I’m Not the Villain Here!

My favorite movie of all time was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched it as a child and with my own children.  One interesting fact that really says much about the quality of the film, is that it is based on a book by Ian Fleming, the former British Naval Intelligence officer and the author of the James Bond 007 spy novels.  The film was only loosely adapted from Fleming’s successful children’s book but the production by Albert R. Broccoli, who also produced many of the Bond films, made the story pop in the screen play.   Dick Van Dyke solidified the success of the film with an encore performance, after starring in the fantastical “Mary Poppins” four years earlier.   Okay, where am I going with this?  Do you remember Baron and Baroness Bomburst?  Do you remember what they hated the most?  They despised children.  To combat the problem of children in their kingdom they employed the Child Catcher.   The scene where the Potts children were hiding at the toymaker’s shop while the Child Catcher menacingly rides into the village in the Kingdom of Vulgaria on his horse drawn carriage with his child catching net still scares me.  Voted by Entertainment Weekly in 2008 as one of the top 50 most vile villains in screen history, the Child Catcher ranked above the Wicked Witch of the West . However, though you may think so after this article, I am not he who hates children.  I love children, but I see them for what they are.  As I began this series, and told you that it was designed not to instruct but to encourage. I knew I would have to tread on a topic that some might think a little harsh.  Just like boot camp, we must be broken down before we are built back up.  Okay, here goes!  Children are generally hated by God before they are loved by God.

Who in their right mind could have hated Jeremy and Jemima Potts.  Just watch the movie and you will see two of the sweetest, most pure, harmless… enough with the adjectives, but you get the picture.  The “Toot Sweet” scene with the lovely Truly Scrumptious was adorable, right.   Of course, they had to be portrayed as such to create the antithesis for the Baron’s and Baroness’ antagonism.  Who would want to injure these adorable little children?  Let us leave the fantasy land and enter the world in which we live.  How do you view the spiritual nature of your children?  Is it from the world’s perspective where, more like the film, children are seen as innocent, not responsible for their imperfections and transgressions?  When a child misbehaves is it sinful or simply childish?  Is your child’s relentless energy or, stated another way, running, talking, wiggling, et cetera, when they’ve been told not to, benign or malignant?  Is their failure to follow instruction foolishness or ignorance?

If you are a follower of Christ, your answers to these questions are very important.  I am aware that there may be some doctrinal differences amongst those who read this blog.  I do not wish to tread on your belief system, as far as, when a child comes to faith or is saved, at least not today.

Let’s work in reverse order of the questions I just asked.  Are your children foolish or ignorant?  Let’s define the terms as we know them to be.  Foolishness is the lack of good sense or judgement.  Ignorance is the lack of knowledge or awareness.  God tells us, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Prov. 22:15)  Do you see the desparate situation here.  The soul of the child is enslaved to poor judgement.  Solomon, the foremost child psychologist, does not say that a lack of information is the problem with the child’s behavior.  Neither is it a retention issue. It’s not that he forgot you told him to stop running in the Church building,  so he does not lack the information.  He simply uses poor judgement by choosing what he wants to do over what you told him to do.  For those of us who took a little psychology in college, we could argue the lack of development of the prefrontal cortex, the executive decision or judgement making portion of the brain. All right, props for that observation. The prefrontal cortex is supposedly fully functional by age 25.  I know a lot of foolish adults and my horses don’t even have a prefrontal cortex and they have pretty good judgement. I digress.

