the quietude of life enter the ministry. If he does so, he will flee from it in disgust. To the lot of few does it fall to pass through such a horror of great darkness as that which fell upon me after the deplorable accident at the Surrey Music Hall. I was pressed beyond measure and out of bounds with an enormous weight of misery. The tumult, the panic, the deaths were day and night before me and made life a burden. From that dream of horror I was awakened in a moment by the gracious application to my soul of the text, “Him hath God exalted” (Acts 5:31). The fact that Jesus is still great—let His servants suffer as they may—piloted me back to calm reason and peace. Should so terrible a calamity overtake any of you brethren, may you both patiently hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God. When troubles multiply and discouragements follow each other in long succession, like Job’s messengers, then too amid the perturbation of soul occasioned by evil tidings, despondency despoils the heart of all its peace. Constant dropping wears away stones, and the bravest minds feel the fret of repeated afflictions. If a scanty cupboard is rendered a severer trial by the sickness of a wife or the loss of a child, and if ungenerous remarks of hearers are followed by the opposition of deacons and the coolness of members, then, like Jacob, we are apt to cry, ‘All these things are against me.’
When David returned to Ziklag and found the city burned, goods stolen, wives carried off, and his troops ready to stone him, we read that he “encouraged himself in the Lord his God”; and well was it for him that he could do so. He would then have fainted if he had not “believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13).
Accumulated distresses increase each other’s weight, play into each other’s hands and, like bands of robbers, ruthlessly destroy our comfort.
Wave upon wave is severe work for the strongest swimmer. The place where two seas meet strains the most seaworthy keel. If there were a regulated pause between the buffetings of adversity, the spirit would stand prepared; but when they come suddenly and heavily, like the battering of great hailstones, the pilgrim may well be amazed. The last ounce breaks the camel’s back, and when the last ounce is laid upon us, what wonder if we for awhile are ready to give up the ghost!
This evil will also come upon us, we know not why, and then it is all the more difficult to drive it away. Causeless depression is not to be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings. As well fight with the mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness.
One affords himself no pity when in this case, because it seems so unreasonable, even sinful, to be troubled without manifest cause. Yet troubled the man is, even in the very depths of his spirit. If those who laugh at such melancholy did but feel the grief of it for one hour, their laughter would be sobered into compassion.
I have always admired Charles Colson, founder and head of Prison Fellowship. His ministry goes beyond the bars of prison, but rather penetrates through the very heart of the cultural debate. His ability to understand Scripture and apply it to the cultural wars is phenomenal. His honesty and ability to relate to the reader and explain things in an understandable way is what makes him so great.
But I was wrong. This was a book of theology, but not in the traditional sense. I was fool of Scriptures and theological language, but not in the textbook way I was expecting it. Rather, it was a proclamation of the faith and how it affects one's worldview. Throughout the book, Colson frequently asks his readers what Christianity is. He tells the reader of the many times he has asked that very same question to various audiences that he has spoken too, and has received various answers.
But to Colson, the answer to that question is that Christianity is a worldview. It is a faith that affects all of life. The fundamentals of Christianity, such as God is, the inerrancy of Scripture, Christology, eschatology, the Church, Christian ethics, etc. are all doctrines that shape our worldview, and as a result, affect our culture.
I was pleasantly surprised by this. Though I was expecting dry theology, which I love, i got a cultural theology explaining how the faith affects our worldview and allows us to engage the culture. To believe that God is, is not just a statement of belief, but rather shapes everything that we do. Believing that the Bible is authoritative and holds the standard for ethics and faith radically affects the way we approach morality, law, politics, etc.
I highly recommend this book. Colson manages to squeeze a lot of issues that bring great difficulty to many believers in a way that is understandable and applicable. The personal stories, interaction with news events, cultural movements, ethical dilemmas, and illustrations go a long way in understanding his argument and bringing the reader to action. Colson's approach, though is somewhat unique, is powerful. He not only explains what the Bible teaches and what Christians have always believed, but also brings the reader to the realization that these aren't just textbook issues that are nice to know, but rather shape who we are and how we engage the culture. It is critical, then, that we understand these things and apply them to our lives.
