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September 24, 2006

Today I present a brief reflection on Sunday, providing some historic viewpoints on the Lord’s Day as summarized in various creeds and confessions. I do not think my commentary would be helpful or necessary:

The London Baptist Confession says:

As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished…The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

The Heidelberg Catechism says:

…That I, especially on the sabbath, that is, on the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God, (b) to hear his word, (c) to use the sacraments, (d) publicly to call upon the Lord, (e) and contribute to the relief of the poor. (f) Secondly, that all the days of my life I cease from my evil works, and yield myself to the Lord, to work by his Holy Spirit in me: and thus begin in this life the eternal sabbath. (g)

The Westminster Longer Catechism states:

The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to betaken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day…The sins forbidden in the fourth commandment are, all omissions of the duties required, all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them; all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful; and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.

The Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists has as a core belief:

The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observances. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion both public and private and by refraining from worldly amusements and resting from secular employments work of necessity and mercy only being expected.

And finally, the average Evangelical says:

“Want to go to the mall after church?”

September 22, 2006

It looks like the whole mess at Ligonier may (thankfully!) be drawing to a close. This afternoon two statements were posted to Ligonier’s web site. The first was from Ligonier’s Senior Management and the second from CEO Tim Dick. Since I have posted on this matter in the past, I may as well carry on and post what I (optimistically) hope represents the end of the matter.

Here is the statement from Senior Management (link):

On August 24, 2006, Ligonier Ministries filed a legal complaint and a request for an injunction since no ecclesiastical court could be found. The filing was an attempt to stem the slanderous and reckless allegations being made about Ligonier and its leaders on the Internet by an individual known as Frank Vance, whose true identity is still unknown to us.

The accuser’s malicious attacks culminated with the accusation that Ligonier defrauded Soli Deo Gloria, in our recent acquisition of it. This has been categorically refuted by Don Kistler, SDG’s founder.

Threats to Ligonier and its leadership have continued to escalate, with the accuser issuing deadlines for Ligonier to answer his non-credible charges. At one point our president was told he had “put a knife to his own throat,” by ignoring the accuser.

Throughout this entire ordeal, numerous emails and posts refuting the accuser were ignored by him. Mediation through ecclesiastical means is always preferred. On at least six occasions, we have sought information from the accuser as to how we might contact his pastor or session. The accuser has refused all requests, publicly scoffing at the notion.

Based on godly counsel we have received from churchmen and others, the decision was reached not to pursue a conclusion to this matter through the legal system.

Having withdrawn the complaint, we ask friends and fellow believers to pray that we will have wisdom as this matter comes to a peaceful end.

We are grieved by the entire matter, and we desire that God be glorified by the outcome of this decision.

- Ligonier Ministries’ Senior Management

And here is the statement from Tim Dick (link):

Public Statement from Tim Dick President and CEO of Ligonier Ministries

On August 24, 2006 a complaint was filed in a Judicial Court of Seminole County, by Ligonier Ministries seeking injunctive relief because of the significant threats and allegations being made by a “blogger” under the name Frank Vance, whose true identity is yet unknown.

The decision to take this step was extremely difficult. The intention of the complaint was simply to respond to the unfounded, slanderous attack of our accuser, and to seek an objective response. I attempted to resolve this in private, as my beliefs require. Each time I refuted the accusations, he refused to listen. My denials were then used by the accuser to perpetuate his blog commentary. At that point, I stopped interacting with the accuser, who again escalated his attack, continuing to exhibit, by his public and private conduct, a testimony inconsistent with that of a Christian.

In light of Don Kistler’s statement and our concern for the health of the church, I have asked that our complaint be withdrawn. I regret any confusion this may have caused to our constituents, staff, Board of Directors and our friends and colleagues in the Christian community. As the President and CEO of Ligonier Ministries I accept full responsibility for the decision and consider the matter closed. I pray that in the days ahead, God will be glorified as we continue to serve Him.

September 22, 2006

If you were to do a Google search for the term “planned neglect” you would likely encounter a host of articles dealing with politics. At the forefront you would find articles about New Orleans and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Many locals, dismayed at the way the disaster was handled, charged various levels of government with planned neglect, insisting that the city had not been merely killed but had been murdered. Neglect had led to the death of the city. But there is more to planned neglect than mere politics.

