Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Five Reasons You Should Go to Your Local Abortion Mill

I know it is a scary thought. I know it is outside our comfort zone. And so at best we pray for those who go, those spiritual super-heroes that are better than we are. At worst we get angry at them for making us feel guilty. Going to the mill, however, will not save your soul, will not assuage your guilt. Jesus did that. If you will go, however, you will no longer fear, but will know that He is with you, wherever you go. Here then are five reasons you should go, pray, speak.

First, you should go to feel the power of repentance. There is no place, outside the Lord’s Table, more powerful in demonstrating the depth of our sin. Though I am actively pro-life I go and repent for these things. First, for my country. I am a part of this country and so share in its guilt. While we should always and everywhere be grateful for all the blessings we receive, going to a mill cures my head-in-the-sand, proud-to-be-an-American folly. Instead I am rightly ashamed. I am a citizen of a nation that over the last forty years has murdered fifty million babies. Second, for His church. I am a part of His church and so share in its guilt.  We are like the Christians of Germany during the Holocaust, except these victims are murdered in plain sight. Again, though I am to be grateful for how the grace of God is manifest in and through His church, being at the mill cures me of the foolish notion that the church is innocent, that the battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent is an “out there” thing rather than an “in here” thing. Third, I repent for myself. Being there never cleanses me from my guilt. I cannot stand there and pray, “I thank you God that I am not like other men. I preach at mills and adopt babies.” Instead I weep for my forgetting, and for my not doing enough.

Second, you should go to experience the power of the devil. Non-charismatic evangelicals are unhealthily skittish about the reality of spiritual warfare. We are practical modernists, believing the invisible realm doesn’t touch this realm. You cannot make that mistake at a killing center. The sense of demonic presence is oppressive, weighty.  Never is that power greater than when proclaiming Jesus to those leading their little ones to death. The devil doesn’t take well to our kneeling before His gates.

Third, you should go to experience the power of conviction. The devil has persuaded Christians and non-Christians that this “procedure” is normal, no big deal. When you are there, without even a spoken word, you are communicating to yourself and others these great truths- that what they are about to do is wicked; that what they are about to do is noticed; that what they are about to do is not normal; that what they are about to do they will regret. When Christians especially show up to murder their babies, they see Jesus in you and often they turn around, repenting.

Fourth, you should go to experience the power of the Holy Spirit. Again, evangelicals, especially Reformed evangelicals, are skittish about the Holy Spirit. We are willing to speak of Him in the abstract, but we don’t expect to witness Him at work. He does work, and nowhere more visibly than at the very gates of hell. The Spirit does great things when we follow Him into great battles.  He tears down strongholds before our very eyes.

Fifth, you should go to experience the power of family. When you are there to watch fathers and mothers murder their babies you cannot help but give thanks that He spared your children, to rejoice that they survived the battle of the womb. When you are there together with your family, you enjoy the blessings of all of the above, together. You will go home united, tearful, and grateful.

You need to go. You don’t need to preach, though you may. You don’t need to carry a sign, though you may. You don’t need to hand out tracts, though you may. But you must go. I have met many who regret not going. I know no one who has ever regretted going. Show them Jesus, and you will see Jesus at work.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ask RC: Is there anything wrong with drums and guitars in church?

I am frankly astonished that the worship wars rattle on. The army of praise choruses, light shows and worship bands have left the Psalms, the organ, and our father’s hymnal decimated. The war for all practical purposes ended quite some time ago, and I am on the losing side. It is now harder to find a church that hasn’t bought into contemporary worship than it is to find a church has never been through a split. The landscape is littered with the meeting places of the victors.

So why bother with the question? Because there are a few battle-scarred, dazed, war survivors out there wondering what happened.

What happened is that we fought with the wrong weapons, and naturally lost. We objected to the drums and the guitars for at least two bad reasons. First, because we associated them with a rebellious rock culture, we thought they didn’t belong in church, though they did belong in our living rooms.  We couldn’t keep them out of the sanctuary because we welcomed them into the rest of our lives. While not everything in our work week rightly fits on the Sabbath (work, for instance), Sunday is not the day wherein we are supposed to be good, and the other days when we are free to be bad. So if they are bad, drums and guitars, let them be bad. If they are not bad in themselves (which I would argue) then let’s not object on the basis that they seem bad to us, or that they are often used by bad people.

The second reason was rather unspoken. Too many of the soldiers on our side objected to meeting the felt needs of others in the church not because felt needs are unimportant, but because it means our felt needs are not getting met. If the music with which we worship is decided by popular vote, some of us with unpopular tastes are going to lose. But if our argument in favor of our tastes is that they are our tastes, we can’t expect to win. If everyone agrees we should get what we want, there is no use protesting when they are we and we are on the losing side.

