Thursday, November 22, 2007

James Durham on Revelation 2:1-3 - Excerpt

There is no sort of men more hurtful to the church by obstructing Christ's end in his ordinances, viz. the edification of his people. For such profit them not at all, Jer. xxiii. yea they stand in the way of their profiting sometimes by corrupt doctrine, sometimes by example, sometimes by saddening and weakening of these who look more tenderly to the practice of Godliness. And if no other way, yet by filling the room, and so standing in the way of peoples being provided with such as might be helpful and faithful. Now considering the great respect that our Lord Jesus hath to the edification of his people, and considering the weight that he has placed upon his ministry, as a means for promoting of that end, and withal the great obstruction that follows to that end, when this means disappoints it cannot but be accounted acceptable to him to remove such an obstruction.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Qualifications for Public Office

The is a continuation of the 10-28 post from Messiah the Prince or, The Mediatorial Dominion of Jesus Christ by William Symington, D.D., 1884 Edition, Chapter VIII The Mediatorial Dominion Over the Nations, Part Three: Moral and Religious Qualifications:

It is not every individual who is qualified to hold office in a nation. Good natural talents, a cultivated mind, and a due share of acquaintance with the constitution and laws of the country, seem indispensable. Scripture, not less than common sense, discountences the practice of setting feeble intellect to bear rule. 'Wo unto thee, O land, when thy king is a child! Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men. Take ye wise men and understanding, and I will make them rulers over you.' (Eccl. x. 16; Exod. xviii. 21; Deut. i. 13)

Not less essential are moral qualifications. High and incorruptable integrity, well regulated mercy, strict veracity, and exemplary temperance, are all specified with approbation in the Word of God. 'Moreover, thou shalt provide out of all the people men of truth, hating covetousness. He that ruleth over men must be just. Mercy and truth preserve the king, and his throne is upholden by mercy. If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes to strong drink; lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the judgement of any of the afflicted.' (Exod. xviii. 21; 2 Sam. xxiii. 3; Prov. xx. 28, xxxi 4, 5.)

Nay, more than this, religious qualifications are required in the Scriptures. A profession of religion would seem to be implied in the canon: 'One from among thy brethren shall thou set over thee; thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, who is not thy brother.' (Deut. xvii. 15.)

But true religion of the soul is also specified. 'Thou shalt provide out of all the people such as fear God. (Exod. xviii. 21; 2 Sam. xxiii. 3.)

It is needless to say, that the fear of God is spoken of in Scripture as the very essence and sum of true piety. 'The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me.'

Saturday, November 3, 2007

James Durham on Revelation 2:5

Reverend James Durham (d.1658, age 36), a Gospel minister of Scotland who worked mightely to restore unity between the Resolutioners and the Protesters when they were so divided, wrote and lectured upon Revelation 2:5 as follows:

"Wonder not why God quarrels with Scotland; we need not say it is for corruption in doctrine or discipline, nor for our zealous going about it; that was not his quarrel with Ephesus; therefore he commendeth them for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans, neither is it his quarrel with us: but as it was his quarrel with Ephesus; that she was fallen from her first love; so it is with us.

There has been much profession of love to God, and zeal for him in professors, and in the outward face of judicatories, which we are not to call in question, nor lay quarrel on it; our Lord Jesus would never have quarreled Ephesus, nor us for zeal and faithfullness: but if we look to his quarrel with Scotland, it is defection, not an outward defection from the truth and purity of doctrine, nor from the external duties of religion; but an inward defection, a declining in the exercise of grace; we have not been so careful to keep up the exercise of grace before God, as to be seen of men.

2. There is a declining in love, especially love to God, and love to one another, which may be seen in our walking uncharitably and untenderly.

3. A defection, in the manner of performing duties; our fasts have not been from a right principle, our centures not in love to the souls of people, much roughness and untenderness in drawing them forth. The duty may be commendable, but the principle from which it flowed may be a ground of quarrel.

Therefore look upon this epistle, as if Christ were writing a letter to Scotland; and in his letter, saying, for as much purity and zeal as ye have, yet ye are fallen from your first love; much of your love, warmness, and tenderness is away; there is a declining and defection from grace in the exercise of it, or from that which seemed to be grace: this will be found to be our sin before God.

