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Christmas Trees and Mary the Crusher

Christmas Trees and Mary the Crusher

Two great posts over at Kuyperian Commentary related to this Season:
 
The first by Bill Smith focuses on the imagery of Mary as the head-crusher.
 
The second by Gary Demar answers the question some raise this time of the year about whether Christmas trees are of pagan origin.
Why Governor Scott Walker is in trouble when he quoted a Bible verse

Why Governor Scott Walker is in trouble when he quoted a Bible verse

Governor Scott Walker dared quote a bible reference on twitter. For many evangelicals, the brief reference to Philippians 4:13 is common Christian talk. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Those familiar words carry great weight to evangelicals. We have all been taught from early on to trust in Christ and persevere while doing so. The problem is Scott Walker is an  elected official. And the Freedom from Religious Foundation knows it and wants him to do something about it. To be precise, they want him to delete his tweet. That’s right. In their own words:

… To say “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,” seems more like a threat, or the utterance of a theocratic dictator, than of a duly elected civil servant.

As governor, you took an oath of office to uphold the entirely godless and secular U.S. Constitution. You have misused your secular authority and podium to promote not just religion over non-religion, but one religion over another in a manner that makes many Wisconsin citizens uncomfortable. On behalf of our membership, we ask you to immediately delete this religious message from your official gubernatorial Facebook and Twitter…

Look at the assumptions inherent in those statements. First, that the Pauline quotation was theocratic. Second, that the political pulpit is secular. And third, that Walker is upholding an entirely godless and secular Constitution. Now, say what you will about the Constitution, but godless–it is not.

Now, let’s get to the point. The charge of theocracy is a valid one.  A theocracy is simply a “rule by God.” Walker thought he was simply quoting an inspirational verse, but in reality the atheists are right. When you assert that strength comes from King Jesus you are affirming his kingship over all things, even the ability to rule rightly.

If the political pulpit is secular, meaning it derives its foundation on no religious grounds, then Walker’s assertion is a threat to a pluralistic society. and he should delete his tweet. But if Walker’s role as a Christian elected leader is first one of submission to the Triune God and secondly, to serve the people of  Wisconsin, then the Governor needs to consider the consequences of his tweet. Who are you serving, Governor?  If you can do all things through Christ, then have the courage to live consistently your faith in your political office, and while you’re at it, tell FFRF to bring it on.

The Christian Post publishes a few of my articles…

I came a cross an angry atheist’s website who mocked my last name. Something about burritos. As a result, he linked me to the evangelical and nationally acclaimed Christian news website,  The Christian PostAnd I was surprised to see that they have published five of my pieces. Here they are if you are interested.

Affirming True Truth

Francis Schaeffer’s line true truth was coined as a result of the pluralistic culture he was a part of and which has in many ways engulfed our present society. Schaeffer was referring to a truth that is objective and not relativized by one’s preferences. The Gospel is true truth. The Church’s peculiarity stems from her unique message. It is indeed a message that is hardly embraced in the public square, but one which she must proudly proclaim: Jesus, the Messiah, is Lord.

Lesslie Newbigin’s classic work The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society addresses some of these  profound manifestations in the Christian world. He exposes the pluralistic and cowardly trends of the modern church a few decades ago and certainly still very much true in our own day. A Church can speak truth, but speak it so subtly and unwillingly that she permeates by her words a certain level of skepticism in her people. But there is also the type of belief that leaves the door open to other ideologies. Newbigin observed that,

As long as the church is content to offer its beliefs modestly as simply one of the many brands available in the ideological supermarket, no offense is taken. But the affirmation that the truth revealed in the gospel ought to govern public life is offensive (7).

Both are fatal. One slowly ceases to proclaim true truth, while the other leaves the door open for philosophical wolves. The Gospel is no longer that potent and offensive claim, but a powerless declaration that Jesus can be a lord, but is not necessarily interested in the job description.

