Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Discernment Lesson: Jack Kelley

EPrata photo
It's not easy to determine if someone is a false teacher or is fairly solid but teaching false things temporarily. At what point does one decide not to follow a certain teacher anymore? I've written about this in the past. For each person the tipping point might be different.

One reason people have different tipping points could be because people have certain non-negotiables which are deal-breakers for them. For example, some who have been false converts for many years and were graciously awakened to their lost state have a low tolerance for easy believism. Some who were in a Charismatic church and have been graciously delivered have a low tolerance for healing crusades and charlatans. Others simply recognize they do not yet possess as much discernment as they need in order to continue following a certain teacher, so they go away from him or her to be on the safe side.

Nor should it be easy to cast someone's name into the fire of falsity. Making such a determination requires humility, discernment, patience, and wisdom. Making a hasty judgment would mean we've impugned a brother or sister, and God takes a dim view of that. (Romans 14:19).

However the alternate should also stand. If we should manifest discerning patience in watching a bible teacher or preacher's trajectory, when that tipping point is reached and enough biblical evidence is accumulated, we should not be hesitant to declare for Jesus and point this person out as a destroying enemy. (Romans 16:17).

For me, Rick Warren praying to the false god Isa, promoting corporate growth strategies for church, man-centered theology, consistently failing to give the Gospel to audiences he was invited to speak to, not to mention ecumenism with Islam and Catholicism, is enough for me to say "false."

Beth Moore's bible twisting, her shallow and emotional storytelling narcissistic approach, pop psychology, automatic/occult writing, and puffed up visions showed me that I can say "false" with confidence and biblical integrity.

Billy Graham's lifelong compromises with Catholicism and his universalism make it clear to me that he, sadly, is also false.

And Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and Mark Driscoll's many sins against Jesus are the equivalent of training wheels on the discernment bike for baby Christians to spot as false. Or should be.

At some point in time, all of the above began to show their aberrant doctrines. And at some point one discerning person saw them while others less discerning didn't see them yet. Especially when it's early, we should not jump to conclusions, but watch.

Be serious students of the word, as the Bereans were
I'd like to raise a huge red flag regarding Jack Kelley of GraceThruFaith.com. There are enough things taught at his website that cause me to fear for the less discerning. He promotes:

Easy Believism

Gap Theory

Old Earth is OK

And a while back, he heartily refuted anything and everything about Calvinism (AKA Doctrines of Grace). I have not been able to re-discover those essays on the newly designed website in order to link to them.

I caught the opening to a Bible Study recently published on the site recently and I'd like to use it as a discernment lesson. Though Mr Kelley does use the Bible and seems to treat it with proper respect, the above and this below is a flag. Personal revelation is one of my deal-breakers. Let's unpack this opening statement to a recent Bible study and think it through.

Please note the black underline. The title is "Bible" study. Good enough. I like those.

The first sentence declares that the message he is about to teach was given to the author directly by the Lord. Ergo, it was not derived by the "Bible" through study. There's an immediate contradiction and an immediate problem.

This is a red flag. No messages are ever given personally by the Lord. Understanding of His word, His will, His plan for us are given in the Bible. This is the Doctrine of Illumination and it's one of the Spirit's ministries. (Ephesians 1:17-18).

We turn to the red underline. Excited, the half-asleep author hastily scribbled down the thoughts and went back to sleep. I've done this. Every writer of secular material does. However, note the method by which he claimed to have tested whether the Spirit had just knit together an understanding of scripture. It made sense to him, so he decided. Yet Acts 17:11 called the Bereans noble because they tested what they were being taught against scripture (note, being taught in real life, not personally receiving a message while half-asleep).

Let's look at the Acts 17:11 verse closely. We want to be called noble.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

--they received the word with eagerness. Their eagerness bespeaks a diligence. They sought it out. (Strong's on the word eagerness, prothumias, "who is already being willing, i.e. an eager disposition which is pre-inclined, already "ready and willing"). In other words, they were not lying in bed half asleep startled that the Lord personally plopped wisdom and understanding of the verses to their mind.

--they examined the scriptures. What they heard, they tested against what was written. They allowed scripture to be the benchmark of whether it passed the test. They did not say  'Oh! It makes sense to me, it must be true.'

