Monthly Archives: September 2009

Today is International Blasphemy Day

The Religious News Service reports that today will be the Centre For Inquiry’s International Blasphemy Day: 

Atheists, skeptics, freethinkers and free-speech advocates around the world will mark Blasphemy Day by mounting their soapboxes—figuratively and literally—and uttering words and displaying images that may cause offense.

And they’re making no apologies.

Why today?

Sept. 30 was chosen for the inaugural Blasphemy Day because it is the anniversary of the 2005 publication of the controversial Muhammad cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The cartoons resulted in worldwide riots by outraged Muslims and widespread self-censorship by media.

 Albert Mohler notes :

Among other things, CFI International also plans a “blasphemy contest,” “in which participants are invited to submit phrases, poems, or statements that would be, or have been, considered blasphemous.” Winners are to receive a t-shirt and mug.

Bet you can’t wait to see those.

More seriously, participants are also to be encouraged to take up theBlasphemy Challengein which individuals register their blasphemy in the face of Mark 3:29.  In that verse, Jesus warns, “whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” [ESV].  Those who take up the “Blasphemy Challenge” record video submissions which must include the words, “I deny the Holy Spirit.”

The Blasphemy Day events are certain to draw media attention, which is no doubt the whole point of the observance.  That is how a group like CFI can gain publicity for itself and its cause.

At this point, I have to ask that for sinners who have not been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, surely every day is Blasphemy Day?  Today though, they will be make a determined, conscious effort to offend God and encourage others to do likewise.

He then goes on to offer some advice on how we Christians should respond to International Blasphemy Day, as well as contrasting the difference between the Biblical and Muslim response to blasphemy:

First, take no offense. Refuse to play into the game plan of those sponsoring International Blasphemy Day.  The Lord Jesus Christ was and is despised and rejected of men.  Our Lord bore the scorn heaped upon him by his enemies. Christianity is not an honor religion. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are not commanded to defend his honor, but to be willing to share in the scorn directed to him. Is the servant greater than his master?

Islam is an honor religion, and the major forces in the world today seeking to criminalize blasphemy are Islamic. The riots on the streets of many nations in protest of the Danish cartoons do represent what faithful Muslims believe their religion requires them to do.  Not so for Christianity. We must be those who take to the streets with the Gospel — not with a defense of our honor or the honor of our Lord.  When Christians forget this, we lose our Gospel witness.  The history of the church includes far too many instances of this loss. We dare not add another.

Second, mourn the blasphemy. The warning of Jesus is clear — blasphemy has eternal consequences.  The worst form of blasphemy is the refusal to hear and believe the Gospel.  For that sin there can be no forgiveness. We must mourn the blasphemy, not because honor is at stake, but because souls are at stake with eternal consequences.  God will ultimately and perfectly defend his honor.  On that day, there will be no escape for unrepentant blasphemers.

Third, see this observance for what it really is — an unintended testimony to the existence of God and the foolishness of those who deny Him.  The sheer foolishness of a blasphemy contest with t-shirts and mugs betrays the lunacy of it all.  They can do no better than this?  One testimony to the power of God is the fact that his self-declared enemies come off as so childish and manic. The heathen rage and God sees the foolish grasshoppers.

You can read Albert Mohler’s full article here.

For my part, I have difficulty turning the other cheek on this one.  But I do see Dr. Mohler’s point and believe it is biblical for us to not defend Christ’s “honor” with outrage or riots or censorship, but to instead defend the gospel of Christ through reason, with gentleness and respect as it says in 1 Peter 3:

“13Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

Father, give us the strength to share in the scorn that is directed at your Son, to share in His rejection and to suffer well, if it be your will, for Christ’s sake. And give us the words and the wisdom and the courage to boldly share your good news with gentleness and respect, regardless of how we are treated.  Amen.

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How Could God Command Genocide in the Old Testament?

