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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This is Religion

"To rest all upon the everlasting mountains of God’s love and grace in Christ, to live continually in the sight of Christ’s infinite righteousness and merits, they are sanctifying. Without them the heart is carnal, and in those sights to see the full vileness, yet littleness of sin (in comparison to Christ’s righteousness), and to see all pardoned: in those sights to pray, hear, and so forth, seeing your polluted self, and all your weak performances, accepted continually; in those sights to trample upon all your self-glories, righteousness, privileges, as abominable, and be found continually in the righteousness of Christ only, rejoicing in the ruins of your own righteousness, the spoiling of all your own excellencies, that Christ alone, as Mediator, may be exalted in His throne. Mourn over all your duties however glorious, that you have not performed in the sight and sense of Christ’s love. Without the blood of Christ on your conscience, all is dead service (Heb 9:14)."


Thomas Wilcox, 1621-1687
Honey Out Of The Rock

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

John and Isaiah: Wondering at The Harlot.

Anyone who has read the book of Revelation has met the woman sitting on a scarlet beast, in chapter 17. She is dressed in purple and scarlet, is adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls, has a cup and something written on her forehead. Right after this John says, “And when I saw her, I wondered greatly.” (17:3-6) The woman is, for the sake of explanation, like a “cartoon” version of something else—she is explained to be “the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth” (17:18). Much like Daniel saw a “cartoon” of the empires of the world in the statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, John saw this woman as a representation.

John was astonished by what he saw, and when I saw through John’s eyes, please know that I was astonished, too. I’ve been studying the Bible for years and this passage is one that has been a matter of discussion for centuries. Many, many interpretations and explanations have been offered. Please understand that I am making no claim at “new understanding;” rather, I am just an observation. Try looking through the eyes of the writer sometime, instead of allowing our perspective or technology to interpret for us. What did John see that disturbed him? What do we discover if we let scripture explain itself?

There is another place in scripture that describes someone clothed in purple linens, adorned in gold, precious stones and pearls with something written on the forehead. Exodus 28 describes the garments of the priests as violet, purple and scarlet interwoven with gold, with clasps of precious stones. The priest also wears an ephod and a pouch of gold covered with precious stones, all set in gold. On his head is a turban with a plate of gold with the words, “Holy to the LORD” engraved on it.

When John saw the woman sitting on the beast, he saw the ruler of the earth dressed as a priest of God. No wonder John wondered at what he saw. What is most amazing to me is that the image John saw is nothing new—the world wants nothing to do with God. The woman of Revelation 17 has been around for a very, very long time.

Consider how Isaiah was caused to see the people of his own time, through God’s eyes—they were very, very religious. The people were constantly sacrificing, giving offerings and burning incense. Every time the temple doors were open they were there, celebrating and observing feasts, constantly praying. Here’s what God saw: evil people committing evil acts (Isaiah 1:16). “I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly” (1:13). It must be one or the other—it cannot be both. Sin does not mix with true worship. What kind of sin are we talking about here?

Specifically, God is offended by the filth of sin (1:16-17). Man must be clean and must stop doing evil. Will man be clean if he stops doing evil? If my son plays in the mud and I tell him to stop, will he be clean the moment he stops? The evil that God sees must be removed and the areas of offense include injustice and oppression; in other words, wickedness must be punished and righteousness must be accomplished. This is seen in how people interact with one another.

The religious system of the world today is of no surprise to God. This is why the world system is described to be a harlot and those who follow after the world are called adulterers. Remember that James was writing to a church, addressing them with, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

I wonder what God would say to The Church today?

Revelation 2-4 gives us an idea of God’s message of the church today: we are either sinful and He hold things against us (Ephesus, Thyatira, Sardis, Laodicea); or, we are faithful (Smyrna, Philadelphia) and are His witnesses (Rev. 11:1-13).

Each local church where the Christ identifies sin has the opportunity to repent and be separate from the world. Isaiah 1:18-20 says that God wants to reason about sin and cleansing. God wants us to respond to what He identifies as sinful by allowing Him to clean up and lead us in obedience; otherwise, “if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:20; Revelation 1:16; 19:15)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Contend!

As a young teenager, I nearly lost my right hand. The accident could have been avoided if I had obeyed my father’s instruction, but I just had to try. Perhaps many have done the same thing I was doing that day—lighting firecrackers and tossing them. The warnings are there for a reason, and my one act of foolishness almost cost me—one fast fuse is all it takes. One can never tell one fast fuse from any other—they all look the same. You can’t plan an accident like that. I believe God spared me all but the pain when the thing went off in my hand. I’ve never felt anything so horrible and pray I never do again.