The state we are in, looks so like Ephesus, whether we compare the outward state of our church with that before these late confusions came in, some things among us being commendable, like unto the things commendable here; or whether we look to our outward distemper, or whether we look to God's threatening to remove our candlestick, which is the threatening applied to this sin of declining in love, that should make us all take with our guilt, and make use of the warning; and would to God that we could make right use of it.

Certainly we are called to look on this letter as directed to Scotland and to Glasgow; the sin is ours; the duty is ours; and the threatening doth also belong to us, and if there be any thing commendable, it is more in outward form than reality.

Believers are liable to this declining from their first love, though not from their steadfastness, and may have a deep hand in drawing on the strokes here threatened; therefore let them so much the more guard against it."

Source: The Life of the Author, preface to A Complete Commentary Upon the Book of Revelation, by Mr. James Durham.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Christian Voting Responsibilities

The following paragraph (sentences separated for readibility) is from Messiah the Prince or, The Mediatorial Dominion of Jesus Christ by William Symington, D.D., 1884 Edition, Chapter VIII The Mediatorial Dominion Over the Nations, Part Three: Moral and Religious Qualifications:

"But is it to be supposed that the people, who are invested with the right of election, are left without all control in the exercise of this right; that they are at liberty, acting from mere prejudice, self-interest, or caprice, to choose whom they will; and that the objects of their choice are forthwith, in consequence of being so chosen, invested with lawful and indisputable authority?

So far from this being the case, the people are bound to use their elective power discreetly and wisely; they are under obligation to fix upon men posessed of qualifications fitting them for office; nor are they themselves constituted the sole judges of what these qualifications may be.

God has given them in his Word a supreme rule of direction, in which the character of civil rulers is described, and only such as seem to them to be posessed of this character are they at liberty to appoint.

If the people were under no restriction of this nature, it is fearful to think of the consequences that would ensue.

As the power of the magistrate is not an absolute power which he is at liberty to employ as he chooses, so neither is the right of the elector an absolute right which he is at liberty to exercise as he chooses.

Both the one and the other are placed under the limiting control of the Divine Law; and it is only when they are used according to this law that they are used aright."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Send in the Clones

In the latter months of 2001, a Massachusetts biotech company announced that they had made some major breakthroughs in human cloning. I wrote the following song parody in response:

Send in the Clones

- with profuse apologies to Stephen Sondheim

Inspired by an Associated Press wire story.
Dedicated to Advanced Cell Technology of Worchester, Mass.

Why aren't we rich,
Duplicating human hair?
Xeroxed hearts, kidneys, and such,
God and ethics, who cares?
But where are the clones?
There ought to be clones.
Send in the clones.

The pope, he did hiss.
Some in Congress approve,
Of making human stem cells,
In a sterile test tube.
But where are the clones?
There ought to be clones.
Send in the clones.

Hey there Ms. Donor,
eggs, we want yours.
Cumulus skin cell in your egg cell,
the DNA no longer yours.
Call it therapeutic my dear,
so you no longer care,
That it was part of you,
but is now just a spare.

Huxley's no longer a farce.
In less than a year,
We'll wear 'em down calling them names.
They'll back down from fear.
But where are the clones?
There ought to be clones.
Don't bother, they're here.

Now we'll get rich.
The Brave New World is here.
What a way to create,
a lucrative career?
But where are the clones?
There ought to be clones,
Just wait 'till next year.

© 2001 - RBW - permission granted only to reproduce parody
song in its entirety including song title and this statement.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Psalm 12 and the Minnesota National Guard

An article from describes the return home of 2600 Minnesota National Guard troops from the longest combat deployment of any unit so far during the current war in Iraq.

So, how long was their deployment? It seems that the official deployment orders for 1161 of the 2600 was for 729 days, one day short of that required for these soldiers to receive the G.I Bill educational benefits of $500 to $800 per month they were promised as part of the compensation for spending two years of their lives in harm's way.

Senior leadership at the Pentagon is being blamed for making this decision. Six House of Representatives members and Minnesota's two senators have asked the Secretary of the Army to look into the matter.

Regarding Psalm 12, Rev. Edwin Elliott today published a sermon outline on this psalm in He makes several points that apply to the people who made this crass decision that led to this betrayal of our troops:

I-A. People cease to be godly when faithful examples are unavailable; the hope is in turning to God. “To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David. Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” (Psalm 12:1)

III-A. Unchecked wickedness brings the worst people to the surface and such people attract others of their kind. “The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.” (Psalm 12:8)

How can we expect our soldiers to bravely and selflessly offer their lives in defense of their nation when betrayal and falsehood are the examples set by their top leaders? Where were the leaders willing to risk their own position by standing up for the troops they command by questioning this decision in the very beginning?


Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blasphemy and Unregeneracy

Note: The following entry, written in ancient times (around last March), was lost in the electronic ephemera (aka the technology bit bucket) after the original manifestation of this blog was clobbered a few months ago due to the temporarily heterodox administrative actions of the author (I was tired and should have left well enough alone...) A recent archeological dig (a word search including subdirectories of the My Documents folder) uncovered this ancient relic, and it is now again available in updated form.


James Cameron’s spurious claims to have found the tomb and remains of Jesus Christ and his family that purportedly factualizes several aspects of the fictional DaVinci Code has drawn positive spin from NBC’s Today Show, CNN’s Larry King Live, and a number of other secular media sources. It has also rightly drawn strong criticism from within and without the Christian community where the many factual and logical flights of fancy surrounding this issue have been publicized. Even the Washington Post, normally no friend to evangelical Christianity, had a story on February 26, 2007 about the widespread factual and logical denunciations of Cameron’s claims by secular and Jewish archeological experts.

Within the Christian community, one question that will inevitably be asked is why are such transparent efforts to destroy the Gospel message being given such credence by supposedly intelligent people like those on the Today Show? Sadly, many answers from the church will come from secular philosophy and psychology, or be lukewarm “Ain’t it awful?” platitudes when the real problem is the sin and rebellion that characterizes unregenerate man and the increasing lack of restraint among those in the visable church as our society continues to lose any meaningful Christian influence.

Among many other scriptural passages that describe the total depravity of man, 1 Corinthians 1:18 well describes the current controversy, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” Cameron, King, and the Today Show personalities who so gush over these foolish falsehoods are obviously unregenerate sinners who are perishing. To paraphrase a lesser-known 12-step program maxim, “How else do you expect an unregenerate person to act but unregenerately?”

Another manifestation of this societal unregeneracy is the frequent, open blasphemy against the Creator in the secular media and especially in television. I am sometimes awake late in the evening, and sometimes in the mood to watch juvenile attempts at humor and listen to banal musical arranging and performing, so I do as I did one evening earlier this year and tuned into Conan O’Brien’s 12:30 AM talk show on NBC for a few minutes.

O’Brien’s humor sometimes, let’s just say, veers away from Philippians 4:8 and sometimes when that happens he sings, “I’m going to go to hell when I die”, a few times smirking at the audience, inviting their applause and approval. During that morning’s monologue, O’Brien mentioned James Cameron’s claims and said sneeringly to the effect that, “That’s all we need; another Hollywood type who has found Jesus.” An article on another Christian web site intimates that this type of blasphemy is a common occurrence on O’Brien’s show and urges that people contact NBC to express their outrage.

More recently, comedianne Kathy Griffin's Emmy acceptance speech received similar attention when she demonstrated her professed atheism, not to mention abject boorishness, by blaspheming Christ and declaring her trophy statue to be her god. While not discounting the appropriateness of the outrage to these incidents, I refer the reader to the question back two paragraphs at the end, and especially to 1 Corinthians 1:18.

So, what is the appropriate Christian response to Cameron and O’Brien? At the very least, we need to believe what the Bible tells us about the world and about unregenerate man, and to devote our being to follow the orders we are given to proclaim and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this lost and dying world such as are in the Great Commission, the rest of the red words, and the rest of Scripture.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rudyard Kipling - The Gods of the Copybook Headings

Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936) wrote The Gods of the Copybook Headings in 1919. 88 years later, the wisdom contained therein is timeless, which is what one should expect from a poem that so adeptly uses biblical allusions to illustrate several timeless truths.
The Gods of the Copybook Headings

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,

I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life

(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy, And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
. . . . . . . . .

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man---
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began---
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will bum,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

D. James Kennedy Dies

Author, theologian, pastor, founder of Coral Ridge Ministries

© 2007

D. James Kennedy

D. James Kennedy, author, theologian, biblical scholar, pastor of the 10,000-member "Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church" in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and founder of the highly influential Coral Ridge Ministries, died early this morning in his sleep. Brian Fisher, Coral Ridge's executive vice president, said Kennedy died at about 3 a.m. Kennedy launched his weekly one-hour television show, "The Coral Ridge Hour," in 1978. It has been broadcast nationally every Sunday morning on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and syndicated on other networks. Available to 81 percent of the nation's television households, "The Coral Ridge Hour" has the greatest number of TV station affiliates of any religious program in the U.S.

