Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: The Exemplary Husband


This is as good a text on a husband’s responsibility in marriage as I have ever read. It is divided into four major parts, each part making an important contribution to the whole. He alliterates the part titles, something I’m not in favor of as it tends to produce strained points. But his aren’t too bad. Part One deals with “A Husband’s Recognitions” and covers the basics of the Gospel, spiritual life, and marriage. Part Two, “A Husband’s Responsibilities,” cover the fundamental responsibilities that a husband has in marriage, making the worship of Christ first priority, then love, leadership, physical intimacy and stewardship. “A Husband’s Resolves” are next, which Scott identifies as humility and service, sensitivity, helping your wife deal with sin, communications, and conflict resolution. The final part has to do with “A Husband’s Regrets,” anger, anxiety and fear, and lust.

Scott does a great job with each of these, lays an adequate biblical foundation, provides examples, and then provides practical tips for putting each point into practice. He covers vitally important marriage skills, like repentance/confession, and forgiveness with biblical faithfulness.

About the only place I have some disagreement is in his understanding of what it means for love to “cover” sin, and I don't see this as a major issue.

This is an terrific resource that can be used on its own, or in a group or counseling setting. With this volume you have gathered in one place a biblical toolbox for men. It’s an outstanding book.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Windshield Washer Wars

Have you ever been driving down the Interstate in tight traffic when the guy in front of you decides to wash his windshield (usually on a cloudless, sunny day)? Suddenly arcing over his car is a spray so thick you can see rainbows in it, and it all falls on your windshield, so you get to wash yours, too. Some vengeful people will actually speed up, go around Mr. Inverted Niagra, and return the favor.

I, of course, have never done that! It wouldn’t be sanctified. And besides, my windshield washer behaves more like a cheap squirt-gun on empty. Not only will it not shoot over my windshield, it hardly dribbles. I spit more preaching than that thing does when it’s going full-bore. Oh, that was too much info, wasn’t it? Sorry.

Anyway, Doris comes home on Wednesday—we are one hour from leaving for Iowa for Thanksgiving—and announces that the windshield washer has quit even its spittin’ and would I please fix it? Hope against hope, I check the reservoir. Maybe it will be empty, and I can heal the bloomin’ thing by simply filling it up. No such luck. It was full to the brim. Well, there goes Monday. . . .

Monday—that would be today—was now scheduled with an impossible task: fixing the windshield washer thingy. I am neither a mechanic nor the son of a mechanic, although I do possess a relatively unique mechanical skill: I can stretch a 30 minute, one-screwdriver job into a deep-level excavation requiring all day and every socket, wrench, hammer and crowbar that I own. Knowing of my unique skill set, I hope fervently that today will be my lucky day. If I am really lucky, I start and finish on the same day. If I am not really lucky, I am walking to work tomorrow.

What I do best is talk, so I decided this morning to start with a little counseling. I sat down with the Vue, and in a kind, non-threatening, non-judgmental way tried to convince the car to resume dispensing windshield washer fluid. Just start the fluid coming again, and nobody gets hurt.


Might as well have been speaking to a dumb post. Out come the tools. Oh, my, there’s this thingy connected to that thingy, and this bundle of things is in the way, and . . . . 


If you’ve not been under the hood of a modern automobile, it’s kind of like this: to work on anything more complex than fueling the automobile, you need hands the size of a two-year-old attached to arms the length an NBA center's, and possessing the strength of a WWF wrestler. Actually, you need about four of those hand/arm/strength assemblies, plus a normal guy to hold the flashlight.

 
Working on a car is really good for my prayer life, because I pray like crazy that I’ll remember to reconnect everything to the proper connection. So, I start praying and removing parts. It does not matter what you want to remove, something else is in the way. So when you try to remove the something else, then there’s a new something else in the way. You pretty much need to disassemble the entire vehicle. 

I was accumulating a good sized pile of parts, and was wishing I could pray in tongues because I didn’t know what to call the widgets I was removing from the automobile, and even if I did know, I'd be unable to pronounce their names.

Meanwhile, time is moving on. Finally, sometime in the afternoon, I unearth the windshield washer reservoir (this is after I drained it all over the floor). The battery is now out of the car, and disconnected. The coolant overflow reservoir is now mostly unassembled, and almost out of the car. Hoses A through M have been disconnected, and, Oh, Lord, help me to remember to reconnect Hose G with Pipe G, and not Tank H!

Ah. The offending widget – the windshield washer pump – or, I suppose, the automatic transmission fluid pump, although I hope not.


 I drop the offending part in my pocket, and head for the auto parts store, confident that I can buy the part and finish this job in a mere six hours.

Not so fast, Speedy Gonzales. The parts store does not have the part and cannot get it. Okay, where can I get it? The kind parts man gets on the phone and starts dialing around. Advance Auto can order it and have it here by 4PM. I’ll take it. I come back at 4PM. It’s not here yet, maybe 6PM. Fine, the day is already wasted, what’s another two hours? I come back at 6PM, and the part is there as promised.

Have a good day, the nice auto parts man says. Thanks, I says, I will if I can finish this big job. Big job, he asks, looking at my little windshield washer pump. He’s trying hard not to chuckle. Well, yeah, I says, you’ve got to move all this stuff out of the way, the battery, the overflow, the . . . . I trail off, suddenly realizing that these guys are mechanics and that my big job would take them, maybe, ten minutes. Big jobs to these people are the ones where after you’ve removed the engine, overhauled it, and resized the piston bore, you install a new transmission kind of thing. Those big jobs take ‘em maybe thirty minutes. 

Having thoroughly embarrassed myself, I beat a hasty retreat. I get home and open the box of my brand new pump and find that the instrucciones are not much help.


 It is now dark in my garage, so I put a halogen work light on top of the engine to give me enough light. I wrap the extension cord around the license plate, so that I don’t accidentally pull the lamp off of the engine.


 I am reinstalling the whatzit and connecting it to the somthing-er-other, and sustain a devastating injury to my hands. Doris manages to convince me that I won’t bleed out for another sixty years at the current rate of hemorrhage. I ask her to kiss it and make it better, but she wants no part of it. Ah, my suffering. . . .


 At long last I am able to close the hood of my automobile without sitting on it, and figure that I must have everything back in place. An optimist, I decide I better back out of the garage before I try out my newly installed inverted Niagra windshield washer. As I am backing out of the garage, I notice with some bemusement that my halogen work light is following me out of the garage. Oh, boy. Forgot about that.


