Quote of the Day

May 15, 2017

“Behind virtually every case of marital dissatisfaction lies unrepentant sin.”

A Right

May 6, 2017

Author confuses two near-opposite concepts. Christian duty – here, the duty to care for others – is an individual obligation on the part the Christian to glorify God through voluntary, one-on-one care for another in need. 
A right is a restriction, a constraint. It sets boundaries that protect an individual from intrusion, by other individuals or by the state. The right to life, for example, is a constraint against the unlawful taking of an individual’s life by another person. It doesn’t guarantee that you will live in perpetuity, it just constrains the behavior of others. 
This is a dangerous confusion, because, in transforming an individual duty on the part of one person into a right of another, we involve the coercive power of government. 
A right always ultimately authorizes the use of force (a gun) to enforce the right. That’s dangerous when the so-called right is a question of delivering goods and services, such as health care.

Grace and Gratitude 

May 4, 2017

So how can we tackle the problem of a critical, jaded spirit towards the church and her ministry? Undoubtedly there are many potential avenues of addressing the heart issues underlying this problem: the steady need to be personally refreshed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, to walk in renewed sweet communion with Him, to live in the Word and prayer by His Spirit. These are essential to tackling the problem. However, there is another exercise which can prove tremendously beneficial in the life of ministry and the life of your congregation: developing gratitude for the marks of grace displayed in others.[5]