Kennedy suffered a major heart attack in December, and just last week Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church announced his retirement, prompting a flood of accolades from leaders and ministries across the country.

"Dr. Kennedy is one of the nation's most respected Christian leaders," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. "His teachings on the positive influence of Christianity on Western Civilization and America have motivated modern-day Christians to impact our culture and country."

Alliance Defense Fund President and CEO Alan Sears called him "a man of great moral courage and vision." "Dr. Kennedy is one of my personal heroes," Sears said. "He is a man of unquestioned integrity, great moral courage and vision. As a co-founder of ADF, he has been a constant source of godly wisdom and service to me. His life and testimony have had an incredible impact upon so many people for the Kingdom of God, and he is an example to us all of a good and faithful servant." Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Kennedy fulfilled his mission to help change the world. "I commend Dr. Kennedy, for his stalwart leadership in defending faith, family and freedom," Perkins said. "Most of all, I am grateful for his godly example, his integrity and his unwavering dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Along with his leadership at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and Coral Ridge Ministries, Kennedy founded Evangelism Explosion International, Knox Theological Seminary and Westminster Academy.

Evangelism Explosion is a lay-witnessing training program first developed in 1962 that has been used to spark growth in churches around the world.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

God Judges the Nation of Israel

God Judges the Nation of Israel

(Amos 5:1-2)

“Hear ye this word, which I lift upon you, even a lamentation of the house of Israel. The virgin Israel is fallen, and shall no more rise: she is left upon her land, and there is none to raise her up.”

I. Why did God judge Israel?

A. God’s truth-based justice was perverted by bribery and greed. “…they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for shoes.(Amos 2:6b) “They esteemed most vile bribes more than men’s lives.” (1599 Geneva Bible notes) “And they lie down upon clothes laid to pledge by every alter: and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their God.” (Amos 2:8) “Thinking by these ceremonies, that is, by sacrificing, and being near mine alter, they nay excuse all their other wickedness.” (1599 Geneva Bible notes) “For I know your manifold transgressions, and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take rewards…” (Amos 2:12)

B. God’s servants were corrupted and persecuted. “And I raised up your sons for Prophets, and of your young men for Nazirites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord? But ye gave the Nazirites wine to drink, and commanded the Prophets, saying, Prophesy not." (Amos 2:11-12) “Ye condemned my benefits, and abused my graces, and craftily went about to stop the mouths of my Prophets” (1599 Geneva Bible notes)

C. The poor were abused. “…they oppress the poor in the gate” (Amos 2:12c) “Hear this, O ye that swallow up the poor, that ye make the needy of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new month be gone, that we may sell corn? And the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, and make the Ephah small and the shekel great, and falsify the weights by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for shoes: yea, and sell the refuse of wheat.” (Amos 8:4-6)

D. Worship of God was superficial and empty. “I hate and abhor your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the multitude of thy songs (for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.) ” (Amos 5:21-23) “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in Spirit and Truth.” (John 4:24)

E. Idolatry was common. “But you have born Sikkuth your king, and Chiun your images, and the star of your gods which you made to yourselves.” (Amos 5:26)

F. Sexual immorality was common. “…and a man and his father will go in to a maid, to dishonor mine holy Name.” (Amos 2:7b)

II. How did God judge Israel?

A. God first brought limited judgments to Israel. “And therefore have I given you cleanness of teeth…and scarceness of bread… And also I have withholden the rain from you…I have smitten you with blasting and mildewPestilence have I sent among you…your young men I have slain with the sword…[I] have taken away your horses…yet have ye returned not unto me…” (Amos 4:6-10)

B. God reminded Israel of his judgment of the heathen nations. “…For three transgressions of Damascus…Gaza…Tyre…Edom…Ammon…Moab…Therefore will I…” (Amos 1:3-2:2)

C. God’s final judgment of Israel was devastating. “For thus saith the Lord God, The city that went out by a thousand, shall leave an hundred…” (Amos 4:3) “Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus…” (Amos 5:27)

