Monday, November 30, 2015

America is raising fragile kids traumatized by words, supporting coddled youths with snowflake spirit

The above photo was on Twitter and I liked it. There has been a brouhaha these last few weeks over the sensitivity of college aged youth and their tolerance levels. I've watched this thing unfold, with different articles coming out, different opinions on social media...and I've been thinking.

The National Review published an article titled:
Campus Commotions Show We’re Raising Fragile Kids
It seems like every week there’s a new horror story of political correctness run amok at some college campus. A warning not to wear culturally insensitive Halloween costumes sparked an imbroglio at Yale, which went viral over the weekend. A lecturer asked in an e-mail, “Is there no room anymore for a child to be a little bit obnoxious . . . a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?” Students went ballistic. When an administrator (who is the lecturer’s spouse) defended free speech, some students wanted his head. One student wrote in a Yale Herald op-ed (now taken down): “He doesn’t get it. And I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.”
Their pain. Their pain is king. 'All I want to do is talk about meeeee.' There is a new movement afoot on colleges to allow students to 'opt-out' of an assignment if it is too sensitive for them to handle and causes too much pain.

Some colleges are now instituting a 'trigger warning' that some material may be sensitive for students who have experienced trauma. In the article below, notice some of the listed content that may trigger a warning: "colonialism". Depictions of colonialism are deemed sensitive material, enough so that students are warned about it prior, so they can opt out? In my day material covering colonialism was called "history." [Ed. Note: in the following article the professor quoted is this author's sister].
Warning: This education might trigger trauma. Are we coddling college students?
A “trigger warning” informs readers who have experienced trauma — be it war or sexual assault — that content in an article or book may “trigger” them and cause them to re-experience that trauma
That doesn’t sound too threatening, but a September article in the The Atlantic magazine argues the use of these content advisories, taken to the extreme on college campuses, effectively “coddles” students by shielding them from ideas and words they may find unpleasant. Oberlin College in Ohio, for example, had recommended that professors include an advisory when assigning Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” because students may be triggered by its depictions of “racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence [and] suicide.”
Todd Friel has some information about the coddling of America in this 7 minute video.

I was amused by a viral video of a mom of a school-aged student ranting about the elementary school car rider line. Some parents who choose to drive their children to school rather than put them on the bus are also choosing to be a traffic hazard and endanger others so that they can drop off their children at the closest door rather than have their child walk an extra 50 feet. Then I was reminded of the documentary called On the Way To School, where children in four different countries are chronicled getting to school and overcoming hazards way worse than walking an extra 50 after being personally driven by mommy- like avoiding being eaten by lions, or pushing your brother in a wheelchair over dirt and miry clay 10 miles, or walking up and down whole MOUNTAIN RANGES. The documentary shows kids from South America, India, Africa and Morocco walking to school in extreme conditions- just for the privilege of being educated.

And the American children who are driven to school and dropped off in the car rider line grow up to be the wimps who opt out of a college level assignment because they are allegedly traumatized by colonialism.

The sensitive college students problem has also infiltrated Christian universities.  These same sentiments are appearing in Christian schools and becoming a problem for Christians outside universities, as noted by Friel in the video above and in Dr. Piper's message below. Those who are offended by colonialism, or, words, will certainly be offended by the Gospel! Yet there has been some push-back regarding the hot house flower sensitivity of these American college students at a Christian University, by President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University wrote,

This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!
Dr. Everett Piper, President
Oklahoma Wesleyan University
This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears that this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love. In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable. 
I’m not making this up. Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.” 
I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience. An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad. It is supposed to make you feel guilty. The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization. 
So here’s my advice:
Read the rest of his message for his advice. So what does this mean for Christians? The most basic and literal meaning is that when we proclaim the Gospel, the FULL Gospel, which includes discussion of sin and judgment, it will not be tolerated. At all. The article above says caving in to trigger warnings and opting out 'effectively “coddles” students by shielding them from ideas and words they may find unpleasant.' And the Gospel is the most unpleasant news there can be until the Good News is added to it. If they find mere college content unpleasant, how will it be when a Christian tells them they are sinners, angering God every day and headed for judgment and hell? It won't be tolerated, at all, and not just from cultural pressure or outcry. By law.

Secondly and more symbolically, since leak-over occurs from the world to the faith all the time and our Christian youth will be affected, it means we have wimpy soldiers of the faith to look forward to. I think of the youth in the Bible and wonder where our stalwart soldiers of the faith are going to come from. The Lord our God is always raising up youth for His name, but it seems to me they are becoming scarcer, these brave and strong men and women of the faith.

David was a young man, a boy really, and he was a shepherd. What that means is he was in the rugged outdoors all day and all night. He watched over the sheep and protected them from bears and wolves and lions at the risk of his own life, with only a rod and a slingshot for a weapon. He walked miles and miles leading them to different pastures because grass was scarce. He was alone, out in the open, and had a great responsibility. It is estimated David was between 13 and 15 years old when he was anointed. (1Sam 16:12-13). And then, David slew Goliath. And some youth today are upset because words hurt their feelings.

Timothy was young. Paul admonished Timothy not to let anyone despise him because of his youth. Timothy was pastor and leader of a church with all that entailed, especially the honor of preaching the everlasting Gospel. Timothy was urged despite his relative youth to be so Godly that his life would be a pattern for others to imitate.

Mary was young, maybe 14 or 15, when the angel Gabriel told her she was going to be pregnant. This is normally an event that destroys lives. Yet she humbly said 'Let it be done to me as God wills', then at 9 month gestation, got on a donkey and rode to Bethlehem, then fled to Egypt.

Daniel was young, very young when he was taken in Babylonian captivity. Those taken were being groomed for service, these young moldable youths. Except Daniel was not moldable. He refused the wine and foods because ingesting them would have defiled him. hHe brought his complaint respectfully to the authority, politely asking to be excused from eating and drinking it, but still, in the face of enormous pressure to cave in, Daniel rejected the training and stood for God. (Daniel 1:8). And some youths these days are upset at a sermon on love because it pricked their conscience. Some young men say all they want to do is talk about their pain. Their thoughts go no higher than their own navel gazing.

In reading widely about this trigger warning and trauma pain the sensitive snowflakes are going on about, I notice that when professors tend to use trigger warnings it is due to graphic sexual content. They assign novels that contain sexual violence or graphic sexual scenes among lesbians or homosexuals. In my opinion, the problem is not that trigger warnings are necessary, it is that the trauma-triggering material is even being presented in the first place. For those who are traumatized by violence, then learning about the Civil War, or the Cambodian Killing Fields should be a problem. Yet most professors do not use trigger warnings for that content. But assigning novels to impressionable youth containing multiple rape scenes is OK? I don't think so.

The prophecy says,

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  (2 Timothy 3:2)

Below is where we are headed. This is a very true and chilling preview of what American higher education is coming to. And for all that, we who have the holy and pure Spirit inside of us, rest assured He will strengthen us and make us stand, just as He did with David and Mary and Timothy and David. Our home is not on earth but in heaven. We have an opportunity to be like Timothy, live a life that others would want to pattern after us, a noble, upright, strong life- In Christ. While the rest of the world sinks into a victim mentality, let us be overcomers displaying a victor mentality. Through God, we truly can do anything.

The video below is 7 minutes and I recommend seeing it.

