Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Saturday, November 02, 2002

I am putting the finishing touches on tomorrow's new topic for our Christian Basics series: Prayer. The striking thing about prayer is how little time folks actually devote to their communication with God. A few years ago I was having a conversation with a fellow pastor, and the topic turned to prayer. I told him that I only prayed a few minutes each day. He registered no response, so to this day I really don't know what he thought. But I know what I thought: a few minutes each day is a pitiful amount. Yes indeed I was wracked with guilt (okay not wracked, but still I realized that I needed an upgrade on my quality time with God).

I would like to emphasize strongly at this point that prayer should be characterized by its quality, and not its quantity. It is not that lengthy prayer is a bad thing, but if it is poorly done, inefficiently done, then it is a wasteful act. Prayer depends very much on our ability to concentrate, and for that reason I usually keep a printed sheet of my agenda right before my eyes. Furthermore, I make prayer a priority in my life. I've taken enough lumps in my spiritual life to know that this is essential. It is flat out the best way to put all that doctrine to use, and I am convicted that God wants me to do this very thing. So now I do.

Since I'm the pastor of this esteemed organization, I am going to challenge you: add five minutes to your daily prayer time, starting tomorrow. If you tend to struggle with that, then write down five people for whom you will pray, then do it.

See you in the morning.

Friday, November 01, 2002

This week I finished The History of Charles XII, by Voltaire. Voltaire is the great satirist who wrote early in the 18th Century in France. When I was in high school I read his very funny Candide, which poked fun at a popular world view of his day, "This is the best of all possible worlds."

Charles XII was the king of Sweden about a century before Voltaire's time, so that he was safely out of range.

At first I was pretty convinced that he was playing Charles XII straight, painting him as a man of tremendous virtue. In fact, his early character sketch has Charles as a man of flawless integrity. But as the book went on I realized that once again Voltaire was grinding an axe by use of the stone of satire. His purpose in the history was to demonstrate that virtue taken to an extreme spells disaster in the leadership of a nation. The way Voltaire sees it, Charles is a tragic figure, riding his nation to ruin on the horse of virtue. The more Charles insists on being virtuous, the worse it is for Sweden.

Voltaire is quite clever in mixing the thrilling military adventures of Charles, chock-full of amazing escapades and peerless bravery, and the political moves which so wounded the Swedes. It is clever because he has a habit of testifying to the veracity of the remarkable military accounts, and at the same time promoting his overall thesis that the man was a menace to his own country. If we believe Voltaire with regard to the adventures, then it is easy indeed to believe him with regard to his conclusion.

Well of course I don't buy it, Mr. Voltaire. Charles XII may indeed have made some bad moves that caused great harm to his own nation, but virtue does not lead inevitably to ruin in the realm of national politics. There are two ways in which his thesis is not true. First, what he calls a virtue in Charles is not a real virtue at all. And second, if a virtuous move does not work as intended, that does not indicate that the virtue was wrong in its application. Christians are often tested in this regard. We do the right thing; it doesn't work out. So what? We shouldn't have done the right thing?

Why is this relevant? Because we have a man of great personal virtue in the White House, who is making many political decisions, both foreign and domestic, on the foundation of his personal code of virtue. Will he lead us into ruin by means of his virtue? It might not all work out for the President, but that doesn't mean at all that the decision was wrong. Though blame may follow a good decision that was not rewarded with results, as inevitably it does for a President, that does not mean that the decision was wrong in the first place.

Charles the XII did indeed have many virtues. Additionally, he was a genius in military tactics. He was the father of modern amphibious warfare, using techniques that were 250 years before his time. At the crossing of the Dvina he constructed landing craft that were similar in design to the LCI of the 1940s, and he employed a smoke screen to cover the movement to the other side. Undoubtedly in my mind, though, his greatest virtue of all was his refusal to learn French. That, I believe, is a virtue in any generation, and the perfect riposte to Voltaire, a French writer. Charles would have never read the poppycock of Voltaire.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

The prologue that I wrote for this coming Veteran's Day is now posted at the Arlington Cemetery website:

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.com/stones-breath.htm

The webmaster was kind enough to publish it there alongside many excellent and moving works from veterans and their loved ones.
Here's the text of the first of the Basics series that I began earlier this year. I am going to begin posting this information once a week or so. It is going out essentially unformatted.

