Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Some Things Should Be "Left Behind"

Someone stop the planet - I'm getting off. It just came to my attention this afternoon (perhaps this is old news to you) that the progenitors of the Left Behind series (Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins) launched a video game division called Left Behind Games (what else?) in February of this year, and their first project will be a game called Left Behind: Eternal Forces. MSNBC's Newsweek Periscope article recorded the following from Left Behind Games CEO, Troy Lyndon:

Left Behind Games CEO Troy Lyndon, whose company went public in February, says the game's Christian themes will grab the audience that didn't mind gore in "The Passion of the Christ." "We've thought through how the Christian right and the liberal left will slam us," says Lyndon. "But megachurches are very likely to embrace this game."

"Megachurches are very likely to embrace this game"...why does it seem that this statement nearly says it all? Sadly, this "Eternal Forces" game turns sobering biblical truth into In fact, not only do players blow away infidels with modern military weaponry, but it is even possible to play on the side of the Antichrist. Here is a summary description of the game from the Left Behind Games website:

"Wage a war of apocalyptic proportions in LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces - a real-time strategy game based upon the best-selling LEFT BEHIND book series created by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Join the ultimate fight of Good against Evil, commanding Tribulation Forces or the Global Community Peacekeepers, and uncover the truth about the worldwide disappearances!

· Lead the Tribulation Force from the book series, including Rayford, Chloe, Buck and Bruce against Nicolae Carpathia - the AntiChrist.

· Conduct physical & spiritual warfare: using the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world.

· Recover ancient scriptures and witness spectacular Angelic and Demonic activity as a direct consequence of your choices.

· Command your forces through intense battles across a breathtaking, authentic depiction of New York City .

· Control more than 30 units types - from Prayer Warrior and Hellraiser to Spies, Special Forces and Battle Tanks!

· Enjoy a robust single player experience across dozens of New York City maps in Story Mode - fighting in China Town, SoHo, Uptown and more! lbg2.jpg

· Play multiplayer games as Tribulation Force or the AntiChrist's Global Community Peacekeepers with up to eight players via LAN or over the internet!"

Things like this make a sad mockery of Christ's future return - no matter what eschatological beliefs you may hold. When He returns, it will be no laughing (or gaming) matter -

Revelation 1:7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen.

As believers, we have a great need to stimulate one another to love and good deeds - deeds which comport with the real battle that God has assigned to us as the soldiers of Christ. Additionally, we must always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15). We are in a battle, but we cannot lose sight of the nature of our warfare:

Ephesians 6:11-12: 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

The truth is that we are in a very serious battle and we must not downgrade that truth for the sake of entertainment. Here's my advice to those who occupy their time with such things: put your joystick down and go across the street and witness to your neighbor! Now that's a real battle!

Finally - what entertainment can there be in enabling a "gamer" to play on the side of Satan? After all, he is the enemy and accuser of the saints of God - even of Christ Himself. Foolishness like this should remind us all that some things should in fact be "left behind."

Monday, May 29, 2006

Using Our Freedoms For His Glory

Today we remember those who laid down their lives for our nation's freedom. Every Memorial Day weekend I can't help but to think of the privilege that I had to serve for eight years in the United States Air Force; but much more than this, I pause and give thanks for the many who also served in our nation's armed forces, doing so by sacrificing their own lives for our freedom. As a family, we continually thank the Lord for the freedoms that we have in this nation - freedoms that are secured by the sovereign hand of God, through the ultimate sacrifices of many. May we be on guard not to squander those freedoms, but to use them for His ultimate glory. As believers in Christ let us employ our freedoms to the fullest by telling others about the true freedom that is found in Christ alone, who made the greatest sacrifice of all by laying down His life for our sin.

1 Peter 2:16-17

16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

John 8:34-36

34 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 "And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 "If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Thoughts on Family Worship

(Excerpt from The First Institution - Thoughts on Family Worship)

The godly impact of family worshipis found not only in the explicit message given through Biblical instruction, but it is also found in the implicit message of the father's faithfulness. As the father leads his family in worship, he should consider the following principles: 1. Prayer must be a high priority. By prayer the worshipper enters into the presence of God by the merit of Christ and calls upon the Lord for the Spirit's guidance, leadership, illumination and aid in worship. By prayer we confess sinand acknowledge our need for Christ's daily graceto stand firm and serveHim as His children. Christ taught His disciples concerning the of importance and need for prayer as being the means by which we hallow God's name, admit our dependence upon His sovereign care, confess our transgressions and petition for His shepherding guidance (Matthew 6:5-15). The time of family worshipis but a mere mechanism if it consists of Scriptural study without the discipline of prayer. The father should lead his family in a time of prayer requesting the Spirit's work in their midst so that they might genuinely worshipin spirit and in truth (John 4:24). 2. Praise must saturate the time of family worship. It is important to understand that when we use the word worshipwe are speaking of the specific act of ascribing to God his worth, that is, declaring to God His worthiness to be praised. [1]While the study of God's Word is central in family worship, it must also be recognized that corporate praise and thanksgiving are also very crucial. The Old Testament book of Psalms is filled with profound expressions of praise and thanksgiving, such that even in the darkest moments of despair and anxiety, the psalmist frequently resolves to praise God and give Him thanks in everything. The importance of this aspect of worship should not be overlooked, for the act of praise and thanksgiving nurtures humility and joy in the heart, and is therefore critical medicine for the soul (Psalm 33, Psalm 43:4). The time of family worship may even be focused on a difficult subject, or may even emphasize a family's tragedy, and yet it can always be said that declaring the blessedness of God is good and pleasing in His sight (Job 1:20-22). 3. Biblical instruction should be central. The time of prayer and praise is centrally aided by the truth of God's Word. There is an interdependency between prayer, praise and Scripture that must be recognized. Without prayer and praise, we could become like the Pharisees who viewed worship as a mere mechanism. But without God's truth, we are left with a form of prayer and praise that is devoid of genuine substance. Therefore, the father should often seek to make the time of Scriptural study that which is central to the family worship time. The truth of God's Word should not just be studied, but also meditated upon through prayer and praise. The following are some helpful ideas for fathers as they seek to establish a pattern of teaching in their homes: [2]

