Saturday, July 02, 2011

I won't be blogging on July 4th either, so Happy Birthday to the USA!

Here are the full lyrics to a complicated, but beautiful poem:

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
’Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust;”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave![

These lyrics were added during the War Between the States:

When our land is illumined with liberty's smile,
If a foe from within strikes a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that tries to defile
The flag of the stars, and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained,
Who their birthright have gained
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.


I didn't log in to my computer in Canada Day, so here's this:

This is an excellent rendition of Canada's National Anthem. Below are the official lyrics of the first verse, followed by the second, third, and fourth stanzas, by Albert D. Watson:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
Lord of the lands, beneath Thy bending skies,
On field and flood, where’er our banner flies,
Thy people lift their hearts to Thee,
Their grateful voices raise:
May our dominion ever be
A temple to Thy praise.
Thy will alone let all enthrone:

Lord of the lands, make Canada Thine own:
Lord of the lands, make Canada Thine own!
Almighty Love, by Thy mysterious power,
In wisdom guide, with faith and freedom dower;
Be ours a nation evermore
That no oppression blights,
Where justice rules from shore to shore,
From lakes to northern lights.
May love alone for wrong atone;
Lord of the worlds, with strong eternal hand,
Hold us in honor, truth and self-command;
The loyal heart, the constant mind,
The courage to be true,
Our wide extending empire bind,
And all the earth renew.
Thy Name be known through every zone;
These lyrics are beautiful, and speak more of a Canada that was than what it is becoming.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today in History

The Current Week in 2011:
May 29

May 29, 1453: Constantinople, capital of Eastern Christianity since Constantine founded it in 324, falls to the Turks under Muhammad II, ending the Byzantine Empire. Muslims rename the city Istanbul and turn its lavish cathedral, Hagia Sophia, into a mosque (see issue 74: Christians & Muslims).

May 29, 1546: In retaliation for the execution of Reformation preacher George Wishart, Scottish Protestants murder Cardinal David Beaton in St. Andrews. John Knox, who was not part of the assassination plot, went on to lead the Scottish Reformation (see issue 46: John Knox).

May 29, 1660: England's King Charles II triumphantly enters London, marking the full restoration of the monarchy. Though he promised religious liberty, he cracked down on Dissenters (including John Bunyan) following a 1661 attempt by religous fanatics to overthrow him (see issue 11: John Bunyan).

May 29, 1874: English essayist, poet, and writer G.K. Chesterton is born in London. The 400-pound man was occasionally absent-minded, but brilliant. He loved paradoxes, which he called "supreme assertions of truth," and used them often in his writing. Poet T.S. Eliot credited him with doing "more than any man in his time … to maintain the existence of the [Christian] minority in the modern world." Chesterton converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1922 (see issue 75: G.K. Chesterton).

May 29, 1967: Pope Paul VI names 27 new cardinals, including then-archbishop of Krakow, Poland, Karol Wojtyla, later to be Pope John Paul II (see issue 65: The Ten Most Influential Christians of the Twentieth Century).

May 30

May 30, 339: Eusebius dies at age 74. Author of the 10-volume Ecclesiastical History, he is called the father of church history. In his Day , though, he was as much a maker of history as a recorder. At the Council of Nicea, he argued for peace between the heretical Arians and Orthodox leaders like Athanasius. When Arianism became hugely popular after the Council, Eusebius was one of the people to depose Athanasius. Though he wasn't an Arian himself, he strongly opposed anti-Arianism (see issue 72: How We Got Our History).

May 30, 1416: Jerome of Prague burns at the stake for heresy. When the Council of Constance arrested and tried his fellow Bohemian reformer Jan Hus, Jerome went to defend him, sealing his own fate (see issue 68: Jan Hus).

May 30, 1431: French mystic and revolutionary Joan of Arc burns at the stake for heresy. Her last words were, "Jesus, Jesus" (see issue 30: Women in the Medieval Church).

May 30, 1672: The governor of Rhode Island cordially entertains Quaker founder George Fox. "Most of the pupils had never heard of Friends before," Fox said, "but they were mightily affected with the meeting, and there is a great desire amongst them after the Truth.

May 30, 1822: A slave betrays the plans of African Methodist (and former slave) Denmark Vesey to stage a massive slave uprising on July 14. Of the 131 African Americans arrested in the plot, 35 were executed (including Vesey) and 43 were deported. Vesey's Charleston, South Carolina, church was closed until 1865 (see issue 62: Bound for Canaan).

May 30, 1934: The first synod of the Confessing Church at Barmen ends. Influenced by Karl Barth, the synod resisted the teachings of the Nazi German Christians (see issue 32: Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

May 31

May 31, 1578: Italian archaeologist Antonio Bosio discovers the Christian catacombs in Rome. Some have mistaken them for places of refuge or worship, but Christians used them mainly as burial chambers.

May 31, 1638: Puritan pastor Thomas Hooker arrives in what is now Connecticut, after leaving Massachusetts because of a rivalry with Roger Williams. The minister also helped organize America's first federal government, the United Colonies of New England (see issue 41: The American Puritans).

May 31, 1701: Alexander Cruden, whose biblical concordance is still the standard for the King James Version, is born in Aberdeen, Scotland. Prone to erratic behavior, he worked on the concordance between mental breakdowns.

June 1

June 1, 165 (traditional date): Justin, an early Christian apologist, is beheaded with his disciples for their faith. "If we are punished for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, we hope to be saved," he said just before his death. Christians soon named him Justin Martyr (see issue 27: Persecution in the Early Church).

June 1, 1843: Isabella Baumfree, having received a vision of God telling her to "travel up an' down the land showin' the people their sins an' bein' a sign unto them," leaves New York and changes her name to Sojourner Truth. She became one of the most famous abolitionists and women's rights lecturers in American history (see issue 62: Bound for Canaan).

June 2

June 2, 553: The Second Council of Constantinople closes, having condemned Nestorian teachings. Nestorianism teaches Jesus incarnate was two separate persons—one divine, the other human—rather than one person with two natures (see issue 51: Heresy in the Early Church).

June 2, 597: Augustine, missionary to England and first archbishop of Canterbury, baptizes Saxon king Ethelbert, the first Christian English king. The missionary's tomb in Canterbury bears this epitaph: "Here rests Augustine, first archbishop of Canterbury, who being sent hither by Gregory, bishop of Rome, reduced King Ethelbert and his nation from the worship of idols to the faith of Christ" (see the article on Bede in issue 72: How We Got Our History).

