rethinking commitment

March 2015 (32)“The church’s greatest impact may not stem from asking for great things from a few people, but for many things from a lot of people.”

Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson, The Externally Focused Church. (Kindle location 2237).

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Daily Devotional

Prayer’s Exclamation Point

All the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

John Piper

Prayer is a response to promises, that is, to the assurances of God’s future grace.

Prayer is drawing on the account where God has deposited all his promises of future grace.
Prayer is not hoping in the dark that there might be a God of good intentions out there. Prayer goes to the bank every day and draws on promises for the future grace needed for that day.

Don’t miss the connection between the two halves of this great verse. Notice the “that is why”: “All the promises of God are Yes in Christ. That is why (therefore) we pray Amen through him, to God’s glory.”
To make sure we see it, let’s turn the two halves around: When we pray, we say Amen to God through Christ, because God has said Amen to all his promises in Christ. Prayer is the confident plea for God to make good on his promises of future grace for Christ’s sake. Prayer links our faith in future grace with the foundation of it all, Jesus Christ.

Which leads to the final point: “Amen” is a full and precious word in times of prayer. It doesn’t mean primarily, “Yes, I have now said all this prayer.” It means primarily, “Yes, God has made all these promises.”
Amen means, “Yes, Lord, you can do it.” It means, “Yes, Lord, you are powerful. Yes, Lord, you are wise. Yes, Lord, you are merciful. Yes, Lord, all future grace comes from you and has been confirmed in Christ.”
“Amen” is an exclamation point of hope after a prayer for help.

For more about John Piper’s ministry and writing, see DesiringGod.org.
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Merry Warriors and Paper Tigers

Enjoying the Battle

Psy-ops has a long and ignoble history in warfare.  In poker it’s called bluffing.  In commerce, it’s called marketing.  Getting into the mind of your opponent or target can pay great dividends.  Consequently, it is not surprising that in the Great Battle between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man the latter would engage in psy-ops as often as possible.

One of the most effective psy-ops weapon is within your grasp when you have a chance to convince your enemies that their defeat is inevitable.  There have been many deployments of this stratagem in our generations.  Jesus Christ is passée.  The Age of Science has replaced the former ages of ignorant myths.  The real is the material; anything else is either fabrication or imagination.  Only fools and horses still believe in the Bible.  Nothing will be able to withstand the forces of reason and the science.  And so on.

It is true that there is much that might discourage the Christian.
  The Commentariat–almost to a man–both disbelieves and ridicules the Christian faith.  The forces of our enemies are both numerous and powerful.  They control the schools, the chambers of government, and the law.  They are attacking the foundations of Christian society with stratagems such as legalising abortion, egalitarianism, along with claiming and promoting faux human rights such as homosexual degradation and euthanasia.  They are not just attacking.  They are winning.

You would be entitled to expect that Christians would be depressed, discouraged, and defeated.  Yet in general the opposite is the case.  Christians remain merry warriors, full of belly-laughter, fierceness, and the joy of battle.  Why?  Because Christians know that there is only one way this battle will turn out.  They know that Christ will triumph on the earth.  They know the world of Unbelief is going to crumble into dust.  Our “retreats” and our “defeats” are our enemy’s pyrrhic victories.  The Kingdom of Man will crumble–inevitably and most certainly.

How do we know this?  Because of the Scriptures relentless certainty about the future of human history.  Christ has risen from the dead.  He has been seated at the right hand of God.  All authority in heaven and upon earth has been delegated to Him.

 . . . and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1: 19-21)

This age is the age of His dominion and power.  The appearance of Christian declension is just that.  It is false–at least in every absolute or final sense.

As we once again remember His death, resurrection, and ascension may our boards be laden and our wine glasses full as we feast to His glory and His, and our, full and final victory.   The so-called victory of secularism will prove a rip-roaring joke.  The triumph of Western rationalism will prove to be an empty shell. A mere paper tiger, as one of their kindred spirits and fellow travellers once said. 
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rethinking partnerships

April 2015 (1)“We don’t form our partnerships around our statements of faith or doctrine but rather our common love and commitment to our community.”

  Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson, The Externally Focused Church. (Kindle location 2008).

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Douglas Wilson’s Letter From Moscow

Ukraine #4

Douglas Wilson
March 18, 2015
Please allow me just one more set of background observations before I say what I think ought to be done in Ukraine.

When we teach math to kids, we are not training future mathematicians, although some will wind up there. We are training future grocers, carpenters, housewives, etc. We want what they learn about math to be consistent with what the future mathematicians will eventually learn, but it need not be anything like so complicated.

When we teach history to kids, we are not training up future historians. We are educating Christian kids to be faithful citizens in the country where God has placed them. God wants them here, and God wants them to honor their father and mother. As a third grader honors his fathers and mothers, there is no way to keep this from being “simplified” and coming across to academic historians as yet another instance of “monocausality.”
Fine, but monocausality shows up in biblical histories. Why did Herod get eaten by worms?

And at the same time, there are standard monocausal explanations that are simply anachronistic or wrong.
  A prime example of that is the standard view that the Civil War was “over slavery.” I would prefer to say that the Civil War was in the first instance, a tax revolt, in the second a battle over states rights, in the third a struggle over the expansion of slavery into new territories, in the fourth a cultural struggle between two different kinds of civilization which would have happened had there never been a Union, in the fifth, the Whig/Republican desire for centralization, in the sixth, Mark Twain’s assessment that Sir Walter Scott was to blame for instilling in Southerners an uber-sensitivity over chivalry and honor, and seventh, a  judgment from God over the South’s participation in the land grab from Mexico, and their gross treatment of the Indian nations that were largely centered in the South — the Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, etc. There were other factors as well, that we might as well leave unmentioned for now, such as Virginia’s noble desire to prevent the rise of Al Sharpton. 

But in junior high and high school, to teach all sides of every conflict, from any imaginable point of view, is not academic “objectivity.” It is indistinguishable from postmodern relativism. We are to shape their loyalties first, and fill in the fullness of the story later. That filling in of detail must be honest, but the pretense of disinterested objectivity is nothing other than another laugh riot from the groves of academe.

This is hard to do with kids, but it can be done. For example, I have seen our kids at Logos taught that the shabby treatment that Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce received was in fact shabby, but this was done without that lesson being turned into a morass of multicultural micro-sensitivities that would earn our alums a place on the Lord High Executioner’s “little list.”

“Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own.”

Now, bring all this down to the Cold War, and to the current state of affairs in Ukraine. You are the superintendent of a Christian school, and things are currently bad in eastern Europe. You are reviewing the curriculum for your history of the twentieth century. Do you teach the kids to be suspicious of Russia, or not? I do. Do you sympathize with any small nation along Russia’s Western border? I sure do.

Some might say that I think this way because I am a child of the Cold War. We had fire drills at school when I was a kid, but we also had nuclear war drills. Not much you can do in such drills except go down in the school basement, sit crouched along the wall, and say your farewells to the planet. It has been such a great seven years! And if you count the submarine I was stationed on as my house, like Tina Fey, I have seen Russia from my house. So I am in fact a child of the Cold War. But to dismiss an argument simply because you think you have discovered why your opponent came to advance it is simply what Lewis called Bulverism.

We are required to honor our father and mother, which includes our civic leaders as the Larger Catechism teaches, and we are required to do so honestly. This necessarily includes our history. We are to observe the fifth commandment, but without violating the ninth. In the fifties, the ninth commandment was often sacrificed on the altar of the fifth, and that was admittedly not good. But you are fixing nothing if you do what I see being done with facile glibness by the current generation, which is to sacrifice the fifth commandment on the altar of the ninth. We are supposed to obey them all, and we are supposed to teach our children to obey them all.