The immediate question is, “How?”
We need to know and remind ourselves what marks of grace, or evidences of grace are. A beekeeper needs to know signs of health and growth in his bee population if he is going to produce honey; pastors, elders, and church members need to be students of the marks or evidences of the grace of God in the lives of people to spur on spiritual development.
An important, initial distinction needs to be made between common or natural graces and special or supernatural graces. Common or natural graces, which we undoubtedly should be thankful for and rejoice in, are found both in Christians and non-Christians. For example: your unbelieving neighbor brings your garbage bin back to the house for you. This is an act of kindness, for which you should be thankful to God and to him. But what is it rooted in? Perhaps a twinge of conscience, maybe a good mood, maybe some understanding of the social benefits of this, but most certainly the ultimate source in the unbelieving heart is tied to a self-love, or some other sinful idolatry, rather than love for God showing itself in love for one’s neighbor.
In contrast, special or supernatural grace is the fruit of the regenerating, transforming, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian. God’s glory is the motive, end, and goal of actions or characteristics rooted in special grace. They are fruits that stand as evidences of the work of the Holy Spirit–proof of the power of the Word of God, in transforming, uniting and conforming people to Jesus Christ. These marks of grace are what the minister needs to intentionally study.
Scripture is replete with biblical examples of marks of grace in the saints. Study them. Study fruits of the Spirit displayed throughout the Old and New Testaments. Study the heroes of faith, praying and meditating on how their marks of grace reflect, point to, and are ultimately found in Christ Himself. Study Christ Himself, listen to Him. When you see Christians pursuing a life conformed to the Ten Commandments, positively desiring to keep them in love to God, especially as they are expounded by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, you will know you are seeing evidences of grace. However small the growth may be, if it is in Christ, it is by grace. When you see Christian parents prayerfully living out the call of Deuteronomy 6 to instruct covenant children in the grace and knowledge of God, this is a mark of grace. When you see a Christian leaving a job, a social setting, a relationship, because he wants to avoid the pattern of spiritual decline exposed in Psalm 1, you are seeing evidence of the Spirit’s work. When you see a woman, single or married, pursuing the paradigm of Proverbs 31, you are seeing marks of grace. When you see someone who is beginning, however slowly, to exemplify the Beatitudes, you are seeing evidences of grace. You are seeing the work of the Triune God. And yes, when a Christian, out of love for God and neighbor brings back their garbage bin, this is an evidence of grace.
Is there a biblical basis for calling Christians to look for evidences of grace in the church and the individuals that make up her body? Yes, Scripture not only gives us warrant, but also commands us in Old and New Testaments. Consider Psalm 48. The reader is called to: “walk about Zion” (Psalm 48:12). What is the Psalmist calling God’s people to? To admire the city of Jerusalem, the center of Old Testament temple worship, the place of the presence of God in His abounding grace and sure promise of complete salvation in the Christ to come. To admire the city that God established, then to admire the God who established it. They were called to take an unhurried walk to examine the stone and brick buildings, understanding that God established them by His grace. The Psalmist calls us to meditate on and give thanks for the spiritual reality that the temple and city display: God is building a spiritual city, a people saved by Him, set apart to Him. The New Testament equivalent of Jerusalem, of Mount Zion, is the church, the bride of Christ. Psalm 48 doesn’t call us in the new covenant administration to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem: we are to do this in the church. Walk around it–open your church directory–and look for God’s gracious works!
Psalm 48 provides a pattern of how to do this. The Psalmist says “consider her bulwarks, palaces” (Psalm 48:13) – a clear call to take note with specificity the evidences of the grace of God. In the transition to verse 14, the Psalm gives us the goal of our search and study: trace the graces back to the giver and source of all grace, “for this God is our God forever and ever.” (Psalm 48:14) The Psalm is also passionate in calling us to communicate our gratitude for God’s evident grace to others, “Let Mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of your judgments”, and above all to communicate our thankfulness to God (Ps. 48:1, 8, 9, 10). The whole Psalm is intended as a song of worship.
The New Testament is replete with similar examples. Paul’s ministry exemplifies this over and over in the opening words of his epistles (cf. Romans 1, 1 & 2 Corinthians 1, Ephesians 1, Philippians 1) and throughout these letters. As a Spirit-inspired apostle of Jesus Christ he takes note of evidences of grace with specificity, communicating his gratitude to God and the people of God for them. Revelation repeats this pattern, as our Lord Jesus Christ addresses the seven churches of Asia Minor and through them the church of every generation. Jesus commends the churches for the very marks and evidences of grace that are made possible only by and through Him! Certainly there are rebukes and warnings as well. In some cases, like many of the prophets, Paul’s address to the Galatians, and the words of Christ to the church at Laodicea, there is little to no commendation, due to the urgency of error and sin that needs to be confronted and a concurrent void of marks of grace. At times strong correction, prayerful intercession, and sorrow are the only legitimate response to someone’s life. Yet, recognizing and addressing these occasions, individuals, and at times, churches, does not negate the simultaneous call to look, listen, and take specific note of evidences of grace, to trace them back to the Giver, and to communicate gratitude. Take note of the evidences of God’s powerful, supernatural, actively recreating work for your own encouragement, for the encouragement of fellow Christians, and so that you can praise Him for His unstoppable grace. Open your eyes and see: His mercy, His redeeming love, His new creation is being written over and over throughout His church. He is building a glorious church as He saves people from sin and conforms them to the image of Christ His Son. He is sanctifying his bride so that she grows in holy beauty.
Pursuing a life marked by the biblical paradigm of gratitude for marks of grace is crucial for ministry. Our souls have to overflow spiritual gratitude for the grace of God to us and others if we are going to reach people. Only an overflowing heart can make our life communication passionate and alive to others. A church that overflows with spiritual gratitude will shine. There will be an evident, tangible, distinct sweetness. When rebuke or warning is needed it will then be spoken in a context that evidences love, humility and gratitude, with a gospel heart, and Christ-centered focus. It will be vibrantly gracious rather than critical, petty, jaded or dull. There will be growth in love to God, and love to others, rather than self-love. What would we and our churches be like if we were transformed to conform to Christ in this? Take a few minutes to walk mentally around the parts of Zion you know. As you consider the mighty works of God in the hearts and lives of the saints around you, give thanks and praise to Him, and tell them. Encourage each other, and join together to worship our great God and Savior, the God of all grace:
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power…”

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 4:11, 5:9-10 (ESV)

William Vandoodewaard is Professor of Church History at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He will be speaking on the topic of The Vindicated Word at this year’s US Ministers’ Conference (May 30 – June 01).