Now, if someday I am following close behind you on the Interstate in my Saturn Vue, go ahead. Try your windshield washer. Make my day.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

And a little more Tozer!

Lost in today’s religious world is the radical antithesis between the redeemed and the unregenerate. “Coming to church” has become the test of faith, rather than joyful belief in and submission to the pure, unadulterated message of the Gospel. But “coming to church” is a duty attended to by all the world’s religions, and no more makes one a Christian than a visit to a clinic makes one a medical doctor.

Christianity is first and last a relationship with a real, living Person—Jesus Christ, a relationship possible only when one has been regenerated, brought from a state of spiritual death to life. It is not wrapped up in the confession of a concept, the reciting of a creed, the joining of a church, or warm religious feelings. Jesus Christ is the Living God—which means He actually exists as a real person, a thinking, choosing, volitional, emotional Being. He exists wholly independently from creation, from people, from human consciousness. He was before all things, and by Him all things exist.

Any religious sensibility that names Jesus and confesses to love and admire Him yet falls short of a genuine redemptive relationship with Him as a real, living Person is in no way Christian. Tozer’s comments on this sort of “Christianity”—which is essentially unchanged by an encounter with Christ and feels equally comfortable with the world and the Church—are helpful.

It is no more than a religious platitude to say that the trouble with us today is that we have tried to bridge the gulf between two opposites, the world and the Church, and have performed an illicit marriage for which there is no biblical authority. Actually no real union between the world and the Church is possible. When the Church joins up with the world it is the true Church no longer but only a pitiful hybrid thing, an object of smiling contempt to the world and an abomination to the Lord.

The twilight in which many (or should we say most?) believers walk today is not caused by any vagueness on the part of the Bible. Nothing could be clearer than the pronouncements of the Scriptures on the Christian’s relation to the world. The confusion which gathers around this matter results from the unwillingness of professing Christians to take the Word of the Lord seriously. Christianity is so entangled with the world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern. Compromise is everywhere. The world is whitewashed just enough to pass inspection by blind men posing as believers, and those same believers are everlastingly seeking to gain acceptance with the world. By mutual concessions men who call themselves Christians manage to get on with men who have for the things of God nothing but quiet contempt.

This whole thing is spiritual in its essence. A Christian is what he is not by ecclesiastical manipulation but by the new birth. He is a Christian because of a Spirit which dwells in him. Only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The flesh can never be converted into spirit, no matter how many church dignitaries work on it. Confirmation, baptism, holy communion, confession of faith—none of these nor all of them together can turn flesh into spirit nor make a son of Adam a son of God [Tozer, ThePursuit of Man, pp 115-7].

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

More Tozer

The true Christian has a passion and love for truth, and feels not at all uncomfortable with the imperialistic, exclusive nature of truth. And yet if that passion for truth is not regulated by warm love for our neighbor, we are to the lost but frowning, bitter advocates of something the world finds to be foolish. Truth riding on the crest of love is appealing, but mired in the muck of pride it can be disgusting. In the nature of God these two great forces are never in tension: "Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85:10). Not so in man. If we are not trained by humility, we will attempt to wield truth as a battering ram with which we try to bludgeon our neighbors, our children, and our spouse into submission.

As Tozer focuses on the Holy Spirit in the last third of his book, The Pursuit of Man, he speaks about love and truth:

The blight of the Pharisee's heart in olden times was doctrine without love. With the teachings of the Pharisees Christ had little quarrel, but with the pharisaic spirit He carried on unceasing warfare to the end. It was religion that put Christ on the cross, religion without the indwelling Spirit. It is no use to deny that Christ was crucified by persons who today would be called fundamentalists. This should prove most disquieting if not downright distressing to us who pride ourselves on our orthodoxy. An unblessed soul filled with the letter of truth may actually be worse off than a pagan kneeling before a fetish. We are safe only when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, only when our intellects are indwelt by the loving Fire that came at Pentecost. For the Holy Spirit is not a luxury, not something added now and again to produce a deluxe type of Christian once in a generation. No, He is for every child of God a vital necessity, and that He fill and indwell His people is more than a languid hope. It is rather an inescapable imperative [A. W. Tozer, 106].

Nowhere is this human, fallen, and wholly unnecessary contradiction between love and truth seen so clearly as in our communications on the Internet. Our flame wars do little more than demonstrate how little the truth has changed us, and I am as guilty as the next. We are like the sons of thunder, who in the face of rejection asked Jesus, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" (Luke 9:54). Jesus' response to James and John is one we still need to heed today: "But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:55-56, while there is a textual issue with His precise words, there is none with the fact of His rebuke).

May God invade us with His Holy Spirit, that our stand for truth would be unyielding but bathed in warm-hearted love and respect for those who do not yet know the Truth, Whom to know aright is life eternal.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Tozer: Victory through defeat

On Facebook I've been posting excerpts from A. W. Tozer's The Pursuit of Man. I'm continuing that series here. The following is from chapter 4: Victory through Defeat. Tozer's basic point in this chapter is that we must be conquered by the cross and know death thereon, before we can truly know life.

We might well pray for God to invade and conquer us, for until He does we remain in peril from a thousand foes. We bear within us the seeds of our own disintegration. Our moral imprudence puts us always in danger of accidental or reckless self-destruction. The strength of our flesh is an ever present danger to our souls. Deliverance can come to us only by the defeat of our old life. Safety and peace come only after we have been forced to our knees. God rescues us by breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance. Then He invades our natures with that ancient and eternal life which is from the beginning. So He conquers us and by that benign conquest saves us for Himself.

With this open secret awaiting easy discovery, why do we in almost all our busy activities work in another direction from this? Why do we build our churches on human flesh? Why do we set such store by that which the Lord has long ago repudiated and despise those things which God holds in such high esteem? For we teach men not to die with Christ but to live in the strength of their dying manhood. We boast not in our weakness but in our strength. Values which Christ has declared to be false are brought back into evangelical favor and promoted as the very life and substance of the Christian way. How eagerly do we seek the approval of this or that man of worldly reputation. How shamefully do we exploit the converted celebrity. Anyone will do to take away the reproach of obscurity from our publicity-hungry leaders: famous athletes, congressmen, world travelers, rich industrialists; before such we bow with obsequious smiles and honor them in our public meetings and in the religious press. Thus we glorify men to enhance the standing of the Church of God, and the glory of the Prince of Life is made to hang upon the transient fame of a man who shall die. . . .