Do you do all this in such a way as to instill a jingoistic approach, one that is incapable of recognizing those instances when the United States has played it false, or made a hash of it, or weighed in on the wrong side? Of course not.
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Daily Devotional

Prayer in Gethsemane

“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed.”
Matthew 26:39

Charles H. Spurgeon

There are several instructive features in our Saviour’s prayer in his hour of trial. It was lonely prayer. He withdrew even from his three favoured disciples. Believer, be much in solitary prayer, especially in times of trial. Family prayer, social prayer, prayer in the Church, will not suffice, these are very precious, but the best beaten spice will smoke in your censer in your private devotions, where no ear hears but God’s.

It was humble prayer. Luke says he knelt, but another evangelist says he “fell on his face.” Where, then, must be thy place, thou humble servant of the great Master? What dust and ashes should cover thy head! Humility gives us good foot-hold in prayer. There is no hope of prevalence with God unless we abase ourselves that he may exalt us in due time.

It was filial prayer. “Abba, Father.” You will find it a stronghold in the day of trial to plead your adoption. You have no rights as a subject, you have forfeited them by your treason; but nothing can forfeit a child’s right to a father’s protection. Be not afraid to say, “My Father, hear my cry.”

Observe that it was persevering prayer. He prayed three times. Cease not until you prevail. Be as the importunate widow, whose continual coming earned what her first supplication could not win. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.

Lastly, it was the prayer of resignation. “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Yield, and God yields. Let it be as God wills, and God will determine for the best. Be thou content to leave thy prayer in his hands, who knows when to give, and how to give, and what to give, and what to withhold. So pleading, earnestly, importunately, yet with humility and resignation, thou shalt surely prevail.
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NZ: Increasingly A Closed, Controlled Economy

The Objection Industry

The benighted Resource Management Act (“RMA”) was sold to the electorate as a way to achieve economic growth in a manner consistent with responsible resource management.  It has proved to be nothing of the kind.  As so many legislative overreaches demonstrate, the RMA does the exact opposite to its stated intent.  It has been used to stop development in its tracks while a very expensive, litigious court process inches forward, adding costs by the day.

At root, the RMA undermines property rights.  What is mine is no longer mine; it is owned substantially not by the legal owner, but the “community”.  Others now have a property right that warrants them (via the courts) deciding when and how one’s property may be deployed, exploited, and used. 

Duncan Garner, writing in Stuff, excoriates the RMA, writing up just one case.  It involves an RMA-meddling local council.  The council is unnamed.  That’s deliberately done (see below).  One presumes the reporting is accurate.

Reptilian Behaviour

Duncan Garner
Stuff
March 21, 2015


This is a tale of a breath-taking rip-off.   It’s about a decent hard-working guy merely trying to build a house.
He is being gouged financially as part of the planning and consent process.  It’s no wonder we have a nationwide housing shortage when these sorts of disgraces are taking place.  It’s the story of how some little lizards potentially risk derailing a building project.

I can’t say where this is happening for fear of reprisals to the landowner and the builders overseeing the project. They are too scared to go public and have asked me to tell the story. I have seen all the council paperwork – it’s astonishing.  This is a tale of a total abuse of the Resource Management Act and local council planning rules.  No wonder there’s a shortage of housing stock.

What Garner details below simply does not exist, according to Greenists, Leftists, and a good deal of those warming the government benches.   In this case, the RMA is being used by the local council as a revenue raising opportunity.  It is an illicit tax, disguised as an administrative obligation.

This house construction was supposed to have started months ago at a site that needed some native bush and vegetation cleared. An arborist was called in and prepared a report.  But the local council then elevated it and demanded a whole new plan including an “ecological assessment of any likely/potential adverse effects caused by the clearance”.  Officials also wanted a restoration plan outlining what “supplementary planting” and “weed management” would take place.

But then came the gratuitous bombshell.  The council said this must include “subcontracting a lizard specialist to assess whether a lizard management plan would also be needed”. Sorry? A what?

Officials needed to know whether lizards or native geckos exist at the property . . . and whether their lives are in danger.  The work for this new plan would be $3000 plus GST. The cost of the lizard survey was extra – and estimated to be about $1600.  That included a site visit, three days of trapping, accommodation costs of $240 and paying mileage for a 200km-plus return trip (totalling about $300).