Modern Educayshun
Neel Kolhatkar’s “Modern Educayshan” gives us a glimpse into the future of American education if things keep going on their present course. If you watch the first 1:20, you’ll see why this video is striking a chord among citizens who fear what our schools and universities are becoming.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christ is Prince of Governments

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:29-32).
tot he
During this long Thanksgiving Break, I've listened to many sermons. i Heard a good sermon on the aspect of Jesus as Prince. On my usual morning line-up to which I dedicate some time in the AM includes wonderful sermons from Barnhouse, Boice, MacArthur, or Lloyd-Jones. A sermon from Acts 5:29-32 delivered by Martyn Lloyd-Jones struck me. Two Lines of History, looked at Jesus as Prince over governments.

The following represents my personal interpretation & spiritual absorption of the Acts verses and the exposition of them.

We must obey God rather than men is not a license to run amok and freely break the law and become rebellious, of course. God instituted Governments. He is sovereign over them. What is meant here is that where a choice comes to obey God OR man, we obey God. That was the choice given to Peter and he chose wisely.

The concept is, Jesus is savior but also Prince- Governor of nations! He is the Prince of the Universe, thee only one who can govern, the only one who has a right to govern, the only one who is going to govern. But the world rejects this. It needs to be convinced of this, convicted of it.

Of man's history, man's government, what are the characteristics of this? It is quite clear in history and in the bible is that government has been appropriated by man who rejects the voice Divine. Despite all of man's efforts to produce order, the jungle is always encroaching. Man sweats, labors, cuts back the jungle of immorality and yet strife, lawlessness, dictatorships, wars always encroach.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon is a monumental work. He listed five reasons why civilizations decline and fall.

1. The undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis of human society.

2. Higher and higher taxes and the spending of public money for free bread and circuses for the populace.

3. The mad craze for pleasure; sports are becoming more and more exciting and brutal every year.

4. The building of gigantic armaments when the real enemy was within the decadence of the people.

5. The decay of religion–faith fading into mere form, losing touch with life, and becoming impotent to warn and guide the people.

(Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1787).

Geographically, Paul was a resident of Jerusalem but a citizen of Rome. Spiritually we are residents of Georgia (or Kentucky or Washington) but our citizenry is in heaven. We owe respect and allegiance to those whom God has set over us in government, but our highest loyalty is toward the Prince of Governments.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

Let us sort out out our loyalties and allegiances. Let us look inward in order to prepare for a moment which may come to us as it did to Peter, and make our decisions regarding God and man.Will we obey man, or will we obey the Prince of Government?

A polling station, with watchful Jesus over the government...EPrata photo

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Clock of the Long Now

A man is building a clock in the West Texas Mountains that will keep time for 10,000 years. It is a 10,000 year clock, and the foundation supporting this enterprise is called The Long Now.

It is written about the clock-
Designed by Danny Hillis, the Clock is designed to run for ten millennia with minimal maintenance and interruption. The Clock is powered by mechanical energy harvested from sunlight as well as the people that visit it. The primary materials used in the Clock are marine grade 316 stainless steel, titanium and dry running ceramic ball bearings. The entire mechanism will be installed in an underground facility in west Texas.
Why is this man building a clock that will keep time for 10,000 years? Well, why does any man do anything? Why did they climb Everest? Why do they go down to the sea in ships? Why do they tramp the Arctic?

But this man, why is he building a long now clock?
I wanted a symbol of the future, in the same way that the pyramids are a symbol of the past. I wanted to build something that gave us that sense of connection. 
I'm Danny Hillis and I'm building a clock that will last for 10,000 years. ..One of the ways we keep the clock accurate is that we synchronize it to the sun... Exactly at solar noon the chimes begin to play. ... They worked out a way of ringing ten bells in a different sequence each day, for ten thousand years. ... We're invested in generational thinking, and answering the question, 'were we good ancestors?' 
There's a problem of people not believing in the future, a long-term clock challenges those short-term civilizational stories. I'm very optimistic about the future. I'm not optimistic because I think our problems are small. I'm optimistic because I think our capacities are great. 
Oh. I see. Like the Tower of Babel.

To see the Clock you need to start at dawn, like any pilgrimage. Once you arrive at its hidden entrance in an opening in the rock face, you will find a jade door rimmed in stainless steel, and then a second steel door beyond it. These act as a kind of crude airlock, keeping out dust and wild animals. You rotate its round handles to let yourself in, and then seal the doors behind you. It is totally black. You head into the darkness of a tunnel a few hundred feet long. At the end there’s the mildest hint of light on the floor. You look up. There is a tiny dot of light far away, at the top of top of a 500 foot long vertical tunnel about 12 feet in diameter. There is stuff hanging in the shaft.
And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 9:3-4)
The first part of the Clock you encounter on the ascent up the spiral staircase is the counterweights of the Clock’s drive system. This is a huge stack of stone disks, about the size of a small car, and weighing 10,000 pounds. Depending on when the clock was last wound, you may have to climb 75 feet before you reach the weights. 
You keep climbing. For the next 70-80 feet of ascent you pass 20 huge horizontal gears (called Geneva wheels), 8 feet in diameter, each weighing 1,000 pounds. This is the mechanical computer that calculates the over 3.5 million different melodies that the chimes will ring inside the mountain over the centuries. 
And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech." (Genesis 9:5-7)

This is what happens when man worships created things instead of the Creator. Man has an inherent notion of time. Man knows he is in a great slip-stream current of time, connected to those who have passed before us and linked to those yet to come. That is because God has put eternity into man's heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  Man seeks the great questions, desires to know the end of things, wants to achieve greatness under the sun- or on the plains of Shinar.

The 10,000 year clock's design and these beginning moments of its construction are truly remarkable. That men could design such a thing does seem to indicate a nearly bottomless well of capacity for accomplishment. Yet man's capacity is only as deep or as long as the Holy God allows it, as we know the end of the story of the Tower of Babel. What the 10,000 year clock really is, is a monument to man. What a shame to use all that money, time, skill, and labor for something that is really an ode to man.

What blessings he has given us to enter His courts and see the angelic beings with wheels within wheels, TRUE machinery that lasts ten thousand upon tens of thousands of years, eternities.  What greatness He has bestowed on us to hear the trumpet and harps and worship songs that are the chimes of heaven.

In Jesus we have the eternal questions answered. We know that we know we are in His slip-stream of time and in the current that is endless and infinite. We know we are good ancestors because He is our father, the root ancestor, having in us His greatness. Apart from Him we can do nothing, but in Him we can do whatever His will allows and sustains in us to do. From man's perspective, the clock in the mountain in West Texas is a remarkable thing. It really is. Personally, I'm in awe of it and wonderstruck at the men who are creating it. From God's perspective it is a mote on a gnat on a flea. My true awe is of the God who invented time. What a blessing He gave His children the eternal answers. We do not have the restlessness of clockmakers, but possess an eternal peace. In Him, in heaven, there is no time, and no need for clocks.

Friday, November 27, 2015


We're familiar with infinity, even if we can't really comprehend it. We know the Realtor selling point "there's an infinity pool!" or the Toy Story motto "To Infinity and beyond!" which is pretty funny actually.

In the second grade classroom in which I am stationed as teacher aide, there is a number line above the Smart board. (AKA chalkboard for us old timers). To the left of zero are a host of negative numbers and to the right of zero is a host of increasing whole numbers. The teacher occasionally mentions to the kids that the numbers go on and on, to infinity.

