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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Evangel Lies: Picket Signs of the Times

The Phelps family of Westboro Baptist Church is at it again. This time, they've decided to protest the funeral of Walter Cronkite. If you're like me when I first heard this little tidbit of info, you're asking, "Ummm...why?". But the article makes it all clear. Apparently, it is because Walter Cronkite is a "fag-lover":

“We protest all this holy Cronkite worship. He was no hero to God. On his Cronkite Watch, America was surrendered to the fag-agenda. Ergo, Cronkite is now in Hell. And that’s the way it is. God hates Cronkite. “

That statement would fall under the category of Passing Judgement 101; and not of a righteous kind (John 7:24). What they propagate is a completely twisted view of the "gospel" - replete with picket signs and derogatory catch-phrase t-shirts:

"Our only message is love God and he’ll bless you...disobey God and he’ll destroy you.”

Hate to be a killjoy, Phelps family, but this is not THE Gospel. It's just judgement - that's all and nothing else (Matt. 7:3-5).

Where's the salvation? Where's the redemption of sins? Where's CHRIST!! Telling people to come to God without giving them the means by which to come? The idea of Christianity being touted by Fred Phelps and his WBC congregation is the antithesis of the way that we are to communicate the message of Christianity to a world that is lost. Until Jesus Christ comes again, we are to preach the Good News that Christ died to save the ungodly - that Jesus is the way for us to be reconciled to God for our sins. The reason that these men, women, and (unfortunately) children show up at funerals and picket the dead (while name calling), is because it is what they identify with spiritually - Death. It is a doctrine of death separated from the One who gives life (John 3:16, 6:44). This family has overstepped their boundaries by bringing final judgement on the world, when Christ has not yet done so (John 12:47-48).

They talk of love for God, yet they ignore the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). Are we to warn of the wrath to come? Absolutely! But, we are also to tell them of The Way out (Acts 17:22-33). Without this, what you see is what you get - which is nothing. Just blind men screaming at other blind men about how blind they are. Truth is, the WBC members need to be saved just as badly as the people that they protest against. They fail to see that they have little effect on the audience (other than to maybe anger a few), reducing them to a self-seeking, media-circus sideshow; irrelevant fodder for the masses.

To the Westboro Baptist Community:

My prayer for you is this:

May you be convicted of your own sins (Rom. 3:23), and repent. Seek the Lord Jesus Christ while he may be found. Submit to the whole counsel of God as it has been given to us in the Scriptures (Matt. 7:2, Luke 6:37-38, Rom. 2:1). May the Love of Christ compel you so that you may learn to have love for those whom Christ loves (Matt. 11:19, Luke 15:2). Give way to the Great Commission of our Lord...(2 Cor. 5:20, Jude 1:23)

It's about being sent to make disciples, not sending people to Hell (Luke 5:32).

Soli Deo Gloria,

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mr. Puritan: Regeneration & Fruit of Faith

Mr. Puritan gives a brief explanation of John 3:1-5...

for further study: John 1:13, Ezekiel 36:25-27, Mark 16:16, Luke 17:20-21, Acts 2:38, Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5, Hebrews 10:22, John 10:9; 14:6.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Friday, July 17, 2009

Breaking Bad: The Gospel According to Matt. 5:17-20

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Growing up, I had this passage explained to me on several occasions, but I can say in all honesty, none of those explanations ever gave me any sort of feelings of eternal peace or rest in Jesus. The way that those in charge of my spiritual formation explained this passage to me sounded something like this:

"Now that we've accepted Jesus, we have to do everything in our power to follow his commandments, or else we won't receive our reward in heaven."

This is more or less a composite of several explanations, but the implication remains the same. Even recently, I heard a well-meaning minister urge his congregation to follow the Savior using this same sentiment. The problem with approaching this passage in this manner is that it:

(1) will only drive us to despair.
(2) unless we look to Jesus himself as the key to interpreting this passage, we will miss the point altogether.

Jesus coming to fulfill the law is not meant to be seen merely as a parroting of what Moses brought to the people of Israel (Hebrews 3:1-6). The Pharisees accused Him of breaking the law because they (much like so many of us today) did not see Jesus as THE fulfillment of the OT law and prophecy(Matthew 17:1-5, Rom. 3:21). Therefore, they spent their time manufacturing righteousness. It is important to remember that the Pharisees were extremely lawful. Their righteousness was founded upon this very fact (they also believed that it was their lawful righteousness that would usher in the Messiah and his kingdom). However, their fanatical need to fulfill the law via their own abilities left them lopsided; for they neglected the greater issues and purpose of the law (Rom. 3:21, Gal. 3:24). This led them and the people that they were supposed to be serving into total despair. While they were so busy following the law, as well as making up new ones to keep, they ignored the law altogether (Matthew 23:1-39).

