Category “Faith”

The Waters Have Been Disturbed

“When God’s angel stirs up the pool and there is healing the waters, the diseased and lame will gather, in crowds, as the report of blessing spreads; and so these little meetings became crowded.”1

The waters of this country have certainly been disturbed, but instead of seeing it as a grievance, might we instead see it as a work of God, designed to separate His people from placing their trust in the works of man? While the waters are still, men lie in repose. To the church, comfortable in its convalescence, might these be healing waters? “Do you want to be made well?” After 38 years of complacence, this was a serious question that the Lord asked. Put aside your excuses, Christian! Take up your bed and walk!

“But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:31-34)

  1. -A. T. Pierson, “The Keswick Movement: In Precept and Practice” []

Is God’s Glory Selfish?

In a recent sermon I listened to, the speaker asked, “Why would God love someone like me?” He answered, “It’s for His glory.”

Imagine, for a moment, a young couple, snuggled together next to a fireplace, enjoying one another’s company in true romantic fashion. The wife murmurs to the husband, “Why do you love me so much?” He turns his head, looks into her eyes, and says, “Because I knew you would make me look good.”

Did you have a negative reaction to that? I’m sure she did. The problem here is that we have a misunderstanding of what glory is. Glory is not “looking good,” or for that matter, looking great, or even looking awesome. A friend of mine said it this way: “What is glory but the revelation of God’s character?1

You see, dear brothers and sisters, God loves us because that is who He is. God is love. When He takes a poor, wretched, rebellious sinner and washes that wretch in the precious blood of Jesus, brings them into the family, and makes them the bride of His Son, that is when He is glorified! Not because it makes Him look good, but because it reveals His goodness.

It shows that He is holy – He cannot have us as we were. It shows that He is just – every sin must be dealt with. It shows that He is merciful – He made provision for the whole world. It shows that He is love – He offered Himself. This is the glory of God! Not self-seeking, but self-revealing! When I fall weeping at those nail-scarred feet and ask, “How could you love me so?”, He will lift up my head, look into my eyes, and say, “It is who I am.”

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world… And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”2

  1. []
  2. John 17:24-26 []

In Defense of the Scientific Method

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Humanistic Naturalism as a Religion

I read an interesting quote by Adam Savage, of Mythbusters fame. He said the following in a Popular Mechanics podcast:

Like I said, the newspapers talking about evolution versus creationism is very much an attack on science as a type of religion—believing that the scientific method is some type of religious belief. And it’s not! That kind of attack absolutely is damaging science exploration across the whole country. I do think that’s a significant problem. And until we can get our head out of the sand and realize that science isn’t about truth…

Adam makes a couple of good points in this quote. He says that the scientific method isn’t “some type of religious belief.” He’s right, too. The scientific method is a tool. However, religious belief does factor into the scientific method.  Religious belief is the bias that inherently determines how one interprets the results of the scientific method. These results can provide support for vastly different presumptions, whether they be of supernatural creation or evolutionary naturalism.

And evolutionary naturalism is a religion, a dogma as faith based as any religion. Consider this statement that the famous evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky, quoted in The American Biology Teacher journal: “Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow.”1 Or Michael Dini, the Texas Tech University professor who refused to give letters of recommendation to students who would not verbally confess the truthfulness of evolution. Which brings one to the second part of Adam’s quote.

Adam’s statement that, “science isn’t about truth,” is also correct. This doesn’t make science useless; far from it! The results of scientific endeavors have greatly benefited the quality of our lives. But scientists don’t know everything, and therefore science deals in theories, both weak and strong, but never in facts, and no matter how strong a theory is, it is always subject to change.

In summary, science and the scientific method cannot confirm the origin of life for evolutionary naturalist, and it cannot do this for creationists either. As a tool, what it can do is affirm what we already believe.