--they did so daily. This bespeaks a constancy in their attempts to both study and grow. It also bespeaks a maturity in that they didn't relax their guard on a favored teacher nor did they relax their diligence on their own selves in the fleshly mind. Pride wants to say "Oh, yah, I've been doing this for years, I can tell when something makes sense", laziness wants to say "Aw, you know it is probably true, no need to test." Yet Humility and Obedience says "I will always use the Bible to test what I hear because the Lord is worth it and the devil is prowling."

After receiving the word, the Bereans checked.

Now sometimes we say things in shorthand. I hear people say "The Lord told me" when I know they actually mean "I've studied this for a week and the Spirit illuminated its eternal wisdom to my mind." 'Lord told me' is shorter. So maybe in this example case that is what happened. However...

In writing though we want to be clear. There is room on a web page for a few more words stating the method by which we arrived at an interpretation. Failing to do so and instead putting out a notion that it was gained half-asleep by revelatory means is misleading and dangerous. At the least, it perpetuates slang we should strive heartily to rid ourselves of. If a person is mature enough in the faith to have derived an interpretation studiously by the Spirit, they are mature enough to say the lesson is founded on normal means of interpretation.

And really, does it inspire confidence in your teacher when he reveals the lesson is founded on scribbled notes gained while half-asleep? Does such a statement do justice to the stricken and risen Lord?

No matter how solid the ensuing Bible study seems to a person, its opening is immediately corrupted by stories of half-asleep revelatory interpretations and testings that make sense apart from having tested against the only standard there is: the Bible. After all, this IS a Bible study. If there is a problem at the outset with the method arrived at or the foundation on which it rests, no matter how good the rest of the lesson seems to be, it's an interpretation standing on sifting sand. And we all know what happens when the tide comes in.


And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be
like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. Mt 7:26. (EPrata photo)

The upshot of this discernment lesson is two fold:

Let's dispense with Christianese shorthand like "The Lord told me". This confuses the less discerning into thinking that unique interpretations delivered by revelatory means are standard, when they aren't.

Let's watch the language and methods of the teachers under whom we choose to sit, in real life or online. What they say is often a first indicator of a growing problem. There are buzz words satan likes to use and be alert for those.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matthew 15:19)

Evil thoughts here is the Greek word dialogismos, and it means
"reasoning that is self-based and therefore confused – especially as it contributes to reinforcing others in discussion to remain in their initial prejudice".
So watch out for those buzz words and any teaching that includes even a bit of "The Lord gave me a message and I'm going to teach it to you now." Once you attune your mind to be alert for it, you'll be surprised at how dismayingly often you hear it. Instead, stick to the pure word and people who interpret it purely (as possible)

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Proverbs 30:5)


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

More on Eschatological Discipleship

Destruction of Jerusalem, Wilhelm von Kaulbach, 1860
Trevin Wax is author, speaker, blogger and one of the Editors of Lifeway. He is also a student and is busy finishing up his dissertation. He said on his blog recently that he plans to pause his blog in order to make time to finish his dissertation, which was on the topic of Eschatological Discipleship.

I was intrigued by this new term, because it seems that the emphasis and giftings the Lord has placed in me is aligned with this kind of discipleship. I mentioned Mr Wax's term "eschatological discipleship" in a recent post. After that, I thought about it more and researched more.

I'm not talking solely about prophecy, though it is the foundation for this kind of discipleship. My goal has always been to quicken the hearts and minds of fellow believers to live increasingly holy lives in fervency and diligence in light of the fact that Jesus is coming again. Discipling people to be reminded of the King to whom we will face at a moment's notice, the rewards that are laid up for us and which we store up ourselves as well, and the fact that the more we look up the better citizens of heaven we will be on earth for His kingdom and our fellow man. It's to tell people, prophecy matters, because we are living it.

As Mr Wax had said in his summary of what eschatological discipling is,

Taking a Break and Asking for Prayer
The topic of my dissertation is “eschatological discipleship.” Following Jesus means understanding our times in light of the biblical vision of history and having the wisdom to make the right choices when the path ahead seems unclear.

Many gospel-centered folks are right to point out that the New Testament’s moral imperatives are often grounded in Christ’s finished work for us in the past. What we sometimes overlook, however, is how many of those moral imperatives also look forward to Christ’s return in the future. We are called to be “children of the day” in a world that knows only darkness.

The question that propels me forward is this:

What kind of discipleship is necessary to fortify the faith of believers so that we understand what time it is, we rightly interpret our cultural moment, and see through the false and damaging views of history and the future that are in our world?

