Photos of The Week: Rock Stacking Festival

On our trip home from preaching at a church in the hill country, we stopped in Llano, TX, along the river of the same name and discovered the results of an annual festival held at Grenwelge Park, a rock stacking festival. Apparently, the good people of Llano have a festival every year in which people come in and stack rocks on top of each other. It is a competition and there is even a championship for it. In the words of Dave Barry, I’m not making this up. You can read about it on Texas Highways magazine.

In view of that, here are some photos from the park with left over rock stacks.









 

Faith Defined

J. Gresham Machen defines faith the following way:

To have faith in Christ means to cease trying to win God’s favor by one’s own character; the man who believes in Christ simply accepts the sacrifice which Christ offered on Calvary. The result of such faith is a new life and all good works; but the salvation itself is an absolutely free gift of God.

Taken from Christianity and Liberalism, p. 120.

 

Two Kinds of Books: Two Messages


Tim Challies, in his review of the book Girl, Wash You Face by Rachel Hollis helps us understand that there are only two kinds of books being written for Christians today.

It has long been my observation that there are two kinds of books being marketed to Christians. There are some whose foundational message is what you need to do and others whose foundational message is what Christ has already done. The first make a model out of the author, the second make a model out of Jesus. The first place the burden for change on personal power while the second place the burden for change on Christ’s power. It is clear that Girl, Wash Your Face falls squarely in the first category.

Of course, the books that sell the most are the ones that tell us what to do. This is Humanism 101, which is also described as picking yourself up by your bootstraps, believe in yourself, and you are told the world is your oyster. Humanism is a works-based religion in which the adherents are given instructions and told to follow those instructions in order to achieve happiness. It comes in many forms with multiple requirements and the message of society is humanism.

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Culturally Significant?

In order to be the spiritual successor of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, the OPC had to become culturally significant.

Those words were penned in Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, by D.G. Hart and John Muether. In the early 1940s, there were those in the OPC who feared that the denomination would not be socially involved enough, and they were seeking to bring about a committee to make sure they didn’t drop the social-agenda ball.

Hart and Muether had already shown that the identity of the OPC never was to have a politically-active mindset. In fact, members of the OPC had fought against it from the beginning of the denomination’s history.

Not that they were always silent. They did send letters to like-minded churches in South Africa with concerns about apartheid long before it became popular to bring up the topic in the 1980s. But the OPC has never been one to jump on the political and social bandwagons that we see so many churches doing today.

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Preach With Authority

We live in a day in which the church truly needs men who will boldly proclaim the word of God. Some might think that we already have that. I wish it were true. But far too many men enter the pulpits of their churches with the idea that they are going to give an inspirational chat, instead of proclaim the divine mysteries of God. In other words, they fail to preach with authority.

 

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Is Patriotism Idolatry?

 

Darrel Harrison writes the following about idolatry:

By definition, idolatry is the worship of a false god. But this begs the question: what is a “false god”?

Simply put, a false god is any person or thing that redirects our affections away from the one true God in terms of the devotion, worship, and adoration that is due only to Him. Most Christians would concur with that description of idolatry. The problem, however, is we Christians generally understand such misplaced adoration solely in terms of venerating statues and other physical images that represent other religions or deities.

In my earlier post, Should Patriotism Have a Place in Worship? I looked at whether or not we should sing patriotic songs in worship. My point was simply to show that we are only to sing what God has directed us to sing: psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16). This excludes patriotic songs.

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Midweek Photos: Wind Chimes

I love wind chimes. Every time Heidi and I go into Buckee’s, we have to bump into the chimes just to listen. We know we will never be able to afford them, since Buckee’s is so proud of their chimes. But it’s nice to hear the deep, rich vibrations with just a hint of barbecue sauce. (That is the predominant smell in Buckee’s.)

Here are a few shots from the central Texas B&B with tiny chimes.





