It’s turned a bit cool here in the Deep South and I am loving it. In mid-September, if the weather cooperates in its usual pattern, the heat and humidity breaks. It tends to still be hot during the high point of the day, but the temps in the morning are in the low 60s and that is sooo refreshing.
September reminds me of autumn and the County Fair. The kids at school might not remember where their bookbag is…where their homework is…where their chrome book is…but they all remember exactly when the fair is. It’s a traditional county fair, with some small rides, food trucks with the southern delicacy funnel cakes and other goodies, and the agricultural part with show pigs, cows, and the like.
I love the season’s turning. Granted, the seasons are more starkly divided up in my former region of Yankee New England, but north Georgia where I live now still has seasons. I love that. Fall is in the air!
Also in the air, is discernment. Tim Challies discusses the 5 most ridiculous books to ever become best-sellers on the Christian best selling book lists. I’d add The Shack to his list. Ladies, when you buy a Christian book (I almost wrote ‘go to a Christian bookstore’, but brick and mortar stores are as rare as hens’ teeth!) beware that most of them are written by false teachers and/or contain twisted Bible verses. Some trusted online booksellers I use are:
I have to say also, that I use Christianbook.com. This seller isn’t trusted because they present a plethora of false teachers, MANY false teachers, but their sales are great. If you sift and look, you can find some great deals. I just ordered a bunch of books in their 60% off fall sale. I snagged a John MacArthur “The Gospel according to Paul”, a book of Piper’s poems, a DeYoung, Nate Busenitz’s book about Luther, a Martyn Lloyd Jones bio, a John Bunyan book about how Christ Intercedes, and more. I compared with Amazon’s prices and since I’m an Amazon Prime member (thus, free shipping) and the average price for all, even including shipping, was so far below what Amazon could do, I decided to jump on the sale. Christianbook.com also has some merchandise if you’re looking for Christian gifts for Christmas.
Here’s Challies’ list of the 5 most ridiculous books to become best sellers-
I learned last week of Psallos, a musical group whose music is based on and in scripture. About:
Psallos is a collective of musicians based in Jackson, Tennessee. Started by Cody and Melody Curtis in 2012, Psallos (pronounced like “psalms,” with a silent p) exists to create artistically excellent and theologically rich music (also like Psalms): melodies and lyrics that remind you of the truths of Scripture; harmonies, rhythms, and timbres that express the emotional weight of these truths.
Their mission found its shape most clearly in their albums based on New Testament epistles, the first of which was Romans in 2015. Since then, Psallos has released two other major records (Hebrews in 2017 and Jude in 2019), with Church Songs, Vol. 1, a short EP of new congregational worship songs, appearing in 2016.
I appreciated G3Ministry’s balanced presentation of the issue of whether women should be wearing head coverings.
I thought this man’s tweet about the issues we’re feeling these days and his phrasing was perfectly apt –
Nate Schlomann, @NateSchlomann I don't know what to say right now, but I think it's important for pastors to feel the burden of people in their churches who feel backed into a corner and violated by mandates. This is a big deal. This is a vile injustice, and pastors who are glib about it betray their people.
I agree. Mandates from our government or other authorities are important for many reasons. However, when government runs amuck with mandate after mandate, it does feel like a violation, a rape of our liberty. We as Christians need to adjust and remember that liberty is in Christ and in heaven, it’s not guaranteed here on earth. However, I plead with pastors to be sensitive to the temperature in the room, so to speak, and be kind to their sheep, and for the sheep in turn to have patience with each other and be kind to your pastor and leaders.
Have a good weekend everyone, and keep praying, reading, and serving.
Business Insider (BI) came out with an article that reported that millennials are quitting their jobs in huge numbers. Many of them do not have another job lined up. And, according to people who track these things, they haven’t gotten another job yet months after quitting. BI called it “The Great Resignation.“
BI reported that the retirement age of 62 has become more and more popular, as fewer and fewer people expect to work beyond that age. The minimum age one can draw Social Security is 62. I know, because I called the Social Security Administration on Friday and asked about my own account. I’ll be 61 in a couple of months. If I even want to think about retiring I’ll have to wait a year. But I won’t be able to do it even at age 62, not enough in the kitty, but I do think about it. I think about it and I have a job I love, never mind a stressful job or a physical job or a job with terrible bosses etc. I’m sure lots of other people are thinking about it as well. Charles Johnson on Twitter summed up reasons he personally is hearing why people are thinking along these lines:
I’m reading about missionary William Borden. The book is by Mrs. Howard Taylor called Borden of Yale ’09. William Borden was an extraordinary man, dedicating his life to Christ from an early age. I’m to the part now in the book where young Borden is entering his second year of college at Yale, and he has a decision to make.