That is the question I posed in my workshop at TGC this year: Discipleship in the Age of Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, and Amazon.com: Grounding Believers in the Scriptural Storyline that Counters Rival Eschatologies. (The audio from the talk is available here.) To be alert to our times is a gospel requirement, says Oliver O’Donovan:
To see the marks of our time as the products of our past; to notice the danger civilisation poses to itself, not only the danger of barbarian reaction; to attend especially not to those features which strike our contemporaries as controversial, but to those which would have astonished an onlooker from the past but which seem to us too obvious to question. There is another reason, strictly theological. To be alert to the signs of the times is a Gospel requirement, laid upon us as upon Jesus’ first hearers.

Mr Wax also mentioned this topic in an essay at The Gospel Coalition titled 4 Marks of Biblical Discipleship, of which eschatological discipling is one of the marks.

4. Discipleship is Eschatological
Discipleship is eschatological in nature, because the church that makes and receives disciples is eschatological in nature. By eschatology, I’m not referring merely to the “last things” doctrines often relegated to the back of systematic theology textbooks. I’m speaking of eschatology in a broader sense, as encompassing the Christian vision of time and the destiny of our world. Eschatology in this sense informs both our evangelism and our ecclesiology.
I love the picture Lesslie Newbigin paints:
“The church . . . calls men and women to repent of their false loyalty to other powers, to become believers in the one true sovereignty, and so to become corporately a sign, instrument, and foretaste of that sovereignty of the one true and living God over all nature, all nations, and all human lives.”
Seeing discipleship from an eschatological standpoint impacts the way we preach and teach. The alternative is to minimize the eschatological understanding of discipleship, which will leave us with an incomplete worldview, imbalanced discipleship, and eventually, a tragic inability to model the Christian way of life, since modeling implies obedience in a particular time and place.
Discipleship is eschatological, because questions like “What time is it?” and “Where is history going?” greatly impact a disciple’s worldview and inform what modeling a life of following Jesus looks like.
There are two aspects to our walk in the faith. One is that we as humans are living in a point in time. We have a birth date and a death date. Our walk with Jesus while in the flesh is finite. Esther was placed in the King's life "for just such a time as this." It was pivotal, her life began and ended and reached a climactic moment we all know occurred in Esther 4:14b.

Many gospel-centered folks are right to point out that the New Testament’s moral imperatives are often grounded in Christ’s finished work for us in the past. What we sometimes overlook, however, is how many of those moral imperatives also look forward to Christ’s return in the future. Trevin Wax.Yet, the other aspect of our existence is not a point in time but a person living in a stream of time in the past, present and future all at once. This mirrors the Lord "who was, who is, and is to come." We were saved, we are being saved, and at a future time the salvation will be completed in glorification. It's like we're standing in a stream, with the current of all of time swirling by our feet. We look left, upstream and we see through our biblical lens the plan of God since Adam and Eve, and our feet are in the same stream of time that they are/were/will be again. Even Esther's climactic moment was only part of a time-stream where if she did not act, "relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place." (Esther 4:14a). The stream flows no matter what we do or what part of it we are standing in.


We look at our feet and see the fish we need to catch and so we are busy performing service to the Lord. Then we look downstream and we see the future. The stream flows but it curves and we cannot quite see what is ahead but we know there are currents and rapids and a waterfall, because we can hear them. We read the Bible and we can see ahead as far as the Lord allows by having given us glimpses from the Bible of where this great rushing stream of water is flowing to.

Wax: "eschatology...as encompassing the Christian vision
of time and the destiny of our world."

What I gather Mr Wax is saying is that when discipling we always focus on the upstream, in looking at the past work of Christ. We also focus on our feet and fish for men and tend the creek where we are standing. However, we rarely tell our discipled members to look downstream at what is ahead. We say to the fisherman acolyte, "You don't need to look ahead, where this great stream of time and plan of God is flowing isn't important for catching fish today, here, now." But it is.

Let me give a practical example of how John MacArthur eschatologically discipled his flock in this way. The Cripplegate summarized Dr MacArthur's message We Will Not Bow, given last week.
Yet the thrust of the message was not condemnation. MacArthur clearly wanted to encourage believers, and so he ended with  2 Thessalonians 1:3-10.  In this rich passage, the Thessalonian believers are warmly commended for their “perseverance and faith” in the midst of persecution and afflictions.  Apparently this faithful congregation endured many hardships for the cause of Jesus Christ. Paul wants these believers to find relief in the doctrine of the second coming of Christ.  Paul tried to comfort the Thessalonians by assuring them that judgment will be merciless to those who reject the mercies of God in Christ.
The eschatological portions of scripture are given as a warning to the ungodly (Jude 1:7) and as comfort to the sheep not just in the coming rescue (1 Thessalonians 4:18) but we're exhorted to find comfort in the fact that God will punish the wicked. (2 Peter 2:9).