2002 Basics: Lesson 1
Theology
I. The Creed.
A. Part One:
1. God exists exactly as the Bible reveals Him.
2. I am here for a reason, and my purpose is defined by God.
3. Relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the most important thing in my life. Christ lived for me and died for me; He even now works on my behalf.
4. God, family, church, nation, self - I will value what God values.
5. I have all that I need to live this day according to God’s will: Spirit and Word, conscience and will, God’s people and His direct intervention.
6. I will plant before I play.
7. I am crucified with Christ, dead to my physical body of sin and raised in my new body for service to God.
8. I will lead others through my service to them.
B. Part Two:
1. This is my Bible, and it is true:
2. I am what it says I am.
3. I have what it says I have.
4. I can do what it says I can do.
5. If I do what it says, I will be conformed to the image of Christ, and I will please Him.
II. Introduction.
A. This study is for unbelievers, that they might believe;
B. This study is for new believers, that they might be strengthened in their faith, and find motivation to carry them forward to uttermost fulfillment;
C. This study is for believers who struggle, that they might renew their faith;
D. This study is for believers with momentum, that in reviewing the elementary doctrines of the faith they might be encouraged to sustain their momentum.
III. God Exists.
A. Rationalistic Arguments from the Bible. Note: these five passages demonstrate that the writers of the Bible believed in the rationalistic approach.
1. John 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”
a. Being unable to see God, we can nonetheless understand Him, and even know that He exists, because of the existence of Jesus Christ.
b. Jesus Christ explains God; and if this is so, then He also reveals His existence in the first place. Christ is solid evidence of the existence of God.
c. This is why there are so many attacks against the historicity of Christ. Christ’s existence is a huge threat to those who believe there is no God.
d. We will leave this for now, but of course we have to settle the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2. Romans 1:18-20, “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
a. God can condemn unbelievers because they have evidence within them concerning the existence of God.
b. And they are guilty because they have suppressed that evidence in unrighteousness.
c. God makes Himself evident to every unbeliever through creation.
d. Since creation is all around us, easily perceived by the senses, we have no excuse to deny the existence of God.
e. Creation demands a creator! No physical universe can come into existence on its own. That totally defies reason.
f. So you look at the physical universe now, seeing the order of nature, and you conclude that there is a designer and a maker.
g. Therefore you are without excuse.
3. Romans 2:14-16, “14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
a. The existence of a conscience in man testifies to the existence of God.
b. A naturalistic explanation of man does not account for inherent morality, and yet there is just that. Men have consciences, the Law written in their hearts.
c. That man knows the difference between right and wrong testifies to the existence of God - for where else is the source of morality?
4. James 1:17, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
a. The existence of good in this world has its ultimate source in God the Father.
b. Good does not exist apart from Him.
c. Where is the good in a naturalistic world?
d. The challenge is this: what is the source of good in a universe that emphasizes survival of the fittest?
5. 1 John 4:12, “No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.”
a. This is a terrific argument against a naturalistic universe and origin of man.
b. The existence of virtue love, sacrificial love, argues against evolution.
c. How could a sacrificial kind of love ever be in the interest of the survival of the fittest? If evolution is about individual survival, natural selection, then surely a sacrificial kind of love could not exist.
d. What is the origin of that virtuous kind of love? It can only originate in a loving God, who is the source of all good things.
B. The undeniable existence approach to the existence of God: Geisler’s proof of the existence of God.
1. Some things undeniably exist.
a. Something exists, and you may as well begin with yourself. As Descartes said, “I think, therefore, I am.”
b. No one can deny his own existence without at the same time affirming it, for only existing ones can make such (false) assertions. My existence, therefore, is a truth.
2. My nonexistence is possible. This point sounds like such an enigma at first, but follow these steps:
a. First, I do exist and undeniably so.
b. Further, my existence has remaining potential.
(1) Potential in growth, mental, physical, whatever.
(2) In understanding my unrealized potential, I recognize the absolute and the infinite.
c. My unrealized potential makes it possible for be to not exist at some time. There is a past time when I certainly did not exist, and there is likely a future time when I will not exist.
