Thideology news of the day

Becoming all things to all men

bookssm.jpgA church in St. Louis, Missouri (known as “The Journey”) has taken to hosting a Wednesday night gathering at a brewpub in order to discuss issues “ranging from racism in St. Louis to modern-art controversies to the debate about embryonic stem cell research” — all while enjoying a refreshing beer or two. It’s an outreach effort.

“We want to go where people are,” said Darrin Patrick, pastor of the church. “We don’t expect them to come to us.”

Granted.

Jesus told us to “GO and make disciples,” so I completely agree with the idea that we should not sit around on Sunday morning waiting for the world to clamor through our doors begging to hear the Word of God preached. We have to take the message to them.

Paul even says, in 1 Corinthians 9:22, that he had “become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some,” but certainly this does not mean every kind of conduct is permitted if the ultimate goal is to share the gospel.

  • Are we to murder in order that we may better relate to murderers?
  • Are we to rape so that we may better share with rapists?
  • Are we to become drunks in order to better witness to drunks?

Certainly not. In 2 Timothy Paul gives the instruction to “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace…”

So while the members of The Journey may argue that drinking is not a sin (and, according to Scripture this is true), I would argue that the Bible clearly characterizes getting drunk as sinful.

Yes, they may argue, but I can drink a beer and not get drunk.

Fine. What about two? Three?

The line between drinking and drunkenness may be hard to define, but I do know this: If you don’t take that first drink you can’t take the second. If you don’t have two you can’t have three. And if this is the approach you take toward drinking then the line between “just a few” and “drunk” never becomes an issue — does it?

Therefore, in light of Paul’s warning to Timothy to “flee the evil desires of youth,” I would say it is best to not even approach the line across which lies sin. Especially when Paul says in Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

The Journey’s approach to evangelism is typical of the Emergent Church movement, whose followers seem to delight in dancing precariously close to the line. That’s a dangerous habit to develop. The trappings of this world are tempting, indeed. Trying to keep one foot in the world while trying to live a godly life doesn’t quite mesh with the biblical warnings against sin — even if we think our motives give us an excuse.

The State vs. The Market

Lawrence Vance, in an article at lewrockwell.com, points out the obvious difference between the state and the market — It’s Consent, Stupid. Oddly enough it was this issue of consent that made the original concept of American government so unique. The Declaration of Independence points out that the only just governments are those which govern with the consent of the governed…

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

Our government no longer recognizes this principle. But, fortunately for us the one man who has demonstrated his appreciation for this principle and his willingness to stand firm in its defense has officially announced his candidacy for president.

Bumper sticker of the day

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Bureaucratic foolishness

A recent series of tornadoes devastated the Arkansas town of Dumas. Businesses and homes were destroyed en masse and the people are in dire need of assistance. We have been conditioned to look to our federal government in situations as this — the idea going something like this:

Americans pay taxes to the federal government and in exchange the federal government will provide needed services. The federal government will establish agencies to meet all manner of needs and, when those needs arise, will gallop heroically to the rescue.

Ask the people of Dumas, Arkansas how that’s working out for them.

They need help and this benevolent federal government has hundreds of mobile homes a mere 166 miles away in Hope, Arkansas — where they sit idle because someone, somewhere didn’t fill out a form in triplicate (or whatever). Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor is trying to get something done about it but, being conditioned to look to the government for help, he is having little success.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out — let me take a stab at it…crushbox.jpg

Being from Arkansas I happen to know that guys with trucks equipped with trailer hitches are a dime a dozen. I also happen to know that it’s a pretty easy drive from Hope to Dumas (see directions here). Why not ask a bunch of guys with trucks to start towing the trailers to Dumas. Arkansans are a charitable bunch and more than willing to help out in an emergency (that’s why in Arkansas, if you hit the ditch during an ice storm, just wait a bit. It shouldn’t be too long before three guys in a four-wheel-drive show up with a logging chain ready to pull you out. But I digress).

In the time it has taken the federal government to argue over procedures, a bunch of guys in their trucks could have moved a lot of these trailers to Dumas — and the people there could have shelter. Instead, because of our conditioning to look to government for help, we’re still waiting for FEMA to do something.

It may be true that two heads are better than one. But, put too many heads together, give them impressive-sounding government titles, and you’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. All of a sudden everyone has checked their brain at the door and insists that decisions are routed through “proper channels” because the manual says so. That’s how we end up with the REALITY of trusting the federal government to help us. Which goes like this:

The federal government confiscates our money in the form of taxes to establish their bureaucracies (under the guise of “doing it for our own good”). Then, when disaster strikes we have to fill out an application and ask “pretty please” in order to get OUR OWN MONEY back in order to meet our needs. But the federal government may or may not give that money back based on THEIR determination of whether or not our need is legitimate.

My solution? Stop sending our money away. If we never send it away we don’t have to ask for it back. That way WE are the ones who determine when our needs are legitimate — NOT some Washington bureaucrat.

Of course, this is easier said than done. As I pointed out earlier, we have become conditioned to viewing the state as savior. It’s a notion we need to reject.

The government is ill equipped to play the role of savior and we are foolish to look to government when we need one. Oh, I’m not surprised when a lost and dying world looks to government for a savior — without Christ they are apt to look to anything for salvation. But Christians certainly should recognize that God has not gifted the state to act on His behalf in matters of grace. This He has done for the Church.

We already have a savior. We just need to be clear about who he is.

The state as savior

brush.jpgJohn Edwards is taking great care to make sure his presidential resume’ has all the appropriate items checked. In a recent interview with beliefnet.com he said, “I am a Christian…”

  • Christian? Check.