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.  This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven...  (2 Thessalonians 1:4-7a)

The relief spoken of is the coming of Christ in which one of His intentions is to repay and rectify all things. MacArthur finishes by saying:
The key here is at the beginning of verse 7, the middle of verse 7, “when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven.” That’s our focus. It’s ever and always the Christian’s hope. No matter how bad it gets, Jesus is coming.
Disciple your folks eschatologically, encouraging the brethren in the full sweep and scope of Christ's plan on the earth and under the earth and in heaven. He was, and He is, and He is to come. He is our hope, He is our relief, He is our rescue, He is our Rock. Drink from that refreshing living stream.

"and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4).



Monday, July 27, 2015

Detroit's Baphomet statue and the coming Abomination of Desolation

Moses
The Bible speaks of idolatrous statues quite often. There is one particular statue to come which will outstrip the evilness of all the rest. For now, in Detroit, the 200-plus member Church of Satan unveiled a statue of a false and evil god known as Baphomet and I'll speak of that down below. But first, a look at idolatrous statues in the Bible.

The first commandment states,

You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

The Second Commandment states,

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)

Yet satan lusts after worship. He desires all should bow down and worship him. It has been his life-long quest. (Luke 4:5-8, Isaiah 14:13-14)

You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ (Isaiah 14:13-14)

Satan has been working hard ever since in order to get people to worship him. Sometimes this is expressed in the statues he causes people to build and bow down to.

In Genesis 11:4 we read of a rebellious people building a tower to themselves in order to steal God's glory, in effect, to get God to bow down to them. The Flood had barely receded.

In Exodus we read that while Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving these commandments, the Israelites built a golden calf and bowed down to it,

And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4)

We read of Nebuchadnezzar's statue, whereupon this king commanded all to bow down to this image in worship. This is the one where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not bow down to it and were thrown into the fiery furnace.

Baal, Asherah, Answers in Genesis
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:1)

The people worshiped at the Asherah pole, sacrificed at statues of Molech, burned incense at altars of Baal, (2 Chronicles 34:4) and even the brazen serpent Moses had made became an idol King Hezekiah had to remove (2 Kings 18:3-4).

Today we have Baphomet in Detroit. It is shocking to us because America has been spared the worst of the visible expressions of false idolatry since our founding. Our nation from sea to shining sea has not been littered with Golden Calf statues statues or idols or Asherah poles or Dagon images. But no more. It has been spared photographs of people lining up to worship satan. But no more.

This past weekend, several hundred members of that 'church' lined up to see and worship an evil statue which was unveiled in Detroit. Apparently the "Church of Satan" has a thriving membership. Of course, satan is the god of this world and all whose names are not written in the Lamb's Book of Life actually serve satan, knowingly or unknowingly. This statue is about those who serve satan knowingly. These people choose to worship actively and knowingly, naming their god and pledging allegiance to him.

Satanic Statue Unveiled
Dozens of protesters gathered in Detroit to protest the unveiling ceremony of a controversial bronze Baphomet statue by the Satanic Temple. When the one-ton goat-headed statue was finally exposed, supporters welcomed it, and cheered "Hail Satan!"
Source
Do you see the line of eager worshipers? Now imagine some years into the future, perhaps not too long from now, when thousands and millions of eager satan worshipers line up to see the unveiling of satan's ultimate "victory"- the statue of the beast.

And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. 15And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. (Revelation 13:14-15)

Gill's Exposition explains,
that the image of the beast should both speak: so that it was not like Nebuchadnezzar's golden image that he set up, which required another to speak for it and demand adoration to it; and should seem to be preferable to the dumb idols of the Gentiles, which have mouths, but speak not; and may be understood either of the images of the virgin Mary, and other saints, which it is pretended, and the people are made to believe, that they do at times actually speak, and really weep and laugh, as it may serve their different purposes;
Fresco of the Deeds of the Antichrist (c. 1501) in Orvieto Cathedral.
This is one statue that is prophesied which will temporarily fulfill satan's eagerness and evil lust for self-worship. The Statue the antichrist will set up in the Temple of God, causing all to become desolate. While God has been long in mercy and has allowed these interloper statues and false gods to exist and persist, there will come a day when there will be a final straw. The life of sin upon the earth will be crushed in the full fury of the winepress of wrath. Jesus describes the events leading up to that moment in Matthew 24.