When I was a schoolchild I learned about the number googol. I used to think that a googol was the largest number. It isn't. But here is a Wikipedia definition of a googol:
A googol is the large number 10 to the 100. In decimal notation, it is written as the digit 1 followed by one hundred 0s. The term was coined in 1920 by 9-year-old Milton Sirotta (1911–1981), nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner.  A googol has no special significance in mathematics. However, it is useful when comparing with other very large quantities such as the number of subatomic particles in the visible universe or the number of hypothetical possibilities in a chess game. Kasner used it to illustrate the difference between an unimaginably large number and infinity, and in this role it is sometimes used in teaching mathematics. 
The ancients had a difficult time expressing just large numbers. For centuries, the standard way to describe any number over 10,000 was "myriad." A really, REALLY big number would be 'myriad myriads'. Here in Deuteronomy 32:30 ISV the rhetorical question is asked how could one of the the thinly populated Jews have put ten thousand soldiers to flight, or two of the Jews put "a myriad to flight". Other translations say ten thousand.

How can one person chase a thousand of them and two put a myriad to flight, unless their Rock delivers them and the LORD gives them up?

Of course a verse that comes immediately to mind is Revelation 5:11-

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,

One day, the famous mathematician Archimedes (287BC-212BC) wanted to sort of count the number of grains of sand, Or rather, he wondered how many grains of sand would be the upper limit of grains of sand that could fit into the universe. Archimedes definitely had big thoughts.Yet he knew that 'myriad upon myriad' was not going to suffice as a reckoning for this large number experiment he desired to perform. Wikipedia says,
In order to do this, he had to estimate the size of the universe according to the contemporary model, and invent a way to talk about extremely large numbers. ... Archimedes had to invent a system of naming large numbers. The number system in use at that time could express numbers up to a myriad (μυριάς — 10,000), and by utilizing the word "myriad" itself, one can immediately extend this to naming all numbers up to a myriad myriads (10 to the 8th power.) 
And Archimedes went from there.

Anyway, the ancients had a hard time naming large numbers, and infinity is just beyond us all. It means endless, and comprehending endless numbers, or endless anything, is impossible.

Here's another brain buster. The only reason we can even have numbers to infinity is because of God. God is infinite. He is beyond everything that there is.

This photo is of a book called God Does Exist!: Defending the faith using presuppositional apologetics, evidence, and the impossibility of the contrary. A Twitter friend posted this page from the book as he was studying. I read the excerpt he posted below, and became entranced with the idea of an infinite God and infinite numbers. You can click on the photo to enlarge it.

Even though in our own crude, puny human way, we can only express the majestic God as myriad upon myriad big, the fact that we have an infinite relationship with Him is enough. Our time with Him is endless, boundless, impossible to calculate. We will worship Him in infinite glory endlessly.


Further Reading

What is Infinity? Math is Fun

Ligonier Devotional: Our Infinite God

Bible Hub Topic: Infinite

Thursday, November 26, 2015

His sheep know His voice and they follow. Inspiring video

Youtube synopsis:

Published on Nov 17, 2013
A little compilation of a visit to my friend, Christopher Lange's farm at Harestua, Norway. I have long wanted to film this test, where we call for his sheep in the same words as he uses, and then let him do it. A Biblical lesson to learn from this!
The verse that comes to mind is

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

It's an inspiring video, especially when we think about Lazarus, who was dead when Jesus called him, and he responded to his Master's voice by coming alive again! If we are alive when He calls for us in the rapture, we also will respond to His voice, and "come up here" to be with Him.

HT to reader Ruby who alerted me to this video and to Jacco who found it.

Thankful for salvation: thoughts on Felix

After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, "Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you." (Acts 24:24-25)

It is stated earlier that Felix was thoroughly familiar with "The Way". (v. 22). Whether it was because Felix had been governor in the area for almost a decade, or because his wife was Jewish, or both, Felix was familiar with the facts about Jesus and his "sect" as Paul's accuser Tertullus put it. Felix was secure in his knowledge of Christianity in the intellectual realms, enough to feel confident to make a decision regarding the case.

But when the case got personal, really personal, Felix became alarmed. He told Paul to go away and when it was a more convenient time, Felix would think about it. The Greek word for time used in this verse means "a suitable time" or "the right moment". But there will never be a more convenient right moment.

As James Montgomery Boice said of Felix's procrastination, if you put it off, the same sinful nature that made you put it off today will make you put it off tomorrow. Nothing will be different. In addition, you've begun a habit of procrastination which will only deepen and entrench. Tomorrow it will be worse for you. Now is the acceptable time (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Notice Felix's alarm at being told of sin and judgment. In the Greek the meaning of terror is 'being in the grip of a great Godly terror'. The word is used 5 times in the New Testament.

--When the women who brought spices to the tomb after Jesus' death saw the gleaming angels, they were terrified.
--When they were gathered and Jesus appeared to His disciples they became terrified.
--Cornelius' terror at seeing a holy angel in a God-given vision.
--In Revelation when a great earthquake occurred and a tenth of Jerusalem fell, the people became terrified and gave God in heaven glory.
--Felix, upon hearing Paul speak of sin and judgment.

You see, in each of the four cases, apart from Felix, the people became terrified upon directly seeing a slice of heaven. Or in the case of the earthquake they knew it was a mighty work of God Himself. And just as seeing a holy angel of God or experiencing God's hand directly, Felix was experiencing heaven. It wasn't just Paul speaking some words articulately and Felix becoming annoyed or a bit worried. It was the Holy Spirit opening the depths of Felix's soul to see his own sin compared to heaven. It was a deep, spiritual terror. Paul's words and their effect should have brought about the same reaction from Felix as Peter seeing Jesus as Lord of creation with the heavy, full nets of fish in Luke 5:8. Peter fell at Jesus feet, saying "Go away from me, I am a sinful man!" Felix said, "Uh, come back later, this is inconvenient for me."

When Felix was confronted with his sin and positionally saw how far he was from Jesus, he should have done the same as Peter. Yet though the Lord graciously offered Felix the opportunity to see his sin in light of God's glory, and though Felix did see it and became abjectly afraid, he procrastinated.

This is a decision. Jesus said whoever is not with Him is against Him. (Matthew 12:30).

So don't let anyone sway you from evangelizing this way, talking of sin, self-control, righteousness, and the coming judgment. "Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" doesn't have the same potential spiritual terror to pierce the soul as "You're dead in your sins and Jesus is coming to judge you."

There is no record in the Bible as to whether Felix found "a more convenient time" and reconciled to God. Probably not, seeing as the next verse records that Felix kept Paul in prison to see if Paul would cough up some money for a bribe. In this case, it IS worse for Felix. All that intellectual knowledge will put him in a worse position at the judgment.

For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:21)

It's Thanksgiving. I can think of no better gift than salvation to be thankful for. A close second is the Holy Spirit as a gift and a deposit inside us, illuminating the wonders of the Holy Bible to our mind and growing us in sanctification. Or perhaps Jesus forgiving our sins after salvation, or maybe it's His chastisement which refines us into sterling silver and gold. Or maybe seeing the world, on our walk after the meal, and giving God the glory for His beautiful earth. Or His eternal, boundless grace. There is so MUCH to be thankful for, if you are a Christian. Offer the Gospel to someone today, maybe by next year at this time they will be praising God in gratitude for their reconciliation, and blessedly, Thanksgiving will have taken on a whole new meaning for them.

EPrata photo


Further Reading

All Dressed Up and No One To Thank

Giving Thanks for Salvation

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

East Greenwich High School senior privileges: The Courtyard

I attended High School between 1974 and 1978. It was an excellent high school, offering high-end academics, a thriving sports program, a beautiful campus, and star teachers. To us, though, it was just high school, and the best thing about it was none of those things.