III. Did God show any mercy to Israel?

A. God provided Israel a way to escape judgment.Seek good and not evil, that ye may live: and the Lord God of hosts shall be with you, as you have spoken. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the Lord God of hosts will be merciful unto the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:14-15)

B. God preserved the elect remnant. “Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it clean out of the earth. Nevertheless I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord. For lo, I will command and I will sift the house of Israel among all the nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve…” (Amos 9:8-9a)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Christian Citizenship

Recent stories in the newspapers and on the Internet tell of how Department of Homeland Security and other federal officials plan to use members of the clergy to support their martial law decrees and gun confiscation in the event of future major disasters. The government wants the clergy to tell their flock that Romans Chapter 13 decrees absolute obedience to government authorities.

One WorldNetDaily letter writer reacted angrily to an article condemning this misuse of clergy by condemning those Christians who thought otherwise, insisting that absolute obedience to government authorities is the responsibility of every Christian and asserting that constitutional restrictions of authority are irrelevent to this issue.

One of my seminary professors had a maxim in regard to biblical hermeneutics that said, "A [biblical] text without a context is a pretext." In this case, we have the government using Romans 13 as a pretext for smoothing the way to unconstitutional totalitarianism under the guise of a national emergency, and and expecting the clergy to pacify their congregations into accepting these actions. Considering the constitutional and biblical ignorance illustrated by the above described letter and that is probably widespread among both clergy and laity, the government may get the cooperation they desire.

You may recall that during Hurricane Katrina, agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms along with local policemen swept neighborhoods in New Orleans confiscating firearms from everyone they could, thus leaving the non-criminals at the mercy of the roving bands of thugs who were stealing, raping, looting, and killing while the few authorities remaining were otherwise occupied. Constitutional restrictions on the government such as the Second Amendment were swept aside in the chaos of the moment as these few authorities assumed powers not constitutionally granted to them.

This is a preview of coming attractions if the Christian Church is unwilling to hold their elected representatives accountable to their oaths to support and defend the constitutions of the republic and/or their state and insist that they remain within the bounds of their constitutional responsibilities.

The following sermon outline reviews relevent passages from Romans 13 and other biblical texts that illustrate God's desire for our responsibilities and behavior as citizens:

Christian Citizenship

Romans 13:1-7

I. God’s People and Government.

A. God ordains government. “[T]he powers that be are ordained by God.” (Romans 13:1c)

B. God ordains government to protect and to punish. “For he is the minister of God for thy wealth: but if thou do evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword for nought: for he is the minister of God to take vengeance on him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:4)

C. God decrees obedience to the government. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” (Romans 13:1a)

D. God decrees that taxes be paid to the government. “For, for this cause ye pay also tribute…. Give to all men therefore their duty: tribute to whom ye owe tribute: custom, to whom custom…” (Romans 13:6a, 7a)

E. God holds us accountable for our obedience to government. “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves condemnation.” (Romans 13:2)

II. God’s Expectations concerning Governors

A. Governors are subject to God. “…[T]here is no power but of God.” (Romans 13:1b)

B. Governors are God’s servants. “[F]or they are God’s ministers, applying themselves for the same thing.” (Romans 13:6b-c)

C. Governors are to be disobeyed when they compel disobedience to God. “Whether it be right in the sight of God, to obey you rather than God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19b-20)

III. God’s Expectations for Us Today

A. God expects us to participate in the political process. “…Then [Jesus] said unto them, Give therefore to Caesar, the things which are Caesar’s, and give unto God, those things which are God’s” (Matthew 22:21)

B. God expects us to support leaders, principles, legislation, and justice that glorify and honor Him. “That ye may be blameless, and pure, and the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a naughty and crooked nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15) “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness…Thou shalt not covet…” (Exodus 20:13-17) “And Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and Queens shall be thy nurses: they shall worship thee with their faces toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet: and thou shall know that I am the Lord:…” (Isaiah 49:23)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Christians and the Immigration Crisis

Christians and the Immigration Crisis

The problems resulting from the twenty-plus million illegal immigrants and from the many non-English speaking legal immigrants residing in the USA are currently the subject of much debate within the Christian community. Questions about how the Church should respond to immigration reform proposals and to the spiritual and material needs of these people are among the issues that burden and often perplex the Christian community. Here are a few observations to ponder about what might be the appropriate biblical response to these problems.

