Quote of the day

“Difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature.”

I’m sorry I don’t remember who wrote this. But I do remember that this quote was originally part of a defense of the Trinity, the utterly unique concept of God that is found only in mainstream Christianity. The idea is that even if the Son is submissive to the Father, or even if the Holy Spirit conceives His role as the one who actually does the work determined by the Father and spoken by the Son, no person of the Trinity is inferior to any other. Each person is fully God, possessing all the attributes of God.

The same principle applies in the realm of the sexes. Husbands and wives are complementary in their offices and roles, while equal in their essential nature. A husband’s role is not the wife’s role, and vice versa. But both are equal in humanity and salvation (Gal. 3:28). In fact, the difference in role (but not essential value), is explicitly laid out for us in I Cor. 11:3. One of the reasons I am a complementarian when it comes to the sexes (as opposed to an egalitarian approach) is the precisely biblical parallel we find in I Corinthians 11.

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Quote of the day

I don’t know if this will be a daily feature, but it should become a regular feature. I think I will begin this series with a statement by John MacArthur that captures something I’ve held in my heart for a long time.

“I am grateful to God that since the beginning of my training my mind has been filled with the truth of God. My mind is not a battleground of indecision about what is true and what is false, over things which ‘minister questions rather than godly edifying’” (I Tim. 1:4).

Forgive me if this sounds self-righteous, but this has always been my own starting point. Somehow I have never questioned that the Bible is the Word of God and thus, at least in the original manuscripts, speaks truth without any mixture of error. As one of our Baptist forefathers put it, “[I] believe in the perfect inspiration and absolute authority of the divine revelation, and [am] convinced that the best proof of any truth is that it is there taught. [I] question, indeed, whether man can know with absolute certainty any truth which is not thus uttered by God. Into all else must enter the liability to error which arises from human imperfection. So far, therefore, as the Scriptures speak, and so far only does man have certainty of knowledge.” J. P. Boyce

How this works out for me is that in a world where there are no absolutes, and therefore no foundations for life, God’s unchanging truth never fails to teach me who God is and what He is. Nor does it fail to teach me the same about Man and how we can have fellowship with the Eternal Creator God.

Please pray that I will never fail to preach with an absolute confidence in the truth of God’s Word. But let us pray for one another. In a world of shifting sands, we all need God’s help to anchor our lives in the solid rock of His truth.

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Thoughts on religious freedom

The fight for religious freedom is the fundamental fight for all freedoms

A while back one of our Hawkwoodians handed me a newspaper clipping about the limits of religious freedom and asked me what I thought about it. I can answer his question in two words, “Not much.” But the article in question (by Sun Media columnist Alan Shanoff) needs to be addressed because it represents how a lot of people approach the subject. And quite honestly, as far as we Christians’ relationship with government is concerned, nothing, simply nothing is more important than the guarantee of religious freedom. In fact, it is my conviction that all other freedoms derive their ultimate support from religious freedom. Take that away and all other freedoms eventually disappear.

Shanoff bases his discussion of religious freedom on a situation that came up in January of this year at York University, in Toronto. A student was granted a partial exemption from the requirements for a sociology class because he objected to having to work with women for religious reasons. Professor Paul Grayson wanted to deny the request, but York Administrators insisted he be exempted on the grounds that religious freedom trumped other freedoms, including women’s rights. When Grayson received the ruling he angrily decided to expose the situation so that the public could judge his administration’s actions properly.

Grayson is right to be angry. It is by such baby steps that Shariah law is gradually imposed on an entire nation. But the Ontario Human Rights Code pretty much demanded the decision go the way it did. As Shanoff reports, the code demands “that religious requirements resulting in an exclusion or restriction must be accommodated unless the accommodation would create ‘undue hardship on the person responsible for accommodating those needs.’”

Up to this point I was pretty much in step with both professor Grayson and columnist Shanoff. But as Shanoff offered arguments against the university decision I found that, as a Christian, I could no longer agree, primarily because he wanted to lump in Christianity with other religions, and then damn them all as misogynistic. In other words, he wanted to hold forth what he called the “core values” of atheistic, secular materialism so that no longer would any religious persons “require us to reject reasonableness and common sense” and “force us to abandon our core values and permit ancient religious beliefs to trump our principles of equality.”

Shanoff’s solution is entirely unacceptable. “Where does it end?” he asks rhetorically. His answer: “It ends with an amendment to our human rights laws to eliminate religious accommodation for reasonable and bona fide requirements relating to our core Canadian values.” Do you see what he’s done? He’s replaced one injustice — religious rights trump other human rights — and replaced it with another injustice — Canadian core values (whatever that means) trump religious rights.

Let me point out some of the problems with Shanoff’s approach.
1. He does not realize that there can be no religious freedom in a country where the Christian religion does not predominate. I don’t even have to argue this point or defend it, except by challenging anyone who disagrees to show me a single example of a country with a strong tradition of religious freedom that is not also based upon a Christian world view. As I said earlier, take away religious freedom and all other freedoms die. But it is just as true that if you take away the prevailing foundation of the Christian religion from a country, then religious freedom inevitably dies.

How is that, you ask? Only the Christian religion is truly founded on two realities, the world as it truly is and God as He truly is, that is, as He knows Himself to be. That is why Christians are not afraid to leave others free to practice their religion. They know that when the playing field is truly level, the Christian faith wins every time. Even when the playing field is tilted against us, we still win, as is being proven right now in China and elsewhere. So we gladly promote religious freedom, knowing that it gives room for people to be won to the One True Faith by persuasion, not by force. No other faith has this assurance. In fact, the exponents of every other religion are scared to death of Christianity. They know what happens when the gospel is preached. Their power base disappears. Therefore no other faith can afford to promote true freedom of religion. Significantly, all other faiths oppose freedom of religion for one reason; they are inspired by the vain hope that somehow they will be able to shut down the gospel.