Next, is your energizer bunny’s behavior benign (harmless) or malignant (harmful)?  We’ll according to God, if it is caused by foolishness, and in the very next portion of the Proverb he says that “only the rod of discipline” will remove it, foolishness, from him, then it must be judged to be malignant.  God would not recommend the use of corporal punishment for something benign or harmless.  What your children are doing is what Paul called “suppressing the truth by their wickedness.”  Remember, they are not ignorant of the fact that you have told them five times today not to run in the Church building, and five hundred times since they began to understand language.  They know what you told them, they just refuse to do it.  They suppress it.  Read on in Paul’s introductory chapter of Romans (1:19-32.)  Go read it! Several times he refers to the foolishness of men, not their ignorance.  But you say, “This is bad stuff they are doing!  These are some nasty people!”  What does this have to do with my little darling.  Well, little Johnny is capable of all this stuff, eventually. Currently, however, he is included in the same category of them whom God has revealed his wrath upon by the implications of verse 30, “they disobey their parents.”  Now, is their behavior malignant or benign?  Use your prefrontal cortex.  You be the judge because Paul already did.  He called it foolishness.

Lastly, is their misbehavior sin or is it just being children?  If we still have to answer this question then I have failed and you might as well click off. The Westminster Divines defined sin as any lack of conformity to or transgression of the law of God.  I think we can make a sound argument for a sinful condition. Your child is, just like you, and just like the vilest of the vile, a sinner, justly deserving God’s displeasure, and without hope save in God’s sovereign mercy.

This is quite a picture of desperation.  Some may believe that God gives children a pass,  an age of responsibility at which somehow magically, children move form one category of person to another.  Haven’t found that one in scripture yet, but I’m not an exhaustive source.  What I have found is that God has provided a remedy for the problem of sin in our children.  He has also provided that wicked little viper an advocate. You being a godly parent is the most typical means that God grows his kingdom. Your child is born with its own personal priest. Your first duty in the Great Commission is not a mission trip to Uganda, but rather the evangelization of your child, whether they are infants or adults.  Your child has you to lead them to claiming God’s promises as their own and to assist them in inheriting the kingdom you inherited.  Acknowledging that your child is tenuously dangling over the fires of Hell is the first step in invoking the mercies of God in Christ Jesus.

More Things Near and Dear

As my last two posts, “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Lean On Your Lover,” dealt with the topic of our temporal and our eternal marriages, I thought that the next few posts should deal with something else that is also near and dear to our hearts, children.  Many  experienced teachers and counselors are available that far outweigh me in the area of advice on raising children.  The raising of children is not my area of expertise so I do not intend to offer my two cents worth on that topic.  The only weight I carry is that, like many of you, I’ve been there done that, and  I claim no certification.  Also, as many of you have already raised your children, these posts and my two cents may seem passe.  However looking backward without vain regrets is heathy for us all.  As some of you may only be children and far from being parents, you can benefit by reading these posts from which you may see a need for reorientation of your views toward being children of God.

I’m not a big fan of self-help books or programs.  You know the type.  The author usually has a bunch of letters before or behind his name and he is eager to let you know that he is an expert and you are an imbecile.  They go around promoting their work speaking at conferences and selling their potions like the snake oil salesmen that they usually are.  Hind sight is usually your only defense against their snares.  Quite often, only time will tell that they nor their advice were particularly effective at solving your problem.  Remember there is nothing new under the sun, just repackaging.

