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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Review of John Piper’s article on the question of Christians arming themselves

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/should-christians-be-encouraged-to-arm-themselves 

I respect and appreciate John Piper very much although I must share that my theological perspective is different than his. And, as with all of us, his theology impacts and effects his interpretation of Scripture.  I also appreciate the admission by Piper that good men can disagree on these things and there we need not criticize one another for taking other views.

So, first let me say that his opening paragraphs in expressing concern over the spirit and tenor of the remarks made by Dr. Falwell at Liberty University are completely understandable.  I share some of the same concerns.

I have stated to many that I might agree with the position LU has taken in allowing students to be armed (I have written much about this earlier).  But with where our culture is today, LU should require much more substantial training than they do.  One concealed carry class is no where near enough.  Secondly, their policy is irresponsible unless they have an excellent system of accountability.  For example, the slightest behavioral infractions ought to immediately disqualify a student from firearm possession.  Owning, maintaining and carrying lethal force demands the utmost of maturity and judgement.

So as Piper expresses, the heart and the spirit of the matter is the issue.  I believe ‘to carry or not carry’ or ‘use force or not use force’ should be considered as the outflow of the more important issue.  People on both sides of the firearms debate can have equally wrong motives and heart attitudes.

It seems to me that Dr. Piper draws a conclusion of complete and total nonresistance.  And, that is certainly his right.  Although I do not draw the same conclusion from the Word of God.  He presents a good argument but I would share a few concerns:

First, he seems to present the New Testament as an island unto itself and does reference or draw any connection to the Old Testament.  (This is surprising because it seems more dispensational than reformed.)  The New Testament fulfills the Old and its teachings are given in the context of, and with the background of, the Old.  So when we draw conclusions from the New which are dramatically different than the Old, we are required to explain that lack of connection or change of perspective.  

Secondly, it seems to me that Piper does take passages out of context and draws some conclusions which are not there.  Often preachers use the “governmental authority” passages to release us of any responsibility when that is not the context of those passages.  For example when Paul discusses governmental use of force in Romans, he is using it as an illustration of the law.  He is showing how the law is enforced in the human realm as an illustration of the law in the spiritual realm.  This is not a proof text for personal responsibility of protection or the lack thereof.

Thirdly, he uses extreme conclusions to make some points and then criticizes the doing so of others.  For example, he criticizes Falwell’s implied interpretation of Jesus’ instructions to buy a sword by saying that this was not an instruction for the apostles to become an armed band.  Well, that is true and no one says that this was the intent.  Yet, he almost criticizes those who, when dealing with this issue, want to boil it down to the question of “would you defend your sister if being assaulted?”  I think this is a necessary part of the discussion.  We must test our conclusions to see how they hold up in all circumstances of life.

Fourthly, I do believe he is comparing apples and oranges when he compares our cultural situation to that of the time of Christ.   He uses the passages about the government and speaks to the way that citizens in Israel in Christ’s day behaved while (as I said before) totally ignores how God’s people responded to God’s teaching at different times in the Word of God.

We do not live in a country occupied by a foreign government.  We also live in a representative government where citizens are expected to served in the political process.  Rome did not give God’s people the option of (for example) a citizen’s arrest.  Rome did not allow a citizen militia.  Rome’s “sheriffs” were not begging the citizenry to go out and buy firearms and learn how to use them and defend themselves as many of the law enforcement officials in our land are today.  Our context is different and thus the application of God’s truth is as well.

In conclusion, it may be that Piper’s view of sovereignty might be the cause of his conclusions.  After all, we need to just trust God to be our defender.  But beloved, the normative view of the entirety of the Word of God does not take that to mean passivity or no action.  There are many other meaningful passages on this subject that Dr. Piper chose not to discuss in his article.


And frankly, as I eluded to at the beginning, if a man chooses to say that he does not believe in ever using lethal force to defend himself or others, and he is at peace with the possibility of seeing his loved ones tortured or abused or killed while doing nothing, that is between him and his God.  But if, he chooses to not take responsibility to protect and defend his family AND he expects another human to do so, I believe he is being unjust.  How can he expect another man to go into harms way and risk his life, and that loss to his family, for the sake of yours while you choose not to?  Just because someone chooses to wear a badge does not mean we relinquish all responsibility. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Heart Prone to Legalism?

Dear ones, in this modern era, the debate over legalism never dies!  And, maybe it shouldn’t … because it is such a vital discussion.  Legalism is deadly!  Legalism kills!  Yet, there are aspects of this discussion which are almost never mentioned.  