I think “planned neglect” (or the similar “deliberate neglect”) is a principle that Christians would do well to consider. It is a discipline that can benefit anyone.

The principle is illustrated in a story that has often been told of a famous concert violinist who played in New York’s Carnegie Hall. When asked how she had become so skillful, she replied that it was through planned neglect. “I decide every day that I will neglect things and even people, that would take me away from the priority of practicing.” She was focused on a particular end and was willing to neglect whatever did not lead to that end.

Jesus sometimes displayed small cases of planned neglect in his ministry. When told that his friend Lazarus was dying, Jesus did not immediately rush to his side, but tarried where he was for several days. When he finally did arrive, Lazarus was already dead and buried. Mary and Martha both cried to Jesus “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Yet Jesus had planned this neglect. Jesus wept by the tomb of his friend. For three days He had deliberately neglected his own feelings, for surely He desired to rush to Bethany to protect his friend and his friend’s sisters from the pain of illness, death and separation. Still, this was not his Father’s will. Jesus knew that “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” And so the Son would be glorified, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, calling him out of the tomb. His planned neglect furthered the Father’s plan by bringing glory to Him.

What is true of this concert violinist and of Jesus is true of many of the great Christians. Biographies of great Christian men and women are filled with examples of what they have deliberately neglected in order to pursue their callings from God. Missionaries have neglected the comforts and safeties of their homelands in order to take the gospel to the far corners of the world. Pastors have neglected careers that would have been far easier and would have come with far more generous financial rewards. Countless Christians have neglected hobbies or passions that would taken time they would rather have dedicated to serving the Lord or learning about Him.

I have often been challenged by the concept of planned neglect. I tend to live a pretty comfortable life and tend to follow the desires of my heart. I am often not strong enough to neglect things that draw me away from responsibilities that are less pressing but far more important. And yet sometimes God works in me to realize that there are certain things I can live without. My passion for football is fading in direct proportion to the growth of my family, so that Sunday afternoons can be more of a time to spend with family and less of a time to spend lying on the couch. My desire to watch television in the evenings is also decreasing so I can spend that time more profitably. While God has helped in this, I have had to deliberately choose to neglect things that I love. I’m grateful that God has worked in me to allow me to do this.

There remains much for me to do. I continue to find new and creative ways to waste time. I continue to spend far too much time doing what is useless and what profits nothing. I continue to plan what I must neglect next. I trust that God will continue to show me what I must neglect and that He will empower me to do so.

September 21, 2006

Dr. Don Kistler sent the following document to me this evening and asked if I would publish it on my blog. It deals with the ongoing and increasingly-public allegations made against Ligonier Ministries, many of which involve Dr. Kistler’s name. I am glad to publish this exactly as it was provided to me.

A Public Statement from Dr. Don Kistler
Managing Editor, Soli Deo Gloria Publications
A Division of Ligonier Ministries

I have been reading several blogsites lately where things have been posted regarding Ligonier Ministries and its president and CEO, Tim Dick, and the acquisition of Soli Deo Gloria Ministries. I think that I am in a good position to correct some misconceptions and misrepresentations regarding that situation and subsequent allegations.

First, Soli Deo Gloria was not defrauded by Tim Dick or Ligonier. Our ministry was not stolen. We signed an agreement to become part of Ligonier Ministries. There was no switching of contracts, and there was no duplicity in their dealings with us. I have no idea where this came from, or who is making such statements-but they did not come from me.

Second, I am not being mistreated by R.C. Sproul. He is not treating me as a “persona non grata,” nor is he failing to speak to me. Neither am I seeing any form of retaliation from Tim Dick, as has been erroneously reported. Those things have simply not happened.

Third, I can accept invitations to speak and/or preach as I am asked. Ligonier has been most accommodating in that respect.

Thanks to all of you who have prayed for me during my recent stroke due to a brain hemorrhage. I am recovering well, albeit slowly. This is why it has taken me until now to respond regarding this matter.

I hope this helps to clear up some of the allegations and accusations that have been made. I also hope it serves to restore people’s opinions regarding Tim Dick, Ligonier Ministries, and my dear friend R. C. Sproul. He remains the object of my highest respect and deepest affection, and I look forward to many years of serving the Lord as part of the Ligonier Ministries team.

