Archive for January, 2008

Friends,

I have been hearing this story about the ESPN personality who evidently forgot her lines. I read this at Christian Post:

Christian groups protested ESPN last week when they felt it was slow to take disciplinary action against Jacobson for her anti-Christian tirade on Jan. 11 at a roast in Atlantic City, N.J. There, Jacobson, who was reportedly intoxicated during the event, made such remarks as “F*** Notre Dame,” “F***Touchdown Jesus,” “F***Jesus.”

Both ESPN and Jacobson have called the behavior inappropriate and inexcusable and apologized for the incident. The anchorwoman was suspended for one week.

But some Christian groups say the temporary suspension was not enough and have asked for her to be fired or suspended for one year.

The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission was working to hold a meeting of pro-family leaders and ESPN’s executive leadership. Mike Soltys, executive vice president of Communications for ESPN, however, said no more meetings will be held and no more disciplinary actions will be taken against Jacobson.

“We are very disappointed with ESPN’s response to our legitimate concerns,” said Dr. Gary L. Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission in a released statement Tuesday. “Christians must respond or expect more of this kind of blasphemy in public in the future.”

Cass was also not moved by Jacobson’s on-air apology.

“Only three of the 13 sentences were in any way even slightly apologetic,” said Cass.

In her apology before co-hosting the “First Take” program, Jacobson said she has learned from her mistakes and asked the public to forgive her.

So….there are some of ‘us’ who have time to protest? This is like that Kathy Griffen thing: Why do people care? Seriously, if the Son of God stood by, silent as a lamb before its shearers, what right do Christians have to protest when people say things like this?  Did anyone from Notre Dame show up to protest?

Here’s the question: Why do Christians expect people who are not Christians to act as if they were? I really don’t understand the shock, the outrage, and the protests.  I don’t understand the demands for satisfaction. My goodness, people say all sorts of things when they are drunk! I’m more offended when the president, who claims to be a Christian, declares, without any Biblical sanction or justification, that Jews, Muslims, and Christians all worship the same God than I am when an ESPN personality or Kathy Griffen, neither of whom are Christians, say things about Jesus.

I expect people like Dana Jacobson and Kathy Griffen to blaspheme. Cass said: “Christians must respond…” Uh, why? I guess we must respond because he feels we don’t have better things to be doing with our time, our resources, and our energy.

We can expect more of such blasphemy whether we respond or not. Does this man not understand the nature of the world in which we live? Does he not understand the nature of the Beast? Does he not understand the nature of sin? Really? Are Christians called to sit around with radar-like ears picking up on every single utterance of offense that anti-Christs can muster within themselves? Seriously?

“You will be my protest leaders, blasphemy detectors, and caller-outers in the US, at ESPN, at the Emmies, and yes to the ends of Hollywood and Vine.” Somehow that just doesn’t seem quite right to me.

“Several people told me last week mistakes do not define us. It is how we respond to those mistakes that does. I believe that,” she continued. “I hope you can forgive me and allow my future to define me.”

In earlier apologies, the “First Take” co-host said she respects all religions and did not mean anything derogatory by her “poorly chosen words.” ESPN affirmed that the comments were delivered in the context of Notre Dame football and its “Touchdown Jesus” icon.

While Jacobson thanked ESPN for giving her the opportunity to return to the job, the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission is calling people of faith to contact ESPN and “register their disgust.”

You know, I had never even heard of this woman until Christians started raising a stink about it and…WE INTERRUPT THIS REGULARLY SCHEDULED BLOG POST TO BRING YOU THIS SPECIAL BULLETIN:  THIS JUST IN: CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ AND IRAN AND INDIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA AND KOREA AND CHINA HAVE BEEN KILLED FOR THEIR FAITH AND THEIR CONFESSION OF JESUS CHRIST AS LORD.

Meanwhile, back in the the Land of God’s Chosen People there was a protest at the funeral of Heath Ledger and at the studios of ESPN.

I think I will call the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission and register my disgust with them: They are the ones irritating me. I would think Notre Dame who be a little disgusted too, but then again, the way they have played football lately I suppose they are trying to keep a low profile. (PS–Ty Willlingham got a raw deal!)

Well, Ms Jacobson, I forgive you. If that is what you want, fine. It’s yours. After all, it wasn’t my Name you blasphemed. (There might be Someone else you need to take this up with before long.) Here’s to your future, which I am certain will define you as one of the great Sports Commentators of all time (or whatever you do at ESPN). Good Luck, and godspeed!

I’m NOT saying that what she did was right, but she is free to say it. I’m not saying she should have said it, or that anyone should have listened. I am saying that all this nonsense about Christians being treated fairly, about Christians protesting anything, or crying about blasphemers’ choice of words is, in my estimation, a wee bit juvenile and beside the point.

Sincerely,

jerry

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven for in the same way they treated the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

“When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

Don’t you think we should too?

