Tuesday, August 31
Monday, August 30
Friday, August 27
I quote Kevin DeYoung's article below. It can be found on his blog HERE. Many of you will recognize the style as coming from C. S. Lewis. It is not his, but a take-off. And he hits the nail on the head. Take the time to read this carefully. I have included one follow-up comment which bears repeating. NOTE: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis are fictional communications between two devils, Screwtape and his young nephew, Wormwood. Throughout, Screwtape is offering his nephew advice on how to destroy or at least minimize the effectiveness in disciples of the enemy (God).
We pick up the letter with Screwtape’s instructions on how to keep his nephew’s college-aged subject away from church and perfectly wretched…
At the risk of insulting your diabolical intelligence, allow me to remind me of your course in Youth Misery. Recall the Three S’s of Satan, our Sinister Snake (I know, he sometimes gets carried away with alliteration, but it does help jog the old memory). The Three S’s of youth misery: Keep them separate. Keep them selfish. Keep them searching. Allow me to expound.
The First S: Keep them separate. Our Bureau of Statistics (remember there are lies, damned lies, and statistics) has documented evidence proving that the best way to keep young people from growing into devoted followers of the Enemy is to keep them far away from any of his grown-up, devoted followers. Church attendance allows for too much interaction between old and young. With this interaction come manifold dangers: modeling, mentoring, service, and hospitality.
Listen closely. Groups of students meeting together for prayer and study is, it’s true, a pernicious influence, but gladly, the influence is often short-lived. Soon, your subject will graduate and he will find that the rest of the planet is not like his university. He will not be surrounded by peers all his age with his same interests. It is to our advantage that he be unable to relate to anyone above the age of 25. This not only makes for misery, but it makes church involvement, and therefore the Christian life, much less likely.
This, of course, goes hand in hand with the Second S: Keep them selfish. It’s really quite simple. All of our human subjects are selfish, but the young especially. It’s hardly their fault. They have no spouse or children to think of, only themselves. They have food handed to them on plastic platters. And they live in a country that believes for some strange reason, pleasant enough to us, that history doesn’t matter, that the old are useless, and that youth culture should be prized above all else. And yet, I must hasten to add, don’t underestimate your subject. Human youths are capable of extraordinary acts of courage and bravery and accomplishment, as the Annals of the Enemy record. Keep your youth far away from such examples. See to it that no visions of nobility or self-sacrifice or inspiration enter his head.
Which again, if I may repeat myself, is why church must be foresworn at all costs. It is at church that he will see examples of lived-out bravery and sacrifice. And, more importantly, it is at church that he will have to face his own selfishness. He will encounter music he doesn’t like and old people who do strange things and babies who smell and cry. (Incidentally, I only mention babies because your subject is male, as is mine. The female youth I am told must not, under any circumstances, be surrounded by small children, those children enticing the females to re-visit church rather than repulsing them away as with most male subjects). My point is that so long as the spiritual experiences of our youthful subjects can be catered to the whims and fancies of 18-22 year olds, the students will not likely stick with a church when they discover that churches must also deal with the whims and fancies of 8 year olds and grandmothers.
One more thing, students today love the idea of community. Do everything in your power to keep them loving the idea of community rather than loving their community. As long as they love their vision of community instead of loving the actual fleshly people around them, they will never have real community and they will stay far away from church.
The Third S, and I here I draw to a close, is to keep them searching. Use the native restlessness of this time to your advantage. Students think it is their inalienable right to be irresponsible and uncommitted. Feed this conviction. Do not, in any way, allow for your subject to consider commitment or service or what they call “accountability.” If he must be interested in God, keep it peripheral. Let him come and go and flit in and out of whatever spiritual venue suits him for the day. But see to it that he makes no promises, no commitments, no investment. And in the unlikely event that you cannot prevent such blunders, make sure there is no one in his life to hold him to his promises and commitments, especially those who are older and wiser. This goal is best served by keeping our patients away from church. Remember the cross-stitch (pardon my use of the foul word “cross”) above auntie’s fridge: “Keep them searching for the soul; never finding and never whole.”
All that’s left is for me to thank you for your patience in reading what has turned out to be a rather lengthy correspondence. Please do not hear my harsh words as anything but familial concern for your welfare and the good of our Infernal Kingdom.
Would you be so kind as to write me back as soon as possible? These are weighty matters and we truly live in troubled times. Might I suggest you use the post instead of email–what with your past internet struggles and dalliance with sermonography?
Say hello to your father for me. Best wishes in your malfeasance, malevolence, and malediction.