The New Testament book of Jude is an amazing little letter. Many people not too familiar with the Bible may look for something short to read when they open the book for the first time and tend to gravitate toward the smaller books. Imagine the surprise when they read this little epistle! It nearly explodes in one’s hands! I believe the short book with its’ short fuse is part of the demonstration of the grace of God, teaching very quickly and powerfully one important principle that even the most immature in the faith need to know: contend for the faith. Why? Because the biblical worldview has enemies.

Jude is a short book with a short fuse and a loud bang.

One of the beauties of scripture is its’ timelessness. The problem Jude exposes is not new to his day, nor is it new to ours; therefore, we would be wise to pay attention to what it says.

First, there are people in The Church who should not be there. The Church is unique as it is the body of Christ. Mark Dever writes in, 9 Marks Of A Healthy Church:

· “Throughout Old Testament history, God made a clear distinction between his people and the world (see Lev. 13:46, Num. 5:3, Deut. 7:3).
· Christ says that entering the kingdom of God means being bound to the church “on earth” (Matt. 16:16-19; 18:17-19). Where do we see the church on earth? The local church.
· The New Testament explicitly refers to some people being inside the church and some people being outside (1 Cor. 5:12-13). This is much more than a casual association.
· The church in Corinth consisted of a definite number of believers, such that Paul could speak of a punishment inflicted by the majority (2 Cor. 2:6).
· Not only does the New Testament speak of the reality of church membership, but its dozens of “one anothers” are written to local churches, which fill out our understanding of what church membership should practically look like.

Why is it important? Biblical church membership is important because the church presents God’s witness to himself in the world. It displays his glory. In the church’s membership, then, non-Christians should see in the lives of God’s changed people that God is holy and gracious and that his gospel is powerful for saving and transforming sinners.”

Just because someone attends all the functions of a local church body does not mean that person actually belongs. Rudyard Kipling in his classic work, “The Jungle Books,” gives us a very clear picture of this kind of infiltration. Mowgli has been raised by the wolves, and the tiger Shere Khan (named after a Pashtun Prince Sher Shah Suri, “The Lion King” or “The Tiger King”) comes to Counsel Rock to take over the wolf-pack and to claim the man-cub as a prize (and a meal). The leader of the wolf pack is about to be replaced and the tiger steps in at the right moment, having already won over some by killing for (and subsequently, feeding) the more “desperate” of the pack. The lame tiger actually could care less about the pack—he just wants the man-cub. This is the warning of Jude’s epistle. The tiger does not belong among the sheep (1 Peter 5:8).

Second, these out-of-place people (called “ungodly” directly or indirectly at least 14 times) teach harmful doctrines. They redefine grace into license to sin and “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (v. 4). This is not accidental or an act performed out of ignorance; rather, this is intentionally taking what is known to be true and twisting truth into a lie, “following after their own ungodly lusts” (v. 18). First glance seems to indicate that their teachings fall into two categories, but actually, the error is one: grace is not a thing but a person. The error begins in the attempt to strip the person of grace from His Sovereign work. No person is greater than God, who does not change—hence the warning concerning these individuals, who in turn not only follow in their own lusts, but invite others to do the same.

God's Word plainly teaches, "Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (Rom 13:13-14)

Early in his letter Jude says these people “crept in unnoticed” (v. 4) but now sets about exposing them. What do these dangerous imposters look like? First, they act “in the same way” as those from Old Testament history: they are grossly immoral dream-chasing, flesh-defiling, authority-rejecting blasphemers (vv. 5-8). They do ungodly deeds in ungodly ways, speaking in ungodly manners contrary to what God has said (v. 15). They revile both what they know by instinct and what they don’t know out of ignorance; they grumble, complain, “me first”, are arrogant, and will do whatever it takes to advance themselves (vv. 10, 16).

Jude is very descriptive of “these men.” Cain not only murdered his brother, but also was doomed to wander as a vagrant on the earth (Genesis 4); Balaam counseled people to sin (Numbers 31) and Korah questioned God’s authority (Numbers 16). These men wander from place to place leaving death in their wake with their false teachings, encouraging sin and despising authority.