  1. “Nothing In Biology Makes Sense Except In the Light of Evolution”, The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 35, pp. 125-129 []

Attwood and Muller On the Need for Expository Preaching

Last year a friend of mine inquired about the style of teaching in churches with historical ties to the Plymouth Brethren. In his experience, acquaintances with those ties had unusually strong knowledge of the Bible. The answer is expository preaching. Mike Attwood recently spoke about the need for expository preaching and lamented its decline:

The assembly movement1 was the beginning of expository Bible preaching.2  Men like Spurgeon were textual preachers. They would pick a text and they would go around that text. They didn’t pick a passage or a book and go through it. That’s why the movement that we’re associated with had such a reputation of, “those people know their Bibles,” because they taught consecutively through the scriptures. That’s not happening anymore.

What do we mean by expository preaching? If you look at Nehemiah 8 verses 6-8, you’ve got a little bit of an explanation.

“And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”3

And so the idea of expository preaching clearly is to help people understand what the passage of scripture is saying. The word exit is connected with that, you’re bringing out of the text that which is there and presenting it to the saints.

Again, we’ve got to be careful that our expository preaching is not only explaining the idea behind the text and the passage, and its context and all the rest of it, but then also, how it is relevant to you and I today. How is it going to help you and I, today, to fight the good fight of faith, to live godly in this ungodly world… What are we supposed to do with it? How are we supposed to apply it to our daily lives?

True expository preaching will, one person said, “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”I like that. We need that kind of expository preaching.4

Shortly after hearing this challenge, I read the following in George Muller’s autobiography. Written almost two hundred years ago, I found that Mike Attwood’s teaching echoed these important truths:

That which I have found most beneficial in my experience for the last twenty-six years in the public ministry of the Word is expounding the Scriptures, and especially the going now and then through a whole gospel or epistle. This may be done in a twofold way, either by entering minutely into the bearing of every point occurring in the portion, or by giving the general outlines, and thus leading the hearers to see the meaning and connection of the whole. The benefits which I have seen resulting from expounding the Scriptures, are these:

First, the hearers are thus, with God’s blessing, led to the Scriptures. They find, as it were, a practical use of them in the public meetings. This is no small matter; for everything which in our day will lead believers to value the Scriptures is of importance.

Secondly, the expounding of the Scriptures is in general more beneficial to the hearers than if, on a single verse, or half a verse, or two or three words of a verse, some remarks are made, so that the portion of Scripture is scarcely anything but a motto for the subject; for few have grace to meditate much over the word, and thus exposition may not merely be the means of opening to them the Scriptures, but may also create in them a desire to meditate for themselves.

Thirdly, the expounding of the Scriptures leaves to the hearers a connecting link, so that the reading over again the portion of the word which has been expounded brings to their remembrance what has been said, and thus, with God’s blessing, leaves a more lasting impression on their minds.

Fourthly, the expounding of large portions of the word as the whole of a gospel or an epistle, besides leading the hearer to see the connection of the whole, has also this particular benefit for the teacher, that it leads him, with God’s blessing, to the consideration of portions of the word which otherwise he might not have considered, and keeps him from speaking too much on favorite subjects, and leaning too much to particular parts of truth, which tendency must surely sooner or later injure both himself and his hearers.

One symptom of the decline in expository teaching can be seen in the modern tendency of churches to take a low view of scripture, allowing it to be modified and distorted by social issues. As Muller warned, the Bible has been reduced to a “motto for the subject.”

May the Lord Jesus Christ increase preaching that places the entire Word in holy prominence as He sanctifies his church.

  1. The Plymouth Brethren refer to their fellowships as assemblies (from the Greek word ekklesia), and members are simply called “brothers,” “saints,” or “believers.” They are usually aware of the term “Plymouth Brethren” but deny it applies to them since they don’t consider themselves a denomination. Formal “membership” in the sense demonstrated by the denominations is generally eschewed as unnecessary since personal salvation is understood to be the only requirement for membership in the body of Christ. []
  2. I would rather say “rebirth.” David Dunlap writes, “Expository preaching had fallen into disfavor at this time in the history of the church. Most ministers preached topically or textually; that is, using one text or verse and then building a sermon around the theme of the verse. The Plymouth Brethren did not follow this method, but introduced a verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, consecutive exposition of the Scriptures. Moreover, they preached the Bible as one unified book… They took seriously the historical- grammatic method of interpretation of Scripture, and… were recognized authorities on the original languages of the Scriptures, trends within theology, and biblical history and culture… This unique approach virtually transformed the method in which the Bible was proclaimed and has influenced expository preaching well into our present day… The efforts of these Brethren expositors had a significant impact on L. S. Chafer, H. A. Ironside, and the founders at Dallas Theological Seminary and at Moody Bible Institute, influencing the expository preaching of a whole new generation.” []
  3. Nehemiah 8:6-8 []
  4. Mike Attwood, Midwest Regional Elder’s Conference, Session 3 – Obstacles to the Biblical Goal []