Unscrupulously yours,Uncle Screwtape
Comment by LEWThis is good and helpful, but may I humbly suggest that it doesn’t adequately address the chief reason why the devil wishes to keep people away from the church, even weak and warped churches? That is, because that’s where the means of grace — especially Word and sacraments — are. He wants to keep them away from the means of grace because he wants to keep them away from the God who can strike straight blows with crooked sticks, who can convey heavenly treasures via weak and foolish jars of clay. Praise God that he can do end runs around the means of his appointment, but take heed because we cannot. Satan and his minions know that.
Thursday, August 26
Samuel's question resounds down through the centuries, "What have you done?" That's always the question, isn't it? When we've usurped God's authority, taken matters into our own hands, and created destruction single-handedly, then we need to hear, "What have you done?"
Faith waits on God no matter how long He takes. Faith assumes God is always right, always on time, and always wise. And they are wise who give God space to accomplish his perfect designs in His own time! So, because Saul refused to believe God, Samuel spoke: “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart . . . (1 Sam. 13:13-14). Wait on the Lord.
Saturday, August 21
In honor of our new semester beginning next week, I thought I would post a story from the autobiography of John G. Paton, which was passed on to me by Patrick Brown. This famous, godly missionary knew how to manage a classroom.
“The following week, a young man and a young woman began to attend the Night School, who showed from the first moment that they were bent on mischief. By talking aloud, joking, telling stories, and laughing, they stopped the work of the School. On my repeated appeals for quiet and order, they became the more boisterous, and gave great merriment to a few of the scholars present. I finally urged the young man, a tall, powerful fellow, to be quiet or at once to leave, declaring that at all hazards I must and would have perfect order; but he only mocked at me, and assumed a fighting attitude. Quietly locking the door and putting the key in my pocket, I turned to my desk, armed myself with the cane, and dared any one at his peril to interfere betwixt us. It was a rough struggle – he smashing at me clumsily with his fists, I with quick movements evading and dealing him blow after blow with the heavy cane for several rounds – till at length he crouched down at his desk, exhausted and beaten, and I ordered him to turn to his book, which he did in sulky silence. Going to my desk, I addressed them, and asked them to inform all who wished to come to the School, That if they came for education, everything would be heartily done that it was in my power to do; but that any who wished for mischief had better stay away, as I was determined to conquer, not to be conquered, and to secure order and silence, whatever it might cost. Further, I assured them that that cane would not again be lifted by me, if kindness and forbearance on my part could possibly gain the day, as I wished to rule by love and not by terror. But this young man knew he was in the wrong, and it was that which had made him weak against me, though every way stronger far than I. Yet I would be his friend and helper, if he was willing to be friendly with me, the same as if this night had never been. At these words a dead silence fell on the School; every one buried face diligently in book; and the evening closed in uncommon quiet and order.” (46-48, in edition linked above)
Heb 13:7: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith”
Friday, August 20
O GOD OF GRACE,Thou hast imputed my sin to my substitute,and hast imputed his righteousness to my soul,clothing me with a bridegroom's robe,decking me with jewels of holiness.But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;my best prayers are stained with sin;my penitential tears are so much impurity;my confessions of wrong are so manyaggravations of sin;my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.
I need to repent of my repentance;I need my tears to be washed;I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,no loom to weave my own righteousness;I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,for thou dost always justify the ungodly;I am always going into the far country,and always returning home as a prodigal,always saying, Father, forgive me,and thou art always bringing forththe best robe.
Every morning let me wear it,every evening return in it,go out to the day's work in it,
be married in it,be wound in death in it,stand before the great white throne in it,enter heaven in it shining as the sun.Grant me never to lose sight ofthe exceeding sinfulness of sin,the exceeding righteousness of salvation,the exceeding glory of Christ,the exceeding beauty of holiness,the exceeding wonder of grace.
Thursday, August 19
“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. ” (Hebrews 11:5)
Wednesday, August 18
‘How can we stop the oil gusher?” may have been the question of the summer for most Americans. Yet for many evangelical pastors and leaders, the leaking well is nothing compared to the threat posed by an ongoing gusher of a different sort: Young people pouring out of their churches, never to return.
As a 27-year-old evangelical myself, I understand the concern. My peers, many of whom grew up in the church, are losing interest in the Christian establishment.Recent statistics have shown an increasing exodus of young people from churches, especially after they leave home and live on their own. In a 2007 study, Lifeway Research determined that 70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly.
Statistics like these have created something of a mania in recent years, as baby-boomer evangelical leaders frantically assess what they have done wrong (why didn’t megachurches work to attract youth in the long term?) and scramble to figure out a plan to keep young members engaged in the life of the church.
