The Exodus of Exodus

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Matthew 9:10–13 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

If you haven’t heard the news, one of the most enduring “Evangelical” ministries focusing on people who struggle with same sex attraction – Exodus International – is shutting itself down.

Founded in 1976, Exodus International sprang out of the Melody Land Church in California. It grew to be the umbrella for over 120 ministries in the United States, and for 150 more in some 17 other countries.

In a nearly one hour talk given by President Alan Manning Chambers at EI’s 38th annual conference, June 19 of this year – Chambers announced that the Board of Directors had unanimously voted to cease operations. According to Wikipedia – “In January 2012 then-current president of Exodus International Alan Chambers, during his address to a Gay Christian Network conference, stated that 99.9% of conversion therapy participants do not experience any change to their sexuality and apologized for the previous Exodus slogan “Change Is Possible”.

While we cannot take up the topic of how EI’s errant view of sanctification may be at the root of much of their failure – nevertheless we have another truly profound aspect of this issue to wrestle with.

Shedding even more light on the subject was last night’s airing of Our America, hosted by Lisa Ling on the OWN network. There, Chambers and his wife met with a group from the gay and lesbian community, to hear how they had been hurt by EI in its approach (and what they perceived as the false promise of “Change is Possible”), and for Chambers to express his apology for those hurts. And it was there that the issues behind the issues really began to come to the surface.

Let me be clear that I in no wise wish to minimize the pain and hurt the greater Church (and perhaps these ministries to the homosexual communities especially) have inexcusably and needlessly caused many in this struggle. There has been hard-hearted, truly anti-Christlike attitudes and actions carried out in the name of the Gospel. Barking vulgar epithets, demonizing, cruel jokes, and outright hatred have no place in the Body of Christ when dealing with others, no matter what the sin. At the same time, what became clear both in Chambers’ address at the annual conference, and out of the mouths of those confronting him on Our America, is that there is an underlying consideration which must be dealt with by everyone on both sides of the debate. At the heart of it, is the nature of the Gospel itself.

During Chambers’ speech, he alluded to relatively new book by Tyler Wiggs-Stevenson – “The World is Not Ours to Save.” Chamber cited Wiggs-Stevenson as building thoughts around the phenomena of many soldiers who leave active combat very quickly re-enlisting. They have been so accustomed to fighting in a war and being in combat, that being out of that environment is something they cannot adjust to. They don’t know how to live without an enemy – in the Church (Chambers noted), we too have gotten to the point of needing an enemy. Quoting Wiggs-Stevenson he added “Loving the fight with sin, means loving sin itself. It means you can’t want to win because what would you do if you did?” Chambers then adds, that he believes it is time in the church, that we lay our weapons down. But when it comes to fighting sin and its inward motions – Chambers and Wiggs-Stevenson couldn’t be more wrong. That battle does not end in this life. Ever.

Conspicuously absent from anything Chambers said in his address, was anything remotely related to the Gospel calling those who hear it to abandon sin in turning to Christ. The only emphasis was upon Christ’s acceptance of all. But any notion of repentance was totally missing.

Then we return to last night’s TV show. And what I found interesting was that the same idea of a Gospel which has no repentance component to it – was being argued for by some of Chamber’s confronters. In fact several noted that what they felt was wrong with the Church period, is that they were made to feel like sinners, like there was something wrong with them the way they were born. Thus the Church was unaccepting, unaffirming, and a dangerous place to be. The Church denied them the right to just feel like they were OK, with whoever they were and whatever they did.

Hence it is I have cited the text I have today. For it speaks to this current trend of a repentance-free Gospel of “come to Christ”, but no need to turn from sin, or to acknowledge that one even IS a sinner. And if Jesus didn’t come to save us FROM our sins, not to remain in them – then I for one have no idea what salvation means.

In the text, Jesus is being questioned about His dining with “sinners.” The Pharisees didn’t like it. But we must note that Jesus didn’t say “they aren’t sinners, everyone is fine the way they are” – He went on to explain that it was sinners indeed that He came to save. The bottom line being – and I NEVER in a million years ever thought this idea would need defending, but here we are – if you want to be like a Pharisee, and deny you have sin and NEED saving from it, that you ARE a sinner – you can’t be saved!

Jesus’ point to the Pharisees is if you will not reckon yourself a sinner, sick with that deadly disease and in need of a Savior and that all is lost – you cannot be saved. If you know you need mercy because you know your own guilt, you are of all men most blessed – for He delights to show it.

