Thursday, January 28, 2016

TV doesn't relay a candidate's aptitude for the job

I can't stand primary season.  Attempting to be a conscientious citizen, I try to endure watching a debate but seldom make it through.

Modern television news and debates simply do not provide an accurate picture of a candidate's aptitude for the job of president.

Postman's words from thirty-plus years ago help explain-

"This is the lesson of all great television commercials: They provide a slogan, a symbol or a focus that creates for viewers a comprehensive and compelling image of themselves. In the shift from party politics to television politics, the same goal is sought. We are not permitted to know who is best at being President or Governor or Senator, but whose image is best in touching and soothing the deep reaches of our discontent. We look at the television screen and ask, in the same voracious way as the Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?' We are inclined to vote for those whose personality, family life, and style, as imaged on the screen, give back a better answer than the Queen received. As Xenophanes remarked twenty-five centuries ago, men always make their gods in their own image. But to this, television politics has added a new wrinkle: Those who would be gods refashion themselves into images the viewers would have them be.” - Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Enduring the Enemies of the Church

John Calvin offers this helpful perspective about the Church enduring mockery- 

“For the enemies of the Church in the present day are so haughty, that they mock not only at men, but at God himself, and are so much swelled and puffed up by their power, that they imagine themselves to be invincible; but, in opposition to their bulwarks and defenses, we ought to bring forward this declaration of the Prophet, ‘the Lord will quickly bring down and lay them low.’ Yet we must patiently endure to see them strong and powerful, till the full time for their destruction arrive.”

From John Calvin's commentary on Isaiah 25

Isaiah's Song about God's Victory

The Prophet Isaiah by Raphael

“The prophet, transported to the end of days, commemorates what he has seen in psalms and songs.”  - Franz Delitzsch on Isaiah 25-26

[1] O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
[2] For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the foreigners' palace is a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
[3] Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
[4] For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,
[5] like heat in a dry place.
You subdue the noise of the foreigners;
as heat by the shade of a cloud,
so the song of the ruthless is put down.
[6] On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
[7] And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
[8] He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
[9] It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
[10] For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain,
and Moab shall be trampled down in his place,
as straw is trampled down in a dunghill.
[11] And he will spread out his hands in the midst of it
as a swimmer spreads his hands out to swim,
but the LORD will lay low his pompous pride together with the skill of his hands.
[12] And the high fortifications of his walls he will bring down,
lay low, and cast to the ground, to the dust.

(Isaiah 25 ESV)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The only person able to handle the Powerball Jackpot

Here is a picture of the only person who would not be absolutely ruined by winning $1.5 Billion in the Powerball Jackpot.

Mr. Samwise Gamgee

Be happy you didn't win.  Be happier if you didn't waste any money or emotion on this whole thing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

J.I. Packer on Knowing God

There are three books I recommend Christians read every 4-5 years:  Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and Knowing God by J.I. Packer.  I'm in to Knowing God for the fifth time right now.  Early in the book Packer speaks of the importance of knowing God- 

"The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were , with no sense of direction, and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.” 

― J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Church must be the Church

A new year has begun.  Election years always bring the hot cultural debates to the surface and 2016 promises to be no different. 

I believe churches like Redeemer will play an increasingly important role in our nation’s strength and vibrancy.  I am not advocating for a certain political activism, instead I am encouraging the Church to a renewed and steadfast devotion to the ministry of the Word and Sacraments.  

A timely post by James Rogers in “First Thingslast month explored the chief reason evangelical churches (in particular) have been relatively unsuccessful in their effort to preserve a moral consensus that has been present in American culture for most of the country’s existence. Rogers thinks decades of Christians focusing on upholding and fighting for a kind of Christian moralism in American culture has left churches internally weak in their understanding of biblical identity and purpose. Church members know how to vote a certain way, but they don’t know what the bible says about living the Christian life. Somewhere in the past, instead of the Church dedicating itself to faithful proclamation of the gospel, exposition of the Word, and administration of the sacraments as it’s first priority, it became overly involved in fighting for morals outside the church.  The result is a relatively biblically anemic and ecclesiastically unaware church now living as a “moral” minority in a culture that has witnessed a shift in moral consensus.  Rogers’ concluding statement is worth pondering-

The Moral Majority, school prayer, ‘Take back America for Christ’ campaigns, all reflected more of an attempt to reassert ownership of America’s moral public space than to save souls or spread the Kingdom or strengthen the life of the community of disciples in the churches. Recovering a full-orbed ecclesiology for the Church—not for the Church in the abstract, but for the practical lives of Christian layfolk and leaders in the churches—must be in initial imperative for the Church today”.

The answer for Christians in America is to strengthen our understanding of what it means to be God’s people- His Church.  We are “called out ones” redeemed by the blood of Christ and commissioned to live and preach that message.  We are first and foremost a ministry of the Word and Sacraments. We make disciples of Jesus by God’s empowering grace.  As our members grow stronger in their biblical understanding, we will necessarily have an impact participating in aspects of the wider culture. So what if the culture disagrees with biblical Christianity? Rogers well notes, “The Church has survived, even thrived, in numerous times and cultures that did not share her moral practices.”.  The Church needs to be the Church first, then it can be an effective influence on our countrymen and culture.  But even if God doesn’t grant us the kind of cultural influence we long for, we should still be about the sanctification He has called us to.  This is why “Word and Sacrament” churches like Redeemer will be an important influence on this fluctuating culture we live in. 

To be clear, I am not suggesting Christians be politically inactive or disengaged. On the contrary, we who are well trained in the Word should be all the more involved by applying biblical principles in our actions and votes.  The Church must keep the priority of the Word and Sacraments which will serve to multiply our numbers and strengthen us for the opportunities God gives us to be salt and light in a morally digressed culture. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Education is never neutral

Education is never neutral.  Most evangelical Christians continue to leave the primary task of teaching their children . . . to the secularist state. Secularism is never as neutral as it sounds. It is a high-octane religion of its own, imposed on Christians at their own expense. These high priests of ultimate American values, from Kindergarten through the great graduate programs of the state universities, tell us what is politically correct. They tell us what to believe about our origins, about what is wrong with the human condition, and how to make everything right again. Those are not merely educational concepts; they are the most profound of all religious issues.

- Joel Belz