The 10 traps and torches used to hunt for lizards were provided “free of charge” in the quote.  How bloody generous.  Remember this bloke is just trying to get a resource consent to build his home.  Apparently some bloke turned up for lizard patrol one night with a torch, barely knowing what he was looking for – and found nothing.  So far they’ve found one lizard in total – 500 metres away from the building site!

Then comes the intrusion of Maori into the benighted process.  They also have to consent to the proposed development under New Zealand’s farcical private property laws.  In other words, Maori, according to our racist laws, have a “stakeholding” in all New Zealand land.  If the owner does not succumb to their requirements and demands, the only recourse is to the courts.  Then the judiciary gets to decide just how much of your property you really own.

A lot of this stuff is a modern form of dane-gelding.  Some racketeering Maori are saying, in effect, give us some money, pay us some fees and your problems will go away.  For them it is risk free.  There are no consequences for engaging in such stand over tactics.  It is just another instance of  the age-old protection racket instituted by the Vikings, and perfected by the Mafia.

And then it got even more farcical.  Under local planning rules and the Resource Management Act he must consult with local iwi groups.  They must be notified of his plan to cut down some of the native bush.  All six interested iwi groups have to be contacted.  Some of these iwi groups live hundreds of kilometres away from the building site, but have historical connections to the area.

Three of these groups have so far asked for initial site visits.  These don’t come cheap either. One of the iwi is charging $240 an hour, plus travel costs (and excluding GST).  This iwi goes on to say should a proper cultural impact assessment be needed they will provide the details of the costs involved.  Another iwi group say they see the trees as “taonga in need of protection from climate change, disease and ongoing development and they generally oppose the removal or felling of native trees”.  They also want an initial site visit to assess whether a wider cultural assessment is needed – but the kaitiaki (guardian) can’t do it till April.

Administrative law–such as the RMA–is the biggest threat to liberty  in our democracy.  People are granted rights, powers, and privileges of ownership over others’ property via administrative law.  But, those granted such rights have no risks, few thresholds, and no consequences.  All the financial incentives and rewards lie with the objectors and the intruders.

I’m sorry, this is a sick joke. It’s a rort and hard-working people are being ripped off.  Yes, we need planning rules and a consent process. But the RMA has created a cottage industry of outrageous ripoffs in the name of cultural political correctness.

This particular consent has been held up for months because iwi groups are gaming the system.  Councils are clearly misinterpreting the law and too many groups have too much power over private property.  This is an abuse of the system. It may be legal but it’s not right.

Government ministers need to read this and do something about it.  These sorts of antics are holding development back.  It’s just putting money into the pockets of the self-appointed and self- important.  Surely this is not how anyone envisaged our planning laws working.

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you can be replaced

March 2015  (31)

Isaiah 22:20-25

20 And this will happen: On that day I will call to my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will dress him in your tunic, and I will bind your sash firmly about him, and I will put your authority into his hand, and he will be like a father to the citizen of Jerusalem and to the family of Judah. 22 And I will put the key of the house of David on his shoulder, and he will open and no one else shut; and he will shut and no one else open. 23 And I will drive him in — a peg into a secure place, and he will become like a glorious throne to the house of his father. 24 And they will hang all of the importance of his father’s house on him, the offspring and the offshoot, all of the small vessels, from the vessels of the bowls to all of the vessels of the jars. 25 “On that day – a declaration of Yahveh of armies — the peg that was driven in will move away into a secure place, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load on her will be taken off — because Yahveh has spoken.”

you can be replaced

When I was a boy I saw a sign that said “Look alive – you can be replaced by a button.” Shebna was learning that he was not so important that he was irreplaceable. He would be replaced by someone who not only could do his job as steward, but could also be a father to the citizens and family of Judah. In other words, Eliakim would be more spiritually qualified than Shebna had been. Today, we pause to reflect on our own qualifications for leadership and ministry. If we are not too full of ourselves, we know that somewhere there are those who have skills to do what we do better than we are doing it. Maturity entails recognizing this, and trusting the LORD to make up the difference. A mature leader does not worry about being the best. A mature leader is more concerned about being real. That authenticity factor was what made the difference between Shebna — on his way out – and Eliakim who would replace him.