. . . The loss, the rejection, the shame, both belong to Christ and to all who in very truth are His. The cross that saves them also slays them them, and anything short of this is pseudo-faith and not true faith at all. . . . How can we face Him who was crucified and slain when we see His followers accepted and praised? . . .

. . . [I]f I see aright, the cross of popular evangelicalism is not the cross of the New Testament. It is, rather, a bright new ornament upon the bosom of self-assured and carnal Christianity whose hands are indeed the hands of Abel, but whose voice is the voice of Cain. The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it. The old cross brought tears and blood; the new cross brings laughter. The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings about the cross; before the cross it bows  and toward the cross it points with carefully staged histrionics--but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach of that cross it stubbornly refuses to bear. . . .

. . . The life that halts short of the cross is but a fugitive and condemned thing, doomed at last to be beyond recovery. That life which goes to the cross and loses itself there to rise again with Christ is a divine and breathless treasure. Over it death hath no more dominion. . . .

Friday, September 6, 2013

Our President

President Obama stumbles from scandal to crisis. The unifying theme is that each is self-inflicted. The high-flying rhetoric is freighted with too much duplicity to get airborne. The hubris has come home to roost. Mocked abroad, distrusted at home, a disappointment to his supporters, a lawless Chicago con to his detractors, there's not a great deal he can do for an encore.

He is, in my opinion, a clear and present danger to our constitutional republic. Under Obama we have lost the rule of law and transitioned to the rule of something that bears more resemblence to a monarchy (to put the best light on it) than that of a chief executive beholden to a constitution and a tripartite division of federal power. Under Obama, the federal government now has a collective integrity that approximates something between pre-Katrina Louisiana and New Jersey.

The Justice Department has become the chief threat to justice, the EPA is a regulatory monster, the Education Department is the main obstacle to providing a real education in our schools (okay, hold the phone on that charge, that's been true in every administration), the IRS has been transformed into a political club with which to beat opponents of the President, the NSA has all the trappings of the prelude to a police state, and the Constitution has become the deadest "living document" you can imagine. And that's not even mentioning the confusion, uncertainty, and destruction he has wrought on American healthcare, nor the devastation his policies have worked on our economy. I suppose that the one thing I can say about him is that he is quite thorough.

And now he's driven his golf-cart into a box canyon called Syria, and there's no way out. As Victor Davis Hanson says, he has no good options. Some men make history by their leadership through the crises of their times. President Obama is about to make history, but unfortunately it will not be skilled leadership for which he will be remembered.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Book Review: The Facts on Roman Catholicism

John Ankerberg's The Facts on Roman Catholicism, is part of Ankerberg’s series on various religions and religious topics. It is very readable, very brief (86 pages of text, not including footnotes), and very well documented. The bad reviews it receives on Amazon are primarily from Catholics, who object to--and in some cases, demonstrate--the points that Ankerberg makes.

Ankerberg compares and contrasts the Bible and the official beliefs of Roman Catholicism in five sections: Divine Revelation and Authority, Introduction to Roman Catholicism, Salvation and Justification, the Roles of the Bible, the Pope, and Mary, and a Conclusion.

In each section, Ankerberg cites official Roman Catholic documents to establish the Catholic position, and then compares it to the Bible. Central to his argument, especially the section on Justification, is the charge that while Protestants and Catholics share the the same terminology—such as “justification”—what they mean by those terms is entirely different. Ankerberg clearly shows that the Catholic notion of salvation is wrapped up in works and personal (albeit, “infused”) righteousness.

This is a good, brief resource for those seeking clarification about Catholic beliefs, especially as they contrast with biblical teaching.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Review: When a Nation Forgets God

Erwin Lutzer’s When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany is a book whose time has come. Lutzer combines painstaking research detailing Germany’s tortured path to National Socialism in the 1920s and 1930s with biblical insight, producing a clarion call for faithfulness addressed to today’s church. In each chapter he traces the cynical machinations of Hitler’s Nazis and the failure of Germany’s Christians, and then brings the lessons learned to bear on modern-day American Christianity.

The first major lesson has to do with what happens when God is separated from government. When a nation scrubs clean from its market places, courthouses, and legislatures any references to God and His rule, judgment inevitably follows. It might not be the immediate judgment of some cataclysm, it may be condemnation to a slow, inevitable decay but nonetheless, divine wrath follows.

The second lesson concerns the economy. Lutzer shows that when economic disaster strikes, whether through manipulation or unintended events, a nation will trade freedom for economic safety even if it means accepting totalitarian control. Germany’s roller-coaster economy in the 20s and 30s left the people ready for a dictator.

The third major lesson reveals the consequence of eliminating God as the ultimate source of law. Lutzer pursues the telling adage, show me your source of law, and I’ll show you your gods. He demonstrates that when the principle of law is unhooked from belief in a divine lawgiver who sits in ultimate judgment over mankind, all hell breaks loose in a society.

Fourth, the power of propaganda is exposed. Lutzer explains Hitler’s penchant for big lies as opposed to small ones, and shows how a society can be conditioned to accept the most outrageous propositions as truth. Through media, through setting the terms and tone of a national conversation, through the promise of acceptance and approbation combined with the threat of mockery and scorn (and worse), the German people were transformed from a normal nation into one that perpetrated horrors unspeakable.

Compulsory public education was another major channel through which the primacy of National Socialism was inculcated into German society. The author exposes the methods (and goals) of secular “Values Clarification” and demonstrates that this methodology is the dominant feature in American public education. He who controls the education of children controls the future.

In chapter six Lutzer lays down a positive lesson: people make a difference. He speculates that history might have been different had German pastors and Christians stood firm against the secular darkness of that era. The writer shares stories of Christians who have made a difference in their time, even at great cost to themselves, and he calls on the church to once again be such a witness.

Finally Lutzer challenges the modern church to exalt the cross in the gathering darkness. The gospel message must not be confused, diluted, or corrupted with a false message of prosperity, psychological comfort, or even good causes. We must preach the cross and live the suffering to which it calls us, keeping our eyes upon Christ.