 

Doctrine and History are Essential for Christianity

J. Gresham Machen shows the importance of realizing that our faith is a faith rooted in history and that history leads to doctrine. For Christians, doctrine and history are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other and you cannot have true the Christian faith without history and doctrine.

…the message of the resurrection was not isolated. It was connected with the death of Jesus, seen now to be not a failure but a triumphant act of divine grace; it was connected with the entire appearance of Jesus upon earth. The coming of Jesus was understood now as an act of God by which sinful men were saved. The primitive Church was concerned not merely with what Jesus had said, but also, and primarily, with what Jesus had done. The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. ‘Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried”— that is history. “He loved me and gave Himself for me” — that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive church.

Machen is showing the necessity for sound doctrine in the Christian faith. Liberals, and in our day progressives, always seek to subvert biblical doctrine with their own doctrine. I use to think that liberals were trying to do away with sound doctrine. Machen helped me see the they are not. They are trying to do away with biblical doctrine for their own doctrine. In light of 1 Timothy 4:1, we can see the true reality: Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.

My point: we will be drawn to one doctrine or another. Either we look to biblical doctrine, or man’s doctrine. The first is rooted in the nature of God, the latter in the rebelliousness of man.

Photo of the Week: B&B in the Hill Country

Heidi and I had the wonderful opportunity of staying in a B&B this past weekend, so I could preach at a church in the hill country. For those who don’t know Texas, the hill country is the area around Austin and San Antonio that is known for its…hills. I know most people who have never been to Texas think of it as a flat desert with a skeletal cow’s head, and a funky cactus. But Texas is a large place, with lots of variety. The hill country is one such area. It is rocky, hilly, filled with cedars, lots of cactus, lots of deer, antelope, and other exotic animals. There are only two bad things about the hill country. The first is the lack of rain, and when it rains, it has a tendency to flood in low-lying areas. Heidi and I got a taste of that when we drove across an area with less than a foot of water. It took us into the on-coming lane, but thankfully, there was no oncoming traffic.

The other bad thing about the area is the influx of Liberalis Californius. This is a species that has migrated this way after destroying its own homeland area through socialistic tendencies, making their own area so unpleasant to live in, they have to migrate to Texas in order to spread their ill-gotten policies. Some how, they fool themselves into thinking that they can live the same way in a new place and get different results.

But alas, enough commentary. This is a photography post, and therefore, demands pictures! Here they are!


 






 

Advantages Learned From Multiple Churches: The Bad Elder


As I said in an earlier post, a search committee asked me what advantage I had after working for multiple churches over a 22 year span. After giving it some thought, I realized that knowing a good session from a bad session was the key. I have had a lot experience with bad sessions, which are not always made up of bad elders. You can have a session of moderate elders and one bad elder and it is a bad session because the moderate elders do what most moderate elders do: nothing and the bad elder ends up running the show.

But this post is focusing on the bad elder.

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Photo of the Week: Downtown Bristol…Again!

My favorite all-time downtown is Bristol, TN/VA. I never grew up thinking that I would ever have a favorite downtown, but Bristol clearly is the only one I ever think about going back to on a regular basis. Every time Heidi and I travel to the area, we have to go downtown, walk around, and enjoy the setting. Here are a few pictures to help give you a glimpse.

By the way, it is actually my second post on Bristol’s downtown. Here is the first.


 


 



This is my favorite small-business owner in downtown Bristol. He owns the cigar shop.

Advantages Learned from Multiple Churches: True Elders

In a recent interview I had with a search committee, the chairman asked me what advantage did I have after serving as pastor in multiple churches over the years. I have been the pastor of six churches since 1995. That might sound like a lot for a 22-year ministry. But most pastors who persevere in their callings experience the same thing. In fact, what I have been through is quite the norm. What is not normal is a pastor staying in one place for 15, 20, or 30 years. It is done, but it is rare.