Dr. Don Kistler

September 20, 2006

The Wiggles are big business. The group of four Aussies, who got their start fifteen years ago, are now among the world’s most popular children’s entertainers. Its four members (Anthony, Greg, Murray and Jeff) and their friends (Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog, Henry the Octopus and Captain Feathersword the friendly pirate) have been entertaining Australian children with their song and dance since 1991. The Sydney-based band is also popular in other English-speaking countries such as New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Even in South America and Europe, there are Wiggles songs sung in Spanish and Portuguese.

In a unique move, The Wiggles have licensed their name and image to media outlets in several Asian nations. “Through a deal with the Walt Disney Channel, the band has authorized various Asian clones that perform its hit song ‘Hot Potato’ in different local languages. The first Taiwanese Wiggles debuted in March of 2003, closely followed by a Japanese version. The Taiwanese group has also adapted several of the original Wiggles songs into Mandarin - something that seems to have further contributed to the group’s increasing popularity around the island. According to Taiwan’s Taipei Times, recent television ratings show that ‘a staggering 3.2 percent of the island’s population tune into the evening Wiggles show on a daily basis. Ratings for the show’s morning and afternoon slots are somewhat lower, and presently stand at 0.69 and 1.04 percent of the population respectively.’ The success of the Taiwanese Wiggles suggests the amazing power of popular media products across geo-political boundaries. Yet, it also indicates the extent to which these products need to be localized in order to cross various cultural barriers successfully.”

Steve, a reader of this site (and a Sovereign Grace Ministries insider), sent me a picture of The Wiggles and compared it to one I posted on my site yesterday. He suggests that perhaps the Wiggles are also being franchised to appeal to different audiences even within North America. They are being localized not only across cultural barriers, but across age barriers. Is it possible that the photo below represents auditions for the new “The Wiggles for Seniors?” You tell me!

The New Wiggles

I don’t intend to make this blog another Purgatorio. It is fun to laugh sometimes and I just couldn’t turn this one down. We’ll now return to our regularly-scheduled, far more serious programming. Honest.

September 20, 2006

Having just read a book about prayer, and having sought recently to increase the presence of prayer in my life, I turned a few days ago to the topic of persistence in prayer. I soon found something I had written about this in the past and thought I would share it with you today, hoping that it will prove beneficial to you as it has to me.

It is the Lord’s delight to give us what we ask of Him in prayer. With David we all ought to cry out, “O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth” (Psalm 54:2). If Christians did not believe in the efficacy of prayer, there would be no reason for us to ask anything of God. He tells us that we can have this confidence. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14,15). While most Christian pay lip-service to the superlatives in that sentence (“whatever” and “anything”) very few really believe it.

The fact is that our prayers are often hindered. There are times when it feels like our prayers are reaching the ceiling and going no further; times when we are lying face-down on the floor and feel that our prayers are rising no higher than the fibers of the carpet. While we can be sure that God does hear our prayers, there are times when He chooses not to heed or answer them. What is especially tragic is that I am the only one who can hinder my prayers. You are the only one who can hinder your prayers. I cannot hinder your prayers anymore than you can hinder mine. And while we may have done much to hinder our prayers, we are not necessarily even aware of this. Allow me to present six ways we can hinder our prayers so that God will not answer them. This list is incomplete, for there may be other ways our prayers are hindered, but it contains the most likely and significant ways.

Selfish Motives

All humans are selfish. It is part of our human nature that we naturally regard our own interests ahead of the interests of others. And sadly, we often regard our own interests ahead of God’s. In the passage we read above, 1 John 5:14 and 15, the apostle tells us that our confidence comes from asking “according to his [God’s] will.” James similarly exhorts “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).

So the first hindrance to our prayer is our motives. We must ask in accordance with God’s will. We must ask only for things that are consistent with the character and nature of God. We must ask for things that are for the spiritual benefit of ourselves or the person we pray for.

Turning Away From Scripture

If we are not spending time immersing ourselves in Scripture and are not obeying what we have learned, we should not expect God to answer our prayers. Our defiance in ignoring the life-giving Words of the Bible may hinder us from having our prayers answered. Solomon goes so far as to suggest that prayers made from such a hardened heart are an abomination to God. “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9).

When we read the Words of Scripture, we ask and encourage God to speak to us. He provides the understanding we need to live lives that bring glory to Him - lives that are increasingly consistent with His standards of grace and holiness. If we thumb our nose at the importance of this discipline and if we disobey what He teaches, He will not answer our prayers.