My objection to drums and guitars is not that they are drums and guitars. Few traditionalists would object to kettle-drums. Few would object to all instruments wherein tight bands of steel are struck. That, after all, is what a piano does. The issue isn’t the instruments, but the music. The war did not end when fifty one percent of churches embraced contemporary worship. It ended when we bought into the devil’s lie that forms don’t matter, just thoughts; that media carries no message; that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  It ended when we determined to watch the lyric front, but give up the music front.

It’s true the evil isn’t in the instrument; it’s in us. Our worship problems do not flow from drums and guitars. They flow from the sad truth that we are shallow, insipid, easily played, safe, boring and sentimental.  Jesus, remember, didn’t throw the money out of the temple, but the money-changers.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Problem with (some) Young Earthers

It is a subtle, but important distinction. I approve the desire to think God’s thoughts after Him. I fear though that I am sometimes tempted to approve God’s thoughts only when they agree with mine. A few weeks ago during a Question and Answer time at Ligonier’s annual conference I honestly answered a question as to my views on the age of the earth. I’m a young earth guy. Have been for twenty years. Though there were other young earth guys on the panel, and all the gentlemen on the panel are in my judgment fine, godly men, I found myself humbled by the enthusiastic support of the young earthers in the crowd, as if I had taken some sort of odd, bold and prophetic stand.

Despite my respect for those with whom I disagree on this issue, it is difficult not to fear that those on the other side weigh the Bible too lightly, and what they are hearing in His revelation through His creation too heavily.  I know they don’t intend that. They may not even be guilty. But I am at least guilty of finding it less than easy to maintain toward them a presumption of their innocence.

What troubles me more, however, is when my comrades within the young earth camp (and please let’s all remember that these “camps” are all together within the walls of the kingdom) make the same kind of mistake. I fear that too many of us embrace young earth creationism not because of the dependability of the Bible, but because of the fine scientific work of those in the young earth camp.

I’ve seen and been blessed by the work of several “creation” ministries. Insofar as they are about the business of thinking God’s thoughts after Him, all I have is praise. Indeed I suspect my concerns reflect not those who produce pro-young earth teaching, but those who receive such teaching. If a stunning slide show about Mount Saint Helens persuades you that the Bible is true, that’s a problem. If a compelling video about the Great Flood convinces you there was a Great Flood, that’s a problem. The problem is your ultimate allegiance is to stunning slide shows and compelling videos.

Of course because the Bible is true we should expect His revelation in creation to match right up. Because there was a world-wide flood we should expect to find evidence of a world-wide flood. But we should not conclude that there was a world wide flood because our studies affirm such. Instead we’re supposed to believe the Bible.

Now it may well be that we young earthers are the geo-centrists of our day. It may well be that the best, most faithful understanding of Genesis is a Framework view, or some other view that requires an old earth. In short, I could be wrong. Geology, however, biology, astro-physics will not be how I come to know I am wrong. It would take the Bible to do that.

God is true wherever He speaks, whether in His Word or His world. Both natural and special revelation are inerrant and infallible. Only one of them, however, is clear, forthright, straightforward. Before we wrestle over this vexing issue, may we all learn to agree with two things. First, whatever the Bible teaches, that is what we are going to believe. And second, we are going to believe it because the Bible teaches it. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Kingdom Notes: Anything But That

There is a certain type of four fingered writer who always keeps one finger to the wind and five fingers wrapped around the reigns of his hobby-horse. Their self-perceived gift is to take the story of the day, and tie it into the one story that has already captured their heart. Every major news story becomes the occasion to saddle up and ride into the one story the writer can’t give up. Somehow the death of Princess Di, the plight of the Chilean coal-miners, Tebowing, Kony and Trayvon Martin all, in their due time, point out the obvious, that the President is a bad man, or women should dress more modestly, or the Fed needs to be audited, or raw milk is good for you.

I am aware of this tendency among writers because, believe it or not, I fight that tendency.  I am mildly aware of what everyone in the world is talking about. I am acutely aware of the one public issue that dominates, though not as much as it should, my own thinking. I in turn am quick to see the connections between the two. Sometimes I fight the temptation to connect the two, sometimes I give in.

When I give in the connection is usually the same. I write a piece in which I ask, “Hey, why is the world so busy talking about x, when my issue is so much more important, so much more compelling? Why are Christians at every office water cooler talking about the media’s talking points, instead of my talking points?” I feel guilty for turning what is often a genuine tragedy of a news story into fodder for my cause.

Today, however, I am persuaded that my habit is the result of our deep disease on this issue. That is, I suspect that all of us would rather talk about today’s story rather than the story precisely because the story is too intense, too revealing, too much a window into the grave evil of the goats and the deep cowardice of the sheep. We would rather talk about Kony than abortion, Trayvon than abortion, even Susan G. Komen than abortion because we are less guilty over all these than we are over abortion. We can look into these comparatively distant, petty horrors because they are both distant and comparatively petty. Abortion, however, is as guilty and horror-filled as hell.