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Kevin DeYoung On Biblical Social Justice

“My less-than-exciting conclusion [on studying Biblical social justice] was that we should not oversell or undersell what the Bible says about justice. On the one hand, there is a lot in the Bible about God’s care for the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. There are also plenty of warnings against treating the helpless with cruelty and disrespect. On the other hand, justice, as a biblical category, is not synonymous with anything and everything we feel would be good for the world. Doing justice means following the rule of law, showing impartiality, paying what you promised, not stealing, not swindling, not taking bribes, and not taking advantage of the weak because they are too uninformed or unconnected to stop you.

So for simplicity sake, let’s take biblical “social justice” to mean something like “treating people equitably, working for systems and structures that are fair, and looking out for the weak and the vulnerable.”

Read entire article here.

Signing the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel

I decided to sign The Statement on Social Justice & The Gospel. After hearing Dr. James White discuss it on his show, The Dividing Line, and reading some of the other statements by people I trust and admire, like Samuel Sey and Darrel B. Harrison, it is important to support the statement given what is at stake. Simply put, the social justice movement is an attack on the gospel itself, the Bible, and the church.

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Against the Generic “god”

“I am the way the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John Calvin, in his commentary on John 14:1-6, points out that many people will mention God only, but never refer to Christ in their religion. In doing so, they will be easily blown about by every wind of doctrine.

Calvin writes:

Proud men are ashamed of Christ’s humiliation, and, therefor, they fly to God’s incomprehensible Divinity. But faith will never reach heaven unless it submit to Christ, who appears to be a low and contemptible God, and will never be firm if it (does) not seek a foundation in the weakness of Christ.

This reminds me of one woman who was facing death, who refused to actually look to Christ and be saved. It was gut-wrenching because both my wife and I tried to help her see the need to trust in Christ alone for salvation. She would not have Christ. She was far too comfortable with the generic god of her faith, even telling this god that she wanted to live for 10 more years. Sadly, she didn’t have 10 more weeks.

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Machen: Definition of Paganism

From Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen defines paganism as the following:

Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties. Very different is the Christian ideal. Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.

Machen is not saying that Christianity ends with a broken heart, but that it starts with a broken heart because those who become Christians have a consciousness of sin, whereas pagans do not. We can see paganism all around us. We see it in the exaltation of the human spirit, and the self. We see the priests of it everywhere, from Joel Osteen, to Zig Ziglar, to Oprah, all proclaiming the goodness of man. It’s in our schools, universities, work places, entertainment, and homes. And in the midst of it all, we cover it up with our prosperity.

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Social Justice Seeks to Make the Gospel Relevant, Which is Why It’s Another Gospel


Darrel B. Harrison wrote in a Facebook post that Jesus doesn’t call us to become social-justice warriors in order to fix the problems of the world. Fixing the problems of the world was never Christ’s intent. It was His intent to save sinners. He will fix those problems, but not until His second coming.

While reading that post, it occurred to me that the reason so many are trying to latch on to becoming social-justice warriors within the church is because they think that it gives legitimacy to Christianity. No longer is Christianity an embarrassment to them. It’s now a religion that can fix the problem. But that is not true Christianity. It is simply the old whore of liberalism with a new dress and lipstick. It is another religion all together, as Machen showed in his book Christianity and Liberalism.

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Only “Orthodox” Would Do

It’s interesting that the original name for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was actually the Presbyterian Church of America. Don’t confuse that with the denomination of today, the Presbyterian Church in America. The latter denomination would not arrive on the scene until the 1970s. The former was getting underway in the early 1930s.

But the new denomination, and the new name wasn’t to be. The former denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA, took the new denomination to court, saying that the name was too similar to the old name. The court agreed and the first PCA had to change their name.

They tossed around many names: The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (which now exists), The Presbyterian and Reformed Church of America, The North American Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church of Christ, the Protestant Presbyterian Church of America, and the Free Presbyterian Church of America.

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