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February 21, 2006

Yesterday I wrote about my inflamed duoduwhatzit and the untrained doctor who is going to be removing it for me. This was only a parable, of course, and likely not a very good one at that. Yet it stimulated some good discussion for which I am grateful. I thought I would take the opportunity this morning to clarify my feelings on seminary education. But let me begin somewhere else.

People who serve in the military will all be able to describe times that they were required to do things that seemed utterly irrelevant to their chosen career. I have read of people who spent days upon days digging ditches and then filling them back in. Hour after hour, day after day. Their joints ached and their hands developed painful blisters. And all the time they wondered, “Is this why I joined the Army?” The activity seemed to bear little resemblance to what they had imagined would be involved in a career in the military. And to a great extent they were right. Yet it is only later that they realize that this was not an empty exercise. It was a deliberate exercise. It taught them teamwork. It taught the soldiers to work together as a unit. It forged a bond between them that would drive them to take heroic measures on the battlefield. It was these exercises that created the bond that would make these soldiers become a band of brothers.

That analogy is true, at least to some degree, in almost every type of education. There are some exercises that are given as a means to a greater end. Many of the essays I wrote in college are long forgotten. They meant almost nothing to me then and mean nothing to me, or to anyone else, now. Yet they were valuable. My professor did not need to know anything more about whether the Allies overcame the Axis powers in World War II by virtue of superior numbers or by virtue of greater application of technology. Yet he forced me to write about it. I did. I don’t remember what I concluded, but the exercise, and many like it, was valuable because it taught me to think critically. It taught me to do careful research. It taught me to attempt to understand both sides of an argument before forming an opinion about a particular topic. Students are constantly required to do things that seem utterly irrelevant. Yet they must have faith that somehow these things will prove useful in the end.

When I was in the eleventh grade I decided to study Latin. I don’t remember what it was that compelled me to study the language, but I suspect it had something to do with the small class size. Where most classes in my high school had twenty five or thirty students, Latin usually had only seven or eight. And so it was that for a year I studied Latin. The teacher, Dr. Helder, quickly became my favorite teacher and grade eleven Latin stands out as my favorite class in all my years of high school. Dr. Helder was faced with the daunting task of making a group of teenagers enjoy Latin, a dead language. Yet he succeeded in making us not only learn the language but also in making us enjoy learning it. How did he do that? He proved to us that Latin is not dead, but in fact, is still in common use. One ongoing task throughout the year was to collect Latin words and phrases we found in books, newspapers and magazines. We were to collect all these examples and at the end of the year, part of our grade was based on how many of these we found. The more of the language we learned, the more Latin we found. As our eyes were opened to the language, suddenly we saw it all around us - in print, in law, in theology, in advertising, and just about everywhere else. And of course we also saw it in our own language and in other languages we studied. Latin brought English and French to life in a fresh way. The study of this dead language helped undergird my study of other languages and gave me a greater love and appreciation for my own language.

After I pointed to Perry Noble’s article yesterday I got a nice email from him. He wrote:

I picked up several hits from your blog today. WOW-you have some awesome insight…and I love your writing style-sarcastic, yet not in an attacking sort of way.

Let me be honest dude-I love what I do-I can’t believe the opportunity that Jesus has given me to work in His church. He changed my life…seriously, I was an awesome PAGAN…and then He rocked my world.

You say you are putting the fun in being a fundamentalist-I love it!

However, I think you may have slightly misunderstood my post in my letter to the staff. I never meant for it to get blown out of proportion. I am not anti-seminary; however, I do think it is a calling and not a biblical mandate.

I completed 36 hours towards my Masters degree in seminary…and I dropped out. Not because I was making bad grades; in fact, I was blowing most classes out of the water. It is just that the particular seminary I was in was not teaching me anything that I could practically use to assist the people I was ministering to.

Trust me-I believe that we should all immerse ourselves in the study of Scripture. We should know and be able to defend our doctrine…AND be able to recognize and refute heresy when we see it. And trust me…I am in the word every day! I do an incredible amount of research and study…and the more I learn…the more I realize that there is even more to learn.

So…in no way was I supporting ignorance…AT ALL!

And seriously-I did really like your analogy…my wife is a doctor & so I could see where you were coming from.

Now I realized that I was taking a risk in singling out Perry in my article yesterday. However, blogging, by its very nature, invites discussion and even critical discussion, so I do not think I ought to feel remorse for pointing to his article. He intended for it to be public and thus he invited discussion. And I was glad to see that he was not at all offended.