True truth is declarational. Simple truth has its genesis in the One who claims to be the way, truth, and life. This three-fold declaration is not up for debate. Pluralism, religious pluralism, is doxologically impossible for you can only serve one master.

Bring Out the Champagne! The Party Has Just Begun!

Easter is gone, right? Actually Easter has just begun! The Easter Season lasts for 50 days. It is glorified in the PENT-ecost season. According to the Christian Calendar, Easter lasts until May 19th (Pentecost Sunday). But didn’t we spend ourselves bodily and spiritually this past Lord’s Day? If that’s the case, stir yourselves unto good works. The party has just begun!

We–who are liturgically minded–tend to carefully attend to the Lenten and Advent Calendar, but yet we forget that apart from the Resurrection Lent and Advent would not make any sense. After all, what are we expecting? A virgin birth to a son who would simply die at the age of 33? What are we expecting? A perpetually closed tomb? A sight for annual pilgrimages to Israel?

I am suggesting we need to stock up in our champagne bottles. Every Sunday meal needs to start with the popping of a champagne bottle. “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! POP! “Children, that’s the sound of victory!”

For every day of Easter, set aside a little gift for your little ones or your spouse. We set 100 Easter eggs aside for our two oldest children and let them open them up each day. Other traditions can be added, of course. We indulge in Easter hymnody and Psalmnody.  Easter is no time to get back to business as usual, it’s time to elevate the party spirit.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for these next 46 days:

First, for evening family readings, meditate specifically on the Resurrection account and the post-resurrection accounts. Digest every detail of the gospels, and also allow St. Paul to add his resurrection theology in I Corinthians 15.

Second, teach one another the art of hope. We live in a hopeless culture. We walk around with little enthusiasm for what God is doing in our midst. We also don’t believe that God is changing us and conforming us to the image of His son. We need to–especially in this season–to rejoice more with those who rejoice and encourage more those who weep with the hope granted to us in the Resurrection of our Messiah.

Third, invest in changing your community. Ask your pastor in what ways can you be more fruitful in your service to the congregation. Consider also your neighbors. Do you know them? If you do, how many have been in your homes for a meal or a drink, or simply to talk?

Fourth, play Easter music in your home and in the office. Here are some selections of great CDs or MP3’s.

Finally, avoid the introspective rituals that are so prevalent in our Christian culture. Do not allow doubts to overtake you. Think of your Triune baptism. Trust in Christ fervently. Allow the Covenant of Grace to shape your identity. The resurrection of Jesus was the confirmation that those in Christ are made for glory. Look to Jesus and serve Jesus by serving others. By doing so, you will not grow weary in doing well, and you will learn to party beside the empty tomb.

Christ is Risen!

Why Most Christians Should Use Facebook!

It is likely that you are a Facebook user. In fact, over one billion people are on Facebook. And of course, it is likely that you are reading this article because a friend linked to it on their Facebook page. So the majority of you do not need to be persuaded. The small and insistent bunch that will not succumb to the technological and peer pressure may do well to continue on a perpetual Facebook fast. But there is another group of Christians out there that simply haven’t joined for lack of knowledge of the benefits Facebook can offer. As a friend, you may have to print them a copy of this piece, or send them a link via e-mail.

The reason I did not state “all Christians” in the title of this article is because there are legitimate reasons for some Bible-believing Christians to stay away from this tool. And that is precisely what Facebook is: a tool. I agree with Dr. Al Mohler that “Social networking is like any new technology.  It must be evaluated on the basis of its moral impact as well as its technological utility.” We are all called to be stewards of God’s gifts. Money is a tool for good, but the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. In like manner, Facebook can be a tool for good, and I am arguing that if used wisely it will be.