June 2, 1491: Henry VIII, the English king who went from being called "Defender of the Faith" by the pope (for attacking Martin Luther) to galvanizing the English Reformation, is born in Greenwich (see issue 48: Thomas Cranmer).

June 2, 1875: JamesAugustine Healy becomes the first African-American Roman Catholic bishop in the U.S. However, he never really identified himself with the black community.

June 2, 1979: Pope John Paul II makes a return trip to his home country of Poland, the first visit by a pope to a Communist country (see issue 65: The Ten Most Influential Christians of the Twentieth Century).

June 3

June 3, 1098: After a seven-month siege, the armies of the First Crusade recapture Antioch (now in Turkey) from the Muslims (see issue 40: The Crusades).

June 3, 1162: Thomas a Becket is consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury. Nominated by his friend, King Henry II (Becket had previously served as his chancellor), Becket underwent a radical change as archbishop. He became pious and devoted to the church, which Henry found annoying. When knights heard the king grumbling, they killed Becket as he prayed.

June 3, 1647: The Puritan British Parliament bans Christmas and other holiDay s.

June 3, 1905: Hudson Taylor, English missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission, dies. "China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women," he once said. "The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, [and] souls first and foremost in everything and at every time—even life itself must be secondary" (see issue 52: Hudson Taylor).

June 3, 1963: Pope John XXIII, convener of the Second Vatican Council, dies. Expected to be merely a "caretaker pope," he ushered in some of the Roman Catholic Church's most momentous changes in its history (see issue 65: The Ten Most Influential Christians of the Twentieth Century).

June 3, 1980: Catholic and Eastern Orthodox representatives meet officially for the first time since the Great Schism of 1054 (see issue 54: Eastern Orthodoxy).

June 4

June 4, 1873: Charles F. Parham, founder of the Apostolic Faith movement and one of the founders of the modern Pentecostal movement, is born in Muscatine, Iowa. In 1900 he founded the Bethel Bible School, where speaking in tongues broke out—launching the Pentecostal movement (see issue 58: Pentecostalism).

June 4, 1948: The Far East Broadcasting Company, based in the Philippines and broadcasting across Asia, goes on-air with the staff singing "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Today in History

May 29, 1453: Constantinople, capital of Eastern Christianity since Constantine founded it in 324, falls to the Turks under Muhammad II, ending the Byzantine Empire. Muslims rename the city Istanbul and turn its lavish cathedral, Hagia Sophia, into a mosque (see issue 74: Christians & Muslims).

May 29, 1546: In retaliation for the execution of Reformation preacher George Wishart, Scottish Protestants murder Cardinal David Beaton in St. Andrews. John Knox, who was not part of the assassination plot, went on to lead the Scottish Reformation.

May 29, 1660: England's King Charles II triumphantly enters London, marking the full restoration of the monarchy. Though he promised religious liberty, he cracked down on Dissenters (including John Bunyan) following a 1661 attempt by religous fanatics to overthrow him.

May 29, 1874: English essayist, poet, and writer G.K. Chesterton is born in London. The 400-pound man was occasionally absent-minded, but brilliant. He loved paradoxes, which he called "supreme assertions of truth," and used them often in his writing. Poet T.S. Eliot credited him with doing "more than any man in his time … to maintain the existence of the [Christian] minority in the modern world." Chesterton converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1922.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Alexander Campbell, from Christian History Magazine

Today in History

May 28, 1533: English reformer Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, declares King Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn valid, having earlier approved the king's divorce of Catherine of Aragon.

May 28, 1841: Edwin Moody dies, leaving his wife to raise 4-year-old Dwight Lyman and eight other children. D.L. Moody went on to become the leading American evangelist of his generation.

May 28, 1954: US President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a bill adding the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy 400th KJV (King James Version)

To help celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publishing of the KJV, I would like to acknowledge how important that version of the Bible is for our language today. Below is a sample of phrases and figures of speech we owe to the KJV:

See eye to eye.

To play the fool.

By the skin of my teeth.

In the twinkling of an eye.

All things to all men.

Man after my own heart.

Thorn in the flesh.

My brother's keeper.

The patience of Job.

Fall from grace.

Salt of the earth.

Lick the dust.

At his wits' ends.

Fly in the ointment

Cast the first stone.

Give up the ghost.

Flesh and blood.

Physician heal thyself.

No rest for the wicked.

Go the extra mile.

Good Samaritan.

Feet of clay.

Filthy lucre.

Signs of the times.

A law unto themselves.

Born again.

A brood of vipers.

Eat, drink and be merry.

Fight the good fight.

Nothing new under the sun.

Put words in one's mouth.

The way of all flesh.

Woe is me.

The root of the matter.

Strait and narrow.


Are there any more? Thanks to John Peter Bodner, Hope Assembly of Bible Christians, Mississauga, ON.

Religious Freedom and The Supreme Court of Canada

Note that no one in the crowd is calling for a beheading.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Accommodation Fail

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board has released a "Equity Policy Interim Religious Accommodation Guide." You may read or download it here. You may comment on it here, by 4 pm, June 9th.

I found it to be largly a concession that some students come from homes where the religon of the family requires them to eat differently, dress differently, celebrate different days, etc. But where it really matters, what the student really thinks, believes, and the implications of those beliefs (politics, ethics, morals, "secular decisions" etc), the Ontario Human Rights Code is the final bible, scripture, pope, and council of elders.

After reading the policy, you may wish to peruse my comments below:

overall comment 
This document does not address the harassment of religious beliefs by teachers. This problem was recently highlighted in the Hamilton Spectator (13 Friday, 2011).

At best, it acknowledges differences in diet, dress, and religious holidays, but not the heart of religion, which is its practise in morality, ethics, and politics. This policy assumes a secular understanding of belief that no major world religion believes of itself or could accept as a description of itself.

From Page 2:

"The existence of religious beliefs and practices are both necessary and sufficient to the meaning of creed, if the beliefs and practices are sincerely held and/or observed."

What is the test of sincerity? How will the School Board ensure that such a test is administered fairly and evenly? Are there objective measures of sincerity?

From Page 2:

"Creed does not include secular, moral, or ethical beliefs or political convictions. This policy does not extend to religions that incite hatred or violence against other individuals or groups, or to practices and observances that purport to have a religious basis, but which contravene international human rights standards or criminal law."

