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Archive for October, 2008

Russell Moore recently preached a Message entitled Joseph is a Single Issue Evangelical: The Father of Jesus, The Cries of the Helpless, and Change You Can Believe In.  I found myself in tears at multiple points in the sermon.  If you are reading this blog, please take 40 minutes of your time to listen to this sermon. Here is the transcript.  Here is the audio.  Here’s a quote:

As these words are spoken, there are children in this very city who are looking at bruises all over their arms as they hear their mother or father explaining to the social worker why this “will never happen again.” Brothers and sisters, these things are not incidental. There is a rage against children that is bigger than sociology or history; it is about spiritual warfare. Joseph sees the darkness around him and is obedient to the word of the Lord, a word that draws him and drives him toward life.

At the same time, in the midst of all this tumult in the present day, there are churches and evangelical leaders who are saying to us, “We ought not to be single-issue evangelicals. We ought to be concerned about more than simply abortion.” Which means, of course, that we ought to be willing to support and vote for candidates who will support legalized abortion, who will deny the personhood of children who are still in the womb, because we resonate with them on other issues. “After all,” many of them say, “abortion has been going on so long, and it still hasn’t been stopped.” Many of the people saying this are pastors who are in a desperate quest to say to their congregations, “I’m not Jerry Falwell.”

Many of them even believe it missional to speak to people while silencing or blunting a witness about the life of children so that they can reach them with the gospel and bring them in line with all these other issues later. Yet a pastor who will tell you something like that is simply repeating the same mantras as did some pastor in a powder blue leisure suit in the late 1960’s about divorce. And how is that working for you?

It certainly did not lead to a revival of the gospel. Instead, that reasoning led to a generation of people who are now unable to understand what the Scripture means when it says the union between a husband and wife is like the union of Christ to his church.

Likewise, in our day, how are we to speak of Jesus who gives us “life abundantly” in a world that hates life when we act as if the sword given to the state in Romans 13 to be wielded against the wicked–one, bear in mind, that we the people of a democratic republic bear responsibility for–is wielded instead against the innocent. Some people will tell us that there are many other issues–economics, global warming–issues I am very worried about too. But previous generations have used that same argument.

Previous generations of preachers have stood in the pulpit and preached until they were red in the face about card-playing, movie-going, tobacco-smoking, and a thousand other issues, but would not speak to the fact that there were African-American brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ whose bodies were swinging from the trees outside. And the judgment of God lies upon that.

Joseph sees the work of the evil one through divine revelation, yet in faith he obediently carries out the mission given to him by his Lord, even in the midst of all this tumult. I wonder if we are willing to do the same in our own prayers, in our own tears when we know that aborted babies cannot cry, “Abba.” Indeed, one day we will stand in judgment and be told, “as you have done to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40). Joseph is an unlikely demon-fighter. He is not celebrated. He is simply told, “Take this child. Protect him from Herod’s sword. Go into Egypt,” and, in faith, Joseph walks.

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Return of the Pyromaniacs

After a month long hiatus, my favorite blog in the whole world has returned.  Dan Phillips, Phil Johnson and Frank Turk’s Pyromaniacs is simply one of the most solid, biblical, imaginative, loud, opinionated, gravitas blogs on the web.  Their posts Fire! and Grow Up. Be A Man are two of the best articles I have ever read in my life.  The Po-Motivators are a must see.  I just can’t say enough good about this blog.

Also, Happy Reformation Day!

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Albert Mohler takes on the notion that pro-lifer’s should abandon the pursuit of changing abortion laws, or at least those who are so pessimistic about it as to call it a “pipe dream,” that is unfortunately taking hold among some Christians. Donald Miller advocates it, and I have heard some Multnomah Students and at least one professor advocate it as well. It really, really makes me sad, and mad, especially given their high aim in other social issues, and their supposed optimistic, hope-for-the-world outlook on social justice. What will happen in a few decades when they grow weary of trying to abolish global sex trade?

Those fighting for the abolition of slavery pressed on against obstacles and set backs worse than these because, after all, these were human lives they were defending.  What if they had listened to those who, after Dred Scott and the Missouri Compromise, said that the battle was “permanently” lost?  What if they had been intimidated by critics accusing them of “single-issue” voting?

If every single fetus is an unborn child made in the image of God, there is no moral justification for settling for a vague hope of some reduction in the number of fetal homicides.  If the abortion fight is “permanently lost,” it will be lost first among those who claim to be defenders of life — those who tell us that the argument is merely changing.

PLEASE Read the Whole thing.

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OK, so this post is going to reveal a somewhat embarrassing characteristic aspect in my life, I like country music. As I was driving in the car alone yesterday I was listening to a local country music station and I found myself singing along to the new Carrie Underwood jam, “Last Name.” Suddenly I found myself singing this lyric:

And I don’t even know his last name
Oh, my mama would be so ashamed
It started off “Hey cutie, where ya from?”
And then it turned in,
“Oh no, what have I done?”
And I don’t even know his last name
Here we go…

First of all I realize how lame it is to be singing top 10 country hits while I’m alone in the car. But more importantly, these are not edifying lyrics (I am never going to live this down). One of my favorite professors at Multnomah, Dr. Ray Lubeck, has reminded the class more than once, that we are most susceptible to allow sinful behavior in areas that we are comfortable with.

 

It’s pretty easy for me to say that the lyrics found in gangster rap songs sinful and evil. It’s easy for me to say that the lyrics exploit women, reduce the importance of monogamy, encourage violence, and disgrace a godly view of sex. But Carey Underwood has done many of the same things in this song.