As I listened both to Chambers, and the complainants, what everyone seems to want is justification for remaining as they are, no matter how polluted with, damaged by or bound in sin. They want God to simply accept them – and not try to change them. They want to ignore the fact we were all made in the image of God, but in sin and rebellion have horrifically marred that image – and that in salvation, God is working to restore that image.

We ARE damaged goods. We ALL come into the world sinners. Gays and lesbians are no exception, nor I would argue any worse – but left with the unique set of challenges that brings to any and all who come to Christ to be “cleansed” and reconciled to the God we are estranged from and living in rebellion against.

This Beloved is what the Gospel is all about. Every single one of us born to Adam’s race are damaged goods. We all need changed. Infinitely more than any of us imagine. He doesn’t call us to change ourselves first before we come to Him. Nor does He leave it to our own devices once we have come. But if no change is needed, if nothing needs cleansed away, if we are all fine as is – then Christ died needlessly, if not foolishly or insanely. To deny these facts is to deny the need for the Gospel, for the incarnation, and especially for the cross. If our sin wasn’t both guilt and pollution, then the cross means nothing. If it is not Jesus taking the just wrath of God that we deserved – then it is utter nonsense. And yet this is precisely what the new Gospel, the Gospel without repentance, the Gospel which invites all but leaves them just as is – does. It negates the need for and therefore the meaning of the Cross altogether. It undoes Calvary, and denies the Gospel. It deceptively leaves men and women of all stripes still in their sins – but blind in a religious stupor that makes them believe they have become Christ’s. It is a lie.

Whether the particular symptom of our sinfulness is same sex attraction, heterosexual lust, greed, pride, violence or “whatever is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:8-11) – the call of the Gospel to us all is to forsake our sin to follow Christ. Jesus didn’t tell the woman caught in adultery that she was fine in her extra-marital relationships as is – He forgave her, but then told her to go and sin no more. Her sexual free expression wasn’t fine. It was to be repented of.

Christ receives any and all sinners guilty of any and all sins. His blood is sufficient to cleanse even someone like me. But He does not receive us to leave us. We are called to freedom – not freedom TO sin, but to walk a new way: Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

The Gospel is for sinners. And if you will not own your sinfulness, and acknowledge that God would be just in condemning you and banishing you to Hell this very moment – you can’t be saved. But if you own it – no matter how severe the bondage, there is forgiveness, cleansing and deliverance. And a sweet security in His finished work on your behalf – no matter how hard the struggle in the years that follow. He will be on your side all the way – with the promise of completing that work in time. That, is the glory of the true Gospel.

4 Cornerstones for Christian Living

Cornerstone Concept

1 Thessalonians 4:1–12 (ESV) — 1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

In these 12 verses, is a most amazing sketch of foundational Christian living. 4 “cornerstones” if you will. Central aspects of the normal Christian life, that prove to be more than insightful for our present day. They are indeed prophetic.

Note too that these 4 fall under the umbrella of brotherly love. In other words, these are keys to our loving one another as we are called to in the Church. They are not abstract principles for the individual, but are directly tied to our relationship to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

1. Abstaining from sexual immorality. And we must note here that this is a STARTING point, not some high level of maturity. No one needs to point out the absolute drenching of our American society in sexuality. It cannot be avoided. It is everywhere. And the Believer here is called to reject this pervasive context of sexualization as a basic and key element in loving one another. For we cannot love one another if behind closed doors we are looking at or thinking about members of the opposite sex salaciously. No one is unaware of the plague of visual pornography which has gripped the hearts and minds of so many men – virtually touching every man, nor the fact that the current trend toward female pornography in the world of publishing is the newest goldmine yielding up untold new profits. So it is that Barnes & Noble is virtually crediting E. L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey (a graphic novel of sexuality aimed at women) with turning around its dismal profits last year. In addition, publishing industry leaders are touting this new market as the source of previously untapped fortunes. It will not stop.

America (openly – but virtually every other culture secretly – note the stash of pornographic videos found in Osama bin laden’s home where he was living with his 3 wives when killed) is a boiling cauldron of hypersexualizaiton. The Believer is called to live in direct opposition to that reality. We cannot love people we are lusting after. We must address this issue, each of us individually. Beloved, do all you can to abstain from sexual immorality – in every form.