Unforgiving Hearts

The Christian has been forgiven for the greatest of offenses. He has been forgiven for knowingly, purposely and unrepentantly transgressing the Law of God. And yet we are often slow to forgive our fellow man for the smallest of transgressions, for even the biggest of the sins committed against us are as nothing compared to how we sinned against God. God does not honor this attitude. In Mark 11:25 Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Our ongoing assurance of pardon before the Father is in some way dependant on our willingness to forgive others. We must be attentive to our hearts, to ensure that we are not harboring hatred and resentment towards others. If we have this attitude we should expect our prayers to be hindered.

Family Discord

It is God’s will that families live together in peace and harmony. It is, of course, impossible for us to live in perfect peace, but God demands that we maintain close relationships and that we seek harmony in our family relationships. It is foremost the responsibility of the father, as the head of the household, to ensure that there is not discord within the family. When this discord exists, especially in the relationship of a husband to his wife, his prayers may well be hindered. The apostle Peter, a married man himself, exhorted husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way, being sensitive to their needs, “showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

The relationship between a husband and a wife is to reflect that of Christ to His church. It is to be a relationship of absolute love, adoration and sacrifice. If Christ gave His life for the church, how can a husband do any less for his wife? This is, of course, impossible when the relationship is strained or broken. Thus a man should examine his relationship with his wife to ensure this is not a hindrance to his prayers.

Unconfessed Sin

Just as unforgiveness can hinder our prayers, so can sin in our lives that we have refused to confess before God. “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18). Before we conclude that God has simply not heard or prayers or that it is not His will to give us what we ask, we need to examine our hearts to see if unconfessed sin stands as a barrier between ourselves and God.

While we need to continually examine our hearts, we need also to ask God to reveal our sin to us. We should ask those closest to us what they have observed in our lives. While God most often reveals sin through the reading of and meditating upon His Word, we should realize that if we do not learn our lesson from Scripture, He may have to resort to harsher tactics where our sin is revealed before others, even publicly. While this may be difficult and humiliating, He does so because He loves us and does not wish for this sin to continue to corrupt us and to stand as a barrier between Himself and us.

Doubt

God wants us to have confidence in His ability and willingness to provide what is necessary for us to attain to godliness. He wants us to believe that He can and will do what He says. Thus when we doubt - when we ask expecting rejection and when we ask almost hoping for rejection - we will hinder our prayers. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:5-7).

Our prayer cannot be separated from our faith. If we are to ask God, we must ask with expectancy, believing in our heart of hearts that God can and will give what we want, provided that what we want is really what we need! We are to ask with confidence and expectancy.

Conclusion

The eighteenth chapter of Luke is premised with the following words: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus goes on to share the parable of the persistent widow. It is a parable designed to teach the importance of persisting in prayer. It is God’s desire that we persist in our petitions before Him. When we ask and do not receive, we need to examine ourselves and question why our prayers are being hindered. Are we asking selfishly? Have we turned away from God, harbored unforgiveness in our hearts or ignored sin in our lives? Or have we allowed discord to creep into our families? These questions can lead us back to the Word of God and guide us to an examination of our hearts.

September 19, 2006

successor.jpg

Gaithersburg, MD - From Sovereign Grace Ministries, based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, comes news of an exciting new competition. Throughout the Fall, Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) will travel the length and width of America, visiting malls and megachurches across the nation seeking The Successor®.

The ministry expects more than 10,000 young men to vie for their chance to become The Successor®. Of the thousands of candidates, eighteen will be chosen to travel to Gaithersburg where an eighteen-week competition will gradually reduce the number to one. The winner of this competition will be named The Successor® and will become apprentice to C.J. Mahaney. He will be groomed to succeed Mahaney as leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Mahaney serves on the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and on the boards of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. He is the author of The Cross Centered Life; Christ Our Mediator; Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know, Humility: True Greatness, and Living the Cross Centered Life. He is no stranger to such competitions. In 1998 he conducted a similar competition to choose his successor as Senior Pastor of Covenant Life Church. Surprisingly, there was only one applicant and, after a long and grueling competition with himself, Josh Harris was declared The Successor®.

Upon arrival in Gaithersburg, contestants, who will live together in a dorm-like setting, will be divided into two teams: Team Humility and Team Servant. Each week the teams will be assigned a task and required to select a Servant Leader to lead in the task. The winning team will receive a reward while the losing team will face elimination. Rewards are expected to vary from opportunities to meet backstage with Bob Kauflin during the GLAD reunion tour (GLAD will be opening for POD on their upcoming tour) to time alone with C.J. on the shores of Lake Mahaney (which is to say the reservoir immediately behind Covenant Life Church).

sgm.jpgEach week the losing team will meet in the Spurgeon Room where a showdown will take place that will see Mahaney fire the weakest contestant. Elimination will proceed in two phases. In the first stage, every one of the members of the losing team will be confronted with their successes and their failures. They will be given the opportunity to plead their case. The Servant Leader will then select one or two team members he feels are most responsible for the loss and they will accompany him to the Spurgeon Room where they will face a final showdown with Mahaney. After further examination by C.J. and his assistants, one contestant will be fired. Because the words “You’re fired!” are no longer in the public domain, Sovereign Grace Ministries has trademarked the phrase, “Would you please serve us by serving somewhere else!” and these are the words it is expected Mahaney will use to declare his decision and remove a contestant.

The eliminated contestant will be immediately sent home while the others will continue in the competition. He will be given an opportunity to say his final words as he is driven to nearby Baltimore Washington International Airport.

Serving as Mahaney’s assistants will be the stern-faced Carolyn McCulley and the long-serving Bo Lotinsky. They will be his “eyes and ears” on the ground during competitions and will be expected to provide updates to Mahaney. They will be present in the Spurgeon Room during the elimination showdowns and will be free to scold contestants or to ask questions of them.

While the details of individual tasks remain a closely guarded secret, rumors have long circulated on the Internet that one would involve re-organizing “the world’s best bookstore” which is in the lobby of Covenant Life Church. Currently selling primarily books, teams will be expected to integrate the most exciting, humble and discerning Christian potpourri and Bible-zines, thus raising the store’s profitability. Another task will involve redesigning the covers of C.J. Mahaney’s books to increase the visibility of overtly religious iconography.

When only four candidates remain, they will face a long and grueling series of interviews with a wide variety of church leaders and theologians. Each of these interviewers will provide their assessments of the candidates to Mahaney. The two weakest candidates will be fired, leaving two finalists. These two will embark on a head-to-head competition which will ultimately determine the winner. While details are sketchy, it is expected that one finalist will be required to teach a day-long course defending cessationism at the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s college while the other will have to teach a course defending continuationism at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

The season finale will be held live in the Covenant Life Church auditorium. Mahaney, McCulley and Lotinsky will be given a final opportunity to grill the remaining two candidates. And finally Mahaney will announce his decision. The winner will become The Successor® and will eventually succeed C.J. Mahaney as leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries. He will be hired at an extremely average salary and will be expected to move into the Mahaney home for at least one year. He will accompany Mahaney to conferences, preaching engagements and pick-up basketball games, thus learning the skills he will need to successfully serve as leader.

Because of SGM’s complimentarian beliefs, the competition is open only to men. Additionally, only men aged eighteen to thirty will be considered. While evidence of the early onset of male pattern baldness will not be considered a necessity, most industry insiders expect that it will be regarded as an asset.

Television rights to the competition have been sold to the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the show is expected to air coast-to-coast. It will be slotted between This Is Your Day with Benny Hinn and Daily Affirmation from Lakewood Church with Joel and Victoria Osteen.

Stay tuned for details of Sovereign Grace Ministries’ coast-to-coast search for candidates coming this Fall. You could be The Successor®!

September 17, 2006

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, many Muslims throughout the world are terribly upset by comments made by the pope during a recent speech. While speaking to a group of university professors in his native Germany, the pope cited the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam’s founder, as “evil and inhuman.” He has since offered a less-than-complete apology, saying that he is deeply sorry for the reaction his words have caused. “At this time I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims,” he said on Sunday. “I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.” Of course apologizing for a reaction is no real apology, but we’ll leave that aside for a moment.

I found it interesting that the Vatican released a statement shortly after the speech in which Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the pope’s position on Islam is unmistakably in line with Vatican teaching that the church “esteems Muslims, who adore the only God.” To equate Allah with the God of the Bible is absolutely absurd for they bear only the slightest resemblance. Christianity and Islam are as different as any two religions could be.

Regardless, Muslims around the world are protesting. Here in Canada a news outlet spoke to Adnan Husain, professor of history of Islam and interfaith relations at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Husain said he’s concerned about the ramifications of the pontiff’s comments, which he said reinforce widespread and incorrect stereotypes about Islam. “I am very concerned about how this reinforces stereotypes, but particularly, how it sharpens a sense of religious conflict and cultural clash during these times when there is a stated war on terrorism taking place.”

Now I don’t often attempt to do P.R. for the Muslim world, but I can’t help but feel that Muslims could help destroy those “widespread and incorrect stereotypes about Islam” by reacting to this situation with calm. They could react peacefully, calling for dialogue and charity. In short, they could react in the way most Christians do when God is slighted and blasphemed. They could react with righteous indignation rather than burning anger. And yet, here is what the press reports:

“Palestinians used guns, firebombs and lighter fluid to attack four Christian churches in the West Bank town of Nablus. Gunmen opened fire on a fifth church in Gaza.”

“In India, angry Muslims clashed with police during a protest in Kashmir. More than 20 were arrested.”

“In the town of Tulkarem, a 170-year-old stone church built 170 years ago was torched before dawn and its interior was destroyed, local Christian officials said. In the village of Tubas, a small church was attacked with firebombs and partially burned, Christians said. Neither church is Catholic, the officials said.”

“An Iraqi insurgent group threatened the Vatican with a suicide attack over the Pope’s remarks on Islam, said a statement posted Saturday on the Web. “We swear to God to send you people who adore death as much as you adore life,” said the message posted in the name of the Mujahedeen Army on a website frequently used by militant groups. The message’s authenticity could not be independently verified. The statement was addressed to “you dog of Rome” and threatened to “shake your thrones and break your crosses in your home.”

This is just a sampling of what the press is offering. There are also plenty of pictures of burning churches, and angry, screaming Muslims holding placards denouncing the pope. To be fair there are several other organizations that have accepted the pope’s apology and no longer display such outrage. But the violence continues as do the threats and the anger.

The point is, if you want to undo stereotypes the best way of doing so is not to blame a person who supposedly reinforces a negative stereotype, but in reacting in a way that different than the stereotype. The stereotype of Muslims tells us that they would react to the pope’s words with anger, violence and calls for blood. Sure enough, many Muslims reacted with anger, violence and calls for blood. So who is reinforcing the negative stereotype?

September 16, 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 (or so) I select a blog, link to it from my site, and add that site’s most recent headlines to the sidebar on this site. 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.

This week’s award goes to a site that wins it on a technicality. Way of the Master Radio is not actually a blog. As you may have guessed from the name, it’s a radio broadcast. Yet, because they use a blog to post the new shows and because they offer a podcast of the previous day’s show, I thought it would qualify as King for a Week. WOTM Radio is a daily broadcast featuring Todd “Freakishly Tall” Friel with occasional appearances by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. The show covers issues relevant to the contemporary church and also broadcasts daily attempts to evangelize unbelievers which showcase the Way of the Master technique to get people to consider how they have broken the Laws of God. Todd combines a great sense of humor with a thorough knowledge of the truth to create an enjoyable listening experience. I have listened to many of their podcasts and am glad to commend them to you.

In the coming days you will be able to see the most recent shows listed in the sidebar of my site. I hope you will make your way over the site, look around, and listen in to the Way of the Master podcast. I’m sure you’ll find it worth while.

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. Thanks to those of you who nominated this week’s honoree.

September 15, 2006

God, Max & Me - I’ve felt a little bit brain-dead this week. Grieved by the shallowness of my devotional life and my difficulty in making sufficient time for it, I recently decided to try a whole new approach. I now wake up an hour earlier than I used to but leave my Bible on the shelf. I get up a good long time before the sun comes up and head outdoors with just my iPod which I have loaded with hymns, classical music and Max McLean’s recording of the ESV. I walk the darkened streets of Oakville for a time I affectionately call “God, Max & Me.” To this point I have really enjoyed this time and I’m grateful for the technology that allows this. It is awfully difficult to drag my tired carcass out of bed at such a ridiculous hour, but it has proven well worth it. I am surprised at how much I am enjoying listening to the Bible instead of reading it. I can easily walk for an hour, listening to Scripture, listening to hymns and praying and return home wishing I could spend another hour doing the same. I assume my body will eventually adjust to waking up earlier as since I began doing this I’ve had trouble thinking, writing, working and generally staying awake! But even so, it has been worth it.