d. I am therefore a CAUSED BEING.
3. Whatever has the possibility of nonexistence is currently caused to exist by another.
a. Others exist; this is extrapolated from the existence of language.
b. Since others exist, and I am a caused being, some other being must be the source of my existence.
c. Cause is the actualization of potential. I have the ability to actualize my potential, though my potential is limited.
d. But when I was non-existent I could not actualize my potential. Some other being had to do that very thing.
e. Furthermore, I am in constant need of cause.
(1) I cannot cause my own existence.
(2) I exist continually.
(3) Therefore, I need a continual cause for my existence.
(4) Someone or something must therefore maintain my existence by providing continual cause.
(5) There are two types of causes: vertical and linear. Linear cause is what we think of in terms of a chain of cause and effect. Vertical is a single cause and effect, outside of any chain.
(a) Cause that creates a new being may be linear.
(b) Cause that maintains any being is only vertical. Single cause and single effect. I continue to exist despite the fact that my parents do not sustain my existence!
4. There cannot be an infinite regress of current causes of existence.
a. Maintenance cause, which is continual, has no possibility of infinite regression, because nothing can be both causing and caused at the same time.
b. Any being which causes must be maintained by the cause of another. There is a continual need for cause.
c. An infinite series of causes is impossible, since one cause in the series must be causing itself. A self-caused cause is impossible, as we have seen.
d. There must be an infinite being outside the series to cause the series.
e. In the matter of continual cause, there can only be a single link between cause and effect.
5. Therefore, a first uncaused cause of my current existence exists.
6. This uncaused cause must be infinite, unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-perfect.
a. This is the necessary being, and we have already described this necessary being.
b. He is infinite with regard to several aspects.
7. This infinitely perfect Being is appropriately called “God.”
a. The very idea of God indicates a worthiness for worship.
b. For the necessary Being is much more than just the ultimate cause. He is infinite with respect to capabilities and perfect with respect to character.
8. Therefore, God exists.
9. This God who exists is identical to the God described in the Christian Scriptures.
a. The Scriptures describe this very God.
b. This is therefore a valid and powerful confirmation of the accuracy and dependability of Scripture.
c. If it describes God, then it is worth paying attention to for our lives.
10. Therefore, the God described in the Bible exists.
IV. God Reveals Himself: Carl F.H. Henry’s 15 Theses: from God, Revelation, and Authority, Vol.2, by Carl F.H. Henry.
A. Revelation is a divinely initiated activity, God’s free communication by which He alone turns his personal privacy into a deliberate disclosure of His reality.
B. Divine revelation is given for human benefit, offering us privileged communion with our Creator in the kingdom of God.
C. Divine revelation does not completely erase God’s transcendent mystery, inasmuch as God the Revealer transcends His own revelation.
D. The very fact of disclosure by the one living God assures the comprehensive unity of divine revelation.
E. Not only the occurrence of divine revelation, but also its very nature, content, and variety are exclusively God’s determination.
F. God’s revelation is uniquely personal both in content and form.
G. God reveals himself not only universally in the history of the cosmos and of the nations, but also redemptively within this external history in unique saving acts.
H. The climax of God’s special revelation is Jesus of Nazareth, the personal incarnation of God in the flesh; in Jesus Christ the source and content of revelation converge and coincide.
I. The mediating agent in all divine revelation is the Eternal Logos - preexistent, incarnate, and now glorified.
J. God’s revelation is rational communication conveyed in intelligible ideas and meaningful words, that is, in conceptual-verbal form.
K. The Bible is the reservoir and conduit of divine truth.
L. The Holy Spirit superintends the communication of divine revelation, first, by inspiring the prophetic-apostolic writings, and second, by illuminating and interpreting the scripturally given Word of God.
M. As bestower of spiritual life the Holy Spirit enables individuals to appropriate God’s revelation savingly, and thereby attests the redemptive power of the revealed truth of God in the personal experience of reborn sinners.
N. The church approximates the kingdom of God in miniature; as such she is to mirror to each successive generation the power and joy of the appropriated realities of divine revelation.
O. The self-manifesting God will unveil his glory in a crowning revelation of power and judgment; in this disclosure at the consummation of the ages, God will vindicate righteousness and justice, finally subdue and subordinate evil, and bring into being a new heaven and earth.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