Edwards also said he does not believe America is a Christian nation. “America is a nation of faith,” he said.

  • Tolerant and respectful of other faiths? Check.

He then proceeded to speak on behalf of Jesus and explain how Jesus would be upset with the “selfishness of Americans,” and the “country’s willingness to go to war when it’s not necessary.”

Continuing to speak in reference to the United States he said, “I think Jesus would be disappointed in our ignoring the plight of those around us who are suffering and our focus on our own selfish short-term needs. I think he would be appalled, actually.”

  • Pay just enough lip service to God while investing real faith in government as the true savior? Check.

John Edwards may very well be a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. But if he is then it seems he is making the same mistake that far too many of us have made and are still making — mistaking God’s covenant people with the entire citizenry of the United States. This is called “civil religion” and is explained very well in a Modern Reformation magazine article entitled, “One Cheer for Civil Religion.” Here’s an excerpt:

What is civil religion? According to historian (and Christian) Wilfred McClay, civil religion is “that strain of American piety that bestows many of the elements of religious sentiment and faith upon the political and social institutions of the United States.” More problematically, civil religion is the misidentification of the nation of the United States with the covenant people of God. It is the casual assumption that America enjoys a special role in redemptive history. It is the confusion of the office of the political leader with the office of the spiritual leader. It is the frequent presumption of divine blessings without submission to divine judgment. It is the sublimation of Christian distinctives to a generic amalgam that conflates many faiths into a common national identity. It is as old as America itself. And it is not biblical Christianity.

God has established no covenant with the government of the United States or with the American people as a whole. He HAS ordained a specific role for civil governments (according to Romans 13), and that is the restraint of evil, period. Civil government is, for the time being, God’s instrument of justice in the world. But it is NOT his instrument of grace. That role belongs to the Church.

John Edwards mentioned several social ills with which he thinks Jesus would be “appalled.” So, what does he intend to do about them?

Think a minute.

eightballsm.jpgHe’s running for president. Obviously he intends to use the power of the office to correct these social ills — to use the government to dispense grace. He is preaching the gospel of the state as savior and spouting the state worship I pray Christians everywhere will recognize and reject as the idolatry it is.

You may be thinking the word “idolatry” is a bit harsh, here. I think it’s right on the money and here’s why…

In Matthew Chapter 5 Jesus is teaching his disciples and says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men…”

Now, who is Jesus talking about?

Believers. Christians. The Church — NOT civil governments.

And why are Christians to let their lights shine before men? (This is key)

“…that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

The Church is to dispense grace so that the world may praise God. If we turn over our responsibility as God’s instruments of grace to civil government what happens?

  1. God does not get the praise.
  2. People no longer see the grace they receive as grace and come to view it as an “entitlement” — something they are owed.

Anytime we give to another the glory that rightfully belongs to God alone we are engaged in idolatry. Christians should reject the notion of allowing the state to take charge of the task God has intended for us. And we should be wise enough to not be fooled by any smooth talking politician who simply wants to placate us with “God talk” in exchange for our vote.

May God prevent us from allowing His church to be manipulated in this manner.

The outlawed Word of God

thidguitarsmall.jpgWorldNetDaily reports that Congressman John Conyers (a Democrat from Michigan) is trying to maneuver legislation through Congress that would, in effect, make certain biblical beliefs a crime. Should his proposed legislation become law it would be a crime to preach about the sinful nature of homosexuality.

Similar legislation has passed in other countries — like Australia and Sweden — and in both places it is now illegal to even read from the pulpit the Scripture verses that deal with homosexuality.

Did you get that?

Portions of God’s Word have been outlawed. Rest assured the proponents of this new legislation in the United States won’t stop until portions of God’s Word are outlawed here, too.

Now, the interesting thing is this: In a completely unrelated story, a woman who used to be a lesbian and was the editor of a homosexual magazine for 13 years, Charlene Cothran, has been saved, placed her faith in Christ Jesus, and repented of homosexuality.

In order for Charlene to be saved someone, somewhere had to share God’s Word with her. Paul wrote, in Romans 10, “For whosoever shall call upon the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him in whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

Paul starts by proclaiming that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” and then follows up with a series of rhetorical questions:

  1. How can they call upon him in whom they have not believed?
  2. How can they believe in him in whom they have not heard?
  3. How can they hear without a preacher?

The obvious answer to all of these questions is: “They can’t.”

Just a few verses after this passage Paul continues, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

He also wrote, in the first chapter of Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

Through the writings of Paul God has told us that nobody is saved apart from the gospel and that it is because of the law we are made aware of our sinfulness before a holy God. Yet, the United State Congress is considering legislation to outlaw the sharing of this good news with a lost and dying world because it is “offensive” in nature.

You bet it’s offensive. But as Christians we are called to share God’s Word even though we know beforehand it has the potential to offend. Charlene was first confronted with her sin…

…THEN she was saved — as is the case with all of us.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, when describing the kind of faith necessary for salvation, said of the sinner:

“He is fairly driven up into a corner, and there is but this one way of escape, namely, by the righteousness of another; for he feels he cannot escape by any good deeds, or sufferings of his own, and he cometh to Christ and humbleth himself, because he cannot do without Christ, and must perish unless he lay hold of him.”

In America we’ve often prayed for other countries where the Word of God is banned. We’ve given money so that Bibles could be smuggled into countries where they are prohibited by law. We never dreamed our own country could become like that.

We need to look closely, Congress is trying to take another step in that direction. The message that saved Charlene Cothran may be illegal in America sooner than we think.

Bumper sticker of the day

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