2. Aspiring to live quietly. Not being strident, agitated, pugnacious or without inner stillness. We must note again how our present day media is centered upon stirring up and agitating the hearts and minds of viewers, listeners and readers. It is never aimed at bringing us together, and calling us to quietness of heart and mind – but rather to produce fear, anger, outrage and opposition. Two reasons seem evident behind this. First, the World HAS no answers to the tragic reality of this life – only the Gospel offers hope. And secondly, panic sells. As Christians we will have to reject this tendency, or we will not point one another to the hope that is in Christ, but fixate on the lostness of the world – and our inability to change it. We must reject it in our pulpits, in our reading and listening and viewing, and in our private lives. Constant anxiety is proof we are feeding our souls on the wrong things. And the World serves up a 24 hour, virtually endless smorgasbord of agitants to gorge ourselves upon. Beware.

3. Minding one’s OWN affairs. One cannot help but think how the flood of reality TV and gossip media are all focused on the exact opposite. Not to mention the gossip line in the Church itself. When we are fixated on the lives of others, we do so (as one wag said) so that we do not have to live our own lives – but live through theirs. It is so easy to fall down this pit. To be more concerned with the never ending waves of Kardashian crises, the latest on Lohan’s undoing or who is divorcing or living with or dating who – than to spend 5 minutes considering the present state of my own heart and mind before God; pondering the spiritual health of my own soul. We know everyone else’s motives, failure and foibles, and precious little about our own true needs which only Christ can meet. And so it is we have endless opinions about everything and everyone else and time to express them to a greedily hungry list of others who want to hear – and haven’t thought a whit about soaking in the wonders of Christ’s love and mercy and grace.  Oh how this sink-hole can draw us in. Watch out!

4. Working with your own hands. Self-supporting industriousness. Interestingly, Paul attaches this to being part and parcel of our witness to the lost world – before “outsiders”. This he mentions first and foremost in terms of a simple godly work ethic. Christians are to be hard workers, desiring to support ourselves and not looking to others. Does that means there are NO times when help may be needed? Of course not. The diaconate was established for just such a reality. But no one is to be content there. We are to seek to a self-supporting industrious lifestyle as a direct witness against the worldly mentality that denies such a thing.

In addition, there is such a danger that the entitlement mentality we know is problematic in our American culture, can find its way into our own hearts and minds – and even infect the way we approach the Church. So that we can begin to expect to be served and to have our needs met, without actually investing in our own spiritual growth in daily time in the Word, prayer, and seeking out the means to grow in grace personally, nor investing in the spiritual health and growth of anyone else. Virtually all entertainment (in terms of novels, movies, theatre etc.) is built around endless fascination with humanity and the human condition. All this, because we have been led to believe WE are more interesting, more delightful, more wondrous than the infinite wonder of God Himself. Heaven help us.

Now to live in love toward one another, requires these things. And that, is something to think about.

Life of Pi – A Review

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Life of Pi

The film adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2001 fantasy adventure novel by the same name is interesting to say the least. No less a personage than President Barak Obama pronounced it “an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling” – in a personal letter to the author. And while both the book and the film have been met with broad critical acclaim, I must confess I was not as wowed as so many seem to be.

Life of Pi’s protagonist is a young Indian man by the name of Piscine Molitor Patel – Pi Patel for short. Growing up in Pondicherry India in the early 70’s, his “religionless” father runs a zoo. Living life with his older brother and mother as well, Pi is culturally raised as a Hindu in spite of his father’s bent against any religion, and notes that he first meets “god” through one of the 33,000,000 Hindu gods. At 14, he is introduced to Christianity, where he likes the figure of the Son of God, but thinks the idea that he would be punished for the sins of guilty men by The Father is nonsense. Later, he also delves into Islam, and tries to live a life with these 3 conflicting worldviews meshed into one.