The Constitution and the Christian – Gun Rights

Here’s my 2 cents worth on the whole gun issue, as if there’s not enough opinion out already. I’m going to go the extra mile and annoy both sides, so read it to the end.

From a political perspective, the current broo-ha is spectacularly ill-thought out. It’s the definition of mob mentality. Politicians and activist want to ban semi-automatics like the AR-15 and other so-called “assault rifles.” But there’s no such thing as a semi-automatic assault rifle. There are assault weapons – I know because I shot at people with them – but they were never semi-automatic only. I’m convinced that the only reason these “assault rifles” are being targeted is because they look scary. That’s it. Personally, I think the AR-15 is a hobby toy that makes people feel cool. There are other legal weapons that could have been far more devastating in a club than the low power, low caliber Sig Sauer that was used in Orlando. But I guess a person looks a lot scarier with a gun that’s faux military, so ban it.

And would banning “assault weapons” fix the problem? Should we abandon this line of mitigation just because it’s not 100% effective? That’s a straw man. The real question is: At what level of ineffectiveness should we cease trying? Because we did this once already. “Assault weapons” were banned in 1994. The bill was allowed to expire in 2004 because it had no effect whatsoever.

There are middle ground areas, like putting all semi-automatic rifles under the 1934 National Firearms Act. Passed to keep mobsters from getting automatic weapons, it has strict requirement for ownership, like fingerprinting, approval of a local sheriff, registration, etc. This is more like what Canada has. Personally, I don’t think that this type of regulation will fly with the American public, though it would be worth a… ahem… shot.

And that brings us to the 2nd Amendment. The purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to provide for an armed people, in the case that if it becomes “necessary to alter or abolish” a government. I absolutely agree that an AR-15 is a terrible hunting weapon. But the 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting. In fact, if keeping with spirit of the amendment, the American public is woefully under-armed compared to its government. Some may argue that the 2nd Amendment only applies to militias (though today’s National Guard is a far cry from the municipal militias of the 1770s). However, the Supreme Court ruled against this interpretation in District of Columbia v Hellar, and frankly, the amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, regardless of the reason for it. But the reason is valid. The purpose of maintaining state militias after 1788 was to protect against overreach of the U.S. federal government. That falls in line with the Declaration of Independence’s justification of rebellion against Britain, and with current interpretations for the right to own semi-automatic weapons. The 2nd Amendment is a core part of our government; included in the Bill of Rights, demanded by Patrick Henry, and strongly supported by Jefferson. A simple examination of other writings at the time of the drafting of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights will strongly support this.

The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.

Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (1787).

Ok, with all that being said, here’s my Christian viewpoint:

I think the American Revolution was an unjust war, fomented and supported by a wealthy elite who wanted to maintain the trade advantages of salutary neglect. I’m not saying that they thought of it this way, but the blood of thousands was spilt over a political position on trade. It was hardly a war of self-defense or an attempt to stop rabid aggression and destruction.

The social conditions that generally are supposed to lie behind all revolutions—poverty and economic deprivation—were not present in colonial America. There should no longer be any doubt about it: the white American colonists were not an oppressed people; they had no crushing imperial chains to throw off.

Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1991)

On the other hand, there’s a chance that if we hadn’t rebelled the British could have ended slavery much sooner and with no bloodshed, as they did in their other colonies. Our rebellion and the idea that we should overthrow unjust governments by force have been the seed of much conflict in this country.