This morning I interviewed with the editor of the Coffee Cup Companion newspaper. The paper is published out of Ft. Collins, and the editor is interviewing leaders in the Christian community (so why would he call me, you ask?). He asked 20 questions on widely varying topics, some philosophical, some social in nature. It will be interesting to see how this came out. Since it was an interview without preparation, looking for my gut-level answers, I definitely feel as though I lacked eloquence, yet overall gave fairly well constructed answers. I did feel as though I dropped the ball with his question about the Christian and war. How ironic! The one area where I feel well-prepared, and even over prepared, and I feel like I said "hommina hommina" for five minutes. Regardless of how it turns out, the interviewer was courteous and he seemed fairly forthright. I expect he will publish pretty much what I said as I said it. On the other hand I may be totally naive, and have to make this first interview experience a learning experience at best. Pray that the truth shines through my fallible humanity.

Music maestro please.

You may be doing more than polite requests in the coming months, since I am taking over the song leadership until a replacement can be found. I will not have a great deal of time to invest in this mandated and important ministry, but at least I should be able to do the following:

1) Select music with a sound doctrinal foundation.
2) Keep track of what we have sung so that there is not repetition unto dullness.
3) Take your requests. I strongly encourage you to find music with sound doctrine and share it with the rest of the congregation. If it is not in the hymn book, we will make an effort to find the sheet music and enjoy it that way.
4) Physically lead the music on Sunday morning. This may well be my point of weakness, but I will brass it out as best I can, and hope that you all will follow.

We are also seeking to find sound doctrinal music outside the hymn book, or at least new words to old songs. We may have a connection with Jim Myers for this.

We are seeking a well-reasoned blend of the old and new in order to employ music as a mnemonic device, reminding us at every opportunity of the essential doctrines of our faith.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Leadership.

Today I am preparing a lesson for this evening from Numbers 25. In that chapter there is a grave failure of leadership in Israel. The people of Israel had stopped on the plains of Moab opposite Jericho on the far side of the river Jordan. The people join themselves to the idol worship of Moab, and in the process profane themselves and God's purpose for them. Leadership may fail in two ways: by becoming participants in sin themselves, or by negligence so that their people are left to fail. Both occurred on the plains of Moab. Leadership is much more than self-restraint. It means giving positive direction and preventative instruction. The heads of the people did neither, and thus were held responsible with the harshest possible punishment. It was God's intent to bring a holy nation into the Promised Land. It is significant that he begins with the leadership. These were the same leaders who had failed at many points along the way from Egypt, and this punishment represents the termination of God's patience. With new leadership from the generation that has been born on the journey, the nation will finally have the capacity for God's promise.

This is tempting to apply during an election season, yet remember that often the leadership of a nation mirrors the heart of the people. Anti-incumbent sentiment may be a reflection of the maturing of the people, at least of those who participate in our government. But it has to be a sentiment which reflects divine righteousness. Anti-incumbency which ousts good leadership is a reflection of unrighteousness in the hearts of the people. I have a feeling that here in Colorado, as well as across the nation, we will end up with a reflection of who we are. In that at least, we have just representation.

If you vote, then you should be a Christian who is active in evangelism. If you donate time or money to political causes, you should be a Christian who is active in evangelism. How our generation matures will reflect the leadership we receive in coming years. How well we evangelize our own people will also have a profound effect on our future.

Monday, October 28, 2002

The 45 minutes:
I have recently decided to upgrade my personal prayer/study/meditation time to 45 minutes a day. I did this because quite frankly, my mental attitude has not been where it should be. I find that if I am not totally at peace with God, and totally prepared to serve Him each day, that it all goes in the pot in no time at all. I have lost days, and even weeks on account of caving in to the stresses of this world, and I don't think that's especially good for any of us at FRBC.

Here is how I arrange the time:
I have first of all my personal creed, which I not only recite from memory, but pray through. Let me give you an example:
The creed says, "God exists exactly as the Bible reveals Him."
My prayer might go something like this: "Heavenly Father, You exist, and that makes all the difference. You exist in absolute power and holy character, you exist in perfect love. And knowing this changes me. You are in control because of your capabilities; it is a wonderful kind of control because of your character. Therefore I can live in peace this day, and trust in you."

Here is the entire creed as it currently exists:

God exists exactly as the Bible reveals Him.

I am here for a reason, and my purpose is defined by God.

Relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the most important thing in my life. Christ lived for me and died for me; He even now works on my behalf.

God, family, church, nation, self - I will value what God values.

I have all that I need to live this day according to God’s will: Spirit and Word, conscience and will, God’s people and His direct intervention.

I will plant before I play.

I am crucified with Christ, dead to my physical body of sin and raised in my new body for service to God.

I will lead others through my service to them.

This is my Bible, and it is true:

I am what it says I am.

I have what it says I have.

I can do what it says I can do.

If I do what it says, I will be conformed to the image of Christ, and I will please Him.


As you can see, that can lead to a lot of prayer. Not only this, but I also take the time to examine the essence, capabilities, and attributes, and they definitely turn into both worship and application.

I also pray for those of you who are on my mind, especially that you would continue to realize your spiritual needs and organize your life around them. I take the time to read the Bible, usually with reference to my weaknesses, but also those generically encouraging passages like Romans 6. There's hardly a day that I don't see fit to apply the crucified with Christ thing. Additionally I listen to Christian music, especially that music which is Scripturally based. This seems to set the tone for the day for me.

In any event, the 45 minutes is setting the Law of the Spirit within my soul, and I am finding that my soul lives according to that Law, just as Romans 8 promises. Much better.