Category Archives: Personal

“Qui Creavit Coelum.”

This is a translation I have produced of an Advent hymn called “Qui Creavit Coelum.” As I understand it, the earliest manuscript in which we find it is from around 1425 A.D.; the hymn is also known as “The Song of the Nuns of Chester.” The original Latin text can be found here. I added some notes at the bottom. Nothing here is particularly scholarly; it’s simply a little devotional exercise that I wanted to share.

Happy Advent, friends.

The King who is ruling the ages,
He who created Heaven,
is being born in a stable.[1]

Joseph brings some rushes;
Mother wraps up the Child,
and places him in the manger.[2]

There among the animals
they place the Joy of the World.
He is fragrant beyond all.[3]

The Mother of the Lord suckles
and embraces the Little One;
she worships the Lord.[4]

Ask, Mother of the Lord,
that He give us Joy
in everlasting glory[5]

 


 

[1] I’ve taken the last line of this stanza first, for two reasons: (a) grammatically, “rex” as the subject fits naturally when rendered first in English, which makes good sense of the two relative clauses, each introduced by “qui;” and (b) by first emphasizing the transcendent nature of this King who is ruling time (present tense) and created matter (perfect tense) , the humility of His lowly birthplace is magnified in English. That this tiny Babe is ruling the centuries is a great mystery.
[2] “Paniculum” here is not a common word and means something like a tuft of reeds used for thatching a roof. I like the poetic image of Jesus being wrapped in rushes. It reminds me of Moses’s basket being placed in the rushes; so here, a rush-wrapped Baby Jesus is “ponit in praesepio.” The whole of Scripture – indeed, the whole of the world – is the story of Jesus Christ coming to save sinners like you and me.
[3] I like fragrant as a gloss for “dulcis” here: the Lamb of God is laid down next to animals He created, incarnate to do what they never could. He is here to take away the sins of the world. Thus He is “dulcis super omnia;” as an offering to God, He is “fragrant beyond all.”
[4] Mary worships God through her vocation as mother. What is done in faith, even the changing of diapers, is service to God. I think this stanza does a beautiful job of honoring the vocation of Motherhood. It also continues to emphasize the mystery of the Incarnation: That God could be breast-fed! How highly favored is Mary, the Mother of God?
[5] I do not believe in prayers to the saints. I have here translated the text as it is, not as I think it ought to be. I think this language could be understood apart from praying to the saints, but considering that this text comes to us from the nunnery of St. Mary, in 1425, I assume the author was indeed intending this as a prayer to Mary. Instead, I believe that scripture teaches that “rogat nobis mater domini” – that is, “The Mother of God is praying for us.” But that is another discussion, which I do not wish to participate in here.

I hope this was in some way a blessing to you this Advent.

Comments Off on “Qui Creavit Coelum.”

Filed under Christology, Devotional, Personal

The Lord Sits Enthroned Forever

I don’t usually use my blog for political statements outside of pro-life activism. Today is a little different though. I wanted to collect a few thoughts on the recent shootings, and hopefully add something constructive and cogent to the conversation.

I’m not going to comment directly on the shootings other than to say mourn with those who mourn, and mourn from a place of deep confidence that justice will be carried out perfectly by our God. And then act, in whatever small way you can, to be a comfort to those who mourn, and an advocate for those who need you.

When we talk about police violence against minorities, it is important that we not discount the fact that it is oftentimes (but not always) targeted toward minorities. This post isn’t to discuss race or racism beyond saying that while I don’t think it is the root cause of all police violence, it does seem to be the catalyst in many situations. At any rate, according to this survey by the DOJ,

Studies conducted across two midwestern States (one in Illinois and one in Ohio), for example, suggest that a significant minority of police officers have observed police using “considerably” more force than necessary when apprehending a suspect. In the Illinois study, more than 20 percent of the officers surveyed reported having observed this type of abuse; in the Ohio study, 13 percent of respondents had seen such abuse.

Moreover, both studies suggest that police harassment of minorities is not an isolated occurrence. More than 25 percent of officers surveyed in the Illinois study and 15 percent of those in the Ohio study stated that they had observed an officer harassing a citizen “most likely” because of his or her race.