Allegiance 

April 28, 2017

“The essence of Christian obedience is not do’s and don’ts but personal allegiance to Jesus.”-Tim Keller 

Purpose of Prayer

April 26, 2017

The basic purpose of prayer is not to bend God’s will to mine, but to mold my will into his.–Tim Keller

Corporate Confession

April 25, 2017

Holy God, You are the all-wise King who created and sustains all things.  You have revealed your glory and majestic power in the world all around us.  Your fingerprints in creation are unmistakable.  Your holiness and power are made evident in your providential care for everything you have made, including us.  Yet we confess that we have not honored you and given you the thanks and praise you deserve.  Instead of worshipping you, we have worshipped idols like power, control, and reputation as if they were treasure.  These things are not worthy of our worship.  They cannot save us and protect us, nor can they transform us into pure and holy people.

 

Lord Jesus, thank you for your pure and wise worship of you heavenly Father.  You never flinched from glorifying your Father, growing daily in knowledge and wisdom and the fear of the Lord.  When Satan tempted you in the wilderness, you refused to bow down to him, instead reminding him of God’s Word, which says, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”  Thank you that your faithful obedience and holy wisdom are to us as our righteousness before your Father.

 

Holy Spirit, make wisdom and holiness delightful to the inmost part of our souls.  Draw us daily to the cross.  Show us the perfect life that Christ lived for us, and then shape us so that we can turn away increasingly from the seductive power of the wisdom of this world and receive in its place biblical wisdom.  Grow us daily in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, until you complete that good work on the day you take us to be with you forever in heaven.

In Christ’s name we pray, amen.

Good Friday Times

April 14, 2017

4:00 to 6:00 a.m.
Jesus’s trial before Annas and Caiaphas.
(Matthew 26:57–68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:66–70; John 18:12–28)
6:00 to 8:00 a.m.
Jesus’s trial before Pontius Pilate and Herod. Jesus appears before Pilate, is sent over to Herod, and then back to Pilate where he is sentenced to be crucified.
(Matthew 27:1–26; Mark 15:1–15; Luke 23:1–25; John 18:28–19:16)
8:00 to 8:30 a.m.
Jesus carries his cross, with Simon of Cyrene’s help, to Golgotha.
Lightstock

Lightstock

(Matthew 27:27–32; Mark 15:16–22; Luke 23:26–33; John 19:16–17)
9:00 a.m. (Crucifixion)
Jesus is crucified: “It was the third hour” (Mark 15:25). For the Jewish people, the first hour of the day was 6:00 a.m.
(Matthew 27:35; Luke 23:33; John 19:18–22)
9:00 to 9:30 a.m.
The soldiers divide Jesus’s clothing. He prays for them.
(Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23–24)
9:30 to 11:00 a.m.
The soldiers watch over the crucifixion and mock Jesus: “He can’t save himself. Come down from there, Son of God.”
(Matthew 27:36–43; Mark 15:29–32; Luke 23:35–38)
11:00 a.m. to Noon
Jesus speaks from the cross to the thieves on either side. The repentant thief asks Jesus to remember him, and Jesus promises, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And to his mother, Mary, and to John, Jesus says, “Woman, here is your son. . . . John, here is your mother.’”
(Matthew 27:38–44; Luke 23:39–43; John 19:25–27)
Noon
A three-hour darkness descends upon the land: “When the sixth hour had come, there was a darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”
(Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33)
Noon to 3:00 p.m.
The earth quakes, the temple curtain is torn, and Jesus thirsts.
(Matthew 27:51–54; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; Matthew 27:46–50; Mark 15:33–37; Luke 23:35–38; John 19:29)
3:00 p.m.
Jesus dies: “At the ninth hour, Jesus cried out, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’” “Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ and he gave up his spirit.”
(Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34–39; Luke 23:46; John 19:30)
************
After this, before night set in, the soldiers thrust a spear into Jesus side to make sure he was dead. They then permitted Joseph of Arimathea to take down Jesus’s body and bury him in a nearby grave.
They sealed the grave with a large round stone built to roll like a giant wheel into place, covering the mouth of the tomb.
Everyone expected he would remain in that tomb, because that’s what happens with those who are dead and buried. They stay dead and they stay buried.