2. This is the mischief that arises when human rights are written so as to include behaviour and lifestyle choices alongside fundamental rights based upon time-tested Biblical law and natural law. According to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 15, “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” As written, section 15 is unobjectionable, but the Supreme Court changed everything when it held that this section also protects various people who engage in sinful sexual behaviours, actions forbidden by the Bible as fornication and perversion.

From Shanoff’s perspective, the fundamental moral truths that are literally older than the hills (older because rooted in the character of God and therefore eternal) are to be overturned in favour of “our core Canadian values.” To be honest, I wouldn’t give Shanoff a fig for his core Canadian values. He doesn’t even know what they are, except whatever seems popular right now, and that they are usually the opposite of what good and holy people have lived by through the centuries.

3. If human rights laws are to be changed let two things happen. (1) Eliminate the human rights tribunals which are little more than giant clubs empowered by government to smash anyone holding values not deemed hip or liberal. (2) Remove all interpretations to section 15 that read in charter protection for sinful sexual activity. This is not because I think we should crusade against homosexuals. Not at all. Rather, I think the simplest thing is to say that all human beings should be protected against violence in any form. That’s enough. No one should need extra protection. Violence is simply always wrong, and should always be punished. But violence must never be defined as simply disagreeing with homosexuals about the rightness or goodness of their behaviour.

4. What I say next may shock some people. Nevertheless, it is true. Unlike ancient Judaism or modern Islam, Christians have never had a problem working with people who abuse sexuality. Historically we have done business with, and worked alongside homosexuals and adulterers without making a big deal out of it. We don’t have to like it or approve of it. We certainly must not practice any of it. We may even speak out against it, or call people to repent and believe the gospel, but most of the time there’s no need to make a federal case out it, and when we’re behaving like Christ we don’t.  We call people to repentance from sin, not just one particular sin. (Of course, there perversions that we must work to eliminate, such as paedophilia and polygamy. These are simply too evil to be ignored in a society where we have the option to speak up. But in these areas even the most liberal of libertines still stand for the right thing, at least most of the time. The other exception to this rule, and it must be the subject of a separate post, is when governments try to force our children to believe ungodly things. Then Christians, and especially Christian parents, must fight back.)

In case any of you are still doubting that I’m right when I say that as much as possible we need to downplay our opposition to homosexuality, let me take you to Scripture. Here is the apostle Paul. “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler — not even to eat with such a one. For what have I do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.” (I Cor. 5:9-11).

Through most of history most Christians have lived by the principles in these verses. To live in the world we must deal with all sorts of people without judging them. No homosexual or lesbian has anything to fear from us. Quite the opposite. The Christian approach is to respect everyone on the basis of the image of God they present to us. We love them for His sake and call them to repentance (from sin, not one sin) and faith for the sake of their eternal souls.

5. Christians have to be ready to pay the price for their convictions. This is the burden of bearing the cross of Christ (Hebrews 13:13-14, but see below). In spite of His love for all men, Christ ended up crucified. Nor should we be shocked if something similar happens to us. We must make Daniel the supreme example for how to live in a pagan world. That is, we must live and serve in such a way that everyone knows we are seeking the shalom, or the well being of the city (Jer. 29:7). But we must also be just as ready as Daniel and his three friends to pay any price necessary to put our loyalty to God first. That may mean walking away from careers that we dearly love. It might even mean that we, like the young man Shanoff was writing about, must be willing to forgo degrees and careers if they call for us to sell our souls to an ungodly system. In the young man’s case, he was out of line because as a Muslim he believes in an inhuman, anti-Christ religion. But at least he had the courage of his convictions. May God grant us the same courage, and even more, to live only for His glory.

Hebrews 13
13  Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
14  For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
15  Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise– the fruit of lips that confess his name.
16  And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

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What happens when good men misapply scripture

billyandfranklingraham

Billy and Franklin Graham: the greatest evangelists of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Let me say at the outset, I love Franklin Graham, founder of Samaritan’s Purse and heir to his father Billy Graham’s worldwide evangelistic ministry. I especially love him because over the past 13 years he has been one of the very few prominent Christian leaders to speak the truth about Islam, and not just once, but repeatedly and in the face of strong opposition. He is a hero to me to the point that the one time I was actually in his presence I found myself choked with emotion and unable to speak.

I state all this because, as I’m sure some of you have guessed already, I am about to criticize him. But please hear my heart. Even as I speak critically of one aspect of Graham’s message, I do so, not to tear him down, but to point out a failing that afflicts too many Christians in our time. He becomes exhibit A regarding a particular concern of mine, not because he is the worst or the only offender, but because he has recently put certain sentiments into print, sentiments that are widespread within the Christian community and that I am convinced are unbiblical and ultimately harmful to the cause of Christ.

Now for the particulars. In a fund-raising letter for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association dated August 29, 2014, Franklin lists many of the disasters afflicting our world. Then he says, “As I read the news, I can’t help but wonder if we are in the last hours before our Lord Jesus Christ returns to rescue His church and God pours out His wrath on the world for the rejection of His Son. I don’t know if we have hours, days, months, or years—but as Christians, God calls us to take the truth of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

I have three concerns arising out of that statement that I will take up in the following order. First, the trials of our times, as bad as they are, do not begin to compare to the awfulness of the disasters and tribulations faced by our forefathers. Therefore they should not be thought of as markers for the end times. Second, and in some ways this is the part that hurts the kingdom the most, although he qualifies his position by a humble “I don’t know”, Graham is nevertheless basing the urgency of his fund-raising appeal on the very popular belief among evangelical Christians that we are living in the very last of the last days. I do not doubt the sincerity of Graham’s evangelistic fervour. But one thing is certain, no one who believes we are possibly, or even probably, hours from The End will at the same time maintain a vital hope for world revival. Finally, my deepest concern is that Graham’s position on end times is based on a mis-reading of Scripture that should have long ago been rejected, but that sadly has become the default position of the Evangelical world.