NB: These are officer reactions to what they allege is racism in their own departments. That’s telling.

Another quote from the survey:

Therefore, improper force was used in 38 percent of encounters that involved force. As the author of that study, Robert Worden, stated, ‘[I]ncidents in which improper force was used represent a substantial proportion of the incidents in which any force (reasonable or improper) was used.

This is, I think, the deeper issue. In over a third of police encounters which involve force, that force was later deemed improper. Police in America may not use force often, but when they have the historical trend is that 1/3 of the time they use it in an unjustified manner. To understate the obvious: It seems like this might be a problem. I highly recommend you read the whole survey and come to your own conclusions.

Now, how can we respond to tragedies like these? As a citizen, my response is skepticism.

Our justice system rests on an explicit assumption: That the individual who allegedly broke the law is innocent until proven guilty. The implicit assumption, then, is that the State, who is bringing charges against this individual, is wrong.  They are asserting that the individual is guilty; we begin with the assumption they are innocent. Both cannot be correct: Therefore, we must assume the State is wrong until they prove themselves right.

How does that apply to use of force? We should assume it was improper until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that it was not. We should assume the State acted out of line because the citizen gets the benefit of the doubt. We should not immediately defend police actions because (as shown before) they have gotten it wrong at least 1/3 of the time.

This does not mean we have to hate cops, call for their deaths (which have been equally tragic and we should pray for justice on their account as well), or anything negative. It means only that we apply our starting premise (citizens are innocent until proven guilty) consistently and doubt the State.  If the State proves its case, we can move on. But until then, skepticism should be our default position.

As a Christian, my response is sorrow, grief, repentance, and then joy.

When I watched Philando Castile bleed out, when I watched Alton Sterling’s feeble hand try to staunch his own bleeding, I wept. I wept because someone who bears the Imago Dei was just cut off from the living. Even though they were sinners like me, God took no pleasure in their death (Ezekiel 18:23). So I wept. And as I said before, it is good and right to mourn with those who mourn.

I’ve posted before about why our response to tragedy should be repentance. If you want to read that, check it out here, or save yourself the time and just read Jesus’ response to tragedy in Luke 13.

But why joy? “Because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Or, as Psalm 9 puts it:

the Lord sits enthroned forever;
    he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
    he judges the peoples with uprightness.

Comments Off on The Lord Sits Enthroned Forever

Filed under Personal, Politics

#ElevationChurch, Pt. 2: The Worship Experience.

There are few things that get me as riled up as knowing that someone made my wife cry. If you want to push my big red “ANGER” button, if you really want to see me mad, make my wife tear up. That is a sure-fire way to incite my ire. Of course my wife weeping was not what I expected to see when I attended Elevation Church last Sunday. And yet that was exactly what happened.  Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Personal

Magic, materialism, and the middle way.

I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.

— Michael Scott, The Office.

America has a problem. In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis said that the devil doesn’t mind if a man is a magician or a materialist, but hails both errors with the same delight. I think that Americans are simultaneously far too supernaturalist and far too naturalist. By this I mean that we paradoxically see God both everywhere and nowhere, and this weird double standard is damaging to our faith. This paradox is captured beautifully for us in the following tweets from Paula White:

As I said, this is an excellent example of our dichotomized mindset. Ms. White clearly believes that our words have power. When tackling mountains, should one use Expulso or Reducto, I wonder? Your faith-filled words allow God to do things for you. The poor, powerless creator of the universe looks down from on high just waiting for you to have enough faith to fill up a word so that He can help you out! Scrolling through her Twitter feed, it becomes quickly obvious how Ms. White views our words as a supernatural work. There is no such thing as the mundane in this mindset: No more prayers for daily bread, now we ask for abundance; no more working quietly with our hands, now we have to shout down whatever is meant by “mountains;” everything revolves around some super-Christian destiny. What if your destiny is to be a dentist?