This definition of creed itself violates religious freedom, because it limits the nature of creed to the realm of the private. Convictions are the necessary outcome of creeds. This statement basically asserts the right to hold a creed, but not the right to hold it to the point of acting upon it.

This statement does nothing to protect a student from harassment, arising from moral, ethical, or political teaching that directly contravenes their faith.

Most religions of convictions do indeed contravene international rights standards. For example, homosexuality is understood as sinful behaviour in the Christian community. Is the Christian student taught otherwise, against his/her creed? How is this not harassment?

How does the policy against the incitement of hatred or violence square with religions that advocate violence against other religions?

As to the matter of "inciting violence," this is really a red herring that raises the most extreme outcome of a religious commitment; for "violence" has been so widely interpreted to describe anyone upset by a religious discussion as a victim of violence (unless, of course, that violence is perpetrated by the school against a religious student's beliefs). Furthermore, if the school board really practised this, all forms of Islam would be banned in all its expressions.

From Page 8:

"It cannot, however, accommodate religious values and beliefs that clearly conflict with mandated Ministry of Education and Board policies."

This means that if the Ministry of Education mandates an immoral sex education curriculum, there is no exemption based upon faith.

There really is no religious accommodation where it matters--the student's life.

Page 9:

"The right to freedom of religion, however, is not absolute."

"These decisions will be made in accordance with the principles of the Ontario Human Rights Code."

This is an important point. Who determines the limits of religious freedom? It appears that the Ontario Human Rights Code is absolute. This is unacceptable to any person who believes that absolutes are God's prerogative, not government's.  I believe that the inclusion of this final point indicates that Ministry of Education, and by extension, the HWDSB has neither the will, intention, nor the ability to deal with religious issues in schools. This is a problem of a government monopoly on education, and can only be solved by funding of separate religious school boards.

final comment
The writers have the secular arrogance that purports to see all religions and cultures as of equal truth, and therefore of equal validity and worth. Religious people themselves do not see themselves through the secular lens, so this whole document comes off as very condescending. What the writers don't seem to get is that whether Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Atheist, etc., the holder of these positions do, at some point, understand their faith to be true in an absolute sense.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Think about Reading the Bible

Look at Your Fish
by Samuel H. Scudder, from
Every Saturday April 4, 1874.

It was more than fifteen years ago that I entered the laboratory of Professor Agassiz, and told him I had enrolled my name in the scientific school as a student of natural history. He asked me a few questions about my object in coming, my antecedents generally, the mode in which I afterwards proposed to use the knowledge I might acquire, and finally, whether I wished to study any special branch. To the latter I replied that while I wished to be well grounded in all departments of zoology, I purposed to devote myself specially to insects.
“When do you wish to begin?” he asked.
“Now,” I replied.
This seemed to please him, and with an energetic “Very well,” he reached from a shelf a huge jar of specimens in yellow alcohol.
“Take this fish,” he said, “and look at it; we call it a Haemulon; by and by I will ask what you have seen.”
With that he left me. . . . I was conscious of a passing feeling of disappointment, for gazing at a fish did not commend itself to an ardent entomologist. . . . .
In ten minutes I had seen all that could be seen in that fish, and started in search of the professor, who had, however, left the museum; and when I returned, after lingering over some of the odd animals stored in the upper apartment, my specimen was dry all over. I dashed the fluid over the fish as if to resuscitate it from a fainting-fit, and looked with anxiety for a return of a normal, sloppy appearance. This little excitement over, nothing was to be done but return to a steadfast gaze at my mute companion. Half an hour passed, an hour, another hour; the fish began to look loathsome. I turned it over and around; looked it in the face—ghastly; from behind, beneath, above, sideways, at a three-quarters view—just as ghastly. I was in despair; at an early hour, I concluded that lunch was necessary; so with infinite relief, the fish was carefully replaced in the jar, and for an hour I was free.
On my return, I learned that Professor Agassiz had been at the museum, but had gone and would not return for several hours. My fellow students were too busy to be disturbed by continued conversation. Slowly I drew forth that hideous fish, and with a feeling of desperation again looked at it. I might not use a magnifying glass; instruments of all kinds were interdicted. My two hands, my two eyes, and the fish; it seemed a most limited field. I pushed my fingers down its throat to see how sharp its teeth were. I began to count the scales in the different rows until I was convinced that that was nonsense. At last a happy thought struck me—I would draw the fish; and now with surprise I began to discover new features in the creature. Just then the professor returned.
“That is right,” said he, “a pencil is one of the best eyes. I am glad to notice, too, that you keep your specimen wet and your bottle corked.”
With these encouraging words he added—
“Well, what is it like?”
He listened attentively to my brief rehearsal of the structure of parts whose names were still unknown to me; the fringed gill-arches and movable operculum; the pores of the head, fleshly lips, and lidless eyes; the lateral line, the spinous fin, and forked tail; the compressed and arched body. When I had finished, he waited as if expecting more, and then, with an air of disappointment:
“You have not looked very carefully; why,” he continued, more earnestly, “you haven’t seen one of the most conspicuous features of the animal, which is as plainly before your eyes as the fish itself. Look again; look again!” And he left me to my misery.
I was piqued; I was mortified. Still more of that wretched fish? But now I set myself to the task with a will, and discovered one new thing after another, until I saw how just the professor’s criticism had been. The afternoon passed quickly, and when, towards its close, the professor inquired,
“Do you see it yet?”
“No,” I replied. “I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before.”
“That is next best,” said he earnestly, “but I won’t hear you now; put away your fish and go home; perhaps you will be ready with a better answer in the morning. I will examine you before you look at the fish.”
This was disconcerting; not only must I think of my fish all night, studying, without the object before me, what this unknown but most visible feature might be, but also, without reviewing my new discoveries, I must give an exact account of them the next day. I had a bad memory; so I walked home by Charles River in a distracted state, with my two perplexities.
The cordial greeting from the professor the next morning was reassuring; here was a man who seemed to be quite as anxious as I that I should see for myself what he saw.
“Do you perhaps mean,” I asked, “that the fish has symmetrical sides with paired organs?”
His thoroughly pleased, “Of course, of course!” repaid the wakeful hours of the previous night. After he had discoursed most happily and enthusiastically—as he always did—upon the importance of this point, I ventured to ask what I should do next.
“Oh, look at your fish!” he said, and left me again to my own devices. In a little more than an hour he returned and heard my new catalogue.
“That is good, that is good!” he repeated, “but that is not all; go on.” And so for three long days, he placed that fish before my eyes, forbidding me to look at anything else, or to use any artificial aid. “Look, look, look,” was his repeated injunction.
This was the best entomological lesson I ever had—a lesson whose influence was extended to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy the professor has left to me, as he left it to many others, of inestimable value, which we could not buy, with which we cannot part. . . .
The fourth day a second fish of the same group was placed beside the first, and I was bidden to point out the resemblances and differences between the two; another and another followed, until the entire family lay before me, and a whole legion of jars covered the table and surrounding shelves; the odor had become a pleasant perfume; and even now, the sight of an old six-inch worm-eaten cork brings fragrant memories!
The whole group of Haemulons was thus brought into review; and whether engaged upon the dissection of the internal organs, preparation and examination of the bony framework, or the description of the various parts, Agassiz’s training in the method of observing facts in their orderly arrangement, was ever accompanied by the urgent exhortation not to be content with them.
“Facts are stupid things,” he would say, “until brought into connection with some general law.”
At the end of eight months, it was almost with reluctance that I left these friends and turned to insects; but what I gained by this outside experience has been of greater value than years of later investigation in my favorite groups.

