Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Remedy

We all know that the world is broken; that everyone around us, and we ourselves are broken. This accurate diagnosis is frightening and depressing, for “the wages of sin is death.” Nevertheless, the diagnosis of the problem―of our problem―is the beginning of our hope. It’s hard to get worse than dead. After the Apostle Paul describes our condition as “dead in trespasses and sins,” and that we were “by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Eph. 2:1-3), we find an important word―a critical word: BUT….

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. ―Ephesians 2:4-10

The Apostle Peter expressed the same idea this way:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. ―1 Peter 1:3

It is never too late to turn to the remedy; to receive new life in Christ. This is not some far-off hope for after the grave only. It’s about a new beginning today. The resurrecting work of Christ is real and it’s powerful and it’s immediate. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).  The Apostle Paul also observed that with respect to the resurrection of Christ, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:19). The flip side of this observation is that if Christ did rise from the dead the implications for us all are profound and it turns out that it is those who have no hope in Christ are the ones who are the most pitiable. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. If Jesus rose from the dead, then nothing else matters. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then nothing else matters. St. Hippolytus said it well:

When [Christ's] cosmic battle came to an end, the heavens shook . . . stones were split open, and the world might well have perished. . . . And then, when He ascended, His divine spirit gave life and strength to the tottering world, and the whole universe became stable once more, as if the stretching out, the agony of the Cross, had in some way gotten into everything.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Evil and Sin

In 1992 I read M. Scott Pecks book, People of the Lie, the Hope for Healing Human Evil (first published in 1983, and still available). This book offered profound insight into the psychology of human evil, something I was contending with in a particular case I was dealing with as a pastor. Unfortunately, in 31+ years of pastoral ministry, this has shown up occasionally and I was reminded of just how good and helpful Peck’s book was and is. Here are a few excerpts:

It is not their sins per se that characterize evil people, rather it is the subtlety and persistence and consistency of their sins. This is because the central defect of the evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it. 
While usually subtle, their destructiveness is remarkably consistent. This is because those who have “crossed over the line” are characterized their absolute refusal to tolerate the sense of their own sinfulness. 
 Any genuine Christian will consider himself or herself to be a sinner. The fact that many nominal and overtly devout “Christians” do not in their hearts consider themselves sinners should not be conceived as a failure of the doctrine but only a failure of the individual to begin to live up to it. More will be said later about evil in Christian guise. 
The evil do not serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to themselves. In fact they do not bear it at all…—because all sins are reparable except the sin of believing one is without sin. 
A predominant characteristic, however, of the behavior of those I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they con­sider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to reserve their self-image of perfection.
Scapegoating works through a mechanism psychiatrists call projection. Since the evil, deep down, feel themselves to be faultless, it is inevitable that when they are in conflict with the world they will invariably perceive the conflict as the world’s fault. Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad. They project their own evil onto the world. They never think of themselves as evil; on the other hand, they consequently see much evil in others.
In other words, the evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. Spiritual growth requires the acknowledgment of one’s need to grow. If we cannot make that acknowledgment, we have no option except to attempt to eradicate the evidence of our imperfection. 
Strangely enough, evil people are often destructive because they are attempting to destroy evil. The problem is they misplace the locus of the evil. Instead of destroying others they should be destroying the sickness within themselves. As life often threatens their self-image of perfection, they are often busily engaged in hating and destroying that life―usually in the name of righteousness. The fault, however, may not be so much that they hate life as that they do not hate the sinful parts of themselves.
Utterly dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection, they are unceasingly engaged in the effort to maintain the appearance of moral purity. They worry about this a great deal. They are acutely sensitive to social norms and what others might think of them.
The words “image,” “appearance,” and “outwardly” are crucial to understanding the morality of the evil. While they seem to lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their “goodness” is all on a level of pretense. It is, in ef­fect, a lie. This is why they are the “people of the lie.” …Actually, the lie is designed not so much to deceive others as to deceive themselves. They cannot or will not tolerate the pain of self-reproach.
The essential component of evil is not the absence of a sense of sin or imperfection but the unwillingness to tolerate that sense. At one and the same time, the evil are aware of their evil and desperately trying to avoid the awareness. Rather than blissfully lacking a sense of morality, like the psychopath, they are continually engaged in sweeping the evidence of their evil under the rug of their own consciousness…. We become evil by attempting to hide from ourselves. The wickedness of the evil is not committed directly, but indirectly, as a part of this cover-up process. Evil originates not in the ab­sence of guilt but in the effort to escape it.
It often happens, then, that the evil may be recognized by its very disguise. The lie can be perceived before the misdeed it is designed to hide—the cover-up before the fact. We see the smile that hides the hatred, the smooth and oily manner that masks the fury, the velvet glove that covers the fist. Because they are such experts at disguise, it is seldom possible to pinpoint the malicious­ness of the evil. The disguise is usually impenetrable. But what we can catch are glimpses of the uncanny game of hide-and-seek in the obscurity of the soul, in which it, the single human soul, evades itself, avoids itself, hides from itself.
What distinguishes the evil, however, from the rest of us mentally ill sinners is the specific type of pain they are running away from. They are not pain avoiders or lazy people in gen­eral. To the contrary, they are likely to exert themselves more than most in their continuing effort to obtain and maintain an image of high respectability. They may willingly, even eagerly, undergo great hardships in their search for status. It is only one particular kind of pain they cannot tolerate: the pain of their own conscience, the pain of the realization of their own sinfulness and imperfection.
The evil hate the light—the light of goodness that shows them up, the light of scrutiny that exposes them, the light of  truth that penetrates their deception.
If the central defect of the evil is not one of conscience, then where does it reside? The essential psychological problem of hu­man evil, I believe, is a particular variety of narcissism….Malignant narcissism is characterized by an unsubmitted will.
In the conflict between their guilt and their will, it is the guilt that must go and the will that must win.
They are men and women of obviously strong will, determined to have their own way. There is a remarkable power in the manner in which they attempt to control others. 
There are only two states of being: submission to God and goodness or the refusal to submit to anything beyond one’s own will―which refusal automatically enslaves one to the forces of evil. We must ultimately belong either to God or the devil.