I could go on about how the other half of this dialogue is just as confused. In this kind of theology, when God speaks to us it is apart from His Word. It is in impressions confirmed by omens, like moving to NYC because after you prayed about it you started seeing a whole bunch of “I Heart NYC” shirts. It’s in “what does this bible verse mean to you” bible studies. God speaks definitively enough in vision-casting, but rarely is the Apostolic message read from the pulpit. God’s voice is sought after in everything but the clear teachings of Scripture handed down by the Apostles for all people to believe. This kind of mysticism, on both ends of the dialogue, has shipwrecked the faith of countless people; it almost claimed my faith when I was young. Despair is an easy thing to fall into when you look to yourself or your surroundings rather than Christ dying for you on the Cross to define how God feels toward you.

Herein lies the paradox of this theology: Everything is supernatural and spiritual, except for God, who is bound by this law of attraction. God, the only truly supernatural thing in existence, is in fact reduced to a mere vending machine to be manipulated by clever words and prayers. And thus nothing is supernatural: Everything operates by the naturalistic mechanism of cause and effect. If I pray correctly, then God is bound to answer my prayers. For a country that stresses how Christianity is a relationship, there’s not much relationship to be had with this robotic God.

Even worse, now the impetus of that relationship is on you. You have to approach God correctly, you have to have enough faith, you have to speak the right words, you, you, you, you, you… And when your faith-filled words fail to fix the disease that is killing your child? When you can’t quite find the right words to allow God to fix your broken relationship with your spouse? It’s easy to see why so many people despair of any help from this weak God.

Let me propose a better way — a way that sees far more of God in the natural, and far less of us in the supernatural. I was studying Luther’s Small Catechism the other day, and in reading what he has to say about the first article of the Apostle’s Creed, a particular phrase stuck out to me:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?–Answer.

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

(source)

Every good thing that we have, from our bodies to our families to our material possessions, is from God. When you get your paycheck, it is not your employer providing for you, but it is God through your employer providing for you. Your ability to read the words of this post is only given to you because God has provided and preserved your eyes and cognitive faculties. He does not do this because of your good behavior or any worthiness on your part. To put it another way, contra Paula White, you were not born because your words allowed God to give you your “body and soul,” but because He is good and merciful and decided to create you that He might show this goodness and mercy to you. His Goodness, not your words, is His motivation for blessing you. And that blessing is only made evident in Christ.

If anyone had faith, it was Jesus. And yet when He asked the Father that this cup might pass, it did not. Why? Pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy. God was working in the Cross for the redemption of the World, reconciling us to Himself and not counting our trespasses against us. Why? Pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy. Not because we deserved to be reconciled! Not because our faith-filled words merited salvation! And certainly not because we allowed God to act! Simply because, in spite of us, God chose to step down into this world, “take up that human nature into [Himself],” and demonstrate His love toward sinners by dying for them. In this death, He has made His goodness so apparent that Paul had the audacity to write that God makes all things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Paul, who watched the stoning of St. Stephen, who was beaten, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and tortured for Christ’s sake, turned around and said that all of this was good. Why? Because Paul saw all of this through the lens of the Cross, God’s definitive statement toward humanity of love, mercy, and peace.

This is what I mean by a better way: What if we, like Paul, learned that rather than seeing our suffering as something to be fled from, it was something to be rejoiced in, not for the sake of suffering alone but for what God is doing in and through us in that suffering. It is a far greater thing to suffer for Christ’s sake than to gain the world and lose your soul. And when we view suffering in our life through the lens of the Cross, all of this word of faith nonsense falls aside quite easily and we start to see God’s pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy even in our weakness.

Just after the climax of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee discovers that his friend Gandalf was not dead (as he thought) but alive. He cries, “I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself’! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” The answer of Christianity to that question is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.

— Tim Keller, The Reason for God, pg. 33

Comments Off on Magic, materialism, and the middle way.

Filed under Personal, Theology

In Defense of Young Marriage.