If I have any criticism of this book, it is a mystifying failure of Lutzer in chapter three. The chapter is an exposition of its title: “That which is legal might also be evil.” After tracing the changes in law in Nazi Germany that made possible its pograms, Lutzer looks at America and finds two flaws that have weakened the impact of Christianity on American law. He cites the onset of evolution and theological liberalism and makes a good case for the destructive tendencies of both. But nowhere does he even mention American Christianity’s acceptance of slavery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There was probably no greater damage done to the influence and credibility of the church than its failure to stand against the scourge of human slavery. Like Nazi Germany, many of the arguments made in favor of slavery centered around the question of whether African blacks were subhuman. As I was reading this chapter I was expecting Lutzer to say something, anything, by way of critique on this subject. If he said it, I missed it. It is a crucial failure that ought to be corrected in the next edition.

That criticism notwithstanding, this book combines three great qualities: first, it is firmly anchored with excellent research in a faithful representation of both history and the modern day. Second, the insights it contains are profound and thoroughly biblical. Third, it is brief and accessible. Every person concerned about the direction of our nation, and our churches, should read this outstanding book.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life-verse Number Three

Jeremiah 45:5 “‘But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh,’ declares the Lord, ‘but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go.’”

This verse requires a bit of context. The prophet Jeremiah had a secretary named Baruch. The technical, scholarly term is “amanuensis” - you can use it to impress your friends and neighbors, but it means, essentially, “secretary.” An amanuensis was one who would record what another said or dictated (think, court recorder).

Baruch is the one who actually wrote the scroll of Jeremiah, as Jeremiah dictated it to him. Jeremiah the prophet was persona non grata in the royal court of Judah, because his prophecies were condemning the Judean kingdom for their sins as the clock ran down on the southern kingdom. Since Baruch was associated with the hated prophet, he shared in the abuse and contempt. It could not have been pleasant to be hated by your own people while the barbarians were at the gates (actually, it was the Babylonians).

At some low point for the scribe, God gave to Jeremiah a word of encouragement for Baruch, with a promise. “Drop your personal ambitions and dreams of greatness, Baruch. It’s not an appropriate time for that. Instead, I will give you your life as a prize.”

This is for me both a rebuke and a comfort. When I was a young believer, I had dreams and ambitions of “what I would do for God.” Like most ambitions, mine were sullied with prideful desires for personal greatness. Needless to say, my great ambitions did not pan out. And it’s a good thing, too. I already struggle too much with personal pride. Visual success would simply be more than I could handle. God is so gracious.

This promise to Baruch is mine. Christ has given me my life, in that He has saved me and provided me with eternal life. By His good grace, my path has followed His course for me, not my own. Those dreams didn’t pan out, but they were more for me than for Christ. It’s been a far better path than I would have chosen. This is my life verse for the latter portion of my life as a believer, and it is a good one—a blessing.

Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t, Christian. God has given you your life as a prize, instead. What He has for you is far better than what you would have chosen for yourself.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bye-bye Barnes and Noble!

Rats! After struggling for several hours with the Nook platform, I regret to say that I am abandoning the Barnes and Noble NOOK. However - if you have a NOOK, and want a copy of one of my books, be sure to read to the end of this post. As always, Kindle copies are available on Amazon.

Two reasons why I am ditching the B&N platform.

#1, When I look at my book on the Nook for PC it looks perfect. When I look at it on the Nook Previewer on the author site, it looks terrible. C'mon, B&N! Both of these viewers are your software! Get your act together!

#2, There is currently a maelstrom of discontent among Nook authors. B&N is messing around with the Nook author's site (transfering everything from PubIt! to NOOK Press). It is a fiasco.

As an independent author who holds down a full-time job, I want to spend my discretionary time WRITING not playing with the bits and the bytes, or xhtml.

If you have a Nook, and you want to read one of my books, use the contact form on my web site and I'll be glad to email you the file directly. If it works on your Nook, you can pay me. If it doesn't, delete the file and we won't worry about it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Life-verse Number Two

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says:
Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.
I love this passage. Somewhere along the line in my earliest days as a believer in Christ, I was reading Jeremiah and these two verses jumped out and grabbed me and carried me around the room a couple times. This is my life-verse.

I am one prone to boast. When I tend to be inflated with pride—puffed up, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:1—this passage calls me back, plants my feet on the ground. There is but One of whom to boast—and it’s not me. I will boast of Christ, that by His divine sovereign election I know Him. I will boast of Christ, that by His grace and mercy I know and love His Word. Apart from Christ I would be deaf to His Word and blind to His glory. Apart from Christ I would remain spiritually dead and headed for an inexorable judgment. Apart from Christ the gospel would be foolishness to me, and the ways of the world, wisdom.

When I sign my name, I often add the reference “Je 9:23-24.” When I was at Westminster, some of my instructors took exception to my using that text. They knew my background (fundamentalist), and thought I was staking out some sort of anti-intellectual position. I can understand why they might have thought that: the fundamentalist movement has often fallen prey to that self-defeating and biblically foolish position.

But my use of Jeremiah has never been a statement of that sort. It’s not a rebuke for someone else: it is a reminder for me: I have nothing of which to boast—except Christ, whom to know aright is life eternal. In Him, of Him, I will boast.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

This one's for you, dad.

  The following is taken from the dedication page of my new novel, Falcon Down. I thought I'd put it on my blog for Father's Day.
Dedication
In memory of Cdr. Lewis Milner Cobb, USN (Ret.)

In every generation there are those men and women who simply do what needs to be done, even at great risk to themselves. My dad was one of those men. He was pursuing an engineering degree at Georgia Tech when World War II reprogrammed his future. Dad joined the Navy and became a fighter pilot, flying Grumman Hellcats off the pitching decks of carriers in the Pacific. He married mom in August, 1945, expecting to return to the Pacific for his third tour after their honeymoon, but by the time their honeymoon was over the war had ended. He stayed in the Navy, eventually retiring as a commander in 1966. From there he went into the Episcopal ministry, still serving people, but in a different way.

He died a couple of years ago. He was faithful to his wife, his family, and his country: a good man, with a life well-lived. He was a great father. This one’s for you, dad.

Life-verse Number One

I have three life verses from Jeremiah—three and counting, I expect.