Sermon CloudSermoncloud - Here’s an interesting idea. Sermoncloud is a site that provides “advanced sermon syndication.” “Sermon Cloud is a website for a community to interact with sermons. What are the powerful sermons people are listening to? Who are the up-and-coming preachers of the day? Where are the messages about themes that you need to hear? How can you find a great preacher in your home town? Sermon Cloud was designed to help you with all of these questions. Sermon Cloud users help let each other know which sermons they amen. An ‘amen’ is a recommendation of the sermon. Users can post comments about their interaction with these sermons (even the comments can be designated as helpful or unhelpful).” As sermons are recommended, they become apparent to a wider audience, thus suggesting that better sermons will be heard by more people. Obviously the usefulness of the site depends, in large part, to the quality of the sermons. To this point it appears that many of the pastors are engaged in biblical preaching. But certainly having more preachers who deliberately and humbly exposit the Scriptures would increase the value of the site.

Clarity and Mystery - Just this morning I was discussing Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy with some friends. We had read his chapter on “God Incomprehensible” and we noted that a book about knowing God began with a chapter affirming that God is incomprehensible. Yet Tozer is careful to state that while we can never know all there is to know about God, He has still revealed much about Himself and we can know these things with confidence. “ ‘What is God like?’ If by that question we mean ‘What is God like in Himself there is no answer. If we mean ‘What has God disclosed about Himself that the reverent reason can comprehend?’ there is, I believe, an answer both full and satisfying. For while the name of God is secret and His essential nature incomprehensible, He in condescending love has by revelation declared certain things to be true of Himself.”

We spoke of the Emerging Church Movement and of the way they celebrate doubt over certainty. This is something I was struck by (read it here) several months ago after hearing Brian McLaren speak. A faith which measures maturity by doubt rather than confidence is, frankly, ridiculous and unscriptural.

Interestingly, when I returned home I opened up my RSS reader and found the following on Phil Johnson’s blog:

This morning, I taped a one-hour interview with John MacArthur on the Emerging Church Movement. He spoke with his usual candor about various trends in the post-evangelical wasteland. He said one of the worst tendencies of the “emerging” spirit is the way it exaggerates and venerates mystery at the expense of the Bible’s clarity. Denying the perspicuity of Scripture has the same practical outcome as denying the truthfulness of Scripture. The essential message of Scripture is not unclear or uncertain, and Jesus Himself bore testimony to that fact repeatedly.

It is also worth quoting John Frame who writes the following about doubt:

[T]he Bible presents doubt largely in negative terms. It is a spiritual impediment, an obstacle to doing God’s work (Matt. 14:31; 21:21; 28:17; Acts 10:20; 11:12; Rom. 14:23; 1 Tim. 2:8; James 1:6). In Matthew 14:31 and Romans 14:23 it is the opposite of faith and therefore a sin. Of course, this sin, like other sins, may remain with us through our earthly life. But we should not be complacent about it. Just as the ideal for the Christian life is a perfect holiness, the ideal for the Christian mind is absolute certainty about God’s revelation.

We should not conclude, however, that doubt is always sinful. Matthew 14:31 and Romans 14:23 (and indeed the other texts I have listed) speak of doubt in the fact of clear special revelation. To doubt what God has clearly spoken to us is wrong. But in other situations, it is not wrong to doubt. In many cases, in fact, it is wrong for us to claim knowledge, much less certainty. Indeed, often the best course is to admit our ignorance (Deut. 29:29, Rom. 11:33-36). Paul is not wrong to express uncertainty about the number of people he baptized (1 Cor. 1:16). Indeed, James tells us, we are not always ignorant of the future to some extent and we should not pretend to know more about it than we do (James 4:13-16). Job’s friends were wrong to think that they knew the reasons for his torment, and Job himself had to be humbled, as God reminded him of his ignorance (Job 38-42).

But as to our salvation, God wants us to know that we know him (1 John 5:13)…

The Bible celebrates confidence, not doubt. The Emerging Church celebrates doubt, not confidence. You do the math.

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