LORD, give us mature hearts that beat with authentic concern for others, and authentic relationships with you.

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the curse of immortality

gift of life

gift of life #4

the curse of immortality

— “And the LORD God said, ‘Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. ’” Genesis 3:22 (NET)

Some translations of this text (like the NET) have God forbidding sinful humanity the tree of life, therefore making us mortal. The literal text has God saying it more emphatically: “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (KJV). The idea is that such a thing would be the worst imaginable fate: immortality is a curse to sinful man. So, until God takes care of our sin problem, eternal life is off limits.

For God to have not driven us out of Eden would have been to condemn us to an eternity of sin.   God is not irresponsible.  He would not curse us with immortality in our fallen state.  He allowed death so that we would return to him for redemption and deliverance from sin.  I. C. Agagbor says He ‘mercifully drove (Adam and Eve)… out of the Garden of Eden because if they had eaten of the fruit of life, they would have become immortal without the opportunity for repentance and salvation.’

The fall in the Garden is the bad news with which God wants us to compare his good news. There is a new tree that he wants us to partake of. It is Calvary’s tree. God in his grace wants us to look at that symbol of life that became death to us all, and see his Son dying on it as a sign of his grace. The loss of the tree of life symbolized our lost relationship with God, and mortality was one of the many repercussions of that loss. The death of Christ on the cross by God’s grace allows us another chance at the tree of life in the holy city, after sin and its consequences are a thing of the past.

Until then, only God has immortality, because only God is free from the sin that makes immortality into a curse instead of a blessing. Our Lord Jesus Christ conquered sin and death by his death, and brought life and immortality to light.

The gospel is this good news, entrusted to us as its messengers. It offers a new chance to gain immortality, the right way. As Witness Lee puts it, “It was God’s original intention that man should eat of the tree of life. But due to the fall of man the tree of life was closed to him. Through the redemption of Christ, the way to touch the tree of life, which is God himself in Christ as life to man, has been opened again.” The tree of life was lost to us in Eden, but reappears in the New Jerusalem, after sin is destroyed. This tells us that God wants us to live forever, but not in our present sinful state.

That is why Plato was wrong. He imagined that immortality was everyone’s birthright. He ignored what Moses said in Genesis, and suggested that immortality was an innate endowment from our creator, rather than a curse that our creator prevented us from obtaining. Augustine believed in Plato’s version of human nature, and Calvin, Wesley and numerous other theologians went along with Augustine. Who would not want to believe that death is an illusion?

However, the cost that comes with accepting Plato’s version of reality over that of Moses is that it necessitates us rewriting the gospel as well. Since the goal of the gospel is eternal life, and Plato argued that we already have eternal life, theologians who accepted Plato had to find some other objective. Enter, the new solution: getting our immortal souls to heaven when our bodies die. Suddenly heaven ceased to be the place where Christ was returning from. It became a place where the immortal souls of believers are going to. Suddenly, hell ceased to be the second death on Judgment Day, where Christ finally will take care of sin and sinners for good. It became a place for God to torture immortal souls forever, without a chance of ever getting rid of sin.

It is time for believers to take back the gospel from the pagan traditions that have supplanted it. We need to show the world that God is not guilty of cursing sinners with immortality. He promises immortality only to the redeemed. Only the saved are capable of living eternal lives to his glory.

If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at jeffersonvann@yahoo.com. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.

(listen to the audio file at Afterlife)

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redefining ministry

March 2015 (31)“Ministry can be changing oil or doing basic car repair for single moms. Ministry can be teaching handicapped children to ride horses.  Once churches expand their definition of ministry, the sky is the limit for meaningful opportunities for service.”

Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson, The Externally Focused Church. (Kindle location 1903).

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