  • The family worship time should be clearly led by the father, but also involve members of the family at the same time. It should be presented in a manner that will ultimately seek to engage all of the children at their various levels. The father should carefully prepare his lessons in such a manner that addresses the various stages and capabilities of his children: their age and spiritual condition should be carefully considered in this way. The father's priority in the time of family worship should be to teach the Word of God in such a way that his family can have time to listen and respond with questions, as often as possible.

  • The family worship meeting should be held at a time that will make maximum use of the family's schedule, not as a mere add-on, but as a climax of the day. There will be nights where the father's work schedule may prevent him from leading a family worship time: of course, in lieu of the father's presence, the mother can guide the children in a time of worship and prayer in his stead. But it should be noted that there is a great need for parents not to treat a family worship hour with superstition (i.e., it must be done every evening or else!); but neither should the family justify the habitual neglect of family worship for the sake of a schedule and routine that should ultimately be trimmed back in order to restore the priority of family worship. It is helpful for the father to outline a schedule for his family, at least for his own sake, and then to approach that schedule with the understanding that he may need to adjust it according to the needs of his family. His drive in this should not be a schedule or calendar, rather it should be born out of an earnest desire to shepherd his family in Christ.

  • The father's lessons can consist of studies in various books of the Bible, or in other books that focus the reader's attention to the Scriptures themselves. His overall goal must be to present a Christ centered and Christ glorifying message to his family. Here are some suggested materials for the family worship time:

» The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan

» The Pilgrim's Progress (Retold for Children), Christian Literature Crusade

» A Token for Children, James Janeway and Cotton Mather

» Outlines of Sermons to Children

» A Catechism for Boys and Girls, Carey Publications (Reformation Today Trust)

» Thoughts for Young Men, J. C. Ryle

» Boys & Girls Playing, J. C. Ryle

[1]The word worship comes from the old English word weorthscipe (weorth ~ worth and scipe ~ ship). The primitive idea of this English word is that of "the condition (in a person) of deserving, or being held in, esteem or repute; honour, distinction, renown." The Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition (

Press), Electronic Edition.

[2]For additional resources on this subject, please consult Family Worship: Jerry Marcellino, Rediscovering the Lost Treasure of Family Worship (Audubon Press, Laurel, MS).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

How To Start And Maintain An Apostate Religion

popes.jpgToday, CNN reported on a statement made by Pope Benedict XVI concerning the future beautification of John Paul II:

"Benedict, standing next to John Paul's former secretary, Krakow's Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, said, 'Your Cardinal Stanislaw expresses the hope, as do I, that in the short future we will be to enjoy the beatification and canonization of John Paul II.'"

In other words, it is expected that the former Pope John Paul II will be declared a saint, thereby joining the official list of "saints" from the "Mother Church." Whenever I hear Rome pontificating in this fashion, it disturbs me to no end. Here are men who hold to a form of godliness, but they deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5) - Paul warned Timothy to "avoid such men as these." This sainthood debauchery is...debauchery. Being declared a saint by mere men is about as meaningful as my telling you that I will give you the title and deed to the Orion Nebula - and that's a problem, because...

...what I don't own, I can't actually give away!

A sinner becoming a saint is the work and gift of God alone. Missing this point means forsaking the core truths of the Gospel itself. In fact, unless John Paul II became a redeemed saint through faith in Christ sometime before his death, then it is simply too late for him to become a saint at all. The word hagios is frequently used as a descriptive name for believers in Christ. How often do we read the epistles and see the expression "to the saints at..." thereby seeing that the children of God are deemed as saints in view of their position in Christ.


Consider that thought for a moment..our position in Christ - that's the heart of the meaning of this term. This term hagios simply means to be set apart or consecrated unto God. Conceptually, this term's emphasis is locative - that is, it emphasizes the position of the one referred to. In the LXX, hagios is principally used for the Hebrew term qadosh [holy] - the main concept of which is [as it is used of men]: to divide, separate, set apart. This single term wipes out much of Rome's apostate doctrine since it is not the Christian's hope to become saints someday (if they have been good enough in this life, as deemed by their peers), rather they are saints for the simple and wonderful truth that they are in Christ, now and forevermore. In fact the "nowness" of the saint's position and communion with Christ is a wonderfully repeated theme in Scripture, for example:

To the Saints at Ephesus, Paul said: "In Him we have [echomen] redemption..." [Ephesians 1:7]. echomen [1pp present active indicative] - literally, we presently and continually have redemption. An indicative verb is one that communicates reality rather than mere potential.