It was Senior Privileges.

Seniors were allowed entry to spaces in the school that no other students were allowed to enter. These spaces were severely restricted, and anyone who was not senior was barred.

For example, the Health Room was once a senior-only room, and was furnished with couches, a television, and refrigerator, if you can believe it. Even more unbelievable in this generation's health-conscious era, of the area of the school’s inner courtyard where three brick walls connect was once reserved as a smoking area for students. Smoking is now banned on the entire campus.

I never took advantage of those privileges but there were two others that I enjoyed.

Seniors during the 1970’s and 1980’s could sign themselves in and out of school. If we had a study hall first period of the day, we were able to come in late. We were able to sign out of school in the case of a last period study hall. I used to sign out and go to McDonald's and get breakfast, which was a new offering back then. McDonald's introduced the Egg McMuffin in 1972 and a full breakfast in 1977. That was the year I became a senior and the novelty of the McMuffin and hash browns was too luscious to resist. I signed myself out of study hall and drove to get breakfast a la McD's style, also bringing back orders for friends who didn't have a car.

But the greatest privilege to me was that seniors-only could use the courtyard. The courtyard was not an arborist's dream. It was a scrubby place, not really a greenspace, just well-worn paths amid gasping grass, concrete benches, the aforementioned smoking area, and some trees. But the school was large and being able to cut down travel time between classes to beat the bell was extremely compelling. Plus only seniors could go there.

All the Freshmen knew about senior privileges. We'd look upon the seniors emerging from the courtyard with awe, and excitedly talk about the day we, too, would be allowed entry into this most prized restricted area. I don't have enough words to relate to you the thirst, angst, and yearning for senior privileges. WE were blocked out, but THEY could go hang out! They could go in and come out! They could remain in a private area just for them! We wanted that!

Courtyard at Hotel Inca Real, Cuenca, Ecuador.
EPrata photo
The parallel to God's courts is the point I want to make here. Do we possess the same fervency to be in God's courts? Do we yearn for the privilege of being in His courts?

The Psalmist said,

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psalm 84:10)

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. (Psalm 92:12-13)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalm 100:4)

I know when the time comes to enter His fabulously luxuriant and holy courts, it will be with thanksgiving and praise. But until then, do we yearn for His home, which is our home? Do we look with joy and anticipation when it will finally be our turn to enter the restricted area, the private area reserved for only those chosen? Do we crave to be there, enjoying the privilege of being in His court?

I can't imagine what it will look like or what it will be like to enter His courts. The Bible tells us that we can't conceive of it. My juvenile mind could not conceive of any privilege or any courtyard sweeter than the High School Courtyard reserved for those of a certain age. Just as now, my juvenile Christian mind cannot conceive of a courtyard sweeter or more tranquil that, say, the one at the Hotel Inca Real in Cuenca Ecuador, adorned with plants, tiled floors, resting benches, beauty and peace.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”- (1 Corinthians 2:9)

But I can and do joyfully anticipate His courts even without being able to visualize them. It is quite humbling to think of Jesus preparing this place for us.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Behold the man! And The Four Beholds

We know Jesus is the Man-God. His divinity was on display when He healed, did miracles, or taught with such authority that the hearers were astounded.

His human nature was on display when He was weary (John 4:6), hungry (Mark 11:12), or thirsty (John 19:28).

When Jesus appeared before the magistrate, Pilate said to the crowd, Behold the man. Here is the verse:

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” (John 19:5)

Most of us are familiar with that phrase, and that momentous event in the life of Jesus. But did you know that Zechariah said it first? In one of the many visions God gave the prophet Zechariah, the phrase appears. Thus Pilate's utterance was a fulfillment of an Old Testament picture pointing to a New Testament truth.

And say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. (Zechariah 6:12)

Though the vision actually shows Joshua being crowned, it is in reality a picture of the crowning of Jesus. The Jamieson Fausset Commentary explains further:
Behold, the man—namely, shall arise. Pilate unconsciously spake God’s will concerning Him, “Behold the man” (Jn 19:5). The sense here is, “Behold in Joshua a remarkable shadowing forth of Messiah.” It is not for his own sake that the crown is placed on him, but as type of Messiah about to be at once king and priest. Joshua could not personally be crowned king, not being of the royal line of David, but only in his representative character.
[Source: Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 723). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

Roy Gingrich's outlines on the prophetic books are helpful here explaining Zechariah's vision of Joshua's crowning, and the Heavenly utterance "Behold the Man whose name is the branch!"
The crowning of Joshua, a priest, with a regal crown symbolizes the future crowning of Christ, a priest (after the order of Melchisedec), with a regal crown (as Israel’s and the world’s, King) at His Second Advent. 
During Christ’s earthly ministry, He was crowned with a crown of thorns, Matt. 27:29; during His present sitting at His Father’s right hand, He is crowned with a crown of glory and honor, Heb. 2:9; at His Second Advent, He will be crowned with many crowns, Rev. 19:12 (as the King of Israel, Matt. 27:37, and as the King of all the earth’s Kings, Rev. 19:16). 
(Here we have one of the Old Testament’s most complete, yet concise, prophecies concerning the person, the office, and the work of the coming Messiah.) 
1. The Messiah will be the antitype of Joshua (6:12). 
To “behold the man,” Joshua, was to “behold the man,” the Messiah, for the one is typical of the other. The Jews, at Christ’s first advent, “beheld the man,” the Messiah, crowned with thorns, John 19:5. The Jews, at Christ’s second advent, will “behold the man,” the Messiah, crowned with many crowns, crowns of glory, Rev. 19:12.
See the four “beholds,” Zech. 6:12; Isa. 42:1; Zech. 9:9; Isa. 40:9.
[Source: Gingrich, R. E. (1999). The Books of Haggai and Zechariah (p. 34). Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing.]

Here are the four Beholds Mr Gingrich mentioned.

Behold the Man!

And say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. (Zechariah 6:12)

Behold the Servant!

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
(Isaiah 42:1)

Behold the King!

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(Zechariah 9:9)

Behold your God!

Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”(Isaiah 40:9)

We're entering the Thanksgiving season, and gratitude and thankfulness are much on our minds. I am thankful for the fact that I shall behold Him! All knees will bow and all tongues will confess, meaning all peoples will behold Him, their God. But I'm grateful I shall behold Him as one who is forgiven by His grace, not ashamed or crushed by fear - but worshiping Him rightly- in Spirit and in truth. My gratitude for Him having delivered the means by which to dwell in righteousness now and forever and to behold His face in love knows no bounds. Brethren, WE SHALL BEHOLD HIM, OUR MAN-GOD, Savior, Lord and King!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

His sheep know His voice

Jesus only calls those sheep whose names have been written down since before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4). Those sheep know His voice and listen to them. Those sheep follow Him out of the sheepfold and into green pastures. He doesn't put a general call into the sheepfold and wait to see who will come out. He knows them by name, and He calls them.