When we started our family, I remember the popular books and programs that were recommended to us.  How we were raised wasn’t right, so here’s how you fix how poorly your parents messed you up.  I was always mesmerized to hear and see how these plans resulted in all these perfect little angels who walked in lockstep to their parents direction.  One plan in particular, let’s call it, “Raise Your Children Our Way” by Godly George and Saintly Susan, promoted having your children voice there concerns over the justness of your directions to them by giving them the opportunity to appeal your decisions.  Literally the child was taught to say, “May I appeal” when you ruled on matters of behavior .  For example, Dad comes home and the child’s bike is in the driveway and he has to get out of his car and move it.   The child had been told not to leave their bike in the driveway.  Dad would then go to the child and say, “I told you not to leave your bike in the driveway and therefore you will not be able to ride your bike for two days.”  The child could then say, “May I appeal?”  Dad could then grant an appeal to the child but he would qualify the appeal request by stipulating that the child must introduce “new information” in his defense. In other words, stuff Dad couldn’t have possibly known, due to his self absorbed awareness of only that which was Dad stuff.  For example, the child could make the argument that the fact that a terrible electrical storm arose out of nowhere as he was riding and as he raced home he crashed into the fence and fell causing great bodily injury, and by the time he regained consciousness he was so disoriented that he could not locate the garage, and when he finally did get his bearings, he found that  the power had been lost due to a tree falling on the electrical service connection, and the garage door would not open, and after locating his mother, who was diligently making bread in the kitchen, sewing  new clothes for the other fifteen children, singing hymns and oblivious to the hurricane outside, she was unable to manually open the garage door, due to the fact that pulling the red handle on the cord hanging from the latch was a “man” thing and out of her sphere of wifely responsibility, he was providentially hindered from completing the duty of putting his bike away.  The child would then sum up his defense in a closing argument that due to the totality of the circumstances he did not feel as though he was guilty of the crime of negligent bike putting away and was therefore suing for mercy.  Dad would then evaluate the “new information” and make his ruling.  Everyone could then have a group hug.

What a wonderful system this is. We should by the six DVD set and accompanying book, workbook, quick reference guide and charts to stick on the refrigerator,  take it home and try it out on our little brood, right!  This will solve all our problems!  We will have perfect little children too and everyone at Church will think we are the super sanctified duo.  They might even let us teach the parenting class next season.  We still laugh about that one.  I’m pretty sure that my wife saw through that scam but I bought it hook, line, and sinker. There were several along the way and I do not disparage anyone who has a successful plan that works for them.  However, there is no one size fits all system developed by man.

My chief point in all this is to say, in God’s plan for parents, he assumes one fact that we don’t often factor in.  His plan is perfect and was implemented before the dawn of time, specifically suited for your individual good and His triune Glory.  Your successes and your failures were predetermined by the counsel His will.  Your weakness and dependence upon his sovereignty in raising your children is for His Glory.

That’s why the series of posts forthcoming will not be about raising our children.  Rather it will be about the nature of God’s raising His children.  I plan to use examples of God’s sovereign grace, righteousness (promise keeping),  justice and truth to make the case for our trusting in him.  Stay tuned.

“Lean On Your Lover” the Song of Songs

Yesterday’s post “Some kind of Wonderful” seemed to really hit the mark, resulting in the highest number of hits in the blogs history. My wife and Jesus as the main characters obviously had a lot to do with its success.  They are my favorite topics as well.  As things go, I normally don’t post again for a few days.  However, in the providence of the Lord, that really weird thing happened this morning where God puts before me, without any effort on my part, more information on the same theme I had been thinking about.  God continues the conversation to make sure I get the message.

If you have been following me you know of my relationship with Thomas Boston.  Well at least posthumously.  As God would have it, the sermon I read this morning, delivered  to his Congregation in the summer of 1721, fell perfectly in line with the topic of yesterday’s post, marriages, both humanly and spiritually.  He preached a series that summer on Song of Songs 8:5 “Who is this coming from the wilderness leaning on her lover?”  The summer sermon series in rural Scotland in the 18th Century was the highlight of preachers efforts.  Good weather and long days meant that everyone in the congregation could attend, because they would not generally be hindered by bad weather or sickness.  Unlike today, the pastor nor the congregation were taking vacations, so the pews were full.  Now I wouldn’t expect to see this verse on the marque of the typical Church building you drive by today, with the catch phrase “Lean On Your Lover.”  For Boston, however, there was much to unpack in this fragment of one verse.

The ancient customs of the Jews had some traditions about the wedding ceremony that we might find a little strange today.  The betrothed would go out into a field, or woods or some place away from the eyes and ears of attendees and express to one another their nuptial-song.  Something like the exchanging of that sappy stuff where modern couples make up their own little “I love you because” spiels and say them to each other nervously in front of the very uncomfortable spectators, at least from the men’s pespective.  Not my cup of tea, but each to his own.  In this culture that stuff was done privately.  Their return to the wedding guests signified that the marriage was official, in that the bride would be physically leaning on and being led by the husband as they walked back from the wilderness..  They would walk straight to the house of the bridegroom’s father and not return publically until the next day.  I suppose I left out what they would be doing there, but you get the idea.  He was leading the bride to her new home, her new family, under his care and responsibility, and she was going willingly, dependently, faithfully, and permanently.

Do you see the beauty of this?  Do you get the significance?  I’m afraid this ancient near east tradition gets lost in translation today.  Spiritually this is the picture of Christ leading us home as his most treasured possession.  He has said his nuptial song to us by his word, the gospel, and being applied by the Holy Spirit.  His covenant cannot be broken.  We are betrothed, wed, vowed to by him, and sealed in his blood.  As his bride, like the bride at this wedding, we should not be looking back at the world we are leaving and not blindly following behind him like a train of servants trailing some earthly prince.  Rather we should lean on him, being supported, and never wanting to fall behind.  Our home now is his father’s kingdom, a place he has prepared for us full of our new relations, the Church.

God speaks to us often in scripture in the framework of marriage.  The prophet Hosea, speaking for God about the reconciliation of the children of Israel, says, “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.” (Hosea 2:19)  A betrothal was a contractual agreement, typically involving the paying of the bride-price to the future father in-law.  Do you get the picture?  Christ paid the bride price to our adoptive Father, and bought us for himself and the promissory note was his righteousness, justice, love, and compassion.  We are given to Christ to be his bride because of his covenant made with God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.  This is no partnership, where we share responsibility to uphold the contractual agreement or the contract becomes void. In fact partnerships are not biblical.  Abraham did not form an LLC with Lot.  He gave him the land he wanted and he took what was left.  No chance of falling out over who profited most from which fleece.   Do you even see where we, the bride, even play a role in the negotiations?   We are responsive to the contractors, in that their faithfulness to uphold the terms elicits our loving devotion.  Isn’t that convenient because we are by nature contract breakers and our signing the contract would be no guarantee of surety.  We have no dowery. I love the legalese of Scripture.

Practically, is this the picture you get of marriage today, even “Christian” marriage?  I think, more often than not, marriage today doesn’t even resemble biblical marriage.  For example, the picture of this ancient Jewish wedding, with the bride leaning on the bride-groom, her lover, as Solomon puts it, is only symbolically reproduced when the bride takes the arm of the groom as they recede down the aisle.  How does any of this square today?  Why is she leaning? She is trusting where he’s leading her. This is how the scriptural command of submission by the wife is defined. Paul tells the Ephesians, “Wives submit to your husbands.” (5:22) A commentary on this passage defines submission as living in grateful acknowledgement of her husband’s care and leadership.  The picture in the Jewish wedding is not the husband dragging the bride by her hair, nor is she blindfolded and gagged.  In contrast neither are they holding hands skipping down the isle.  She is allowing herself to be gently led and willingly walking.

Recently I found out that someone I knew was in the process of a divorce.  I attended this couple’s wedding and witnessed their vows.  When the minister got to the bride’s vow, he led her to promise to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish, till death do us part.  Wait, did my ears deceive me? Did their Pastor have a senior moment? Something was missing. A four letter word was left out. Was it intentional?  It should have been right between the cherishing part and the death part.  Did you catch it?  What happened to the “obey” part.  Me being me, I had to find out.  Later on I cornered the unsuspecting padre and asked him about his omission.  “I’m a little curious,”, I lied to him, I was a lot curious.  “Did you mean to leave out of the vows for her to obey her husband?”  The Pastor’s response floored me.  He said that the vow to obey was not required “anymore.”  I had to bid him adieu before I came unglued.  Where did he come off saying that God no longer required, as if the scriptures had an appendix, the wife to obey her husband?  Wasn’t this a Protestant and evangelical denomination?  How did we come to this point?

For one thing, it’s just plain bad theology.  The Roman Catholic church has never required the obedience vow. Don’t call yourself a protestant if you’re not willing to protest the Roman Catholic traditions. The Roman Empire brought about mutual consent marriages. That is, they did away with betrothal for commoners.   Anyone could marry anyone and if it didn’t work out they could have a do-over. They allowed the publicans to do about anything they wanted as long as there allegiance to the emperor was maintained.  Well you know what happened to the Romans.

A poor definition of obedience is another reason for the deletion of the vow.  Go back to the picture of the Jewish ceremony.  Does that look like oppression or tyranny?  The definition of obedience is even more clearly explained by Paul when he tells the Ephesian wives why they must submit.  “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” (Ephes. 5:22) I’m obviously not a wife.  I tread on dangerous ground here as I am quite aware that yesterday’s post was mostly read by my wife’s facebook friends, and if you are following with this post you may be ready to click off.  Just hang on I’m coming to the best part.

In Paul’s reasoning for the wife’s required obedience he says more to husbands than wives. Husbands you must be Christ to your wife.  What does that entail?  In simple terms, when Paul goes on to husbands in verse 25 he says to love your wives as Christ loved the church.  You know the story.  You are to sacrifice yourself for her up to and including death.  Do you know what that entails?  Read the gospel accounts of Christ’s life.  From birth in a dirty animal pen, to an agonizing death at the hands of his oppressors, as Christ you must love her actively by your willingness to sacrifice. You must be willing to live a life of a man without status, tempted by Satan and the world, rejected by men, even your own family, for the sake of your wife.  You must even be willing to endure the scorn of those who you are sacrificing for as Christ endures our scorn manifested in our disobedience. Why did Christ give up a throne in heaven, to condescend to human form?  Not for himself but for the Glory of the Father and the good of his bride.  Are you willing to make her obedience easy?  Christ did ours.  Her ability to obey you is directly dependent on your willingness to love her. We love Christ because he first loved us, and gave himself as a propitiation , a covering to shield us from the wrath of God.  You are her shield.  In fact you are to love her in spite of her obedience. Now man up!  Ok ladies. You may now share this post with your husbands?  They can hate me more now than yesterday.

For those of you who are old hats at this marriage thing, you know what I’m saying.  You know the lows and highs of it.  For some of you this may all be new and overwhelming.  For some of you God may intend that you not be distracted by living in union with another sinner, but rather he intends for you to live as his bride only.  Regardless of your situation, the picture of marriage in the Song of Songs, the prophets, the histories and law, the visions, the Psalms, the Proverbs, the gospel accounts, and the epistles all apply to you and me.  I am not qualified to counsel you on this topic but God is.  Use the word of God to guide you through this pilgrimage in this wilderness and lean on you lover, Christ our Lord.

God willing, I rest my case.

Some Kind of Wonderful

Some songs are timeless and can pass across generational and genre boundaries with ease. In 1967 the rhythm and blues band Soul Brothers Six released the song “Some Kind of Wonderful.”  The name of the band tells it all.  The lyrics come from the soul.  R & B music, which was born out of a quest for freedom and joy by a disadvantaged culture in the middle 20th century, was the source for many future songwriter’s material across multiple genres, primarily because the common man could relate to the message and the insistent beat made it a catchy tune.  Over the next generation this title would be reproduced by the rock super group Grand Funk Railroad (1974), country music legend Conway Twitty (1977), the German metal band Viva (1982), pop star Huey Lewis (1994), British rock vocalist Paul Rodgers, formally of Bad Company, accompanied by blues guitar great Buddy Guy (1997), and England’s BBC actress and singer Joss Stone (2003), though she changed the gender pronouns.

Why was this song so special that so many artists borrowed it to speak to their followers?  Simply put, it appeals to one of the most basic desires that a man has in his soul, whether he knows it or not, which is to have a good wife.  The creation mandate, how things were created to be in a perfect world, was that man would have a helpmeet.  He would call her his wife and he would treasure her above all things on earth. God describes this gift in her perfection in Proverbs 31.  She was to be a rare jewel.  The rarity made her precious.

I am partial to the Grand Funk version of “Some Kind of Wonderful”. As a Billboard topper in the 70s and a classic rock pernnial, I have always liked the moderate rock shuffle beat and the jazz style licks.  However just the other day while riding on the tractor mowing pastures, my preferred music theory classroom, I had a revelation about the lyrics.  What the songwriter was saying,  I already knew and just needed reminding.  My wife is “some kind of wonderful.” She is what the writer was describing that he had. Just check out the first stanza and chorus:

I don’t need a whole lots of money,
I don’t need a big fine car.
I got everything that a man could want,
I got more than I could ask for.
I don’t have to run around,
I don’t have to stay out all night.
‘Cause I got me a sweet… a sweet, lovin’ woman,
And she knows just how to treat me right.

Well my baby, she’s alright,
Well my baby, she’s clean out-of-sight.
Don’t you know that she’s… she’s some kind of wonderful.
She’s some kind of wonderful… yes she is, she’s,
She’s some kind of wonderful, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeahhh

Today is my 27th wedding anniversary and this post is intended to express how thankful I am for my wife and for God’s providence in her.  He has seen fit to give me what I need and what I want all wrapped up in one little package.  He does not always give you what you want and what you need.  In fact it is rather rare that he does because quite often the two are antithetical.  It was actually 34 years ago that I determined that she was what I wanted.  My first experience with high school romance was it.  No playing the field for me.  My mission was to secure for myself that one perfect girl. I was playing for keeps.  Well, as things went initially, I was the only one on board with this plan, not surprisingly of course.  You might say I was a little overbearing.  What on earth was I thinking?  She was a smart, pretty, popular girl and a cheerleader.  I was, well, none of the above.  In my defense,  I’m not sure I was allowed to be a cheerleader, discrimination and all that.  As things normally go, in a world that doesn’t appreciate the possibility of a fairy tale ending, life got in the way.  High school, college, finding a job, and many hurdles along the way, were, by God’s hand, put behind us and our union was complete.  I was completed seven years later.  We tied the knot.

There is, in a certain sense, a rarity to our story.  I quite often am very pleased with myself for “making” this marriage happen.  I guess I should be, although I was obviously such a wonderful catch that she shouldn’t have needed convincing.  In God’s economy, however, he chose for us this path, modeled after the union of Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5), with a few exceptions I suppose. Not the least of which is my poor portrayal of Christ. Rather than prophet, priest, and king, I was agitator, aggravator, and royal pain in the butt.

The truth is that God, in his goodness and mercy, has made the “fairy tale romance” attainable for all of his children.  The true story is found in the union of believers and Christ, and that can be real for anyone whom he has called. The Song of Solomon describes the romantic beauty of our regenerate union with Christ. You may or may not have the spouse you always wanted or have a spouse at all. In the counsel of God’s will he decides what is best for you.  Whether you have a perfect marriage or none at all, you have the opportunity to say you have the perfect husband in Christ, for he is your true love, your first place love and object of your affection.  Take what ever situation you have been given and use it for the Glory of your savior.  Cling to your true, faultless, and always faithful spouse who will not and cannot ever forsake you. He’s some kind of wonderful!

In the words of the Soul Brothers Six:
Can I get a witness?
Can I get a witness? Yeah…
Can I get a witness? Ohhh…
Can I get a witness? Yeah…
Can I get a witness? Yes

 

God’s Favor Grounds Us

My life has been relatively free from trouble and pain.  I say relatively because when I compare my issues with many other people, I don’t have much to complain about.  One might say I am blessed.  Well, from the true meaning of the word, as it is used in the scriptures, often defined as made happy or blissful, I’m not certain that the word applies to me.  Though it certainly should,  my self esteem gets in the way and causes me trouble.  My old self is constantly informing me of what I “deserve.”  I suppose you might say I get conceited.  We deserve easy passage in this life, right?  However, God does not abandon me when I start thinking like this.   Before long he brings my feet right back down to earth.

God sometimes uses a most effective means of helping us with conceit.  Paul called it a thorn in the flesh.  2 Corinthians 12:7 is where Paul says, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.”  I won’t begin to deal with some of the difficulties of this passage like what his thorn was or who or what the messenger of Satan was.  That really doesn’t matter for now. Whatever they were, they were given by God for the purpose of regulating his self-esteem.

In a sermon on the topic of a Christian obtaining favor from God, Thomas Boston points out that sometimes God’s favor is not what we would call a gift.  You’ve heard it said “Don’t do me any favors” when someone does something for you or to you that they deem good but appear bad to you.  We say that very same thing to God when he meets out to us that which we determine to be one of those frowning providences.  Here is how Boston puts it.  “It is no small favor to the Christian to have a thorn of uneasiness put under him while he is here to keep him from lying down in a lions den.  Every rub that a Christian meets with in his way through the world is a memorandum for him that this is not his rest.”  At times God will chasten you by his very obvious works of providence.  When you dabble in ways directly contrary to God’s commands, he may smite you harshly.  Other times he may simply give you the nagging sensation that something is just not right.  Sometimes he may cause you to feel no pleasure in what others find enjoyable.  Most commonly God just causes you to take little comfort in the things of this world.  All of which are blessings because your joy must come in Him.

Spend some time today applying the Haggai technique.  Meditate on how God uses a thorn of uneasiness or lack of ease in your life.  Ask God to show you why.  Look to Christ who is the author and finisher of your faith to help you identify these lions dens he wants you to avoid and to find where your help comes from.  I’m certain you will see his favor towards you.

500 Years On: Let’s End the Sale of Self Indulgences

Stephen McAlpine

The Protestant Church could do worse this 500th Reformation year than ending the habit that has gripped so much of the church at the pointy end of the 20th and start of the 21st centuries, namely the promulgation of self-indulgence.

Just as the Reformation was birthed by Martin Luther’s revulsion at the sale of indulgences to build St Peter’s in Rome, how about we put our hand up, and say “Nein!” to what, quite frankly is self-indulgence espoused in the name of the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.

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Self indulgence by an over-bloated, self-focussed Western Protestant Church that, in the midst of a cultural tsunami, is content with navel gazing; is in thrall to celebrity; and is all too eager to sanctify dodgy methodologies with sub-scriptural, or non-scriptural reasoning.  A bit like those medieval indulgences were if truth be told.

Carl Trueman and Amy Bird made…

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The Good Ole Days???

“Put out the spotlights, one and all
Then let the feelin’ get down to your soul
The music’s so loud, you can hear the sound
Reaching for the sky, churnin’ up the ground
It’s all part of my rock and roll fantasy
It’s all part of my rock and roll dream”

As a teenager I was in a rock band.  Short lived though it was,  I still have that rock and roll fantasy. The music and the culture influenced me and I’m sure, from my parents perspective, quite negatively. These lyrics from the 1970’s British group Bad Company tell it all.  That period of the 60″s and 70’s greatly influenced young people in the western world to break out of the cultural and moral restraints which they perceived to be in place.   Little did the hippie generation know, they were really a product not of social change but rather a social norm.  Institutions gauged the moral compass and determined there to be a spiraling decline of future mores and values.

Paul Rodgers, the front man for Bad Company, had quite the ironic reason for the name of the band.  While browsing through a 19th century book on morals and etiquette he saw a picture of a young boy looking up at a man leaning against a light post.  The man was portraying what today we might refer to as a thug.  The caption read, “Beware of Bad Company.”  The idea was that you shouldn’t hang out with a bad crowd because they might cause you to behave the same way, BAD.  By naming his band Bad Company Rodgers was basically saying that he new their influence was going to be amoral. Was he, though, part of the degradation of society?   Were the times an indication of a coming apocalypse of moral decay?

From a perspective removed by some 100 years, what was popular in 1970, morally, compared to 1870, makes for an interesting sociological discussion.  During the Victorian era Christian values were promoted and accepted as the norms of society.  Being “good” was popular.  Literature, art, even science promoted the moral improvement of man’s evolution.  Government, both civil and ecclesiastical, declared that high moral standards were the necessary means to a happy end.  The question is, did the people agree?  Was this era of a higher moral standard than that of the free love, dope smoking, rock and rolling era of the 1970’s and beyond?  Are we today, both youth and baby boomers alike, more corrupt than those of the Victorian age or any other age, for that matter?

Being that we have no crystal ball or time machine, we have to trust the recorded history we have available to get any idea of how things were before our own time.  The other problem to consider is the accuracy of the history and how the opinion and perception of the writer of history effects the accounting.  Even I have slanted opinions.  I can be eisegetical.  Today we call it spin.  We can spin any history to fit our position.

Well, I guess you could say that I am putting my own spin own this article.  Okay, I am, but it’s my blog.  Here’s the challenge that I give you. Test the facts.  Start with the scriptures.  If you read the account of man’s history in the bible you see a pretty bleak picture.  From the creation account to the gospels and epistles what is the picture you get of the moral condition of man?  I realize the bible only gives you a history of certain cultures and nations, not the whole world,  but just from what you read, isn’t it obvious that most people were rather immoral.  Now look at secular history from early AD to present.  What is the trend?  Even if you are not a history buff.  Even if your only experience of history is in the movies and TV.  The trend is a general overall improvement in the moral fiber of people as a whole.  I dare anyone to dispute this interpretation.

Let us just look at the Victorian Age in North America.  Remember, we have a relatively short history so it is easy to pick out the trend in our momentary existence.  Right smack dab in the middle of the reign of Queen Victoria, we have the War between the States.  The atrocities committed in the years before, during and after this war are unimaginable.  There had to be some general moral fault that could make the majority of some of the most advanced people group on the planet behave in such a way.  If you wish to compare the riots, murders, theft, abortion, drug addiction, divorce or what ever other debauchery of today, they will not hold a candle to what occurred during this period proclaimed to be the ‘good ole days.’   This was a time when prayer and the bible were in schools, the major universities were church affiliated, and almost all political offices were held by “church going” men.  With all of these attributes in place, which the Christian conservative right rally for today, people were enslaved for economic advantage both in the North through unlivable wages as well as in the south through bondage.  Men slaughtered one another both through military battle and civilian property devastation.  Afterward, a period  called reconstruction was actually legalized theft and economic oppression.  The spoils going to the victor.

What I am driving at is that we cannot assume that things are worse today than in the past.  In fact, I would contend that as far as morality goes, as a whole, things are getting better. There are more followers of Christ alive on earth today than ever before.  The word of God is spreading to every tongue, tribe and nation and the Spirit is making it effectual.  Don’t sit around watching Fox news and drowning in the swell of doom and gloom.  If you do, you are falling for Satan’s scheme to make you doubt the sovereignty of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is King, not the POTUS.  He is gathering a people for himself and does not need the government of any nation to assist him.  Certainly it may be more comfortable to live as a Christian in a Christian theocracy.  Comfort, however, is not necessarily one of the prescribed benefits of Christian society here on earth.

As followers of Christ we must not focus on what we see before our eyes but rather what God tells us in his word.  Don’t be near sighted in the sense that what we see is what is important.  Have faith that God in time past has foreordained everything that has and will come to pass.  I confess that for many years I thought it “Christian like” to fall into the sign of the times camp.  End times theories of war and immorality seemed to always be talking points and motivation for change.  Our motivation for change should be the internal work of the Spirit which only God himself can impart.  God did not set the world in motion by winding it up and setting it down to watch it spin out of control and self destruct.  He carefully works to engineer this world in order to make a more perfect world.