To the Saints at Philippi, Paul said: "For our citizenship is [huparchei] in heaven..." [Philippians 3:20]. huparchei [3ps present active indicative] - literally, we presently and continually are the citizens of heaven.

To the Saints at Rome, Paul said: "Therefore, having been justified [dikaiothentes] by faith, we have [echomen] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..." [Romans 5:1]. dikaiothentes [aorist passive participle, masculine plural nominative], echomen [1pp present active indicative]. Point: The Christian presently and actively has peace with God, having already been declared righteous by God's doing [passive participle].

The child of God is declared to be a saint by God's choice and work, not by any man's - pope or otherwise. As saints, we have been separated unto God since we are now and forevermore in Christ Jesus our Lord. That position can and will never change, for nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:26-39).

The importance of upholding the actual meanings of biblical words cannot be emphasized enough here. Failure to do this is one way in which false doctrine creeps in unnoticed over time. Therefore, those who desire to represent Christ at all ought to use the Lord's words and meanings, rather than some creative variation invented by men. The former procedure will be a preservative for sound doctrine; the latter one is a sure recipe for error, and in the worst of all cases, it is how one starts and maintains an apostate religion.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Rainbow Church, Part II

0ed9ce4584a38bed5b0c0d07e08171edIn the last "Rainbow Church" post we examined the sad story of Mr. Rollen Stewart; A.K.A., The Rainbow Man, who sported a rainbow colored wig at basketball and football games in order to garner televised coverage for his "John 3:16" sign. As I mentioned before, he was willing to resort to rather odd forms of behavior - even setting off smoke bombs at the '91 Master's Golf championship in order to attract attention. But eventually Mr. Stewart went beyond odd. His hunger for media attention finally went so far that he eventually resorted to kidnapping a cleaning lady at a Hyatt Hotel (Los Angeles CA) while posting a series of Bible verses in the window of the room that he had seized. When he was captured by the police, they apprehended Stewart's infamous blue, red, yellow, green, purple and pink Afro wig, along with a high caliber pistol, various incendiary devices, three days of food and Bibles, religious tracts and poetry. According to Stewart, all that he wanted to do was to tell people about the Love of God; but because he was willing to resort to foolish and ungodly means in order to grab the world's attention, he ultimately made the world more suspicious of people who call themselves "Christians."

Now there's a thought: people employing foolish and ungodly means in order to grab the world's attention - this is why I referred to Mr. Stewart as the official mascot for much of contemporary "evangelicalism."

Stewart's story is, in many ways, a kind of metaphor for much of what is done today in the name of evangelism and outreach. It seems that churches today will do just about anything in order to capture the world's attention, even if it means turning the Gospel message into a worldly carnival ride. But the end of such foolishness is that the very glory of Christ, as revealed in the Gospel message, is turned into a bad joke for the whole world to see. And if Mr. Stewart is the mascot, then the accompanying motto would be: "If it feels good, do it!" A central error in all of this is that the message of God's love is reduced to a different concept of love; one that is all too familiar to human nature, but that has nothing to do with the true love of God. By this I mean that kind of love that is popular among the masses is one that places mankind at the center, and not God. In a sense, the modern message faithfully renders this confession:

The chief end of God is to glorify man, and enjoy him forever.

Or in other words: "It's all about me!" After all, if the singular message of the Gospel is that God loves us and wants us to be happy then one must conclude that "It's all about me!" In such a system of self-centered thought as this, every aspect of life must be governed by a revised trinitarian doxology of me, myself and I.

Sadly, this is the modern message of love. It is a form of love that is governed by what the worshiper wants and desires. His passions formulate the true center of life and devotion, and therefore his Church must conform itself to his man-centered standards, or else suffer immediate rejection for the next passing fancy. Yes indeed - this is where much of the modern church is today; but sadly, this struggle has been around from the very beginning. You see, this concept of love, where the worshiper is deemed to be the chief end, is the same concept of love that was prevalent in the days of the early church. This concept of love was not philos, nor was it agape love. Instead, this form of self-centered love was called eros love - and it is here with us today.

Now if you are thinking of the word erotic when you hear eros, then your intuition serves you well. Etymologically speaking, the word erotic does come from this Greek word eros; however, it must be said that the modern concept of eroticism is now vastly different from the etymological roots of eran & eros. For the ancient Greek, eros love wasn't just about sexual passion, instead, eros represented a philosophy of life that was considered to be the greatest ideal for human joy and satisfaction; and thus, sexual fulfillment was just one small component of this overarching concept of self satisfaction. Consider this helpful summary of the ancient Greek concept of eros:

"What the Greek seeks in eros is intoxication, and this is to him religion. To be sure, reflection is the finest of the flirts which the heavenly powers have set in the heart of man (Soph.Ant., 683 ff.); it is the fulfillment of humanity in measure. More glorious, however, is the eros which puts an end to all reflection, which sets all the senses in a frenzy, which bursts the measure and form of all humanistic humanity and lifts man above himself. It is a god, and he is powerful even above the gods...All the forces of heaven and earth are forces of second rank compared with the one and only supreme power of eros. No choice is left, nor will, nor freedom, to the man who is seized by its tyrannical omnipotence, and he finds supreme bliss in being mastered by it." Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (Vol. 1, Page 35). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

So ideal was this concept of eros love in ancient Greek thought that Plato considered it to be a "striving for righteousness, self-possession and wisdom; [being] the embodiment of the good, the way to attain immortality" (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids MI, p. 539). Therefore, in the Greek mindset, self satisfaction (by whatever means) was considered to be the highest ideal of existence. Because of this, it is no wonder that in the Graeco-Roman world, marriage was viewed as an opportunity for self advancement rather than mutual love:

"Marriage, which had once been a lifelong economic union, was now among a hundred thousand Romans a passing adventure of no great spiritual significance, a loose contract for the mutual provision of physiological conveniences or political aid." (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Caesar and Christ, p. 363).