They are called hidden reefs, clouds without water, autumn trees without fruit, wild waves of the sea, and wandering stars. Hidden reefs cause ship-wrecks. Clouds without water may seem threatening, but don’t deliver. Autumn trees without fruit are dead trees, best for firewood. Wild waves are noted for their crash, spewing foam over everything that stands near, and sweeping away anything that they catch. Wandering stars drift through space, space being what it is (a long distance between objects), not connected to anything. These descriptions are appropriate for these ungodly imposters. They have no place in the church and only contribute disaster and death.

What should we do if someone in our midst displays all these characteristics? How should we react if someone is found as an ungodly upstart?

We “ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, ‘in the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’” (vv. 17-18). In other words, we should remember that we have been warned they would come. There is no surprise attack if the enemy is expected. “Fore-warned is fore-armed.”

Our reaction begins not with them, but with us. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” (v. 20-21) The steps are building blocks for us, plain and logical. First, we should know what we believe and are convinced of. Second, we should be a people of prayer. Third, we are to find our identity in Christ, who died and rose again because God loved us. Fourth, we are to live in the anxiety of His rescuing us from the presence of sin (this is perhaps the only time we are given permission to be anxious). In other words, we should be practicing the fundamentals of spiritual warfare as described in Ephesians 6. If C.S. Lewis were writing this, he might say we should be acting like King Peter.

Next, we are to tend to those who have been affected by ungodly influence. “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” (v. 22). This is where Lewis might say we are to be like Queen Lucy, with our healing cordial. The enemy will at times reach a few of our ranks, and we must be prepared to show them great mercy and restore them to the faith. There will be some who are superficially affected (doubting), while others will be more deeply impacted by the work of the enemy. Regardless, our ministry should be one of mercy.

The task at hand is not easy. This is why the letter closes with this encouragement: God our Savior through Christ Jesus our Lord is able to keep one from stumbling. He is the only one who can make us “stand in the presence of His glory blameless and with great joy” (v. 24).

The glory is His.
The majesty is His.
The dominion is His.
The authority is His.
Yesterday, today, forever. He never changes.

Contend!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Classical Friday . . . sort of.

Usually Fridays are reserved for literary excursions, but this week, I wanted to do something different. I want to share one of my favorite pieces of music. This particular piece is from "A Little Nightmare Music," by P.D.Q. Bach, the 21st of Johann Sebastian Bach's 20 children.

Prof. Peter Schickele, the only scholar who will study P.D.Q. Bach, divides the life of the composer into three parts: the "Initial Plunge" (when P.D.Q. learned the principles of music), the "Soused Period" (or the "Brown Bag" period, when he forgot what he learned in the Initial Plunge), and "Contrition" (the last short years of his life).

This piece demonstrates P.D.Q.'s excellent grasp and ability to plagiarize. It was a common practice for composers to borrow themes, but this piece is an excellent case-study in the composer's frequent use of tracing paper. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Randoms

Michael Thigpen (CIU Alumnus, 1994) has been named the first executive director of the Evangelical Theology Society (ETS). Another CIU alumnus, Andreas Kostenberger (1990), recently interviewed Thigpen in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society regarding his new position.

Get an early start on your Fall studies with Dr. Bryan Beyer, "Encountering the Old Testament":

Even more "Randoms":

  • Iran Issues Guidelines for Virtuous Haircuts for Men.
  • 27,000 Wells Abandoned, Unchecked in Gulf. This may explain why we always saw oil on Galveston beaches during the 1970's and 80's, when I lived there. Of course, nobody saw it as "disaster" then.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Ok, It's Your turn!

Using the Linkbait generator, what topics would you like to read?

  • 10 well kept secrets about Head-dibs.
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  • 5 of the most stomach churning Sean Connery Head-dibs quotes of all time.
  • What does Head-dibs have in common with a unicorn?
  • The only 7 Head-dibs resources you will ever need.
  • How politicians have exploited Head-dibs.
  • Life lessons learned from Head-dibs.
  • 8 unbelievable ways Head-dibs has been used by the military.
  • 5 amazing things you probably didn't know about Head-dibs.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

“Isn’t talking about hell like using a scare tactic to get people into heaven?”

There are programs today that allow teenagers to experience prison with the intent of saying, “you don’t want to be here.” It is a legitimate scare tactic that helps deter unlawful behavior and not only keeps the peace between citizens, but keeps families together and allows one to enjoy a better life. You should be thankful for programs like this! Who knows the kinds of people you rub shoulders with in this world!

Consider public service announcements like this that were very common years ago:



Are you aware that the number one causes of car accidents are trees?