Ash Heap Lives by Francis Schaeffer

Ash Heap Lives

The world is afire. Not only do we face strenuous days now, but, if my projections are right, we can expect our times to become even more difficult. I think it is probable that God's people are about to enter a struggle unlike anything they have experienced for many generations. The next two to five decades will make the last few years look like child's play.

We Christians should be asking ourselves, "What must we do to speak effectively to such a world?" I believe with all my heart that in order to speak to this generation we must act like a Bible-believing people. We can emphasize a message faithful to the Bible and the purity of the visible church, but if we do not practice this truth we cannot expect anyone to listen to us.

Yet we must go on even deeper than this; we must go on to a Bible-centered spirituality. In the last chapter of Death in the City, I point out that each person sits in one of two chairs — either the naturalist chair or the supernaturalist chair — and he perceives everything in the universe from the perspective of that chair. When an individual is born again, he moves from the former chair to the latter. The tragedy is that even after a Christian has affirmed the supernatural it is perfectly possible for him, in practice, to move back to the naturalist chair and spend most of the rest of his life there, seeing things from the same perspective as the world and living on the same basis. If a man does not believe the promises of God for salvation, we say he is in unbelief. The position of a Christian who sits in the naturalist chair is what I call unfaith. Many Christians live much of their lives there. I wish to speak to this problem, not by stressing the positive aspects of spiritual things (I have done this in True Spirituality, The Mark of the Christian and at the end of Death in the City), but by dealing with the negative — the danger of materialism in a Christian's life.

Practical Materialism

Materialism can be understood in several ways. Those who are philosophically oriented will think of philosophic materialism. This perspective, which dominates our educational system today, is antithetical to Christianity. It says that man is only the energy particle more complex and that religion is no more than a psychological or sociological tool. So Christians reject this; they cannot be this sort of materialist.

Some people will think of the materialism represented by the communist philosophy and communist nations — dialectical materialism. And because it is horrible that these states limit the perspective of millions of people (especially the children) to an entirely materialistic explanation of life, as well as subordinate the individual to the state, Christians cry out, "Down with dialectical materialism!"

But even Christians can reject both of these materialisms and yet not escape from a third kind — what I call practical materialism. Tragically, all too many of us live out this antithesis of true spirituality. We all tend to live "ash heap lives"; we spend most of our time and money for things that will end up in the city dump.

Practical materialism is difficult to escape in any age, but it is especially hard today because we all tend to be influenced by the spirit around us, and in the United States and the Western world most people have only two values — personal peace and affluence. Many young people have rejected their parents' style of materialism only to come round in a big circle to their own kind. As long as they have enough money to pay for their life-style, they care about nothing else.

" Are Christians ever like this? I remember our first years on the mission field" (1948-49). We came to a Europe filled with poverty-stricken people. In this setting, were material possessions automatically an asset in missionary work? There were not many automobiles in Rome (perhaps happily, when we think of Rome today), but a missionary invited me into a big American car and drove me through the streets. How wrong he was to think that the impressive automobile, shipped over on a boat at great expense, landed on a dock at Genoa and driven to Rome, would automatically increase his effectiveness. It did not; it diminished it. His abuse of possessions was both unspiritual and insensitive. I left Rome thinking, "Here is real materialism."

Spain, too, was bitterly poor. With the exception of a very few wealthy, most people's lives were dreadful. Yet I was invited to a missionary's apartment which was overwhelmingly luxurious — not, perhaps, in comparison to what this same man would have had as a pastor in America, but exceedingly affluent by Spanish standards then. He said to me, "I don't understand it, but we seem separated from the people. There seems to be a wall between us and them." What do you think happened when he invited the poor people into his luxurious home to a Bible study? The effort was useless.

In Europe today, of course, this is not true. But there are still countries in the world where the Christians' use of money creates a "we-they" dichotomy. Such a situation cannot possibly lead people to believe that Christians are serious about trusting their Father in Heaven and about sharing with their fellow men.

Do we understand that material possessions are not necessarily good in themselves even in this life? Let me give two illustrations from our early days in Switzerland. When we first came to the villages of Switzerland, most of the women washed their clothes at the village pumps. This was not just something staged for a tourist postcard. When I saw them walking down to the village fountain, putting their hands in the cold water, and standing outside even in bad weather, my typical American reaction was, "Isn't this a shame? Wouldn't it be wonderful if these people had washing machines." Gradually a different idea dawned on me — working at the fountain took up a lot of the woman's day, but she spent the time talking with other village women, doing a necessary job; she existed in a very human setting. Was that worse than a woman in the United States or a woman in Europe today who has a great number of labor-saving devices — who pops her dirty clothes into a washer and leaves them — but who spends all her time being morose and lonely? The question is, What does she do with the time she saves? If she spends all her time just doing nothing or destroying herself and her family, wouldn't she be better off washing at the village pump?

