Archive for January, 2008

21
Jan

Christianity as a political force

   Posted by: Mark    in The Church

With the media ablaze with news about the primaries, I find myself wondering again how Christians should view this political process in America. Pat Abendroth has some great messages on the sovereignty of God, and it would do us good as Christians to meditate on this subject. Indeed, as Daniel prayed, God sets up and removes kings (e.g. Daniel 2), even in a “democratic republic,” regardless of our interpretation of “every vote counts.”

There is no doubt that America has been blessed by God. There is no doubt that she was founded by godly men. And there is no doubt that she has strayed far from her roots. But we tread a dangerous path if we begin to think that our purpose as Christians is to restore her to those roots, or make her a godly nation again. We have been given the supremely more important task of preaching the Gospel and discipling people from all nations.

This is a sensitive topic, I know. “Christian” and “patriotic” are synonymous in many circles. If you don’t bleed red, white, and blue, you’re probably not a Christian, or at least not a very good one. If you don’t froth at the mouth when someone burns a flag, you’ve cast off the faith. If you don’t shout “amen!” when someone quotes a Founding Father, you must be an infidel.

It would be easy to cling to the other extreme, too, and suggest that Christians should separate themselves from politics completely. This would also be dangerous and incorrect. My biggest struggle in this area is finding the proper balance between these two extremes. I love America. I love the concepts of bravery, freedom (and liberty), and honor. Few things excite me as much as seeing a pair of F15s screaming across the sky. Tears well up in my eyes when I hear the Star Spangled Banner. But my time here is so short in light of eternity, I would expect that the love and excitement I have for my eternal home should be greater than my love of America by the same degree as eternity is greater than this life and Christ’s righteousness is greater than my sin.

The blood of countless men and women has been poured out in our history for the protection of the freedoms we enjoy. But what arrogance we would display before a sovereign God to suggest that we created this country, that we protect this land, that we maintain our rights and freedoms.

God in his infinite mercy and grace has given us the greatest country in history. We would do well to remember that he is in control, not us. He put Bush in office, not us. He put Clinton in office, not the Left. And he will install the next president, not the Christian Right. Yes, pray and vote, but remember our ultimate and primary allegiance is to our homeland and its King.

14
Jan

The Name is central

   Posted by: Mark    in The Church

Sometimes I choose a book because I want to learn more about a specific topic. And sometimes I choose a book because it addresses something I see lacking in my life, something for which I need a good boot. “Let the Nations Be Glad” by John Piper is one of the latter. I recognize a tremendous lacking in my own life regarding my personal role in the propagation of the Gospel, and know I need to address it. And the terrible thing is that I know I should not need to know the “why” in order to obey. So another reason I am reading this book is to try to learn the “how” part of being involved in missions, both personal and global.

I haven’t finished the book yet, so I can’t provide any sort of full review. But I can mention that I was captured after reading the first paragraph:

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.

Now lest that induce cardiac arrest in the any of the crowd that insists our singular purpose on earth is to be soul-winners (as off-base as that may be), Piper continues with this: “Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory.”

Within the first few pages Piper explains that “the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever.” And that leads to a realization that “God’s ultimate goal is to uphold and display the glory of his name.” God’s upholding of his own name is central and foundational to understanding the need for missions.

This is obviously a book that cannot be read without deeply affecting the reader. I know already that it is one I should read annually. I have many more quotes to share, but will save them for later posts.

8
Jan

The dangers of moralism

   Posted by: Mark    in The Church

Thanks to Eric Raymond for linking to this on his site.

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7
Jan

The cup

   Posted by: Mark    in The Church

Tami and I recently listened to Pat Abendroth’s message titled “The Horrific Anticipation of Calvary,” from his ongoing series on Matthew. It has been months since a message has touched me as this one did.

First, the passage is from “the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Matthew” (Matthew 26:36-46) and is therefore about Christ, not about the disciples and their failure to watch and pray, or about how we can handle difficult times in our life. “It’s about Him“. Additionally, “The Bible is not a book of morals. It’s not the Book of Christian Virtues.”

I can’t do justice to the message, and highly recommend that you take the time to listen to it. As the title of the message indicates, considerable time is devoted to explaining Christ’s anticipation of the crucifixion, and how foolish or dangerous it can be for us to think this dread was related at all to the physical aspect of his approaching death, his betrayal by Judas, or the disciples abandonment of him.