Colson doesn't just want us to know, he wants us to do. And perhaps this is the best part of this book. I have read a lot of theology books from great theologians. But none have grabbed me like this book simply because it wasn't just about knowledge. But it was about doing something about it. What we believe about Christ, God, Scripture, the Church, etc. shapes who we are.
And this brings up an important point in this book: the Biblical illiteracy of believers in the West. Colson makes it clear that this is a problem. No wonder the Church is dying, because preachers are preaching therapeutic messages, while at the same time, believers are living a fake faith. Though the Bible is available in more formats and in more translations in the West than anywhere else, believers in the West are most ignorant of God's Word.
This is a major problem to Colson. No wonder we are loosing fight after fight in the culture war because we are not grounded in Scripture and the things of God. So perhaps, of all of Colsons books and many articles, this ranks as one of his most important because it lays the groundwork for cultural engagement, and more importantly, fulfilling the Great Commission.
So, for those wishing to not only know the basics of the faith and know how to engage our culture, this ought to be one of the first places you start. Colson continues his legacy of having a Biblical foundation with an evangelists heart. And he succeeds in defining Christianity, defending Christianity, and declaring Christianity in the purist, most powerful sense.
The Times cited several districts considering changes amid concerns that too much homework deprives children of rest and play. The Galloway, N.J., school board “will vote this summer on a proposal to limit weeknight homework to 10 minutes for each year of school—20 minutes for second graders, and so forth—and ban assignments on weekends, holidays, and school vacations.” . . .
CBS News reported on a University of Missouri homework study: Homework is helpful for high school students, somewhat helpful for middle school students, and had no beneficial effect on elementary school students.
Evolution is secular culture’s grand explanation, the overriding ‘meta-narrative’ that sinners accept with joy because it allows them to explain life without reference to God, with no accountability to any Creator, no moral standards to restrain their sin, ‘no fear of God before their eyes’ (Rom. 3:18)—and now theistic evolutionists tell us that Christians can just surrender to this massive attack on the Christian faith and safely, inoffensively, tack on God, not as the omnipotent God who in his infinite wisdom directly created all living things, but as the invisible deity who makes absolutely no detectable difference in the nature of living beings as they exist today. It will not take long for unbelievers to dismiss the idea of such a God who makes no difference at all. To put it in terms of an equation, when atheists assure us that matter + evolution + 0 = all living things, and then theistic evolutionists answer, no, that matter + evolution + God = all living things, it will not take long for unbelievers to conclude that, therefore, God = 0.
I was previously aware that theistic evolution had serious difficulties, but I am now more firmly convinced than ever that it is impossible to believe consistently in both the truthfulness of the Bible and Darwinian evolution. We have to choose one or the other.
I’m grateful to be part of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are a passionate people who are committed to fulfilling the Great Commission. I love – not only the Convention sermons and the proceedings – but also the ability to catch up with friends and fellow laborers in the kingdom. It’s encouraging to be part of a Convention that sends out thousands of missionaries every year. May we continue to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.
Faith World (Reuters) - Dutch populist Geert Wilders acquitted of hate speech against Muslims | In a highly publicized trial over the nature of free speech in the Netherlands, conservative Geert Wilders was acquitted of what he has said regarding Islam. I believe this is a huge victory for free speech, but the conclusion of the judge was that since his words were in public debate, it wasn't hate speech. That is dangerous still. It is amazing how Western society's pride themselves on freedom and particularly freedom of speech allow such things as hate speech laws and apply them so loosely.
The presiding judge said Wilders’ remarks were sometimes “hurtful,” “shocking” or “offensive,” but that they were made in the context of a public debate about Muslim integration and multi-culturalism, and therefore not a criminal act.
“I am extremely pleased and happy,” Wilders told reporters after the ruling. “This is not so much a win for myself, but a victory for freedom of speech. Fortunately you can criticize Islam and not be gagged in public debate.”