Also, when I first came to Europe, many women worked in the field because farm machinery was scarce. Even on the larger farms, most jobs had to be done by hand, and this was certainly true on the small Swiss farms. In those days, the work was hard. Now all the Swiss have lovely little tractors, made especially for the mountainsides. But then cutting the hay meant working the scythe by hand and loading the wagon. And I saw women out laboring with their husbands, sometimes doing the hard work of pitching the hay. I thought of all the American women who did not have to do this: "My, wouldn't it be wonderful if the Swiss women could be saved from this hard physical work?" But I have changed my mind. The women who worked with their husbands shoulder to shoulder during the day and then slept with them at night had one of the greatest riches in the world. Is anything worse than our modern affluent situation where the wife has no share in the real life of her husband?

Is it really true, then, that having increased material possessions is automatically good, even in this life? No. Of all people, Christians should know this because God's Word teaches it. We must not get caught up in practical materialism.

Laying Up Treasure

In seeing beyond the present life, a Christian's perspective is supposed to be different. We must never live in the perspective of this life alone, but should affirm that our present existence has a horizontal extension into a life to come. The Bible tells us that a cause-and-effect relationship exists between what happens now and what happens in eternity. We are often told, "You can't take it with you." But this is not true. You can take it with you — if you are a Christian. The question is, Will we?

Jesus Himself taught this: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust cloth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Matt. 6:19, 20).

This statement is to be taken literally. Jesus never uttered mere "god words." Liberal theologians with the concept of realized eschatology consider this only a way of stirring up motivation for the present life, but this is not the Bible's perspective. Jesus was not merely making a psychological adjustment inside a man's head. He was telling us that in actual fact we can lay up our treasure in one of two places. In one place, it will assuredly rot away; in the other, it will never decay. We can lay up money in land or investments, but we can lay it up just as realistically and objectively in Heaven. It is as though Jesus had mentioned the First National Bank in New York as opposed to the Banque Suisse and said that you can choose to make your investments in either America or Switzerland. The perspective of our lives should be that we can lay up treasure in one of two places — earth or Heaven.

Jesus emphasized this in a parable:


And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spoke a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease. Eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:15-21)


These are strong words: a man is a fool to put money in a bank that is not going to last when he can deposit it in a bank that will.

Often this is used as an evangelistic text to point out that anyone is foolish who builds for this life while forgetting that one day he will have to stand before God in judgment. Undoubtedly this truth is involved here, but there is more. Jesus is not only speaking to the man who spends all of his time, as so many do, accumulating wealth with no thought of God. He is also addressing Christians. If we are acting like this, then either we do not really believe in the future life, or we are fools for laying up all our money in a bank that can be plundered. Death will strip us of all the material possessions we leave upon this earth. Death is a thief Five minutes after we die, our most treasured possessions which are invested in this life are absolutely robbed from us. It is a terrible thing that many Christians read this passage year in, year out, and they never see that it applies to them.

Jesus summed all this up in yet another statement: "Sell what ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth" (Luke 12:33). Imagine a man who has to carry $5,000 over the Alps and who has a choice of two bags. One is made of cheesecloth, and he knows that if he uses it the money will soon begin dribbling out. So he chooses the other — a heavy leather bag. When he arrives at his destination the money is safe. Jesus is just as explicit: when we lay up our treasures in this life, we have chosen a worthless bag. We are going someplace, you know, and when we arrive we do not want to find we have left everything upon the way.

Notice that Jesus introduces the statement about bags with a practical implication: "Sell what ye have, and give alms." The Scripture makes no distinction between giving to the needy and giving to missionary work. Often to the evangelical mind, money given to missions is the only money given to the Lord. Now, I am not minimizing contributing to missionary work. Christians do not do this enough. In fact, Christians in countries like the United States and Britain will have to answer to God for investing such a small amount in missions. But there is also a practical humanitarianism in the Scripture. Christians have the important job of meeting men's material needs as well as their personal and spiritual needs. The book of James is strong on just that point. If the church had practiced and preached this truth during and after the Industrial Revolution, we probably would not be in our current mess. Today we in the evangelical church in the affluent countries must understand and believe that we can lay up treasures in Heaven both through our missionary giving and through other uses of our money to care for people and especially our fellow-Christians.

There is a peculiar kind of right of private property in the Bible — a private property, an acquired property, an accumulated property that cares for people. And this we have forgotten. Our choice is not between an accumulated property, which is hard, cold and unloving (characterized by people who care for nobody but themselves as they amass great fortunes) and a socialism in which the state owns everything. The Christian has a third option — property acquired and used with compassion.

Making Friends

Jesus had other things to say about the right use of possessions:


And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, who had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? For my lord taketh away from me the stewardship. I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely; for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fall, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. (Luke 16:1-9)


The steward's lord commended him not because he was unjust, but "because he had done wisely." Jesus applies this to you and me: "And I say to you, Make to yourself friends." How? By the wise use of your present riches. In other words, if you want to be wise, make friends by the way you use your money, so that when you die these friends who are then already in Heaven will receive you into everlasting habitations. This is a realistic picture, not just an upper-story situation, something Jesus said only to enable people to bear their present problems.

If you are a Christian, you are really going to be in Heaven, and some of the people you now know will be there, and they will speak with you about what you did in this life. Somebody will say to you, "Thank you so much for the money you gave me when my children were starving. I didn't have a chance to thank you then, but I do now." "I remember the night you opened your home to me, when you moved over and shared your table with me." This is what Jesus was saying, and He implied that you are a fool if you do not keep this in mind. This is taking our material possessions with us in a most practical manner. There is a horizontal continuity from this life to the life to come.

Jesus continued his commentary on the parable with these words,


He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Luke 16:10-13)


The "true riches" obviously have nothing to do with money. To have spiritual power to help overcome the awfulness of the post-Christian world — that is true riches. The church is constantly saying, "Where's our power?" Jesus' statement here gives us at least part of the answer. We must use money with a view to what counts in eternity. If a child cannot take his father's money, go to the store, purchase what is requested, and return home with the change, it does not make sense for the father to increase his allowance. So since, like the steward in the parable, the money we handle is not our own, if we do not bring it under the Lordship of Christ, we will not be given the greater wealth of spiritual power.

Some of His hearers did not readily accept Jesus' words: "The Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things; and they derided him" (16:14). These were men of the orthodox party — did they fight for their orthodoxy! Yet they laughed at Jesus because they did not want any part of this teaching. Let me say with tears that as far as material possessions, time, energy and talents are concerned, all too many Bible-believing Christians live as though their entire existence is limited to this side of the grave.