When I first read this description of marriage in 1st century Rome, I couldn't help but to think that Durant was describing our secular world today. How much of what is passed off as "love" is really a false imitation that is governed by one's own self-centered desires. You have heard the expression, "If it feels it!" This isn't at all new, rather it is the very same philosophical ideal of eros love that has continued to gain momentum in America and throughout the world. Worse yet, it is a view of life that has crept in unnoticed within the walls of the modern church, to such an extent that such self-centered passion is now passed off for the Bible's true message of genuine love. In many ways the modern church is like the ancient church at Corinth. The Corinthians had become grossly overrun by the Graeco-Roman culture to such an extent that they were willing to embrace the "wisdom" of men over the Gospel itself (1 Cor. 1:18-31, 2 Cor. 11:1-4). Their worship services had become selfish, self-centered events which made a mockery of the Holy Spirit, and therefore the Apostle had to reprove them of their childishness (1 Cor. 14:20) by reminding them that the church is to labor for the common good that is in Christ (1 Cor. 12:7), rather than for the self-seeking desires of men. But most of all, Paul taught them that all things must be done out of agape love (1 Cor. 13) - or all is lost. His gentle but firm correction is as needful today as it was back then. The Corinthians were conducting themselves out of the selfishness that is characteristic of eros love rather than agape or philos love. Paul had to inform them that genuine love does not seek its own - unlike the ideals of the world around them. In a sense Paul was saying to them: "I realize that the world says - 'If it feels good, do it!' But this is not the way of the Christian!"

There is a great difference between the concepts of eros love and agape or phileo. These latter two terms were carefully preserved by the New Testament writers in order to show that the love of God is a transcendent reality that goes far beyond the shallow affections of this world. In the third installment of "The Rainbow Church" I will cover these important terms in greater detail. They are indeed crucial terms, for they establish a clear distinction between the conduct of the children of God versus the children of the devil who live for their own appetites.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Welcome To Planet Earth

Many thanks to the observant folks at Slice of Laodicea for posting the following link to a TV cartoon that reveals the foolishness of modern "evengelicalism" as seen through the eyes of the world. The cartoon segment is from a program called "King of the Hill"; the substance of which reminds me why it is that we rarely ever watch TV! This clip sadly reveals many realities in America, such as:

  • The general foolishness of American religion.
  • The lack of male leadership in American homes.
  • How the world probably views modern "evangelicalism."
  • How shallow church shoppers are easily drawn to shallow "churches."

It's just a cartoon, but it's more real than it should be.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

POST1920: The Trouble with Mr. Talkative

~Gleaning Light from the Luminaries of the Past~

Proverbs 19:20: Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future (ESV).

At Pilgrim Bible Church we have been studying through Bunyan's work, The Pilgrim's Progress - and it has been very profitable study indeed. We have used this work as a helpful road-map to many important theological and practical discussions. To be sure, it is a fallible work of man, but it has endured through the years as being a great help to many weary Christians seeking comfort and aid in their journey to their Heavenly home. Spurgeon loved this work so much that he read through every year, and his preaching clearly evidences his regular meditation on its themes. For our fellowship, it has been a vehicle for biblical study that has supplied our whole flock, both young and old, with a rich treasury of wisdom. It is interesting how an allegory can draw in so much in the way of Scriptural truth, even within very brief paragraphs. You will find that as you read the book, biblical passages (often un-referenced) will pop out everywhere; so much so, that it is a challenge to discover them all in a single reading. Consider Spurgeon's own affection and admiration of Bunyan:

"Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim's Progress, that sweetest of all prose poems, without continually making us feel and say, 'Why, this man is a living Bible!' Prick him anywhere, his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text."

This said, let us take care here: Bunyan was just a man and Pilgrim's Progress is a fallible work. It is an exceptional work indeed, but it clearly stands beneath the authority of God's infallible Word. But because of its close adherance to Scripture, it has been a wonderful tool for our brethren; even giving our parents a useful resource for their family devotions at home. I should also say that, in many ways, Pilgrim's Progress supplies us with a much needed mirror in life. The characters in this work are so richly developed that the reader will often find many things in commen with them - especially when one considers a character's proclivity towards foolishness, pride and sin. On the other hand, I must say that most of the characters are unbelievers. Their worldly ways, appetites and philosophies supply us with helpful warnings that remind us that we are no longer darkness, but we are light in the Lord. A classic example of this is the character, Mr. Talkative. Now Talkative is an unbeliever, and this is laid out in the narrative very quickly; thus, he does not stand as an example of Christian conduct and practice. However, his negative example still provides us with an important warning against the dangers of superficiality, indifference, arrogance and doctrinal pride. You see, for Talkative, Christianity was all about head knowledge rather than a heart transformation. For him, it was enough to know about Christ, rather than to know the Savior personally through faith in Him. Consider the following description that Christian gave to his companion (Faithful) regarding Mr. Talkative:

Chr. At this Christian said, "This man [Talkative], with whom you are so taken, will beguile with this tongue of his, twenty of them that know him not. His name is Talkative: he dwelleth in our town. I wonder that you should be a stranger to him, only I consider that our town is large. He is the son of one Say-well. He dwelt in Prating-Row; and he is known to all that are acquainted with him by the name of Talkative of Prating-Row; and, notwithstanding his fine tongue, he is but a sorry fellow. This man is for any company, and for any talk; as he talketh now with you, so will he talk when he is on the ale-bench; and the more drink he hath in his crown, the more of these things he hath in his mouth. Religion hath no place in his heart, or house, or conversation; all he hath lieth in his tongue, and his religion is to make a noise therewith. He talketh of prayer, of repentance, of faith, and of the new birth; but he knows but only to talk of them. I have been in his family, and have observed him both at home and abroad; and I know what I say of him is the truth. His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savor. There is there neither prayer, nor sign of repentance for sin; yea, the brute, in his kind, serves God far better than he. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion to all that know him, Rom. 2:24,25 ; it can hardly have a good word in all that end of the town where he dwells, through him. Thus say the common people that know him, "A saint abroad, and a devil at home." His poor family finds it so; he is such a churl, such a railer at, and so unreasonable with his servants, that they neither know how to do for or speak to him. Men that have any dealings with him say, It is better to deal with a brute than with him, for fairer dealings they shall have at their hands..I am of opinion that he has, by his wicked life, caused many to stumble and fall; and will be, if God prevents not, the ruin of many more. .. good men are ashamed of him; they can neither call him brother nor friend; the very naming of him among them makes them blush, if they know him...t he soul of religion is the practical part. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." James 1:27 ; see also verses 22-26 . This, Talkative is not aware of; he thinks that hearing and saying will make a good Christian; and thus he deceiveth his own soul. Hearing is but as the sowing of the seed; talking is not sufficient to prove that fruit is indeed in the heart and life. And let us assure ourselves, that at the day of doom men shall be judged according to their fruits. Matt. 13:23 . It will not be said then, Did you believe? but, Were you doers, or talkers only? and accordingly shall they be judged. The end of the world is compared to our harvest, Matt. 13:30 , and you know men at harvest regard nothing but fruit. Not that any thing can be accepted that is not of faith; but I speak this to show you how insignificant the profession of Talkative will be at that day." Bunyan, J. (1995). The pilgrim's progress : From this world to that which is to come. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

The value of this narrative is manifold. It helps believers to remember that we will meet people in our lives who have a very appealing form of religion and doctrine. They will know the words that pertain to the Christian life, but they will know nothing of the power nor the person of Jesus Christ. They will look good at a glance, but will prove themselves to be much less when face to face. The cloak of their religion goes no farther than the surface of their skin, and therefore, the dilligent Christian must engage such people with conversation that goes deep enough in order to better understand their core attitudes and intentions, rather than being pleased with their superficial profession of faith. This is a crucial lessen indeed!

But there is another important lesson that we ought to glean from the dark example of Mr. Talkative: His natural weakness is our natural weakness too. Sadly, we are cut out of the same fabric of men like Talkative; and even though we are redeemed (if we have trusted Christ), we still strive in a battle of the Spirit and the flesh. That is, we all have this great tendency and weakness of heart to be puffed up by knowledge; to herald book learning over our devotional walk with the Lord; to think too much of our understanding of things, without humbly recognizing that for all that we may know in this life - we have a great deal more to learn and apply as the disciples of Christ. All this to say - what a tragedy it would be to examine the life of a Mr. Talkative and then fail to look in the mirror and ask the Lord: "in what way am I like this foolish man, Lord?" Until glory, we will all need to guard against the same forms of pride, indifference and arrogance that is in the heart of Mr. Talkative. The good news is that He who began a good work in you (and me), will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6).

Saturday, May 13, 2006

POST1920: McCheyne on Prayer Meetings

~Gleaning Light from the Luminaries of the Past~
Proverbs 19:20: Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future (ESV).
Jim Bublitz, of Old Truth and Slice of Laodicea, recently submitted a post that was very brief but helpful regarding small group prayer meetings. He cited Robert Murray McCheyne who expressed concern regarding the proper use of prayer meetings in his post An Old School Approach to "Small Groups" (also available at Slice of Laodicea). I have supplied the same text in this post (McCheyne's letter that is) because of the simple and plain wisdom that it has to offer us in our own day. Enjoy:

To Mr. J. T. Just

How to conduct prayer meetings.

March 27, 1840.

I WAS GLAD to receive your letter, and am happy to answer you on the matter in which you apply to me. No person can be a child of God without living in secret prayer; and no community of Christians can be in a lively condition without unity in prayer. In Daniel's time you see how it was (Dan. 2:17, 18). You see what Jesus said to His disciples on it (Matt. 18:19), and what a sweet promise of His presence and a gracious answer He connects with meeting for prayer. You see how it will be in the latter day (Zech. 8:21), when meetings for prayer, or at least concerts for prayer, shall be held by different towns.

One great rule in holding them is, that they be really meetings of disciples. If four or five of you that know the Lord would meet together regularly, you will find that far more profitable than a meeting open to all. In an open meeting you are apt to become teachers, and to be proud. In a secret meeting you feel all on a level, poor and needy, seeking water. If a young man, acquainted with any of you, becomes concern Ed about his soul, or a lively Christian is visiting any of you, these may be admitted; but do not make your meeting more open.