At that time, (1906-07), sophomores needed to decide whether they would enter a fraternity or not by the beginning of their sophomore year. If they did not decide to go into a feeder frats in sophomore and junior year, then the senior frats automatically wouldn’t accept you. It was sophomore year or nothing.
Adding pressure to Borden’s decision whether or not to join, was the fact that his own uncle founded Wolf’s Head, considered one of the reputed “Big Three” societies at Yale, along with Skull and Bones and Scroll and Key. His own brother was a member of Wolf’s Head, too.
What’s the big deal? you may ask. It’s a standard activity for young men to join a fraternity. Why Borden’s hesitation?
Borden’s conscience bothered him. He had some thorny issues to work out. His best friend Charles Campbell recounted the questions Borden wrestled with as the deadline for joining a frat approached. Questions such as:
‘Could a Christian go into a secret society?’ ‘Would such action harm or help our work for Christ?’ ‘As a Christian, can we go into a society of which we know nothing of its activities and therefore understand nothing about it?’ ‘Would this society be forming a clique that would exclude fellowship with others who may need the Gospel?’ ‘Would this society come between him and God?’ ‘Can I swear allegiance to a secret, man-made organization?’
Campbell was amazed at Borden's thought process. He wrote, "We had taken the the society system very much for granted, we had never questioned whether it was right or wrong for one of us to join a fraternity. But Bill took nothing for granted. He was a servant of Jesus Christ and everything must be tested and bear the stamp of Christ's approval before he would enter upon it."
Borden’s thought process affected his friends, as Campbell revealed he himself was astonished at such a humble approach to biblical decision-making. Laying everything down at Christ’s feet with careful thought beforehand, taking nothing for granted as a servant of Christ, was a transformative thought for Campbell and those in Borden’s sphere.
The notion of Christians swearing allegiance is not new but something that isn’t spoken of much these days. As I read the chapter about Borden’s decision whether or not to join a frat at Yale, I was remembering a similar scene that John MacArthur recounted from his own youth. MacArthur was about the same age as Borden at the time this incident happened. He related his experience as a member of a local labor union. Labor unions are also societies of people who are united with one purpose, committed to one another, and swear allegiance to the union. MacArthur said,
By the way, that’s not unlike some unions today. I remember when I was in a union for a brief time when I was working in school as a kid. I went down to the union hall because they said I had to be sworn in to the union. And so a man got up in front of about 600 people who were all there for this union meeting and he said, “I want all of the new people to stand up,” and I stood up and he said, “Now I want you to raise your right hand and swear.” Well, I don’t swear to anybody but the Lord. So I didn’t raise my hand and I didn’t say anything, I just stood there. And they said, “Do you swear to have allegiance to local 770, it was, the retail clerk’s union? Do you” – and it went on and on throughout all of this stuff and I didn’t put my hand up because in my simple understanding of my Christianity, I don’t swear by anything. My word is good. My yea is yea and my nay is nay. And I just felt that my conscience wouldn’t let me put my hand up, and I didn’t want to swear allegiance to anybody but Jesus Christ, and I had no idea what I was getting into and what I’d have to be held to if I did swear.
So while I was standing there without my hand in the air, a man grabbed me by the neck and threw me out of the building and asked me why I didn’t put my hand up. And I explained to him that I was a Christian and my allegiance was to Jesus Christ and that I would be a faithful and dutiful employee and do everything that I was told, but I wouldn’t swear my allegiance to anyone other than Christ.
So, they picked me up bodily; the guy threw me on the street on Hollywood Boulevard. And then, of course, they came back next week to get my dues and get me back in again. And at that point I submitted, [without swearing] I was willing to be a part; I just didn't feel I could pledge my allegiance to any other than Jesus Christ. (Source 1; Source 2).
The takeaways this morning are two-fold. First, do we think like Borden, laying everything down at the altar of Jesus in consideration of how our decisions may hinder or help the cause of Christ, even something as seemingly insignificant or normal as joining a fraternity or a union? And secondly, how careful are we in swearing oaths and vows?
The scripture mentioned in MacArthur’s story is from Matthew 5:37, But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin.