Monday, August 10, 2015

New St. Andrews College - Sword & Shovel

I’ve had the privilege of serving on the board of New St. Andrews College for two years now and I can honestly say that, having looked behind the curtain, I’m even more impressed with what’s being done at NSA than I was before, and I was pretty impressed before. My son was in the second NSA class [1995] and my daughter was in the fourth class―the day of small beginnings. Twenty years later, this cutting-edge classical Christian College is still a cutting-edge institution of higher learning. It matters who teaches our young adults, and it matters what they’re taught. Moreover, the culture they live in is also the culture they will export for the rest of their lives. 

NSA is an academic community centered on the lordship of Jesus Christ over all things. Our purpose at New Saint Andrews College is to graduate leaders who shape culture while living faithfully under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. What can you do with a degree from NSA? Educated and dedicated believers can do whatever they want to do.

To the Point: J.C. Ryle

John Charles Ryle: (1816 – 1900) was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool.

  • It costs something to be a true Christian. Let that never be forgotten. To be a mere nominal Christian, and go to church, is cheap and easy work. But to hear Christ’s voice, follow Christ, believe in Christ, and confess Christ, requires much self-denial. It will cost us our sins, our self-righteousness, our ease, and our worldliness. All must be given up. We must fight an enemy who comes against us with thousands of followers. We must build a tower in troubled times. Our Lord Jesus Christ would have us thoroughly understand this. He bids us “count the cost.”
  • Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer. 
  • Hell is truth known too late.
  • There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough-a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice-which costs nothing, and is worth nothing.
  • A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within. He may be known by his warfare as well as by his peace.
  • Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God's judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.
  • I am one of those old-fashioned ministers who believe the whole Bible and everything that it contains.
  • One single soul saved shall outlive and outweigh all the kingdoms of the world.
  • Better to confess Christ 1000 times now and be despised by men, than be disowned by Christ before God on the Day of Judgment. 
  • If I never spoke of hell, I should think I had kept back something that was profitable, and should look on myself as an accomplice of the devil.
  • Sin forsaken is one of the best evidences of sin forgiven. 
  • Unity without the gospel is a worthless unity; it is the very unity of hell. 
  • Never let us be guilty of sacrificing any portion of truth on the altar of peace. 
  • But depend on it, bad company in this life, is the sure way to procure worse company in the life to come.
  • The saddest road to hell is the one that runs under the pulpit, past the Bible, and through the middle of warnings and invitations. 
  • Beware of letting small faults pass unnoticed under the idea it is a little one. 
  • There are no little things in training children; all are important. Little weeds need plucking up as much as any. Leave them alone and they will soon be great. 
  • There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough―a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice―which costs nothing, and is worth nothing.
  • Men fall in private long before they fall in public.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

