Thursday, September 28, 2006


Our webcast tonight begins at 7:15PM Mountain time. It's on Revelation 10. It's on our church's SermonAudio site.

Friday, September 22, 2006


I have finally gotten caught up on sermons on the church's Sermon Audio site. Three new sermons have been posted here

Friday, September 15, 2006

Insolent Remarks 

So the latest firestorm in the Muslim world involves some remarks by the new pope. The pope was giving an address at a university.

Benedict quoted from a book recounting a conversation between 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and a Persian scholar on the truths of Christianity and Islam.

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the pope said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"

Benedict did not explicitly agree with the statement nor repudiate it.

Hard to know what to make of his exact statement without more context, and it doesn't really matter. I just was once again struck by the absurdity of the response from the Muslim world. They compared Pope to Hitler and Mussolini in their desire to see others be more restrained in their comments. They threatened violence as the result of saying that Muslims are not tolerant.

"Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

That one is priceless. Acknowledge us as nice people or we'll burn down your embassy.

"Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks, is going down in history for his words."

Now this one seems to me particularly telling. "Insolent" is a word used to describe behavior of an inferior to a superior, isn't it? A boy is insolent to his parents, a slave insolent to his master or a man insolent to God. Am I reading too much into it? It seems very much like the man is saying that the Pope is bound to recognize the superiority of Islam's claims and submit to those claims, and that his remarks, failing to bow to the truth of Islam, are insolent. Now of course we know this to be Islam's views. Which is fine- I view Christianity as the true religion, and believe that all those imams and mullahs and sheiks and the rest will one day bow the knee to Jesus Christ whether they like it or not. But it just puts the lie to this idea that everyone has to be tolerant of Islam and is never allowed to say it's not true, when the faith of Islam declares confidently that all other faiths are lies and will be judged as such one day. When people say Christianity is false and a lie, I don't get all outraged. They must believe this, else they would be Christians. I know the day will come when Christianity will be vindicated, and I don't need to burn anyone's embassy down to prove it.

This cry for tolerance that we hear every time we turn around is a pretence. The Muslims don't believe in it- they'll put us all to the sword if they get the chance unless we convert, and until then will use the pretence to sap our strength and will to fight. And the champions of tolerance and multiculturalism in the west will advocate it only so long as they're in power and can keep the intolerant from cutting their throats. 9/11 was viewed as an isolated event, and so it didn't change a lot of people's belief that we could all get along. And the only thing keeping "tolerance" alive is the ineptness of the terrorists and the skill of the men and women defending the west, largely unappreciated and behind the scenes. If a few more 9/11s happened, a lot more people would see things for what they are, a bloody struggle to the death between two ideologies that cannot coexist on the same planet, and we'd see a lot fewer fake outrages like this one.

The Fate of Nations 

I recall someone once pointing out that it is popular in history to speak of the rise and fall of nations in natural terms like lifecycles, nations being young and growing old, and similar kinds of expressions, but the Bible speaks of these same issues as nations being raised up by God and then destroyed for their rebellion.

In Revelation, we are seeing that the same events can be looked at from one perspective as God testing and perfecting the faith of believers, and punishing the rebelliousness of unbelievers while foreshadowing for them their ultimate punishment. And war is one of these events.

And when we look at history, does it not very often seem to be the case that nations grow strong and then as a result grow proud and engage in wickedness, particularly the oppression of the faithful? It was true of the Romans and the Greeks before them, and then the various barbarian nations that arose after Rome. The Catholic kingdoms of the Middle Ages followed suit, and then the rise of nations such as France, Italy, Germany and England all followed the same pattern.

Looking at the tremendous cataclysms of the first part of the twentieth century, then , we can see these events rightly as a test of the faithfulness of the righteous caught up in those events, as well as a warning and punishment for the wickedness of the nations involved. All of those nations were wicked nations, especially the ones who suffered the most- Italy, Germany, Japan and Russia. And England and America were already in various stages of their slide away from orthodoxy, falling into apostasy and immorality, and their judgment would likewise come as well.