I am in the redeeming business. I usually prefer to begin with how something can be redeemed before I talk about its dangers. Dr. Mohler suggests ten ways for safeguarding the social networking experience. You can read them. They are helpful and can keep us and our children from abusing something that is so ubiquitous. Before you read those, however, consider how Facebook may actually be a constructive tool in the Kingdom of God, one that can benefit you, your Church and community:

First, Facebook offers invaluable information about loved ones. A couple of days ago as I was leaving the office I scanned briefly through the updates and discovered that the son of a dear friend was about to enter into surgery. She asked for prayer. As I drove home I petitioned to our gracious God on behalf of this little child. Without Facebook I don’t think I would have known about this surgery in time. I could multiply these experiences. Facebook has brought closeness with not only loved ones, but dear friends and their families.

Second, Facebook has provided me tremendous counseling opportunities. I already have a distinct call as a pastor to counsel my flock, but if someone outside my community desires 5-10 minutes of my time seeking wisdom on a personal issue I have the luxury to offer it through this tool. We are all called to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. I have done both regularly because of Facebook.

Third, Facebook offers exposure to new ideas. This may not seem appealing, but I have always believed that Christians need to frequently visit C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe. They need to be exposed to ideas that confront their theological paradigms. Of course, sometimes these FB discussions can lead to unfortunate and uncharitable debates that consume a lot of our time, but again I want to redeem Facebook (see Mohler’s list for safeguarding).

Fourth, FB provides a venue to encourage others with words of comfort (see #1). Many have been encouraged by biblical passages and quotes that speak directly to a unique circumstance in their lives. At the same time, the same venue can provide a proper rebuke to our unpleasant and ungodly attitudes. There are pastors and godly parishioners whose FB status I read daily for comfort and rebuke.

Fifth, FB can be a source of intellectual stimulation. I can’t tell you how many books I have purchased or downloaded on Kindle (another useful tool for the kingdom) due to the sample quotes posted on FB. For those with a book budget this can be a temptation, but again I am in the redeeming business.

Finally, FB is inevitable. “Hey, everybody’s doing it!” Seriously, everybody! Is this a good reason to do it? In this case I believe it is! Many Churches, Ministries, Charitable Organizations, Event Planners, all have their own FB page. Of course, you don’t have to be on top of everything, just be a lurker! But at least have a FB presence. FB serves a multitude of purposes, and can in fact facilitate communication, fellowship, and much more.

Facebook has been a tremendous tool for good. And as tool, it fulfills Dr. Mohler’s requirements, since it is morally impactful and technologically useful. So go ahead, start an account and join us!

Wine Tasting and Psalm-Roar (with Christ Church, Providence Church, and Trinity Presbyterian)

Selection for our Wine and Psalm Roar

Season of Lent, March 8th, 2013

Note: The pagination listed follows the Cantus Christi Psalter /Hymnal. The links are to various samples of each psalm.

Christ Church, Providence Church, & Trinity Presbyterian

1)   Psalm 1, Chant, pg. 3 and another sample.

2)   Psalm 2, pgs. 4-5 (Lyrics and MIDI file)

3)    Psalm 5, pgs. 6-7

4)    Psalm 22:11-20, pg. 31 or MIDI file

5)    Psalm 22:22-31, pg. 34 (MIDI file)

6)    Psalm 45, pgs. 80-81 &  another sample of congregational singing of Psalm 45)

BREAK – WINE TASTING and KOINONIA

Responsive Psalm (see bottom)

7)   Psalm 8, Genevan Psalter

8)   Psalm 119X, pg. 158 (Lyrics and MIDI file)

9)   Psalm 98, pg. 134-135 (Lyrics)

10)Psalm 148, pg. 192

Closing Hymns: Stricken Smitten, and Afflicted, pg. 265, and additional Lenten Hymn taught by Rev. James B. Jordan, & The Son of God Goes Forth to War, pg. 282 (Sample of Congregational Singing)

RESPONSIVE READING – Psalm 47

O clap your hands, all you peoples!
        Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
For Yahweh most high is awesome;
        A great King over all the earth.
He subdues the peoples under us,
        And the nations under our feet.
He chooses our inheritance for us,
        The excellence of Jacob, whom He loves.

