March2012Archive for

Apples to Apples

The Kingdom Notes

Because there is such a great divide between the city of God and the city of man, though both occupy the same space, it is not always easy to judge how the battle is going.  To compare the sweetest, most joy filled full-quiver homeschooling family with the most dysfunctional broken family hardly seems fair. That’s because it isn’t fair, though it is equally unfair to compare the government educated spiritual super-hero evangelist with the meth making family that “homeschools” only because such a claim might keep the government at bay. The hard truth is that the unbelievers’ best sometimes looks a lot more honorable than the believers’ worst. But the more honest question is, how are each of us doing in the middle? Is the average professing Christian living a more God-honoring life than the average unbeliever? In short, yes. Tonight I attended a celebration of a couple that has…

Ask RC: What should I do when feeling completely overwhelmed?

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What should I do when feeling completely overwhelmed, with a “to do” list as long as the Matterhorn is high, while wanting only to pull the bed covers over my head? Three things. The first is to give thanks. Like most clichés, this one became a cliché because it is a powerful and pithy truth- I cried for having no shoes, until I met a man with no legs. This does not mean that all of us should find one person who is having a harder time than we are, and all of us, save one, the winner of the Job of the Moment award, would perk up. And when the winner loses his title for some other Job, he can begin to cheer up. Rather it reminds us that we all have much for which we should be grateful.  Being joyful for what we have doesn’t tempt us to…

Lambs to the Slaughter

The Kingdom Notes

It is a sure sign of the perversity of our world that we find ourselves having to grade, to rate, to rank the perversity of our world. There is not one evil out there, nor even one evil in here. Instead evil has as many faces as the world has fingerprints. It is a second sure sign of our perversity that we succumb to the temptation of grading perversity on a scale of its closeness to us. That is, because we are evil, we judge our own evil to be good, our friends’ evil to be fair, and only evil in distant time zones to be truly evil. Because I am pridefully averse to jumping on both cultural and sub-cultural bandwagons, I have only just today watched the Kony video. Like everyone else, I was appalled at the great evil of this one man. Like everyone else, I wept with…

Ask RC: Why did God destroy the city of Sodom?

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There are, in our day, two principle competing views on how to answer this question. Because we live in a world where those committing sexual perversion have become a protected class, certain circles of the church have rushed to accommodate them. The up and coming theory, however anti-intuitive it might be is this- God destroyed Sodom not because it was a city given over to perversion, but because it was a city that failed to exercise hospitality. God’s wrath was poured out not because the men of Sodom, pounding on Lot’s door, wanted to sexually assault the angels, but because the angels were not treated with grace and compassion. It wasn’t what they wanted to take, but what they failed to give. The more conservative wing of the church, of course, takes an older view, a more intuitive view. The narrative here goes like this- Sodom was a city where…

Savorless Salt

The Kingdom Notes

When we are yet outside the kingdom, before we are born a second time, we suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1). This does not mean we are stupid. It does mean we are foolish. We know what we know but because such knowledge exposes our guilt, we suppress it. We are born again when God the Holy Spirit changes us, replacing our hearts of stone with a heart of flesh, when that same Spirit indwells us, and cleanses us. But we are not changed fully and instantly. We are still dirty. We are still, in ourselves, guilty. And we still seek to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Consider those Australian “ethicists” who recently published a “scholarly” article outlining why they thought “after-birth abortion” ought to be considered ethically acceptable. Their reasoning has a diabolical logic to it- there is no real difference between the baby before it is born…

Sheep Hating Shepherds

The Kingdom Notes

It’s just not done any more. Church discipline is hopelessly out of style. It went out with the Inquisition. We’ve discovered something new and better−grace. So called churches around the country have determined that Paul cut his ode to love short in I Corinthians 13. Not only does love bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things, but it permits all things. Church discipline is crowded out by grace and love, or, if we were being more honest, it is crowded out by the fear of lawsuits, slanderous attacks and by hatred. The Bible, however, is clear. Any father who spares the rod does so not out of love for the son, but because he hates him (Proverbs 13:24.) In like manner, elders who refuse to exercise the power of the keys in the household of God hate those they are commanded to love. It is…

Ask RC: Is sola Scriptura in the Bible?

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No, and yes. The Bible does not have specific text that suggests that the Bible alone is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice. Those who delight to point this out, however, typically Roman Catholics and the eastern Orthodox, typically miss the point. First, their energies more often than not are aimed at the Anabaptist error that we call solo Scriptura. Here the person affirms that all he needs is himself and his Bible. The wisdom of the church in history, the community of believers, are all deemed irrelevant to understanding the things of God. Solo scriptura is reprehensible and ignorant and a-historical. Sola Scriptura, like the Scriptures themselves, recognizes that God has gifted the church with teachers and pas- tors. It recognizes that the church has progressed and reached consensus on critical issues in and through the ancient ecumenical creeds. It affirms with vigor that we…

Love God? Sometimes I Hate Him

The Kingdom Notes

So Luther responsed when queried about his love for God. He was honest enough to admit that while God is altogether lovely, Luther was a sinner, and his response to God showed it. We can have a love/hate relationship with that which matters to us for one of two reasons, or a combination thereof. In Luther’s case God doesn’t change, but Luther does. Sometimes, however, the object of our love changes while we don’t. Sometimes that which we love behaves in an unlovely way, and our love flees. Still worse, sometimes that which we loved changes so radically that love is difficult if not impossible. I love my country, for at least two reasons. First, it is my country.  It is good and right and proper that we should have an affection for that which is closest to us, even if that thing is not the best. Though I’ve never…

Ask RC: How can I encourage my pastor?

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Pastors are human too. That means, of course, that they sin, but it also means that they have ordinary human needs. While no one joins the ministry in order to receive riches or accolades, honor or power, while shepherds are called to serve others rather than themselves, such doesn’t mean that they are not given to discouragement. Most of us, most of the time, love our pastor, and are grateful for him.  Few of us, however, understand that he needs encouragement. What even fewer of us grasp is how we can be an encouragement to him. Here are three simple ideas. First, pay attention to his labors. Though we do not have a duty to be at the church every time the doors are open, one thing that discourages pastors is our unwillingness to simply avail ourselves of his gifts.  When the pastor labors in his study to prepare a…

Ask RC: Why are gas prices so high?

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There are ultimately only two ways by which prices are determined, by market forces of supply and demand, or by government forces imposing themselves in markets. When the nation experiences the pain of rapid price increases it does not take long for people to grow angry at the oil companies. They become the scapegoat. Those slightly more sophisticated may give the oil companies a pass, but blame oil speculators, or futures traders. Neither, however, are to blame. Prices are determined, ultimately, by the consumer. When prices go up, and we don’t change our behavior, we end up paying more than we’d like (which we always do. We’d all like everything we buy to be free) but not more than we are willing. When prices go up and we change our behavior, whether by car-pooling, fewer or shorter trips, or driving cars with better miles-per-gallon, we are decreasing demand.  We demonstrate…