Tarzan, Jane and the Cause of All Calamity

A friend posted the following on his status on Facebook:

Me, behave? Seriously? As a child I saw Tarzan & Jane almost naked, Cinderella arrived home after midnight, Pinocchio told lies, Aladdin was a thief, Batman drove over 200 MPH, Snow White lived in a house with 7 men, Popeye smoked a pipe and had tattoos, Pac Man ran around to digital music while eating pills that enhanced his performance, and Shaggy and Scooby were mystery solving hippies that always had the munchies.The fault is not mine! 🙂

I couldn’t help but agree. The things we watch growing up as kids really shocks me when I think about it. I know that on one level, our parents were thinking that it wasn’t really all that bad, but when you look deeper into some of these shows… well, you get the idea.

But we must not make the mistake of thinking that these shows are the cause of our problems in our fallen culture. I think that we tend to put our finger on something substantial that will helps us identify why culture is so rotten. Back a number of years ago, I knew a man who put the blame on the Beatles and their song, Hold Your Hand. Even more say it goes back to the moment the Supreme Court pulled the Ten Commandments out of our schools, and banned prayer in school. While those moments are big symptoms, they are still just symptoms of a greater problem.

These shows we watched growing up, and today, are merely the symptom of the problem, after all, while I really loved watching Tarzan movies and his ability to avert war with a single word, “Ungawaa!” I have to admit that the show was always better when Jane appeared. Even as a boy, I couldn’t help but admire Jane’s finely crafted physique.

The problem was the shows, but the sin that has spread to us by another naked couple. Yup, Adam and Eve. They are the culprits to societies ills. If we want to point a finger, and I don’t recommend that we do, that is where we point. The reason we should not point to Adam and Eve, or Tarzan and Jane, is because given the chance, we would fall into sin just as they did. This is the frailty of the human heart. We all sin because we are all sinners.

Even if we were in the Garden of Eden, given the opportunity to stand sinless as Adam did, we would still fall. Therefore we cannot claim any righteousness based upon our own imaginations. We are the problem, not society or alcohol, or no-fault divorce, etc. We might lament our lack or response to a falling culture, but only if it is a proper response.

No, passing more laws will not change a thing, nor will changing the education system, or electing the right men and women to office. The key always comes back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is only when we share the gospel with Tarzan and Jane, and the Spirit moves in them, showing them their sinfulness and need for Christ, that we can make any headway on couple’s dress code. When men and women trust and Christ, are born again, and made new creations, this is when we begin to see a need to live according to God’s standards and not our own. It is when redeemed men and women live as redeemed men and women that we begin to see culture changed for the better because those in the culture are no longer living for themselves, but living for the LORD and His standards of righteousness.

Yes, the temptation is to point the finger to some event in history as the problem. But that only works if we go back to the very first sin in history. Other wise, we might as well swing from the trees with the ape men.

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On Peter’s Confession

J.C. Ryle writes concerning the Apostle Peter after he confess “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God:”

“We shall do well to copy that hearty zeal and affection which Peter here displayed. We are perhaps to much disposed to underrate this holy man, because of his occasional instability, and his thrice-repeated denial of his LORD. This is a mistake. With all his faults, Peter was a true-hearted, fervent, single-minded servant of Christ. With all his imperfections, he has given us a pattern that many Christians would do wisely to follow. Zeal like his may have it ebbs and flows, and sometimes lack steadiness of purpose. Zeal like his may be ill-directed, and sometimes make sad mistakes. But zeal like his is not to be despised. It awakens the sleeping. It stirs the sluggish. It provokes others to exertion. Anything is better than sluggishness, luke-warmness, and torpor, in the Church of Christ. Happy would have been for Christendom had there been more Christians like Peter and Martin Luther, and fewer like Erasmus.”