We Were Babies

We were babies then (1974). Why did my parents let us get married so young? I think I know. Because they knew I could never do better than Marinell and that I couldn’t afford to let her get away. Perfect fit. While I don’t generally recommend that nineteen-year-olds get married, every now and then it’s the right thing to do. I’ve mentioned before that we were born in the same hospital just two months apart (there is only 1,100 numbers difference in our Social Security numbers); we grew up about five miles apart, met in the seventh grade, started dating when we were juniors in high school, and married after our first year of college. Three children, and fifteen grandchildren later, here we are surrounded with God’s blessings of love, family, friends, and countless other things. We’re still growing (up) after 41 years of marriage and looking forward to the rest of our journey.

Marinell is smart, talented, quiet, steady, beautiful, kind, patient, hard-working, loving, and so much more. I look up to my wife. I’m proud of my wife. I admire my wife. I learn from my wife. I give thanks for my wife. Marinell, I love you! Happy Anniversary!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Are We Listening?

  • Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you. ― Jeremiah 1:5
  • “Fetal tissue” implants are not that much different from Nazi lamp shades made of Jewish skin. Both intend to put by-products of murder to “good use.” ― David Kupelian and Mark Masters, journalists 
  • The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being... If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light. — John Calvin
  • To forbid birth is only quicker murder.... He is a man, who is to be a man; the fruit is always present in the seed. ― Tertullian
  • Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. — Elie Wiesel
  • The real question today is not when human life begins, but, What is the value of human life? The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother’s body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being. The real question for him and for all of us is whether that tiny human life has a God-given right to be protected by the law–the same right we have. — Ronald Reagan
  • It is a poverty that a “child must die”, So that you may live as you wish. ― Mother Teresa
  • I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. ― Ronald Reagan
  • Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impels her to the crime. ― Susan B. Anthony
  • My case was wrongfully decided, and has caused great harm to the women and children of our nation. ― Norma McCorvey (former plaintiff in Roe v. Wade)
  • Only half the patients who go into an abortion clinic come out alive. ― Author Unknown
  • I got to where I couldn't stand to look at the little bodies anymore. ― Dr. Beverly McMillan, when asked why she stopped performing abortions.
  • We really need to get over this love affair with the fetus ... ― Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General
  • A person is a person no matter how small. ― Dr. Seuss
  • Even the smallest person can change the course of the future. ― J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government. ― Thomas Jefferson
  • How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers. ― Mother Teresa
  • This is a debate about our understanding of human dignity, what it means to be a member of the human family, even though tiny, powerless and unwanted. ― Henry Hyde
  • It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime. ― Gandhi
  • If anything, a fetus is merely a parasitical creature that uses the mother as its host. Tapeworms are parasites that house themselves in the intestinal tracts of humans, feeding off the food the host consumes. Comparatively, a fetus is little more than a tapeworm. It is quite common for humans to annihilate parasites with medications or toxins, so why not allow for fetuses to suffer the same fate? ― Shane Krouse, [MSU sophomore and State News columnist, MSU State News]
  • We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving. ― J.K. Rowling
  • It’s alright all of us all living saying “oh well there’s enough of us so we won’t have anymore, don’t let anybody else live.” I don’t believe in that. ―  John Lennon
  • The fight for the right to life is not the cause of a special few, but the cause of every man, woman and child who cares not only about his or her own family, but the whole family of man. – Dr. Mildred Jefferson
  • The message that President Obama delivered in his speech at Notre Dame was: morality is immoral. Pro-life is the extremist position, not a moral position. Yet we should compromise and work to reduce abortions. Where's the compromise between life and death - and why work to reduce the number of them occurring if there's nothing wrong with them? ― Rush Limbaugh
  • Taking antibiotics terminates more life than an abortion. One organism ― the billions you kill with antibiotics….If you can believe an embryo is greater than a woman, I can believe bacteria has a right to live. ― Feminist Amanda Marcotte 
  • We fed the public a line of deceit, dishonesty, a fabrication of statistics and figures. We succeeded because the time was right and the news media cooperated. We sensationalized the effects of illegal abortions, and fabricated polls which indicated that 85 percent of the public favored unrestricted abortion, when we knew it was only 5 percent. We unashamedly lied, and yet our statements were quoted [by the media] as though they had been written in law. ― Dr. Bernard Nathanson, [Co-founder of National Assn. for Repeal of Abortion Laws, now called National Abortion Reproductive Rights Action League. Today, Dr. Nathanson is a pro-life author and activist.]
  • To say a child is unwanted says nothing about the child, but it says much about the person who does not want his or her child... ― Jean Staker Garton, [co-founder and president of the national organization Lutherans for Life]
  • What an irony that a society confronted with plastic bags filled with the remains of aborted babies should be more concerned about the problem of recycling the plastic... ― Winifred Egan 
  • Birth control is nothing more or less than…weeding out the unfit. ― Margaret Sanger, [founder of Planned Parenthood]