The prayer meeting I like best is where there is only praise and prayer, and the reading of God's Word. There is then least room for frail human nature to pervert the meeting to an improper end. It is well to read regularly through a book of Scripture, or at least to fix the chapter the evening before, that it may be prayed over in secret, before coming to the meeting. If you only read then two chapters may be read, and then two members pray at a meeting. Each member would take his turn. Let there be no presiding of one over another, for all are brethren. When a godly minister or elder or experienced Christian is visiting you, he should be invited to take the whole service.

Many meetings are not contented with merely reading God's Word; they fix upon some verse or two as matter of conversation, and each one gives his opinion round. Some take a question of the Shorter Catechism each evening, and speak on it in the same manner. Some propose cases of conscience, and how Christians ought to act in different cases. Now, I never forbid any of these where the members prefer this; still, I must confess I feel the danger to which they are exposed. You require more grace to be kept humble and meek and loving, if you engage in this service. You are exposed to the danger of differing from one another-disputing, seeking admiration and preeminence, to all which you know, dear John, your hearts are naturally most prone. If you choose any of these, the first appears the best, that of fixing on a verse or two of the chapter read. But do seek meekness in speaking together upon it.

Meet weekly, at a convenient hour. Be regular in attendance. Let nothing keep you away from your meeting. Pray in secret before going. Let your prayers in the meeting be formed as much as possible upon what you have read in the Bible. You will thus learn variety of petition, and a Scripture style. Pray that you may pray to God, and not for the ears of man. Feel His presence more than man's. Pray for the outpouring of the Spirit on the Church of Christ and for the world; for the purity and unity of God's children; for the raising up of godly ministers, and the blessing of those that are so already. Pray for the conversion of your friends, of your neighbors, of the whole town. Pray for the sending of the gospel to the Jews, and to the Gentile nations.

Pride is Satan's wedge for splitting prayer meetings to pieces: watch and pray against it. If you have not the Spirit of God among you, you will have the spirit of the devil. Watch against seeking to be greater than one another; watch against lip-religion. Above all, abide in Christ, and He will abide in you. He is able to keep you from falling, and to make you happy, holy young men. There is no Joy like that of holiness. May Enoch's Companion be yours.

Write me how you come on, and believe me ever yours affectionately, etc.

Bonar, A. A., & McCheyne, R. (1947; Published in electronic form by Christian Classics Foundation, 1996). Memoir and Remains of R.M. McCheyne. Index created by Christian Classics Foundation. (electronic ed.). Chicago: Moody Press.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Comedy by Proxy

Here at The Armoury I don't do comedy for one very simple reason:

I'm not funny (most of you know that by now).

However, some of the folks at Firefox apparently are. Take a peak at this video that tells the plain story of how I feel about Microsoft Internet Explorer (and frankly most of their programs for that matter). Please accept my apologies Mr. Gates.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rainbow Church

1 Corinthians 16:22: If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.

RBMan.jpgWhen the Apostle Paul declared: "without love...I am nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2), he clearly established that genuine love is absolutely central to the Christian life. By this simple and clear statement, Paul shows us that the true sine qua non of Christian life is in fact the love that is of God. This important instruction was given to a church that desperately lacked such love and thereby evidenced it through their licentiousness, internal divisions, abuse of spiritual gifts, rebellion and their proclivity for doctrinal error. So loveless was their "ministry" that Paul ended this epistle with two last charges concerning the centrality of love in all things:

1 Corinthians 16:14: 14 Let all that you do be done in love...

1 Corinthians 16:22: 22 If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.

In this final chapter of 1 Corinthians the Apostle makes one last appeal for the centrality of godly love (agape & philos) in everything. Both of these statements closely resemble the first and second greatest commandments (Mark 12:28-31) where we are commanded to love God first and our neighbor second. Without such love, our efforts become like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1). In the worst of all cases, those who have no love for God prove themselves to be the children of wrath no matter how zealous they are in their religious activities - if anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. In many ways the Corinthian church is here with us today, especially when the message of God's love is polluted with human wisdom, sin, and foolishness.

I often think that if the modern church had a mascot, it would be Mr. Rollen Stewart; A.K.A., Rainbow Man.