As the story unfolds, the family is forced to close the zoo, and Pi’s father arranges to move the family and the animals to Canada. Once all are on the journey, the ship encounters some unknown trouble during a storm and sinks. The only survivors are Pi, a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra with a broken leg and a large Bengal tiger named Robert Parker. These 4 are adrift at sea together. It isn’t long before the hyena makes prey of the injured zebra, and then the orangutan. Richard Parker dispatches the hyena, and the balance of the story is Pi surviving for over 200 days adrift with Robert Parker. After plenty of harrowing circumstances (as one might expect with these dynamics) Pi & Robert Parker have a short reprieve on what turns out to be a “carnivorous” island. Realizing they cannot remain there, the two take to the sea in their lifeboat once more, finally washing up on the shore of Mexico. Robert Parker takes his leave into the jungle, and Pi is discovered by some men and taken to a hospital. Whilst recovering in the hospital, Pi is visited by investigators of the Japanese ship owners looking for answers as to why their ship sank. Pi recounts his unlikely tale which is met with appropriate incredulity. Finally he fesses that in fact, the “Zebra” was a sailor who broke his leg jumping in the boat. The “orangutan” was his mother who also got into the boat. The “hyena” was the vile ship’s cook, and the tiger, none other than Pi himself. And the bottom line for Pi, is not – which story is true – but rather, which one would you rather believe?

Ultimately, the reality is, there are unknown reasons behind much of life – especially great tragedies –  and religion is our way of trying to make sense of those inexplicable things. In the end, we each simply pick the religious version we prefer most, to deal with the fact that there are no real answers.

Whether or not the movie stayed true to the original novel, I am not in a place to comment on having never read it. But in terms of reviewing the movie on its own, it seems best to examine it three ways: Cinema-graphically, Philosophically and Theologically.

Cinema-graphically, the film is a fine example of deft story telling. Reasonably developed characters, believable interactions, and a story to be told which unfolds naturally. But it was also slow. So far so good. I guess.

Unfortunately for me, while the visual effects are highly praised, I found them less compelling than most reviewers. Oddly (since this is most highly lauded by others I read) it failed most in the CGI tiger. Not because he didn’t look “real” enough as though physically there, but because he wasn’t real enough in his wildness (for lack of a better term). There was no real fierceness there. He was (as were all the animals) a bit too humanized. Given the pantheistic backdrop of Hinduism, I suppose this is to be expected. So, to be fair, this may have been on purpose. After all, the tiger is a metaphor for Pi himself. He is meant to be the “beast” in Pi, and thus part of the circle of life and thus also sharing human tameness. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. But it failed there for me. But there was never any “real” danger conveyed. Richard Parker wasn’t a wild beast, he was a big, somewhat testy cat.

Philosophically, make no mistake, this movie clearly communicates a pantheistic worldview, where individual meaning is found in our adoption of which “story” sounds most inviting to us, while we remain void of any real answers to life’s great mysteries. Life just is what it is. We live it, are exposed to it, and we invent various scaffoldings to give mystery a structure we can hang on to. Cycles of life and death, just are. Wildness and humanity are all just varying shades and manifestations of the same whatever “is”. As the movie version ends with Pi telling the two stories to an author who wants to write the story, Pi’s wife and children arrive. Surprised to find out he is married and has kids, the author says to Pi “then the story has a happy ending!”. Pi says the ending is really up to author, it is “his story” now. Truth is irrelevant. It is all how you want to see it. All of reality is just how you experience it, and choose to interpret it.

This pantheism is not only the philosophical worldview, it is also the movie’s theological base. Not only is reality simply what you experience in life and how you interpret it – God is as well. Hence the attempt to merge Hinduism, Christianity and Islam into one thing for Pi. Each is useful in providing a story to make dealing with the mysteries of life palatable. There is no real, objective “God” who created all things and imbues them with meaning by virtue of His creatorship. Things just are. And we supply a self-invented “god” to help us make sense of what is unfathomable.  So “god” may be Vishnu, Krishna, Allah or the Son of God. Each is simply a useful framework wherever most needed and best suited.

In a telling family dinner conversation, Pi’s Dad challenges his acceptance of these three conflicting religions. He sees the incongruity and tells Pi he cannot cling to all three. Pi simply queries “why not?” His father has no answer, and we are to suppose that the question cannot be answered in a negative way. The idea that mutually exclusive concepts cannot all be true is simply dismissed out of hand as though it is silly to even think such a thing. If I want to believe  2+2 = 4, AND 2+2 = 13, AND 2+2 = 1394 – who’s to say I cannot believe that? Given any particular circumstances, it might be advantageous to hold one or the other as the situation calls for it. And so it is there is no “truth”. There is what works for me in a given circumstance. Whichever version pleases me most at any given time. Which, to put it simply, is just plain nonsense.