MacArthur’s codicil about joining and swearing and making oaths: Now, that was my own conscience at that point; I’m not trying to set down a law for you. But I think that’s the rule by which you have to function in the economic political world in which we live. You’ve got to be responsible as a Christian. God doesn’t give you these kind of pat answers, “Don’t strike,” “Do this,” and so forth. You’ve got to work your own situation under the energy and the power and direction of the Holy Spirit
FOMO is an acronym for Fear Of Missing Out. It’s spurred by social media, and constant checking of our phones and other technology to see if anything new happened in the past few seconds since the last time we checked. It’s based on an internal insecurity that someone, somewhere, is having more fun, doing something better, knowing newer news, having hotter gossip, learning something more important, eating something more delicious, than we are. It plays on our envy and our sense of self-importance. We want to be the holders of the freshest, newest thing.
The television program The Chosen has swept the religious channels and entered the hearts of many. It did so for a lot of reasons. It’s well written. It’s emotional. It’s extremely well made. It [seemingly] presents Jesus in a biblical light and fills in blanks plausibly without being heretical. I enjoyed the first season and said so, offering a few caveats.
Today is the twentieth anniversary of the terror attack on America perpetrated by Muslims seeking to honor their false god Allah. They commandeered planes and used the planes themselves as bombs to plow into skyscrapers and important American buildings, killing the hijacking pilots and all passengers and crew on board, as well as people in the buildings and on the ground.
I remember the event like it was yesterday, an opening phrase no doubt many authors and bloggers are writing today in remembrance. I was working in my newspaper office when my graphic designer called me to another part of the building where the television was. She slowly raised her hand and pointed to it wide eyed and silent. We mutely viewed the gaping hole in the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, hearts beating and minds rushing, as we listened to the reporters try to make sense of it. How could a small plane not see the building? It was a clear day, sparkling and bright. As we watched, 18 minutes later a second plane hit the South Tower. Our heads swung from looking straight ahead at the horror unfolding to each other. Eyes locked, we instinctively knew this was not an accident. It was an attack. The word had not been used yet, but it was obvious. We were under attack.
What does one do when the nation is attacked? How do we respond as citizens? As women? As a mother? As a journalist?
Terrorists had declared war on America and had changed the battlefield and its munitions in a way that took our minds long minutes to catch up. Using a jet airliner AS a bomb? Not combatants, but helpless innocents on board are of no consequence? Impassively looking at the people in the Tower as you purposely drive a jet into them? Their lives gone, their families grieving forever?
We responded initially by being practical. We first crossed the street to buy the biggest flag we could get at the local hardware store and ran it on the pole in front of the office. Then we went to the bank to get money. We didn’t know if we would need to be evacuated. We didn’t know if banks would be shut down, or if there would be a run on the bank. We didn’t know if the economy would collapse.
The bank had the TV on and the second plane had hit the Pentagon and the fourth plan had just hit the ground in Shanksville, PA (a jet which was allegedly intended for the Capitol Building). We glanced at the smoking hole in the ground, drew in a shaky breath, and got on with withdrawing cash. The tellers said nothing, It was eerily silent. This event was too big to allow any speech to come out our mouth, our hearts plugged them and our minds were too frozen in confusion to form words.
Then we got gasoline. Again, evacuation tremors were floating through our mind. We might need to escape to somewhere. We kept glancing up at the sky.
We returned tot he newspaper office and we got to work. We were journalists, and we took free speech very seriously. Free Speech isn’t an abstract blanket overlaid on the nation, it’s a living tapestry knit from individual, red-blooded American journalists who each do their part to ensure a free-flowing pipeline of ideas to crisscross a thriving electorate.
We got the newspaper out that day and we went on with our lives. Vigils were held, candles were lit, discussions were had. All planes were stopped that day, as well as trains and other modes of transport. America closed in as one patriotic heartbeat and cleared the messes at the Pentagon, Shanksville, and especially NYC. Many groups and first responders streamed toward those places in the moments, days, weeks, and months afterward to clean up and rebuild. It was a while before things got back to normal. But that’s what we do. We’re America.
I wasn’t saved then. I noted that in the few Sundays after the event many churches were filled with seekers asking the big questions. I had big questions, too. Where did people go when they died? Why would someone do this? We in our town felt especially aggrieved because we lost a town son in the Pentagon. We were also aggrieved because hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari terrorists had used “our” nearby airport at Portland to get to Boston, where they boarded the fateful plane.
Many headlines then and even today state something like “America changed that day”. We look back on how different we were then and how old we feel now. Old, weary, changed. I am changed massively. I am now saved by grace of Jesus Christ. I have eternal life and a bright future ahead. I have the big questions answered- why are we here? (to glorify God and enjoy Him forever). Where do we go when we die? (heaven if in Christ, hell if not).