The ruling could embolden Wilders further. He has already won concessions from the government on cutting immigration and introducing a ban on Muslim face veils and burqas.
Phil Johnson (Grace to You Blog) - Gambling: The Moral Antithesis of Charity | In an interesting post on gambling, Phil Johnson makes some interesting points. Below is his argument that gambling doesn't create wealth like investing does.
Gambling is economic fraud. It produces nothing. It adds nothing to the larger economy. When you invest money in the stock market, that money goes to work in the economy. It is not like a gambling stake, which just sits there in the jackpot, waiting to be won by one of the players.
Whatever taxes and commissions are skimmed from government-regulated lotteries and actually put back into the economy are more than offset by the losses of people who purchase tickets and do not win. Statistics show clearly that the most profoundly negative economic effects of gambling are felt in the sectors of society where the poverty level is already high. So gambling's worst impact hurts the very same segments of society where charity would have done the most good.
The corollary of this is that the apparent prosperity of casinos in places like Las Vegas is gained at the direct expense of other communities, industries, and individuals. Gambling is always a zero-sum game.
Gambling simply transfers money from the hands of many to the hands of the few through frivolous means fraught with questionable motives—just the opposite of all sound economic principles.
1. Cosmological Argument 2. Teleological Argument 3. Moral ARgument 4. sensus diviniatus ("sense of the divine") 5. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience 6. Argument from the Existence of Arguments 7. Argument from the Existence of Free-will Arguments 8. Argument from the Existence of Evil 9. Argument from Miracles 10. Pascal's Wager 11. Ontological Argument
This is a scary new world we live in. Consider the following video.
New York State is debating in the State legislator whether or not to legalize gay marriage. To watch the "debate" watch the video below. Though a number of states have passed gay marriage, none have done so through the ballot box.
I think we all know that this will likely pass. It seems like from what I've heard that many of the no votes have been bought off with promises that will be broken down the road.
The bill passed on a vote of 33-29 and serves as the first state to legislate homosexual marraige (after the governor signs the bill which he said he would) with a GOP majority. So is it time to move on to legalizing polygamy?
Dr. Denny's Burk's early response and report on his vote is insightful. He speaks primarily on the religious exemtions. He writes:
There is an “inseverabilty clause” in the amendments that ensure that no part of the bill or amendments can be struck down individually by a judge. If any part of the religious exemptions ever get struck down in court, then the whole law gets struck as well. In short, if religious exemptions fall, so do gay marriage rights in New York.
For those of us who support traditional marriage, these religious exemptions are no consolation. The central point of the debate is whether or not our society will privilege traditional marriage in law. New York says no. Religious exemptions or not, this is a sad vote.
He is right about it being a sad vote, but I fear that this religious exemption clause is only a fasade and this bill will be a model for other liberal states (and maybe for the federal government) to pass other marriage re-defining bills.
Failure to Take Regular Periods of Vacation and Rest Promotes Fainting and Weariness
In the midst of a long stretch of unbroken labor, the same affliction may be looked for. The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needed to the mind as sleep to the body. Our days of worship (which were, in the Old Testament, sabbaths) are our days of toil, and if we do not rest upon some other day, we shall break down. Even the earth must lie fallow and have her sabbaths; and so must we; hence the wisdom and compassion of our Lord, when He said to His disciples that they should go “apart into a desert place, and rest a while.”
What! When the people are fainting, when the multitudes are like sheep upon the mountains without a shepherd, does Jesus talk of rest? When scribes and Pharisees, like grievous wolves, are rending the flock, does He take His followers on an excursion into a quiet resting place?
Does some red-hot zealot denounce such atrocious forgetfulness of present and pressing demands? Let him rave in his folly. The Master knows better than to exhaust His servants and quench the light of Israel. Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength.
Look at the mower in the summer’s day, with so much to cut down ere the sun sets. He pauses in his labor—is he a sluggard? He looks for his stone and begins to draw it up and down his scythe, with “rink-a-tink—rink-a-tink—rink-a-tink.” Is that idle music? Is he wasting precious moments? How much he might have mown while he has been ringing out those notes on his scythe! But he is sharpening his tool, and he will do far more when once again he gives his strength to those long sweeps which lay the grass prostrate in rows before him.