Let’s apply Pi’s (Martel’s) approach to language for instance. What if in telling the story, I prefer that P is really Q and I is L. In fact, let’s substitute letters or symbols at our individual pleasure to communicate any concept. And so write “I love you” with *mmqrs%$. Which of course I can also write kkkkkkkk. Maybe I can ever write it “I loathe you with every fiber of my being”. Who’s to say? Can any real communication ever take place like that? No. Without establishing forms which remain and are mutually agreed upon, communication of any kind is impossible. Now apply that idea to theology – let god be whatever we imagine him or it or her to be at any time under whatever circumstances we prefer at any given time, and all of us do that together, and there is no “god”, because all must be the same. Bingo! Theological pantheism at its rawest. Everything is god and god is everything, atomized or congealed. And thus, there is no god, there is just the story – which you can write or alter at will. No truth. No real reality. No God. No meaning. Just each individual’s imaginative attempt to give meaning where none exists.

It would be hard to think of a more anti-Christian worldview than the one espoused in Life of Pi.  It certainly captures the current trend in world religion, to attempt unity in all religion – but it fails miserably, as it is ultimately incomprehensible drivel. It is nonsense. It is a lie.

The Harbinger – a review, sort of.

I just finished reading the hugely popular, best-selling book – The Harbinger – by Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn.  I will keep my comments exceedingly few, since others have already done much more thorough reviews than I am willing to spend the time on given the nature of the book. Two that I might recommend are Tim Challies’ short review HERE, and David James’ in-depth review HERE.

In short, following a long (seemingly never ending) line of attempts to make the United States of America a subject of Biblical prophecy,  The Harbinger is more an exercise in super-vivid imagination than anything even approximating genuine scholarship. It is quite simply as fictional as anything ever penned by Isaac Asimov, Dan Brown or Rod Serling.

The entire book is based upon a single false premise – that somehow, the text of a few lines of prophecy in Isaiah 9:10, apply to the U.S. of A. And to state it as clearly as I can, there is NO exegetical reason whatsoever from the Bible itself to make this Israel/U.S.A. connection – none, nada, zilch, zero NOTHING! It does not exist.

Sadly, Cahn’s connections in arriving at his conclusions are identical to the method used by the ancients to construct the Zodiac. Given enough dots on a page (or stars in the sky) you can draw as many imaginary figures as you want. And in terms of Bible interpretation – this is precisely what was done here. It is a fabrication out of whole cloth. A figment of the imagination.

At best, it is a B-movie script with Biblical texts taken out of context. Mildly entertaining. At worst, (by barely mentioning Jesus or the Gospel, and then only oddly) it calls for a generic return to deism in order to preserve American prosperity.

My best advice in regard to it? don’t waste either your time or your money on it.

The only thing it is a possible harbinger of, is an increase in poor Christian literature.

Who should I vote for?

Every time we enter the season of elections in this country, Christians are especially strained in considering who it is we ought to vote for. Each elected office carries with it its own sphere of responsibility. And each candidate and party puts forward a platform ostensibly addressing how they intend to use that office to accomplish what ends it deems most desirable. Then the fire-fight begins. Each side demonizes the other. Each makes claims that if the opposing persons and views are adopted, horrible outcomes are guaranteed.  And who are we to believe most?

In truth, no “side” seems incapable of making poor decisions and using less than honorable tactics. All sides claim to lament negative campaigning, while indulging in the very negative campaigning they decry. Some who seem squeaky clean at first, later prove to have monstrous skeletons in their closets.  Others, who have proved themselves terribly immoral in their personal lives, have nonetheless shown bravery in the face of great conflict and to make sound decisions in terms of laws enacted and enforced. And here and there, a man or woman of true moral uprightness, perhaps even genuine Christian experience and convictions arises and serves admirably. May God increase their tribe. But untangling the whole mess seems almost beyond the scope of human endeavor.

Another complicating factor is one that can be reduced to an extremely simple example for discussion’s sake. When my car is in need of mechanical repair, am I as much worried if the mechanic is sincere but perhaps inept, or would I rather he be gifted and skilled irrespective of his personal morals? Raise the ante and ask the question again when it comes to choosing a surgeon. Do I want the gal with the best hands, or the one I am sure is not sleeping around? We can dance that jig till the cows come home – with no lack of passion on either side of the debate.

OK then – who DO I vote for? That’s what I want to know. Maybe you do too. And while it may be no surprise to some, it may to be many, that the Bible doesn’t address that issue given the type of pluralistic society we live in – at least not directly. Yet, I do think it provides a certain measure of guidance that is profoundly helpful. That guidance comes to us in Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy, when he addresses the issue of prayer for the then very pagan and anti-Christian government leaders of his day. Two verses especially invite our examination: 1 Timothy 2:1–2 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

Given these instructions, what we can say with some reasonable certainty is that what we ought to expect of government at least are the 4 things we are told to entreat God for. I can only mention them in the briefest form here. Each could be expanded upon greatly.

1-That we may lead a PEACEFUL life. We are to ask that our leadership be peace-seeking, and not given to war and conflict without necessary cause. War is sometimes unavoidable when we are attacked, reasonable avenues of diplomacy to avoid conflict forced upon us fail, or the weak and helpless need defended.

2- That we may lead a QUIET life. Bound together with the first, we are to ask that our leadership be lacking in the stridency and pugnacious tendency that brings civil unrest as well. The quietude of domestic life lends itself to Christian enterprise to advance the Kingdom of God, rather than hampering the progress of the Gospel due to forcing people to live in constant turmoil.

3- That we may live GODLY lives. That our government and its officials would leave us free to seek a life of worship and service and influence for Christ in society. That it not be repressive and censorious toward the free pursuit serving Christ in every sphere of life.

4- That we may live DIGNIFIED lives. A government committed to protecting that dignity and sanctity of human life. Not enslaving its masses either overtly, nor through policies that strip men of their dignity through turning them into helpless dependents with no hope of progress. Valuing human life in every sphere.

What has this to do with voting? I suggest – this: We vote for those whom – as best as we can discern – espouse, will work for and will protect the four areas mentioned above.

Now each of us must do our homework to decide on who those persons will be.  And to vote.

When nations sin

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This is reprinted here from the newest edition of Kairos Journal. I cannot think of anything more timely for America.

National Sins—John Newton (1725 – 1807)

February 21, 1781,1 was declared a day of fasting across England, and John Newton preached this sermon, The Guilt and Danger of Such a Nation as This, from the text of Jeremiah 5:29. (Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord; and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this? ESV). Fearing the judgment of God, Newton warned his hearers to repent before it was too late. His definition of national sins is pertinent for any day including the present.

But the form of the question will not permit us to confine the application to Israel or Judah. The words are not, On this nation particularly, but “On such a nation as this.” The Lord, the Governor of the earth, has provided, in the history of one nation, a lesson of instruction and warning to every nation under the sun; and the nearer the state and spirit of any people resemble the state and character of Judah when Jeremiah prophesied among them, the more reason they have to tremble under the apprehension of the same or similar judgments. We likewise are a highly favoured people, and have long enjoyed privileges which excite the admiration and envy of surrounding nations: and we are a sinful, ungrateful people; so that when we compare the blessing and mercies we have received from the Lord, with our conduct towards him, it is to be feared we are no less concerned with the question in my text than Israel was of old.2

Though the occasion will require me to take some notice of our public affairs, I mean not to amuse you with what is usually called a political discourse. The Bible is my system of politics. There I read, that the Lord reigns; that he doth what he pleaseth in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; that no wisdom, understanding, counsel, or power, can prevail without his blessing; that as righteousness exalteth a nation, so sin is the reproach, and will even totally be the ruin of any people . . . I hope we are now met, not to accuse others, but to confess our sins; not to justify ourselves, but to plead for mercy.3

The sin of a nation is properly the aggregate or sum-total of all the sins committed by every individual residing in that nation. But those may be emphatically called national sins which, by their notoriety, frequency, or circumstances, contribute to mark the character or spirit of one nation as distinct from another. It is to be hoped that some species of sins amongst us are not yet become national.4

Communities, as such, in their collective capacity, are visited and judged in the present life. And, in this respect, the Scripture considers nations as individuals; each having an infancy, growth, maturity, and declension. Every succeeding generation accumulates the stock of national sin, and there is a measure of iniquity which determines the period of kingdoms. Till this measure is filled up, the patience of God waits for them, but then patience gives way to vengeance . . . When God is exceedingly displeased with a people, it is not necessary, in order to their punishment, that he should bury them alive by an earthquake, or destroy them by lightning. If he only leave them to themselves, withdraw his blessing from their counsels, and his restraint from their passions, their ruin follows of course, according to the necessary order and connection of causes and effects . . .5

But, O that we may rather, with one consent, search and try our ways, and turn to the Lord from whom we have so greatly revolted. To us, indeed, belong shame and confusion of face; but to the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against him.6

Footnotes:

1
The day of fasting was most likely appointed in response to the American Revolution and the continuing hostilities with the French.

2
John Newton, “The Guilt and Danger of Such a Nation as This,” in The Works of the Rev. John Newton, vol. 5 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1988), 139-140.

3
Ibid., 140-141.

4
Ibid., 146.

5
Ibid., 154.

6
Ibid., 165.

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Mother’s Day this year – With Mom gone.

Every year I write a Mother’s Day poem. It is one of my few traditions. This year is different, because Mom went to be with Jesus August of last year.

So this was difficult to write. I didn’t know – should it be profoundly different, or the same? And to be honest, creativity has been at an all time low since before the start of my sabbatical.

In any event, while noting the reality of her passing, in the end I kept the approach basically the same as most years.

I hope you like it.

And if your Mom is gone, maybe it will bring a smile to your face – while we wait the grand reunion with all the saints at Christ’s return.

Mother had a merry heart

She loved to laugh, and sing

She never long would give those up

Regardless sorrow’s sting

A joke, a quip, a clever turn

Was quick to bring a smile

A Grandma’s face hid rapier wit

And wisdom’s secret wile

And while she’s now in Heaven’s gate

And can’t herself defend

I’ll share a prime example here

Of how her wit did tend

I’m sure I was but eight or nine

Still tender in my years

When she denied a youthful want

And I regaled with tears

Unbending she remained unmoved

Frustrated I devised

A plan for getting back at her

So clever in my eyes

A scheme of pointed blackmail rose

From pre-pubescent rage

To get my way, and punish her

So slick and sly and sage

“You’ll see!” I yelled, and stamped my foot

In proper Rebel’s form

And launched my plan full force at her

To make her weep and mourn

“I’m going to run away from home”

(I lobbed my first grenade)

“You’ll never see my face again”

(My trap now fully laid)

What more could break a Mother’s heart?

I knew my plan would work

She looked unmoved, and countered with

A cool, unruffled smirk!

I needed more artillery

I’d failed to break full through

The soundness of my plan was clear

What more could I now do?

I doubled down and stamped again

“I mean it!” I imposed

“I’m going now to get my stuff

And pack up all my clothes”

She didn’t try to stop me then

But I had set the hook

No doubt that she was flagging now

Despite her un-pained look

“Where will you go?” She queried me

“I don’t know – just away”

The thought of me so destitute

MUST force her to dismay

And then she sent her crushing blow

I didn’t have a clue

She had a gun as big as this

To use on you know who!

That she would launch this wicked thing

I didn’t have a hunch

She sweetly smiled and asked me should

She pack me up a lunch!

Imagine my distressing state

My world came crashing down

She had no fears I’d really flee

My plan was sunk and drowned

Was all this true? Did she not care

If I should pack and leave?

Would not my threatened flight

Induce her cries to sob and heave?

Alas, twas but the Mother’s grip

On life, that Mother had

Undaunted by my youthful scam

Nonplussed, nor made unglad

She knew that little boys and girls

Were born with sinful hearts

There was no shock when it came out

In streams or fits and starts

And no way in God’s universe

Would she be found a fool

Manipulated by a brat

Who’d just learned not to drool!

So sons learn from my twisted ways

Listen to my lesson

Before you jerk your Mom around

Know with whom you’re messin’

Don’t try the stupid blackmail stuff

You’ll get a knock-out punch

‘Cause if your Mom’s like my Mom was

She just might pack your lunch!

Happy Mother’s Day Mom, I know it is your best one ever right now.

For my Mom – Mother’s Day 2012

Reid

Separated at Birth #3

Academy Award winning actor Jim Broadbent, best known for his portrayal of Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge.

D. A. Carson – noted theologian and author. Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Separated at Birth #2

Retired Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright of “the new perspective on Paul” fame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Schiff – American actor best known for his role as Toby Ziegler on The West Wing.

Be sure your sin will find you out

“Be sure your sin will find you out”.  So says the latter portion of Numbers 32:23. And I have proof.

This Word to the wise – DO NOT swallow your gum just before you preach (having forgotten to spit it out earlier) ESPECIALLY if you are having a colonoscopy the next day!

I know!