As a prophet, Jeremiah is very apropos to our generation. His is a sixth-century BC book. Babylon is besieging Jerusalem. The once proud nation is now in its death throes. Sounds a lot like another country I know. And its people are enmeshed in sin and rebellion; they want relief, but are not particularly interested in repentance.

I’ll take my life verses in chronological order, as God used them in my life. First up is Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

In 1974 I was a freshman, a Geology major, at Colorado State University. I was mostly agnostic and completely lost. God was for me an abstraction at best and a distraction at worst: I wasn’t interested.

I was button-holed on the campus by a fellow named Chuck. He had a Bible in his hand; I tried to avoid him, but failed. Trapped, I grudgingly consented to hear what he had to say while making it obvious by my body language that I was not the slightest bit interested.

He began sharing the Gospel with me. As a teen I had enjoyed trying to talk other bible-banging teens out of their faith, but this guy parried every thrust with the Word of God. He patiently and gently answered my every question and my every objection right out of the text, and God began to work in my heart. I was not seeking God, but He was seeking me.

At some point Chuck quoted Jeremiah 17:9, and with that my resistance collapsed. I had been outed, I had been pegged, I had been exposed. All my self-righteousness went up in smoke at that moment and I knew that God saw right through my act. God knew my heart, and His knowledge was dead-on accurate.

All my objections became superfluous, because I knew that only a living God could pierce me with truth as I had been pierced. I trusted Christ that very day, and have been trusting Him ever since.

Jeremiah 17:9 is a pretty humiliating life verse—but I love it. It’s still true of me, but less true than it was thirty-seven years ago, and a year from now it will be even less true of me than it is today. The closer to Christ I grow, the more clearly I see my own corruption. And the more grateful I am that God the Son absorbed the righteous wrath of His Father; wrath that should have been poured on me. I will never be called to account for my sins before the judgment bar of God, because they’ve already been paid through the death of Christ, and God doesn’t do double jepoardy. Hallelujah!

I’m thankful for the Son of God who purchased my salvation, for a man named Chuck who gave me the facts of the Gospel straight, and for Jeremiah 17:9 which exposed my sins!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Force Government workers to live on Obamacare

Here's a great article. It's basic point is that all government employees (including and especially legislators) should have to switch to Obamacare for their insurance. Personally, I would exempt the military. But everyone from Obama on down in the government should be made to switch to Obamacare for their health insurance.

Book Review: The Discipline of Grace, by Jerry Bridges

Bridges, Jerry. The Discipline of Grace:God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006.

Bridges is a great writer on holiness and the disciplines of the Christian life. But a one-sided emphasis on discipline can cause the believer to lapse into a performance mentality in their relationship with Christ, thus falling into a sort of legalism. The solution is a fresh apprehension of grace, which means a fresh appreciation of the gospel and its enablement of holy living. Bridges accomplishes precisely that in his book, The Discipline of Grace.
 
Bridges is able to show that it really is not “balance” that is necessary, as though we must juggle the conflicting emphases between discipline and grace; rather, it is a full-bodied appreciation of what the gospel is, and what Christ has wrought through the gospel. The author shows that we are able to pursue grace and holiness as a single pursuit, not two separate ones.

This is yet another valuable contribution to the library of Bridge’s offerings aimed at Christian growth. Believers will find it very helpful.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fielding Age-of-the-Earth Questions Evangelistically - By Mark Thompson

What follows is a guest-post from Mark Thompson. I really enjoyed it and I trust you will as well.



Fielding Age-of-the-Earth Questions Evangelistically
Anyone who has gone through the public education system or listened to the national media cover what might be called “origins science” has been inundated with the idea that the earth is billions of years old.  Individuals whom the Spirit is leading to consider the claims of Christianity may have legitimate questions stemming from the assertions of evolution.  In answering their questions, we must always emphasize that when the scientific facts are seen in their proper light they will always agree with the Bible because the Bible is the ultimate source of truth.  Scientific evidences cannot be used to “prove” the Bible to an unbeliever because evidences may well change over time and, more importantly, fallen men consistently interpret evidences in light of their presuppositions (unproven starting assumptions, such as naturalism).

This said, I do believe it is appropriate and indeed glorifying to God to show how creation testifies to His infinite wisdom and might (Rom.1:18-22).  But the goal of our Christian witness always needs to be a respectful but authoritative presentation of the gospel (1 Cor.2:1-5).  Do not give up the bedrock of God’s Word to stand on the shifting sands of popular scientific opinion.  The following was my response to an age-of-the-earth question from a friend with whom I have already shared the gospel.  As disciples of Christ, we need to consistently elevate the authority of His Word in interpreting all of life and reality.
   
Mark, how many years ago did Adam & Eve arrive on earth?
3-4-5-6-7 Thousand years ago?

Hey my friend!

It’s good to hear from you!  Have you seen the planetary tango in the west?  Friday night I was able to put all three into a 5 degree binocular field of view.  It was a stunning sight!

Life has been a little crazy recently with our youngest graduating from High School (though he took his last two years at Edison Community College) and preparing for his open house this last Sunday.  There is nothing like having a whole lot of people over to motivate you to get those neglected projects completed!

As to the date of the first couple, I agree with many conservative Bible scholars who place their creation and that of the earth and cosmos a little over 6,000 years ago based on what is called a “strict” reading of the Bible’s genealogies and a normal reading of Genesis 1 and 2.  Some conservative scholars would allow for the possibility of missing generations in the genealogies (the term “father” could possibly mean “ancestor”, such as in our referencing “the founding fathers” or “our forefathers”).  They might push the beginning back as far as 10,000 years or so. 

Obviously God was the only one who was there in the beginning and so is the only One who could accurately tell us when that beginning was or what it was like.  As the Lord asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell Me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4).  I do believe that there is a large volume of scientific evidence that would support the Bible’s chronological framework but I doubt whether you would ever hear it mentioned, let alone be given a fair hearing in secular publications. 

Part of the problem lies in the fact that none of us is unbiased.  We all look at facts with certain assumptions. My assumption is that an infinitely wise Creator, who was able to design such incredibly complicated things as DNA, was able to infallibly communicate truth about human origins and all other areas He deems important for humans to function as He designed us. There are three questions concerning any “clocks” that we might look to in nature that are particularly important: 1) what were the starting conditions, 2) has the rate of change been consistent over time or has there been factors that may have caused that rate to vary and, 3) has there been any “contamination” from outside?  These three assumptions play heavily in interpreting various radiometric clocks, which give dramatically varying ages for rocks. 