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Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (John 10:1-4)

John 10:1–2. Verses 1–5 describe a morning shepherding scene. A shepherd enters through a gate into a walled enclosure which has several flocks in one sheep pen. The enclosure, with stone walls, is guarded at night by a doorkeeper to prevent thieves and beasts of prey from entering. Anyone who would climb the wall would do it for no good purpose.
John 10:3–4. By contrast, the shepherd has a right to enter the sheep pen. The watchman opens the gate, and the shepherd comes in to call his own sheep by name (out from the other flocks). Shepherds knew their sheep well and gave them names. As sheep hear the sound of their owner’s familiar voice, they go to him. He leads them out of the pen till his flock is formed. Then he goes out toward the fields with the sheep following him. 
John 10:5–6. If a stranger enters the pen, the sheep run away from him because his voice is not familiar. The point of this figure of speech consists in how a shepherd forms his flock. People come to God because He calls them (cf. vv. 16, 27; Rom. 8:28, 30). Their proper response to His call is to follow Him (cf. John 1:43; 8:12; 12:26; 21:19, 22). But this spiritual lesson was missed by those who heard Jesus, even though they certainly understood the local shepherd/sheep relationship. In their blindness, they could not see Jesus as the Lord who is the Shepherd (cf. Ps. 23).
John 10:7–9. Jesus then developed the shepherd/sheep figure of speech in another way. After a shepherd’s flock has been separated from the other sheep, he takes them to pasture. Near the pasture is an enclosure for the sheep. The shepherd takes his place in the doorway or entrance and functions as a door or gate. The sheep can go out to the pasture in front of the enclosure, or if afraid, they can retreat into the security of the enclosure. The spiritual meaning is that Jesus is the only Gate by which people can enter into God’s provision for them.
When Jesus said, All who ever came before Me were thieves and robbers, He referred to those leaders of the nation who cared not for the spiritual good of the people but only for themselves. Jesus the Shepherd provides security for His flock from enemies (whoever enters through Me will be saved, or “kept safe”). He also provides for their daily needs (the sheep come in and go out, and find pasture).
Source: Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 309–310). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

The People's Bible Encyclopedia, Charles Barnes

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pulpits: do we really need them?

Pastor JD Hall posted this Q&A on Facebook. A friend of mine retweeted it. I thought it made sense. It also brought to mind a series done a while ago about 'sacred architecture' at the blog The Christian Pundit. It was a series of good articles on how we cane to use the things in our churches that we do, i.e. pews, baptism pool, pulpits.