Even thus a little pause prepares the mind for greater serv-ice in the good cause.
Fishermen must mend their nets. And we must every now and then repair our mental waste and set our machinery in order for future service. To tug the oar from day to day, like a galley slave who knows no holidays, suits not mortal men. Mill streams go on and on forever, but we must have our pauses and our intervals.
Who can help being out of breath when the race is continued without intermission? Even beasts of burden must be turned out to grass occasionally. The very sea pauses at ebb and flood. Earth keeps the sabbath of the wintry months. And man, even when exalted to be God’s ambassador, must rest or faint; must trim his lamp or let it burn low; must recruit his vigor or grow prematurely old. It is wisdom to take occasional furlough.
In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less. On, on, on forever, without recreation, may suit spirits emancipated from this “heavy clay”; but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry halt and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure.
Let no tender conscience doubt the lawfulness of going out of harness for awhile, but learn from the experience of others the necessity and duty of taking timely rest.
These two fundamental truths prevent Americans from facing this mounting crisis soberly. Regardless of where one is politically, it should be obvious that the national debt is a serious issue and small cuts aren't going to solve the problem. It will take serious sacrifice on the part of every American to solve this problem.
And that is the problem. The concept of sacrifice is repugnant to us. We have grown up in a culture built by entertainment, centered on double income homes, and the promise of an American dream that says if you work hard enough there is no limit to what you can consume. Most of us have personally bitten off more than we can chew and the federal government reflects that. The reason we don't want cuts in government is because we don't want cuts in our own lives. Sacrifice is the issue here. Are we willing to sacrifice our lifestyles, our wants and desires, and even our future for the sake of our future?
I'm afraid not. The reason is because America has entered a post-Christian period where Christian ideas are out dated and we have abandoned them. Therefore, instead of sacrifice, we indulge. Instead of submitting to authorities, we demand our rights. Instead of serving, we fight for service. The rejection of the Christian gospel and the Christian ethic has resulted in a serious economic, cultural, societal, and moral crisis.
This is why budgets and economic policies are moral issues. But this is not the case just because of what government budgets do with the poor, but because they reflect society as a whole. A government that sacrifices serves a people who understand the benefit and joy of sacrifice. A government that saves reflects a society that praises understands the importance of saving. And our ballooning national debt that is making us slaves to foreign powers reflects our enslavement to greed and materialism.
The question then is, what is the answer. How can we right this ship? Not just through government policy (though that will be needed) or through grass roots protests (though that will be helpful). The answer is a return to the gospel. The reason sacrifice is so central to Christianity is because it was founded on Christianity. Our Savior sacrificed Himself for us. We, therefore, sacrifice ourselves for Him and for others. Every parent understands this, but we fail to apply this to every aspect of our lives especially when it comes to our finances and the economy. The answer to this crisis will not be more taxes or less taxes, but a return to a biblical and gospel understanding of sacrifice. Christians understand that sacrifice doesn't mean defeat, but victory. It is at the sacrifice of Christ that Christians rejoice, not because Christ was a defeated victim, but because He was a triumphant, loving Lord. Christianity is built on the promise that where there is sacrifice, there is always resurrection. The crucifixion narrative of the Gospels does not end at the cross, but at the resurrection and unless our nation grasps this, this crisis will never be resolved.
We are standing at a crux in our nation's history. We can either swallow our pride and cast down our idols or we can slowly sink into economic oblivion. The only way out is to return to the gospel. But that will require us to sacrifice a lot. As I look at my children and think about their future's, sometimes I feel like I have a small, limited understanding of God. When He looked at our hopeless futures as a result of our foolish choices and sin, He sent His Son to serve as our sacrifice. Let us hope that Americans take that message and lay down their lives for their friends and countrymen.
Here is Congressman Paul Ryan explaining his plan.