Increasingly, the “plan” has taken the form of a total image overhaul, where efforts are made to rebrand Christianity as hip, countercultural, relevant. As a result, in the early 2000s, we got something called “the emerging church”—a sort of postmodern stab at an evangelical reform movement. Perhaps because it was too “let’s rethink everything” radical, it fizzled quickly. But the impulse behind it—to rehabilitate Christianity’s image and make it “cool”—remains.
There are various ways that churches attempt to be cool. For some, it means trying to seem more culturally savvy. The pastor quotes Stephen Colbert or references Lady Gaga during his sermon, or a church sponsors a screening of the R-rated “No Country For Old Men.” For others, the emphasis is on looking cool, perhaps by giving the pastor a metrosexual makeover, with skinny jeans and an $80 haircut, or by insisting on trendy eco-friendly paper and helvetica-only fonts on all printed materials. Then there is the option of holding a worship service in a bar or nightclub (as is the case for L.A.’s Mosaic church, whose downtown location meets at a nightspot called Club Mayan).
“Wannabe cool” Christianity also manifests itself as an obsession with being on the technological cutting edge. Churches like Central Christian in Las Vegas and Liquid Church in New Brunswick, N.J., for example, have online church services where people can have a worship experience at an “iCampus.” Many other churches now encourage texting, Twitter and iPhone interaction with the pastor during their services.
But one of the most popular—and arguably most unseemly—methods of making Christianity hip is to make it shocking. What better way to appeal to younger generations than to push the envelope and go where no fundamentalist has gone before?
Sex is a popular shock tactic. Evangelical-authored books like “Sex God” (by Rob Bell) and “Real Sex” (by Lauren Winner) are par for the course these days. At the same time, many churches are ﬁnding creative ways to use sex-themed marketing gimmicks to lure people into church.
Oak Leaf Church in Cartersville, Georgia, created a website called yourgreatsexlife.com to pique the interest of young seekers. Flamingo Road Church in Florida created an online, anonymous confessional (IveScrewedUp.com), and had a web series called MyNakedPastor.com, which featured a 24/7 webcam showing five weeks in the life of the pastor, Troy Gramling. Then there is Mark Driscoll at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church—who posts Q&A videos online, from services where he answers questions from people in church, on topics such as “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse.”
But are these gimmicks really going to bring young people back to church? Is this what people really come to church for? Maybe sex sermons and indie- rock worship music do help in getting people in the door, and maybe even in winning new converts. But what sort of Christianity are they being converted to?
In his book, “The Courage to Be Protestant,” David Wells writes: ”The born-again, marketing church has calculated that unless it makes deep, serious cultural adaptations, it will go out of business, especially with the younger generations. What it has not considered carefully enough is that it may well be putting itself out of business with God.
“And the further irony,” he adds, “is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them.”If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that “cool Christianity” is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.
If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.
Tuesday, August 17
“And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head” (Mark 14:3).
Friday, August 13
Beware if in personal testimony you have to hark back and say—‘Once, so many years ago, I was saved.’ If you are walking in the light, there is no harking back, the past is transfused into the present wonder of communion with God. If you get out of the light you become a sentimental Christian and live on memories, your testimony has a hard, metallic note. Beware of trying to patch up a present refusal to walk in the light by recalling past experiences when you did walk in the light. Whenever the Spirit checks, call a halt and get the thing right, or you will go on grieving Him without knowing it.
Suppose God has brought you up to a crisis and you nearly go through but not quite, He will engineer the crisis again, but it will not be so keen as it was before. There will be less discernment of God and more humiliation at not having obeyed; and if you go on grieving the Spirit, there will come a time when that crisis cannot be repeated, you have grieved Him away. But if you go through the crisis, there will be the psalm of praise to God. Never sympathize with the thing that is stabbing God all the time. God has to hurt the thing that must go. [Chambers, O. (1993). My Utmost for His Highest. Westwood, NJ: Barbour and Co.]
Thursday, August 12
Wednesday, August 11
|Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Samson and Delilah, ca. 1610|
London, National Gallery
Sad? No, worse than that. Insane would be more like it. The story of Samson’s acquiescence to Delilah’s overt machinations reveals the judge of Israel to be nothing short of delirious.
And she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.” And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.” (Judges 16:15–17)
What is it in us that so willingly walks (yes, even runs) into destruction? Yet, that is exactly what sin (in all its forms) does. We could rail on Samson for his obvious dismissal of all rational thought. In a sense he deserves it. (Oddly enough--or NOT--his very foolishness became the means to thoroughly judge the Philistines and deliver Israel). But in another very real and quite embarrassing sense, we are not that unlike him! Isn't all sin a type of insanity? Going up against God cannot be thought to be anything less than the leaving behind of one's own senses. Still, we do it . . . even Christians!