Jordan Hall
Not Too Long to Read: Q&A on Pulpits
I get lots of questions daily and this was one this morning. Thought I'd share it. It seems petty, but it matters to me.
Question: I found some pulpits in the closet at church and asked our pastor why he doesn't use one. He says it serves no purpose and he doesn't want to hide behind it. What do you think?
Answer: The pulpit (aka the "sacred desk") was designed to hold the preacher's notes (back when they actually prepared their sermons with great diligence) but also to conceal the preacher. It WAS meant to "hide behind." The old-timers knew it's NOT ABOUT YOU. The black robe was for the same purpose. Nobody should be thinking about the pastor's style. Just preach the word. We don't need you to look cool or dance around. Now these clowns are dressing hip and bouncing up and down the aisles and all over the stage like ADHD children. Next time he says he doesn't want to hide behind it, say "You should. It's not about you." Finally, the pulpit represents the authority of the preached Word in the sacred assembly, a clear demarcation that what's said behind it is altogether special and different for the Lord's people. A pulpit is not a biblical requirement and it's not "wrong" not to use it, but before we discard a tradition, we need to think long and hard about why people who were probably smarter than us started it in the first place.
The series by The Christian Pundit(s) a husband and wife blogging team: William VanDoodewaard (WVD) and Rebecca VanDoodewaard (RVD) was called Ecclesiastical Architecture. I believe there were 8 parts to it. Here is the part which discusses the church pulpit.
Question 88 of the Shorter Catechism asks, “What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?” The answer comes, “The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption, are his Ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer, all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.” It is the preaching of the Word that God uses to draw sinners to Himself and to feed and sanctify believers (Rom. 10:14). Fisher comments that every other means and dispensation is “always to be considered in a subserviency to the word, Acts chap. 16:25-33.” The Principles of Christian Religion that the Scottish Presbyterians held to argue that since “God is the author of these writings [the Scriptures]…therefore they are of most certain credit and highest authority.”
So, “because the Word is indispensable, the pulpit, as the architectural manifestation of the Word, must make its indispensability architecturally clear” (Bruggink and Droppers, 80). The sacraments are necessary. Congregational singing is important. Prayer is needed. Proclaimed gospel, however, has historically held and should hold primary importance in Protestant worship. Everything else in worship and the sanctuary should revolved around it and point to it. Presbyterians, low Anglicans, Baptists, and Methodists (among other Protestant groups), despite their differences, all originally put the preached Word front and center, theologically and architecturally. This most basic element of biblical Christianity found consistent architectural expression across the board. You will see in old churches that have not renovated their sanctuaries, that even in times of strong denominational affiliation, large, beautiful, central pulpits were ubiquitous.
The pulpit was large, not only so that it was visible from all parts of the sanctuary, but also so there was space to hold the preacher’s notes, a hymn book and a copy of the Scriptures which the congregation could see. The other reason that pulpits were large was to make the minister look smaller, hiding most of the man behind this architectural manifestation of the Word. When a man preaches Christ faithfully, he himself begins to disappear in the minds of the hearers, as God and His work is magnified. Large pulpits facilitate this reality.
Pulpits were the center around which every other piece of furniture in the sanctuary was arranged. They were also usually the aesthetic center of the sanctuary; the motifs decorating the pulpit drew together the designs on the windows, stone sills, pew ends, balcony railings and the supporting pillars. Just as the preaching of the Word drew together all other elements of worship, so the pulpit pulled together all of the architectural details in the sanctuary.
Pulpits were often guarded by two or three chairs for the elders of the congregation, where they sat and listened to the preaching, protecting the congregation from a preacher who would preach something other than the Word. Preaching is not something to be taken lightly, or left to the whim of one man. It is so important that it needs theological and ecclesiastical protection. These chairs signified this.
Pulpits were also often raised well above the pews. The height of the pulpit allowed the minister, at eye level with those in the lowest pew of the balcony, to speak easily to his entire congregation, enabling eye contact with most parishioners.
Most Presbyterian churches also had no pipes or organ bench behind or beside the pulpit, creating more space at the front of the sanctuary around the pulpit, emphasizing the prominence of the Word.
Now, having a large, central pulpit does not mean that a modern sanctuary has to look Victorian. I have been blessed to worship in many congregations from Dutch Reformed to southern Baptist to Presbyterian which recognize the centrality of the preached Word and have large, central, unmistakeably modern pulpits. The style of the pulpit will change with time and taste. But the place and function will not. Literally front and center, the pulpit should function as an aesthetic and doctrinal fulcrum. 
Such an architectural statement does two main things. First, it reminds the congregation that they are there to hear the Lord speak to them. So often we can come to worship thinking that we are there to do something, pray something, give something, etc.. We are there to sing, pray, praise, give tithes and offerings, but the biggest item in the liturgy is the preached Word because through that Word, God by His Spirit works justification and sanctification in His people.
Second, a central pulpit makes a clear statement to any stranger walking in the door: “We have something for you to hear. It’s not what we say, it’s what God says in His Word. The pulpit looks important because what you are going to hear from it is essential for life and eternity.” A large, central pulpit also tells a new person that the congregation is under the authority of God’s Word. We’re not there because we thought it was a good idea – we’re there because of a command of our Creator and Saviour, and you need to join us.
These are powerful effects. Churches must preach the gospel, and they must use words because they are necessary. A large, central pulpit aids in reflecting this reality.
~~~~~~~~~~~~end The Christian Pundit~~~~~~~~~~~~

The pastor wants to minimize himself when he preaches, because the idea is to magnify Christ through His word. Pastor Hall is right, a preacher should want to 'hide' behind the pulpit because he wants his flock to 'see' Jesus, not him.

Pastor John MacArthur said, when asked of the trend to install huge flat screens to project the pastor,

But for me, the Word of God is alive and powerful. And if I stepped outside the Bible, I would be terrified. I would be absolutely terrified. So I completely rest in the living Word of God doing its mighty powerful work, even if it comes out of the same voice.
I actually try to minimize myself, if I can. That’s why you will never see big screens in here, because people need to hear the Word of God, they don’t need to see my nose hairs. They don’t need to become overly familiar with every nuance of my face and my expressions, it’s not about me. And, you know, when you’re such a dominating presence, and such a continual presence in a congregation, you need to disappear. You know, you need to be out of the picture and that’s one of the reasons, that’s the dominating reason why we’ve never even considered putting anybody’s face on a big screen. I don’t need to be twenty-feet high. The Word needs to be taught.
So before you toss out the pulpit, think. Pulpits have been used for a very long time and there might be an excellent reason for them and their long duration in our local churches. As was said in the article on Ecclesiastical Architecture and with which I agree,

Literally front and center, the pulpit should function as an aesthetic and doctrinal fulcrum.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wells of living water: Old Testament pictures are New Testament promises

The passage today is from Genesis 26:17-22. I found that as far as my interpretation of it goes, there seems to be a historical/practical meaning, a spiritual meaning, and a metaphorical meaning. God's word is great. Here is the passage.

So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, [contention] because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. [enmity]. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, [room] saying, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land."

Ancient well diggers dug a shaft to obtain water from a water-bearing layer beneath the ground. They lined the shaft with wood, stone, or baked brick to prevent it from caving in. To keep contaminants from the well and to protect people from falling in, well diggers often built a low stone wall like the one shown here and covered the well opening with a large flat stone. ‎Gen 16:14, Gen 21:19, 25, 30, Exod 2:15, Isa 12:3, Luke 14:5, John 4:1–45. (Source, Myers, R (2012) Logos Bible Images, Lexham Press, images are public domain.)
Practically, as a herdsman Isaac would have depended greatly on water to keep his flock alive. Water was a precious commodity in a dry and thirsty land. Earlier in Genesis 26 it had been reported that Isaac had become a very wealthy man.

And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The LORD blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him. (Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.)

Isaac's father Abraham had obtained the land legally and rightly, and he had dug the wells. Yet the Philistines stopped them up. And the Philistines' envy and hatred carried through to Isaac's day, when they contended with Isaac over the water and there was strife. It must have been a great hardship for Isaac with all his herds, servants, and flocks to go without enough water during the periods the Philistines contended against him. Calvin said of the stopped-up wells,
Moreover, the fact that the wells had been obstructed ever since the departure of Abraham, shows how little respect the inhabitants had for their guest; for although their own country would have been benefited by these wells, they chose rather to deprive themselves of this advantage than to have Abraham for a neighbor; for, in order that such a convenience might not attract him to the place, they, by stopping up the wells, did, in a certain sense, intercept his way. It was a custom among the ancients, if they wished to involve any one in ruin, and to cut him off from the society of men, to interdict him from water, and from fire: thus the Philistine, for the purpose of removing Abraham from their vicinity, deprive him of the element of water.
Aside from the physical need of the practical matter of water, the second item to note is Isaac's placid response. Stopping up a well is akin to a declaration of war because no water equals financial ruin and perhaps death. The Philistines had already noted Isaac's large retinue and knew he could have defeated the them yet Isaac did not fight. He simply relied on the Lord's providential care by abandoning his freshly dug well - several times - and moved on. Talk about turning the other cheek! (Luke 6:29).

Calvin again, this time of the spiritual relationship Isaac had with YHWH-