Interestingly enough, many geologists are resorting to catastrophes to explain the geological features of the earth and not gradual, uniform change.  This is much more in keeping with what would result from a worldwide flood as detailed in Genesis 6-8.  The theory of geologic uniformitarianism and the denial of the Genesis flood were predicted to be prevalent in the end times by Peter when he penned 2 Peter 3:3-7.

If you are really interested in checking out scientific evidences for a young earth, I would suggest exploring material published or offered for free online by Answers in Genesis or the Creation Research Institute.  I have a good bit of fascinating material by AIG.  Let me briefly mention several of the evidences that they detail in an article from their Answers magazine (see, www.answersmagazine.com/go/10evidences):

1) Very Little Sediment on the Seafloor.  If Sediments have been accumulating on the seafloor for 3 billion years, the seafloor should be choked with sediments many miles deep.  Yet the average thickness globally is less than 1300 feet.  This amount of sediment is easily explained by water draining off the continents towards the end of the Biblical flood but certainly not by evolutionary models.

2) Bent Rock Layers.  In many mountainous areas, rock layers thousands of feet thick have been bent and folded without fracturing.  How could that have possibly happened if layers were laid down separately over hundreds of millions of years and already hardened?  Hardened rock layers, including sedimentary layers, are very brittle (think about hardened cement).  Fossil-bearing layers in places like the Grand Canyon were laid down quickly and folded while still wet and, hence, are not fractured! 

3) Soft Tissue in Fossils.  Bone slices from the fossilized thigh bone of a Tyrannosaurus Rex recently found by Dr. Mary Schweitzer in Montana and reported in Scientific America (Dec. 2010, pp. 62-69) contain blood vessels with red blood cells and nuclei along with specialized lining cells.  The bone marrow contained flexible tissue, proteins and complex molecules.  There is no known way to explain these features from a specimen a supposed 68 million years old, but it has repeatedly been demonstrated by many studies of Egyptian mummies and other humans historically dated to more than 4,000 years old.

4) The Faint Sun Paradox. Evidence supports astronomer’s belief that the sun’s power comes from the fusion of hydrogen into helium.  As the hydrogen fused, it should change the composition of the sun’s core, gradually increasing the sun’s temperature.  If true, this means that the earth was colder in the past.  Indeed, it should have been below freezing 3.5 billion years ago when life supposedly evolved.  Evolutionists acknowledge that there is no evidence of this in the geologic record and even call this the “faint young sun paradox”.  Obviously, this is not a problem if the solar system is only thousands of years old.

5) Rapidly Decaying Magnetic Field.  The earth is surrounded by a magnetic field that protects living things from solar radiation.  Without it, life could not exist.  The magnetic field around the earth has been measured since 1845 and consistently found to be wearing down at a rate that testifies that the earth could not be older than 20,000 years old.  “Reliable, accurate, published geological field data have emphatically confirmed the young-earth model” (Dr. Andrew Snelling). 

6) Helium in Radioactive Rocks.  Radioactive elements in rocks produce a lot of helium as they decay; and this gas quickly escapes into the atmosphere, especially when the rocks are hot.  Yet radioactive rocks in the earth’s crust contain a lot of helium.  The only possible explanation is that the helium hasn’t had enough time to escape.  Rocks mined in New Mexico show an average diffusion age of only 6,000 years (+/- 2,000 yrs.).

7) Carbon-14 in Fossils, Coal, and Diamonds. Carbon-14 (Radiocarbon) is a radioactive form of carbon that scientists use to attempt to date fossils.  Because its decay half-life is a mere 5,730 years none is expected to remain in fossils after only a few hundred thousand years.  Yet carbon-14 has been detected in “ancient” fossils – supposedly up to hundreds of millions of years old- ever since the earliest days of radiocarbon dating.  Diamonds supposedly 1 to 3 billion years old yield carbon-14 ages of only 55,000 years.  (This assumes that the earth’s magnetic field was not stronger in the past, which would have protected the atmosphere from solar radiation and reduced the radiocarbon production.  Hence, the amount of radiocarbon to begin with in every creature was less and their deaths occurred much more recently than reported.) 

8) Short-lived Comets.  (My friend), as you know, comets have little mass and each close encounter with the sun greatly reduces the comet’s size.  Given that the loss rates are well known, it is easy to calculate the absolute maximum age of comets, which is only a few million years (not billions).  Kuiper Belt objects do not correspond to the composition or size of comets and astronomer Carl Sagan said that there was not a shred of evidence for the Oort cloud.  This assessment has not changed since his death in the 80’s.  The Oort cloud was hypothesized without any evidence simply to cover this huge evolutionary problem. 

9) Very Little Sea Salt.  If the world’s oceans have been around for 3 billion years, they should be filled with vastly more salt than they are today.  Every year, the continents, atmosphere, and seafloor add 458 million tons of salt into the oceans but only 122 million tons (27%) is removed.  At this rate, today’s saltiness would be reached in 42 million years just from runoff.  Surely, God created the salty ocean for sea creatures He created on day 5 of Creation, and the Flood quickly added more salt.   

10) DNA in “Ancient” Bacteria.  In 2000 scientists claimed to “resurrect” bacteria discovered in a salt crystal conventionally dated at 250 million years old.  They were shocked to find that the “ancient” bacteria were very similar to modern bacteria.  If the modern bacteria were the result of 250 million years of evolution, the DNA should be very different from the “Lazarus” bacteria based on known mutation rates.  Because DNA normally breaks down quickly even in ideal circumstances, they were at a loss to explain DNA intact after a supposed 250 million years! 

11) The Recession of the Moon.  Currently the moon is moving outward from the earth because of the gravitational tidal force between the earth and moon.  The present rate is 3.82 cm/yr but would have been much greater in the past (the relationship is highly non-linear – gravitational attraction is governed by an inverse square law – if you cut the distance in half the attraction is 4 times as great; if you make the distance 1/3, the attraction is 9 times as much!)  If we extrapolate backward, gravity theory shows the moon in direct contact with the earth about 1.55 billion years ago.  The Roche limit shows that the moon would fragment into Saturn-like rings long before this time as the earth’s gravity force would overcome the moon’s own cohesive force. 