 Justin Taylor answers the question “How Could God Command Genocide in the Old Testament?”

This is a good, hard question. The way we answer it will both reflect and inform our understanding of justice and mercy.

The question is about what happens in the book of Joshua when God commands Israel to slaughter the Canaanites in order to occupy the Promised Land. It was a bloody war of total destruction where God used his people to execute his moral judgment against his wicked enemies. In moving toward an answer it will be helpful to think carefully about the building blocks of a Christian worldview related to God’s justice and mercy.

Justin fleshes out these 7 main biblical points as the building blocks for his answer from Scripture:

  1. As the maker of all things and the ruler of all people, God has absolute rights of ownership over all people and places.
  2. God is not only the ultimate maker, ruler, and owner, but he is just and righteous in all that he does.
  3. All of us deserve God’s justice; none of us deserve God’s mercy.
  4. The Canaanites were enemies of God who deserved to be punished.
  5. God’s actions were not an example of ethnic cleansing.
  6. It was necessary to remove the Canaanites from the land.
  7. The destruction of the Canaanites is a picture of the final judgment.

He finishes with:

Read in this light, the terrible destruction recorded on the pages of Joshua in God’s Holy Word become not a “problem to solve,” but a wake-up call to all of us—to remain “pure and undefiled before God” (James 1:27), seeking him and his ways, and to faithfully share the gospel with our unbelieving neighbors and the unreached nations. Like Job, we must ultimately refrain from calling God’s goodness and justice into question, putting a hand over our mouth (Job 40:4) and marveling instead at the richness and the mystery of God’s great inscrutable mercy (Eph. 2:4). At the end of the day we will join Moses and the Lamb in singing this song of praise:

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

(Rev. 15:3-4)

You can read the article in full here.

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Update on Clive’s Health

Clive Doubleday

 

Clive went into hospital on Thursday 17th with an infection.  He ahd a reasonable night.  He has an infection and his white blood cell count is o.2, which is very low.  He is having intravenous antibiotics, and drugs to make his bone marrow produce more white blood cells.  He is in an isolation room to prevent further infection, and is recieving wonderful care from the hospital staff.  Clive will be in hospital until Monday.

  • Please pray that Clive’s body will react positively to the antibiotics and drugs.
  • That he will get a good amount of sleep to help his body recover.
  • For continued healing.

You can follow Clive’s progress at the Smile International website here.

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Suffering In Perspective

John Piper (Desiring God Ministries) and David Powlison (Christian Counselling and Educational Foundation) give us an excellent personal and Biblical perspective in the following article, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”, when they were diagnosed with cancer in 2006.  These are their main points:

  1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
  2. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
  3. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
  4. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
  5. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
  6. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
  7. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
  8. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
  9. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
  10. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.

You can read the full article where they flesh out these main points here.

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Cross-Centred Worship Songs

CJ Mahaney answers the question, why we should sing so many songs about the cross when there are so many other things we could be singing about?

First, since the cross is the storyline of Scripture, it should be the storyline of our corporate worship. The cross is the matter of “first importance” and it should be reflected in our singing on a weekly basis (1 Corinthians 15:3).

Second, we must never leave the impression during corporate worship that we do not need a mediator. There isn’t a moment where I don’t need a mediator. In light of the Father’s holiness and my sinfulness, I cannot approach him directly apart from Christ. It is quite possible for us to sing songs that are accurately extolling the attributes of God. But if the cross is absent, we leave the unintended impression that somehow I can approach the Father apart from a mediator—that I can experience intimacy with God apart from the One who died for my many sins.

Third, cross-centered songs imitate the heavenly model. In Revelation 5:1-14, for example, we catch a glimpse of eternal worship and our heavenly future. Jim Elliff has written, “One is taken aback by the emphasis upon the Cross in Revelation. Heaven does not ‘get over’ the cross, as if there are better things to think about; heaven is not only Christ-centered, but cross-centered, and quite blaring about it.” Amen! Every Sunday should be a heavenly preview as we survey the wondrous cross and as we sing of the Lamb who is worthy of our praise.