I understand that we all have different callings. I do not begrudge a man bringing the gospel to India rather than laboring to stop the slaughter here in America. I wouldn’t complain about a pastor counseling a young married couple, rather than gathering signatures for the Personhood Amendment. I am positively grateful for godly men who repair plumbing problems instead of carrying picket signs. What troubles me, however, is that away from our specific callings, we find the time to discuss the news, even to pontificate on the news, while the murder of babies has become old news. The murder of babies is backburner, boring, banal, as common as sin. This does not excuse our guilt, but exposes it. Darkness has come into the world and we perceive it not. We are called, all of us, to shine the light of Christ into the darkest corners of the world. May we begin with our own hearts.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ask RC: Which is the greatest super-hero?

We could, in the spirit of political correctness, suggest that such a question is out of bounds. We could affirm that everyone is special in their own way, and protect the self-esteem of the supers. On the other hand, we could have a debate over the right criteria by which to judge. Are we asking who has the coolest super-power? Who has the best alter ego? Whose transformation story is the most compelling? Indeed once one finds the proper criteria by which to judge, the answers just seem to come naturally.

I have two competing criteria that I value highly. Not wanting to choose I will therefore divide the question in two, affirming which is the greatest classic super-hero and which is the greatest modern superhero. First the classic.

By classic I mean those supers whose beginnings came in the heyday of the comic book. Here we find some astonishing super-powers, some engaging alter egos, and some compelling back stories. The best standard, I would argue, however, is this- who makes the most of what he’s got? Which means, of course, that Batman wins, hands down. Batman, frankly, has no super-powers. He is not from another planet, or a lost civilization.  He has not been infected with radiation, nor visited by ancient gods. No, Batman fights with his wealth, his wits and his will. The first two, wealth and wits, create the technology that is so vital to his battle plan. It is his iron will, however, that brings it all together. Criminals fear him not because of what he can do, but because of what he wants- justice.  In the first “battle” of the first modern movie account Batman holds a terrified petty criminal over the edge of a skyscraper. The terrified thug squeaks out, “What are you?” And Batman had me at “I’m Batman, and I want you to tell all your friends about me.”

I’m not the most physically gifted man in the world. I never was growing up. But I have always been competitive. Will means quite a bit to me, and so Batman receives one crown.  On the other hand, as a dad raising eight children I have in recent years come to see the heroism called for in leading a family. Most supers are socially awkward, isolated, islands. One modern hero, however, exhibits the greatest of virtues- he loves his wife and children. Indeed he loves his wife and children enough to endure the crushing weight of hiding his super-ness.  Mr. Incredible wins my vote in the modern category not because of his astonishing super gifts, but because of his ordinary and therefore inspiring love for his family.  I want not to be like his super-identity, but his alter ego, for that, in this instance, is not only who he really is, but who he really wants to be.

In the real world we value the wrong things. We value skills over drive, abilities over willingness. We think our job rather than our family is our calling.  Which is why it’s good to have heroes, but why we have to choose them with care. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Missing Missing

My wife would be pleased with me. As I do far too infrequently, I uncluttered my desk today. You should see how nice it looks. In so doing, however, I came across another old stack of sympathy cards sent months ago from friends and strangers. I read through them, and found myself lonesome for a surprising time, the day my Denise went on to glory. In a previous piece I wrote about how, crossing the barrier of forty days of mourning made me fear that I would miss Denise all the more. I suggested that the more I mourned the more it seemed she was with me. Turns out I was right.

As I read through those cards I was taken back to that first day. Denise passed very early on Sunday morning, December 18th. After taking care of necessary details in the nursing facility I headed home to tell my children. After we talked and cried and hugged I got myself cleaned up, and headed off the church. My thought was that what I needed most of all at that moment was to meet with Jesus, and to be reminded of His grace, His gospel. Turns out I was right.

As I sat there that morning however, I didn’t have the sense that she had left me. Indeed I felt more like we were going to go through this together, that she would walk me through my mourning. She would speak to me the words of life. She would hold me when I could not sleep. She would encourage me to do the next thing. She would remind me to give thanks. Though I do not pretend to know if she sees me. I believed she would make certain that I sensed her with me.  Turns out I was right.

As I look back on that morning, however, somehow now I look back alone. Of course I still cry. I still mourn, even as I type. I miss her laughter, her hand, her beautiful eyes. But somehow as time moves on what I end up missing is the comfort and closeness she somehow gave even after she had gone.  She doesn’t sit beside me when I’m alone in the car anymore. She doesn’t look over my shoulder when I am typing and crying alone anymore. Somehow the more time passes, the farther she is gone, not because I am forgetting her, but because I am remembering her. The great heartbreak is that she is now becoming my past, rather than my ever present.

Denise was carried by Jesus out of the valley of the shadow of death. She now dances with Him on the mountain of the lightness of life.  She has, rightly, wisely, and through the very love of our Savior, left me. And I feel lost. By His grace, however, I have a path to follow. For His pieced feet leave bloody prints all the way out of the valley, all the way up the mountain. I will follow Him, who promised to be with me, even until the end of the age. He is a blessed man to dance with her. I am a blessed man to follow Him.