Did you know that the number one killer in the world is death?

Have you ever seen what happens to a person who did not wear a seat-belt? I have.

He did not go home that night and hasn’t been home since.

When announcements like this are made, nobody complains because of the reality of the situation.

Let’s be clear about one thing. The message of the gospel is not about relocation; that is, being saved from one place to go to another. The message of the gospel is about reconciliation to a person. Mankind has offended God by sin and God wants to save people not merely from the punishment of sin, but from its power as well as its presence. Jesus did not die on a cross to bring people to a place, but to satisfy justice.

Think of it this way: your next door neighbor breaks into your house, what happens? The law steps in and punishes the offender. What about you? You are the victim—how are you compensated? You aren’t; that is, unless you file a civil suit and gain restitution. Only then does the criminal feel the full weight of the punishment due. And what about the breach in relationship that existed between you and your neighbor—how is that repaired?

Man has broken God’s law, which is like saying we have broken into the judge’s house. He is the dispenser of law and justice and there is nobody to step in, but the judge himself—how can one cry for mercy and grace when the relationship is broken? He cannot let a criminal go unless justice is satisfied.

Eternity is about enjoying God forever, or experiencing His wrath forever—either way, a person will still get God. Those who repent will miss the hell that is all God’s wrath, will enjoy life as one free to do everything he or she should, and can look forward to the day of freedom from the presence of sin. Those who will not repent are condemned already and will receive the wages due them.

There are those who deny this truth who will one day meet it head-on.

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." (Romans 1:18)

Monday, July 05, 2010

Special Announcement

Here is a special announcement from WTS Bookstore,, with some helpful FAQs.

What happened?

A car wreck can be a life-changing experience, and if you’ve ever been in a serious one, you know how small these words can be. There is almost no way to describe the spontaneity, the sudden impact, the sights and sounds, the pain that lasts for months or years or longer . . . Such an event or other disasters are very unforgiving.

They happen with no regard for who is involved, life experience, family, status, education or religion. There are occasions when good experiences happen that are so grand that they, too, can be equally “unforgiving” and leave an indelible mark just as plain as a disaster—especially when it comes without expectation. There is a colleague of mine who gushes this kind of grace. One cannot be in his presence without feeling uplifted, encouraged and blessed—even if it is relaying a mere, “good morning!”

Some people have good experiences that turn out to be a disaster for them while others experience horrendous tragedy that become for them an indescribable virtue. William “Bud” Post won $16.2 million in lottery money. Three months after receiving his first round of winning payments, he put himself $500,000 in debt. His good fortune also brought death threats and a hired hit-man from his brother. His landlady extorted one-third of his winnings from him and he was charged with assault for firing a shotgun at a bill collector. "I was much happier when I was broke," he moaned. “Bud” died of respiratory failure after living on $450.00 a month and food stamps. These were just the highlights of his tragedy. What happened?

Since 1967, Joni Eareckson Tada has been a quadriplegic in a wheel chair. That summer, the young teenager dove in a lake (not knowing how shallow it was) and broke her neck, causing paralysis from the neck down. Since 1969, she has written numerous books, recorded several musical albums, and is actively involved as an advocate for disabled people. Currently, she hosts a daily radio show, a television show, provides wheelchairs internationally for people in need, hosts family retreats, oversees The Christian Institute for Disability, and so much more. What happened?

There was a man who came from a very religious family who grew up to be highly educated, rich and very influential. Nursed from the cradle in the religion of his ancestors, he became so zealous that he became an authority and inspiration to many. He held dual citizenship and traveled extensively. Of course, many of his travels were fueled by religious zeal and intolerance to the point that he actually hunted and killed people with whom he disagreed—even those of his own ethnic and cultural context. Ever have one of those days when nothing goes right? Well, in one day, two events happened that could be said to be the train wreck that changed it all: he met someone and he was struck blind. Later in his life, he would reflect back on all this and say to the effect, “it’s all garbage. Before, my life was rubbish, refuse, dung—that stuff belongs with the dogs.” What happened?

Oswald Chambers in his short work, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, provides this marvelous insight: “It is useless to mistake careful consideration of circumstances for that which produces character. You cannot produce the life on the inside by watching the outside all the time.”

First, know that I am a firm believer in seat-belts. This did not come on a whim because I grew up in an era that never used them. I wear a seat belt because I watched through the broken windshield of my van the last few hours of a man who did not wear one.