So, how shall we overcome? Samson avenged himself in the end, bowing against the supporting pillars of the foreign temple bringing it down on 3,000 Philistines and himself as well. It was worth it to him. But was it only worth it because he got revenge? That would be sad . . . to have accomplished such an evident Spirit-empowered feat of strength ONLY for personal revenge! Even our "solutions" can be tainted with self-interest! That's scary isn't it? Of course, we can't say that he only did it for selfish reasons. Perhaps as his hair grew so did his faith. What a fall from which to retrieve oneself!
No wonder Solomon warned his son, "Keep your heart with all vigilance . . ." (Prov. 4:23a), because from the heart issues sin. And from the same heart issues either godly or ungodly sorrow. The simple way, the best way, the godly way to handle such egregious trespasses is to simply call your sin what it is (since God already knows) and ask forgiveness. What a wonderful means to resolve our transgressions. And how apathetically we often are to take advantage of it. Lord, lead us away from self-correction into Spirit-conviction, repentance and resolution. Cleansed! Purified! Resolved.
Yes! No matter how foolish we have been, there's no profit in revenge, or in circumnavigating our Lord's complete forgiveness. Jesus' blood has already brought down the pagan temples of our lives. Ours is to gratefully accept it . . . and LIVE!
Tuesday, August 10
Posted on July 15, 2010 by Jonathan Hunt
From notes of a sermon delivered on a Lord’s Day evening in 1856, at New Park Street. Notes taken by Pastor T.W. Medhurst.
John 14.6 – ‘Jesus saith unto him, I am the way… no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me’
“There seems to be growing up amongst us an idea that a man is of a persecuting spirit if he does not think that the one who flatly contradicts him is as right as himself. If we do as some wish, we shall in time reach that blessed state of charity which had been attained by the courtiers of the Sultan, who, when he said at mid-day, “It is midnight,” replied, “Yes, sire, there is the moon, and there are the stars.” Today, we are expected not to protest against Popery, lest we should be considered bigots; we must subscribe to all that men teach, if only they are sincere. Suppose a man, travelling due North, was sincere in thinking that he would get to the South, do you think his sincerity would bring him to the desired destination? If a man was sincere in thinking that prussic acid was a wholesome food, would the poison do him no injury? If a man starved himself while he sincerely believed himself to be feasting, how long would it take him to get fat? You say “these things are contrary to the laws of nature.” Just so, and the laws of God’s gospel are as fixed and true as are the laws of nature. If you are honest and sincere in keeping to the road of ruin, you will reach the natural end of that road, eternal destruction. Sincerity in believing a lie does not change that lie to the truth. There is only one way to heaven; there is only one Saviour, Jesus Christ is exclusively “the way.” This excludes all by-paths, all cross-roads, and all short cuts. Scripture knows nothing of the new theory, that we may be all right though we are in direct opposition to the Word of God.”
Cross-posted to the CH Spurgeon blog also. This will form part of new books forthcoming from DayOne publications.
Monday, August 9
God is the highest good of the reasonable creature, and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied....
To go to heaven and fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.
Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows.
But the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.
Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives, to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?”-Jonathan Edwards
Saturday, August 7
Another lesson is the arrogance of man that he would "put it to God," forcing God to answer to him! Zedekiah asked, "Why do you prophecy and say . . . ?" He's not inquiring; he's attacking. What? Do you really imagine that if you command the prophet to shut-up, that therefore will avert God's plan, His wrath? No, he's simply setting Jeremiah to take the fall for a country gone bad, and in the process, setting him up to be thrown into prison. What audacity men have that they think to put God on the judgment seat! How utterly foolish. Yet, today such an attitude has gone epidemic. God somehow must answer to man!? C. S. Lewis wrote,
The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: If God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it.
Audacious. Foolish. The answer is rather, hear God. Submit to God. Obey God. Don't tell Him how to run the universe! And never presume to sit in judgment over the One who gave us jurisprudence.
Friday, August 6
I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb. For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off. Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it. (Isaiah 48:8b-11a)
Thursday, August 5
SATAN MAGNIFIES MEMORIES
The devil will whisper, “You didn’t get very far along toward the deeper life, did you?“
If our failures are going to hinder us forever, we might just as well never have taken the first step. But God knew all about us and He still loved us and desired His eternal best for us. (I Talk Back To the Devil! by A. W. Tozer)