We cannot ignore Jesus' statement about these two irreconcilable reference points: "You cannot serve God and money" (Matt. 6:24). Either riches in this life, or the reality of God and the future — one of them must give the overshadowing cast to our lives. To the extent that wealth (or power) is our reference point, we are spiritually poor. If we were to plot this on a graph, as the line indicating the importance we place on possessions rises a second line indicating spiritual reality plummets. We cannot expect the power of God if our reference point is the things of this world, for practical materialism and true spirituality have no affinity for one another.

Jesus summed all this up by saying, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:21). Our decision about which bank we store our wealth in is a spiritual phenomenon! It is a piece of spiritual litmus paper, or to use another image, a spiritual thermometer. It tests the reality of our faith and indicates our spiritual health. If we are living only in the perspective of this life, our spiritual temperature is low indeed.

Imagine a man speaking about his retirement. "When I retire," he says, "I am going to live in such-and-such a house." He talks about this house incessantly, so much so that finally you decide to take a look at it. You are surprised to find it a shambles — with its shutters off, its windows broken, and everything grown over. Would we believe that the man really thought to retire there? Well, what about us? We say we are looking forward to Heaven, but we let our heavenly home fall into ruins while we invest everything we have in a house that is not going to last. Why should people take us seriously when we claim we really believe we are going to be in Heaven? What is involved is not just the amount of money we give to "the church." What is involved is the way we spend it all.

We have a right to spend money — do not misunderstand me and start feeling guilty for the wrong reasons. We are not automatically spiritual if we despise money. Many of the younger generation think they are superior if they simply despise wealth and things. We need clothes and food. There is a time to buy flowers and to take a vacation. What is important is not despising acquired wealth; it is using all our money wisely before the face of God.

On the Ash Heap

I lived in St. Louis before the city passed the smoke ordinances, so everybody had a concrete or brick dump in the back of his yard. As you walked in the front of the houses, they looked terrific; but as you walked through the alleys, you had to hold your nose. Inside these small, burning dumps one could see all the things people had spent their lives for.

Have you ever walked through a city dump? You should. When I was growing up in Philadelphia, I would hike every Saturday. To get to the clean air of the country, I used to save a couple miles by tramping through the city dump. I have never forgotten this. It was a place of junk, fire, stench. It has helped me tremendously to think back on that place, because even as a boy I realized that I saw there almost everything people spend their money for. That was where their investment ended. Some things may be handed down in a family for 500 years (though certainly most things you buy today will not), but someday they will be gone. Here is a topic for Christian artists or poets: "Meditation on the Ash Heap" or "Ode on a City Dump."

Have you ever had to "break up" a rich man's house after he has died? It is a sad thing to go through the home of someone who has spent his entire life laying up riches in this world. I recall one instance where a non-Christian man had owned a large, gorgeous dining room table. He had had it built inside his house and had been very proud of it. When it came time to dispense his household goods, there was no way to take the table apart without spoiling it; so they simply took an axe, chopped it up, and threw the pieces on a fire. The admonition of Jesus had come to pass: the man had proved himself a fool; his possessions were either destroyed or carted away. How pathetic!

In our culture nothing has exhibited such folly more than our automobiles. Go to a showroom and see the pride with which a man drives out his new car. Then think of an automobile graveyard or a rusting, stripped, junked car, abandoned on a city street. They are shells screaming out tremendous sermons against all practical materialism: "You're fools! You're fools! You're fools!" And Christians — as well as any others — can be such fools with their wealth.

One experience vividly taught me this lesson. Edith and I had had a Model A Ford. In it we had courted and honeymooned. In it we had rushed to the hospital where Priscilla was born. It was our car during our first pastorate. It was precious to me, but after I had broken a spring hauling youngsters to summer Bible school and was driving up the street on a slant, the church decided it was getting too ramshackled for their testimony; so they asked me to get a new one. I was sad about my old automobile, I felt like a traitor; but the new car was tremendous! It was a brand new (to me) secondhand Chevrolet. It was polished as only secondhand auto salesrooms polish cars. I have never been more filled with pride than when I left the showroom. But I did not get home before someone passed me too closely in a narrow alley and put a long scratch on the fender, and the joy was gone. But I am so glad it got scratched. That was one of the best things that ever happened to me, for suddenly I learned how much possessions stink if you look at them in the wrong perspective.

Tried by Fire

Christians should also keep in mind that their works will be judged. The Apostle Paul described that judgment:


According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth on it. But let every man take heed how he buildeth upon it. For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver precious stones, wood, hay, stubble — Every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built upon it, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet as by fire. (1 Cor. 3:10-15)


A Christian has only one foundation: Jesus Christ his Savior. And on that foundation he builds — with either combustible or noncombustible material. One day there will be a believers' judgment because we live in a moral universe and every book must be balanced in the presence of the holy judge, and in that judgment the fire will come. I picture it as a great prairie fire which sweeps along burning everything in its path. Suddenly it comes to a great rock, leaps up over it, and passes on. Everything on that rock which can be burned (the wood, hay and stubble) is consumed; everything that cannot be burned (the gold, silver and precious stones) stands for eternity. The Spirit inspired Paul to make it plain (and Paul knew the question would arise) that this does not concern salvation. The building may be destroyed, but the builder still will live. The tragedy is that after we are born again, we can build upon the Rock things that are going to be consumed, so that after we have stood before the Lord Jesus Christ as judge we have little left. This is a danger not only to businessmen but to missionaries and ministers, not only to individuals but to congregations and organizations.

By God's grace, let us not be infiltrated by the values of affluence and personal peace. Let us use the treasures God has given us in such a way that when we come to that day we will have treasures laid up in Heaven and people eagerly waiting for us.

Page . Exported from Logos Bible Software 4, 12:55 AM May-15-11.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Implications of Biblical Authority

As a follow-up to a previous post about hate speech, I feel the need to comment on the implications of Biblical authority, or, what we mean when we say that we think the Bible is actually true. "Authority is the right and power to command, enforce laws, exact obedience, determine or judge." (Elwell, W. A. (2001). Evangelical dictionary of theology: Second Edition (153). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic). Do Christians believe this? Have Christians historically believed the Bible to be true, but still struggle throughout history with what that truth implies? Or, is it more like theologian David Wells asserts, that the Bible is held in high esteem, but "rests lightly" upon the church today? If one takes time to read statements of faith, doctrinal statements, "what we believe" notices on church websites, it appears that many, if not most churches, really do believe that the Bible is the "infallible Word of God" (or some phrase like it). But one must wonder if many within these same churches know what the Bible actually says, or what conclusions may be drawn from the Words.