First, Moses, according to his manner, briefly runs through the summary of the affair: namely, that Isaac intended to apply again to his own purpose the wells which his father had previously found, and to acquire, in the way of recovery, the lost possession of them. He then prosecutes the subject more diffusely, stating that, when he attempted the work, he was unjustly defrauded of his labor; and whereas, in digging the third well, he gives thanks to God, and calls it Room, because, by the favor of God, a more copious supply is now afforded him, he furnishes an example of invincible patience. Therefore, however severely he may have been harassed, yet when, after he had been freed from these troubles, he so placidly returns thanks to God, and celebrates his goodness, he shows that in the midst of trials he has retained a composed and tranquil mind.
Thirdly, the metaphorical aspect. Whenever there is water in the Bible, I pay attention. It is a blessing to me to think of the Lord Jesus as the Living water. With the stopping up of the wells and the final well finally flowing freely in an area of enough "room", I searched to see if my hunch had been right. Matthew Henry alluded to the flowing water, metaphorical aspect of Isaac's wells issue.
In digging his wells he met with much opposition, v. 20, 21. Those that open the fountains of truth must expect contradiction. The first two wells which they dug were called Esek and Sitnah, contention and hatred. What is the nature of worldly things; they are make-bates and occasions of strife. What is often the lot even of the most quiet and peaceable men in this world; those that avoid striving yet cannot avoid being striven with, Ps. 120:7. In this sense, Jeremiah was a man of contention (Jer. 15:10), and Christ himself, though he is the prince of peace. What a mercy it is to have plenty of water, to have it without striving for it. The more common this mercy is the more reason we have to be thankful for it.
Source: Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 60).

The two verses which come to my mind are:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3).
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:38)

Matthew Henry one more time:
Upon God’s providence, even in the greatest straits and difficulties. God can open fountains for our supply where we least expect them, waters in the wilderness (Isa. 43:20), because he makes a way in the wilderness, v. 19. Those who, in this wilderness, keep to God’s way, may trust him to provide for them. While we follow the pillar of cloud and fire, surely goodness and mercy shall follow us, like the water out of the rock. 2. Upon Christ’s grace: That rock was Christ, 1 Co. 10:4. The graces and comforts of the Spirit are compared to rivers of living water, Jn. 7:38, 39; 4:14. These flow from Christ, who is the rock smitten by the law of Moses, for he was made under the law. Nothing will supply the needs, and satisfy the desires, of a soul, but water out of this rock, this fountain opened. The pleasures of sense are puddle-water; spiritual delights are rock-water, so pure, so clear, so refreshing—rivers of pleasure.
May the Lord bless you abundantly as you drink freely from the well of salvation and refresh your justified soul in the river of living water.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The joy of submitting to Jesus, and the tragedy of rejecting Him: two anecdotes (and a third)

There are two responses to the Gospel, yea or nay. Here is S. Lewis Johnson with an anecdote about a person who said yea.

Paul, His Gospel, and Thomas Jefferson
George Cutting is a man who is best known for the fact that he’s the author of a little pamphlet. You usually find it in tract racks of Christian churches. It’s entitled, “Safety, Certainty, and Enjoyment.” Mr. Cutting was just a simple Christian man who went around preaching the gospel. He was also a business man, as I remember, and one day he was bicycling through Norfolk in England. He was an Englishman. And he said it was early in the morning, and as he was going through, he was a very quiet man, he suddenly gained from the Lord the distinct impression that he should shout out a Bible verse. And so, right in the midst of this small town, there were just a few houses around, he shouted out “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” He said he cycled on a little bit longer, and the Lord seemed to say definitively to him, “Say it again.” So he said he shouted out, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” 
Six months later he was visiting in that little village, and he was doing, as he frequently did, just knocking on door after door. His first question, he said, was always, “Are you saved?” That’s called the direct approach. [Laughter] So a woman opened the door and he said, “Are you saved?” And she said, “Oh yes. About six months ago I was in great distress of soul. I plead with God to help me, and even while I was calling upon him, I heard a voice cry out, ‘Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.’” And she said, “I was startled. I wondered if I had really heard right.” She said, “I prayed again to the Lord, and I said, “Lord if that is the message, repeat it again.” 
[Laughter] And she said, “And I heard it again and I trusted Christ, and I’m saved.” And Mr. Cutting had the joy of telling her that it was he who had called out the verse. That’s preaching. You know, when Paul tells us to be instant in season and out of season. And imagine there were lots of citizens in that little village who thought that it was very much out of season to hear a Bible verse shouted out early in the morning from one of their streets. But it was in season for that lady. 
there is only one response to the message of the apostle, and that is to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. Does salvation come by praying through? No. Does salvation come by paying the church? No. Does salvation come by good works? No. Does salvation come through religion? No. Does salvation come through some religious ritual which we practice, baptism, or sitting at the Lord’s Table? No. Does salvation come through the organization of the Christian church? No. You must be born again.
Here is John MacArthur with an anecdote on a person who said nay.

The Tragedy of Neglecting Salvation
And so, we believe it is a warning to the intellectually convinced, those who have heard the gospel, know the facts about Jesus Christ, know that He died for them, know that He desires to forgive their sin, know that He can some into their life and change their life but are not willing to receive Christ as Savior. And may I hasten to add that's the most tragic category of people in existence. And I've told you a story once before that points it up as graphically as anything. I'll never forget on one occasion when a lady came into my office and informed me that she was a prostitute. And she said, "I need help" And I said, "I guess you do." And she said, "Please, I'm desperate." 
And so I presented the claims of Christ to her from beginning to end and I said, "Would you like to invite Jesus Christ into your life?" And she said yes. She said, "I've had it." She was at the bottom to say the least through the dope scene, the whole bit. So she prayed a prayer and evidently she invited Christ into her life. And I said, "Now," I said, "I want to ask you to do something." I said, "Do you have your little book that you have all your contacts in with you?" And she said yes. I said, "Well, let's just take a match here and we'll burn it." And she looked at me and she said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Just what I said. I mean, if you're really going to live for Jesus Christ and you've really accepted His forgiveness and you really met Him as your Savior, let's burn that book and we'll just have a little party here and just praise the Lord." And she said to me, "That's worth a lot of money." She said, "That's worth an awful lot 
Then she said to me, "I don't want to burn my book." Put it in her purse and looked at me right in the eye and said, "I guess I don't really want Jesus, do I?" And she left. 
Now you see, there was somebody who when the..when it really came down to the nitty gritty and counted the cost, she wasn't ready. I don't know what the story of that dear girl is. My heart has often ached for her and I've often thought about her. But I do know that she knows the facts and she believes them, but she's not willing to make the sacrifice. And it's a bad bargain, for what she kept wasn't worth anything compared to what she could have had in Jesus Christ forever.
These days in 2015 it is not popular nor even accepted to speak of hell or demons. But they exist, they are active in the world, and they still do possess people, just as they did in the time of Luke 4:31-37. That's the passage John MacArthur was preaching when he related this anecdote:
This is a rare thing. I've preached the gospel for a long time and only about three times in my whole life have I ever heard demons speak, been confronted. One of them was a few weeks ago, I told you about last week, right down in the front when a demon-possessed person came running down the aisle after I was preaching the gospel, exalting Christ's power over the kingdom of darkness, came at me and said, "Why are you attacking me? Why are you trying to hurt me?" Which is exactly what the demon said here.
But it was some years ago when I had first come to Grace. We had built the family center and we were having services there before we built this facility. It was a Sunday night and after the service was over I was over having some food with somebody from the church and I got a call from Jerry Mitchell who was here a few weeks ago. He was on the staff at the time. He said, "You've got to come down here, John, I've got a...I've got a girl in here whose got all kinds of demon voices." He had never experienced anything like this and I never had either. And I said, "Well I don't know if I could be much help but I'll come right down."
So I came down, I walked in and there was chaos in the office. It was over in the building by the family center, and I walked in and the place was in disarray and it was obvious that she had been terrorizing things. She had overturned the desk and poor Jerry who was a boxer in the Navy was having a hard time defending himself against this girl, and that is characteristic of New Testament accounts where there's a certain level of strength that's beyond normal. And I'll never forget the greeting when I walked in the door. I walked in the door and this...out of this girl's mouth — whom I had met and with whom I had spoken because she had been coming to the church — came this voice, and I can't, obviously, replicate it. But in my memory I know what the voice said. It's something like: "Not him, not him, not him, get him out, get him out, get him out," to me.
Well my first reaction was, "I'm leaving. I'm not sure I'm up to this." Wow! And my second reaction was, "They know who I am and they know whose side I'm on, that's very affirming." It was affirming. I sort of started feeling apostolic. Paul I know and Jesus I know and John MacArthur, you know? Wow! Amazing!
I don't think that demon was afraid of me humanly. I don't have any human power to deal with demons. In fact, Jerry and I didn't know what to do. We started trying to send the demons away. We sent them everywhere you could think of, the pit, the abyss, Phoenix, anywhere hot, you know. And the bottom...the bottom line is they didn't go anywhere and so we just were praying and saying, "You know, this isn't working, this casting out thing isn't working. I'm not Jesus and we're not apostles and we don't have authority over that kingdom." There's only one way that this girl will ever be delivered and that is when Christ delivers her in the act of salvation.
So we wrestled, literally physically trying to restrain her and get her in a chair and she was so exhausted physically and finally calmed down and we gave her the gospel. And she confessed her sin. I'll never forget it, just really gushed out her sin before the Lord and embraced Jesus Christ and then it was just this calm that came everywhere. There was deliverance. Nothing to do with me, nothing to do with a formula, nothing to do with an exorcism, nothing to do with that at all, that...that is not what deals with demons. She needed to be delivered from the kingdom of darkness, you understand that? And she was. She was.