There are two kinds of deaths: death for the glory of God and death for the maniacal glee of satan. Reader, consider our sin nature and consider the powerful influence of satan. We are all born sinners and sin from the start. (Psalm 51:5). We cannot please God and indeed, we don’t want to. We want to satisfy our lusts and our flesh and indulge our sin. The flesh only has corrupt passions, not holy ones. That’s fine by us- until God intervenes and replaces our corrupt heart with the Holy Spirit and changes our affections.
Satan comes along and whispers to the sinner. Do this. Do that. Adultery is just following your heart. Your heart made a mistake, adultery is just a little correction. Go ahead, steal that. You deserve it. Hate your neighbor? He isn’t worth your love.
How monstrous though, that satan and our flesh can convince ourselves that there is a distant mercurial god named Allah. How grotesque that in wanting to serve this god you rationalize destroying hundreds of millions of dollars of materiel, kill thousands of people, and destroy yourself in the process. We’re not talking about stealing a box of paper clips from work or glancing at a women lustfully. We are talking a mass holocaust of a national emergency and thousands of lives gone in the blink of an eye. Four people caused this. Only 4. Satan was satisfied that day.
Satan is powerful enough to convince a sinner of all these things. Flesh is all too willing to believe that such murder is a service to God.
Jesus said that the zealous Jews would kill them and while doing it think they were offering a service unto God.
They will ban you from the synagogue, yet an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering a service to God. (John 16:2).
For this is not to be understood of their being delivered up into the hands of civil magistrates, and of their being tried, judged, condemned, and put to death by their orders, but of their being murdered by a set of men called "zealots"; who, in imitation of Phinehas, as they pretended, took upon them, whenever they found any person guilty of a capital crime, as idolatry, blasphemy, &c. or what they judged so, to fall upon him at once, and without any more ado kill him; nor were they accountable to any court of judicature for such an action, and which was reckoned laudable and praiseworthy: in this way, and by the hands of such miscreants, Stephen the protomartyr lost his life (Gill's Commentary)
We are all sinners. We are all terrorists in God’s economy, rebelling and usurping and hating Him. Now, we are not all as bad as we all can be, this is obviously true because we are not all flying planes into buildings and thinking that as a mass murderer we are rendering service to our god. However all unsaved people have that potential. Satan knows this. I don’t know what was going through Mohammed Atta’s mind that day as he passed through Portland security, just a few miles where we were busy brewing coffee and setting up the paper for that week’s edition. I was unsaved, he was unsaved. I was diligently offering service to my community with the paper, he was diligently offering service to his false god through murder.
Larry King the TV interview host asked pastor-teacher John MacArthur onto his show days after 9/11. Larry asked JMac, “What does it mean?” That is the basic question of life. It’s never more brought to the fore when something like war, or a holocaust, or a terror attack happens and a lot of people die. What does it mean? JMac replied,
“It means you’re going to die and you’re not in control of when.”
We all live forever. We either dwell in glorified body with Christ in joy, or we dwell in gloomy hellish darkness in body fitted for fiery punishment. The difference in our destination is Christ, through repentance for our sins.
The moment the plane hit the tower and Mohammed Atta and his cohort died, they were catapulted into hellish darkness to eternally burn in fiery punishment for their service to satan. Some who were Christians, like Jim Cleere, were catapulted instantly in to the presence of Jesus. His widow Jean has the hope of reuniting with her lost husband, who they never found, in heaven at the feet of Jesus.
If the difference in our deaths is repentance because of Jesus’ work on the cross, then the result of that difference is eternal hope rather than eternal despair. Christians who have dealt with their sin have the hope of eternal life. Atta hoped he had eternal life, but wasn’t assured of it because no one outside of Jesus can be sure. He discovered his mistake only seconds later, but has an eternity to pay for it. All other sinners, ‘good’ people but unsaved; like waiters in the restaurant at the top of the tower, workers for the government at the Pentagon, brave souls on the PA plane who thwarted the Capitol attack, also joined Atta in hell to pay for their own crimes and treason against the one true God.
It has been twenty years since that day. Atta and anyone else who died on the day outside of Jesus is in hell. Twenty years is nothing. It is but a flash of a moment.
It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long forever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: for “who knows the power of God’s anger?” (Jonathan Edwards: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God).
You are going to die. You are not in control of when. The lesson of 9/11 is sin, repentance, hope, and ultimately, Jesus. Jesus saves.