I. The Law – Part A

Romans 13:1-7 “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth, the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause , pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

Some of the arguments Christians are making about illegal immigration are that our families are all descended from immigrants, the immigrants are poor and destitute, they are only looking for a better life like any of us desire, and therefore they should be left alone to pursue this better life. The major problem is that this line of argument is antinomian and is contrary to Romans 13 and to other biblical precepts that require us to obey the law unless it is contrary to God’s Law. God does not require a nation to open its borders to everyone and anyone who desires to enter, and thus disregard the national security, public safety, public health, cultural division, labor, and exponentiating fiscal problems that exist and continue to expand as a result of the situation.

II. The Law – Part B

A few years ago, I worked full time a few months at $8/hour for a tax return preparation service where I interviewed people, entered their tax return data into a computer, then prepared the data for electronic filing with the appropriate tax authorities. A significant number of the customers I served were recent immigrants of whom very few spoke fluent English. They, like many fluent English speakers, had no hope of deciphering the complex tax forms, and so chose to pay to have it done for them.

Most of these folks worked for local poultry processors. Their yearly incomes were almost without exception $12,000 or less, most of them having incomes of under $10,000. Most qualified for the federal earned income credit, which based on income level provides a tax credit that is not limited by the amount of taxes being paid. Additionally, many qualified for the federal child tax credit that is also a tax credit not limited by the taxes paid and is based on total income and the number of one’s children.

The tax “refunds” due these folks often amounted to thousands of dollars, in some cases amounting to 50% of the income they had earned from their employer that year. Those who were single parents with several children received the largest “refunds.” In almost every case, they chose to purchase from the tax service a “refund anticipation loan” that sped receipt of their “refund” by several weeks. The loan fees and interest were significant and were paid for by reducing the amount of the “refund”. The main goal seemed to be to receive a financial windfall as quickly as possible without regard to the overall cost.

These tax credits of course are not limited to recent non-fluent English speaking immigrants, nor are these folks the only ones getting expensive loans in order to get their tax refunds a few weeks earlier. That is not the point. The point is that the government is effectively subsidizing through tax law businesses that pay poverty-level wages to those desperate enough to work for those wages. The point is that the government is calling black - white by characterizing these giveaways as tax credits. The point is that the government is financially enabling single-parent families and encouraging poor stewardship. The point is that the government has found yet another way to buy votes and influence from those who benefit most from dependent constituencies and government interference in the marketplace.

So, borrowing McLean (VA) Bible Church Senior Pastor Lon Solomon’s trademark question, “So What?” What does this have to do with the Church’s response to these immigration issues?

I don’t have any profound solutions for the specific problems described above, but I do know that ignoring immigration law, ignoring the not-so-hidden power and money agendas of those most responsible for creating this mess, and ignoring the significant destruction to our nation being wrought because of these problems is NOT going to make anyone’s life better - recent immigrant or not - illegal or not. I DO know that the Church is responsible for obeying the law and in providing Godly influence for our culture.

III. The Church

So then, what is the Church’s responsibility in these matters? I strongly suggest that Christ’s command to us before his ascension is most instructive:

Matthew 28:19-20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

A while back, I had the opportunity to speak to an influential leader involved in church planting about how Christ’s Church should go about ministering to the growing immigrant population. I described the hundreds of thousands of recent immigrants living and working in western Virginia, and how I had gained some insight into their lives by assisting some of them with their tax returns those several months. I told of discovering that the vast majority of these folks were gentle and personable people. I told of how most of those I had met were living in very modest means. I told too of the spiritual poverty of these folks, citing the lack of ministry to their communities and how the problems of single parenthood and immorality affected their communities so profoundly as they do the rest of the culture. I asked what might be done to increase Christian ministry to these fields ripe for the harvest.

I was saddened to hear from this leader that these immigrant communities were not good prospects for planting churches because the folks do not give much money to the church and because it takes several hundred thousand dollars to successfully plant a church and support a minister. In other words, the only appropriate place to plant a church is in an affluent and otherwise demographically appropriate community where a minister is assured of getting a good compensation package and where there is the prospect that a decent church building can be constructed. Somehow, I do not think this is what Christ had in mind when he spoke about the least of our brethren and when he gave his Matthew 28 marching orders…

So, again, what is the responsibility of Christ’s Church toward the many recent immigrants in our communities? At the very least, we are to:

1) Obey the laws and encourage obedience to the law to the extent commanded by Scripture.