No doubt we need to be sent to our knees over the awfulness of the times in which we live, and Graham is right to highlight the genocidal killing of Christians throughout the Middle East, the tearing down of churches in China, and other expressions of the world’s hatred of Christ. We ought to be concerned enough to pray and preach against these things. Graham is also correct to call people to do what they can to fight the Ebola virus and other epidemic-level diseases. But to claim these admittedly bad things as super awful harbingers of The End Of All Things displays an astonishing lack of historical perspective. Graham and I are of a similar age, which means that in our early decades we both lived through times that saw pogroms and crusades against Christians in the communist world that were at least as horrible as anything Christians are facing today. But like the troubles of our times, they did not herald The End.

Graham apparently also forgets that our fathers, both of whom are still living, have told us of the far worse times they lived through, including the horrors of two world wars and the terrible world-wide depression in between. Then, when you go back through history and consider such things as the Black Death (an estimated 75 to 200 million killed in Europe, as opposed to the worst projections for the Ebola virus reaching only five million), or the depredations of Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane (credited with killing 17 million people in his various wars, amounting to 5% of the world’s population at that time and leading to the barbarization of vast swaths of territory in Africa, Asia and Europe) you have to conclude that the troubles we face are almost nothing in comparison. It seems to me that a little perspective on world history by Graham, not to mention Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, John Hagee, David Jeremiah and others, might allow the Christian world to calm down a bit and focus on the things that matter for the kingdom, instead of being continually frightened to death on the basis of false premises. It is unbelievers, not Christians, whom Jesus speaks of as having hearts that fail them through fear (Luke 21:26).

Second, and this is the part that hurts the most, while both Grahams believe in evangelism, neither believes in revival. This is clear because in their sermons and books they both have produced extensive records subscribing to the view of end times known as Dispensational Premillennialism. Unfortunately, the hallmark of that form of premillennialism is the conviction that according to biblical prophecy we live in the time Jesus spoke of when he said, “many will turn away from the faith,” and there will be an “increase of wickedness” and “the love of most will grow cold.” (These quotes are all lifted from Mat. 24:10,12).

Both Grahams are ardent evangelists, and for that they should be praised. But they see themselves fighting a rearguard action against inevitable doom for the Christian cause. They both acknowledge that the kingdom has advanced during times of revival in the past, but in our times they no longer expect to win the world by means of the gospel. It breaks my heart to know that the best Christian leaders of the 20th and 21st century will never make a serious effort to engage the churches in preparation for earth-shaking revival because they simply do not believe such a thing can happen. But they are not alone. I seriously suspect that most modern pastors have given up on hoping for revival, praying for revival, or preaching for revival because, like the Grahams, they no longer believe in the possibility of revival.

As to my third concern, we are not left to wonder about Graham’s theology concerning the end times because he prefaces his rapture warning with a quote from Matthew 24. Here is his statement. “Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 24 when they asked Him about the signs of the end of the age. He said there would be wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and pestilence. He told them, ‘Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake’ (Matthew 24:9, KJV).”

There is so much wrong with Graham’s use of scripture here that it is hard to know where to start. Nevertheless, I will make a quick stab. First, the only reference given is Matthew 24:9, but the first part of his statement (which he does not put in quotation marks) is lifted from verse six in the same chapter. Unless you look up the passage, however, you won’t notice that Jesus specifically states that his disciples are to pay no attention to wars and rumours of wars. “See that ye be not troubled,” Jesus says of these, “for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (Italics added) Graham passed over this statement because it did not serve his fund-raising purpose.

But the greater error, committed by both Grahams and the other writers listed above, is to take Jesus’ Matthew 24 prophecy, all of which was fulfilled in Jerusalem during the decade surrounding 70 A.D., and somehow try to apply it to the 21st century. It can’t be done. Jesus said that all the things he prophesied in that chapter would be fulfilled within one generation (Mat. 24:35), and so they were. This post is already too long, so I won’t belabour the point. But I will close with this challenge. If you believe Matthew 24 is yet to be fulfilled, or is somehow being fulfilled in the 21st century, I hope you will write me. Either send me your biblical arguments, or point me to the book or article that you believe does a good job defending that point of view. I intend to write more on this theme in the future anyway. It would be helpful, I think, to actually spend time interacting with those who have a different interpretation. I would also ask that if you are ready to defend the Franklin Graham view of biblical prophecy I hope you will also show how the belief in an imminent rapture and a genuine hope for revival can be reconciled.

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Sunday leftovers

Throughout the summer of 2014 (now so emphatically over for us southern Albertans) I felt very much impressed to begin the fall season at Hawkwood Baptist Church with a series of six messages emphasizing the need for a genuine, heaven-sent revival. So three days ago I preached the second sermon in the series that I believe will be finished on October 5. If you really want to see what I’m saying about this theme you can go to our church website (hawkwood.ca) and click on the links there.

Unfortunately, there’s never enough time to say all that needs saying. Last Sunday I had to leave out point three altogether. I’m including it here, because when you preach from Acts 2 it is important, in teaching what the Bible says, to also be clear on what the Bible does not say.