Forth, cross-centered songs affect our souls. You’ve heard the Martyn Lloyd-Jones quote about how most of our unhappiness comes from listening to ourselves more than we talk to ourselves. In light of this, corporate worship is a serious gift! Singing in corporate worship is a means of talking to yourself. This provides us an opportunity to stop listening to ourselves, to stop listening to sin, legalism, condemnation, and to begin singing and talking to ourselves. And by the end of corporate worship there is a good chance that we will experience the joy of the gospel. Not very often in our noisy world do we have such an opportunity to talk to ourselves. So what your church is saying in these moments of corporate singing is very important. And what a unique opportunity worship leaders have to transfer the hope of the gospel to people in corporate worship. And to think, you can do this each and every Sunday!

Cross-centered worship songs are vital to the life of the church.

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Moralism is not the Gospel

Excerpts from Albert Mohlers blog today:

In our own context, one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.

Sadly, this false gospel is particularly attractive to those who believe themselves to be evangelicals motivated by a biblical impulse. Far too many believers and their churches succumb to the logic of moralism and reduce the Gospel to a message of moral improvement. In other words, we communicate to lost persons the message that what God desires for them and demands of them is to get their lives straight…

Moralists can be categorized as both liberal and conservative. In each case, a specific set of moral concerns frames the moral expectation. As a generalization, it is often true that liberals focus on a set of moral expectations related to social ethics while conservatives tend to focus on personal ethics. The essence of moralism is apparent in both — the belief that we can achieve righteousness by means of proper behavior…….

Just as parents rightly teach their children to obey moral instruction, the church also bears responsibility to teach its own the moral commands of God and bear witness to the larger society of what God is declared to be right and good for His human creatures.

But these impulses, right and necessary as they are, are not the Gospel. Indeed, one of the most insidious false gospels is a moralism that promises the favor of God and the satisfaction of God’s righteousness to sinners if they will only behave and commit themselves to moral improvement.

The moralist impulse in the church reduces the Bible to a codebook for human behavior and substitutes moral instruction for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Far too many evangelical pulpits are given over to moralistic messages rather than the preaching of the Gospel……

Moralism makes sense to sinners, for it is but an expansion of what we have been taught from our earliest days. But moralism is not the Gospel, and it will not save. The only gospel that saves is the Gospel of Christ…….

The deadly danger of moralism has been a constant temptation to the church and an ever-convenient substitute for the Gospel. Clearly, millions of our neighbors believe that moralism is our message. Nothing less than the boldest preaching of the Gospel will suffice to correct this impression and to lead sinners to salvation in Christ.

Hell will be highly populated with those who were “raised right.” The citizens of heaven will be those who, by the sheer grace and mercy of God, are there solely because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Moralism is not the gospel.

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What Kind of Church do you go to?

How does your local church relate to it’s surrounding cultures and sub-cultures?

1)      The “Bomb-shelter” Church

  • Culture is bad and church is safe
  • “We” versus “Them” language used
  • Classic Fundamentalism

2)      The “Mirror” Church

  • The church reflects the surrounding culture
  • Cultural values overrule God’s Word
  • Classic Liberalism

3)      The “Parasitic Consumer” Church

  • The church uses the culture and community
  • The church only takes from the culture.
  • (Could be either Fundamentalism or Liberalism)

4)      The “City-within-a-City” Church

  • The Church reflects God’s Word
  • The Church engages the culture and community
  • The Church serves the culture and community
  • The Church offers an “alternative Way of life”
  • The Church is a “Boot Camp” for training Christians in worshipful, cross-centred thinking which leads to transformed (and continually transforming) lives, able to articulate and incarnate the Gospel, revealing the Gospel’s relevance in everyday life.

Which church is yours most like?

Which are you most like?

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