Burden and Weakness Are Given to Humble Us Before Great Tasks
Whirled off our feet by a revival, carried aloft by popularity, exalted by success in soul winning, we should be as the chaff which the wind driveth away were it not that the gracious discipline of mercy breaks the ships of our vainglory with a strong east wind and casts us shipwrecked, naked and forlorn, upon the Rock of Ages. Before any great achievement, some measure of the same depression is very usual. Surveying the difficulties before us, our hearts sink within us. The sons of Anak stalk before us, and we are as grasshoppers in our own sight in their presence. The cities of Canaan are walled up to Heaven, and who are we that we should hope to capture them? We are ready to cast down our weapons and to take to our heels. Nineveh is a great city, and we would flee unto Tarshish sooner than encounter its noisy crowds. Already we look for a ship which may bear us quietly away from the terrible scene. Only a dread of tempest restrains our recreant footsteps.
Such was my experience when I first became a pastor in London. My success appalled me. The thought of the career which it seemed to open up, so far from elating me, cast me into the lowest depth, out of which I uttered my Miserere and found no room for a Gloria in Excelsis.
Who was I that I should continue to lead so great a multitude? I would betake me to my village obscurity or emigrate to America and find a solitary nest in the backwoods where I might be sufficient for the things which would be demanded of me.
It was just then that the curtain was rising upon my lifework, and I dreaded what it might reveal. I hope I was not faithless, but I was timorous and filled with a sense of my own unfitness. I dreaded the work which a gracious Providence had prepared for me. I felt myself a mere child. I trembled as I heard the voice which told me to arise and “thresh the mountains…and make the hills as chaff.”
This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry. The cloud is black before it breaks and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy.
Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison. So have far better men found it. The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use.
Immersion in suffering has preceded the filling of the Holy Ghost. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while His servant keeps the sheep and waits in solitary awe.
The wilderness is the way to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory. The raven is sent forth before the dove. The darkest hour of the night precedes the day-dawn. The mariners go down to the depths, but the next wave makes them mount to the heaven. Their soul is melted because of trouble before He bringeth them to their desired haven.
Last night (June 22, 2011), President Barack Obama announced that he will be drawing down troop levels in Afghanistan. Beginning in July, 10,000 troops will be removed by the end of the year and over 30,000 troops by the end of next year. This is obviously an important speech especially in a nation locked in fighting in at least 4 different Islamic nations. Afghanistan stands as the longest war in US history.
It will be interesting to see how people respond to this. What makes this so odd is that some of Obama's foreign policies have pinned him against his own party. Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen are more in line with traditional Republican lines where as the more pacifist (or at least the belief that the military should only be used for humanitarianism) Democrats believe, such wars are unnecessary and a waste of money. But now it seems that both parties have members who favor the wars and both have members who want us to get out of them. The Tea party is part of the shift in the Republican party.
Anyways, here is the speech.
One way of looking at this issue is to consider how this affects Christians in Afghanistan. Alex Chediak highlights a WORLD Magazine article that raises that very question. They write:
Afghans are warning of dire consequences for the country’s tiny Christian population should American forces leave Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama prepares to announce his plans for a troop drawdown in a televised address to the nation scheduled for Wednesday evening.
“If U.S. troops are not in Afghanistan the Taliban will come to power,” said Obaid S. Christ, an Afghan Christian exiled to India who spoke to me Tuesday. “We will have the same situation we had in the 1990s when the Russians left Afghanistan, when we had civil war and millions killed.”
Certainly the removal of troops will place the small population of Christians in harms way. But let us not forget that what makes this worse in that Christians have been arrested and condemned to death with the current American-backed government. These are the sort of issues that makes knowing what is the right thing to do difficult.
What are the pros and cons of the modern emphasis of youth ministry? As a former youth pastor myself and one who still works a lot with young people I feel like I have a dog in this fight. We must admit at the outset that youth ministry is a modern invention. It was born within the past 100 years and I believe much of it was rooted in the public school movement where we moved students out of the home into a government run education institution that created a youth culture apart from the traditional, constant influence of parents. As a result, youth ministry (and eventually college ministry, young adult ministry, children's ministry, etc.) appeared to be a necessity.