Any time I meet someone new, whether they be a guest at work or a friend of a friend, as soon as they find out that I am married there is a 90 percent chance that I will be asked “Aren’t you a little young to be married?” Now many who ask me this question are genuinely interested in my story, such as why we chose to get married so young. But there is a certain strain of person who asks me this question condescendingly, with that half-smirk so common amongst the particularly enlightened members of our society. These men (it is so rarely a woman) pose the question already knowing the answer: Of course I’m far too young to be married! And I always respond to this question from these people the same way: “Says who?”

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Don’t be so juvenile, Johnny. After all, you are quite a bit younger than the average married couple.” But this isn’t a juvenile question at all, it’s a very serious inquiry. Without a clear understanding of what the standards are for marriage we cannot answer questions like “what is marriage?” and “who is marriage for?” or “is there an optimal age to get hitched?” So the question “says who?” is one of authority: Who defines a marriage?

Now I have had various and sundry answers to this question, but most boil down to this: Marriage is primarily defined by the desires of the self. This is not surprising. We’ve been culturally catechized by everyone from The Beatles to Taylor Swift to Eminem to Kanye West to Justin Bieber that love, relationships, and interaction is primarily about me, myself, and I. Our culture has perverted love from being a verb — a giving of oneself for the good of another person — to being primarily a feeling — the biochemical high I get from being near someone attractive. Even worse, love and lust have become synonymous. And if marriages are based on this definition of love, of course I’m far too young to be married. After all, I haven’t had enough sexual partners to know what I really like in the bedroom. And I haven’t known my wife long enough to know for sure that she’s not going to contradict my personal preferences at some point down the line.

And maybe I am relatively young, but I’ve realized something: The world doesn’t revolve around me. This is why I don’t seek to redefine marriage to suit my preferences. Marriage is not a casual relationship I can cast off in divorce if I don’t like how it’s going. It’s not an institution I can disregard by participating in sexual activity outside of the marriage bed. Marriage is not about finding a mate who caters to our every whim. Marriage is about finding someone to love — not shallow pop-song love, but to truly love them every day in the giving of ourselves to and for them. It’s a formative relationship, maturing both individuals in the relationship. It’s the foundation of the family unit, preparing the way for children.

And so we meet with two opposing views of marriage. The first, marriage is about who I am and what I want. It’s my right to marry who I want, when I want, without question (except, ironically, when you’re as young as I am). Marriage can be between whoever, for whatever amount of time, and it can end for whatever reason. You’ll notice that this definition of marriage rests squarely on the shoulders of each individual. We could call this relativistic marriage.

The second view, and the view I hold to adamantly, is that marriage is not about me getting what I want but about giving someone what they need. Marriage is a responsibility to which I am called, not a right that I demand. Marriage is about serving others, not about being served. Marriage is not primarily about love as a rush of chemicals to the head, but about love as an action word. On this view, the definition of marriage rests beyond us, in something greater than us. I would point to Ephesians 5:25 which paints marriage as a picture of the love of Christ and His Church. We could thus call this revealed marriage.

On the first view, I admit, young marriage doesn’t make much sense. I doubt anyone could argue that the best way to serve their sexuality or independence would be by getting married young. But I would submit that the first view of marriage as defined by the self is deeply flawed. And, on the second view, because marriage is not about me or my desires but about best serving God, my wife, my future children, and my community, young marriage becomes just as normative and advisable (if not more so, in some cases) than later marriages.

Because relativistic marriage holds that marriage is ultimately defined by our expectations, desires, and ideals, and because these things vary from person to person, on the first view the word “marriage” actually becomes meaningless, simply because it means too much. It is very interesting then to hear someone who holds this view of marriage condescendingly question my age. After all, why shouldn’t I get married young, especially if it makes me happy? This instinct belies the fact that ultimately, people recognize the truth of revealed marriage even if they prefer relativistic marriage. People inherently understand that for marriage to mean anything it must mean a specific kind of thing; they even have a vague idea of what that kind of thing is. But we reject revealed marriage because it means that this specific kind of thing will not necessarily be what we wish it would be — it’s easier just to remake marriage as we would have it, rather than as it is.