Sitting atop the Mount of Olives, Matthew 24 records Jesus' reply to three questions the disciples posed. He had just revealed to them that the Temple was to be thrown done. His response was one of the lengthiest discourses He gave in the New Testament, and is known as The Olivet Discourse. The questions were about the end of time,

“Tell us, when will these things be,
and what will be the sign of your coming,
and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 243b)

Jesus describes the signs of the end of the age, and for the first part of Matthew 24 we read of the troubling and devastating things that are to come. By the way, nothing in Matthew 24 regards the church or is about the rapture. It is a discourse totally centered on Jesus's plan for the Jews and Israel in the Tribulation. The church is raptured prior to the things Jesus discusses.

Then Jesus reveals the event which will trigger the Great Tribulation, the latter half of the prophesied 7 years of wrath on earth. He said,

So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Matthew 24:15-16)

He is referring to Daniel's prophecy in this verse:

And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. (Daniel 9:27)

Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. (Daniel 11:31)

And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. (Daniel 12:11)

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Here is the conclusion to a Compelling Truth article explaining through scripture what the Abomination of Desolation is and who perpetrates it. Please read the entire article.
So by letting Scripture interpret Scripture, we find that a reasonable answer to the question of "What is the abomination of desolation?" is that it will be the Antichrist, three and a half years into his reign, taking a place in God's rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and saying to the world that he is God and must be worshipped as God. When that occurs, the real Creator will respond to the challenge and will ultimately and eternally destroy the Antichrist (Revelation 19:20).
This is what all the world's history is hurtling to, and more rapidly each day. The landscape in America has been satisfyingly filled with crosses atop hills, statues of Ten Commandments in parks, and sweet Nativity scenes at Christmas. We even see the name of Jesus on a billboard sign. Soon, these public displays of affection for our Savior will be no more. Our eyes and hearts will be increasingly assaulted by the evilness that has been seen in other nations at all various times since the ziggurat on the plains of Shinar in the form of idolotrous statuary. Baphomet has landed.
I’m just telling you that we’d better get ready, because we may be living this very soon. And by the way, it’s not going to take long for this to unfold. Once the Supreme Court made the decision, they were ready. They were standing in the wings with everything ready, and it’s going to come like a blitzkrieg. (John MacArthur)
If the end of the end includes satan's finally taking his place in the temple next to his statue and claiming to be god, then we can expect much, MUCH more of this Detroit Baphomet foolishness, and quickly too. Even Time Magazine when reporting on the statue, did so in a kind of hushed wonder at their boldness. (See link below)

I know it is an assault on the heart to cast our eyes on things like this statue, not only because we are not used to it in America, but because the statue includes children. This hurts. And while I know we are not surprised that satan is alive and active in the world, it does take time for the heart to catch up to the head. We must allow that even in our "unsurprise" our hearts are heavy and we mourn.

However do not let the mourning turn to permanent sorrow. We have hope! We have a glorious future awaiting. We have the scriptures and the Spirit and ministering angels and prayer and an Intercessor and the providential care of a perfect and holy God.

Mourn for the many who worship satan, actively by name or unwittingly in their depravity. We plead for souls. We beg our Lord to forgive them, for they know not what they do, and at the same time we beg for His righteousness to punish those who blaspheme His spotless name by worshiping his eternal enemy. This is a difficult time in which we live, but take heart. The Lord placed us here exactly for such a time as this. We trust Him to give us the strength needed to glorify Him in an ever darkening world. And then, the Light will come, forever and evermore.

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:23)

ALL HAIL THE LAMB!


-------------------------

Further Reading

Roadside Attractions Mag: The Giant Cross at Groom Texas

Time Mag: Hundreds Gather for Unveiling of Satanic Statue in Detroit


Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Tyranny of Time

Here is an excellent sermon on Ecclesiastes 3, you know the one, "there is a time to dance, a time to mourn..."


The Tyranny of Time , 27:47 minutes

John Currid of Reformed Theological Seminary preaches the third chapter of Ecclesiastes clearly, simply, but powerfully.