As good Bible students know, at its root, legalism is adding to God’s truth in the area of salvation.  Historically the “works oriented gospel” is the prime example of this.  That is why it is called LEGALism.  It is about law. In other words, the thinking that we are saved by the law, or parts of the law, rather than grace, etc.

Now, there are many today that preach a pure gospel of grace yet fall into the trap of sanctification by the law. In other words, the way you please God is to follow the law, etc.  This is equally deadly.

This is what legalism is theologically, Biblically and Spiritually.  But, the dictionary also has a more secular definition that basically describes ‘legalism’ as putting too much emphasis on laws or rules.

Many in the modern, evangelical world love to use this definition in the church and their “Christian” life.  The reason why is that this so-called definition allows us all to be our own god in our own eyes.  In other words, it is completely subjective.  By this way of thinking, I get to determine if a person or a group has too many rules, too few or just the right amount.  I get to call them legalists if I think they are off base.  This is incredibly helpful in our carnal, worldly, flesh-loving modern “church” because now I have constructed a theological justification for myself.  I feel more spiritual because … frankly … I stand in judgement of others. All the while, I might use this to avoid any standards or rules I don’t like and I will accuse those who teach such uncomfortable rules as being the judgmental ones.

But this is not what concerns me most.  What concerns me most is the powerful trend I see today in professing believers who have taken this age-old argument to almost make it a mark of spirituality to resist and avoid any standards or rules or guidelines in their lives (Rom. 6).  They have taken the teaching of the Bible which remind us that man looks on the outside while God looks on the heart and they have used that to condemn all teaching on outward life.

They find it quite easy to ignore the fact that the Bible is filled with “outer life” teaching.  They reject the fact that God, throughout the entirety of the Bible, uses the outer life to validate and confirm the inner.  He teaches holiness and holy living to the max.  He commands separation from sin and the world to the extreme.

The problem is that we all know those who are good at the outer conformity who clearly are rotten in their heart!  So, many add this to their justification portfolio.  And it is true, that many preachers over the ages have preached standards while neglecting the heart or the most important foundational truths of the inner life.

But, even when a preacher is careful and intentional to preach the heart in all things and make that the foundation to all, something very interesting happens when he begins to preach on specific standards of holiness or specific application in life to any degree.  Those who have a surrendered heart hear the balance, understand the connection and embrace the inner and outer with joy!  But, those who have become slaves to self-will, those who are obsessed with their rights, those who want to express and enjoy their fleshly desires … they hear legalism!  You see to them, ANY standard which “feels as if it limits them” is seen as distasteful and unwanted.  So, they cry legalism.

It is amazing to me how people in the same congregation will hear the same message so differently. Some, hear grace through and through!  The grace to receive Christ and walk with Him in holiness.  Others cry legalism and say there is no grace at all.  Did the preacher somehow preach two different messages as the same time? Or, were the ears of listeners inclined in dramatically different ways?


“Let him who has ears to hear … let him hear!”

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Raising a Courageous Generation

Dear Christian friends, in an age of self-focussed, entitle drama kings and queens how are we to raise up a generation of young men and women to carry the gospel in one of the most crucial times of history?  In a day where sensitivity has gone off the charts producing guys and gals who get their feelings hurt and who are wounded in the most basic circumstances of life, how will we confront the evil in our world?  In a culture of coddled children and "everyone one gets a trophy" young people how are we to call children who face the terrors of the video attached to live for Jesus at no matter what?

Where are the warriors amongst all the wounded?  Where are the preachers amidst the pansies?   Who are the Spiritual ones in the midst all the emotional ones?  In a day where the youth are obsessed with posting their "self" all over the internet, where can we find those who will crucify their self for the cause of Christ.  In a day when everyone wants to being attention to themselves how are to raise those who long to be hidden in Christ?

How can we speak of a Jesus who can sustain us through anything when we are working so hard to face nothing?  Wake up Christian Church in America!  We are not ready for the battle ahead ... and neither are our children.  Recognizing it is the first step of repentance.