But if marriage is primarily a formative, others-centered relationship of active love, does it make sense to enter into such a relationship at a young age? Of course it does. First, the sooner any character building event takes place in life, the deeper the character that is built. If in my marriage I will experience a depth of maturation that only this kind of relationship produces, why wait? Second, if marriage is about children, family, and society, then by entering into a young marriage my wife and I will have more opportunity to mature and prepare ourselves as parents. Young marriage allows us to prepare to raise a family together, rather than risking a child out of wedlock or having less time to prepare for children once we’re married later in life. And finally, and most importantly, marriage iconifies Christ and His Church. As such, it is a strong cause of spiritual formation and maturation, through which the Father forms us ever more into the image of His Son.

I will probably deal with this question for the rest of my life. And each time I am asked, I will challenge the premise that there’s such a thing as “young” marriage. What do you think?

5 Comments

Filed under Christology, Personal

The Boston Bombing: A Christian Response.

This is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I lived through 9/11, but I was too young to write about it. I remember the tears on my art teacher’s face as the second building came down. I remember my mother grieving. I grieved, in my own naive way. And I prayed for justice. 

Now, older and at least marginally wiser, I pray for forgiveness.

I hear already the resounding human response to every tragedy: “Where was God in all this?” Never mind that it doesn’t make sense to appeal to how things “ought” to be without an objective moral standard. When nothing goes wrong, no one thanks Him; when anything goes wrong, everyone blames Him. And no thanks, either, for the drastically reduced death count from our last massive terror attack. How merciful that out of the 27,000 runners and who knows how many spectators, only 3 dead and around 130 wounded. Are these terrible things? Yes. My heart breaks for those families who lost loved ones, and everyone affected by this calamity. At the same time, I am grateful that God, in His great mercy, restrained what could have been a massively more horrific event.

In the news coverage of this event that is now spilled an indelible crimson across our national consciousness, there are going to be many religious voices vying for attention. Westboro Baptist Church, true to the spirit of antichrist that rules them, has already begun spewing their violent, hateful rhetoric. Some voices will be raised to champion human unity, love, charity, and the like. However, as laudable as those ideas may be, none of them has the power to lay an axe to the root of the Boston Bombing.

In Luke 13, Jesus responds to some current events in His day. Listen to what He says about tragedy:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

(Lk. 13:1-5, ESV).

See, contrary to the WBC, Jesus says that tragedy striking is not indicative of whether or not the people upon whom it falls are more or less guilty than others. In fact, Jesus turns to those listening and says it is not because they were worse sinners that they suffered!

Tragedy cuts the legs out from under those who would judge, because it reminds us of the real problem: We are all guilty before God. In an attempt to weasel out of our shame, we use these horrific times as an escape. “Look how displeased God must have been with them, to visit anguish like that on their city.” But Christ shows us that sin is the great equalizer: Everyone is equally guilty. No one is a greater or lesser offender.

And so the messages of unity, hope, and love are not enough to overcome the problem: Sin. Again, those things are commendable, but to think they can fix the problem is to think you can cover the stench of a pigsty with a few rose petals. We must address the problem at the root, or we will never kill the tree.

Christ has an answer for us here: Repent — repent or perish.

Let this call ring out to those who have the ears to hear: Let us all repent of all those times which we have failed to love God, or love others as ourselves. Let us seek the forgiveness of the One whom we have wronged. Let us repent that we may not perish. And if God is so merciful as to lavish His grace upon us, to forgive us of our sins, and to forbear a little longer with this nation that many more may come to repentant faith and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins — if God be so merciful, should we not pray for those who visited this great horror on us?

Is this not still the God who does not delight in the death of the wicked? Is this not the same Christ who commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? And if He has loved sinners by dying for them, and prayed that the Father forgive us for our ignorance, should we not pray the same for these depraved men? After all, we’re all equally guilty. Whatever judgement you want to heap on their head, you and I deserve as well. Don’t get me wrong: I pray that these terrorists are caught quickly and put on trial for their crimes. But in terms of eternal souls, mine sure didn’t deserve saving, so I have no footing to stand on to say that theirs does not as well.