And these events continue today. Is it possible that the Muslims are being raised up by God to punish the unbelief of the West? And if that were so, the Muslims would be being themselves punished at the same time, for if they were to inflict full-scale war on the West they would suffer greatly themselves. I don't know that this will happen, but it certainly could, and it certainly has happened over and over again throughout history. We ought not suffer under the impression that the course of events over the last ten or twenty or fifty years will repeat itself or continue forever. Nations rise and fall. Or more accurately, nations rebel against God and are destroyed. This is inevitable. Can we say that America has rebelled against God? And if we have, isn't that the only historical calculus that really matters? Our punishment may come swiftly and it may come centuries from now, but it will come. And it will be a punishment, and a foreshadowing of an even greater day of judgment when the inhabitants of the earth will cry out for the rocks and hills to hide them from God.

But for the righteous, for those who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, these same events will be something entirely different- a vindication of the truth of the Gospel, a testing and perfecting of our faith, and the means by which God will work our salvation.

It's easy to be gloomy about events in the world. And really, as we see history played out and interpreted by Scripture, there's absolutely no basis to be anything other than gloomy in our evaluation of the state of the world. The world is cursed, reserved for punishment and destruction, and we will see the reality of this play out on grand scales and on small scales. If men are cursed in their dealings with each other as husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, then the international scale just becomes a replay of the same curse on a grand scale. If men cannot deal with each other individually in love without the gospel of Christ, how will they successfully deal with each other en masse?

But we have nothing to fear. All of these things are contained in God's plan for the completion of His redemptive plan. Times will be difficult; there will be suffering. Perhaps on a personal scale and perhaps on an international scale, but it will happen. And we who believe in God's hand of providence should rejoice to see God's plan being put into action, though for a time it will cause pain and sorrow. For the pains and sorrows of this life are not worthy to be compared to the glories that await. And for the rest, their judgment is just and their punishment due. Let the Muslims destroy Europe, if that is God's will. Let them destroy America too, for that matter. The Muslims will receive their own judgment from God. And we who believe will be preserved and perfected for eternal life.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What 9/11 has done for me 

Not much, really, I'm afraid.

I know a lot of people's worldview was fundamentally changed by 9/11. A lot of so-called "neoconservatives" were born- people who were traditionally socially liberal but who suddenly became hawks when they saw the towers come down. I was already a hawk, though a cautious one. I continue to be that.

On 9/10, I was pretty cynical about democracy. It seemed to me to be massively corrupt and fraudulent. On 9/11 I was reeling in shock like most everyone else. And on 9/12 I found new-found faith in my government and leaders to do the right thing. That faith was badly misplaced, and five years on I find myself once again deeply cynical about democracy.

I still think it's the best option among all the alternatives. Or to use the old cliche, the worst form of government except for all the others. But I am very skeptical about democracy being a force for good in the world. There's the old maxim about democracies never going to war with each other, which seems to be true, and that's about the best thing I can say for it. Israel / Lebanon didn't change that, as some suggested. Lebanon isn't really much of a democracy, and anyway Israel didn't go to war with them, they went to war with Hezbollah and Lebanon just got caught in the crossfire.

It also seems to me that we are right on the verge of total failure in Iraq. I was a supporter of the war, and I am still a supporter of the war as originally conceived, but it seems like the vision got badly lost somewhere along the way. Why didn't we string up Muqtada al-Sadr? Why are terrorists allowed in the government? Why did we permit a government to be set up that has elements of Sharia law in it, and why are we permitting our conquest to be ruled by a man who is friendly to Iran?

Our military has done a great job, but it seems that there was no serious thinking done about what to do with this nation once we had it. And unfortunately I don't think that our country is going to have the will to stick it out, and neither is Britain, and we'll likely leave the country in a bigger mess than it was in before. The near-treasonous Democrats will interpret this as a victory, and because of the idiot Republicans and their corruption, their tin ear on the immigration issue and on spending, and their almost total inability to accomplish anything useful with their congressional majorities, they will lose their majority (or come near to it), and be unable to preserve the important national security programs that have kept us safe.