I recall a Sunday school class I was teaching over 30 years ago; teenagers, reading their Bibles in class. What struck me was their ability to read all the words of a text with no difficulty or stumbling, without coming away with a grasp of what that text meant. I don't mean they were just shy and didn't want to talk about it; even after a simple, straightforward explanation of the paragraph (from the Gospels), none in that large class could tell me what the main point was, the "big idea," theme, whatever. It was almost as if reading the text was an exercise in reading

Now these teens may have suffered from an inadequate education, one in which they learned to pronounce but never to read. But Christians have a responsibility to hear or read, understand, and submit to the authority of the Word. Failure to comprehend and accept the idea of authority will result in a failure to be shaped and formed by Scripture. Reading the Bible without considering how it impacts our lives, and will certainly impact the lives of all people, everywhere, at all times, is little more than reading words with no connection.

In the marketplace of ideas, the Bible, and the Christian faith it forms, is one voice among many. As long as Christians accept this description, they will find themselves in no serious trouble. But problems will arise when Christians understand two things:

1) the rest of the world sees the Bible as one voice among many equally valued and cherished views;

2) that view #1 is nonsense if one is a Christian, Biblically defined. The Bible's own self-description is that it is authoritative for believer and unbeliever alike. This dissonance will be a part of the Christian's existence all of his or her life.

The Bible, as the Word of God, cannot be true only contextually. It is true, even when it chafes against social/personal/psychological/ethical/moral norms. This is why the Bible may be deemed "hate literature." It is not because it has been changed to be hateful, but because some cultural contexts now see its doctrines and values as hateful. This is not new, for even in the 1st century, the church preached the Gospel in a milieu that would receive it as "hate speech." The difference between that time and now is that in the first century, the "victims" of Christian "hate" had the power and authority to dispatch the Christians quickly. The Bible has not changed, but society has, and will continue to do so. In Europe and North America, we are experiencing the decline of Biblical faith and the ascendancy of secularism, which is a chauvinistic, bigoted, and intolerant view as any of the fundamentalisms it chooses to vilify.

So we watch aghast as Anglican (Episcopal) churches take church properties away from congregations that built and maintained them, sometimes for over a century. The reason is that the congregations had the nerve to commit to a form of Biblical Christianity, instead of the apostasy from the historical faith, an apostasy led by the church's bishopric. In this case, the church has become the authority that replaces the Bible.

By today's standards of secularism and liberal Christianity, the Bible must be seen as hate. To try to be a secularist or liberal Christian, and not see the Bible as hate literature, is to be intellectually dishonest. Reinterpretation, denial of the plain meaning of Scripture, denial of authority, are musts for this anti-Scriptural stance. For example, although the Bible is clear about the nature of marriage, and equally clear in its warnings against other "preferences", a workaround is sought in Jesus' teachings. It is sometimes suggested (strongly) that since Jesus said nothing (!) against homosexuality, we must likewise make no rule but be willing to embrace this sexual view even to the point of same-sex marriage. But did Jesus say nothing at all about homosexuality? Did He not enforce, and deepen, the meaning of adultery (heterosexual intercourse outside of the bonds of marriage) (cf Matthew 5:27, 28)? And where does the Bible ever describe marriage in any other terms than male/female? Because Jesus said nothing explicitly on homosexuality, do we really believe He was giving a pass on same-sex marriage? Did Jesus teach on polygamy? Did He offer a firm condemnation against child brides? Jesus' words on adultery make it plain that marriage is to be honoured, and no sophistry can make Him intend other than what He does: marriage is male/female. Other formulations, sexual preferences, are, as the Bible says, sins.

Thus, marriage hasn't changed; it was instituted by God, and there is no indication in His Word that it is to change. Societal norms have changed, and will always do so, and governments will make laws. As these laws are not rooted in the reality of God's word, they are, as far as their authority goes, unreal. The real question is, to which authority will one submit? That is a very old question, and is the dividing line between Christian and pagan. It isn't really a matter of taste or preference, it just is.

Western civilisation is now headless. It flops, falls, careens, and runs about aimlessly. Perhaps God in His mercy will restore the mind of a Judeo-Christian universe to this chaos, or in His judgement allow a different kind of order to fall upon us. One thing is certain: some authority will prevail.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Forbidden Biblical Texts, Thoughtcrime, and the Internet.

So it may soon be illegal to link to a website that promotes "hate." This will be the case if the Tories use their newly obtained majority governemnt to pass their omnibus crime bill. While most supporters of the Tory government are happy so see tougher crime legislation, this law causes real concern. A real problem is, "How do we objectively define 'hate,' and who can be trusted to make this judgement?"

Here in Canada, quoting the Bible has been classed as hate speech; does that then make the Bible hate literature? The aforementioned case has been overturned, but not until the pastor who did the quoting spent 7 years and thousands of dollars in legal costs to defend himself.

So, on this blog, there is a link to an online Bible (oops, now I've done it again--I'm a double-hater). But I am probably safe for now, until the Bible is officially declared verboten. Keep in mind, however, if it becomes illegal to quote the Bible in a newspaper letter-to-the-editor, why would we imagine that pulpit speech would be any more protected?

Mark Steyn has already been sued simply for linking to another website that, while not being deemed a "hate" site, offended someone. He recommends disobedience. So do I.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

When God gives a Name.

God chose a name for His followers: χρηματίζω. By comparing the passages below, you will see that Acts 11:26 is where God names His followers.