And so it is with us. When we look to ourselves or a jury of our peers as a parameter for our righteousness, it will lead us to nothing less than many sleepless nights (Matthew 10:28). By these standards, when are we ever good enough? Especially when we take into account the law of God, which we are all guilty of breaking. We are all aware of the fact the we just don't measure up. So we, like our first parents, spend our lives making suits of fig leaves; trying to hide the truth of how flawed we are (Gen. 3:1-7, 1 John 1:8,10; 2:4).

Enter the despair. We know that we're not right (Psalm 14: 3, Eccl. 7:20, Rom. 3:9-18). We just don't want anyone else to find out. But a leaf that isn't attached to vine begins to wither (John 15:1-5). If we keep cutting down the forest to make the suit, we run out of resources. No more leaves or even a tree to hide behind. What do we do then when left to face the judgement of the law, naked and ashamed (Jer. 2:35)?

But there is good news, even within this passage. It is Jesus that is the righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees through his life and death (Romans 10:4-13). The Apostle Paul appropriately points to Jesus as the answer to the treacherous natural state of our humanity. He shows us that if we attempt to live by the letter of the law, we are justly condemned for our inability to follow it . In pointing out his own inability to follow the law, he himself is driven to despair, but calls to remembrance the salvation that he has in Jesus and gives glory to God for giving us the Son (Romans 7:13-25).

No one is good enough to save themselves and we already stand condemned (John 3:18). The notion that we can somehow clean ourselves up enough to be acceptable before God is akin to taking a bath in dirty water (Job 14:4, Isaiah 64:6). It accomplishes nothing. But God, in his mercy, sent his Son to live under the law faithfully. In his justice, he sacrificed his Son as an unblemished offering for my sinful disregard for his law (2 Cor. 5:21). And for his glory, he raised his Son, so that those that he came to save may be raised with him, giving all glory to God for being just, and the justifier of their faith (Rom. 3:23-26, 1 Cor. 15:20-23). Furthermore, in his faithfulness, he gives us the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who bears witness to our surety in Christ (2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13-14), and gives us the ability to obey his commands (Ezek. 36:26-27, Matt. 22:34-40, Gal. 5:22-23, 1 John 4:19, 21).

Contrary to popular belief (and Poor Richard's Almanac), the Lord does not "help those who help themselves". For that, we should thankful.

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. - Galatians 3:10-14

Soli Deo Gloria,


Friday, July 10, 2009

Seeking What He Sought: The Legacy of John Calvin

Today is the 500th anniversary of french protestant theologian, John Calvin. I was surprised to see how much controversy has come about due to the "festivities". Some in the christian (Protestant) community argue that it is idolatry to celebrate/venerate a man. I've read several articles today before beginning to write this - both pro and con - and now would like to share my personal thoughts as I weigh in on the issue.

I've said it before: there is a fine line between veneration and idolatry. Unfortunately, sometimes that line gets crossed, even by some within reformed (Calvinistic) theology circles. However, I don't believe that this is what's going on here. This is the quincentennial celebration of the life and legacy of Calvin. To my knowledge, it is not made a habit to celebrate the birth of Calvin every year on such a grand scale. This is a milestone, nothing more.

Truth is, the Protestant community is indebted to John Calvin. Calvin's Institutes of Christian Religion was the first work to systematize the Protestant Christian Faith. Also, he is not appreciated for being the statesman that he was. The governmental/constitutional structure of the United States owes a great deal of gratitude to Calvin. But, these facts, as well as many other examples, go largely unmentioned. He is a much more pivotal figure in history, who doesn't get as much attention as some others in Christian history, due to his lack of flamboyance.

That being said, I'm pretty sure that Calvin himself wouldn't want his life to be memorialized in any way. So, is there a way to honor the man, while not dishonoring his wishes? Or greater still: can we honor him in a way that doesn't cross over into idolatry?

In the words of Bruce Lee,

"It is like a finger pointing at the moon; if you concentrate too much on the finger, you miss all of that heavenly glory!"

We should see the life of Calvin as that finger. Not seeking the seeker, but seeking what he sought: that Christ be magnified in all things (John 1:7-8, 6:29). This was the chief end of everything that Calvin ever said, did, or penned (Mark 12:29-31). As we remember him today, remember more importantly to thank God for the likes of John Calvin. Also, pray that we, as the Church, will have a heart akin to Calvin:

One that is offered promptly and sincerely to the work and glory of the Lord being expressed in all areas of life, to all creatures everywhere, as truth for all time.

"Set before [man], as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God" - John Calvin

Happy Birthday, Mr. Calvin!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Day The Music Died: The Life and Death of Michael Jackson

"A man is more that the sum of his deeds". That's what I said audibly to myself as I watched parts of the Michael Jackson memorial service yesterday. I didn't even realize that I was talking out loud until that very moment (I surprised myself, actually). But the reason for such a response came as a knee-jerk reaction to what the pundits on television were saying, and seeing the crowds of people. There is a fine line between veneration and idolatry and I believe that yesterday, on some level, that line was crossed - and with reckless abandon.