Ever since the Henry Blackaby and Claude King book “Experiencing God” was published in 1976, and swept conservative churches in the late 1980s and 1990s, people, especially women, especially have been told that it is normal to experience God in various ways – including Him speaking to us.
There’s always a track-back, or a ground zero for false notions to sweep the visible church, and Experiencing God was seminal in opening the door to hearing from God. The book instructs readers to “listen for God in your quiet time, and immediately write down what He said.” There are similar instructions throughout the book. The book’s instructions for decision-making is faulty and leads to notions of God and our relationship with Him that are errant.
My literal, autistic brain always saw things in black and white. I like it that way.
Only problem was, for the first 43 years of my life as a heathen, I sought and looked and searched for a match-up of a life manual that would agree that things were spelled out starkly. There HAD to be a place where there was no gray area. Non-Christians LIVE in the gray areas. Gray areas were my downfall. I knew that somewhere there was ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ My mother always used to yell at me, particularly when we had moral conversations, “Don’t be so dogmatic!” But there is a right and a wrong…isn’t there?
Dogmatic: characterized by or given to the expression of opinions very strongly or positively as if they were facts.
(The Non-Christian world doesn’t believe the Bible is a fact. They believe it’s opinion).
Dogma: a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church
When I was graciously saved, I learned that the Bible is that manual. Further, things were starkly spelled out in black and white. There were two sides to things. There is a right and a wrong. Furthermore, I learned that there’s-
black and white love and enmity in and out narrow and wide light and dark righteous and lawless justice and injustice lost and saved heaven and hell
There is no gray area. (I am not speaking of things not spelled out in the Bible where we use Christian liberty). There is no gray area. Gray areas, fence sitters, anything lukewarm…Jesus spits out of his mouth in a righteous vomit. (Revelation 3:16).
Morally, according to God’s law, there is a right and a wrong. God sets the Law. He is judge. He alone determines who is a transgressor.
In these postmodern Christianity days, we are so used to hearing about “my truth and your truth” we forget there is THE truth. (John 14:6). We’re so used to hearing about “the ‘hermeneutic of humility‘ where [t]he idea was to interpret God’s Word but stop short of coming to any definitive conclusions that would exclude alternative interpretations,” we forget that the entire Gospel is one of exclusivity- it excludes any other means of attaining heaven, excludes any other interpretation of how to get to heaven, and excludes any person who rejects Christ. We keep hearing about this famous “nuance” in interpretation that we forget that the Bible, thanks to the perspicuity of scripture and the aid of the Holy Spirit, can be and should be clear.
Sadly, this week someone said to me of the end time doctrines, also known as ‘Last Things’ or ‘Eschatology’ that “only the Father knows for sure.” Well, He knows how things will end because He ordained it, and He told us in the Bible. He didn’t spend 65 books speaking clearly and whiff it at the end, muddying the waters and petering out with a whimper of confusion and mystery.
We wrap too many clear doctrines with layers of gauze that should not be there, making the crystal, sterling, shining doctrines of God dim and shrouded in enigmas. In some cases, when it comes to our assurance of God’s will, His righteousness, and His intentions for His people, absolutely be dogmatic! God is the only God! He is holy! He will come again! We are all sinners! There is a hell! The end will come! Be clear and firm.
Here are some resources on both the Doctrines of God, and the perspicuity (clarity) of scripture. Strip back those layers and see God and His works for what they are, clearly amazing!
pdf called The Night Watches by John MacDuff here, exploring, The Glory of God, The Immutability of God, The Omnipotence of God, The Omnipresence of God, The Wisdom of God, The Holiness of God, The Justice of God, The Love of God, The Grace of God, The Tenderness of God, The Patience of God, The Faithfulness of God, The Sovereignty of God, The Providence of God, The Word of God, The Ordinances of God, The Spirit of God, The Promises of God, The Warning of God, The Chastisements of God, The Invitations of God, The Consolations of God, The Paths of God, The Secret of God, The Name of God, The Favor of God, The Jewels of God, The Judgment of God, God’s Banqueting House, The Presence of God, God’s Closing Call.
Let’s think about the vine and the vinedresser today.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1-2).
I like to write on a variety of Christian topics. Anything related to the Bible, Jesus, the Church- I’m all in.
Lately I want to strip back some layers and get back to some basics. It’s easy to go off-script and get involved in hair splitting theological debates, or write about myself, or the culture- anything that drifts from Jesus. So I want to do a few essays in these turbulent times related to the root of our faith: Jesus, the Gospel, and the blood.