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John 20:11-23 (90 Days with Jesus, Day 87)

But Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

“Paul’s insistence that we participate in the same resurrection as Jesus is congruent with Jesus’ actions and words to his assembled disciples on the evening of his resurrection when he ‘breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (John 20:22).’ ‘The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead’—that’s Paul’s phrase in Romans 8:11—is the same Spirit that Jesus breathed on them. Jesus’ followers live resurrection-formed lives, not by watching him or imitating him or being influenced by him, but by being raised with him. It’s formation-by-resurrection. There’s an interesting echo of the Creation story in this. The word John uses for Jesus’ action in breathing the Holy Spirit on them—emphusao—is the same verb used in Genesis 2 for God’s breathing the ‘breath of life’ into the human form he had just made, resulting in a ‘living being’ (verse 7). What God did in Genesis, Jesus did with the disciples—breathing the Spirit, bringing life, bringing resurrection life. The parallelism of the two texts—Creation and Resurrection—suggests that they are similarly basic. Resurrection is no more an add-on to human life than Creation is an add-on to that Adamic lump of clay. It’s life itself—the God-breathed, Jesus-breathed beginning of who we are and who we become by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Breathing.”—(Eugene Peterson, Living the Resurrection, 108-109)

It was evidently not a time to be crying. Twice Mary was asked, “Woman, why are you crying?” ‘They’ asked her and so did Jesus who was standing there, even though she did not recognize him at first. She thought he was a gardener and that if he had taken Jesus away she would go, get him, and carry him back to the tomb. She must have been a strong woman. (*Smile*)

Jesus didn’t do any tricks to awaken her senses to who he was. He simply spoke: “Mary.” I recall this: “The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:3-6) Seems to me that this is a perfect illustration of those words: “Mary.” All she heard was his voice saying her name and she knew exactly who she was speaking to.

I do not believe we will mistake his voice for another’s. But I also do not think that his appearance to her was simply to satisfy her longing or to assuage her fear or sorrow. He had work for her to do, and in order for her to do that work, she had to stop clinging. I like how Don Carson paraphrases verse 17 so that we might understand why Jesus told Mary to stop clinging: “Stop touching me for I have not yet ascended to my Father—i.e. I am not yet in the ascended state, so you do not have to hang on to me as if I were about to disappear permanently. This is a time for joy and sharing the good news, not for clutching me as if I were some jealously guarded private dream-come-true. Stop clinging to me, but go and tell my disciples that I am in the process of ascending to my Father and your Father.” (The Gospel According to John, 644)

And she obeyed: “I have seen the Lord!” No more tears for Mary. There was work to be done and she did not wait to do it later.

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Then Jesus appeared to his disciples who were hunkered down behind closed and locked doors. He said to them, “Peace be with you.” They too were full of joy. Jesus shows them his wounds—his hands and side—indicating that this One standing in their midst was the Lord who had been crucified. The wounds are the unmistakable evidence that He was the One who had been crucified. And he was not just another Joe who had been hung on a tree: The wound in his side distinguished him from all others.

He repeats his blessing of peace. “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” “Our belief in God, historic as it is, is a belief in spite of history. Those who draw their belief from God’s treatment of them or their time must collapse in the black hour…What we must know is, which is destined to conquer, which is on its way to conquer, however unmarked, which has the reversion of the world, and has it on the guarantee of the Ruler of a world overcome already.” (PT Forsyth, The Justification of God, 192-193) Jesus stood among them as the One who conquered and He pronounced upon them the blessing of peace. If we have peace through the Resurrected Lord, then have we not peace indeed? This world was conquered before Christ ever set foot on it, before he ever felt the cold steel in his wrists, before the tomb was destroyed. History is against the Christian, but Christ pronounces peace in their midst, and in spite of history. 

Jesus sent Mary to the disciples and now he tells his disciples that they too are being sent. And his commission here is this: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not for them, they are not forgiven.” That is a lot of power, a lot of authority, and a terrible burden. But he gave it to them and they obeyed.

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I have not unpacked a lot of the minutia concerning these verses. I’ll leave that to others. Allow me to consume a few more lines of space here to summarize and crystallize these thoughts:

First, he told Mary to go the disciples and tell them some things. Now whatever else we might say about all the minutia of these verses, this one thing is without question: Jesus Himself determined the content of Mary’s message (and, for that matter, the disciples’ message). Sadly, I think we miss this in the church today. I think we are far too content to think that we know perfectly well what we ought to preach or say or teach (probably because we think we know what others want to hear, or we haven’t listened to Jesus, or because we think his message weak and untrustworthy, etc.) when all along the content of our message is given us by Christ Himself. When Mary went to them, she told them, “I have seen the Lord” and she told them what Jesus had told her to say.

Jesus had a lot of confidence that Mary would do exactly what he told her to do, and it is a testimony to her that she was faithful in doing so. In the church today, we need to be obedient too. We need to make certain that the message we deliver is the message that Jesus told us to deliver. That message comes from His Word.

Second, John says that “Jesus stood among them” and declared to them “peace.” Well this sort of cinches it doesn’t it? There are many folks who are claiming a message of peace, but it seems to me that the only message of peace there will be is the one declared by Christ himself as He Himself is among us. We can simply dispense with the notion that there will be any sort of peace in this world apart from Jesus. It is Jesus who declares peace: The ultimate Shalom!

Third, Jesus gave the disciples an incredible amount of authority. Forgiveness of sins is no small thing and not something that we should mock. This responsibility, given to the disciples, is of immense importance to us. These disciples went out, armed in the authority of Christ to preach His message of forgiveness. That is, he told them the content of their message: Forgiveness.  

They went out armed with a message that says this: There is forgiveness in no other place, from no other person, but Jesus. They had the message of forgiveness and if they didn’t forgive people then who could? Is Jesus then limiting where forgiveness can be had? I think He is. I think at this point he is laying a direct assault on all other forms of religious expression. Here Jesus is nullifying the message of any other ‘prophet’. Here Jesus is saying: Forgiveness can be had only through this message you will proclaim in my Name. (See Hebrews 1:1-4.)

But there is one final thing. This message of Resurrection, peace, and forgiveness begins with a simple premise and that is this: We are dead, we are at war, we are sinners. There is no need to proclaim “He is alive” if we are not dead. There is no need for “Peace” among us if we are not at war. There is no need for “Forgiveness” if we are not sinners. In this message, is a proclamation about humanity; a message we need to heed. There is no need for Jesus to send his disciples as the Father sent him if, in fact, all already belong to him or if, in fact, he doesn’t care about them. But they do not, and he does. So he sends his disciples out among the dead, out among the warring, out among the unforgiven. And we declare his message, only.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

The following paragraphs are from Elton Trueblood’s The Predicament of Modern Man, chapter 3: The Impotence of Ethics. You can access the entire work here. Isn’t it amazing how there is nothing new under the sun? Especially note the paragraph in blue, it is simply beautiful.

 *  *  *  *  *

“We understand much of the distinction between religion and other phases of our lives when we sense the profound difference between faith and belief. Faith is closer to courage than it is to intellectual assent. Faith is easily understood by the gambler as both Blaise Pascal and Donald Hankey knew because the gambler stands to win or lose by his play. This was brought out in Kirsopp Lake’s now classic definition, “Faith is not belief in spite of evidence, but life in scorn of consequences.” Faith, as the plain man knows, is not belief without proof, but trust without reservations.

The lesson of history is that those lacking such a faith are no match for those inspired by such a faith, whatever its object. The fearful aspect of the present situation is that those who have inherited the major tradition of the West now have an ethic without a religion, whereas they are challenged by millions who have a religion without an ethic. The former group will win the war, because they have the preponderance of men and resources, as well as a fortunate alliance with Russia, but that is by no means the end of the story. We should be gullible indeed if we supposed that mere military victory would end the powerful threat of the faith which is proposed as a successor to the religion of the West.

Little do we know what evil faith may grip our people when the war is over. Since men cannot live long without a faith, the choice is always a choice between competing faiths. The only practical alternative to an evil faith is a better faith. Though this is the lesson of history, we are now trying the utterly precarious experiment, in which the odds are against us, of attempting to maintain our culture by loyalty to the Christian ethic without a corresponding faith in the Christian religion that produced it.

*  *  *  *  * 

An ordinary man, merely in and of himself, is not of so great worth and may be a very poor creature. We shall not make an effective answer to the apostles of blood and soil by pointing to him. But there is something else to which we can point, as the late William Paton said in a memorable paragraph:

But if this humble and obscure man is in reality one whom God has made, whom He has made in love, so that he shall never know peace except in loving God in return; if this man is one to whom God speaks; if this man is the object of a Divine solicitude so great that the Word became flesh for his salvation, the Son of God died for him — if this be true, then this humble and obscure man has a link with eternity, with the creative love that made the world. He cannot then be rightly treated as a cog in a machine, or a sample of a racial blood-stream, or one of the individual atoms that make up a nation.(Paton, op.cit.,pp. 150, 151)

It is especially in our Christian tradition that we find the power which is so conspicuously lacking in mere moralism. We must not forget that, in the Roman Empire, Christ won, and won against tremendous odds. He won because the faith in Christ really changed the lives of countless weak men and made them bold as lions. He has taken poor creatures who could not even understand the language of moral philosophy and shaken the world through them. [My emphasis.]

This has been said brilliantly by John Baillie:

Christ did not come to earth to tell us merely what we ought to do; He came to do something for us. He came not merely to exhort but to help. He did not come to give us good advice. That, if it were no more than that, was possibly not a thing of which we stood greatly in need, for there are always plenty of people who are ready with their advice. Advice is cheap, but what Christ offered us was infinitely costly. It was the power of God unto salvation. (John Baillie, Invitation to Pilgrimage, p. 51.)

It is easy enough to hate Hitler, but what is it that we propose as an alternative to his proposal for mankind? We now have a good opportunity to know, since we see suggestions daily in our propaganda sheets and even more in the expensive advertisements that so many large commercial firms are using for the building of morale, now that they have nothing to sell to the average reader. They all say about the same thing. We are to oppose the new paganism in the name of humanity, liberty, brotherhood, the sacredness of the individual soul. These are all very fine, but the question is whether they go far enough. John Baillie’s analysis is so good that his words should be cited again:

These indeed are the ideals of the Christian ages, or some of them, or at least they sound very like them, but in the Christian Ages they were all deeply rooted in something bigger and grander, in something that was no mere ideal but an eternal reality. They were rooted in the love of God as manifest in Jesus Christ our Lord . . . . It was Christ who taught us the indefeasible value of the individual soul. It was Christ who taught us of fraternité when He said, ‘One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren’; and St. Paul when he said that ‘we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one member one of another.’ Hence the doubt that keeps raising itself in my mind when I read these fine pronouncements about our ideals . . . is whether these ideals have sufficient strength of conviction in them, or sufficient power of survival, in face of so powerful a contrary force, when they are no longer allowed to breathe their native air or draw daily sustenance from their original source.(Ibid., pp. 125. 126)

Moralizing cannot stand against a burning faith, even when that faith is an evil and perverted one. It is almost as ineffective as an umbrella in a tornado. The only way in which we can overcome our impotence and save our civilization is by the discovery of a sufficient faith. Goodness we must have, but the way to goodness is to find our peace in the love of God who, as the Source of goodness, makes us know that, even at best, we are not really good. This is the peace that passes understanding, though it is not a peace that negates the understanding.

Some of the hardest problems of our day are moral problems; rather than economic or political ones; but, moral problems as they are, many of them cannot be solved except on a religious basis. One example of this is provided by the problem of racial antipathy, a problem that has been accentuated rather than diminished in the recent development of our civilization. So great is the hold of race prejudice on men’s minds that it must be counteracted by something powerful and revolutionary. Men do not transcend the prejudice and hatred based on race by physical proximity or even by the reasonable evidence that all need each other. What is needed is a genuine conversion, striking at the roots of the sinful pride on which race hatred thrives. The great known examples of history in which this kind of animosity has been really overcome have been chiefly religious examples, like that of John Woolman. In all honesty we are compelled to state that religion does not have this effect universally, but that we should hardly expect, knowing what we do about the ability of the human heart to keep its cherished hatreds. What we can honestly state is that the religious approach is more likely to be successful in our particular culture than is any other. The reason for the greater probability of the success of the religious approach is that the problem is fundamentally a religious problem. Race hatred comes, primarily, not from ignorance, but from sin. We will not accept all men as brothers until we are really humble, and we are not really humble until we measure ourselves by the revelation of the Living God.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

Friends,

David Wells has written some of the most important books I have personally read. (I referenced four of them on my ‘Books’ page.) Here’s an excerpt from an essay I found online:

The nature of evangelical theology is determined for it by the nature of that Word of which it is the exposition and application. The Word of God is the unique, written disclosure of God’s character, will, acts, and plans. It is given so that men and women who have come to faith through its teaching might learn to five [sic.] in God’s world on his terms, loving and honoring him in all that they do and seeking to make known to the world his law and gospel. That is the purpose of God’s revelation and the task of theology is to facilitate this.

This facilitation begins with the recognition of the bipolar nature of biblical revelation. Biblical revelation was given in a particular cultural context but it is also intended to be heard in our own context. This revelatory trajectory, then, has a point of origination and a point of arrival. It is the fact of inspiration and the contemporary work of the Spirit which secure a consistency between its terminus a quo and its terminus a quem. The work of the Holy Spirit was such that the responsible human agents who were used in the writing of Scripture were able to employ cultural materials and, indeed, to shape the revelation in terms of their own understanding, but what God the Spirit willed should be revealed was exactly what was written, and the content and intent of this revelation were alike transcultural. The biblical revelation, because of its inspired nature, can therefore be captive neither to the culture in which it arose nor to the culture in which it arrives. It was not distorted as it was given, nor need it be distorted as we seek to understand it many centuries later in contexts far removed from those in which it was originally given.

It may sound naive, but I think a lot of arguments that we have concerning Scripture could easily be settled if we remember the role of the Holy Spirit in the transmission of Scripture. This simple fact is all too easily forgotten or neglected.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

Friends,

One of my favorite preachers is D A Carson. Tonight I happened across this mighty collection of Carson’s sermons. It’s an older post, so I do not know how many of the links are still functioning, but if you are interested…

jerry

Friends, here is the last part of the series on worship. The sermon is based on 1 Corinthians 10-11. It develops the idea that worship is, at its core, saying something about God. In fact, it may say more about God than it says about us; although, to be sure, it says something about what we think of God too! Worship seems to be done entirely too flippantly in some cases. While I am not a proponent or ‘fan’ or so-called high church liturgy, I do think there is something to be said about the idea that Christian worship should be significantly holier than it is. People are watching how Christians worship and the question becomes something like this: What are we telling the unbelieving world about Jesus through our worship? This is why worship must, in my judgment, be planned and practiced in such a way that God is honored first and only. I do not believe that worship should be ‘designed’ with the unbeliever exclusively in mind. Worship is ultimately directed to the only one it can be: God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Worship planned, directed, or designed with any other intention or object is idolatry which is nothing less than devil worship. –jerry

Introduction

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

 “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake—the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

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While in the early planning stages of this sermon series I came across this article on the internet. It concerns a popular trend that is taking place around the world: Mystery Shopping. The twist, however, is that these mystery shoppers are not targeting your favorite restaurant, but rather churches. Consider:

LONDON – Singing hymns and clasping hands in prayer, they look like regular church-going Christians. But the worshippers at some Sunday services in Britain definitely are not. Instead they are mostly nonbelievers paid $60 a pop to rate churches in Britain on everything from sermon length to after-service refreshments.

For decades, businesses have used “mystery shoppers,” researchers dispatched to retail stores to pose as consumers, to evaluate customer service and quality control. Now, churches are turning to “mystery worshippers” to visit and rate their performance. The program was launched in November by Christian Research of London and expands this month before reaching nationwide in May.

Religious experts agree that the research could be beneficial for any church seeking to understand how to best draw and keep worshippers in an age of declining attendance. “Any self-respecting organization is, or should be, alert to useful criticism of its modus operandi,” said Sam Berry, an expert on religion at University College London.

“I would regard the mystery-worshipper approach in the same way I would hotels asking people to fill in a form about their experiences at the hotel.”

Attendance at Anglican church services has dropped by 50 percent in 40 years as Britain has grown increasingly secular. (From the Toledo Blade)

Well, I think they might be on to something. The question that comes from this is simple: What are we showing to these mystery shoppers who visit the worship? A popular American preacher recently posted 12 convictions his congregation has about worship. On the one hand the author of the 12 convictions writes:

10. A service geared toward non-believers is meant to supplement personal evangelism, not replace it.

Then, on the other hand he writes:

4. While unbelievers can’t worship, they can watch believers worship.

I’m not sure how the two work together. In other words, why design a worship service that is geared towards non-believers when unbelievers cannot worship? It seems rather self-defeating. Nevertheless, I agree with the second part of the second proposition. I don’t know that unbelievers cannot worship, but I do agree that they can watch believers worship. So, what do we show to those unbelievers who are at least watching what us believers do? What should those mystery worshipers see in our worship time—at least the worship time we participate in on Sunday mornings?

I’d like to develop briefly a couple of ideas from chapter 10 and then show the full expression of what this means from chapters 10-11.

Warnings From Israel’s History: Chapter 10 in context

The apostle scans the history of Israel—mostly wilderness wanderings recorded in the book of Numbers, but also Exodus—and says flat out, “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did…These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” We are meant to learn, but what? What did the apostle say: “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people would sit down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.’” He then tells how much of the worship during that time was corrupt: pagan revelry, sexual immorality, grumbling.

The problem is, essentially, that they did not recognize ‘Christ among them.’ Paul wrote, “They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all at the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that Rock was Christ.” His point is that they acted and worshiped as if God were not among them. So they mimicked and aped the culture, participated in the activities of pagans, and in general displeased the Lord among them. There was, and I think this is key here, there was nothing distinctive about what Israel was doing. As the rules were given to them by God through Moses the point of the rules was to set them apart for God’s service; they were to be a kingdom of priests leading the nations in worship of God. That is why they were to be distinct, different. That’s why they had funny rules to follow, and strange rituals to observe.

As silly and strange as they seemed to Israel, and as unique as they were in that culture, they marked those people as God’s people and declared things about the nature of the God to whom they belonged.

Truth be told it is not any different for the Church, the New Israel. We are a distinctive people, a unique people, who follow a strange God so to speak who has called us, Peter wrote, “like living stones, being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…[We are] a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness and into his marvelous light.” We are not the culture. We are not just anybody. We are somebody, uniquely belonging to the Father. As such our worship is meant and designed to reflect God’s will, God’s message, and significantly, God’s Messiah. What we do we do for His Glory Alone: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Even outside of this specific context, this verse is applicable. He will apply this specifically to the observation of the Lord’s Supper and demonstrate that it is the Lord’s Supper and we dare not presume that it is our supper.

So Paul tells us all these things and says: Don’t follow their example. He notes that when Israel behaved this way ‘God scattered them in the desert,’ and ‘in one day 23,000 of them died,’ and some ‘were killed by snakes,’ and some were ‘killed by the destroying angel.’ However, he also notes that in the Christian context it is no less dangerous to fall into the hands of the living God: ‘For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgement unto himself. That is why many of you are weak and sick, and a number of you have come under judgment. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.’ In short, God deals with His people differently than he does the world in general. And if Israel’s complacency about worship brought judgment, then how much more will judgment fall on the Church and the Christian who is complacent about worship?

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Friends,

Last night I watched The Departed. I thought you might be interested in a short review of the film. So here goes my first movie review blog post:

It was a stupid waste of time.

jerry

PS–Seriously: Vulgar, violent without adding much to the story, nearly plot-less, and Leonard DiCaprio. I feel dummer for having watched it and wasting so much time. Feel free to disagree, but I don’t seriously know how anyone can make a case that this was a good piece of film.

Friends,

I have had this sneaking suspicion for a while that Atheists really don’t have a problem with ‘God’ as much as they do with Christians or Christianity.

I don’t know too much about Ray Comfort except that I think he is a big fan of Kirk ‘Buck’ Cameron, but he issued an interesting challenge to Atheists in a Christian Worldview Network post today. He wrote in part:

If you are an atheist, I hope I’m ruffling your feathers. I want to get under your skin and ask why you don’t have the courage to even whisper to Moslems what you keep shouting at Christians. Prove me wrong. Get onto a Moslem website and tell them that you don’t believe their god exists. Do your little “I don’t believe in Zeus” thing. Tell them they believe a myth. Talk about Mohammed as you do Jesus (use lower case for Mohamed). Do your “I don’t believe in the flying spaghetti monster” thing. Tell them that we weren’t made by a god (lower case), but that they evolved from primates (that will go down well). Also, let them know in no uncertain terms that the Koran is full of mistakes (give some examples), and that their mosques are full of hypocrites.

Well, I’d like to up the ante just a bit and issue a challenge to certain people on the blogosphere to do the same thing. Among those I’d like to challenge are those running ‘Discernment Ministries’ who constantly criticize those within the Church who hold to different views of Christian Faith than they do. Instead of biting and snacking on your brothers and sisters in Christ, take it up a notch and start criticizing those who are the real enemies of the faith: Those who actually do hold to a different gospel. I think that is a fair challenge to issue.

jerry

Friends,

I’m preaching a short, four-week series on the Spiritual Discipline of Worship. This sermon on Romans 12:1-2 is part three in the series. Thanks for stopping by.–jerry

Let’s begin this sermon with a brief review of Romans up to the twelfth chapter:

  • Paul begins by asserting that all of us are sinners in need of salvation.
  • He makes the case that there is no one who has any excuses before God. All have sinned and fallen short.
  • He asserts that if all are sinners, and there is no difference, then all are also ‘justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.’
  • For those of us who ‘believe in him who raised him from the dead’ our faith is ‘credited to us as righteousness.’ (4:23-24)
  • We have been given a gift of immense proportions—totally undeserved, totally outweighing the offense and totally from God’s grace.
  • For those who believe, there is a death: We die to sin in baptism and are united with Christ in his death. So then if we are we will also be united with him in resurrection. “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” It is the same for us. Risen to walk in newness of life.
  • So then, we also become slaves to righteousness: set free from sin, offering the parts of our bodies to righteousness, so that we may increase in holiness. We have received this gift of eternal life from God.
  • So there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ. We are not to live by the flesh, but by the Spirit. We have an obligation to the Spirit. We are more than conquerors.
  • We are the ones who have believed in our hearts and confessed with our mouths: Jesus is Lord.
  • We are the ones who will be saved by God’s great power and mercy.
  • ‘For from him and through him and to him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.’

And chapter 12 begins: Therefore

“Therefore, I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I’d like to make four observations about these verses this morning.

Worship: Surrendering the Body

At the root of all that we have said about worship is a single thought. It is this: The God who saves us in his mercy also is the God who makes demands on our lives. The question we ask is this: Does God have a right to make any demand, let alone this demand? I think part of the problem with the way we do church is precisely at this point. When we do evangelism, for example, we are happy to let people know that Jesus died for their sins, that he wants to set them free, that he will help them in their difficulties—maybe even heal them of illness and disease, and that he will be a great pal through the many changes that occur in life.

What we frequently fail to tell people, while we are telling them to ‘give their hearts to Jesus,’ is that God has made demands not just on our heart, but on our very lives as represented here by the apostle in these words: “…offer your bodies…” Now this is representative, but it is far more than metaphor. No, I happen to think that the apostle is not mincing words at all. Offer your bodies is Paul’s way of saying: Your entire being now belongs to God in light of His mercy.

I think we do a great disservice to the people we share the Gospel with when we tell them that salvation is only about salvation as if redemption had nothing to do with sanctification or making us holy creatures. I think the demand that God places on our lives is best said here by the Apostle: “Therefore, in view of God’s mercy, offer yourselves as living sacrifices…” We are fond of salvation, but worship as a sacrificial lifestyle is probably abhorrent to us.

True worship demands our entire being: Heart, mind, body. It means our flesh. Worship is complete surrender, utter devotion, absolute, unconditional relinquishing of our autonomy.

“To sanctify something means to separate and prepare it that it may be presented and offered to God. This is more precisely defined in the conception of sacrifice. The exhortation which is grounded upon the mercies of God and is directed towards men is summed up in the demand that men should present their bodies—that is, their concrete, observable, historical existence—as a sacrifice. Now, sacrifice means surrender; it means an unconditional gift; it means the renunciation of men in favour of God. If men are themselves the object to be surrendered, renounced, and given up, their sacrifice can mean nothing less than the relentless acknowledgement of that questionableness and confiscation which occurs when they are confronted by the unfathomable God; the sacrifice which they have to offer by means of an ever-renewed, but never completed, return to His mercy and freedom…”—431, Barth, Romans

There is always the temptation to think that we can give Christ our spirit and keep our bodies for ourselves. Our Bodies too belong to Him.

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Worship: The Living Sacrifice I happen to have an advance copy of next week’s Christian Standard. As I looked through it I happened upon an article that I was certain I was going to reject out of hand before even reading it. Then I did something silly: I read it. And I liked it. The article in question is by a woman named Mandy Smith. I’d like to share some of her thoughts with you.

‘Paul doesn’t talk a lot about worship, but when he does it’s usually in the context of the Jewish tradition, in discussions about circumcision and sacrifices. That is understandable, since the Old Testament sense of worship had a good deal to do with sacrifice. As worshipers brought sacrifices from their fields and flocks, they brought together everyday life and spiritual practices, the products of daily work into sacred space.

‘Unfortunately, in our contemporary setting, we have separated worship from daily life. In Romans 12:1, however, Paul provides a new pattern for worship (new for first-century believers and new for us): “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Instead of offering dead animals, we are now to offer up our very lives, which are more valuable to God because they allow us to offer ongoing acts of sacrifice. [My emphasis.]

‘Paul goes on, in Romans 12, to describe the various gifts and functions of the members of the body, putting a very practical spin on worship. For him it is not just bowing and singing weekly, but serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing financially, leading, and showing daily mercy (12:6-8). In fact, the word used for worship in this passage is related to work and is often translated ‘service.’ If worship in the OT was largely synonymous with sacrifice, worship in the NT is synonymous with service (living sacrifice), inside and outside of the service.’

‘If worship is supposed to be unceasing, a way of life, then the weekly service is one of many occasions to worship. The Sunday service is special and significant, not because it’s our opportunity to worship, but because it is a joint celebration of the worship that has been going on all week long, an occasion to remember the reason for the work, and a time of preparation for the Monday-to-Saturday service in the week to come.’

‘But that’s what living sacrifice feels like. This is not about changing what we’re doing, but acknowledging that what we’re already doing is worship, if we devote it to God. There’s music and euphoria at times, but there’s also small daily choices of service, simply acts of selfless love, and perseverance, lots of perseverance. It’s the kind of worship that makes you sweat, the kind that means you’ll need a nap in the afternoon.’—Mandy Smith, Christian Standard, January 27, 2008 [When the link becomes available on-line I will link to it.]

The only problem I have here is that for some reason the author thinks that the New Testament descriptions of worship are devoid of sacrificial imagery and that the Old Testament is only about sacrifice. In my estimation, one cannot really see such a clear cut dichotomy—especially as it relates to the New Testament.

The New Testament imagery is, perhaps, equally about sacrifice except that in the New Testament sacrifice is defined not as dead animal sacrifice but as living human sacrifice. I got to thinking that perhaps the reason why the Old Testament people killed the animals before offering them on the fiery altar is this: Dead animals could not crawl off the altar once the heat was applied. But God makes demands of us: Offer your bodies as living sacrifices. This means that we must, and have to, make a conscious decision to offer everything to Christ as an offering. Gareth Reese wrote it this way: “The idea would be that the Christian’s sacrifice was to be constant; there was to be a dedication about his life-style, with all his living energies and powers directed consciously to God’s service..”—500-501

Perhaps we might think we can live a day without making this offering to Jesus. Living sacrifices—so long as we are living. Daily—so long as it is day. Day after day. Take up your cross.

There is always this terrible danger that we will crawl off the altar when the heat is applied.

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Friends,

I am putting together a new page titled “Books.” On this page, I will be compiling a list of the more significant books that are available for reading. I am a big fan of reading as a  spiritual discipline among Christians. Sadly, the works that many Christians read are simply bad books. This is not surprising given the dismal state of publishing. If what I see on the shelves at so-called ‘Christian’ bookstores is typical of the average Christians’ reading habits, then the Church is in real trouble.  