2) Reach out to the least of our brethren in those ways commanded by Scripture including but not limited to proclaiming the Gospel, making disciples, and meeting temporal needs – even if imaginative and laborious means are necessary.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Today's Church = Gutless Cowards?

At a conference in the summer of 2005, I had the privilege of hearing a series of messages on Christian Courage by the Preaching Pastor of Christ Church of the Carolinas in Colombia, South Carolina. He characterized the overwhelming majority of preachers and congregants at today's evangelical churches as "gutless cowards" for their lukewarm-at-best exercise of their faith and for the diluted-at-best Scripture being taught and preached at their churches. He then went on to put Scripture where his mouth was and show how accurate was his indictment and what God's solution is to the problem. Please listen to these messages on Courage and other topics ( and be blessed by the full counsel of God's Holy Word.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Why is Creation Important?

In the summer of 2006, I had the privilege of attending Answers in Genesis' Creation College 2 in West Harrison, Indiana where I and about four hundred others spent six days studying the importance of Genesis chapters 1-11 to the integrity of Scripture as a whole, and the harmony of scientific evidence and the biblical account of creation. During the conference, AiG Chairman Reverend Don Landis presented several sessions on the theology of Genesis 1-11. The following sermon outline was distilled from these presentations:

Why is Creation Important?

(Genesis 3:6-7)

"And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened…"

I. Adam’s Sin Had Consequences.

A. Adam sinned intentionally. “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” (1 Tim 2:14)

B. Adam’s sin caused him to die. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return." (Gen 3:19)

C. Adam’s sin causes us to die.For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” (Eph 5:8)

D. God provides a solution to death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)

II. The Second Adam Fixes the Sin of the First Adam.

A. Christ’s shed blood turned away the consequences of God’s wrath for Adam’s sin. “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

B. Christ’s physical death and bodily resurrection fixes our physical and spiritual death. “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.” (1 Cor 15:12-13)

III. Physical Resurrection is at the Core of the Gospel

A. Christ is the first to be resurrected. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom 8:29)

B. In Christ, our resurrection is assured. “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Cor 15:3-4)

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom 8:11)

C. Our resurrection through Christ fixes death and sorrow. "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (Rev 21:4)

D. Our resurrection through Christ removes the curse of Adam’s sin. “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” (Rev 22:3)

IV. So, Why is the Genesis Account of Creation Important?

- If there are billions of years and millions of fossils before Adam’s sin and the fall…

- And these fossils are evidence of death, decay, and chaos…

- So…if there were death and decay before Adam’s sin and fall…then the entire Gospel is a lie…

“So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."” (Gen 3:14-15)

"These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:1-4)

***** Satan’s attack on Genesis through evolutionary theory is an attack upon the cross of Jesus Christ. *****


I sometimes listen to a widely syndicated Christian radio broadcast that is hosted by several psychologists who answer phone calls and dispense advice to the callers. These psychologists and their ministry provide many outstanding and effective resources through their on-air and off-air ministries, but there is one characteristic of their advice that is a cause for concern. Most of the time, their focus is on the “feelings” of the caller with questions like, “What are your feelings about this matter?” and “How does he/she make you feel when they do this?” Notwithstanding the validity of this information in the overall healing and sanctification process, when the emphasis is placed on fixing or improving the caller’s feelings, the weightier matters of biblical truth are often minimized.

This mindset is not unique to Christian psychologists. It is a pervasive, ingrained aspect of our culture. Refinement of this way of thinking can be traced to philosophical and theological movements that go back as far as the late 1700’s. David Hume’s 18th century theories of Noncognitivism reduced morality to one’s feelings about the moral issue.(1) The 20th century theories of Logical Positivism dismissed anything that could not be verified by empirical observation.(2) The theories of Emotivism developed by Charles Stevenson were synthesized largely out of Noncognitivism and Logical Positivism in moving morality far from the realm of absolute truth into the relative world of individual feelings.(3)

Neo-orthodoxy, Emotivism’s theological fraternal twin, filters biblical precepts through these philosophical screens and sets aside such things as inspiration of the Holy Spirit, inerrancy, and the closed canon. This reduces Scripture to being only the opinions and perspectives of the human authors and legitimizing new revelations from God. Truth is determined by individual interpretation [or feelings] and not by scriptural precept. (4)

Jeremiah lived in a culture that followed similar philosophies and theologies, and God provided some straightforward revelation on the subject:

Jeremiah 17:5 “Thus saith the Lord, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and withdraweth his heart from the Lord.”