The Apostle Paul is the third person described, above. What happened to him was he had what amounts a head-on collision with the very person he was persecuting, the Lord Jesus Christ. Sure we have enough crazies running around trying to influence the world after having their visions and so-called “heavenly visitations;” but, they prove themselves ingenuine because the Lord Jesus Christ was doing His own work through Paul in this case specifically. These other spirits are false because they run on man-power. [If you are paying attention you will know that “ingenuine” is not a word of acceptable usage, but is part of the culture and considered acceptable (the correct word should be “disingenuous”). See how easy it is to be fooled?]

Paul’s life did not change so drastically because he merely met and was commissioned by Jesus alone. He had to have something done with his sin problem. This is interesting because when it came to religion, even Paul admits he was top-notch when it came to religion—he was impeachable. But that was by man’s standard. Through the law, Paul understood how God saw his heart—he was a law-breaker, and lawlessness is sin. What the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished for him by His death, burial and resurrection had to transform him through repentance before He could carry the message. There was a period of 14 years or so between the time Jesus met him on the road and when he actually began his ministry.

When he began to move among Christians, they remembered him as one to be feared. What was he up to? What happened to Saul (his name before being changed to Paul)?

He was transformed through the tragedy of the cross.

And I was too.

What a blessing!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Freedom

Freedom is not the liberty to do as one desires, but the power to do everything one should.

Friday, July 02, 2010

How To React To An Oncoming Google Streetview Car | MakeUseOf.com

Good one!

How To React To An Oncoming Google Streetview Car MakeUseOf.com

Stephen King on "Why We Crave Horror Movies"

The Longman Reader (7th Edition, 2005) reprints an article written by horror writer, Stephen King, “Why We Crave Horror Movies.” The thesis of his essay is found in the very first sentence, “I think that we’re all mentally ill . . .” Here King presents a case that every person intentionally watches horror to keep one’s fears under control; well fed, but under control. “It deliberately speaks to all that is worst in us. It is morbidity unchained, or most base instincts let free, our nastiest fantasies realized . . . and it all happens, fittingly enough, in the dark.” King says the basic reason why people will pay money to watch gore is like riding a roller coaster, “to show that we can, that we are not afraid . . . to re-establish our feelings of essential normality . . . and we go to have fun.”

King tries to make the case that murderous insanity is in the same category as public nose-picking. The potential lyncher or saint needs to be “let loose to scream and roll around in the grass.” Why over-work the good emotional muscles and neglect the muscle-tone of those less desirable?

There is a logical fallacy in the title of his article, because not everyone craves horror movies. King eventually tells the truth concerning horror movies, which becomes the key to understanding why certain people crave. First, he says, “the horror movie is innately conservative, even reactionary.” What is being held back? What is being reacted against? All that is good. He writes, “If we share a brotherhood of man, then we also share an insanity of man. None of which is intended as a defense of either the sick joke or insanity but merely as an explanation of why the best horror films, like the best fairy tales, manage to be reactionary, anarchistic, and revolutionary all at the same time.”

What he admits is that, on the action level (where we live), man is without excuse, whether he picks his nose in public or eats someone’s lung just to see what it tastes like. The level of non-reality (in the horror film) does not give man a way out, but a place to reflect what he is really like against all that is good, orderly, and authoritative. The horror of Poe and other classical writers is rooted in the knowledge that destruction is inescapable on various levels. The cruelty of man against man is shocking, fantasy or otherwise, and the bar must be lowered for impact.

The conscience has become calloused, discernment has become compromised, thinking has stopped, so the depravity must go lower to feed the craving of the cruelty that lies in the heart.
What scares me most is that all that is put into a screen play comes from within man who picked up a pen instead of an axe. He committed in mind and on paper what some do in real life—and really, there is no difference.

How is this entertainment? Would you pay for a seat and buy popcorn to watch your family get killed? Sadly, there are some that would.

Ever wish someone were dead? God calls that murder, and no murderer has inheritance in the kingdom of God. Man is not insane at heart but a sinner by nature, and when a murderer dies and stands before God on judgment day, he or she will learn the true meaning of horror in choosing their own sin over God’s way out through repentance by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Randoms

Watch this excellent presentation called "The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon"

"The Watchtower Society Exposed" is an older documentary, but worth the time.

Grek Koukl answers the question, "How do I give a gracious response to someone who tells me he's 'sending white light' my way when I've asked for prayers?"

I can't stand it when people push their opinions on me. I am offended by this public service announcement:

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