The demon was terrified of me not because of something I could do in the human. The demon was terrified of me because the demon connected me with the message of the gospel. And the demon knew that if the gospel came to this girl and she believed that he was finished. And that's exactly what happened. She was as clean as the driven snow after that and never had another occasion of that kind of terrifying experience.
Anyone who is not of Christ and in His sheepfold is under bondage to the god of this world, satan They are serving him, whether they believe it or not. And anyone who has not confessed their sins and submitted to the Gospel is at risk for being possessed by a demon.

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near" (Isaiah 55:6). Does that means He might be far? Yes. Someday, He might turn a person over to their sin in a hardened heart and salvation might not be possible after that. His grace, peace, mercy, and love is manifold. Having the gentle and lovely Spirit inside of us is a 'burden' that is easy. As we saw from the anecdote about the demon, having satan in us is a burden that is harsh and heavy. How many woes lay in the demon direction, and how many blessings there are in Christ. Seek Him while ye may!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jesus is the door: what do these famous testimonies reveal about their understanding of Christ?

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9)

This is one of the famous I AM statements by Jesus. Here they all are.
1. And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
2. Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
3. “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
4. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
5. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
6. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
7. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).
Any study on these statements would be rich and edifying. However let's just look at the door. The door is narrow. There is only one door. It is an exclusive door. No other door will allow entry to heaven. If anyone tries to come another way, he is a thief and a robber. (John 10:1)

Jesus leads his Jews out of the fold into salvation. He has another fold (John 10:16) where He leads His Gentiles out into salvation and green pastures. No one can go to green pastures another way except through Jesus. His way is exclusive because He is the ONLY way. His way requires repentance, a realization of our utter inability to perform any act He would consider righteous and a realization of His total ability to crush us like a bug if He so desired- and that would be just. We understand His holiness but also His mercy in saving us. One would think that a conversion testimony would include acknowledgement of at least some of those positional truths.

Here are a few conversion testimonies I found online. Compare them. And in the back of your mind, keep thinking about the Door. At the bottom I'll have the moral of the story.


Conversion story #1
At the end of the sermon, the preacher had "Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but look and live!" I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said—I did not take much notice of it—I was so possessed with that one thought . . . . I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, "Look!" what a charming word it seemed to me. Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away.
There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, "Trust Christ, and you shall be saved." ... I listened to the Word of God and that precious text led me to the cross of Christ. I can testify that the joy of that day was utterly indescribable. I thought I could have sprung from the seat in which I sat, and have called out with the wildest of those Methodist brethren . . . "I am forgiven! I am forgiven! A monument of grace! A sinner saved by blood!" My spirit saw its chains broken to pieces, I felt that I was an emancipated soul, an heir of heaven, a forgiven one, accepted in Jesus Christ, plucked out of the miry clay and out of the horrible pit, with my feet set upon a rock and my goings established ... Simply by looking to Jesus I had been delivered from despair...
That young man certainly was aware of his position in Christ prior to salvation. He had been in despair, he heard the Gospel and he was saved by blood.The young man was Charles Spurgeon. His subsequent life certainly reflects the foundational understanding he had of the Gospel.


Conversion story #2
"I didn't have a fireworks moment for my salvation, I had a falling in love with Jesus in Sunday school when I was a very young child." But she did have an altar call moment. In high school, she had planned to become a lawyer, but one summer while leading a group of sixth-grade girls at camp, she received what she considers a call from God. "I had no words, nothing but a sense," she says. "God took a very troubled young woman and made sure that she understood." She walked down the aisle of her church, committing herself to ministry."
So she had a mystical sense to walk down an aisle and commit to the idol of ministry. Not the standard Gospel call of realizing our depravity in brokenness and turning to a resurrected, blood shedding Jesus as the exclusive hope for reconciliation with God... The woman is Beth Moore. Her subsequent life certainly reflects the lack of understanding she should have had of her position in Christ both before and after salvation.


Conversion story #3
in 1914 at the encouragement of their minister the young man was now beginning to take a hard look at the reality of his spiritual condition. "For many years I thought I was a Christian when in fact I was not. It was only later that I came to see that I had never been a Christian and became one." As he struggled with his salvation a grace truth came into focus. He said he had not really heard sound preaching of the gospel in his early life. "What I needed was preaching that would convict me of sin and … bring me to repentance and tell me something about regeneration. But I never heard that. The preaching we had was always based on the assumption that we were all Christians …" As the young man read for himself he slowly but surely saw the logic and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the waves of the incoming tide, the reality of God's grace swept over his heart until trusting Christ was all he could do. As surely as that reality overwhelmed him personally it overwhelmed him professionally.
The young man was Martyn Lloyd Jones, (source) a preacher called "logic on fire" and certainly his long and fruitful life subsequent to his conversion testifies to the grace of Christ in bringing him to regeneration from brokenness in sin.


Conversion story #4

A certain young man began attending a tent revival.
"And then it happened, sometime around my sixteenth birthday. On that night, [the preacher] finished preaching and gave the Invitation to accept Christ... On the last verse of that second song, I responded. I walked down to the platform, feeling as if I had lead weights attached to my feet, and stood in the space before the platform... My heart sank when I looked over at the lady standing next to me with tears running down her cheeks. I was not crying. I did not feel any special emotion of any kind just then. Maybe, I thought, I was not supposed to be there. Maybe my good intentions to be a real Christian wouldn't last. Wondering if I was just making a fool of myself, I almost turned around and went back to my seat..." As [the young man] stood at the platform, a friend of the family's, testified to the young man and guided him to pray.
"He prayed for me and guided me to pray. I had heard the message, and I had felt the inner compulsion to go forward. Now came the moment to commit myself to Christ... I checked 'Recommitment' on the card I filled out. No bells went off inside me. No signs flashed across the tabernacle ceiling. No physical palpitations made me tremble. I wondered again if I was a hypocrite, not to be weeping or something. I simply felt at peace."
The young man was Billy Graham, attending Mordecai Ham's tent revival. The subsequent life of Graham testifies to his lack of a foundational understanding. Especially when in his mature decades, Graham said things like a person could go to heaven without ever hearing the gospel, knowing Jesus Christ, or having lived a sincere life just knowing he needed something. "They're going to come another way" Graham said. No. They're not.


You see the weakness of Moore's and Graham's theology in describing their conversion. Their descriptions posted were not immediately after conversion, either, they were statements made decades later when one presumes some sanctified maturity has set in.

You see the strength of Spurgeon's and Jones' conversion stories. They talk os sin, grce, redemption, resurrection, regeneration.

Jesus is the Door. It is a narrow door. It is the only door. It isn't easy to become a Christian. It involves a deep, soulful agony. Here's Don Green on how to recognize true repentance,
Look at verse 4, where Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” This word for mourning describes deep, inner agony…agony. Jesus is describing a spiritual mourning here, not an earthly mourning. It’s easy enough to see that. There are a lot of people that suffer earthly loss and mourn that, that don’t receive comfort from Christ. Unbelievers who are mourning their losses don’t receive comfort from Christ. What Jesus is talking about here is spiritual mourning over sin. He had just talked about poverty of spirit. It’s in the context of repentance.
...the tax collector in Luke 18, verse 13…Luke 18, verse 13, you don’t need to turn there. The tax collector standing some distance away was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven but was beating his breasts saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” He was beating his breast, his agony, his mourning over sin was so great that he had to release it physically. This was no superficial response. This was no quick nod of the head to the question, “Do you think you’re a sinner?” And then move on to whatever the next topic of discussion was. No, the kind of mourning, the kind of sorrow that repentance expresses is a sorrow that stops you in your tracks, a sorrow that you can’t get over.
Salvation is no easy-breezy nod to the Holy I AM whilst wiping one's feet on the doormat saying, "Gee, thanks for the ministry." It isn't ambling down an aisle, and checking off a 'recommitment'  box after a quick prayer. Salvation is agony and going through the door means you leave all else behind, enter alone, and worship. Jesus isn't relieved you have recommitted. He isn't wringing His hands in hopes that you will fall in love with Him. He doesn't have an 'easy button' you push. He has a narrow way of entry with strict requirements. Jesus is THE DOOR. He is not a doorMAT.

Further Reading

How easy is salvation?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Encore: Is Today the Day?

Re-post from 2011.

Is today that day that You will call for your church to heaven?
Is today that day You will present a bride to Your Son?
Is today the day You will deal with sin in the world?
Is today that day You will send another warning to the unrepentant?
Is today the day You will quicken the Spirit inside me to grow in Christlikeness?
Is today the day You will send the Spirit to draw my family to the cross?
Is today the day You will grow me in the spiritual fruits?
Is today the day You will chasten me, your child?
Is today the day You will send ministering angels to help me?
Is today the day You will give this land to Abraham and his offspring forever?
Is today the day You will bring Your people out from under the yoke of oppression?
Is today the day You will show Yourself in glory and power?

Today could be the day. For many of these, today IS the day. For others, soon will be the day. The Lord's promises are true. They will be fulfilled. May His name be forever blessed.

About the face...

But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the fa...