There is also no justification for rebellion in scripture. The opposite, in fact. We are to obey those who God allows to be in authority over us. “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,”1 Christ said, and “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”2 Paul wrote, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God,”3 and “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”4

For a Christian, we don’t have a dog in this fight. We already know what we should do, and it doesn’t include shooting other people in a civil war. So from that perspective, it doesn’t really matter if the 2nd Amendment stands or falls. “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”5 Our constitution is the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. You may ask about self-defense, but I don’t think that the right to own a handgun is going to be an issue for a while, and even in that case, our ultimate protection is the will of God. Betsie ten Boom once said, “There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s world. No places are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety.”

So what is our calling? We are to be lights and salt. We should never excuse the sin around us, and especially not our own, but we should also follow Christ’s example of love to the lost. He told the mob, “He who is without sin cast the first stone,”6 but he told the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.”7
The world is only going to become more corrupt. It is the nature of man. Our time is limited, and the time of those souls without Christ is limited. Let our actions be focused on eternity without distraction.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13:11-14

  1. Mark 12:17 []
  2. Matthew 5:10 []
  3. Romans 13:1 []
  4. Romans 13:7 []
  5. Hebrews 13:14 []
  6. John 8:7 []
  7. John 8:11 []

Because Science

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Humanistic Naturalism as a Religion

A recent Federalist article was titled with the startling accusation:

Bill Nye Is A Huckster

The writer called out Nye for putting ideological beliefs over good science.

Bill Nye fashions himself a voice of rational thought and scientific inquiry. His shtick has gotten him into classrooms and on an endless loop of evangelizing TV appearances. Yet nearly every time he speaks these days, Nye diminishes genuine science by resorting to scaremonger-y nuggets of easily dismissible ideologically-motivated nonsense.1

Well, that’s from the Federalist, but I was quite surprised to see similar sentiments coming from well known skeptic, agnostic, and science journalist John Horgan. His article in Scientific American skewers the “lesser priests” of scientism2 dropping names like Neil de Grasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Ray Kurzewiel in his indictment.

Last month, Neil de Grasse Tyson said “the likelihood may be very high” that we’re living in a simulation. Again, this isn’t science, it’s a stoner thought experiment pretending to be science.

So is the Singularity, the idea that we’re on the verge of digitizing our psyches and uploading them into computers, where we can live forever. Some powerful people are believers, including Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil. But the Singularity is an apocalyptic cult, with science substituted for God.

When high-status scientists promote flaky ideas like the Singularity and multiverse, they hurt science.

It’s my observation that much of what passes for humanistic materialism today is “flakey” science, hopeful stories without any real scientific evidence – only the a priori assumption that naturalism is the Truth.

I grew up admiring Bill Nye, the Science Guy – I loved his experiments and the hands-on nature of what he did. But somewhere along the way he became Bill Nye the Atheist Guy, and his humanistic “huckstering” does little to promote the advance of science. Instead, we get his ideology.3

One other observation. The main point of John Horgan’s article is that Skeptics with a capital “S” often pursue the “soft targets” of religious belief and quack science instead of attacking harder targets like war, modern medical practices, and astronomical theories like the multiverse. As a Christian, I think sometimes that we spend too many resources attacking the soft target of naturalistic humanism, and not enough attacking the hard targets found in the misapplication and misinterpretation  of biblical doctrine. I disagree with Hogan on many points, but we can both agree that our belief systems spend too much time preaching to our choirs and not enough time challenging them.