-Russ Ramsay

Second-Class M?

April 7, 2017

Imagine what it would look like if western churches hired their staff with the same priorities that they choose overseas missionaries to financially support.
First of all, a Children’s Pastor would definitely be out. Not strategic enough; he’s only supporting the children of believers. Youth Pastor? Also out, unless he targets neighborhood kids.
How about a Music Pastor? Or Pastoral Counselor? Nope. Those are just support roles. Not enough front-line ministry.
Administrative Pastor? Receptionist? Good heavens. We could never dream of paying someone for those kind of inconsequential jobs.
How about a Preaching Pastor? Well…..that’s if-y, but he probably doesn’t make the cut either. After all, he’s only feeding the Body. Most of the time, he’s not actually reaching the lost.
So that pretty much leaves only the positions of Community Outreach Pastor or Evangelist. Yet how many churches even have those paid positions?
I’m not suggesting that churches go about firing two-thirds of their staff. I just want to talk about a double-standard I often see.
Let me introduce you to the class system among missionaries. 
Who is on the A-List? Well, that would be the Church Planters. Among unreached people groups gives you A+ status. Pastoral Trainers and Bible Translators might be able to squeak by with an A.
The B-List? Doctors and other health workers, community development and poverty alleviation workers, ESL teachers.
The C-List? Administrators, missionary member care, MK teachers, or anyone else considered “support.”
Whatever tends to be the current trend in “justice ministry” also often ends up on the A-List. These days, that’s fighting human trafficking. It used to be orphan ministry, but that’s pretty much been relegated to B-status now. It’s cool, but not that cool.
Granted, this class system doesn’t usually originate with the missionaries themselves, but it’s come out of the culture of missions in their home countries. How many missionaries have sat before missions committees back home who examined if they fit into their “grid” of priorities? And often that grid looks exactly like the hierarchy I just outlined.
My husband and I worked for eight years in TCK ministry at a missionary school. When trying to raise support, we called and sent information packets to over 200 churches in California. We heard back from two. Churches told us, over and over again, Sorry, but that ministry doesn’t fit into our strategy.  
That all changed when we transitioned to theological training of East African pastors. Finally, we had churches calling us. It was nice. But frankly, kind of frustrating. We didn’t change ministries so that we would become more popular with churches. We switched because that’s where God was leading us. But the truth is, we don’t consider theological training to be any more strategic, or any more exciting, than what we were doing at that MK school. 
Unfortunately, the missionaries themselves are often acutely aware of this hierarchy, and it makes many feel like they are second-class. Over and over again, I hear things like this from missionaries:
Yes, I love my job as an MK teacher and I know it’s really important, but I fill my newsletters with pictures of the slum I visit once a week. After all, that’s what my supporters are interested in.
Yeah, I’m a missionary, but not a ‘real’ missionary. I live in a city and spend a lot of my time at a computer.
My visiting short-term team was supposed to help me out with my ministry to TCK’s, but they only want to spend their time with orphans.  
Why do these missionaries feel this way? Maybe because when Christians stand up and say, I’m called to missionary care! I’m called to teach MK’s! I’m called to missions administration!, the churches say, Well, sorry, you don’t fit in our strategy. We’d rather get behind the exciting church planters and the pastoral trainers and the child-trafficking rescuers. Except, we expect them to do it without all the other people they need to be successful.
And so what happens? The talented church planter gets bogged down by administrative tasks. The mom who is gifted and called to women’s ministry has no choice but to homeschool. The child-trafficking rescuer has a nervous breakdown because he has no one to help him work through the trauma of what he is facing. Missionaries are particularly prone to burn-out. Could this be partially because they are trying to do too many jobs themselves? 
I’m all about strategy in missions, and it’s important for churches to be careful in their vetting process of potential missionaries. But can we expand our idea of what strategy means? Missionaries, as an extension of the Church, must function as the Body of Christ. Could the Western Church function by only hiring evangelists? I realize that mission work can have different goals than churches back at home: Missionaries are working ourselves out of a job; they are doing everything they can to replace themselves with national believers. But to get there, they need the Body of Christ. 
We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. (Romans 12)
The legs can’t do anything without the arms and fingers and neck. So go out today and find your nearest missionary accountant or counselor or MK teacher. Join their support team. Encourage them in their pursuit of their calling. Affirm their value to your church or your team. And remind them they are never second-class.