Think about those words dear readers. We often times blast blind zeal that we end up with no zeal at all. Let us encourage those who are encouraged and be encouraged by them. The deadwood does nothing at all for the Kingdom of God. Often times, they are worse than doing nothing in that they prevent others who have zeal. Their sin is not just sin of omission, but commission as well. Where the zealous for the LORD would act, the deadwood stop it with the smirk, the negative attitude, the hopeless outlook and lack of faith. May the Lord remove the deadwood from our churches, from our pews and replace it with those who are alive for the LORD.

Top Posts for the Week

I thought this was interesting. My WordPress stats showed the following posts as my top posts for the week. I forgot about the spider one, and for some reason, the Lizzard Pizza post has caught on the last several weeks. One commenter even told me the post was … well, bovine dung… In other words, he didn’t believe it was real. It’s real. Got the picture from my cousin!

The Heresy of Ignorance

One of the saddest aspects of fundamentalist Christianity is that those who hold to that tradition, often do so out of the worst of ignorance. For instance, their is one entire non-denominational denomination that claims the following: “No creed but the Bible!” This statement is said with the pride, arrogance and self righteousness of which should never be found in the life of a true Christian, for we know that we are saved by grace alone, by Christ alone through faith alone, and not because of anything found in us. By God’s grace, we also realize that such a declaration of no creed is actually a creed itself, therefore contradictory to our belief system that we are so proud of.

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Dr. Robert Pyne and Chosen By God

I recently received an offer from Ligonier Ministries for a special 25th anniversary edition of R.C. Sproul’s Chosen by God. If ever there was a book that helped solidify my understanding and belief in Calvinism, this was the book. Reading John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion was a big bonus as well. But Sproul really helped me understand predestination, human free will and God’s sovereignty in our salvation.These three doctrines are extremely important, which explains why there is so much debate concerning these truths. As the questions go, who does what in our salvation and who gets the glory? The answer is one and the same: God does.

But lo, the Arminians love to put forth that idolatry known as free will, saying that salvation is all our decision. From their point of view, they think God provided the way and it’s up to us to get on down the road. This view is really humanism (which harkens back to the temptation by Satan in the Garden of Eden) mixed with some misapplied bible passages.

The problem with free will is that the Bible doesn’t speak to the issue very often, and when it does, it doesn’t bode well for the Arminian camp. For instance, when the Bible says, “Repent and be baptized” the Arminians believe this command implies free will, or the ability to repent. But this is reading their belief into Scripture, for simply because we are all obligated to believe in Christ to be saved, does not imply that we have the ability to do so.

The Bible speaks far more of the heart as the governing agent within our beings. It is our heart that guides our decisions and the heart is wicked beyond belief. This is why it so silly to say such things as: “Follow your heart.” Our fallen hearts govern our actions and our hearts are in bondage to sin. So we have no freedom at all. We are bound and enslaved to our fallen hearts.

When the Bible does speak of man’s will, it shows that our election by the Father is not guided upon by our decision making ability, but based on His decision alone. In Paul’s account of God choosing Jacob over Esau he writes: For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will .” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. This is monumental truth in the debate for it speaks to our wills and our works. Election or predestination is up to God, not us. Since this is true, salvation is of the LORD and He bestows it on whom He pleases.

This is not what Arminians teach. They teach that God gives us road and we have to travel it to be saved… sort of like what the Roman Catholics teach.

The irony is that Sproul’s book was recommended to me by Dr. Robert Pyne while I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. During one of our courses, Dr. Pyne had us reading books outside of our tradition for extra credit. I was interested in the topic of limited atonement so I chose John Owen’s The Death of Death and The Death of Christ. For anyone who has tried to read this particular book, it is well worth the attempt. But given my understanding of things at the time, it was way over my head.

I went to see Dr. Pyne after class and told him of my problem. He quickly recommended Dr. Sproul’s book which I joyfully bought the next day. I wasn’t joyful because it was going to answer all my questions, or because I came across an excuse to buy another book. I was joyful because I was going to receive extra credit for a book that was only 211 pages compared to Owen’s monstrous and laborious 340 pages. That is a huge difference when you see Sproul is using 12 pt. font compared to Mr. Owen’s 9 pt. font.