Monday, August 3, 2015

True Christianity

True Christianity! Let us mind that word "true." There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. It passes muster, it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the authentic reality that called itself Christianity in the beginning. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday and call themselves Christians. They make a "profession" of faith in Christ. Their names are in the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die. But you never see any "fight" about their religion! Of spiritual strife and exertion and conflict and self–denial and watching and warring they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded and His apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness. True Christianity is "a fight. 
-J.C. Ryle 
[HT: Stacy Little]

Christin's Quote Book

  • When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become president; I’m beginning to believe it. —Clarence Darrow
  • The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do. —Galileo Galilei
  • Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.—Michael Crichton
  • Every election is a sort of advance auction of stolen goods.—H. L. Mencken
  •  Wine is sunlight, held together by water. Galileo Galilei

Friday, July 31, 2015

Missionary to Many

Brevet Clinic Set-up in Haiti ― Emily Lawlace at the bottom-right.

A good friend and church member, Emily Lawlace, is currently off an adventure to the poor country of Haiti. Now this is not an adventure for adventure’s sake but rather for Christ’s sake. This young woman, (as has become her habit), pushes herself to venture outside her comfort-zone, testing her faith and denying herself. As her pastor and friend, I’m not only proud of her, I admire her; I want to be more like her. She has gone where she has never been, sacrificed her time, money and comfort, expanded her experience, gained new friends, taken risks, served others, and much more. She is not only a missionary to Haiti; she is a missionary to me and many others. Yes, if we could all be more like Emily the world would be better and we too would be better. Thank you Emily! We continue to pray for you and your adventure..

24  The Lord bless you and keep you; 25  The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26  The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.―Numbers 6

Beware of the Do-Gooder

My grandfather was known to grumble about the "do-gooders," and all the trouble they cause. They have time for other people's business but little time to tend to their own. Do-gooders are found in the White House, the Congress, in the church and down the street. They know better than you do what's good for you and they’re going to help no matter how many have to suffer in the process. The Apostle Peter warns, "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody [i.e., meddler] in other people's matters" (1 Peter 4:15). Murders and meddlers are in the same list with thieves and evildoers for a good reason: they both kill by taking what's not theirs to take. In the end, though pretending to do good, they actually do evil. C.S. Lewis described the do-gooder well when he wrote:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.