God has ascended amidst a shout,
        Yahweh amidst the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God!
        Sing praises!
Sing praises to our King!
        Sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
        Sing praises with understanding.

God reigns over the nations;
        God sits on His holy throne.
The princes of the peoples have gathered together
        As the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God.
        He is greatly exalted.

Blessed be Yahweh God, the God of Israel,
        Who alone does wondrous works.
Yes, blessed be His glorious name everlastingly,
And may His glory fill the whole earth.
Amen!
Yes, amen!

Guilt, Grace, and Galileans

The Gospel Lesson for this Lord’s Day is from Luke 13:1-13. Pilate’s brutality is fully on display right in verse one: “Pilate had mingled Galilean blood with their sacrifices.” “Are these Galileans worse than other Galileans because they suffered in this way?, was the question our Lord posed.

Jesus did not spend his time in Luke’s account offering a philosophical exegesis of theodicy.[1] Rather, he simply “said, “If you don’t repent, you will likewise perish.” “But Rabbi, I want a more profound answer to this intellectual dilemma. I want to know the ins and outs of your divine and decretal will. I want to be able to rationalize every detail of your purposes in life and in death.” Jesus had a different agenda. Jesus sees death, as Richard Hays observes, as “an occasion for metanoia.[2] Jesus did not offer words of religious comfort to appease the inquirer, no; he used it as an opportunity to express something very central to his Kingdom Gospel: repentance. The word repentance implies turning away, or a change of mind. But biblically, it is more than that. Repentance means turning away from something and embodying a view of life diametrically opposed to the one previously expressed.

It is not enough to turn from something without knowing where you are turning to. Otherwise, that turn might lead you back to the sin that entangled you. Jesus wants us to avoid this vicious cycle.

Suffering and pain are caused for a host of reasons that many times are unknown to us in this life. But one response is absolutely sure: repentance. The tragic events that occur in this life are tragic because they expose the mortality of humanity.[3] The sudden difficult events that shake our very beings (and in some cases our faith) deal with the uniqueness and temporariness of the un-resurrected corporeal nature.

The human tendency is to compare sinners so that we may excuse ourselves. After all, it is easier to point to someone else’s sinfulness than our own. But Jesus wants Israel to consider her sins, and as a result, our own, and see if repentance is being expressed in light of what has happened.

The patience of God endures, but it is not forever. Historical tragedies of great and small proportions should cause us to seek forgiveness and to consider whether we are bearing fruits of repentance.


[1] Though the prophets before Him and the New Testament provides a healthy theology of good and evil, and God’s Just and Perfect ways.

[2] Hays, Richard. On Hearing Bad News, Living by the Word; The Christian Century.

[3] Bock, Darrell, The NIV Application Commentary, 365

Why Do I Wear a Clerical Collar?

I have been wanting to write a history of this for some time, but Pastor LeCroy has provided a short history of the wearing of clerical collars in the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition.

Rev. LeCroy observes:

When Reformed pastors would enter the pulpit, they would add what is known as a “preaching tab” or “neck band” to their clerical dress. This type of dress is nearly ubiquitous among 17thand 18thcentury Reformed pastors.

 

Foreign Policy Links

A few helpful foreign policy links:

United States non-interventionism

Non-Interventionism is right again by Patrick Buchanan

America’s tradition of non-interventionism

What is a non-interventionist foreign policy?

I love Ron Paul, except his foreign policy

Michael Sheuer’s Non-Intervention website

Juan Cole’s website

It’s the occupation, stupid by Robert Pape ( a deep look into the rationale of suicide bombers) & Pape’s Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism

An interview with Chalmer’s Johnson on the overreach of American militarism & interview with Scott Horton on same topic

Some of my posts and notes on the topic:

Why Blowback?

Armageddon Foreign Policy is Over

The New Bush

Christians Being Targeted in Iraq

The Just War Theory and the War in Iraq, written in 2004