My hope with this new page is to encourage a higher standard of reading among people in general and Christians in particular. I hope to highlight important books that should be read. I also hope to highlight better books for people to read. The books I choose are books I have read and recommend.

The books are listed in no particular order of importance and are not categorized. They are listed as I read them, remember them, or think of them. I will only be listing books that I have read, so the list will be updated rather frequently. I hope you will find this new page useful and, perhaps, interesting. I realize that not all of my choices will be yours, but if you have questions about a book that I have listed, please feel free to write.

Thanks for stopping by.

jerry

Friends,

PT Forsyth died in 1921. Ever since I was introduced to his writings a little over 2 years ago, I have been constantly amazed at how prophetic his words were. He spoke to a generation of Christians that, evidently, were not much different from the current generation even though we are separated by a hundred years or more.

I make no profession to be a Forsyth expert. At this point, I am barely a student. I am a reader of Forsyth for now, but he continues to shape and challenge my ideas of God and Scripture and the Church. Consider this:

The preacher preaches to the divinest purpose only when his lips are touched with the red coal from the altar of the thrice holy in the innermost place. We must rise beyond social righteousness and universal justice to the holiness of an infinite God. What we on earth call righteousness among men, the saints in heaven call holiness in Him.

Have our churches lost that seal? Are we producing reform, social or theological, faster than we are producing faith? Have we become more liberal than sure? Then we are putting all our religious capital into the extension of our business, and carrying nothing to reserve or insurance. We are mortgaging and starving the future. We are not seeking first the Kingdom of God and His holiness, but only carrying on, with very expensive and noisy machinery, a ‘kingdom-of-God-industry.’ We are merely running the kingdom; and we are running it without the cross–with the cross perhaps on our sign, but not in our centre. We have the old trade mark, but what does that matter in a dry and thirsty land where no water is, if the artesian well on our premises is going dry? (The Cruciality of the Cross, 40)

I’ll say this much: There is nothing new under the sun. I wonder if we are reaping what was sown, or if we are sowing now what others will reap. Either way, his words make clear that the Kingdom of God is, in the eyes and hands of man, cheap. We sell it for a pittance, a mere dollar. And where does it start? With Preachers. Until preachers get this into their heads, and get their bodies back to the pulpit to preach the Word of God, the people of God will continue down this dismal, dry, empty road to nothing.

I wonder if it is possible to change course, to sow a new crop? I wonder if it is possible for the church to stop trying to manage the Kingdom of God and start pursuing it again? I wonder if the lament will continue, or if we can break out in praise at the harvest? I wonder if we will starve to death because of the famine of the Word, or if we will be baptized in a fresh outpouring of God’s grace because the Word is proclaimed? I wonder if the church will matter when we who preach now look back on the work that we have left behind?

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

Friends,

I haven’t done an evolution post for a while, but some of my older posts are still generating responses. For example, here’s a recent reply made by one person who is clearly a product of the non-thinking version evolution. Note the overall genius of this person’s response, the eloquence, the mastery of the language:

It is frightening to intelligent people to see this swell of middle ages style ignorance starting to take hold. Do you drive a car? Ride in airplanes? Use electricity? All of these things, like evolution, came to our understanding through actual science. The various illiterate claims that “God created everything” are not equal to research and study. I know that my words will have no impact on the religious zealots who want to kill all the non-believers and then end the world for Jesus, but I hope if there are people out there who might think this trash is worth teaching, they will think twice about what the mind of man has created. God was created by ancient sheep herders who feared everything because they knew nothing. Apparently, Ben Stein prefers their fear to the light of knowledge. It is pitiful. [Emphasis added.]

I have to say, if Tommy Ray (the author of this clearly intelligent rant) is what evolution has to offer then this world is in worse shape than any of us thought. Actually, the ancients believed in God because they knew God and feared God. After reading the above paragraph, who do you think is a zealot? Responses like the above paragraph are certain to aid the religion of Darwinism.

Thanks Tommy for stopping by. You made the front page of my blog, now you are living the dream!

jerry

Friends,

I had a nice conversation with some friends over the past week concerning the Unity of the Body of Christ. It was good fun. I have the following quote posted on my sidebar, but in light of the conversation, I thought I would give it a proper place on the front page.

“The whole history of the church shows that there can be no standing unity of faith, spirit, or fellowship between those to whom Christ’s death is but a great martyrdom and those to whom it is the one atonement of the world and God, the one final treatment of sin, the one compendious work of grace, and the one hinge of human destiny.”–PT Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, 19
Have a nice Thursday evening.
Soli Deo Gloria!
jerry

John 20:1-10 (90 Days with Jesus, Day 86)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Perhaps the story was thought to have ended. They placed his body in the tomb in the garden that was nearby the place where they crucified him. I have always wondered why it is that it was important for the author of this Gospel to inform us that he outran Peter and arrived at the tomb first and then didn’t actually go into the tomb but bent over it and looked in. After Peter catches up to him, I pictured him slightly winded, he brushes by and goes straight inside the tomb.

Only after Peter’s display of courage did the other disciple ‘go inside.’ The Scripture says, “He saw and believed.” He saw what? An empty tomb or the same thing Peter saw: Strips of linen, the burial cloth folded and separated off by itself?

Then they went back home—in their belief of something, and in their lack of understanding of Scripture. Clearly they believed something. Clearly they misunderstood something. What was going on, they must have wondered.

I don’t want to speculate about this text. I suppose it would be entirely too easy to allegorize this text and come up with all sorts of fanciful meanings and applications. I don’t want to do that nor do I think anyone needs to. So I choose to notice only what is readily available at first sight.