The sermon is a comfort to the believer because we know that the eternal answers we seek, that all men seek, are contained in a one-word answer: God. His sovereignty and His providence are clearly and beautifully seen in the text and brought out by Currid.

A couple of notes from the sermon that you will hear of you choose to listen:

The verse which says "there is a season" is actually stated in the Hebrew "there is an appointed time." The word 'appointed' makes all the difference in looking at God and His sovereignty. It is a relief to see God this way, trusting Him and knowing that all things are in His hand.

Secondly, the preacher mentions a theological-literary term called "merism."

This is a listing of opposite parts to signify a whole or a totality.

In rhetoric a merism is the combination of two contrasting words, to refer to an entirety.

So when we read that Jesus is the "Alpha and Omega" He is not just the Alpha and Omega, but He encompasses everything in between.

In Ecclesiastes 3:4 when we read "a time to weep, and a time to laugh" the text means, 'and everything in between'

It is awesome in its grandest sense that God controls and appoints everything under the sun, including times when we laugh, mourn, heal, kill...everything is unfolding according to His plan and purposes. The non-believer does not have this comfort of knowing that a Good God is in control and that whatever we are going through individually or as a nation will come, will remain an appointed time, and will end.

Time is not our enemy, time is not a tyrant, time is not running out. God created time for His purposes, and He designed us to receive His gift of the answers to these eternal questions in His time. Never forget that the non-reasoning unbeliever does not have this gift. (Ecclesiastes 3:13)
Every thing is as God made it; not as it appears to us. We have the world so much in our hearts, are so taken up with thoughts and cares of worldly things, that we have neither time nor spirit to see God's hand in them. The world has not only gained possession of the heart, but has formed thoughts against the beauty of God's works. We mistake if we think we were born for ourselves; no, it is our business to do good in this life, which is short and uncertain; we have but little time to be doing good, therefore we should redeem time. Satisfaction with Divine Providence, is having faith that all things work together for good to them that love him. God doeth all, that men should fear before him. (Matthew Henry)

Take a listen to a good sermon that will (hopefully) encourage and comfort you.

HT Brother Rick for sending me the link


Movie review: Brownstones to Red Dirt

Brownstones to Red Dirt is a 2010 documentary about children living in a violent part of Brooklyn NYC, whose middle school teacher initiated a pen pal program with children in civil war torn Sierra Leone.

The unique aspect of this documentary is that there is no voice over, intoning and opining. No narrator and no narrative. The movie features the voice of the children (and parents and teachers) exclusively. The kids are the ones telling the story.

And what a story it is. The movie blurb at SnagFilms.com summarizes:
A sweet and lyrical documentary about a simple pen pal program, BROWNSTONES TO RED DIRT captures the growth of sixth graders from housing projects in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and war orphans from Freetown, Sierra Leone. Though the kids know nothing about one another when they write their first letters, they learn that while their environments are vastly different, the struggles they face make them more alike than they realized. This revelation brings them closer together and teaches us all inspirational lessons about friendship, love and humanity.

The Brooklyn Film Festival blurb has more details:
Brownstones To Red Dirt follows four pairs of pen pals from housing projects in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and the slums of Freetown, Sierra Leone. These two "lost" groups help one another find their way as they are confronted by remarkably similar issues despite the vast differences of their environments. Through endearing glimpses into the lives of these children, the film highlights the failure of governments and societies to protect their youth.

Each pair of pen pals highlights a major issue faced by kids across the world: Isaiah's father left him as a baby; Abdul was first taken, then abandoned by the rebel commander that killed his parents. Malik and Balla each use art, not vengeance, to heal. Augusta's peaceful definition of friendship reaches Destiny in Bed-Stuy, where loyalty is often proven with violence, not love. Fred and Emmanuel, both cast aside by a world that expects little from an inner-city black teen or a third world orphan, are defiant in their quest to better themselves. As the school year progresses, the children use their experiences to unknowingly teach one another simple lessons that will last them a lifetime.

Though this film is not a Christian film, anyone who has a biblical worldview will no doubt see Godly principles expressed through the children. Their initiative, trust, and generosity is a major theme throughout. Their child-like faith is remarkable. In one scene, a desperately impoverished girl in Sierra Leone writes in closing to her pen pal in Brooklyn, 'No matter what happens I want you to know you have a Godly friend.' One is reminded of Bible verses which focus on children and their child like faith, trust, and willingness to share sacrificially.