Here is my concern. In praying for the Holy Spirit to descend upon God’s people it is important to discern between the heavenly fire of the Spirit and the strange fire that is often thrown into the mix by the wicked one. A lack of discernment, I fear, has led the modern church to claim revival where no revival has occurred, or in some instances, to see genuine revival driven into the ditch by allowing some form of strange fire to dominate.

A rock-solid principle that can help distinguish between the true and the false goes like this. True miracles are objective. That is, without any fear of embarrassment a true miracle can submit itself to the ordinary tests of reality. Did something actually change? And did it remain different? Does the blind man now see? Is the hungry crowd now satiated? Is the man walking on the water too far out to be standing on rocks? These are all miracles because they are real miracles. Everything else is smoke and mirrors.

Which brings me to point three from last Sunday. The miracle in Acts 2, often referred to as “speaking in tongues,” was a real miracle because the 120 disciples were enabled to speak identifiable languages — dialects, actually — that they had not previously known. This is nothing like the modern phenomenon of speaking in tongues, most of which cannot be identified either as a particular language, or, as code-breakers who’ve studied tapes of “tongues” have reported, as language of any sort.

Nevertheless, the modern “tongues movement” is so pervasive that many of my colleagues have refused to preach from Acts 2 at all, lest they be seen giving tacit support to strange fire. My own choice is to preach all the Bible, but with warnings where necessary. I pray that God will send the fire of a Holy Spirit inspired revival, and I think that if we also pray for Biblically-based, Holy Spirit-inspired discernment, then all will be well. But because I also believe in the sovereignty of God, I think it is safe to pray and preach toward revival no matter what. A little strange fire cannot stop the work of God, and if it comes to the point, I’d rather have fire mixed with strange fire than no fire at all.

With that as background, here is the exposition of Acts 2:4 that I wanted to give on Sunday.

3.    “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). I have to say a few things here, not to start an argument, but to make sure we’re on the same page regarding what God’s Word actually says.
a.    This miracle was not one of unknown tongues. The miracle was actually that of unlearned languages, and therefore even greater because this miracle couldn’t be faked.
i.    This is confirmed by the list of languages mentioned in 2:9-11.
ii.    “Tongue” may be open to interpretation, but verses 6 and 8 are categorical and clear; the visitors to Jerusalem recognized, not just the languages being spoken, but that the disciples were speaking in their own “native language” (Greek = dialect).

81_map_lands_pentecost

iii.    What’s more, the visitors clearly understand the disciples’ message. “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
iv.    In other words, what happened that day was a miracle of gospel communication. Speaking all the languages used by the visitors to Jerusalem, the disciples told them about God sending His Son, about Jesus’ miracles and teaching, and finally about His death and resurrection, all for the sins of the world and all because God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten sin to be its Saviour.

b.    What about the accusation they’d had too much wine? (V.13) I’m glad you asked because that gives me opportunity to say that one of the saddest and cruelest accusations ever hurled at God’s people (and to make it even sadder this is often done by trained Bible scholars who ought to know better), is that these disciples were out of control, caught up in some kind of ecstatic, orgiastic experience that made them appear to observers as though they were out of their minds.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This is refuted by the reminder that those who actually heard them knew exactly what they were saying, and appreciated it. Also, when Peter began to preach the other disciples immediately grew quiet. No one had to be taken out because he couldn’t stop shouting and interrupting.

c.    But why would anyone have ever said they were drunk? You can’t really holler “fire” convincingly unless there’s the smell of smoke in the room. Were the disciples happy? Obviously. Were they impetuous and enthusiastic, perhaps even a little importunate in their zeal to get their message out? Almost certainly. And, btw, this will not be the only time that Scripture will compare the Spirit-filled life with the experience of drunkennes (Eph. 5:18). But is it wrong that Christians be excited about their experience or their message? Not at all. And so sometimes what carpers might call drunkenness is just the appropriate human response to the joy of the Lord. Listen to this quote from a Christian novel where the characters experience something like Pentecost.

“Up till now they had instinctively been talking in subdued voices, as children talk in a room where their elders are busied about some august incomprehensible matter, a funeral, or the reading of a will. Now of a sudden they all began talking loudly at once, each, not contentiously but delightedly, interrupting the others. A stranger coming into the kitchen would have thought they were drunk, not soddenly but gaily drunk: would have seen heads bent close together, eyes dancing, an excited wealth of gesture. . . .Never in her life had [Mother Dimble] heard such talk — such eloquence, such melody (song could have added nothing to it), such toppling structures of double meaning, such skyrockets of metaphor and allusion” (That Hideous Strength, by C. S. Lewis, page 318).

That the disciples were excited and thrilled by their experience and their message no one should deny. That they were out of control, either from ecstasy or intoxication, is ridiculous on its face.

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Renovations and Christianity, coming TONIGHT on HGTV

Dear Reader,

Last year it was my privilege to write a few articles for the TheChristians.com, an Internet magazine put together by Ted and Link Byfield that takes a Christian look at current events in support of their real work, the propagation of their amazing and fascinating Christian history book series. You can read all about it on their website and I encourage you to do so.

Meanwhile, in one of those serendipitous moments (that seem to providentially happen to Christians a lot) I just happened to notice that a TV show I wrote about a year ago will be shown on HGTV tonight at 10:00 p.m. Called My Big Family Renovation, it features a husband and wife who are completely modern in sensibility, yet clearly sold out to Jesus Christ. Obviously I haven’t seen the show (though I plan to). But if its anything like the family I wrote about, then it will be fun and faith-filled. And the amazing thing is, it’s on a for-profit, secular channel. So, my recommendation is, read the article below, then watch the show if you can. It should be a great night-cap.