Christ was in unimaginable agony over the anticipation of the “undiluted, unrestrained, full, intense wrath of a righteous, perfect, holy God. …The consuming wrath of God almighty, who has all the power at his fingertips; the God who speaks and things are made is going to pour out his just wrath on his son, it will be the most severe thing to ever, ever, ever happen. …God is judging his son as if he committed all the sins that I ever committed.”

Abendroth points out that we individually deserve the undiluted wrath of God for eternity. Jesus essentially “compressed” the eternity of my Hell, my deserved undiluted wrath of God, and that of all believers, into the relatively short time he was on the cross.

How great and amazing God is!

7
Jan

Standing against the world

   Posted by: Mark    in The Church

Over the past weeks I have read numerous articles about the upcoming movie “The Golden Compass,” based on the first book in a trilogy by Philip Pullman. (I will refrain from including details about the movie itself, since a Google search will provide countless links to a rather common set of material.) This movie appears to be the latest standard around which Christians are being called to gather in protest, following on the tail of Harry Potter and “Holiday” advertisements.

As Christians we should warn our siblings of things that could be dangerous. While we should all be diligent in our walk, invariably one may see problems with something before the majority does, and should sound the alarm about such things. Warnings about this movie, however, seem to involve much more hyperventilation than seems necessary.

Years ago I was involved in a sect of Christianity that, quite honestly, causes me great embarrassment when I recall my enthusiastic participation. This branch tends heavily toward extra-biblical regulations, and focuses on external activity as singular proof of personal holiness. The stereotypical visions of wide-eyed, pale-faced gasping-in-astonishment reactions to breaches in these regulations are, in reality, incredibly accurate depictions of some of these people. And that is the same reaction I am seeing from many folks regarding this movie.

We live in a fallen world. James tells us that pure religion involves remaining unstained by “the world,” referencing the world-view of unregenerate man. We must be wary of adopting or being seduced by this warped view of life and God.

It cannot be made any more clear than Paul’s statements that “no one does good, not even one.” Even as Christians we get hung up on this. “What about feeding the homeless?” or “I am a devoted father and husband — surely that’s ‘good,’ isn’t it?” And indeed, on our limited scale of human goodness, these things and so many others could be considered “good.” But we cannot dismiss Paul’s statement. By the righteous, perfect measurement, everything we do falls short of being “good.”

Every creation of unregenerate men must promote the fallen perspective of this world — it cannot do otherwise! Every movie will at the very least intimate a hatred or disregard for God. Every book is founded in unregenerate thought.

Is “The Golden Compass” an attack by Satan against our children? Not more than anything else created by fallen man. In fact, it may be less of an attack than the majority of things produced by our culture. And perhaps that is where I am befuddled. A sneak attack against Christianity cannot, by definition, include generally-obvious anti-God material! If this movie is part of a series that describes the killing of an emaciated character called Yahweh (as is mentioned in one of the more widely-distributed summaries), and obviously promotes the ideas of its atheistic (or more properly, agnostic) author, there is not much “sneak” in that, is there?

Be measured in your responses to things. Do not be surprised when the fallen world acts fallen. Certainly validate things against God’s Word. And by all means, stand against the world (world-view), while living in the world (the physical place called Earth) and loving the world (the people).

3
Jan

Where did it go?

   Posted by: Mark    in General

Man, the last few weeks of 2007 disappeared a bit faster than expected. We’ve had a full few weeks with vacation (alas, no travels, but separation from work for a week or two), Christmas, a birthday, New Year’s and all things in between.

We’re one month away from massive changes, Lord willing, and are thankful for the health and rest that Tami has enjoyed. The rest is now becoming more scarce as the uber-uncomfortable stage rolls in. We’re looking forward to both Tami’s mom and sister coming next month, and not quite sure how hectic things will be for how long.

We still have not completed our Christmas picture cards, and have already decided to call them New Year’s cards instead. Maybe they’ll be Easter cards. Grrr. I just have to schedule a slot with our family photographers. If you haven’t been keeping track of the lower-quality snapshots we get around here, be sure to check out our Flickr pics.