  1. I used the title, “Because Science,” because that’s the argument that most naturalistic humanist use when they are asked to explain a naturalistic ideological position that can’t be explained by actual science. []
  2. an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation, including philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities []
  3. Which apparently includes throwing dissenters in prison: []

Captain of My Soul

In 1875, a relatively unknown poet penned the words that would cement his place in literary history. William Ernest Henley, recovering from an amputation, wrote the poem that would become known as InvictusPublished without title in 1888, its final stanza still echoes well over a century later.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The famous philosopher Oscar Wilde wrote the following letter 9 years later after being imprisoned for “gross indecency.” I wonder if Henley’s poem was reverberating in his mind when he wrote it:

The gods had given me almost everything. I had genius, a distinguished name, high social position, brilliancy, intellectual daring: I made art a philosophy, and philosophy an art: I altered the minds of men and the color of things: There was nothing I said or did that did not make people wonder…

Tired of being on the heights I deliberately went to the depths in search for new sensations. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. Desire, at the end, was a malady, or a madness, or both. I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has some day to cry aloud on the housetops… I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it. I ended in horrible disgrace.”1

Wilde discovered that taking control of one’s own soul means removing it from the hands of the only capable pilot. What initially seemed like stunning levels of autonomy and freedom became disaster when the currents of his fallen nature led him into unsafe waters – ending in shipwreck.2

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”3


  1. De Profundis – “From the Depths” []
  2. I Timothy 1:19 (NLT) “Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” []
  3. James 1:14-15 []
  4. I came so close to naming this post, “Jesus Take the Wheel,” but I just couldn’t… []

When Emptying Means Filling

The closing salutation of Hebrews leaves us with this request:

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.1

Two phrases in particular should be highlighted here: “make you complete… to do his will,” and, “working in you what is well pleasing in His sight.” For clarity, replace the words, “what is” with “whatever is.” The prayer of the writer then is this: That we be made complete to do whatever the will of God is pleased with doing through us.

How are we made complete? Our emptiness of self is directly related to our completion in Jesus Christ. The more we empty us of our self, the more God is able to use us for himself. My goal, and the front lines of a lifelong battle, is to be completely emptied of self. Every work I do should be done for him, directed by his will. It means complete openness to the promptings of the Spirit, surrender of anything self-centered, and confession of sins that would hinder his communion with me. It means being frequently in God’s Word to us and frequently in thoughts and prayers toward God.

This struggle against self would be impossible without the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, who also emptied himself to the will of the Father. In this great act, he sealed the New Covenant of grace with his own blood, paid the penalty for our sins, clothed us in his righteousness, and sent his Spirit to indwell all who believe in faith. In doing so, he has equipped us to fight this battle. May we be his treasure in earthen vessels, vessels of gold and silver, vessels of honor.

  1. Hebrews 13:20-21 []

More Love to Thee

The following hymn, which gained popularity during the 1870’s, was written by Elizabeth Prentiss after two of her children died suddenly of illness in 1856.

Elizabeth, struggling with thoughts of God’s unfairness and in profound grief, was told by her husband that, “Love can keep the soul from going blind.”  Understanding that God is love, and seeing that increased devotion toward him was the solution to her grief, she penned the following verses that would become part of the widely published hymn, “More Love to Thee.”

Once earthly joy I craved,
Sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek,
Give what is best;
This all my prayer shall be:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee!

Let sorrow do its work,
Send grief and pain,
Sweet are Thy messengers,
Sweet their refrain.
When they can sing with me:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee!

I have been asking the Lord to draw me closer to him, but secretly hoping that it would not involve stress, pain, or struggle. Shortly before reading the above hymn, I read in Hebrews 12:5-11 the following instructions:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;  For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.’

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Possibly the Lord is preparing me for chastening, or considering my recent discouragement, helping me through it. Verses 12-13 follow with this encouragement:

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

The Only Safe Place

The recent and unexpected death of young Christian made me ponder again why “bad” things happen to believers.

It’s easy to question God’s plan in our own ignorance. The Bible clearly says, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.1” We often lack the perspective to understand what is good in God’s eyes, but we can trust him and seek to be in his purposes, not ours. There are two quotes I love on this subject. William MacDonald said, “We know that He answers every prayer in exactly the same way we would if we had His wisdom, love, and powers.”2 Betsie ten Boom, who died at the hands of Nazis in a concentration camp, told her sister Corrie,

There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – Oh Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!3

  1. Romans 8:28 []
  2. My Heart, My Life, My All, William MacDonald, 2001. Chap. 5 []
  3. The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom, 1974 []