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Mary went to the tomb early in the morning. She found the tomb and saw the stone removed from the entrance. She made the, false, assumption that someone had stolen the body of Jesus. In other words, she didn’t see the body of Jesus. I don’t know who the ‘they’ are in her winded speech to the Peter and the disciple Jesus loved. But I sense in her statement, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him” that she (and those with her; note the ‘we’) did some searching before they left the tomb. They didn’t find Jesus.

The fact remains, however, that Mary and those unnamed ones with her went to the tomb not expecting to find what they found. It was a surprise to find the stone rolled away from the tomb. She went to find a body not an empty tomb and made an incorrect assessment of what she found.

So Peter and John (‘the disciple Jesus loved’) rush to the tomb also. After some catching up, Peter rushes into the tomb and finds the tomb exactly how he was supposed to find it: Empty. All that is left are the cloths that had been used to wrap the body of Jesus and these were left behind 1) because they weren’t needed, and 2) to show that there had been someone inside the tomb. I doubt seriously that someone coming to steal the body would have left the cloths behind and taken time to fold the cloth that had been around his head.

So what happened is that these two men found no one which is exactly what they were meant to find. This is the face of this story: An empty tomb. This is the fact of history: An empty tomb.

The part I find most endearing is that they ran to the tomb. It’s kind of funny that in this story John outruns Peter, but at the end of the Gospel it is Peter who jumps in the water and swims to shore before John—or any of the others.

_____________________ 

It’s hard to tell exactly what John ‘saw and believed.’ But I take this, if they didn’t understand from Scripture that moment what was going on, the implication is that later they did. And if Scripture had declared that Jesus would triumph over the grave, then we can take comfort from the fact that nothing has been left to chance. In other words, and I say this humbly and not in accusatory tone, they should have expected this. I don’t want to go too far with this ‘should have’ nonsense (even though Jesus had told them himself that was going to Resurrect). There’s a lot of things that we too ‘should have’ and don’t because neither do we ‘understand from the Scripture.’

This leads me to the point of the matter. There are many who claim to have an inside track on the way things are, where they are going, and how it’s all going to pan out soon. But do they understand from Scripture? I saw some folks just last night on the idiot box, full of enthusiasm and excitement, and one said confidently, with absolutely no Scriptural justification, “I believe the Rapture will take place this year.” They are convinced that the signs are all around us. That it is clear the conditions now are better than they have ever been for the ‘rapture’ to take place. I suspect that sometimes certain folks are more interested in rapture than they are in Jesus Christ who will be returning. They don’t understand from Scripture that Christ is our reward, not rapture.

But does this make sense? What I’m concerned about here is this: What we understand about the things God means to do must come from what is in Scripture not from the signs of the times. Imminent, I’m sure. The people in the Scripture, in the first century of Christ’s death, also believe the times were ripe for the ‘rapture.’ Imminent, to be sure! I’m not saying it won’t, but what I am saying is this: Why are we not a people of the Book?

Why are we hesitant (John waited for Peter to go in)? Why do we draw false conclusions about the things we see (Mary thought someone had taken the body)? Why are we left speechless (Peter said nothing one way or another)? Why do we dismiss ‘it’ and go back to our homes (that’s what they did), because we don’t understand from Scripture. (And I suspect that we have less of an excuse than they did!)

I’m not blaming those disciples at all because I know myself and I know that I would have faired no better. I would probably have been scared to death, hiding in a room, fearful, afraid, terrified. But what about Scripture? What about its message for us?

I assume that if they ‘didn’t understand at the time that Jesus had to be raised from the dead’ that later they did in fact understand that Jesus had to be raised from the dead. Peter confirms this in his first sermon in Acts: “Seeing what was ahead, [David] spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grace, nor did his body see decay. God raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (Acts 2:31-32) Peter did understand from Scripture!

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J.I. Packer wrote a short book that I just happened to find on the shelf in the library at the seminary I attend. It was on the sale shelf. The book The Battle for the Bible is one of the best books I have ever read. I’ll end this meditation with a thought from the book that sums up this silly, rather naïve, idea that Christian people really, desperately need to return to the Word of God from which they have so dangerously departed:

The New Testament church commenced without prestige, or patronage, or learning of the schools; all that the first Christians had was the word of God and the Holy Spirit; and they turned the world upside down. What do we lack that they had? Let our self-assessment continue.” (89)

I think what we lack is rather obvious: We do not yet understand from the Scripture. Or, I might say, we are a people who have no confidence in the Word of God. And until we do, we will continue to make wrong assumptions (Mary), we will continue to be timid (John), we will continue to be silent (Peter), and we will continue to just come to the empty tomb look around and go back to our homes (all). Isn’t that what we do every single Sunday?

Soli Deo Gloria!

PS–David Wells wrote in Above All Earthly Pow’rs: “It is the fact of the resurrection, therefore, that connects us to a moral and spiritual order that lies beyond the grave. And it is this order that sends its clarifying light back into this life today. Its intrusion into life is what, in fact, gives to life its meaning because, in the end, nothing is insignificant” (198). Chapter 5, ‘Christ in a Meaningless World’ is worth the price of the book. I have not read many chapters in books that stand out as powerfully in my mind as this one does. “Images we may want, entertainment we may desire, but it is the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen that is the Church’s truth to tell” (232). Amen. And when the Church returns to understanding from the Scriptures, we will understand what Dr Wells is saying.

Friends,

Jason over at Per Crucem ad Lucem has some well thought out insights into the manner in which Christians should conduct themselves during the voting season (I say ‘voting season’ not implying at all that political candidates are like wild game we hunt.) Check out his Thirteen Propositions on Voting. I think you will be encouraged by his thoughts.

I’m especially fond of #13:

13. Once the election has taken place, don’t grumble if your choice of party is not elected, for Peter tells us to, ‘Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king (1 Peter 2:12-17).

 jerry