I know that my joy was not spurred on by the purest or most noble motives. But God will use those too for my good and His glory.

Reading Sproul’s book was a breath of fresh air in my theological training. He really began to bring together what the Bible said with clarity. When he began to explain that the cardinal point of Reformed theology is that regeneration proceeds faith, it was eye opening. Not only because that is what Scripture pointed to with clarity, but it also reflected my experience as well. I knew when I came to know Christ, it wasn’t because I made a decision or said some prayer. There were too many lights that were turned on when it came to Scripture for me to believe that it was my doing.

Sproul writes:

“Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin is so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ. We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again in order that we may believe.”

This was not what I was hearing in a lot of my seminary classes, but it was what I believed Scripture to be saying. I can vividly remember one professor telling us that the moment we said the sinners prayer is the moment that God was duty bound to cause us to be born again. I didn’t like the sound of that. God is duty bound to mankind? If that is the case, He is not God but our slave. I knew that not to be the case.

Sproul laid it out clearly. God was God. We were dead spiritually because of sin. He had to create a new heart in us in order to believe. Our salvation was His work upon us. We were the happy recipients of His grace and He is only bound to us by His love that He chooses to show us, not because we said some formulaic prayer.

I was quickly becoming a Calvinist after this point. There are others who helped along the road, but this is where it began to click for me while I was a student at DTS. It wouldn’t be long before I became completely Reformed in my convictions. It was also about this time that I quit entering into the discussions at DTS. It makes me laugh now, but I quickly realized that once some of my fellow students realized I was a Calvinist or Reformed, the attack was on! Don’t worry, I still count them as my dear brothers in the LORD. They were just doing what they thought best for me… convince me that I was wrong in my understanding and beliefs. We will all laugh about it in heaven someday.

As for Sproul’s book, I highly recommend it. You might even try to get the 25th anniversary edition because it is in hardback.

Righteous Standards

Part of my sermon for Sunday.

One of the most gripping events in the Old Testament comes when Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, decide to offer profane fire before the Lord. I think it is shocking to our culture and sensibilities because so many believe that whatever we do for the LORD, if we do it with sincerity then there can be nothing wrong.

In other words, we can do whatever we want when it comes to worshipping God as long as we do so sincerely. After all, that is what Nadab and Abihu were doing… offering fire to God with sincere hearts.

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD (Leviticus 10:1-2).

I can imagine that the first time someone reads this text, their thoughts quickly jump to the unfairness of God. The reader is tempted to think that God is being too harsh on these two men. We are witnessing God’s justice being quickly executed and if God is so quick to execute these two priests, then He might just as easily exact justice upon us. The first-time readers of the Bible rarely understand why the judgment is issued so quickly. It is done so because these men are priests. They are being held to a higher standing because of there position before God.

Yet, God would not be unjust for doing the same to the layman who offered profane fire before the LORD. He has every right to do, but usually does not, instead grace and mercy.

The point behind this is that we do not have permission to worship God in any form we choose. God gives us boundaries by which we must approach Him because He is holy and will not be profaned. Listen to what He said in response to devouring Nadab and Abihu:

‘by those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.

Abihu and Nadad were certainly not regarding God as holy. Because God could not tolerate their profane actions, He punished them right then and there for the sake of the people. We do not need leaders who will enter into God’s presence with flippant and cavalier attitudes.  The leadership must understand the seriousness of worship. God has given us standards by which we may and may not worship Him

What are those righteous standards? The righteous standards we are given come from the Ten Commandments.

Superpreacher — We Want YOU!

I’m beginning to really appreciate Don Owsley’s blog, The Imperfect Pastor, because it is helpful and has been good to see that I’m not the only one that struggles with the church’s unrealistic quest to find the “perfect” pastor. Having been involved with search committees for a number of years, as the one looking for a call, is that churches often make mistakes at being too idealistic. What most committees start to do is look for what they want. You can tell right off the bat that they are not looking for God’s man, but their own man because the qualifications they want in a pastor are unrealistic. If they get a man that meets all their qualifications, then the man probably lied to them. In the end, they will be extremely disappointed because no such candidates truly exist.