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,  “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Matthew 21:15-16)

The civil war in Sierra Leone took its toll on an entire generation of children. Wikipedia explains the basics of this devastating event:
The Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002) began on 23 March 1991 when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), with support from the special forces of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), intervened in Sierra Leone in an attempt to overthrow the Joseph Momoh government. The resulting civil war lasted 11 years, enveloped the country, and left over 50,000 dead.

Adults were slaughtered by the tens of thousands, often in front of the children. Later, children under the age of 15 were recruited for the cause. When the war ended, tens of thousands of lost and abandoned children littered the landscape, starving, dying, and ripe for further exploitation.

In one heartbreaking scene, a Sierra Leonian child had been asked what he thought America was like. He said "I want to go there. They have their own mommies and daddies." 

In one scene a boy said his parents were killed in front of him and the rebel commander took him 'for his own.' After several years of forced servitude in a rebel army, the commander was surrounded by opposing forces and he abandoned the boy. 'I can't keep you any more' he said. When the battle concluded, orphaned and separated from his sister whom he did not know was alive or dead, the boy didn't know what to do or where to go. "So I just sat down in the road," he said.

Though life in Bed-Stuy is not as dire as it is in Sierra Leone, with starvation, exploitation, and pervasive hopelessness, life is still not easy. Violent gangs are rampant. At one point during the height of the violent era in NY, one mom said her children playing in the apartment courtyard and bullets were flying over their heads. Every time a child stepped outside there was a chance they would either be recruited by a gang or killed as a bystander in gang warfare. One piece of graffiti art depicts chalk outline of a man on a wall, his body filled with names of the killed.

The children realize they share common goals despite the vast chasm in their geography and differences in culture and circumstance. They realize they have the same desires. They want education, a fulfilling career, safety, and to love those around them. They have drive, initiative, all for making their part of the world a better place. Despite their surroundings which might defeat an adult's outlook, these children are optimistic.

It's a wonder to see kids like this. One begins to understand the soft place Jesus has for children. They truly are an inspiration.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)


Watch on Hulu or free on Snagfilms.com

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Scripture photo


Gibberish, Discerning Women, Burnout, Church Mothers, Eschatological Discipleship

Around the interwebs, edifying and thought-provoking essays for your enjoyment.

What I been sayin,' words mean things. Words matter. They really do.

I'd written back along,
Well, the second problem that ties back into the first (ecclesiastical feminism) is that words mean things. They mean things. Any liberal in any realm in the battle for hearts and minds will first seek to change meanings of commonly understood words in order to co-opt the meaning and then to redefine them to their advantage. Example: sodomite---->homosexual---->gay. In the church world, we no longer sin. We make mistakes. We're no longer Christian. We're Christ followers.

GIBBERISH 


Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)
So. Words matter. Until they don't. The ever-brilliant Carl Trueman writes about The Coming of Age of Today's Gibberish whereupon an "Editor's Note" attempted to say what certain words mean without being too specific about what they really mean. Like the word "woman" and menstruate".
Editor’s note: This blog post refers to individuals who menstruate as women because the author wanted to highlight gender inequality in health care. We acknowledge that not all individuals who menstruate identify as women and that not all individuals who identify as women menstruate, but feel this generalization is appropriate considering the gendered nature of most health care policies. 
One might translate what the editor is really saying as ‘the concept of being a woman is now utterly meaningless but we have decided to preserve the fiction at those points where it is politically convenient for us to do so.' Notice the editor's use of the vague term feel and the slippery adjective appropriate. As ever, in our aesthetic age, it is impossible to argue against a feeling.

DISCERNING WOMEN

Here, Michele Lesley lists Nine Reasons Discerning Women Are Leaving Your Church and every single one is 100% a 'hear, hear'.

The absence of discerning women in churches gives rise to many other problems. Godly mothers raise godly children, and absent discerning moms, the next generation of church life suffers. Elder discerning women have much to bring to the table (reason #7) in being the Titus 2:4 women teaching the younger. As discerning women leave churches the less discerning take over and soon you have the blind leading the blind. Third, the contributions to the faith of discerning women are without measure. Within our biblically prescribed roles, we see New Testament women advancing the Gospel and expanding the kingdom in myriad ways.

Priscilla and Aquila were discerning enough to see the potential in Apollos and taught him separately. Lydia's home became a hotspot for prayer, teaching, and hospitality-fellowship. Dorcas gently led many women in a worthwhile sewing circle, teaching biblical principles by example.