The Iranians will continue to pursue a nuclear weapon while everyone else pretends to do something about it. One day they'll get one and they'll use it, on us. And in the meantimes, the slaughters continue unabated in North Korea, Sudan, Congo, and no doubt in lots of new and exciting hellholes in the years to come.

So five years on from 9/11 I am more pessimistic about the ability of this country to survive than I ever have before.

But God is in the heavens. His way is in the sanctuary. We see the truth of His sovereign rule in the advance of the church, which will continue, America or no America. So please don't interpret my pessimism about America as general pessimism. I am very optimistic about the future; I just doubt that the future includes an America in the same way it has for the last couple of hundred years. And if America does somehow survive all of this, it will be because of God's undeserved benevolence to us, and not because of anything great about this country. A country that murders over a million babies a year and pretends that homosexuality is the same or better than heterosexuality long ago gave up any right to call itself great.

UPDATE: Andrea says this was way too negative for "Patriot Day". Sorry all. I certainly do mourn the loss of those who died on 9/11, and I hail the heroism of those who died to save others that day. And I also give a great deal of credit to our servicemen who have done an outstanding job since then in prosecuting what I believe to be necessary wars and operations. I pray for their safety, and my frustrtion is directed at the failure to capitalize on their successes. And so I will allow my comments to stand, despite my wife's disapprobation.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I seem to hear a lot these days about godly manliness, and decrying its loss in the church. There are of course many things to be concerned about in our society- the absence of fathers, the absence of men in the church, things like that. Too many of our churches are run by women, and even too many churches in which the women cannot hold formal office are still dominated by their influence, simply because they're the ones most involved. I say this completely without source or proof; it's just a feeling I get.

And in our society, of course, there are the by now well-rehearsed complaints. Television is dominated by the "dumb guy" shows, where the dad is an idiot and must rely on the mom to bail him out of all his jams. The great majority of family sitcoms seem to fall into this pattern. In any commercial that has any portrayal of gender relationships, the woman is all-knowing, wise and benevolent, and the man is stupid, selfish and dominated by base passions. These are generalizations, naturally, but I think you'll agree on at least a tendency in these directions.

And so, in the Christian community we have books such as Wild at Heart which seeks to recapture real manhood. I have heard talk shows and read blogs struggling with the issue and railing against the sissification of the American male. And I very much sympathize with the concern. Just Google "Christian manhood" or "Christian manliness" and you'll see what I'm talking about, if you don't know already.

So here's my concern. It seems very often when this discussion comes up, those promoting the rediscovery of manhood seem to tie this in with a particular set of activities like hunting, fishing, kayaking, and similar outdoorsy, "rugged" type behavior. The ability to use a gun, gut a deer, fix a car, and the like are frequently discussed as part of what it means to be a real man. One sees a good deal of this in Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, for example. And it seems to me that this is really not much better than the view that the world has, of equating manhood with beer-guzzling, football-watching woman-chasers.

If we want to recapture manhood, and I agree that it needs to be recaptured, we need to do it the way we do everything- by appealing to Scripture. The problem with men is not that they're being over-coddled and not allowed to play tee-ball or on jungle gyms. The problem is that men and women have both rebelled against Scriptural standards for what people ought to be like.

So what are the Scriptural standards, then? There are a number of places we can look. First, there is the purpose for which man was created. Second, there are the exhortations given about how a man, as distinct from a woman, are to behave. Third, there are the examples of godly men in the Bible.

I'll take up the first of these here, and the others in subsequent posts.

Man was created in the garden to glorify God. He was given the garden of Eden, and told to take dominion over the garden. So we have a fundamental principle here- man was created to work. The purpose of that work is to reflect the image of God, and man does this by taking dominion over the creation which God has placed us in.

How do we take dominion? Work is, at its essence, creating order out of chaos. Chaos is unstructured matter, what the Bible describes as "without form and void" in the opening verses of Genesis 1. We see God in the six days of creation creating structures in the chaos, separating one thing from another and defining one thing from another. Light versus darkness, heaven versus earth, and dry land versus sea. And then God fills those structures with content- sun, moon and stars; birds and fish ; animals and man. Man's great glory is this, that God created him and put him in the creation to finish what God had started.