However, evolutionists say that life originated on the earth 3.5 billion years ago.  There are many ways in which the moon’s precise distance, inclination, orbit elongation, mass, etc. make life possible here on earth that would be drastically changed if the moon has been receding for millions or billions of years.  But, if the earth is only about 6,000 years old, the moon would have only been about 755 feet closer.  Clearly this is no problem for the young-earth creation position.

(My friend), I believe that it is much easier to see design and special creation in the universe as well as the human body than it is to see random chance and purposelessness.  Every single paragraph of a 2000 page Biology textbook screams “purpose, design, function” for everything it describes.  There is no purposelessness or randomness to all this intricacy that boggles the human mind.  What is amazing is that the Lord has given us the capacity to “search out His ways” through the disciplines of science which confirm His Word!  As the Psalmist said to the Lord, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well” (Ps.139:14).

This same God is who spoke everything into existence out of nothing (Heb.11:3 –this is the same thing that Big-bang cosmologists believe only without an Intelligent Designer), inerrantly communicated His will in written form, sent His Son to take on human flesh to die for the sins of rebellious creatures, and is able to receive a repentant sinner into the presence of His resurrected Son for eternity (Rom.10:9-10).  Apart from this God, nothing makes sense and surely has no meaning. 

Thanks much for your question.  I appreciate and enjoy your inquisitiveness!

Blessings,
Mark

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sanctification, Adoption, and Union with Christ

For one whose eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit such that he possesses saving faith, at first view the Gospel is not complex. Jesus Christ died and rose again for my sins, that I may be forgiven by God the Father on the basis of Christ's sacrifice for me. An elementary school child can grasp the message. An aging person on their deathbed whose mind is clouded by pain and medications can understand it

On the other hand, the Gospel is a message of such profundity and enormous implications, and yes, complexity, that we can never truly exhaust its depths. Any moderate to advanced level of study in the Bible will confirm this. Theological studies will add their 'Amen.'

Sanctification is that process by which we are delivered from the presence of sin. We who know Christ are 'already' sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11, note the tense), but we are 'not yet' sanctified (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).

Union with Christ is that reality of having been mystically placed into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Every time you see the pregnant phrase 'in Christ' or 'in Him' in the Pauline letters, you are brushing up against the doctrine of union with Christ. More than any other biblical truth, it is this one that provides for both our present, positional, perfected sanctification as well as the power that we need for the day-to-day ongoing practical sanctification. Through union with Christ that which would have been unthinkable (to share in God's glory) becomes a reality (compare Isaiah 42:8 and John 17:22; Romans 8:17; 2 Thess 2:14). There is a very real sense in which union with Christ has always been the ultimate aim of redemption, in the service of God's glory (see John 17).

Adoption is that doctrine which explains our new position in the household of God. We are sons, and because sons, heirs with Christ. By adoption, God is truly our Father, and by the influence of the Holy Spirit we can cry, 'Abba, Father!' (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Adoption is also seen as the ultimate aim of redemption.

All three of these realities occur at the instant of salvation. Sanctification is both instantaneous (in its positional aspect) and an ongoing process (in its practical outworking). Union with Christ and adoption are both eternally complete in the initial instant of salvation. Some theologians will try to establish a logical order for these (as part of the ordo salutis), but the important thing to note is that they are eternally complete and assured for the true believer in Christ.

Whereas we found the Gospel to be simple as new believers, now indeed it seems to us as a precious jewel, with countless facets all reflecting together the glory of the Living God. It is an enormous, life-dominating, soul-stirring, intellect-satisfying, saving reality. And, we see that it is beyond simple comprehension.

Isn't God awesome!!!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Falcon Down update

At long last, the editing on Falcon Down is complete. It should be available in the next thirty days, in print, Kindle, and Nook formats. You will be able to pre-order a signed print copy on my web site within a week!

What's the schedule on future books?
  • The Psalm 90 study is coming out this summer.
  • Falcon Rising, book 2 of the Falcon series will be available by December 1. It's already written, but just needs editing. Book 3 is also written, and should be available by next June, after extensive editing.
  • Outlander Chronicles: Icarus will be released sometime in 2015.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Winter's Last Hurrah

Okay. Got to admit it. I'm thrilled.

Not at all a bad opening to the spring!

But don't be dismayed. Old man Winter is packing it in. Have you seen the forecast for this Sunday, Easter Sunday? Going to be in the fifties.

But finishing the winter this way was a nice touch. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights, with Whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. Underneath that blanket of snow, spring is just waiting. There will be flowers within weeks; don't be dismayed. It's almost time to think about gardens, and lawn-mowing and forsythia.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the snow.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Winter Storm Warning

Radar shows this nice mega-mass of precip headed our way. Supposed to get 7+" out of this little number, possibly as much as 10".

Temps a little warm at present. 32.6 on my back porch. Been thinking about emptying the ice tray into the back yard, to help out a little bit. Need to shave that 6/10 of a degree off the thermometer, and quick. Show-time should begin in about an hour, gets really heavy after midnight (an inch an hour).

Doris is making a batch of her awesome chicken-corn-chowder. Yummy stuff. We are about to play a round of Carcassonne, and then watch The Hobbit a little later. She even made a batch of cookies. Neither of us have to go to work tomorrow. Going to be Winter's last blast, and we're going to enjoy it, every last snowflake.

Have some church members about to leave for PA to assassinate Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog. Seems that the little whistle-pig got his forecast a mite confused. Wonder if he was thinkin' of last year? Anyway, the only resident of Ohio not yet sick of winter is yours truly. Maybe I'm lucky they're not coming after me

Hmm. Never thought of that. Think I'll go lock the door and draw the curtains . . .

Waiting on Guhsnow in Greenville  [which usually never comes. Pardon the obscure literary allusion]


PC

Monday, March 18, 2013

Falcon Down is done!

Tonight I sent the draft of Falcon Down to my beta-readers. It is finally complete, save for whatever problems my editor and beta-readers find.

There are a few remaining hoops to be jumped through before I can publish it, but I trust it won't be too long before all of that is complete. In any case, I am glad to be finally done!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

See you on the top, Steve!

I have a dear brother, the closest of friends, one of my original backpacking buddies, name of Steve Holtzclaw.

Early yesterday morning (3/13) he took his last climb. It was a climb on Mount Zion and he's with Jesus now.



You beat me to the top of the mountain this time, my brother. By the way, Steve, I will remind you: this is the only time you've beaten me to the top of the mountain.