On the other hand, you have a young and skittish and Rhoda who was so startled to see rescued Peter standing at the gate she shut it and left him there, believing the false but then-widely-popular notion that humans have a doppelganger angel, and that was who came to visit.

Soon, if not already, you will have churches that are absent your wise Priscillas, and Dorcas' and Lydias and instead filled with foolish Rhodas.

Even though it is a bad thing that discerning women are leaving the churches, it is encouraging in a sense if you are one of the discerning women. At least you know you're not alone in your concerns. Read Ms Lesley's piece, it's good.
While Scripture is pretty clear that we can expect women (and men) who are false converts to eventually fall away from the gathering of believers, why are godly, genuinely regenerated women who love Christ, His word, and His church, leaving their local churches?


BURNOUT

Other men and women are leaving due to burnout. Yikes, burnout is an epidemic, just at the time when we need good men and women ministering to the flock. Please, please avoid burnout. Please, please pray for your pastors and leaders.

Question: "What does the Bible say about burnout?"
Anyone who has experienced burnout knows it is not something he ever wants to experience again. Burnout is commonly described as an exhausted state in which a person loses interest in a particular activity and even in life in general. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, social, and spiritual exhaustion. It can lead to diminished health, social withdrawal, depression, and a spiritual malaise. Many times, burnout is the result of an extended period of exertion at a particular task (generally with no obvious payoff or end in sight) or the carrying of too many burdens (such as borne by those in the helping professions or those in positions of authority, among others).



CHURCH MOTHERS


Photo by Alysia Burton Steele
An interesting peek at a part of Christian culture of which I have no experience and very little knowledge

Chronicling Mississippi’s ‘Church Mothers,’ and Getting to Know a Grandmother
Ms. Bearden and Ms. Floyd were part of a larger assemblage of 50 African-American women whom Ms. Steele had chosen to chronicle in text and image for a book-in-progress she has titled “Jewels in the Delta.” Whether by formal investiture or informal acclamation, nearly all the women in the book held the title of “church mother,” a term of respect and homage in black Christianity.





ESCHATOLOGICAL DISCIPLESHIP


Jesus giving the Farewell Discourse (John 14-17)
to his disciples, after the Last Supper,
from the Maesta by Duccio, 1308-1311
Trevin Wax is an Editor at LifeWay and is working on his doctoral dissertation. He wrote recently that his dissertation is on the topic of Eschatological Discipleship." This is a topic near and dear to my heart, because it is exactly the focus of this blog. How are we to live, biblically, knowing of Jesus return? I'd observed that too many people, as Trevin wrote below, focusing on Jesus' past work and avoiding the future promise of His return. Yet the Bible is replete with admonitions for living, encouraging, and a praying for the future deliverance via the promises of prophecy. This is what Trevin is writing about. Here is the excerpt from his longer essay which is mainly on other topics. He wrote that he is taking a break from blog writing to focus on his dissertation writing, whichis the topic of:

Eschatological Discipleship
The topic of my dissertation is “eschatological discipleship.” Following Jesus means understanding our times in light of the biblical vision of history and having the wisdom to make the right choices when the path ahead seems unclear. 
Many gospel-centered folks are right to point out that the New Testament’s moral imperatives are often grounded in Christ’s finished work for us in the past. What we sometimes overlook, however, is how many of those moral imperatives also look forward to Christ’s return in the future. We are called to be “children of the day” in a world that knows only darkness. 
The question that propels me forward is this: 
What kind of discipleship is necessary to fortify the faith of believers so that we understand what time it is, we rightly interpret our cultural moment, and see through the false and damaging views of history and the future that are in our world? 
That is the question I posed in my workshop at TGC this year: Discipleship in the Age of Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, and Amazon.com: Grounding Believers in the Scriptural Storyline that Counters Rival Eschatologies. (The audio from the talk is available here.)
To be alert to our times is a gospel requirement, says Oliver O’Donovan:
To see the marks of our time as the products of our past; to notice the danger civilisation poses to itself, not only the danger of barbarian reaction; to attend especially not to those features which strike our contemporaries as controversial, but to those which would have astonished an onlooker from the past but which seem to us too obvious to question. There is another reason, strictly theological. To be alert to the signs of the times is a Gospel requirement, laid upon us as upon Jesus’ first hearers.
I agree.

Enjoy the day today friends, look forward to the future and keep looking up!