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Monday, November 30, 2015

Practical Atheism

What God says…
How we live?
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Prov. 3:5,6
How much have you trusted in your own self or circumstances this week?
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt. 6:33
What have we sought or focussed on or pursued more than Christ and His will and way over the past two weeks?
"But his delight is in the law of the Lord…”  Ps. 1:2a
How much have we delighted in the law of God in recent days?  How often do we bristle and resist the law of God?
“…and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”  Ps. 1:2b
What percentage of our days (let alone nights) are we meditating on the things of God?  How seriously are we even pursuing this goal?
“Pray without ceasing” 1 Thes. 5:17
How devoted are we to endeavor to be in prayer all day long?
“I made a covenant with mine eyes…” Job 31:1a
Have we ever made a permanent, unbreakable covenant with our eyes?
“…why then should I think upon a maid?” Job 31:1b 
How committed are we to not looking at things, or thinking of thing, we should not?
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” Jas. 4:4
If “liking” or “being friendly” with the things of the world is so offensive to God, how seriously are taking avoiding all elements of it?
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Rom. 13:14
How serious are we at never making any provision of the flesh?
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” 1 Ptr. 5:8
Are relaxed or vigilant?  Are we more concerned about having a “good time” or living a Godly life?  Are we as “on guard” in the midst of this spiritual war we are in that a soldier might be in the middle of a national war?
“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” Matt. 5:23–25
How involved are you in actively reconciling with all those in your life?


“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you … For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?” Matt. 5:44–46
How passionately do you love those who mistreat you?
“The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” Matt. 9:37–38
How consistently are you praying for the souls of people?
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” Matt. 28:19

How involved are you in winning the lost and discipling new converts?
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Matt. 11:28–30

How consistently do you turn to Christ when burdened?  How often do you turn to other sources of comfort rather than Christ?
“Let not your heart be troubled” Jn. 14:27 
How comfortable are we living with a troubled heart?
“Honor your parents” Matt. 15:4

How devoted are we really to honoring our parents?
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” Lk. 9:23–25
How many of us live in the reality each day that following Jesus demands constant denial of self?
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” Matt. 18:21–22

How desirous are we to completely and totally forgive all those who wrong us … and no longer hold it against them … and to do so as many times as needed?
“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” Matt. 26:41

How involved are we in living a life of watching and praying?  How aware are we of the constant threat of temptation?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Modern Peer Pressure

I often hear parents and adults talking about how “tough” or “hard” it is to stand for holiness and truth in this day when so many others live differently.  The entire culture and world points another way.

To make matters worse, even some in our own churches are choosing to live more worldly lives and this put even more pressure on our children.  Christian “leaders” do the same.  What is a family to do?

Friends, standing for Jesus, living in holiness, and taking higher ground will ALWAYS be rejected by the masses and even religious leaders.  That is a promise from Jesus!  This is not new.

If our children, young people and even adults cannot live contrary to a little American peer pressure, how in the world would we stand in the face of torture or stand against serious persecution.  Christian parents used to think it was a privilege to stand alone for Jesus.  It is said that one day William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, was out preaching in the streets and the angry crowd spit on his children.  As one faithful SA worker saw the spittle land on the one of Booth’s children, he went to wipe it off.  Booth jumped in and said no, leave it … let them wear it as a badge of honor!


Today we think such a view would harm the emotional well being of our children but Booth’s children went on to walk with God!  Oh friends, our Lord is so gracious that He gives us all kinds of opportunities to build our spiritual muscles and stand for Him.  Let us enjoy doing so for the glory of Jesus and teach our children to love doing so as well!!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Casual Church

Casual Church - We live in a day when EVERYTHING is more causal!  Today, suits for businessmen are almost gone.  People get married in jeans and go to funerals in t-shirts.  Just thirty to forty years ago in our culture people “dressed up” to go shopping or travel.  Now, when you fly on a airliner you might sit next to someone in their pajamas.  

This trend has effected the Church of Jesus Christ. “Churches” everywhere advertise, COME AS YOU ARE.  The whole approach is to appeal to that which is comfortable and causal.  As a matter of fact, many in the evangelical world today see this causal trend as "more spiritual".  Those who still believe in "dressing up" to go to church are old-timers caught in religiosity.  

Please understand, I am not picking on those who wear flip flops, but think of this friends … forty years ago, the only people on planet earth who wore flip flops were those using them as “shower shoes” or third world tribes.  Then, the became popular beach wear. Now, they are everywhere!

But beloved, this trend toward the causal and love for all things comfortable has gone well beyond tour attire. It effects virtually every aspect of our lives.  Think of it, the tend toward that which is causal is really a symptom of increasing carelessness. By that I mean, caring less about things or a lack of seriousness.  After all, why do we need to dress up?  Its not that big of a deal. That is really not NEEDED.  Who cares?  