Steve and Carol Holtzclaw and their family are the dearest of friends. Many moons ago (I might have even had hair - it's that long ago) Doris and I moved from central Virginia to Central Pennsylvania, where I became a teacher at Bible Baptist School in Shiremanstown. The very first Sunday we were at Bible Baptist Church, a friendly family invited us to their home for Sunday lunch. Delighted, we accepted.

We followed their car to their home. I figured it must be one of the families in the church, trying to make us feel welcome on our first Sunday. Actually, it was their very first Sunday at BBC, too; they had just moved into town from somewhere in the midwest, if I recall.

We all got a good laugh out of that. But that's just who Steve and Carol are. A fast friendship between our families developed. Steve and I are kindred spirits: we're both nuts. But more than that, we have Christ in common.

The Lord used Steve and Carol in our lives in significant ways. Repeatedly. One of my most cherished memories was when our little baby, Jessica, died shortly after birth. Steve and Carol showed up at the hospital. Within moments Steve had us laughing through our tears. That's just who they are.

I'm not sure I remember this correctly (Steve would say that there is a great deal I don't remember correctly), but I think that I had the pleasure of introducing Steve and Carol to backpacking. I used to take my students on backpacking Bible studies. The photos in this blog post are from a two-week trip in 1986. Steve is right over the "LA" in Loveland. Carol is on the extreme right. For those unbelievers of you who think I've never, ever been young, Chris and Doris are sitting on the base of the sign. Together. Ahem . . .  see the hair? Not hers! Mine!

Oh, the stories I could tell you about this trip! Oh, the stories Steve WOULD tell, if he was still here. Like when I was showing him the finer points of trout fishing and caught myself on the back of my parka with my own lure. I think that's the only thing he carried away from my lesson. At least, that's the only part he ever told anyone else.

We saw God move in amazing ways on this trip. He allowed me to make some major mistakes in order to show us His greatness. Take a look at the picture above: what do you see? Snow, right? Uh-huh. This is the end of June, for crying out loud. This is also Colorado high country. You don't plan high country trips until mid-July, unless you are planning on using snow shoes. Let me put it this way: the snow was hip-deep not five miles from our trail head. I learn the hard way.

Here's a peek at the first morning on the trail, only a mile from the trail head. No snow here, but just up the valley to the right . . . .


So, I've got fourteen people, for most of whom camping was a tent in the back yard, signed up for this fourteen day, cross-country, high-country trip and we can't even get to our first pass. In my defense, it was an unusually heavy winter, with unusually late snow. Now, that's the part Steve wouldn't mention when he was telling the story.

That mischievous grin?


It's not just for show.

Anyway, Steve and I hiked and hitchhiked to the nearest town (we had arranged wheels to drop us off at the trailhead but they'd already returned to Denver), and by the grace of God managed to salvage the trip, complete with transportation to a low-country site with fishing that was out of this world (it was the Flat Tops Wilderness Area). Those are the kinds of memories Steve and Carol and Doris and I shared.

Here's a few shots of the crew hiking to the Flat Tops (they really are flat, too! The tops, I mean.)


This was just one of many trips we took, and one of the many joys we shared.

Well, my brother, you got there first. Guess I'll have to admit it, much as it pains me. Carol, Kristin, Kristian: Doris' and my love and prayers are with you.

Love you, Steve. I'll miss you. See you on the top.

Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears,
and my feet from falling.
I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
Psalm 116:7-9

Steve Holtzclaw (1951-2013)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Noteworthy: from Murray's Humility

This quote comes from Andrew Murray's little volume entitled, Humility: The Journey toward Holiness, pp 61-62. It makes reference to Luke 18:9-14.

The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is its lack of humility. Every seeker after holiness needs to be on his guard lest unconsciously what was begun in the spirit is perfected in the flesh, and pride creep in where its presence is least expected. Two men went up to a temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, the other a tax collecter. There was no place or position so sacred that the Pharisee could not enter there. Pride can lift its head in the very temple of God and make His worship the scene of its self-exaltation. Since the time Christ so exposed his pride, the Pharisee has put on the garb of the tax collector. The confessor of deep sinfulness and the professor of high holiness must both be on watch. Just when we are most anxious to have our heart be the temple of God, we will find the two men coming to pray. And the tax collector will find that his danger is not from the Pharisee beside him, who despises him, but the Pharisee within, who commends and exalts himself. In God's temple, when we think we are in the holy place, in the presence of His holiness, let us beware of pride. "One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them" (Job 1:6). [Emphasis mine]

I, of course, have no idea how you respond to this. It's part of a larger, and quite excellent chapter (I recommend the book, highly). But as I read this excerpt, I find my heart crying out with Paul (Romans 7:24), "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?"

I am the tax collector. But more wretchedly, I am the Pharisee.

"Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Paul says, as he continues in Romans.

Jesus Christ our only hope; but for the one who knows Christ truly, we know that He is a fully sufficient hope. He will complete that good thing He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6). And that's worth celebrating!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thessalonians: The blessing of an intensive pronoun

Seven times in the NASB translation of First and Second Thessalonians does the English word “himself” appear. Five of those times it functions as an intensive pronoun, meaning you could drop the word from the text, and the text would still make sense (see 1 Thess 3:11; 4:16; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:16; and 3:16). The intensive pronoun emphasizes, or intensifies, the personal noun that it follows.

For example, in 1 Thess 4:16 we are told that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout.” Himself in this case emphasizes that it is Jesus descending, as opposed to, say, an emissary who represents Jesus. The amazing fact that it will be Jesus personally (Jesus Himself) who will be descending is emphasized or pointed out.

The payoff in this thought comes in these three verses:
  • 1 Thess 5:23: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely . . .
  • 2 Thess 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father . . . comfort and strengthen your hearts . . .
  • 2 Thess 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace . . .
Here’s what’s neat: contrary to what some religions teach, it is not a mediator or mediatrix (such as Mary or a saint) who secures blessings (sanctification, comfort, strength, peace) to us: it is God Himself, Jesus Himself! God Himself is personally, immediately (in other words, without a mediator other than Jesus) involved in your life!

If you know Christ as Savior, you are not distanced from Him by layers of heavenly bureaucracy. He personally, immediately, immanently, is involved in your life. He truly is, Immanuel, God with us!