This is why the Gospel answers these horrors so well: Any time that we see the effects of sin take their course, we know that God is not sitting idly by simply allowing these things to occur. No, He has stepped down into history and taken upon Himself the “punishment that brought us peace” (Isaiah 53). And now, He is making all things new. Everything is rushing toward its ultimate, glorious consummation and glorification, when Christ will bring all things, even this, into subjection under Himself. Until that day, let us live in daily repentance and faith, so that we may be forgiven of our sins.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Only the Gospel offers this now and future hope. God bless you all. Pray for Boston — pray for forgiveness.

In Christ,

Jonathan Graham.

UPDATE: At 3 AM, when I originally posted this, I had not fully researched some of the various ways to support those affected by the Boston bombing. Now that i’ve had some time to do some research as to ways to help Boston, you can read about that here.

3 Comments

Filed under Personal

American Post-Modernity and Nepalese Paganism.

Not long ago I got to sit and chat with a missionary to Nepal. He and his wife have been over there for some time sharing the Gospel with the Nepalese people. When we were talking, he told me that the greatest challenge in Nepal is the pagan religion already in place. Because the Nepalese people are polytheistic, they hear the Gospel and think it sounds great, so they add Jesus to the pantheon they worship. Jesus becomes another god on their shelf. And it seems as if even those who reject Jesus don’t condemn Him. It seems as if they tolerate Christians just fine, so long as they don’t cause a disturbance.

As I was working this morning, I started to mull this conversation over. Now I am very aware that our worlds are both literally and figuratively miles apart. However there is a strange familiarity to the story he shared with me. You see, America is not so different from Nepal in at least one key way: Everyone has their gods already, and they just want to add Jesus to their pantheon; and those who don’t want Jesus tolerate Him so long as He keeps to Himself. In other ways our mission fields are massively divergent, but here we are not so far apart.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “post-modern” is used to describe the present reigning philosophical period that pervades the culture. It is aptly described as a deep-seated skepticism of everything. All truth claims are to be questioned; none are to be believed. The truth of the matter is dependent on the subject experiencing it. Imagine two baseball umpires, one believing in absolute truth and one a practicing post-modern. The first says “I call them as they are;” the second, “They are as I call them.”

This assumption — “all truths are equally valid and none are binding” — underlies much of modern American culture. Christ has become a good teacher among many equals, rather than the unique Son of God. People are glad to add His voice to the myriad of other spiritual guides they already listen to, or they are content to allow you to believe as you wish. In both cases, however, they refuse to confess that Jesus is God and Lord.

This attitude is present in the visible church as well. Pastor’s refuse to rebuke unsound doctrine. People get upset when you name names like T. D. Jakes or Steven Furtick; calling out a heretic is, for the first time in Christian history, unthinkable. Why? Because those teachers are seen as equally valid strains of Christian thought. The visible church has succumbed to the culture’s ideas that everyone teaches truth. “They must be doing something good! Look how big their church is!” We no longer test men by their doctrine but by how many “lives they’ve changed.” I have been told that it’s wrong to rebuke false teachers because they may have helped others in their spiritual walk. In other words, so long as something a heretic said has helped someone somewhere feel closer to God, then it must be of value. If that is the prevailing attitude of the American church, it doesn’t seem as if Jesus would be welcome in our pulpits.

Pastors, return to your posts. Man up and preach the Word, not this castrated, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in- your-mouth, Osteen-esque skuvbalon which leaves this people with a million excuses. Answer me this: On judgement day, will those who attend your church look at you and ask why you never warned them to flee the wrath to come? Why they never heard the Law expose their Sin and their need for a Savior? In that day, pastor, will your snappy series on better marriages shield them from the wrath of God? Will they grasp for those fig leaves you kept sewing together for them, or will they be clothed in the righteousness of Christ? It will be a great and terrible day for many who now call themselves “pastor.”

All is not lost, of course. God’s Word is still living and active today. Much like Paul was provoked by the idol worship in Athens, the church should be — and I would hope is — sorely provoked by the idol worship in America. You see, ultimately post-modernity is worship of self. “I decide what is right for me.” We are freed from that dreadful tyranny of truth to serve whatever the god of our bellies tells us is right, and no one else can tell us otherwise.