If such a man does exist in what they are looking for, he probably already has a call. After all, I haven’t heard that men like John Piper, Alistair Begg or R.C. Sproul are in the market for new churches. If they are, they usually just go start a new church and by-pass messing with search committees and churches filled with years of unhealthy baggage. I only say that because judging by what they are looking for in a man, it shows that they are not looking for God’s man for the job, but their next CEO/Public Relations Guru/Rock star preacher.

Another observation that I have made over the years is that so often what these churches are looking for is a modern-day version of Jesus Christ. Then when they realize that the man they have hired isn’t what they had hoped, they are quick to give him a modern-day crucifixion.  This brings me to Don Owsley’s post entitled Superpreacher — We Want YOU! If you read it, you will realize that the pastor the church has is God’s man for it, even though what the church is looking for is not their pastor. See if you can spot it.

Dear Superpreacher,

I am writing to you to ask you to consider becoming our pastor. We are a small church in a small city that was established over forty years ago. I am one of several who either started this church or grew up in this church. We’ve always been small; but I know that if you came here we would grow into a great and large church.

We’ve had plenty of others preachers over the years. I think ten? But none of them was really any good at preaching.  The longest we’ve ever had a pastor was six years, even though we encouraged him to find another church after he had been with us for two years.

Our current pastor came a few years ago.  He’s okay, but nothing like you.  He’s a likeable man, but he’s not what we want.  Yes, he studies hard, visits people when they are sick, oversees the worship, teaches Bible study, prays for members in the church, meets with our men, visits our visitors, counsels, witnesses, is training new deacons, is constantly having lunch or supper with people and other things like that.  It’s all well and good, but he’s not bringing new people in or making our church grow. We want more than 120!

We need someone like you.  If our pastor had a voice like you do, and could dress as cool as you, or preach on the stage the way you do, then things might not be so bad.  He’s also older than 40, which turns off young people.  He needs charisma and energy. That’s what you have. He also needs to wow the audience and say things that will get people’s attention, and tell lots of great stories like you.  We want someone exhilarating and well-known.

It would be so exciting to have you be our preacher.  We would still let you do conferences and write books.  By the way, when I can find the time I plan on reading one of your books!  You can get rid of the pulpit, but we would like it if you did not change too much else around.  Contemporary songs are fine once in a while too. I’m sure those things don’t really matter much to you because all you really need to do is what you do best:  preach the socks off people.

Even though we are a small church, we have people who have investments and good resources, which they could put toward paying your large salary for a few years.  Our core group has been waiting for just the right person to come along to make wise use of this money; and we know you would be that right man!

Please let me know if you will accept this offer.  We are already talking about ways to help this pastor move on.  It should not be a problem since we’ve helped previous preachers find other calls.

In the name of Jesus;

Chris N. Dom

Gee… what a loving congregation. I know this is only fiction, but there is so much truth in it, it sickens the heart. You can see the love of Christ just oozing out of this man that is writing. He cares so much for his current pastor that he is willing to help him “move along.” Never mind the well-being of the pastor and his family.

This mentality behind such letters is completely out of line with Scripture. It is not the goal of the church to be large, flashy, extravagant, healthy, wealthy and wise. The goal is to be faithful in their calling and too many churches think they are failing because they never grow larger than the mythical “120” or whatever the number happens to be. To be healthy, the entire church needs to be working for the kingdom, not just a pastor that can preach the socks off the congregation. (Given some congregations, that might be a stinky affair).

The goal is faithfulness. For the pastor, that means preaching Biblically sound sermons, shepherding the flock and given them vision about who they are in Christ and how they should be living as Christians. The list is fairly short on what the priorities of the pastor. He is merely to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, not do everything the congregation doesn’t want to do. The church has plenty of superpreachers. What we need are faithful flocks, which include both faith pastors as well as faithful members. That is far more important than having a guy that can preach the socks off the congregation.