Approching 

April 4, 2017

“We must pay much closer attention to the gospel, to Jesus, and to the cross, lest by an imperceptible current we drift away. Heaven never tires of the cross, and neither should we. The saints in glory never grow weary of the singing the old, old story: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
Do not let Good Friday pass you by like a set of airline instructions. Fix your eyes on the cross. Not as the place to show us our worth, but to show us the weight of our sin. Not as the pace where Jesus simply felt our pain, but where he bore our penalty. Not as the place where God overturned divine justice, but where God in mercy fulfilled his justice. Not as the place where love died, but where love reigned supreme. Pay careful attention to the cross. Here we see a great salvation, delivering us from a great wrath, revealing to us a great Savior who was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, that by his stripes we might be healed.”

Civil War is HERE

March 29, 2017

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
A civil war has begun.
This civil war is very different than the last one. There are no cannons or cavalry charges. The left doesn’t want to secede. It wants to rule. Political conflicts become civil wars when one side refuses to accept the existing authority. The left has rejected all forms of authority that it doesn’t control.
The left has rejected the outcome of the last two presidential elections won by Republicans. It has rejected the judicial authority of the Supreme Court when it decisions don’t accord with its agenda. It rejects the legislative authority of Congress when it is not dominated by the left.
It rejected the Constitution so long ago that it hardly bears mentioning.  
It was for total unilateral executive authority under Obama. And now it’s for states unilaterally deciding what laws they will follow. (As long as that involves defying immigration laws under Trump, not following them under Obama.) It was for the sacrosanct authority of the Senate when it held the majority. Then it decried the Senate as an outmoded institution when the Republicans took it over.

It was for Obama defying the orders of Federal judges, no matter how well grounded in existing law, and it is for Federal judges overriding any order by Trump on any grounds whatsoever. It was for Obama penalizing whistleblowers, but now undermining the government from within has become “patriotic”.
There is no form of legal authority that the left accepts as a permanent institution. It only utilizes forms of authority selectively when it controls them. But when government officials refuse the orders of the duly elected government because their allegiance is to an ideology whose agenda is in conflict with the President and Congress, that’s not activism, protest, politics or civil disobedience; it’s treason.
After losing Congress, the left consolidated its authority in the White House. After losing the White House, the left shifted its center of authority to Federal judges and unelected government officials. Each defeat led the radicalized Democrats to relocate from more democratic to less democratic institutions.
This isn’t just hypocrisy. That’s a common political sin. Hypocrites maneuver within the system. The left has no allegiance to the system. It accepts no laws other than those dictated by its ideology.
Democrats have become radicalized by the left. This doesn’t just mean that they pursue all sorts of bad policies. It means that their first and foremost allegiance is to an ideology, not the Constitution, not our country or our system of government. All of those are only to be used as vehicles for their ideology.
 That’s why compromise has become impossible.
Our system of government was designed to allow different groups to negotiate their differences. But those differences were supposed to be based around finding shared interests. The most profound of these shared interests was that of a common country based around certain civilizational values. The left has replaced these Founding ideas with radically different notions and principles. It has rejected the primary importance of the country. As a result it shares little in the way of interests or values.
Instead it has retreated to cultural urban and suburban enclaves where it has centralized tremendous amounts of power while disregarding the interests and values of most of the country. If it considers them at all, it is convinced that they will shortly disappear to be replaced by compliant immigrants and college indoctrinated leftists who will form a permanent demographic majority for its agenda.
But it couldn’t wait that long because it is animated by the conviction that enforcing its ideas is urgent and inevitable. And so it turned what had been a hidden transition into an open break.
In the hidden transition, its authority figures had hijacked the law and every political office they held to pursue their ideological agenda. The left had used its vast cultural power to manufacture a consensus that was slowly transitioning the country from American values to its values and agendas. The right had proven largely impotent in the face of a program which corrupted and subverted from within.
The left was enormously successful in this regard. It was so successful that it lost all sense of proportion and decided to be open about its views and to launch a political power struggle after losing an election.
The Democrats were no longer being slowly injected with leftist ideology. Instead the left openly took over and demanded allegiance to open borders, identity politics and environmental fanaticism. The exodus of voters wiped out the Democrats across much of what the left deemed flyover country.
The left responded to democratic defeats by retreating deeper into undemocratic institutions, whether it was the bureaucracy or the corporate media, while doubling down on its political radicalism. It is now openly defying the outcome of a national election using a coalition of bureaucrats, corporations, unelected officials, celebrities and reporters that are based out of its cultural and political enclaves.