Neumatikos had the following to say about my analogy: “Despite the fact that I’m even now going to seminary, I think Tim Challies analogy is a false one. He wants to persuade people that you shouldn’t trust a minister without theological training any more than you would trust a doctor without medical training. That’s not necessarily true. Religious education in general is just as likely to lead you away from the gospel as toward it.” To be fair, my analogy was just that: an analogy. It was not meant to portray my full feelings on a subject but merely to make a comparison or suggestion. I do not feel that the medical field lends itself to a perfect comparison with the ministry. So let me clarify my feelings about seminary.

I do not feel that every person who desires to be a pastor or to be involved in vocational ministry must have graduated from seminary. Some of the pastors I respect most did not have a seminary education. Moody and Spurgeon are two names that spring to mind! But, while these men did not graduate from seminary, they were lifelong students. Spurgeon, especially, is known as being a voracious reader. He was reading the Puritans while still little more than an infant. He had a photographic memory and had intimate knowledge of thousands of commentaries and books. Also, to my knowledge, Spurgeon did not delight in his lack of formal education. In later years he trained thousands of pastors, affirming that he knew the importance of education. He realized that he was unique.

All this is to say that I do not feel that seminary education is always a necessity for a man who wishes to be a pastor. However, I do think a career as important as Minister of the Word is worth the time of preparation. At the very least a man can learn from and be mentored by men who are older and more advanced in sanctification than he is.

A commenter, Brian Thornton, did a good job of summarizing the purpose of my little parable. “I think Tim’s whole point - if I may speak for him - is that this pastor is wrong to discount the importance and value of preparing for the ministry…or for anything else related to teaching God’s people God’s truth. There has to be a foundation from which to build upon. And while there are examples of extraordinary men who have been used incredibly by God without the usual preparation prior to ministry…that is the exception rather than the rule.” Perry Noble does not feel that he has discounted the importance and value of preparing for the ministry, but that was certainly how I and others understood his words. This may not be what he meant, yet it is what he communicated.

So what I was reacting to was not so much the fact that Perry Noble has not graduated from seminary. I know nothing about his ministry and have not heard a word about him beyond what he wrote on his blog and what he subsequently told me in an email. He may be the next Charles Spurgeon for all I know! What I was reacting to was the anti-intellectual undertone in what he said. This statement was particularly alarming: “…as I look back I think that me lacking experience was a good thing because it forced me to rely on common sense rather than textbook procedure and principals.” This statement completely discredits a seminary education. To borrow from the military analogy, it assumes that digging ditches is in no way relevant to a career in the military. It assumes that many of the subjects in seminary, perhaps languages, church history, or hermeneutics, is a waste of time that will generate only useless head knowledge that a pastor will have to unlearn before he can be useful and relevant. It may even assume that principles and procedures, passed down through the history of the church, are useless.

Perry is not alone in this type of sentiment. It may be that I am reading too much into his words, but I think we can all think of people who feel that seminary is a waste of time, money and effort. I would agree that some seminaries probably are. But seminary education should not be discredited or regarded as something less than useful. I admire the humility of men who, realizing their lack of knowledge and realizing the importance of a solid foundation, invest a great deal of time and effort in formal training. To those who struggle with the usefulness of a particular subject or course of study, I would encourage you to ask the professor or other member of staff to explain how and why a particular course is relevant. I suspect you will come to see that no course is without both long term and short term benefit.

I do not believe that seminary is an absolute necessity. But I do believe that in most cases it will be of great benefit to a man who wishes to be a pastor. Seminary is not mandated by Scripture. Yet if a man desires to be a pastor and to bring God’s Word to His people week after week, should he not wish to ensure that he is adequately and properly prepared?

February 20, 2006

I went to the doctor the other day. I was shocked to find out that I have a rare genetic disorder that is going to require immediate attention. Apparently my duoduwhatzit is inflamed and is putting undue and unhealthy pressure on my intestinor majorus and my cardialitozalingdon. Thankfully humans can live fairly comfortably without the duoduwhatzit, so the doctor is suggesting that I have it removed immediately. He tells me that he is one of the foremost duoduwhatzit experts in this part of the world and that he would be glad to conduct the surgery for me.

I guess I’ll go ahead with the surgery. The surgeon sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. He certainly seemed to be familiar with my symptoms and his suggested remedy made perfect sense. He used small, simple words to explain the importance and functionality of the duoduwhatzit and to describe exactly how the procedure would take place. He made me understand just what’s at stake here. He seems like a nice guy and exudes confidence. Perhaps the greatest testament to his skill was his clinic. It was big and filled with fancy new equipment. The halls were packed full of people - there must have been forty or fifty staff members milling about and hundreds, perhaps even thousands of patients. I’m sure this is a testament to his great ability.

I did notice one peculiar thing about his office. Where most doctors have walls emblazoned with degrees and certifications, this doctor’s walls were quite bare. There was a large, color picture of him standing in the reception area with his staff and they all seemed very pleased. There was a small letter of congratulation from someone whose name escapes me, but I assume he is a high-ranking doctor who took the opportunity to commend this man’s practice. But that was it. I noticed as well that most of the people in the picture, obviously staff members who are involved in this man’s practice, were also young. There was hardly a grey-haired doctor to be found among them.

I asked the doctor about the bare walls and young faces. This is what he said:

Most of us are young—really young. Sure—there is a Caleb or two among us. However, the average age of this staff has to be in our late 20’s or early 30’s. Why is that? I believe it is because younger generations tend to believe in the power of medicine—we believe that if it is medically possible, that we can do it…well…then we can do it. Do not let the fact that you are young ever distract you from doing what your heart has called you to do! EVER!

I remember being 28 when we started this practice and people telling me that I was too young and that I lacked experience…as I look back I think that me lacking experience was a good thing because it forced me to rely on common sense rather than textbook procedure and principals.

Speaking of textbook…not many of us have been trained “medically.” In fact, I believe there is only one medical school graduate on staff. I remember talking to many of you about joining our staff and you making the comment, “But I don’t have a medical degree,” and then watching your face as I replied, “neither do I!”

Sure, there are people that may criticize that aspect of our clinic; however, when I look at the description given about some of my medical heroes…they are refered to as “unschooled, ordinary men.” I believe the medical establishment is looking for a few more of those—people who allow fate to lead and teach them common sense. Don’t get me wrong…I am not cracking on medical school…it’s just that it isn’t a mandate…and we have seen fruit without it.

I thought his words made great sense. He’s right! What use is a medical degree anyways? Let’s suppose that he had spent six or eight or ten years in college and medical school. What good would that do? He would have then had to spend several years unlearning all that head knowledge so he could learn to practically apply common sense medical procedures. I would far rather have a doctor rely on common sense then on what some “expert” wrote tens or hundreds of years ago. Seriously, textbook procedures and principals are so overrated.

One thing still bothers me just a little bit. I can’t help but wonder if it would be such a hardship to endure a few year’s preparation for as important a career as a medical doctor and surgeon. After all, if the job is that important, wouldn’t it be worth a person’s time to ensure that he is properly prepared? Wouldn’t his love for his chosen career compel him to desire training from others more advanced in the field? So many questions. Anyways, I don’t have time to think about it right now. My duoduwhatzit is throbbing and I’m going to go and have it removed. For some reason my life insurance policy will not cover this procedure. But that’s okay. I’m sure that I and my duoduwhatzit are in good hands.

By the way, before I head over to his clinic I thought I’d leave you with a link. This is an interesting open letter written by a pastor to the staff members at his church. It may ring a bell.

February 16, 2006

I have been challenged recently on the subject of submission and how it relates to the role of women in a marriage relationship. In particular, I have been challenged to understand and then prove that the submission prescribed by Scripture is inherent in God’s created order. In other words, the fact that women are to submit to their husbands is not merely the product of the Fall of the human race into sin, but is a product of God’s creation. Even if sin had never entered the world, a wife would still be expected to submit to her husband. Having studied this issue I believe that is a fair statement and today I will attempt to prove it.

I have discussed this topic with several women and have been a little bit surprised by their reactions. It seems to me that women would be glad to know that the idea of submission precedes the fall. This shows us that the headship of the husband is not rooted in a punishment, and perhaps even an unfair punishment where woman was given the harsher penalty of having to submit, but is rooted in the very purpose and creation of mankind. Yet women have told me that they prefer to think that submission is a product of the Fall. Perhaps this shows just what a poor job the church has done in teaching this subject and what a poor job husbands have done in making submission joyful.

Strange though it may seem, submission is a good and beautiful and godly thing. The most perfect relationship in the world, the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, displays a perfect example of submission. The Son submits Himself to the Father. They are, to echo the Shorter Catechism, “the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” Yet the Father demonstrates headship. We speak of Jesus’ mission to the earth in two ways. We speak of Jesus being sent by the Father. And this is true. From eternity it was decided by the Father that man would have to be ransomed by a perfect substitute. The Father tasked the Son with this responsibility. But we also speak of the Son willingly giving up his life. These are both true. The Son’s perfect submission to the Father’s will meant that a command of the Father is indistinguishable from a decision of the Son. Christ was perfectly willing to submit to His Father’s will. This relationship within the Trinity provides us many clues as to the nature of the relationship between husband and wife.

So let me provide ten proofs that submission precedes the Fall and is part of God’s natural order. We will follow the structure outlined by Wayne Grudem in his thorough study on the subject, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth.

  1. The order of creation: Adam was created before Eve. This may seem to be weak grounds for an argument yet it was strong enough for Paul to mention in 1 Timothy 2:12-13 where he does not “permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man…For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Inherent in the order of creation is the foundation for the order of human relationships.
  2. The representation of the human race: It was Adam who had a special role in representing the human race. Though Eve was the first to sin, it was Adam who was considered most culpable for their combined disobedience. In Corinthians we read that, “as in Adam all men die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Christ is the second Adam, not the second Eve as we might expect if the Bible held Adam and Eve as being equal in representation and leadership.
  3. The naming of woman: Adam was given the honor and responsibility of naming his wife. “She shall be called woman,” he said, “because she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23). Within the Scriptures we see that the person who names something is always the one who has authority over it. This parallels the account of creation where God named the night and the day, the expanse, the earth and the waters. By naming them He showed His authority.
  4. The naming of the human race: The human race is named after Adam, not Eve. Neither is it named after both Adam and Eve. God named the human race “man.” “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created” (Genesis 5:1-2). While this does not provide a cut and dry case, it points again to the headship and leadership of the man in the created order.
  5. The primary accountability: God held Adam primarily accountable for the Fall. While Adam and Eve hid from God, God called “to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9). God did not call to both Adam and Eve, but called to Adam alone. Dr. Grudem draws an analogy of a parent who, upon entering a room where several children have been misbehaving, will summon the oldest and demand answers. It is the oldest who bears greatest responsibility. In the same way God summoned Adam and demanded an account of both his sin and that of his wife. Notice that Satan reversed this order, approaching Eve before Adam in an obvious (and successful) attempt to disrupt the God-given pattern.
  6. The purpose of women: Eve was created as a helper for Adam, not Adam as a helper for Eve. While feminists have made much of the term “helper,” the fact remains that in any given situation, the person doing the helping necessarily places himself in a subordinate role to the person needing help. Yet helping does not remove accountability. While I may help my son with a paper route, the ultimate responsibility is still his. Eve’s role, from the beginning of creation, was to be a helper for Adam. This does not by any means indicate a inferiority, but a helper who was Adam’s equal. She differed in ways that would complement Adam.
  7. The conflict: A dire consequence of the Fall is the conflict it has introduced into the relationships of husbands and wives. In Genesis 3:16 God tells Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” This desire is to interfere with or distort the role of her husband. The roles God gave to the husband and wife have been distorted through the Fall. Eve would now rebel against the God-given authority of her husband and he would abuse the authority to rule poorly, forcefully and even harshly.
  8. The restoration: When creation is restored through the work of Christ we do not find an undoing of the marriage order. Were submission a consequence of the Fall we would expect Christ to “make all things new” in this manner. Instead we find that Christ provides power to overcome the sinful impulses of a wife against her husband and the husband’s response of ruling harshly over her. But Christ does not remove the order of a husband being in authority over his wife.
  9. The mystery: When the Apostle Paul wrote of a “mystery” he was describing something that was understood only faintly in the Old Testament but became clear in the New. In Ephesians 5:31-32 Paul shows that the ultimate purpose in marriage is to mirror the relationship between Christ and the church. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Dr. Grudem says, “Although Adam and Eve did not know it, their relationship represented the relationship between Christ and the church. They were created to represent that relationship, and that is what all marriages are supposed to do. In that relationship, Adam represents Christ and Eve represents the church…”
  10. The parallel with the Trinity: The triune nature of God provides the perfect example of submission. “The equality, differences, and unity between men and women reflects the equality, differences and unity of the Trinity.” We are blessed and honored to be able to represent that relationship in our marriages.

The ultimate reason a wife is to submit her husband may not have been clear to Adam and Eve. It was not clear to God’s people until after the writing of the New Testament. The ultimate reason a wife is to submit to her husband is that the marriage relationship is to mirror that of Christ and His church. Just as Christ is head of the church and we submit to Him, in the same way man is the head of the family and the wife should submit to Him. A husband is to lead in the same was as Christ: lovingly, tenderly and always seeking the greatest good for his wife. A wife is to mirror her relationship with Christ in her relationship with her husband. She is to trust him, be loyal to him and help him. This can only be done in a relationship of humble, loving, godly submission.

February 15, 2006

King for a Week is an honor I bestow on blogs that I feel are making a valuable contribution to my faith and the faith of other believers. Every week I select a blog, link to it from my site, and add that site’s most recent headlines to my left sidebar. While this is really not much, I do feel that it allows me to encourage and support other bloggers while making my readers aware of other good sites.

It seemed appropriate that, on the day I posted a review of Carolyn Mahaney’s book Feminine Appeal I would also honor her site, Girl Talk as King for a Week. Of course she does not blog alone but with the help of her three daughters Nicole, Kristin and Janelle. They describe the blog as “A mother and three daughters who love the gospel and aspire to biblical womanhood.” The site has become a place for women to gather and learn from the collective wisdom of four godly women. And I know that at least the occasional guy visits the site and even maintains it as his home page (Right Justin?).

For the next few days you will be able to see the most recent headlines from Girl Talk in the sidebar of my site. I hope you will make your way over to the site and look around.

I continue to accept nominations for King of the Week. If you have a site you would like to nominate, feel free to do so by clicking on the “suggest” button below the King of the Week box. Thanks to those of you who nominated this week’s honoree.

February 10, 2006

I may have mentioned that I had said my final words on the subject of inviting ourselves over to other people’s homes. If I did say that I apologize, because I have one thing left to say!

As you recall, I recently asked whether or not it is rude for a person to invite himself to another person’s house. In the subsequent discussion I was quite shocked to hear how many Christians feel that this is a rude practice. It would never really occur to me that to ask myself to another person’s home is rude. I am not suggesting, of course, that I would call a person I barely know and say, “Hey, I’m coming over with the family. We’ll be there in an hour and will be staying for dinner.” I will grant that this example might be rude since I am not taking into consideration the fact that people have their own plans, their own lives. However, I see absolutely nothing rude in saying, “Hey, we’d like to get to know you guys better. Can we come by for lunch after church some Sunday?” I am extending an invitation to get to know the people better, but am suggesting (for whatever reason) that we do it at their home rather than mine. I do not feel that this is rude. Let me explain why.

Your house is not your own. It’s true, you know. Everything you have is a gracious gift of God and is given to you by God to be used for His purposes. This applies not only to your money but to your possessions. Your house is God’s. Just as we are expected to be faithful stewards of our financial resources, we are to be faithful stewards of our houses. And so I ask, when was the last time you allowed God to use your house to reach out to others? Do people feel welcome in your house? Do they feel that they can invite themselves to your house for counsel, fellowship or a couple of eggs they need to finish a birthday cake?

One of the highest purposes of Christians is to extend hospitality and friendship to others. I feel this will increasingly be a mark of followers of Christ. In a culture where individuals are becoming ever more individualistic and families are ever-more retreating into their own lives, Christians will be marked as people who graciously and cheerfully extend hospitality to others. Christian houses will be marked as being ones with open doors, where invitations are extended and expected. This is the type of house I grew up in. It is the type of house I have grown to love.

Your time is not your own. In the same way God gives us money and expects us to use it faithfully and wisely, He gives us time and expects us to use it in a way that brings honor to Him. We must not allow ourselves to become selfish with our time. We need to invest in others and make them feel that they are so important to us that we will give them of our precious time. Do people feel that they can presume upon your time? Do they feel that you are available to them if they have questions or concerns or if they need to learn how to use those eggs to bake that birthday cake? Or do they feel that to use your time is to cause you inconvenience and that you are hesitant to make time in your schedule for them?

Your home is not your own. In another recent article I differentiated between a house and a home to show what a thrill and what an honor it is that the Holy Spirit makes His home within us. “There is a difference between a house and a home, isn’t there? A newly constructed neighborhood not far from me advertises ‘homes beginning in the low 300’s.’ But they aren’t really selling homes, are they? They are selling houses. A house only becomes a home when a person lives in it and when it begins to take on the personality of the inhabitants. An empty house is just a shell. It is much like a dead human body. It is a body, but it is not a person.” A home is also a gracious gift of God. The gifts, personalities and talents of the various inhabitants combine to make a home what it is. All of these are given by God and He expects us to be faithful stewards of them.

Is your home open to others? Do you allow people not only past the door of your house but also in your home? Do you invite people into your living room, the formal room immediately beside the front door, or do you invite them into the kitchen where you can be less formal and extend more intimate hospitality? Do people feel they can come to your home only for formal Bible studies or can they come to your home for a personal chat or simply companionship? Do people feel they can drop by at a moment’s notice or do they wait to receive a formal invitation?

Here’s the rub. I just could not help but feel that in discussing this subject people were displaying an attitude that seemed to suggest that their home is their domain and that others do not have a right to presume upon it. I do not feel that this is a biblical attitude. Your house, your time and your home are not yours! They belong to God and ought to be fully surrendered to Him.

It is my hope that people feel they can invite themselves over to my home. I hope they feel that I am willing and eager to use my gifts and talents and time to bless them in whatever way I can. I hope people see that my house and my home and my life have an open door.

February 09, 2006

I wrote last week about a passage of the Bible that I find terrifying. I showed that Satan has a legitimate claim on my life and yours. Thankfully, because of the work of Christ, He also has a claim on our souls and His claim trumps that of Satan!

I began to think about other passages that I find terrifying and remembered something I had written exactly a year ago about another passage. Because today has been a crazy day, I thought I’d repost it! I had just spent a good bit of time reading through some of my old journal entries. Sadly my journalling has tailed off as my blogging has increased. This is sad because journalling was an important spiritual discipline for me. While I often wrote about the same things I write about on this site, journalling was an opportunity to be more personal - to write things that I suppose only God and I will ever know. It is often interesting to go back and read entries from two, three, five or more years ago. In one old notebook I even found the rough notes I made for my wedding speech. And flipping back a few pages, I found some things I had written almost ten years ago now, when I was well, ten years younger! Some of these things make me wonder at my own youthful wisdom, and some make me laugh out loud at my youthful folly. One thing I know for sure is that we should all be glad that I gave up on writing poetry. My wife should be particularly grateful!

I can see that many of the journal entries I wrote eventually turned into articles on this site. There was one in particular that jumped out at me. In my journal I had written about a study we were doing in our small group Bible study about the prophet Daniel. We were looking at him as an example of one who stood strong in his convictions. When commanded to cease worshipping God, he never considered disobeying God. Instead, he pressed on with his routine of praying three times each day. He knew there would be fearsome consequences, yet trusted that obeying God was preferable to any punishment he could face at the hands of men. You can read the story, known to children around the world as “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” in Daniel chapter 5.

Studying Daniel made me think of another section of the Bible that had been on my mind recently. Romans 2:24 reads, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” This passage refers to behavior among the Jewish people of Rome during Paul’s days. These people had turned their backs on God and sunk into every type of ungodly behavior. I found it a sobering thought that people who do not know God can blaspheme His name because of my behavior. What a responsibility it is to be a light to the world and to live in a way that is consistent with the Scriptures.

This brought me back about 650 years to Daniel. Had Daniel backed down and ceased worshipping God, or even if he had partially backed down and made his worship private, the name of God would have been blasphemed by the Persians. They would have seen Daniel as a man who was afraid to stand for his convictions. But Daniel did not back down. He stood firm and rather than being blasphemed, the name of God was exalted by the Gentiles. In Daniel 5:26 - 27 we read the proclamation of the Persian king:

“For He is the living God and enduring forever,
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed,
And His dominion will be forever.
He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

Here was a man, a Gentile and an unbeliever, who praised God for His greatness. He was driven to this proclamation because of the wondrous work God performed in rescuing Daniel. It goes without saying that had Daniel allowed himself to be intimidated and had he refused to stand strong for his convictions, the king would never have praised God. Rather His holy name would have been blasphemed.

In Romans, Paul provides the solution to those who cause others to blaspheme God’s name. “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” We could as easily say today that “A Christian is one inwardly.” A man who has a television program and a ministry and reads from the Bible a lot, may not be a Christian inwardly and may not have the Spirit within.

What an honor and what a great responsibility it is to call ourselves by the name of our Savior and to be His ambassadors on earth! As Christians we bear the name of Christ. Through our example - through our lives - God’s name can be praised and God’s name can be blasphemed. What a fearful thing it must be one who not only blasphemes God’s name, but through evil and careless words and actions, causes other people to blaspheme His holy name! The judgment facing those who cause others to blaspheme God’s name must be fearsome. “ ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30-31) So we must live a life that consistently brings praise and glory to our Lord, that His name may be honored in and through us.

February 07, 2006

There are many who consider Janet Leigh’s murder in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho to be the most terrifying scene in the history of film. The setting, the mood, the music and the camera work combine to create a scene of absolute terror. Her screams were impressed upon the memories of many who watched her macabre death on the silver screen. Since 1960, when the film was produced there have been tens of thousands of horror films made, but in the minds of many who enjoy such films, few of them have begun to approach the brutal genius of Hitchcock’s film.

The horror genre delights in the scream. Bloodcurdling screams are common in horror films, and filmmakers are constantly looking for ways of making them seem more genuine, more heartfelt, more terrifying. I remember reading of a film in which the director had the actors sprayed with the remains of a slaughtered pig during a particular scene in order to be able to capture real disgust and surprise. He wanted to evoke in his actors a pure terror and hoped that would translate to horror in the hearts of those who later watched.

The makers of horror and suspense films are always looking for the ultimate scream.

So I wonder, what would the ultimate scream sound like? If we were to create the most horrifying setting, the most horrifying villain - if we were to make the situation just right, what would that scream sound like? Would it be a wordless scream, or a scream that would express the reason or meaning behind the horror?

I went looking this morning and I found the ultimate scream. It is a scream that I am sure represents the most agonizing, terrifying, painful scream in the history of humanity. And that is no small statement for people have suffered terribly and brutally through the long history of humanity. The ultimate scream, according to Scripture, sounds like this: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

It is probably not what you would say, is it? I don’t know of too many people who would die with the words of Psalm 22 upon their lips. It doesn’t sound too terrifying, does it? Yet it represents the low point of humanity. It was Jesus who uttered those words, and He did so in the midst of pain, torture and forsakenness such as no one else in the world can know or ever will know. R.C. Sproul says, “This cry represents the most agonizing protest ever uttered on this planet. It burst forth in a moment of unparalleled pain. It is the scream of the damned — for us.” The scream of the damned. Jesus Christ gave a cry from the midst of unspeakable agony. He gave the very cry of the damned.

God the Father looked down on His Son, hanging on the cross, and saw not His beloved Son, but “the most grotesque ugliness imaginable.” He saw the sins of all who would be saved resting on that one Man. He saw all the sins that I have committed. He saw all the sins that you committed. He saw all of the sins of all of the elect resting upon one man. Jesus Christ, bearing our sin was removed totally and completed from the presence of the Father at that moment, for God cannot allow sin to remain unpunished. He turned His back on His Son. He completely, utterly forsook Jesus Christ.

And so Jesus cried out in his forsakenness. He cried out in His pain and His agony, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” He was alone and rejected. He willingly took this upon Himself for you and for me. He cried out with the ultimate expression of pain - the scream of the damned - so that we could have life.

I hate horror films. I have seen only a handful of them in my life, and have not seen one since my teenage years. I despise them. And perhaps this is why. The filmmaker may attempt to capture terror in its purest form. He may attempt to create a death that is surely more horrible than has been captured on any film. He may attempt to capture a scream that will remain in people’s memories for many, many years. He may succeed. But he will never be able to capture, or even approach capturing, the horror of the cross - the greatest horror humanity will ever know.

February 06, 2006

“Freedom Go To Hell,” reads the sign. “Europe You Will Pay. Your 9/11 Is On Its Way,” and “Be Prepared For The Real Holocaust” read others. Other signs list verbs prescribing the punishment for one who blasphemes the prophet of Islam: behead, slay, butcher, exterminate, massacre, annihilate. All this from the hearts and hands of those who claim to follow the religion of peace. And all of this over a series of cartoons.

February 03, 2006

European history makes for a fascinating study. Understanding the intricacies of nations, borders and rulers could easily be a life-long pursuit. The history of the continent is filled with claims, and counterclaims as one person sought to prove himself the legitimate heir to a kingdom over another. There are many who sought to claim thrones and kingdoms and these claims had to be settled through lengthy and detailed examination. Generations, kingdoms, marriages, and thrones had to be examined to understand who has the rightful claim to a throne.

I found a similar concept of “claiming” in the Gospels a few days ago. I will be honest with you and admit it was one of the most terrifying passages of Scripture I have ever read. I remember as a child I found Revelation to be a dark and scary book. Visions of beasts and persecution, wrath and disaster gave my imagination much fodder to create terrifying scenarios that played out in my mind as I tried to sleep. But I can’t call to mind anything that has struck my heart with such a pure terror as this verse I read.

It comes as Jesus is preparing to leave His disciples for the last time. They are in the upper room together celebrating the last Passover and the first Lord’s Supper. Jesus is giving his disciples their final instructions, telling them that all He has taught them is about to be fulfilled. He is gentle with them, knowing that they are blinded to the reality of what is about to happen. He is kind to promise that He will send His Spirit to indwell and guide and teach them. And then He tells them that it is time to leave.

“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me…” Jesus knew that Satan was about to unleash his full fury upon Him. And far, far worse, He knew that Satan’s wrath was nothing compared to the wrath of God that He would soon have to face. Satan, the ruler of this world, was coming. He was going to drag Jesus, like a helpless, hopeless lamb, through the streets, through the courts, and to the cross where He would be tortured and nailed and pierced in utter agony. Satan was going to do his worst. But Satan would not accomplish what he had hoped. Satan would accomplish the very opposite of what he had intended. By inciting the masses to drag Jesus to that tree, Satan would make sure his own doom and ensure the salvation of multitudes of God’s people. Satan could do nothing to Jesus beyond the physical, for he had no claim on Jesus. He had no claim on the Son of God.

The Bible calls Satan the accuser and that is exactly what he is. In Revelation 12 we read of a voice that cries out, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Satan delights in accusing God’s children of our sin. He whispers in our ears and in our hearts that we are unloving, unworthy and unfathomably sinful. He tells us that we are his. He has a claim on us. Satan, the ruler of this world, has a claim on my soul and on yours.

But he had no claim on Jesus. Satan could not whisper in Jesus’ ear that He was unloving or unworthy or sinful. He could not remind Jesus of sins He had committed, people he had shunned or offenses against God. He could not remind Jesus of impure motives or impure thoughts. Satan was powerless to accuse Jesus. He had no claim against Him. In John 8:46 Jesus asked the Pharisees a rhetorical question after they accused Him of being in league with Satan. “Which one of you convicts me of sin?,” he asked them. And none of them could answer. Satan is likewise unable to convict Jesus of sin. He has no claim.

But not so with us. Satan has a legitimate claim to my soul and yours. Satan can recount endless lists of offenses against God. You and I have committed grevious offenses against God. We have done so joyfully, willingly, deliberately. We have done so as a show of our rebellion against God. We have enjoyed being sinful. We have enjoyed giving Satan a claim on our souls. In a time of judgment there is no doubt that Satan can produce a list of offenses more than sufficient to prove his claim on us. It is a legitimate claim. He has ruled us and we have allowed ourselves to be ruled by him.

Terror fills my soul as I ponder Satan’s claim on my soul. My heart feels like ice. Satan, the accuser, the evil one, wants my soul as his own possession. He has a claim on it. He has a claim on you. How can you not fear as you read those words?

But praise be to God, there is more. When Satan flung Jesus upon that cross, he was unwittingly bringing about his own destruction. When Jesus’ time on the cross was complete, He cried out, “It is finished!” It was a cry of triumph - a cry whose fullest meaning we can never know. It was a cry that pierced history - it divided the history of humanity. It was the greatest, purest, most meaningful utterance the world can know. In His death Christ took our sin upon Himself. He took the accusations of Satan and bore them on our behalf. As God turned His back on Jesus, while at the same time pouring out His wrath upon Him, Jesus atoned for our sins. He entered a claim of His own in the lives of His children. My sin became His and His righteousness became mine.

The accuser has lost his claim. When Satan accuses me now I am able to know, to believe, to trust and to affirm that his claim is null and void. I am clothed in Christ’s righteousness. My sin has been removed. My guilt has been taken away. I have been redeemed. And, as the climber in triumph leaves a flag at the peak of a mountain, Jesus Christ has sent His Spirit to live within me and to mark me as His own possession.

Satan may still accuse me. He may still seek to convince me that I am his. But he has lost his claim. Jesus has washed me with His blood. He has set His Spirit within me. Jesus Christ has claimed me as His own. The terror fades as love and praise well up within my heart. Tears fall from my eyes as I know and believe that I have been claimed by God Himself.

January 29, 2006

King for a Week is an honor I bestow on blogs that I feel are making a valuable contribution to my faith and the faith of other believers. Every week I select a blog, link to it from my site, and add that site’s most recent headlines to my left sidebar. While this is really not much, I do feel that it allows me to encourage and support other bloggers while making my readers aware of other good sites.

The first article I remember reading written by J.D. Wetterling was a tribute to his father posted in honor of Father’s Day (you can read it by clicking here and scrolling down to the entry from June 17, 2005). I saw immediately that he is a very talented writer. He posts only once per week proving the old adage that less is more. He has written for such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and World Magazine. His book, NO ONE…” Finding Certainty in an Uncertain World is due to be published later this year by Christian Focus Publications.

For the next few days you will be able to see the most recent headlines from J.D.’s site in the sidebar of my site. I hope you will make your way over to the site and look around.

I continue to accept nominations for King of the Week. If you have a site you would like to nominate, feel free to do so by clicking on the “suggest” button below the King of the Week box. Thanks to those of you who nominated this week’s honoree.

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