This is why the Gospel cannot be reduced to Jesus as the best way; because “best” no longer means “superior to all others at all places and all times.” We must preach that Jesus is the Way. And as Paul in Athens made known the unknown God, so we stand and declare that Christ truly died for our sins; that there is indeed a God made flesh in Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, exclusive. That this God-man will not be placed lightly among other spiritual voices clamoring for our attention, but will in fact shatter our shrine to self-righteousness, self-esteem, and self-worth, and replace it with His righteousness, with esteem of His glory, and with a yearning for the One who alone is Worthy.

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Evangelism, Personal, Theology

14,611 days later: How does the Gospel speak to Roe v. Wade?

Pro-abortion march

Pro-abortion march (Photo credit: American Life League)

According to the US Abortion Clock, as of the time of this writing, 55,886,682.5 abortions have been performed in the United States since Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973. If the abortion rate remains about the same, we will pass 56,000,000 in just 29 days.

I  doubt very much that I could say anything that hasn’t already been said about January 22nd. Today is January 23rd and it seems that, for many, life simply goes on. But for me, today, life stopped.

I began to reflect today on the bloodbath that has ravaged this nation — my nation. We’ve advanced so far since Roe that now Salon staff writer Mary Elizabeth Williams rightly argues that life begins at conception, then wrongly states that this shouldn’t stop an abortion.

I have spent no small amount of time today grieving over this modern-day slaughter of the innocents. My heart breaks that so many precious human persons have lost their lives. And in this, I have been reflecting: What does the Gospel say to Roe v. Wade? How does the Gospel impact the knowledge that 22% of pregnancies in America will end in abortion?

God’s Law speaks to the Church to teach us what a good work looks like. The Law commands us “Love thy neighbor.” And for the Christian we do this in the context of abortion by loving our tiny neighbors in a faithful, ferocious defense of their life. We stand firm on this issue with our vote and our voice; if we can make an impact, while still keeping the Law of God, then we are compelled to do so. We cannot stay silent and say that we are honoring God.

But every abortion has two victims; the mother must never be neglected in our defense of the unborn. Because the Law weighs heavy on her heart, and her conscience. The Law condemns her as a murderer, and her heart, which knows this is true, condemns her as well. To love our neighbor here, we must be faithful in our proclamation that Christ, on the Cross, won forgiveness for even this great sin that grips her soul. We must always be sure our message is “there is no sin so vile that the Cross of Christ cannot answer it.” We must never miss an opportunity to joyfully invite all sorts of sinners to join us, sinners just as great, in receiving forgiveness in Jesus name.

I must humbly apologize for my personal failure to always preach the Gospel. I have been so eager in my zeal for the unborn that I have not also invited the burden-bound to the forgiveness won by Christ and His vicarious death on the Cross for my sins, your sins, and the sins of the world. Please forgive me. And if you, like I, have neglected your duties, I pray that this convicts you.

Finally, I must appeal to you, dear reader: If you carry this burden, lay it down. Come and see that Christ has borne the punishment that you and I deserve, so that you may gain His righteousness. Come find forgiveness, full and free.

Related Links:

4 Comments

Filed under Personal, Politics, Theology

The South Carolina Data Breach: How to protect yourself and your family.

If you live in the state of South Carolina, hopefully you’ve heard by now about the massive data breach at the South Carolina State Department of Revenue. It’s an information security disaster. 3.6 million Social Security Numbers were stolen, all unencrypted; debit and credit card numbers were stolen as well, but most were encrypted (not that this is of much solace). Of course, no public funds were accessed or put at risk. You can read more about the data breach over at HuffPo, or watch an excerpt of the press conference here.

Now, I could comment on how incredibly irresponsible and idiotic it is to store sensitive information unencrypted. Or I could lambast the Dept. of Revenue for not taking action sooner when the attack has been going on for over two months. Instead, I’m going to try to outline the steps you need to take to protect your information now that it’s in the wild.