Recently David Fitch commented on how he was quoted in the recent book Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide saying "youth groups destroys children's lives." Fitch points out that he still defends the statement but adds that oftentimes he makes a bold statement that grabs our attention and then nuances it a little more. He offers three main problems he sees with youth groups as conceived today:
1. Youth Groups Foster Peer Orientation
2. Youth Groups Undercut Wholistic Community From Which a Child Can Learn Faith in Christ as a Way of Life/Relationship, Not Just Information Slickly Delivered
3. Youth Groups Too Often Try to Attract Youth Playing to their Worst Interests
Perhaps his best points are points 1 and 2 and worth a brief comment. When we separate the youth from the rest of the church, we are creating a separate church culture apart from the responsibilities of being a church member. As a Baptist I have seen countless youth finding participation in business meetings and other church activities and responsibilities. Because we have given the youth their own building, program, budget, etc. we see them as part of that group instead of part of the church. As a result, we diminish the biblical command for the older one's in the church to mentor the younger.
The third point is perhaps even more problematic. When we create this youth church culture we oftentimes play to their fallen desires. This is why much of youth "ministry" today consists more of games and whistles rather than actual discipleship and gospel ministry. This shouldn't be a surprise. The size of a youth group is oftentimes more important than the quality of the youth. Therefore we go out of our way to entertain them instead of discipling them. This is extremely dangerous and is playing out into the church where we emphasize the styles of music in worship and the length of the sermon. It ought not be this way. Our focus should be on the gospel, not on entertainment.
The issues raised by Fitch are important and issues that Christians need to think about. I am not calling for the abolition of youth ministry, but instead a careful consideration of what it is and how we can better minister to youth without falling for the many dangers we are now partaking in. Working with youth is a blast and I still love it to this day, but unless our focus is on the gospel we are wasting our time.
God Allows Fainting After Great Victories Lest We Should Be
"Exalted Above Measure"
The times most favorable to fits of depression, so far as I have experienced, may be summed up in a brief catalog. First among them I must mention the hour of a great success. When at last a long-cherished desire is fulfilled, when God has been glorified greatly by our means and a great triumph achieved, then we are apt to faint.
It might be imagined that amid special favors our soul would soar to heights of ecstasy and rejoice with joy unspeakable, but it is generally the reverse. The Lord seldom exposes His warriors to the perils of exultation over victory. He knows that few of them can endure such a test and therefore dashes their cup with bitterness.
See Elias after the fire has fallen from Heaven, after Baal’s priests have been slaughtered and the rain has deluged the barren land! For him no notes of self-complacent music, no strutting like a conqueror in robes of triumph. He flees from Jezebel, and feeling the revulsion of his intense excitement, he prays that he may die. He who must never see death yearns after the rest of the grave.
Even Caesar, the world’s monarch, in his moments of pain cried like a sick girl. Poor human nature cannot bear such strains as heavenly triumphs bring to it. There must come a reaction. Excess of joy or excitement must be paid for by subsequent depressions.
While the trial lasts, the strength is equal to the emergency. But when it is over, natural weakness claims the right to show itself.
Secretly sustained, Jacob can wrestle all night, but he must limp in the morning when the contest is over, lest he boast himself beyond measure.
Paul may be caught up to the third heaven and hear unspeakable things, but a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him, must be the inevitable sequel.
Men cannot bear unalloyed happiness. Even good men are not yet fit to have “their brows with laurel and with myrtle bound” without enduring secret humiliation to keep them in their proper places.
Christian rapper Shai Linne has produced what has to be one of the best rap songs in history for the simple fact that it is a biography of the Prince of Preachers, Charles H. Spurgeon. The song is catchy, but it is its content that I love so much. Shai Linne is a gifted lyricist and rapper and the video below proves it.
If you ever wanted to know more about Spurgeon, this is a good place to begin.