Back to my sermon. I’m hoping to preach the shoe laces off my congregation… pray for me.

Happy Birthday Amy!

(WARNING: The following is really redundant in its’ redundancy because I’m really excited to write a Happy Birthday note to my sister, who’s birthday it is today.)

Happy Birthday Amy! For those of you who do not know, Amy is my little sister. I don’t talk about her a lot when I tell stories of my youth because I was already middle-aged and grey when she was born. Not really, but the use of hyperbole is humorous at times. I was still a teenager when she was born and I can remember the day my step-mother told me that she was pregnant with Amy. I had a really bad headache, as I did a lot as a child (although we never admitted this since we were Christian Scientists and didn’t believe in headache… stupid, I know, but that was our family. I will have tell the story of how Liz, Amy’s lovely mother, stood up to the tyranny of Christian Science very early on in her marriage with my Dad. Thank goodness… my Dad is no longer a Christian Scientist. He is just a Christian!)

But back to my headache, which in the reality of a Christian Scientists, I didn’t really have. Although Liz, not being a Christian Scientist but a more sensible Presbyterian, recognized the reality of my headache. She knew I had a headache and decided at that very moment to tell me the good news. Her hope was that I would be so excited about Amy’s impending arrival that my headache would go away. She was right. I was so excited that she was going to have a baby that I forgot I had a headache at all. It was even more fun when we found out that we were having a little girl (I have four brothers… another brother in our family would not have survived the torments of the rest of us. Amy learned early on that she could easily use her cuteness, the advantage of her gender and her step mother in her defense of everything we could dish out. While I didn’t like it at the time, I’m grateful today that she doesn’t let anyone push her around.)

What is really neat is that over the past 15 years or so, Amy has become a really wonderful sister. The age difference we had growing up kind of kept us from being close then. But that has changed. She has been a wonderful sister, and an encouragement to me.

It also helps that she is married to Chris, who is an awesome guy. He is a Naval officer and one of the best men I know. He is truly a remarkable man and I’m glad to call him my brother in-law.

In view of all that: Amy, Happy Birthday! May the LORD bless you with many more to come!

My Advice to Young Pastors

Go straight to selling insurance and save yourself and your wife the grief of being a pastor in the church. Since so many of us end up selling insurance, you are getting a jump on all the other seminary grads in your class and you will be much happier in the long run.

But given that you are “called by God,” I guess I should offer some serious advice. The above was an attempt at humor. Maybe you will get it after being the ministry for ten or so years. Not that all young pastors will have tough ministries. I seem to know quite a few who are doing quite well in the ministry. They love it. Things are going well. But given the odds, only a few of those who graduate from seminary will have the big prosperous ministries whereas the rest of us just get to wonder what that is like.

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G.O.S.P.E.L. — Preaching That Teaches

This is one of the best presentations of the Gospel I have seen in a long time. It is done with rap overtones to it, but don’t let that keep you from watching it. His description of God was the best I’ve heard in a while. All this to say, this is great preaching. I know it has all the flash and the music, but this man is preaching God’s word in 4 minutes.

In for minutes, he summarizes all of man’s problems and shows the reality at all mankind face: we seek righteousness through our own religions, even Christianity. He even hits modern-evangelicalism between the eyes in that so many think that they obtain righteousness through our prayer meetings, Bible reading and the lot. If that is our righteousness, no matter how bible centered it may seem (it is not by the way), it means we are not saved and do not have the righteousness required to enter into heaven. What is necessary by us is perfect righteousness, which is an impossibility for man to achieve. Watch the video.

Hattip: Pyromaniacs. By the way, follow the link and watch the first video there. I’m really interested to see how Frank Turk responds to the loon in that video.