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful and wicked above all things, who can know it?”

God also revealed the solution for the problem:

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed be the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the water, which spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not feel when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not care for the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the Lord search the heart, and try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his works.”

So, to the radio program caller who has been mightily wronged on numerous occasions by another and is feeling anger, exhaustion, and is experiencing a miserable, less-than-effective existence; perhaps the advice given and the questions asked should early in the process include:

Bad feelings are not necessarily and often not a reflection of reality. We are fallen, totally depraved sinners whose hearts are deceitful and wicked above all things. We need to filter these feelings through Scripture to see what God would have us do to deal with them.

Is it possible that these feelings and the destructive emotions they facilitate spring from a root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15) that needs to be taken to God in repentance and prayer?

Is it possible that these feelings and the destructive emotions they facilitate spring from your usurping, even if only in your thoughts, God’s prerogative to exact vengeance (Hebrews 10:30) on evildoers in his providential time and in his providential way?

Etc., sola scriptura.

At the very least, these are the type of things that God used in my own life to convincingly prove to me “…that all things work together for the best unto them that love God, even to them that are called of his purpose” (Romans 8:28)

Note: Scripture quotations from the 1599 Geneva Bible (

The 2008 Election Campaign

With the 2008 presidential election campaign already in full swing, the inevitable arguments about what candidate those on the so-called Christian Right should support will soon be the subject of heated debate. Recent history shows that once the major party primaries are completed, any principled candidates will have long since been winnowed out of the field, and the usual quartet of pragmatic insider politicians will be on the ballot. The Democratic candidates will be liberals and progressives masquerading as moderates, and the Republicans will be moderates-to-liberals masquerading as conservatives. One contemporary analogy characterizes the Democrats as locomotive engineers running the train of state at 100 MPH toward a steep cliff at the end of the tracks. The Republicans feign shock at the Democrat’s extremism and urge that they be elected, promising to drive the same train at only 55 MPH.

The January/February 1999 issue of The [John] Lofton Letter reminds us that this situation is not a new one, quoting 19th century theologian Robert L. Dabney:

“[The history of secular conservatism] has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the acceptable principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.”

“American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward to perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It tends to risk nothing serious for the sake of truth.”

Thus, the major parties offer the choice between the fast and slow trains to perdition, and the leadership voices of the Christian Right overwhelmingly urge support for the slow train as being the only viable option. Pragmatism, expediency, compromise with the world, and the perceived comfort of the moment are touted as the only proper Christian response, i.e. vote for the Republican candidate, and those within the Christian Right who urge that only principled candidates and parties be supported are pilloried and dismissed for drawing away support for the lesser evil and in effect giving the election to the 100 MPH’ers.

As reformed believers who espouse the absolute sovereignty of God and that “all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture” (WCF I.VI.), we are called away from the conformance to the world that has long dominated Christian political thought and action and in large part has led to our present perdition, and toward biblically principled thought and action in the political arena and for that matter all areas of our lives. I offer the following points not as an exhaustive exegesis of this subject, but as a few applications as food for thought:

* God has ordained government for specific purposes and we should support only candidates and governments that conform to God’s design for Government. (Romans 13:1-7 etc.)

* In the USA, our national, state, and local governments are those of a constitutional republic, i.e. their powers are limited to what is granted to them in their particular constitution, charter, or bylaws, and we should support only candidates and governments that stay within their prescribed limits of power. (8th and 10th Commandments, Luke 20:25 etc.)

* God ordains particular leaders for particular times for particular circumstances according to his sovereign, eternal providence, and does not need man-made assistance like compromise, pragmatism, relativism, syncretism, and lesser-of-two-evilsism. (Daniel 2:21, 5:21 etc.)

* God calls us to keep his laws and commandments in matters of elections and politics as in everything else - no matter what the temporal cost. (Daniel 3:16-18, John 16:2-3 etc.)

I close this first essay with the inspired words of Paul, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure…That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:13, 15). May we be those willing and doing lights – in politics, elections, and all throughout our lives.