My favorite lines: Behold the grace of God. Stand to the side. The Spirit exalting the Lamb who has died. It can’t be denied – this man we describe was simply a tool in the hand of his God
Preachers, by Lack of Exercise and Recreation, Tend to Melancholy
There can be little doubt that sedentary habits have a tendency to create despondency in some constitutions. Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, has a chapter upon this cause of sadness. Quoting from one of the myriad authors whom he lays under contribution, he says:
Students are negligent of their bodies. Other men look to their tools. A painter will wash his pencils. A smith will look to his hammer, anvil, forge. A husbandman will mend his plow irons and grind his hatchet if it be dull. A falconer or huntsman will have an especial care of his hawks, hounds, horses, dogs, et cetera. A musician will string and unstring his lute. Only scholars neglect that instrument (their brain and spirits I mean) which they daily use. Well saith Lucan, “See thou twist not the rope so hard that it break.”
To sit long in one posture, poring over a book or driving a pen, is in itself a taxing of nature. But add to this a badly ventilated chamber, a body which has long been without muscular exercise, and a heart burdened with many cares, and we have all the elements for preparing a seething caldron of despair, especially in the dim months of fog—
When a blanket wraps the day,
When the rotten woodland drips,
and the leaf is stamped in clay.
Let a man be naturally as blithe as a bird, he will hardly be able to bear up year after year against such a suicidal process. He will make his study a prison and his books the warders of a goal, while Nature lies outside his window calling him to health and beckoning him to joy. He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy. A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills or a few hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.
Below is some rare honesty and clarity from the Emergent Church. Since its conception, Emergents have prided themselves on ambiguity, doubt, dialogue, and mystery to the point that the best Emergent writers and thinkers seem to be those who wax eloquently but say virtually little. To the Emergent mind, asking questions is more important than answer them. Questions create conversation. Answers quench dialogue.
But consider a recent article published in New Wave Magazine, an online Emergent publication, written by John Shore called Is Hell Real? What Are We, Six?. As the title suggest, he is no fan of the idea of eternal punishment, or even the question. The timing of such an article is no doubt tied to the publication of Rob Bell's very controversial best-selling book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived in which he denied eternal punishment and promoted a type of postmortem universal salvation. After all, love wins and God gets what he wants right?
After arguing that the question, "is hell real" is the wrong question, Shore writes:
So, to state something so obvious I should be embarrassed to type it: No one has any idea — none, zero, zilch, nada, void, total blank — what happens to anyone after they die.
Could be heaven awaiting. Could be hell. Could be a Dairy Queen; could be a dentist’s waiting room; could be a six-room ranch-style igloo; could be interplanetary pinochle tournament.
No. One. Knows. It’s. Not. Knowable.
Seem clear does it not? The answer is a form of Emergent agnosticism. We simply do not know? But what about the Bible? Doesn't it clearly establish the existence of hell? Shore says no:
And if at this moment you’re inclined to grab your Bible, stop yourself. It’s not in there. You can pretend the Bible tells you what happens to people after they die, but you wouldn’t be fooling even yourself. Paul enjoins us to give up childish things, and you can’t get more childish than pretending the Bible is a magical window that lets you see beyond life. It isn’t. It doesn’t. You can’t. Trying to use the Bible as proof of what happens after we die is like trying to use a telescope to row a canoe. Wrong instrument. Wrong purpose. Only results in you still haplessly floating about.
The only thing we know for sure about what happens to us after we die is that in this life we don’t, can’t, and won’t have any idea what happens to us after we die.
At least we know where he stands, but Shore offers no support for his argument here. We are told to stop ourselves from pointing to clear Biblical texts that make the existence of hell a reality, but the author does not even try to explain any of them. The concept and belief in hell did not appear in the sky, but from a written text. How does Shore explain the many texts of Scripture that suggests that hell is real? Is it childish to take them seriously? Apparently.