Shafer Parker

P.S. If you are a member of Hawkwood Baptist Church you should know that both Hatmakers are all over RightNow media. Just do a search for Brandon or Jen Hatmaker and check ‘em out.

Jen Hatmaker’s chaotic, hilarious life will be further complicated by reality television

by Shafer Parker, Jr.

Sep 24, 2013

20130924-Reality-1

Hatmakers with TV crew: Rot and termites are just the start of what needs fixin’.

Breaking Bad and Mad Men may win Emmys, but with the astounding success of the funny and faith-filled Duck Dynasty (11.8 million viewers for this season’s premier on A&E) the Christians are winning the ratings race. It proves G.K. Chesterton’s adage: “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”

Now more cable networks want a piece of the Christian action, as evidenced by HGTV’s recent announcement that it is planning a 2014 reality series featuring Christian blogger and author Jen Hatmaker, along with her author-pastor husband Brandon and their five children (two adopted from Ethiopia), as they renovate their new house.

Well, new to them. Said house is actually a 105-year-old farmhouse located in Buda, Texas, a suburb of state capital Austin. It sits on nearly an acre of land and is surrounded by pecan, fig and pomegranate trees. But while trees may get better with age, houses don’t. Everything needs fixing or replacing and the Hatmakers know nothing about home renovations. Cue the hilarity.

And the faith. As HGTV has stated, “We want it all: your family, your prayers, your church, your poor people, your nonprofits, your chaos, your humor. We want you to be exactly who you are.” And despite her penchant for laughing at herself, Hatmaker is very serious about the upcoming opportunity to proclaim her faith. “This feels monumental and special and rare,” she says in a recent blog entry. “Our goal is to steward this opportunity with immense care and precision. This little light of mine…we’re gonna let it shine.”

Jen HatmakerJen Hatmaker: Christians are just average, disorganized, caring folks.

Is TV Christianity inherently ridiculous?

Some observers fear that once massaged by the medium of TV, Hatmaker’s pixilated “light” may never save a soul. Then there’s the “all-southerners-are-crazy-crackers” theme that makes Honey Boo Boo a star, but not one to follow. In an interview with the Religion News Service (RNS), referring to Duck Dynasty, Jennifer Wilson, a correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, said, “There’s a risk that someone could watch the show and think all Christians are like that, but that would come from a place of ignorance. They’re just guys from Louisiana who like to make duck calls and hunt and that doesn’t represent the interests of all Christians.”

True faith shines through

With respect to Ms. Wilson, it’s just as possible that people who watch Duck Dynasty find themselves surprised, and pleased, to learn that “guys” like that, i.e., real people who hunt and have a good time, can also pray. This is Jen Hatmaker’s approach. “We are throwing our heads back and laughing, treating this like a once-in-a-lifetime fiasco adventure we’ll never forget,” she writes. “I hope you’ll come with us, because we may need some character witnesses along the way. Can you imagine our family with cameras rolling? I know you can. I can too. Heaven help.”

HHHHRenovations and Christianity, coming soon on HGTV

Jen Hatmaker’s chaotic, hilarious life will be further complicated by reality television

Sep 24, 2013

Hatmakers with TV crew: Rot and termites are just the start of what needs fixin’.
Hatmakers with TV crew: Rot and termites are just the start of what needs fixin’.

Breaking Bad and Mad Men may win Emmys, but with the astounding success of the funny and faith-filled Duck Dynasty (11.8 million viewers for this season’s premier on A&E) the Christians are winning the ratings race. It proves G.K. Chesterton’s adage: “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”

Now more cable networks want a piece of the Christian action, as evidenced by HGTV’s recent announcement that it is planning a 2014 reality series featuring Christian blogger and author Jen Hatmaker, along with her author-pastor husband Brandon and their five children (two adopted from Ethiopia), as they renovate their new house.

Well, new to them. Said house is actually a 105-year-old farmhouse located in Buda, Texas, a suburb of state capital Austin. It sits on nearly an acre of land and is surrounded by pecan, fig and pomegranate trees. But while trees may get better with age, houses don’t. Everything needs fixing or replacing and the Hatmakers know nothing about home renovations. Cue the hilarity.

And the faith. As HGTV has stated, “We want it all: your family, your prayers, your church, your poor people, your nonprofits, your chaos, your humor. We want you to be exactly who you are.” And despite her penchant for laughing at herself, Hatmaker is very serious about the upcoming opportunity to proclaim her faith. “This feels monumental and special and rare,” she says in a recent blog entry. “Our goal is to steward this opportunity with immense care and precision. This little light of mine…we’re gonna let it shine.”

Jen Hatmaker: Christians are just average, disorganized, caring folks.Jen Hatmaker: Christians are just average, disorganized, caring folks.

Is TV Christianity inherently ridiculous?

Some observers fear that once massaged by the medium of TV, Hatmaker’s pixilated “light” may never save a soul. Then there’s the “all-southerners-are-crazy-crackers” theme that makes Honey Boo Boo a star, but not one to follow. In an interview with the Religion News Service (RNS), referring to Duck Dynasty, Jennifer Wilson, a correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, said, “There’s a risk that someone could watch the show and think all Christians are like that, but that would come from a place of ignorance. They’re just guys from Louisiana who like to make duck calls and hunt and that doesn’t represent the interests of all Christians.”

See The High Tide and the Turn

On the prior deaths and rebirths of the Christian faith in the past see the introduction to Chapter 20.

We the People, Volume 12 of The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years

True faith shines through

With respect to Ms. Wilson, it’s just as possible that people who watch Duck Dynasty find themselves surprised, and pleased, to learn that “guys” like that, i.e., real people who hunt and have a good time, can also pray. This is Jen Hatmaker’s approach. “We are throwing our heads back and laughing, treating this like a once-in-a-lifetime fiasco adventure we’ll never forget,” she writes. “I hope you’ll come with us, because we may need some character witnesses along the way. Can you imagine our family with cameras rolling? I know you can. I can too. Heaven help.”

– See more at: http://thechristians.com/?q=node/666#sthash.2bMJ4V5G.dpuf

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My previous point — this time stated as clearly as possible

I am thrilled when any of my friends and church family (I hope these are overlapping categories) regularly read my random jottings, but I have to admit to a little letdown just now because after my last posting the commentary on Facebook and elsewhere seemed mostly unrelated to the point I was trying to make. So let me be as clear as possible.

My point from the previous posting
I believe that the cause of Christ has been seriously weakened by the fact that almost all evangelical Christians believe the rapture of the church is imminent (likely to occur at any moment now). As far as I can tell, most Christians believe we are living at the very end of history, that this really is “the terminal generation,” to borrow a phrase coined by Hal Lindsey some two generations ago.

The consequences of such a belief are obvious. If you think this is the end, you won’t plan or sacrifice for what you believe is a non-existent future. You won’t invest in a kingdom that will soon cease to exist. If you think a nuclear bomb is going to fall on Calgary tomorrow, you don’t start digging the foundations for a new skyscraper today. And if you think this is the time of an inevitable “increase in wickedness” when “the love of most will grow cold,” (Mat. 24:12) then you will no longer believe in the possibility of revival. Oh, you may go through the motions of praying for revival, but you won’t really mean it. And that, dear friends, seems to me to be a sin unto God.

What I believe Christians ought to believe
Christians ought not to expect the imminent return of Christ because the job He assigned us before He left is nowhere near being accomplished. And what is that job? Nothing less than the conversion of the world (Mat. 28:19-20, Rom. 16:25-26). The scripture is clear. Christ is waiting to return only after the people groups of the world (the real meaning of “nations” or ethne) are thoroughly converted and His enemies vanquished by the preaching of the gospel (Heb. 10:12-14).

Do you think I’m exaggerating the size of our mandate? Check out these various translations of Paul’s explanation of the Great Commission as found in Romans 16. Note especially the italicized portions.

God can strengthen you by the Good News and the message I tell about Jesus Christ. He can strengthen you by revealing the mystery that was kept in silence for a very long time but now is publicly known. The everlasting God ordered that what the prophets wrote must be shown to the people of every nation to bring them to the obedience that is associated with faith. God alone is wise. Glory belongs to him through Jesus Christ forever! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27, God’s Word Translation)

To Him who has it in His power to make you strong, as declared in the Good News which I am spreading, and the proclamation concerning Jesus Christ, in harmony with the unveiling of the Truth which in the periods of past Ages remained unuttered, but has now been brought fully to light, and by the command of the God of the Ages has been made known by the writings of the Prophets among all the Gentiles to win them to obedience to the faith — to God, the only wise, through Jesus Christ, even to Him be the glory through all the Ages! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27, Weymouth translation)

Now to Him Who is able to strengthen you in the faith which is in accordance with my Gospel and the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ (the Messiah), according to the revelation (the unveiling) of the mystery of the plan of redemption which was kept in silence and secret for long ages, but is now disclosed and through the prophetic Scriptures is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, [to win them] to obedience to the faith, to [the] only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One)! Amen (so be it). (Romans 16:25-27, Amplified)

Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith — to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27, NIV)

I could go on, but surely by now you see my point. The Scriptural mandate is more than building a giant megaphone through which we shout gospel words to the whole world. It is more than translating the Bible into all the known languages of the world. It is much more than being able to claim a few believers in most parts of the world. It is something very much other than asking people to give mental assent to basic gospel propositions (which defines most North American Christians). It is nothing less than the transformation of the entire world, bringing the people groups to obedience to Christ.

That is our mandate. That is what I understand Christ is waiting for us to accomplish. That is why I can only conclude that at the present rate of Kingdom growth His return must still be many years in the future. Of course, if we stopped thinking so much about The End, if we stopped watching the clock and put our minds back on our assigned task, we might find that through prayer and personal sacrifice our mighty God will help us get the job done more quickly than any can presently imagine.

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What I believe about the world’s future in the words of men far better and smarter than I

No serious-minded person doubts that the world is in a really bad place right now. Jihadists are on the march everywhere. Disease is rampant in parts of Africa. Russia is threatening the Ukraine — not to mention Georgia and all the other lands formerly belonging to the Soviet Union. Israel is facing what soon looks to be a two-front war. China is forcibly telling the U.S. to butt out of the western Pacific. Violence grows in many of the world’s major cities. The world’s economies are either stagnated or failing, moral standards are non-existent in the West and there is more open hostility toward Christians world-wide than has been seen in hundreds of years. And to make matters worse, the president of what is still the most powerful nation on earth is on permanent holiday. He apparently has no stomach for intervening in any of these matters.

If there was ever a time for Christians to offer hope to the world, that time is now. But too many of our best and holiest have decided that we are living at the end of history and that the only thing left is for Christ to come and take us home. They no longer hope or pray for revival. The idea of further transformation of society is rejected or even mocked. Such people no longer have any hope for this world or for their childrens’ and grandchildrens’ future because they have been led to believe no such future exists. This is the time, their teachers say, that “the love of most will grow cold,” and the Christian’s only option is to “stand firm to the end” (Mat. 24:12-13).

This is not what our forefathers believed, and it is not how they prayed and lived. Based on their study of Scripture, not the conditions they observed in their immediate surroundings, they had great hope that the world would be won to Christ, or, to be more precise, that the nations (people groups) of this world would be Christianized. I’m asking you to read what some of them had to say. And as you read keep in mind that there is no earthly reason today’s Christians should not live in the same hope.

“Though our persons fall, our cause shall be as truly, certainly, and infallibly victorious, as that Christ sits at the right hand of God. The gospel shall be victorious (italics added). This greatly comforts and refreshes me.” John Owen 1616-1683

“There will come a time when the generality of mankind, both Jew and Gentile, shall come to Jesus Christ. He hath had but little takings of the world yet, but he will have before he hath done.” Thomas Goodwin, 1600-1679

“There will come a time when in this world holiness shall be more general, and more eminent, than ever it hath been since Adam fell in paradise.” Thomas Brooks 1608-1680

“There have been great and glorious days of the gospel in this land; but they have been small in comparison of what shall be.” James Renwick, martyred 17 February 1688

“We also rejoice in hope. We have many and express assurances in the Scriptures, which cannot be broken, of the general, the universal spread and reign of Christianity, which are not yet accomplished. Nothing has yet taken place in the history of Divine grace, wide enough in extent, durable enough in continuance, powerful enough in energy, blessed enough in enjoyment, magnificent enough in glory, to do anything like justice to these predictions and promises. Better days, therefore, are before us, notwithstanding the forebodings of many.” William Jay 1769-1853

From C. H. Spurgeon’s commentary on Psalm 86:9, “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.”
“David was not a believer in the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensation will wind up with general darkness, and idolatry. Earth’s sun is to go down amid tenfold night if some of our prophetic brethren are to be believed. Not so do we expect, but we look for a day when the dwellers in all lands shall learn righteousness, shall trust in the Saviour, shall worship thee alone, O God, ‘and shall glorify thy name.’ The modern notion has greatly damped the zeal of the church for missions and the sooner it is shown to be unscriptural the better for the cause of God. It neither consorts with prophecy, honours God nor inspires the church with ardour.”

God help us to share the same hope as these heroic saints and scholars. God help us to pray and believe in God-sent revival in our day.

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How to pray for Israel

Israel has dominated the news of late because the permanent conflict between the only western-style democracy in the Middle East and its Muslim enemies has once again flared into open warfare. The funny thing is, professed Christians are passionately involved on both sides. There are Christians who passionately support the Palestinians on the grounds that their ancestors were unfairly forced from their properties when Jews began to re-gather in the land. Other Christians passionately support Israel’s right to exist on the basis that the Jews once again inhabit the land promised to them by God. Such Christians see Israel’s existence as the fulfilment of prophecy; from their perspective anything less than full-throated support for its continued existence seems like blasphemy. Both sides quote the Bible to support their position, but I wonder if either side has really grasped the spirit of Christ, or the basic theme of the New Testament.

Let me show you what I mean. In chapters 9-11 of the book of Romans Paul speaks directly to the question of the Jews and their future. But in doing so he uses language that I think many supporters of Israel have missed. The fact is, with a single exception Paul only speaks of Jews as individuals, and when that one exception is properly understood it becomes obvious that Paul never thinks of Israel as a future nation. But don’t take my word for it. Look with me at what he actually says.

Romans 9
1 I speak the truth in Christ– I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit–
2  I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
3  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race,
4  the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.
5  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

What ought to stand out immediately is that Paul never thinks of his kinsmen as a single unit, but always in terms of discreet individuals. In his agony over their lostness, Paul speaks of his “brothers” (v.3), not some faceless thing called a nation. In his mind it is individuals who have rejected Christ. It is individuals who are going to hell, and because these individual people will suffer forever he is almost out of his mind with grief. But notice how consistently Paul maintains his emphasis on the individual, even in his use of collective pronouns. In verse 4 he speaks of “the people of Israel.” And from that point on he uses the plural pronoun “theirs,” indicating many individuals. In Paul’s mind there are many Israelites, but they are never (as I will prove in a moment), a single block. Israel is not a cheese, indivisible throughout. Rather Israel is an olive tree with many branches, as Paul says in chapter 11. And when Paul does mention those branches, he makes it clear that each is treated individually.

But of course Romans 9 doesn’t stop with verse 5. As Paul continues his theme of salvation for the Jews he becomes increasingly individualistic. In verse 6 he makes it clear that not all of Jacob’s sons can be called Israel. Similarly, in verse 7 he states that Abraham’s descendants can be divided into two groups, only one of which contains true children of Abraham. Only those who descend from Isaac count. But that isn’t the whole story, either. In succeeding verses Paul makes it clear that it is the spiritual children of Isaac, the “children of the promise” who are true Israelites. For the rest of the chapter Paul goes to great lengths to demonstrate that at every point along the way God works only with individuals, saving some and hardening others (v.18).

By the time he is done with his argument in Romans 9 Paul has stated plainly that the individuals who receive the blessing of God’s electing grace include, not just a remnant of Abraham’s physical descendants, but also a vast number of Gentiles (v.24). Thus the difference between Israel and non-Israel is plainly set out in verses 23-24: “What if he (God) did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory — even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” Paul is clearly speaking only of individuals being called to salvation (never families, never nations), and it is my contention that he is consistent in this approach throughout Romans 9, 10, 11 and everywhere else the subject of Israel’s salvation is addressed.

What does this mean in light of the ongoing conflict between Israel and the surrounding Muslim nations? As far as I can tell the primary response we should make as Christians is the response Paul gives in Romans 10:1. “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” Please note that even here Paul speaks of many Israelites, not Israel collectively. The actual Greek text uses the pronoun “them,” but as the NIV makes clear, “them” is a reference to individual Israelites. So regarding today’s conflict it is my contention that as Christians we have no business praying that one side or the other should “win.” Instead we should pray that Muslims and Jews alike will believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no victory if everyone on the winning side dies and goes to hell, and without Christ that is what will happen to Jews and Muslims alike. We should pray that God will use the ongoing conflict to call individuals on both sides to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Our perspective should be that of Paul’s: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer” (II Cor. 5:16). Having seen the world from heaven’s point of view Paul is now focussed on something unrelated to national destinies, i.e., the overwhelming importance of the new birth: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors. . . .” (II Cor. 5:17-20).

Do you get that? We are Christ’s ambassadors. We are first and last citizens of heaven, not some earthly nation. If I understand Paul correctly I should be able to say that in the final analysis I am not an American, nor a Canadian, nor an Israeli. I am first and last a citizen of heaven and an ambassador for Christ. Skipping to Gal. 5:15 Paul simply says, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” Of course we should pray for peace in the Middle East, but in light of I Tim. 2:1-6, the purpose of the peace for which we should pray is the advancement of the gospel. We dare not write off the possibility of the salvation of 1.6 billion Muslims just because we want to see a military victory given to 8.2 million Jews. Both Jews and Muslims need to see that their petty little quarrels are nothing when compared to an eternity of separation from the One True God! And to my mind it is a shame that Christians have muddled that message by appearing to take either side in their conflict.

From the perspective of eternity nations simply do not exist, not even a nation called Israel. Nations are never more than artificial constructs that arise and pass away in relatively brief moments of time, like so many sparks flying off a grindstone. It is only individuals who are eternal, either eternally in Christ and thus in heaven or eternally without Christ and thus in hell. By the time Paul gets to Romans 11:26 “and so all Israel will be saved,” it is abundantly clear that he is not talking about a nation. Instead, he is talking about a remnant that includes himself — those who, like the 7,000 discreet individuals God reserved for Himself in Elijah’s day, are chosen and called by grace and who have come into Christ (Rom. 11:1-6). It is for the sake of the elect that we should strive and pray until all the redeemed have come to Christ, whatever their nationality, whatever their background, whatever their previous religion.

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Too much light

This morning I came across a news article about a recent science discovery that could conceivably force the scientific world to take another look at the Genesis account of creation, depending, of course, on whether it can be confirmed by further study (and by “it” I mean the recent discovery, not the Genesis account). But more about that in a minute.

First, I want to reaffirm what I preached this past Sunday morning at my church. On the authority of the word of God I can say that acceptance of the Bible’s creation record is arguably the foundation of all true faith in God. Read again Hebrews 11:3 (the text for Sunday’s message).

Heb. 11:3 “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

Every commentator agrees that here the inspired writer is teaching creation ex nihilo (out of nothing). But in the context of Hebrews 11 it seems clear to me, at least, that we are being asked to also agree that this creation out of nothing took place exactly as Genesis describes in its first chapter. If you look at this verse in context you will see that the writer moves from affirming God’s creative power to a discussion of Abel’s faith. Abel is a character found in Genesis 4, and it just so happens that he was the second son born to the original human couple, Adam and Eve. In other words, there is no doubt in the Biblical writer’s mind that the early chapters of Genesis tell the literal truth about the origin of the universe, the formation and population of the earth and the special creation of humankind. Nor should there be any doubt in any Christian’s mind that as disciples of Jesus Christ we are obligated to believe what the biblical writers believed.

Which brings me to one of the strangest conundrums in the Christian world. By what possible justification do Christians, and especially Christians who confess the Bible is the Word of God, jettison the first several chapters of Genesis just because a handful of primitive, atheistic, 19-century evolutionists declared them to be in error? (You don’t think those guys were primitive? The scientific instruments they worked with were less sophisticated than the ones you buy for your children at Toys R’ Us, the consequence being that Darwin et al. had no idea what went on inside a living cell. Nor did they suspect the existence of DNA and RNA, let alone understand the cell’s overall complexity. Yet their faithless speculations continue to control what Christians believe? The mind boggles.)

One thing can be said about this phenomenon; if Christians choose Darwin and his billions of years over Genesis and its six days of creation it is a choice based on something other than science. Not only has no proof for macro-evolution ever been presented (there are no missing links), the relatively recent explosion of knowledge regarding the incredible complexity of a single living cell has demonstrated that evolution is scientifically impossible. Thus we are forced to conclude that the millions of species that make up life on planet earth were designed and created, and that is a task that only God could do.

Now for the science
Astrophysical Journal, has just published research that demonstrates scientists can’t account for all the light shining in the universe. In other words, all the stars shining together get nowhere near to being able to provide the amount of light that can be measured. Actually, the stars fail to account for up to 80% of the light that is out there. As lead researcher Juna Kollmeier said to reporter Hannah Osborne: “It’s as if you’re in a big, brightly-lit room, but you look around and see only a few 40-watt light bulbs. Where is all that light coming from? It’s missing from our census.”

When I read this I immediately began thinking of the Bible’s teaching that creation began when God said, in Genesis 1:3, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” In this text God seems to be declaring that light filled the universe before there was any known source of light. That is problematic for a lot of people; because anyone with a brain capable of thinking logically has probably already asked the question, “How could light shine in the universe for three days before the creation of the Sun, Moon and stars in Gen. 1:14-19?” The answer to this logical question is still unknown, but the existence of light without a known source now seems proven. As co-author Neal Katz told Osborne: “The most exciting possibility is that the missing photons are coming from some exotic new source, not galaxies or quasars at all.”

Or maybe its an old source, the oldest of all — God Himself!

For more information go to http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/missing-light-crisis-something-amiss-universe-1456091

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