DISCLAIMER: I am by no means an expert, nor is this an exhaustive list of steps you should take to protect yourself. If you follow these steps, bad things can still happen to you. All this does is make things harder for identity thieves. All information is provided as-is, without any sort of guarantee. If the following steps do not work, I am not responsible. They worked for me, and I hope they work for you.

It’s a rather simple process. South Carolina is taking steps to right their egregious wrong, and has made a pretty fantastic tool available. Rather than repeatedly calling the 800 number that the state has provided only to be hung up on, simply do the following.

  1. Go to http://protectmyid.com/scdor
  2. Enter this code: scdor123 (this is the code that you would get from the 800 number)
  3. Finish the application process

Protectmyid.com is a service provided by Experian. In light of the breach, South Carolina has provided the code so that the citizens can have free access to this service. It was the least they could do.

I strongly advise you to set up an account through the service. Check your credit reports immediately, and see if there is any suspicious activity. Then set up alerts on your cell phone. To do this, look at the left side of the screen, where it says “You are logged in as: [Your Name] (edit profile).” Click edit profile, and then click “Alerts.” Enter your cell phone and your alert preferences. Mine is set so I receive alerts 24 hours a day.

That’s all you need to do to set up your account with ProtectMyId.com, but I also suggest you take the self-assesment test they provide. This will help you to understand and correct unsafe behaviors.

I would also recommend setting up a 90 day fraud alert through Experian. This is also free, available here. As a quick note, if you add a fraud alert through any one of the major credit bureaus, the other two get notified. If you add a fraud alert, it will force creditors to go through extra steps to check your identity, thus adding another layer of protection.

I hope this post has been helpful. If you have questions, ask them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them. If you have comments or resources, please share them below as well. This is a massive problem that is affecting millions of people. Please share whatever insights you have. If this post has helped you, please forward it to your South Carolinian friends and family.

Godspeed.

UPDATE10/30:If your children are listed on your tax returns, they should be covered by protectmyid.com. I spoke with the SCDOR, and they assured me that minors are protected under their parents plans.

5 Comments

Filed under Personal, Politics

Christians say the darnedest things.

Church vocabulary weirds me out. I was in the middle of the following sentence when I realized just how unintelligible church language can be.

“When did you get saved?”

Think about that question for a minute or two. When did you get saved? You’re probably thinking “well let’s see… I prayed the sinners prayer when I was what… 6? Let me find my Bible, I wrote it down on the ‘My Spiritual Birthday’ page at the front.” How many of you have one of those, show of hands?

Here’s the problem with that question: The day you started professing Jesus Christ as your savior isn’t the day you got saved. If it was, you would have been saved through some work of your own. Your profession didn’t add anything to your salvation, it simply marked the beginning of your sanctification. Your salvation was won for you on the Cross — when Jesus said it was finished, He meant it.

And here’s another problem with that question: If everyone who professed Christ was saved, then we wouldn’t have Matthew 7:21. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” We give people a false sense of security — probably because that’s what people are looking for — when we tell them “say a prayer to get saved.” It’s a magic spell that can be used as a fire-escape; we get to call a favor in from Jesus when we really need one, never mind all that nonsense He said about loving God and other people I just need Him to do something for me really quick (hey thanks cosmic boy-toy!).

Here’s another awkward phrase: “Man the presence was really in the house this morning.” Really? Did the foundation of your church shake? Were people hurling themselves face to the ground in repentance, and crying out for mercy? No, the mix was just really good and the guitarist’s new delay pedal was nice sounding and the smoke machine made everyone a little light-headed. Read the Bible and tell me where the presence and Spirit of God truly fall without conviction of sin and repentance. We cannot afford to trade cheap emotionalism for true religious experience. If your congregation is alive and unbroken, then they have probably not been in the presence of God.

That last point is going to be very unpopular with a lot of people, so if your initial reaction was one of hostility, go read what I said again. Compare it to scripture. Pray. Wrestle. Do more than just react against an attack on cherished assumptions.

I could go on for a very long time, but I’m going to turn it over to you guys: Got a Churchism that’s been bothering you? Share it in the comments! I’d love to hear what you think.

16 Comments

Filed under Ecclesiology, Personal