Perhaps you remember Mr. Stewart. He was the one who began getting national attention by wearing bad leisure suits, loin cloths or even a rainbow afro wig at various basketball and football games around the country. He realized that his fame was taking on a life of its own and so he spent his days in his car and studied TV Guides in order to attend as many nationally televised games as he could. At one point Stewart was driving over 50,000 miles a year, and traveling to over a hundred sporting events. In the late seventies Stewart claimed to have found God while watching a TV show called Today In Bible Prophecy on television. Once he was "born again" he began appearing at football games along with a bright sign that simply read "John 3:16." For Stewart, this was his "ministry." He used his obscure appearance in order to attract attention to his sign of love - his John 3:16 sign. In the public eye, Stewart became a public fixture that represented Christianity; but sadly, Stewart's life was quite tragic. In 1984 he married Margaret Hockridge - a marriage that lasted six short years when in 1990 she filed for divorce; but the travesty of his divorce did not slow him down. In fact, Stewart's desire for more media attention (for his "ministry") only increased. He sensed a need to do something much more fantastic - something that was more eye-catching to the world. Thus, two years later on Sept. 22 1992, Stewart devised a plan that would capture the media spotlight once again, though it clearly didn't work out the way that he had hoped. Entering into a Hyatt hotel (near the Los Angeles airport), Stewart found a cleaning lady and decided to hold her as his hostage. As soon as the news of this crime was made public, the LAPD ordered up the SWAT Team, bomb squad and several fire trucks in order to deal with the situation. While all this commotion was going on outside, Stewart was posting biblical placards in his hotel room window, so that they could be read from the ground below. Finally, at 5:45 PM--when Stewart threatened to harm his hostage and start taking pot shots at jetliners as they passed near the hotel--the police decided to act. Shortly afterwards, the SWAT team stormed the room where they successfully seized him and arrested him. At the scene police found Stewart's infamous blue, red, yellow, green, purple and pink Afro wig, along with a high caliber pistol, various incendiary devices, three days of food and Bibles, religious tracts and poetry. He was found guilty of kidnapping and remains in prison to this day. In February 2005, while in prison, he predicted that the rapture would occur on in October of that year. October came and went - with no rapture in sight.

To this day he remains in prison in even greater obscurity than ever before.

I say that Rollen Stewart is a kind of mascot for modern evangelicalism for this reason: Many times we see the modern church doing whatever it can in order to gain the world's attention for the sake of evangelistic outreach. Sadly, when the professing church adorns itself with foolish and worldly tricks in order to capture the attention of the world, it proves itself to be no better than Mr. Rollen in his rainbow-afro wig. In many ways, it all smacks of the Corinthian error - they too believed that there was nothing wrong with infusing worldly wisdom into the ministry of the church. Sadly, their error wasn't merely a procedural one. Their spiritual illness wasn't merely viral in nature - the church had a severe heart problem. They had become a loud, boisterous, and confused assembly of messengers whose message of love had become corrupted and confused; and this is why the Apostle Paul delivered such a serious and sobering warning to them (1 Corinthians 16:22). It is even similar to Paul's test of faith that he delivered in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 13:5: 5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail the test?

Paul's admonitions and warnings are strong and even severe - but we all need them. We need to understand that the message of God's love is crucial. We must comprehend that, as messengers, it is not just what we say that impacts our message, but it is how we proclaim that message that matters so much. No doubt, the Corinthians espoused a message of God's love; and yet, by their actions they were denying what they were trying to proclaim to the world - much like Rollen Stewart. In the worst of all cases, there were some in Corinth whose lives evidenced that they had no love for God at all. We need to remember that there is the true love of God, as opposed to the world's corrupted ideals of love. Worldly love seeks the satisfaction and glorification of self, but the love that is of God is that which is holy and pure. It is a love that does not seek its own (1 Corinthians 13:5), but instead it is a love that heralds the Lord above all, and pursues one's neighbor for their good and for God's greater glory as its chief end.

Such a love as this should never be veiled by worldly wisdom, human trickery or even our own foolishness - more on this later.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Formed to be Inhabited

suspension.jpgI'm all for scientific research folks - I think that you know that by now. Not just because of my background in Physics, but as a Christian I believe that such research reveals the wonder of our habitable earth. The Universe in which we live is utterly hostile. Deep space subsists at 2.7 Kelvin - or -454.8F!; but miraculously, the Earth's distance from the Sun, its magnetic field and atmosphere all add up to a space station that is perfectly suitable for life - so much so that even some secular scientists will reluctantly make reference to the anthrothic principle in order to describe the unique conditions that we presently enjoy in a relatively "flat" Universe. What honest scientists should discover is that planet Earth is indeed unique:

Isaiah 45:18: 18 For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), "I am the Lord, and there is none else."

And so, the research continues. More recently, NASA has been researching the effects of long distance space travel. For example, Erin Peterson is currently participating in the NASA-sponsored bedrest study at the Cleveland Clinic where she has been suspended in a simulated weightless state for 75 days and counting! According to CNN, the point of this study is to examine the effects of weightless and long term immobility on the human body. The information gathered from this will be helpful for long-term travel. She is recording her experiences on her blog, StardustHoliday (of which I have chosen to remove the link). 148093main_PIA08427-330.jpg

On another interesting note, NASA has released photos acquired by the European Space Agency's Huygens probe of the moon Titan (one of Saturn's moons). The Huygens probe was released by the Cassini spacecraft, which is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The pictures are absolutely amazing! It's beautiful - but you wouldn't want to try to live there!

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Alternative Energy Ideas

Here are some energy conservation ideas that were sent to me via Mrs. Phyllis Drane. Thanks Phyllis! With the price of gas these days, these ideas are starting to look fairly reasonable!

Be sure to click on the graphics in order to see them close-up.

plane.jpg hummer.jpg sail.jpg

dog.jpg truck.jpg sled.jpg

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Vanity of Vanities

Les Stewart (JPG, 7.5 kB)

After 16 years at the typewriter, Mr. Les Stewart from Mudjimba (Australia) established a new world record. On November 25th, 1998, Mr. Stewart completed his objective of typing from one to one million without the use of any numbers; instead he typed it all out in full-length words (on a manual typewriter). His final entry (of course) was -

nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine.
one million.

This massive project required a great amount of resources: seven manual typewriters, 1000 ink ribbons, 19,890 pages and over 16 years of his life!

The linked article above then goes on to say: "When asked why he has undertaken this time consuming and repetitious task, Les says that he has little else to do now that he has been classed as an invalid, and can no longer work. Besides that, Les enjoys typing and used to be a police typing instructor before his one of MANY sheets of paper (JPG, 14 kB)sickness which meant his withdrawal from the force. Typing an average three pages a day with one finger since April 1982, Les said his secret was to type for 20 minutes on the hour, every hour."

It is interesting to me that the world would look at this and count it all as useless and vain - a labor that amounts to nothing. However, I would suggest to you that even men of "great" achievement, learning, and social status are not any better if they are living out their lives for their own glory, rather than to the glory of God. You see, in eternity nothing will matter save those deeds that have been accomplished by the children of God, who labor by the Lord's grace and for His ultimate glory (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Therefore, let a man find the cure for cancer, solve world hunger and even save our nation from nuclear catastrophy - but if such deeds are not done for the glory of Christ, then it is all assessed as being wood, hay and straw. Yes, there is a qualitative difference between wood, hay and straw - as there might be between a cure for cancer or typying from one to a million - but apart from Christ, all such deeds will go up in a billow of smoke that will be forgotten in eternity. With this in mind, it is important to remember that many go about in their lives being very impressed with their own works and achievements in life - many of whom would snicker at Mr. Stewart's meaningless "achievement"; however, do these same people have any sense of eternity in all of their "important" tasks in life? Do they not comprehend that without Christ, the works of men are assessed as the acts of madmen who are going to the grave?:

Ecclesiastes 9:3: 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead.

The inhabitants of hell will not care about the earthly deeds of men because in that place of eternal torment, men will finally comprehend that the One of matchless value and worth was the very Lord whom they despised and rejected; and for this, all of their lives and their deeds will be counted as loss. Such a meditation as this should remind us as believers that our life and labor must always be centered upon the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. As well, this meditation should also remind us that our stewardship of sharing the Gospel should not be affected by who it is that we share Christ with. Whether we have the opportunity to speak to men of great power and reputation, or to people whose lives are devoted to pointless tasks - all in all, they need Christ just the same - just like we do.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

T4G Final Thoughts

t4g.jpgAs I have mentioned already, I am thankful that I was able to get away for a few days and participate what many have called a "reunion" at Together for the Gospel. The first day was quite long as I had to drive eight hours to get there. I arrived a bit later than I first hoped, but was able to get in the last thirty minutes of the Band of Bloggers meeting. After this I made my way over to my room only to find my friend Gordon Broadbent who pastors in Lansing Illinois - our families have been together on several visits since seminary, and I have Gordon.jpgalways been grateful for my brother's long distance relationship over the phone. He has quite a sense of humor & often at my expense: knowing that I enjoy Starbucks coffee, Gordon did not cease from telling me that a new Starbucks store was being built just a few blocks from his house. I counted his first announcement of this matter as just a matter of simple news-reporting; the subsequent ten times were just plain harassment! It was a blessing to have his fellowship and sit through the sessions with him - that is, all but one.*

GordTim.gifWe then ran into Timothy Martin who now pastors Grace Church in Roanoke VA. I haven't seen Tim since seminary days (he graduated in '94) - he's a dear brother who loves the Lord and His people.

On Thursday we went over together for a TMS alumni lunch - it was a great blessing, but we could have had more time for fellowship (30+ pastors in a room together - what else?). It was also a blessing to see Dr. George Zemek at the lunch - many thanks to Doug Sachtleben and others for setting everything up.

The conference speakers were very encouraging overall. What stood out for me were Ligon Duncan's presentation on the importance of preaching the OT, C. J. Mahaney's message on (and demonstration of) humility and John MacArthur's presentation on pastoral ministry. Everyone's contributions were profitable, but these particular messages were especially encouraging for me. I am especially challenged when I spend time with other men in the ministry - hearing about what the Lord is doing in their lives, thier families and their churches. It was a great time to see old friends as well as make some new ones.

A T4G statement of faith was distributed towards the end of the conference - it was very sound and encouraging, but I do hope that in the future there will be a firm foundation of Scriptural references added to it. The statement itself contains no Scripture references (except for two at the end). Now let me say this - in the context of the conference itself, the statement of faith had a biblical framework (in some ways) since it was essentially presented amidst the Scriptural messages of the conference speakers. However, for the long term, the statements that have been made in this document, while wonderfully agreeable, really do need textual justification if they are going to communicate the truth of Sola Scriptura along with Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia & Soli Deo Gloria. I am quite sure that the document will be refined and scripturally under-girded more in the future. One article in the statement that was especially refreshing to see is this one:

Article XVI: We deny that the distinction of roles between men and women revealed in the Bible is evidence of mere cultural conditioning or a manifestation of male oppression or prejudice against women. We also deny that this biblical distinction of roles excludes women from meaningful ministry in Christ's kingdom. We further deny that any church can confuse these issues without damaging its witness to the Gospel.

Praise the Lord (Titus 2:3-5, Ephesians 5:22-33)!

starbuckcup.gif*Finally - Jerry M., it was good to see you again brother. I hope that you enjoyed that Starbucks Grande Marble Mocha Machiato - I was saving it for my dear brother Gordon, until I realized that he hadn't saved me a seat for the afternoon session ; )

(Well, he can just get his own at that new Starbucks of his!)