Think of trends in churches today.  Now keep in mind, I grew up just a few decades ago attending a Catholic church.  In that church, EVERY man wore a coat and tie. EVERY woman wore a fancy dress and most wore nice hats.  When you walked in, before taking your seat, you knelt and made the sign of the cross in reverence to God.  You were expected to remain silent in church unless being asked for a response so that you did not interrupt the reverence of worship or someone who might be in prayer.  When talking to another, you were expected to whisper.  When the priest came in, EVERYONE stood, etc.

Compare that to where we are today.  Now in our circles, I LOVE the fact that we openly fellowship with others in church before and after the service beings.  But consider the fact that it is common for many in our church to stay in the foyer and talk even after the service has begun and has gone on for some time.

Consider how comfortable we are coming into service late, leaving early, talking to others during the service, coming in and out, missing services when it is not convenient, etc.  In my church it is even common for folks to enter carrying their coffee cup into the service and leaving service in the middle to go get more coffee.   We have speakers throughout the church for those in other rooms to listen to the service.  I have known of some who would turn the speakers down so that what is going on in the service does not disrupt their conversation.  

And yes, consider our attire.  How do people dress for worship today?  What is the primary goal of our attire?  Is our objective to please God or get the attention of another or to simply "wear what we like and want"?  

Does all of this speak of reverence and seriousness about the things of God or personal comfort and preference?  Does this speak of careFULLness or careLESSness?


Beloved, this is NOT intended to be a criticism for I am guilty of some of these things too. It is intended to be an encouragement toward personal inspection of our heart attitude toward the congregational worship of Almighty God and our role and character as a church.  Oh that we might once again fall in love with Christ and seek to please Him above all else. In like manner, I pray that we might also revere and worship our Holy God and give Him due honor in ALL we do ... let alone the singular act of CONGREGATIONAL WORSHIP to Him.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

MAGIC PILLS

Last week in the Adirondack mountains of New York State, while serving there, some of my dear Christian brothers were discussing and sharing with me this term “magic pill”.  It is one they ascribed to the passages in the Holy Bible that many like to believe are just that … magic pills.  These are Bible verses the popular mega-church pastors and tel-evangelists like to throw around.  These are they kinds of verses in which many modern believers like to place their hope.

For example, Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite.  One of our brothers led a wonderful team devotional time in this passage.  God says “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”  What is not to love?

Here God says to His chosen people Israel that He has plans for them and these plans are those of peace.  He has a goal for them and He is going to work that out and does not want evil for them.  And, in our modern day of Israel-replacement theology, many preachers tell us that this verse is ours for the claiming.

Well, we might want to slow down just a second.  Good Bible students study IN CONTEXT.  What is the context of that passage?  Here in Jeremiah 29, God’s people are being punished for their disobedience of turning their heart from God.  (The mega-church preachers don’t like this kind of truth.)  They are being led away captive into a heathen land.  They were treated mercilessly in a way that makes modern ISIS look not so bad.

And, the same God who speaks in verse 11 says in verse 4 that He has caused this to happen to His beloved chosen people!  He goes onto tell them that they will live in this captivity for 70 years.  And in that 70 years, the people of God are to buy homes, marry, have children and plant gardens (verse 5).   And in verse 7 they are told to live in peace with this heathen land in which they are captive.  The message here is one that they should be content and realize this is the will of God and it will not change for 70 years.

I wonder how the modern American believers would respond if God told this to us.  If the “live free or die” crowd was told by the Almighty that they were going to been taken over and live as captives or slaves for 70 years, would they still worship and praise the goodness of their God?

Then in verse 10, God says after all 70 years are complete, THEN I will live out verse 11 with you and through you.  So, many in the modern Western world claim verse 11 as a permanent stance of God and will for their lives when the very context of that passage says the opposite.

This ‘favorite’ verse was given by God to comfort a people which He was punishing for 70 years. It was given as hope for them to know that this too shall pass. The Sovereign God of heaven was still in charge.  Although many would die in captivity, their children and children’s children were still going to be blessed of God. 

But let me ask you, what kind of Bible teacher or preacher takes this text completely out of context and gives it to an American culture which has turned from God and uses it to convince this land that we should expect a blessing rather than judgment?  Are we more special to God than Israel?  Do we deserve better than they?  

This kind of judgement happened over and over again with Israel and each time, the way out was humility, brokeness, confession of sin and repentance form sin (2 Chronicles 7:14).


Listen friends, inspirational speakers are one thing, but men who claim to be ministers of the God’s Word and carelessly throw the Holy Word of God around  to give false hope and gain more followers are not good men.