 

It’s easy to consider ourselves “sin-free” in areas that we aren’t tempted in. Gregg Harris has said (from the pulpit), “some of you boast in the fact that you are faithful to your wife, but you are ugly. You have never really had a chance to prove your faithfulness.” The point is it’s easy for me not to listen to rap music but it’s harder for me to evaluate the morality of things I like and enjoy.

 

What things do you enjoy?

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I’ve always liked Calvin better than Morrie.  I enjoy reading Calvin more than I enjoy reading any other theologian.  And not because I am a “Calvinist,” but because Calvin had a very deep and weighty view of the majesty and glory of God in all of life.  In other words, he had gravitas.  I have also found him to be very misunderstood by the Christian world.  I always let out a deep long sigh when I hear Christians talking about him as a cantankerous, cold, misguided, loudmouth.  Or when I hear people talk about how Calvin himself would have only been a “3 point Calvinist” or when people think that Calvin was all about predestination and election.  Sigh.  Sure, he didn’t pull any punches, and he was a man of his time, tough times at that, but he devotedly fed his flock the life giving substance of the Word of God, of which he was a slave.  To do my (very, very small) part in helping to dispel the myths, Every Tuesday I hope to post a quote from his writings, sermons, commentaries Etc.  This inaugural entry comes from his commentary on John 3:16

For God so loved the world. Christ opens up the first cause, and, as it were, the source of our salvation, and he does so, that no doubt may remain; for our minds cannot find calm repose, until we arrive at the unmerited love of God. As the whole matter of our salvation must not be sought any where else than in Christ, so we must see whence Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Savior. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish. And this order ought to be carefully observed; for such is the wicked ambition which belongs to our nature, that when the question relates to the origin of our salvation, we quickly form diabolical imaginations about our own merits. Accordingly, we imagine that God is reconciled to us, because he has reckoned us worthy that he should look upon us. But Scripture everywhere extols his pure and unmingled mercy, which sets aside all merits.

And the words of Christ mean nothing else, when he declares the cause to be in the love of God. For if we wish to ascend higher, the Spirit shuts the door by the mouth of Paul, when he informs us that this love was founded on the purpose of his will, (Ephesians 1:5.) And, indeed, it is very evident that Christ spoke in this manner, in order to draw away men from the contemplation of themselves to look at the mercy of God alone. Nor does he say that God was moved to deliver us, because he perceived in us something that was worthy of so excellent a blessing, but ascribes the glory of our deliverance entirely to his love. And this is still more clear from what follows; for he adds, that God gave his Son to men, that they may not perish. Hence it follows that, until Christ bestow his aid in rescuing the lost, all are destined to eternal destruction. This is also demonstrated by Paul from a consideration of the time; for he loved us while we were still enemies by sin, (Romans 5:8, 10.) And, indeed, where sin reigns, we shall find nothing but the wrath of God, which draws death along with it. It is mercy, therefore, that reconciles us to God, that he may likewise restore us to life.

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This quote by Francis J. Beckwith continues to be one of the most thought provoking, impactful and clarifying statements I have ever read:

At the end of the day, the abortion debate is about who and what we are and whether we can know it.  The cultural conflict over abortion is really a dispute over whether we are justified in extending our nation’s moral progress toward the elimination of unjust discrimination to include those who are the most vulnerable in the human family, the unborn.  It is, in the end, whether we like it or not, a testimony to that inescapable truth penned by Aristotle more than two millenia ago, “statecraft is soulcraft.” (Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, xv)

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  1. Spend less money of things that are meant to serve a practical purpose. Buy clothes from Goodwill. Buy what you need. Drive cheaper cars. Own only as many cars as necessary. Live in cheaper houses. Make your home welcoming but not extravagant. These items are intended to serve a purpose. That is, they are intended to keep you from being naked. They keep you warm. They get you where you need to go. They keep the rain out. They have a practical purpose. The danger is when their practical purpose is overshadowed by their ability to entertain, or to magnify you, or to make you happy.  
  2. Living a war-time mentality is more than just a financial mentality; it is also a mentality on how to spend your time. Spend less time thinking about clothes. Spend less time thinking about cars. Spend less time thinking about houses. Throw away your television. Television has become the “Great American Life Waster.” The content of the programs and the commercials are entertaining viewers with the very sins that Jesus Christ died on the cross for. We must refuse to be entertained by the very things that we are fighting against. T.V. causes us to rally behind the world’s problems. It makes us concern for the stock market, the housing market, terrorists, war efforts, and elections. 
  3. Live in the place that is best for the war effort. The biblical pattern is to go to the city. The biblical pattern is to seek out the setting that will bear the most fruit. A similar concept is the concept of “the man of peace.” In the same way as the man of peace is sought because of his sphere of influence, the city was sought because of it being the center place for influence. Jonah went to the city of Nineveh and called for the people to repent. Paul went to and lived in cities. Barnabas went to and lived in cities. The reason that they went to the cities is because the cities are where the people are. In light of this, we need to seek the place where we can best fight the war.
  4. Keep up-to-date as to the progress other Christians are making around the world. Visit missions update websites like www.joshuaproject.org. Read missionary biographies.  
  5. Be ready to defend the faith and our cause at all times. Read the Bible. Read theological works. Read in order to understand contemporary culture.
  6. Convince more people of the need for a war-time mentality. We need more Christians to think with a kingdom mindset.  
  7. Fight until the end. Don’t give up. Don’t retire. Don’t collect sea shells. Don’t hole up somewhere and forsake the mission.

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