 

It has responded to a lost election by constructing sanctuary cities and states thereby turning a cultural and ideological secession into a legal secession. But while secessionists want to be left alone authoritarians want everyone to follow their laws. The left is an authoritarian movement that wants total compliance with its dictates with severe punishments for those who disobey.
The left describes its actions as principled. But more accurately they are ideological. Officials at various levels of government have rejected the authority of the President of the United States, of Congress and of the Constitution because those are at odds with their radical ideology. Judges have cloaked this rejection in law. Mayors and governors are not even pretending that their actions are lawful.
The choices of this civil war are painfully clear.
We can have a system of government based around the Constitution with democratically elected representatives. Or we can have one based on the ideological principles of the left in which all laws and processes, including elections and the Constitution, are fig leaves for enforcing social justice.
But we cannot have both.
Some civil wars happen when a political conflict can’t be resolved at the political level. The really bad ones happen when an irresolvable political conflict combines with an irresolvable cultural conflict.
That is what we have now.
The left has made it clear that it will not accept the lawful authority of our system of government. It will not accept the outcome of elections. It will not accept these things because they are at odds with its ideology and because they represent the will of large portions of the country whom they despise.
The question is what comes next.
The last time around growing tensions began to explode in violent confrontations between extremists on both sides. These extremists were lauded by moderates who mainstreamed their views. The first Republican president was elected and rejected. The political tensions led to conflict and then civil war.
The left doesn’t believe in secession. It’s an authoritarian political movement that has lost democratic authority. There is now a political power struggle underway between the democratically elected officials and the undemocratic machinery of government aided by a handful of judges and local elected officials.
What this really means is that there are two competing governments; the legal government and a treasonous anti-government of the left. If this political conflict progresses, agencies and individuals at every level of government will be asked to demonstrate their allegiance to these two competing governments. And that can swiftly and explosively transform into an actual civil war.
There is no sign that the left understands or is troubled by the implications of the conflict it has initiated. And there are few signs that Democrats properly understand the dangerous road that the radical left is drawing them toward. The left assumes that the winners of a democratic election will back down rather than stand on their authority. It is unprepared for the possibility that democracy won’t die in darkness.
Civil wars end when one side is forced to accept the authority of the other. The left expects everyone to accept its ideological authority. Conservatives expect the left to accept Constitutional authority. The conflict is still political and cultural. It’s being fought in the media and within the government. But if neither side backs down, then it will go beyond words as both sides give contradictory orders.
The left is a treasonous movement. The Democrats became a treasonous organization when they fell under the sway of a movement that rejects our system of government, its laws and its elections. Now their treason is coming to a head. They are engaged in a struggle for power against the government. That’s not protest. It’s not activism. The old treason of the sixties has come of age. A civil war has begun.
This is a primal conflict between a totalitarian system and a democratic system. Its outcome will determine whether we will be a free nation or a nation of slaves.