So work for us, ought to be reflective of God's work. And fundamentally, it is. Whatever your work is, if it is honest work that people are willing to pay for, it is creating order out of chaos. A farmer carefully arranges the elements of his field to produce only what he wants to produce and not weeds and worthless plants. A doctor attacks chaos in the body, separating foreign elements out of the body and restoring the body to its proper order. A supermarket checker oversees the orderly transfer of goods to those who need them in exchange for their money. A musician arranges sounds of various kinds in such a way as to create pleasing melodies and harmonies.

People pay for these things to be done because they value them, because they add value to their lives. Even the exchange of goods and services for money itself reflects this dominion principle- in the orderly exchange of one good or service for another, facilitated by money, order is being brought to creation as these goods and services are transferred from those who value them less to those who value them more. This is order, as opposed to the chaos of goods just being wherever they happen to be.

And even as I write this, I am doing the same kind of thing. I am producing content, ideas and concepts communicated in the orderly way of written language, to fill the (lately) empty form of my blog. People will read it because they place some value on it. Thus, even in writing this, I emulate God in a tiny little fashion.

This is what man is created for, to accomplish; have dominion; emulate God in the creation of order out of chaos. I would submit that this ought therefore to be the fundamental definition of a man. These activities that are so often associated with "manly" behavior, such as hunting, fishing or working on cars, are so valued because they are obvious examples of this principle. And some of these things, which are now just hobbies or pastimes, like hunting or fishing, used to be work (and still are for many people). It is the accomplishment of something useful- killing an animal for your dinner, rebuilding an engine- which is the essence of manliness, not the fact of being outdoors or getting greasy.

And therefore hunting ought to be regarded as no more fundamentally manly than music, or fixing a car than manufacturing clothes. Some activities require more physical strength than others, but physical strength is an accident of manhood, not fundamental to it. Many women are very strong, and many men very weak. A weak man is no less a man, and a woman does not become a man once she can bench a certain weight.

Obviously (to those who know me) I have some selfish interest here. I have never been terribly athletic. I do not enjoy most outdoor activities as much as many men do. I have never killed an animal with a gun, and I don't know how to change my own oil. I hate watching football and all other organized sports. I am Jacob (dwelling in tents) to many Esaus (hunting in the field).

The danger is that in concentrating on the accidents of manhood, like those activities requiring physical strength, mechanical ability or proficiency with guns, we will fail to exemplify in ourselves and pass on to our own sons the essence of manhood which is the dominion mandate, bringing order out of chaos, creating useful and beautiful things out of the matter of creation.

So how does this distinguish a man from a woman? I know my wife spends all day bringing order out of chaos in my home, and my home (me and two small kids) produces a lot of chaos. The difference is that woman was created as a helper to the man. The woman was placed in a relationship to her husband, and uses her abilities and talents to work on his behalf, to make it easier for him to concentrate on his big task. The man was created in relationship to creation (dominion), and the woman was created in relationship to man. So he goes out to do what he does, and she stays behind to support him. And I'm not going to get into the specifics of this; obviously it's going to be hugely different in every situation. The way that any given wife can support any given husband in his dominion calling will vary as much as the wives and husbands themselves vary. But the principle remains, that the man was created first for a particular job, and the woman was created second to support him in that job.

If we then want to instill manliness in our sons, we will not do so simply by encouraging them in idle pursuits and entertainment, even if those idle pursuits are associated with manliness. Manliness will be encouraged in our sons by promoting a culture of work and responsibility, seeing the joy and and the pleasure in accomplishment, and doing all for the glory of God. When I work all week in drudgery, with no sense of the honor or value of my work, just so I can go fishing with my son (as entertainment) on the weekend, this gets manliness exactly backwards. If I go fishing (as entertainment) in order to rest up and be more effective at my job (my fundamental goal), in order to glorify God with my useful accomplishments, then I show my son what a real man is.

Update: It just so happens that Joe Carter has some similar thoughts.

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