That being said, I have to point out that Jackson did indeed have a gift for performance and music. His God-given talent makes the work of so many others pale in comparison. No one can take that away from him. But, what seemed to be getting lost in the shuffle of the celebration of his life was...well...his life. Every commentator and interview talked about "what he gave us". The positivity of his music and his message ruled the day. There was no doubt about the concentrated effort to whitewash so many aspects of his life under the guise of celebrating the music. This is what struck me to be the most peculiar:

"We are here to celebrate the gift of music that he gave to us."
"He gave so much to so many through his music."
"We will always have his music to cherish."
"His legacy is his music."

No one really talked much (at least not in the meaningful way) about the legacy of the man himself. I'm not even talking about the accusations of child molestation. After all, legally, he was never found guilty of those charges - regardless of the shadow that was cast by those allegations. Besides, I believe that there where shadows cast much broader, bigger, and earlier in his life that led to other situations. There is one question that remains in all of this: While everyone is celebrating the music, was anyone really paying attention? Many of the songs that didn't have as much commercial success (especially in his later years) told quite a tale of a person in distress. But that's just too depressing. So, we go ahead and we make him up. But here, I'll say it again:

A man is more than the sum of his deeds (Isaiah 64:6).

Here lies Michael Jackson - a man apart.
A broken man who died of a broken heart.
From childhood to the bitter end, we bled him dry,
Now we all shout, "why God, why?!"
He was loved by millions, yet never felt loved at all.
He could never grow up because he felt so small.

I read where one fan stated that, "he was more important than Jesus". Here is where the problem lies. Too many saw him as a savior of sorts, but he didn't have the Savior. He began to give himself over to a distorted view of self and love. He repeatedly changed his appearance because he just couldn't accept himself; never fully understanding that our true identity is found in Christ (Acts 17:29, 1 Cor. 15:10, Colossians 1:15-16). So the music, in essence, became his salvation. It was through it that he would gain an identity and feel some semblance of love and worth. The only problem is that it left him lacking. So he always had to have more. It was through it that he sought immortality - failing to realize that you can never find permanent comfort in a temporal world (Matt. 6:19-20, James 4:14, 1 Peter 1:24). I believe that Quincy Jones said it best when he stated that not being grounded in the realization that you were made as a "vessel for the Divine" can have serious consequences (Acts 17:28, Romans 1:28). Michael was the King of Pop, not the King of Kings. But sadly, he was all too often surrounded by people who made too much of him and not enough of Christ, which tragically left nothing of him at all (Eccl. 5:7, John 3:30, Phil. 3:8). And now, sadly, it is a lesson that he has learned too late (Hebrews 9:27).

The death of Michael Jackson should have been mourned properly - both publicly and privately. I say this in hopes that maybe he is the figure big enough to show both those in the entertainment world and those of us who enjoy the dangers in putting too much stock in things and people of this world.

Eventually the music stops for everyone. On June 25, 2009, it stopped for Michael Jackson (Luke 9:25, 1 Cor. 10:31)...

Soli Deo Gloria,

Saturday, July 04, 2009

God Bless America!

In celebration of our Independence Day I wanted to send a shout from our great nation's 1st president:

"It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for all his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor." - George Washington

Didn't think George Washington used the word God much or at all did you? Well, it turns out that many of the stories of George being either a non believer or Deist like many of the other founding fathers was rather inaccurate to say the least. George didn't often loudly or profoundly share his faith but many of his writings and speeches are filled with a deep spirituality and belief in one almighty God. The excerpt from above comes from the first Thanksgiving Proclamation under the new Constitution given on October 3, 1789. (More on that subject to come later...)

It's been a sad couple of weeks here as we've lost four stars from different walks of life but all significant in their own way and sure to missed by many. RIP...Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays and Steve "Air" McNair. I had the pleasure to wait on Steve about six months ago and I am so pleased to say that he was such a kind and respectful soul. I've had the pleasure and displeasure on many occasions to take care of many "stars" during the time I spent working in restaurants and he was one of the coolest I ever met. He didn't ask for much and was just excited when his food got to the table just enjoyed a quiet meal with a friend and treated everyone who came around like friends and I really appreciated that and will always remember that about him. Unexpected deaths like these remind me of how thankful I am for God's grace that allows me to wake up everyday and worship and praise him for we can never know when he is going to call us to come home to be with him.

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

Sola Gratia,

Johnny "Big Black"

Let Freedom Ring

"There is nothing plainer than this rule, that we are to use our liberty if it tends to the edification of our neighbor." - John Calvin

I've done a lot of writing on liberty recently in the Mr. Puritan series...so let's take the day off to celebrate! Thank God today for our truest liberation.

Soli Deo Gloria,

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