Top 10 List of Movies I’ve Seen and Have No Desire to See Again

Some of the most powerful movies ever done are some of the movies I have no desire to ever see again. So once again, here is at Top 10 list, this time, of the movies I have seen once and have no desire to see again.

  1. Schindler’s List — I know, powerful, critically acclaimed and moving. But I have no desire to ever see this movie. Why? Because it was powerful, critically acclaimed and moving… but moving me in the wrong direction. Sometimes too much is just too much and this movie falls into that category. As one critic put it: “It is the saddest movie of all time.” Once is enough.
  2. Cast Away — Tom Hanks at his best. Just think about it, he spent 90 percent of the movie talking to himself and a volleyball, which really showed his ability to act. But alas, the pay off for the movie wasn’t worth watching him take out that tooth with an ice skate. I still cringe over that scene.
  3. The Passion of Christ — I’ve only actually seen about 20 minutes of this movie. The Jesus in that movie was not the Christ of the Bible. It was far too bloody, etc… plus, I have Second Commandment issues.
  4. Me, Myself and Irene — can we be debased for the sake of being debased and make it funny too? Nope. The producers failed on those two accounts and I haven’t seen a Jim Carrey movie since. I should have walked out on this one.
  5. Scarface — watched this movie as a non-believer and found the foul-mouthed drug dealer way too much. Can’t imagine finding anything redeemable about this movie now that I have been redeemed.
  6. Clockwork Orange — again… watched as a non-believer and was repulsed by it. I know, it’s critically acclaimed, but so is dung on a portrait of the Virgin Mary. Not worth watching or listening to critics.
  7. Training Day — let’s see how far we can take a Denzel Washington character… OK, this is it. No sense in watching it again.
  8. I Am Sam — Sean Penn trying to make a serious movie by making a movie very similar to Rain Man. Don’t waste your time watching this movie. Just watch Rain Man instead.
  9. Moulin Rouge! — drop some bad acid, watch a bad musical, add a depressing ending and you get Moulin Rouge!
  10. The Story of Us — Rob Reiner at his worst as a director. I walked out.

There you have it. I’m sure there are a few more, but those seem to come to mind the quickest, which is good since this is a Top 10 list, and not a Top 13 list.

What movies come to mind that you have no desire to ever see again?

Follow Your Heart?

I know that year after year, when our children grow and graduate from high school, college or some other fine institution they are given the message that they are to follow their hearts in life. Besides being old and cliche, trite and redundant, overused and simplistic, it is also humanism jumping to the forefront of our culture. It stems from the basic belief that mankind can do anything that we set our minds to and completely ignores what the word of God says about His sovereignty and our hearts.

This advice is so popular that I bet most Christians do not realize that it is contrary to God’s word. In fact, God’s word condemns those who follow their hearts.

Jeremiah 13:9ff “Thus says the LORD:… This evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and walk after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be just like this sash which is profitable for nothing.”

In other words, the Israelites had become humanist in their culture. They may not have been saying these words, “follow your heart” but they were doing it and God called them on it. He said that they were evil for following their hearts.

Why?

Simply because the heart is evil and wicked beyond cure. Jeremiah will later tell us two things about our sinfulness. First he shares a curse that is upon those who are humanist: Jeremiah 13:5 Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD.”

This is what the humanist is seeking to do. The call to “follow your heart” is not a call to “follow the Lord.” It’s a call to depart from the LORD. Instead of looking to Him for provision, wisdom and guidance, the humanist is saying: “Hey… you know what’s best for you!”

The second reality about our hearts is that they are wicked and keep us from knowing what is best for us. Jeremiah 17:9 (Thus says the LORD) “The hear is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

The LORD doesn’t seem to be approving the humanist motto does He? When someone tells us to follow our hearts, we should not listen and be quick to point out this condemnation of the humanist religion. We should not follow our hearts, but follow the LORD. That can only be done by look to Him and His word, not the world and it’s word.

Do not follow your heart… follow the LORD.

For your pleasure, here is Rich Mullin’s take on the issue as well: