Tuesday, February 2, 2016

You are Worthy of My Affections

To my beloved Redeemer congregation:

I give regular thought about my role in your life.  I really do.  It is a contemplation that never stops for me.  With so many pastoral models out there, it’s easy to become distracted about what I should be doing.  

So, I read Paul’s epistles quite a bit.  They keep me focused on you and my calling. 

Scripturally speaking and simply put, my role alongside the other elders (shepherds) of the church is to lead in Worship, preach and teach the bible (gospel) and administer the sacraments. I am to intercede for you daily through prayer. Indeed, the Bible tells me to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).  There are many joys in this work, but Paul’s description prepares me for a struggle-  

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.   - Colossians 1:24-29 (emphasis mine)

My role in the pulpit is not to perform, but to exhort and encourage the Church with God’s Word.  I’m am tasked with telling the you what the Bible says and to offer ways we can live accordingly.  The text of Scripture never changes. It’s meaning is timeless.  What is necessary afresh in every age is pastoral direction for applying the text.  If simply expounding the meaning of the Bible was the sole work of the pastor, I would opt for playing recordings of James Boice in place of my preaching a sermon.  Your pastors’ role is to give the meaning of the text, and offer direction to apply the truth in daily thinking and living.  I regularly pray for God to grant me humble, careful, accuracy with the text and if I should err that you would be protected.  For my part, I should study diligently every week and do my best to give you a faithful exposition of God’s Word. For your part, come with a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) asking God to teach you and mold you according to His Word.  

Thank you for allowing me this role in your life. It is a sacred trust that I am grateful to devote my life too.  You are the sheep for whom Christ died and worthy of my affections. 

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

2015 Redeemer Advent Hymn Schedule

I love singing these hymns!

2015 Redeemer Advent Hymn Schedule

218 Angels from the Realms of Glory
194 O Come O Come Emmanuel
217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (1-5)
217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (6)

11/29 Hanging of the Greens
208 O Come All Ye Faithful
216 Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
211 God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

12/ 6
203 Hark the Herald Angels Sing
201 O Little Town of Bethlehem
225 Once in David’s Royal City 
217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (6)

214 Angels We Have Heard on High
215 While by the Sheep we Watched at Night
211 God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen 
217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (6)

208 O Come All Ye Faithful
221 Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
195 Joy to the World the Lord is Come 
217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (6)

12/24  Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
208 O Come All Ye Faithful
193 Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
194 O Come O come Emmanuel
201 O Little Town of Bethlehem
213 What Child is This
203 Hark the Herald Angels Sing
195 Joy to the World the Lord is Come
210 Silent Night! Holy Night!

207 Good Christian Men Rejoice
213 What Child is This
222 While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night 

217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (6)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Nathan's 2015 Buck Kill video

Last year Nathan shot his deer first and then filmed me harvesting mine.

This year I shot mine first, so I got to film Nathan's great hunt.

He harvested a gnarly old buck on this hunt.  Great memories!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

2015 Kansas Bow Buck

The Lord has blessed me with a great bow season again this year.  This past week I have been on vacation, basically hunting all day every day.

Each day I saw many deer moving while on stand.  Despite warm afternoon temps, I got a glimpse of some real giants.

Yesterday I harvested this huge buck.  He's a mainframe 8 pointer with several extra scoreable points (13 points total).  His gross measurement (for those who care) is 164 1/8.  That makes him my biggest whitetail ever.

"I do not hunt for the joy of killing but for the joy of living, and the inexpressible pleasure of mingling my life however briefly, with that of a wild creature that I respect,admire, and value"
- John Madson

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Luther at the Diet of Worms according to D'Aubigne

The Diet of Worms was the trial of Martin Luther for being a heretic. His writings were critical of the Roman Church’s obscuring the Biblical message of the gospel. Luther was convinced the Bible was to be the sole authority of the Church, not popes or councils of men. Luther's chief concern was bringing the Scriptural teaching of justification by faith in Christ alone back to light.

Luther was initially called upon to look at a table full of his books and retract what he wrote therein.  His opposition to papal authority was the root matter that angered Rome and the chief charge they demanded Luther answer.  After a day of questioning Luther requested more time to consider his answer to their demand for recantation.  In his excellent  "History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century", historian J.H. Merle D'Aubigne narrates one of the greatest events in the history of the Church:

 At the beginning of the next day,  the orator of the diet, said indignantly: “You have not answered the question put to you. You were not summoned hither to call in question the decisions of councils. you are required to give a clear and precise answer. Will you, or will you not, retract?” 

Upon this Luther replied without much hesitation: “Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning, — unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, — and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience.” And then, looking round on this assembly before which he stood, and which held his life in its hands, he said: “HERE I STAND, I CAN DO NO OTHER; MAY GOD HELP ME? AMEN!” 

Luther, constrained to obey his faith, led by his conscience to death, impelled by the noblest necessity, the slave of his belief, and under this slavery still supremely free, like the ship tossed by a violent tempest, and which, to save that which is more precious than itself, runs and is dashed upon the rocks, thus uttered these sublime words which still thrill our hearts at an interval of four centuries: thus spoke a monk before the emperor and the mighty ones of the nation; and this feeble and despised man, alone, but relying on the grace of the Most High, appeared greater and mightier than them all. His words contain a power against which all these mighty rulers can do nothing. This is the weakness of God, which is stronger than man. The empire and the Church on the one hand, this obscure man on the other, had met. God had brought together these kings and these prelates publicly to confound their wisdom. The battle is lost, and the consequences of this defeat of the great ones of the earth will be felt among every nation and in every age to the end of time.

The assembly was thunderstruck. Many of the princes found it difficult to conceal their admiration. The emperor, recovering from his first impression, exclaimed: “This monk speaks with an intrepid heart and unshaken courage.” The Spaniards and Italians alone felt confounded, and soon began to ridicule a greatness of soul which they could not comprehend.

“If you do not retract,” said the chancellor, as soon as the diet had recovered from the impression produced by Luther’s speech, “the emperor and the states of the empire will consult what course to adopt against an incorrigible heretic.” At these words Luther’s friends began to tremble; but the monk repeated: “May God be my helper; for I can retract nothing.” 

After this Luther withdrew, and the princes deliberated. Each one felt that this was a critical moment for Christendom. The yes or the no of this monk would decide, perhaps for ages, the repose of the Church and of the world. His adversaries had endeavored to alarm him, and they had only exalted him before the nation; they had thought to give greater publicity to his defeat, and they had but increased the glory of his victory. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Staupitz shares the Gospel with Luther at Erfurt

Jean Henri Merle D'Aubigne captures the moment the Gospel was clearly declared to a struggling Monk named Martin Luther. It was a dear pastor, John Staupitz who brought the balm of God's grace to Luther-

It is in vain,” said Luther despondingly to Staupitz, “that I make promises to God: sin is ever the strongest.”

O my friend!” replied the vicar-general, looking back on his own experience; “more than a thousand times have I sworn to our holy God to live piously, and I have never kept my vows. Now I swear no longer, for I know I cannot keep my solemn promises. If God will not be merciful towards me for the love of Christ, and grant me a happy departure, when I must quit this world, I shall never, with the aid of all my vows and all my good works, stand before him. I must perish.”

The young monk is terrified at the thought of divine justice. He lays open all his fears to the vicar-general. He is alarmed at the unspeakable holiness of God and his sovereign majesty. “Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?” (Malachi 3:2.)

Staupitz resumes: he knows where he had found peace, and he will point it out to the young man. “Why,” said he, “do you torment yourself with all these speculations and these high thoughts? Look at the wounds of Jesus Christ, to the blood that he has shed for you: it is there that the grace of God will appear to you. Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, throw yourself into the Redeemer’s arms. Trust in him—in the righteousness of his life—in the atonement of his death. Do not shrink back; God is not angry with you, it is you who are angry with God. Listen to the Son of God. He became man to give you the assurance of divine favor. He says to you, You are my sheep; you hear my voice; no man shall pluck you out of my hand.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Obama's outrage against gun violence is revealing

I post a fair amount on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). I was surprised that my brief observation about President Obama's emotional response to the recent mass shooting in Oregon got so many shares.

Here's the post:

The Obama outrage at gun violence clip illustrates the moral cluelessness of many in our generation. When life is cheapened at one level (the unborn) then it is vulnerable at every level. If he was outraged at the actions of PP,I might give his tantrum about gun control a modicum of credence. Guns simply aren't the problem. Dark and wicked human hearts would use an ice pick to kill.

Monday, September 14, 2015

An example of Calvin's practical outlook on Predestination

People will sometimes caricature Calvin’s doctrine of predestination by saying “Well, if everything is predestined then it doesn’t matter what we do…because it was predestined.”.  

This, of course is a careless way to understand the bible’s teaching and Calvin’s explanation thereof. 

The Westminster Confession rightly affirms the biblical doctrine of predestination and offers an excellent pastoral warning-

The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel. (WCF 3.8)

To understand Calvin’s practical outlook on predestination, his comments on Isaiah 6 and John 12 are helpful.  These passages have to do with God hardening the hearts of the Jews so they would not respond to the gospel.  Who’s fault is their unbelief? See Calvin’s comments connected to these passages:

Though he (Jesus) had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 

“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”   John 12:36b-40

John quotes Isaiah 6  as a clear demonstration of the stubbornness of the Jews. He does not indeed absolutely give the very words, but he states the meaning clearly enough.

Therefore, says he, they could not believe, because Isaiah said, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart.

True, this prediction was not the cause of their unbelief, but the Lord foretold it, because he foresaw that they would be such as they are here described. The Evangelist applies to the Gospel what had already taken place under the law, and at the same time shows that the Jews were deprived of reason and understanding, because they were rebels against God. Yet if you inquire into the first cause, we must come to the predestination of God. But as that purpose is hidden from us, we must not too eagerly search into it; for the everlasting scheme of the divine purpose is beyond our reach, but we ought to consider the cause which lies plainly before our eyes, namely, the rebellion by which they rendered themselves unworthy of blessings so numerous and so great.   (Calvin's commentary on Isaiah 6)

Did you catch what Calvin said? The ultimate driver behind the actions of men is God’s sovereign hand, however understanding the purpose on the level of predestination is too hard and not clearly revealed to us. For us, practically speaking, we are to see rebellion for what it is- sin.  Man is responsible for his sin no matter what the hidden, sovereign plan of God might be accomplishing. In Isaiah 6 and John 12 the Jews were responsible for their disbelief. Unbelievers are responsible for their unbelief. 

We can never use predestination to excuse sin and disbelief.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why the big, central pulpit and not a Plexiglas lectern with a stool?

Great question!

The various features of our church architecture and layout are based on things we see as biblically important. Our building looks a certain way for a specific reason. Our choice of furnishings and the particular layout of the pulpit, baptismal, and communion table are purposeful. 

It’s not that other types of church buildings or layouts are unbiblical or wrong. For example, it seems the big, central, wooden pulpit is rare in new church buildings. Many modern churches opt for a stool or chair in front of a Plexiglas lectern for their casually dressed pastor to sit and  teach or “talk with" his congregation. I do something similar on Sunday nights and in other teaching venues. Certainly the Word of God can be taught or preached in different set ups.  The bible doesn’t prescribe the arrangement of furniture in a church worship setting. 

Whatever your set up, something is being communicated.  

The sitting pastor with small Plexiglas lectern on Sunday morning definitely communicates casual, informal, personal interaction. It seems such a set up is intended to make the pastor come across as non-threatening, even a bit less authoritative. I am sure this is a reaction to the stereotypical yelling, pulpit-pounding, fundy preacher.  The stool/lectern approach is meant to put people at ease as they listen to a “message” from the bible. The pastor’s choice of casual dress while teaching or preaching Sunday morning tells the congregation- “Hey, I’m one of you! Listen what I’ve learned this week.”  I think much of the trend toward a casual set up for teaching/preaching Sunday morning has come from “millennial” pressure.  Millennials are characterized as being skeptical or dismissive of authority.  The traditional big, central pulpit with the pastor wearing a suit or robe is a bit offsetting to a generation that doesn’t acknowledge levels of authority readily. 

So why do we, at Redeemer, opt for the set up we have?  Why the big, central, wooden pulpit?  Again, whatever your set up, something is being communicated.  Our intention is to communicate importance and authority.  The most important activities of the church are signified by the furnishings we have- the pulpit, the baptismal, and the communion table.  The ministry of Christ’s church is the ministry of the Word and Sacraments.  Our furnishings are meant to make a statement about the priorities of the church.  As for the pulpit in particular- it’s big, central, and strong, for a reason.  It’s meant to promote the preaching of God’s inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative Word as the central activity of the Church.  The pulpit is bigger than the preacher.  The pulpit requires the person who brings the Word to stand up and step in to it. It demands the preacher consider the solemnity of the role he is exercising when preaching the Word.  Yes, the big, central pulpit is meant to exude authority-the authority of the preached Word.  The authority is not based on the preacher, but on the Word that is preached.  In our church, the pastors wear robes so the congregation’s attention is not on his clothes, but rather the role he is filling for that hour.  Some will say- “the robe distracts me…it reminds me of when I was Catholic.”  I say, skinny jeans on the pastor distracts me.  The pulpit manned by a minister in a robe communicates importance and authority.  This set up promotes the bible being preached. Teaching is explaining what has been written and how it may apply, which is important and should happen in multiple ways in the life of a healthy church. Preaching however, is proclaiming the truth of the Word and exhorting the congregation to believe and obey.  The pastor is commanded to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2) as part of his essential shepherding duties and our pulpit set up serves to assure this practice. The pulpit set up is a reminder to the pastor and the people about God’s authoritative Word.  There’s a sense in which pastors come and go, but the big, solid pulpit from which the Word is preached, will remain for generations.  A preacher “filling the pulpit” is a great way to describe what a faithful pastor should be doing.  He should know what the pulpit is meant for (preaching the Word) and do the task. So many important messages can be relayed by architecture and set up. 

I would rather go to a church that has a modern set up where the pastor believes and teaches the bible faithfully than one with a traditionally arranged big, central pulpit, and the pastor doesn’t believe or actually teach the bible. The essential priority for a biblical, healthy church, is a right view and teaching of the bible.  I do have some anxiety however, concerning what the modern set up says about the convictions of a given church leadership.  But thankfully for everyone, Jesus is the head of His church, not me.   

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Psalm for meditation on July 4

Here's the passage I am meditating on this July 4, during a time of spiritual famine in our beloved nation-

Psalm 33:17-22 The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Redeemer Pulpit: Did God actually say marriage is between one man and one woman?

Several months ago one of my elders suggested I do a short topical sermon series between book studies.  So I planned four sermons to bridge between finishing 2 Corinthians and starting Isaiah in August.  The series is based on the four hottest cultural issues I could think of.  The purpose is to alert my congregation about a biblical response to alarming matters that impact us.

This particular sermon is on Scripture's teaching about marriage, the rapid change in our culture concerning marriage, and how Christians should respond.

The sermon is meant for my congregation but applies to any Christians committed to God's Word. When planning the sermon I had no idea the Supreme Court would legislate same sex marriage two days before I would preach it.

Listen Here to "Did God actually say marriage is between one man and one woman" By Pastor Tony Felich 

Schaeffer foretold the dynamic that has come to pass

In light of the historic legislation passed by the Supreme Court (yes, I know this isn't the Court's role, but it accurately describes the effect of their decision), legalizing same-sex marriage, I thought revisiting prophetic words from Francis Schaeffer would be enlightening.  Below is an excerpt from a lecture Schaeffer gave in 1982, and also part of his "Christian Manifesto" published the same year.

Schaeffer displays what happens when a society replaces Christian truth (which is actual truth) with humanism.  Remember, this was written over thirty years ago, at a time when it seemed "conservatism" was on the upswing.  As Schaeffer was fond of saying, conservative humanism is no better than liberal humanism. 

So, Humanism is the absolute certain result, if we choose this other final reality (instead of Christianity) and say that is what it is. You must realize that when we speak of man being the measure of all things under the Humanist label, the first thing is that man has only knowledge from himself. That he, being finite, limited, very faulty in his observation of many things, yet nevertheless, has no possible source of knowledge except what man, beginning from himself, can find out from his own observation. Specifically, in this view, there is no place for any knowledge from God.

But it is not only that man must start from himself in the area of knowledge and learning, but any value system must come arbitrarily from man himself by arbitrary choice. More frightening still, in our country, at our own moment of history, is the fact that any basis of law then becomes arbitrary -- merely certain people making decisions as to what is for the good of society at the given moment.

Now this is the real reason for the breakdown in morals in our country. It's the real reason for the breakdown in values in our country, and it is the reason that our Supreme Court now functions so thoroughly upon the fact of arbitrary law. They have no basis for law that is fixed, therefore, like the young person who decides to live hedonistically upon their own chosen arbitrary values, society is now doing the same thing legally. Certain few people come together and decide what they arbitrarily believe is for the good of society at the given moment, and that becomes law.

Now, compare what Schaeffer said to what Romans 1 describes:

Romans 1:[18] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. [19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. [20] For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [21] For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. [24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, [25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. [26] For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; [27] and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. [28] And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Tragedy of Alex Rodriguez

Being a Yankees fan doesn't stop me from being rational.

I find Alex Rodriguez to be one of the most tragic figures in the modern sports era, especially since the MLB World Series was cancelled in 1994. It seems MLB's declined popularity after the strike of 1994 was a contributing factor for the league's lax oversight of performance enhancing drug usage. To be sure, Alex Rodriquez is one of hundreds of players who likely cheated over the past twenty plus years. In his case, however, it is very difficult for common man to understand why a person of such God-given talent would resort to PED's. Yet he did just that, lied about it multiple times, and did it again. I hope he has a great year for the sake of the Yanks and the $25 million they're paying him this season, but I find him to be a sad player that's hard to like.

Yesterday he reached the 3000 hit milestone, a feat accomplished by only 28 players (out of 18,000) in MLB history.

Yet, it feels somewhat fake.  Wallace Matthews with ESPN captures my sentiments on A-Rod-

"Again, no matter what you think of steroids, there can be little dispute over another contention -- that the athlete who resorts to them feels that in some way he or she needs them to perform.

The sad fact is the tragedy of Alex Rodriguez has less to do with a failing of character than a failing of confidence.

At some point in his athletic life, A-Rod stopped believing in himself.

And as a result, none of us can ever fully believe in him -- or what he did on a baseball field."

 - Wallace Matthews (ESPN)