But that begs the question then? If life after death remains an unknown mystery, then why did God create the universe with this mystery? Why did God not clearly tell us what happens, who gets in or out (whatever that may mean), and whether or not there is a heaven or a hell? Shore's answer:
If while wandering around the inside of an art museum I come across a door that’s solidly locked shut, what do I do? Well, if I’m emotionally immature, I might wrestle with the door’s handle, or maybe fall to the floor and try to peer beneath it. I might throw a tantrum because I can’t get into that locked room. I might squat beside the door, fold my arms, and determinedly try to imagine everything inside the room. There are all kinds of ways I might waste my time outside that door.
But if mature, I will simply assume that those in charge of the museum know what they’re doing, and for whatever reason don’t want people going in that room. And that would be good enough for me. So I would turn away from the door, forget about the room, and go back out into the museum, where all that wonderful art was waiting to enlighten and inspire me.
I think locking the door between this life and whatever is on its other side is God’s way of telling us to get our butts back in the museum.
In other words, asking about hell, throwing tantrums, and arguing about it is childish. Refusing to discuss the issue (except to call everyone a child of course) is the mature thing to do. Let's get back to the museum, he says. And you know what that means:
I think keeping the afterlife a complete mystery is God’s way of telling us to pay maximum attention to the life we have on this side of the door. That the ever-fluid now of our life is where the action is. As clearly as he possibly can, I think he’s telling us to with full and focused consciousness be in our lives. To love our lives. To believe in our lives. To trust that within every single moment of our lives is virtually everything that we could ever want to know.
From the very beginning you knew that this is where the game would end. To Shore and most Emergents, postmodern Christians, and progressive liberals the question (and our seemingly obsession with it) reveals the real problem with traditional Christianity. We become so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good (anyone else that the Johnny Cash song stuck in your head?). Focusing on what happens after we die takes our eye off the ball of the here and now.
But this line of thinking is sophomoric and has been used by liberals for centuries. For though it sounds good on the surface, it is really a false dichotomy. Seeking to understand, to know, and to anticipate life after death does not make one no earthly good, but the opposite. This is the point that C. S. Lewis made in Mere Christianity:
Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. . . . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. -134.
He's right. One cannot deny that the belief and assurance of heaven/hell has not been a historical crutch for Christianity, but an asset. Certainly there are those who have abused orthodox eschatology and avoided the needs of the world today, but throwing out the doctrine for a number of bad eggs is not the right answer. Such a response is childish in that it is a reaction to others, not to the text of Scripture or to the gospel.
But perhaps we should change the equation. As Lewis suggests, avoiding the question of heaven/hell or even denying it does not make one any more earthly good than affirming their existence. Why? Because without the assurance of consequences/rewards in the afterlife, what we do here doesn't really matter. After all, if it is childish to think of real life after death, what does it matter what we do in real life before death? If what we do now has no eternal consequences, then why does it matter what we do today? In other words, we can become so earthly minded that we are of no heavenly good.
The rejection of heaven/hell, or at denying that we can know nothing about them has serious consequences not just on our doctrine and theology, but our actions here and now. The gospel affirms both. Life here matters right now. And life after death matters and thus God has clearly revealed what life after death is like and how we may get there. It is critical that we are faithful to both. Yes salvation does affect our eternal state, but salvation isn't just about that. Salvation is liberation from our idols, redemption from our sins, regeneration from or old selves, reconciliation with God and others, and restoration to a life of joy, contentment, peace, and satisfaction in the here and now and the then and there. The gospel is a both/and. It is about both life before death and about life after death. To turn to agnosticism about either life here or life after death does not solve our problems, it only complicates them.
I am the pastor at Goshen Baptist Church in Kentucky and have been serving there since October 2008. Before serving as pastor I was a youth pastor for 5 years. I am a graduate of Boyce College and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where I received my Advanced Masters of Divinity in Biblical and Theological Studies. I also received a Th.M in Systematic Theology at Southern Seminary.
I am the author of the book "Logizomai: A Reasonable Faith in an Unreasonable World" and also of the book "The Death of Death and the Death of Christ: Engaging the Culture of Death With the Gospel of Christ."
I have been married since July 2006 and have a son named Elijah and a daughter named Evangeline.