Matt 2:12
καὶ χρηματισθέντες κατʼ ὄναρ μὴ ἀνακάμψαι πρὸς Ἡρῴδην, διʼ ἄλλης ὁδοῦ ἀνεχώρησαν εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτῶν.
English Standard Version
And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Matt 2:22
Ἀκούσας δὲ ὅτι Ἀρχέλαος βασιλεύει τῆς Ἰουδαίας ἀντὶ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ Ἡρῴδου ἐφοβήθη ἐκεῖ ἀπελθεῖν· χρηματισθεὶς δὲ κατʼ ὄναρ ἀνεχώρησεν εἰς τὰ μέρη τῆς Γαλιλαίας,
English Standard Version
But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.
Luke 2:26
καὶ ἦν αὐτῷ κεχρηματισμένον ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίου μὴ ἰδεῖν θάνατον πρὶν [ἢ] ἂν ἴδῃ τὸν χριστὸν κυρίου.
English Standard Version
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Acts 10:22
οἱ δὲ εἶπαν· Κορνήλιος ἑκατοντάρχης, ἀνὴρ δίκαιος καὶ φοβούμενος τὸν θεόν, μαρτυρούμενός τε ὑπὸ ὅλου τοῦ ἔθνους τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ἐχρηματίσθη ὑπὸ ἀγγέλου ἁγίου μεταπέμψασθαί σε εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκοῦσαι ῥήματα παρὰ σοῦ.
English Standard Version
And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.”
Acts 11:26
καὶ εὑρὼν ἤγαγεν εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν. ἐγένετο δὲ αὐτοῖς καὶ ἐνιαυτὸν ὅλον συναχθῆναι ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ καὶ διδάξαι ὄχλον ἱκανόν, χρηματίσαι τε πρώτως ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ τοὺς μαθητὰς Χριστιανούς.
English Standard Version
and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Rom 7:3
ἄρα οὖν ζῶντος τοῦ ἀνδρὸς μοιχαλὶς χρηματίσει ἐὰν γένηται ἀνδρὶ ἑτέρῳ· ἐὰν δὲ ἀποθάνῃ ὁ ἀνήρ, ἐλευθέρα ἐστὶν ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου, τοῦ μὴ εἶναι αὐτὴν μοιχαλίδα γενομένην ἀνδρὶ ἑτέρῳ.
English Standard Version
Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
Heb 8:5
οἵτινες ὑποδείγματι καὶ σκιᾷ λατρεύουσιν τῶν ἐπουρανίων, καθὼς κεχρημάτισται Μωϋσῆς μέλλων ἐπιτελεῖν τὴν σκηνήν· ὅρα γάρ φησιν, ποιήσεις πάντα κατὰ τὸν τύπον τὸν δειχθέντα σοι ἐν τῷ ὄρει·
English Standard Version
They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
Heb 11:7
Πίστει χρηματισθεὶς Νῶε περὶ τῶν μηδέπω βλεπομένων, εὐλαβηθεὶς κατεσκεύασεν κιβωτὸν εἰς σωτηρίαν τοῦ οἴκου αὐτοῦ διʼ ἧς κατέκρινεν τὸν κόσμον, καὶ τῆς κατὰ πίστιν δικαιοσύνης ἐγένετο κληρονόμος.
English Standard Version
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Heb 12:25
Βλέπετε μὴ παραιτήσησθε τὸν λαλοῦντα· εἰ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι οὐκ ἐξέφυγον ἐπὶ γῆς παραιτησάμενοι τὸν χρηματίζοντα, πολὺ μᾶλλον ἡμεῖς οἱ τὸν ἀπʼ οὐρανῶν ἀποστρεφόμενοι,
English Standard Version
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.

Exported from Logos Bible Software 4, 9:21 AM May-08-11.

The Forgotten Prayer of Jesus.

John 17:20–23 (ESV)
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

John 17:20–23 (NA27)

20 Οὐ περὶ τούτων δὲ ἐρωτῶ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ τῶν πιστευόντων διὰ τοῦ λόγου αὐτῶν εἰς ἐμέ,

21 ἵνα πάντες ἓν ὦσιν,

καθὼς σύ, πάτερ, ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν σοί,

 ἵνα καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐν ἡμῖν ὦσιν,

ἵνα ὁ κόσμος πιστεύῃ ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας.

22 κἀγὼ τὴν δόξαν ἣν δέδωκάς μοι δέδωκα αὐτοῖς, ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς ἕν· 23 ἐγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ σὺ ἐν ἐμοί,

ἵνα ὦσιν τετελειωμένοι εἰς ἕν,

ἵνα γινώσκῃ ὁ κόσμος ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας καὶ ἠγάπησας αὐτοὺς καθὼς ἐμὲ ἠγάπησας.

Why are there so many denominations of Christianity? Besides the major divisions, of protestant, catholic, and orthodox, there are within these groups many denominations. Some denominations are merely differences in culture and language.

Christian unity became a major concern among Bible-believing Christians. The Christian Churches and churches of Christ arose from a desire to end the feuding between people who claim to love Jesus and who follow the Bible.

Why are we who we are? There are distinctive features of a nondenominational (or undenominational, or post-denominational) church. There are reasons that we are not Baptists, catholics, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Lutherans, etc., although we share some things in common.

Our church “movement” began with the idea that Christians, while disagreeing on many issues, should be able to agree on one thing : the Bible. This movement was called the Restoration Movement, because it sought to restore the church to the Christianity found in the pages of the New Testament. So, rather than resorting to human traditions, the churches of this fellowship sought to find all guidance, all rule for faith and practise from the pages of the New Testament.

Mottos of this movement became,

“Where the Bible speaks, we speak, where the Bible is silent, we are silent.” This means that our authority comes only from Scripture. If the Bible teaches a doctrine, it is ours to obey. If a matter arises that the Bible does not address, we must not create a rule of faith.

A second motto is, “In matters of essentials, unity, in matters of opinion, liberty, in all things love.” This means that we must find unity on the essentials, and the Bible tells us what those essentials are.

A third saying is, “We are Christians only, but not the only Christians.” As we seek Christian unity, we wear no other badge or name than that found in the Bible: Christian, Disciple, Brethren. The names we use are Bible names. We don’t hyphenate the name of Christ. No other name is a barrier to fellowship. We do not ask anyone seeking to be a Christian to be anything else.

But Scripture is more important than mottos. Beginning today with unity, we will look at the New Testament church, and how we try to be that church.

In the next few weeks, we will look at:

The name of the church

How the Bible is our final authority.

How we become Christians

Why we celebrate communion each Lord’s Day

Why we baptise, and why it is by immersion

Why we are a free church

Scriptural Church leadership

How we can cooperate with other Christians

The appeal of the simplicity of New Testament Christianity

We get asked, “What kind of church is this?” over the next few weeks, we will be looking at key scriptures that set our position clearly.

Our first text is John 17:20-23, part of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is at the end of His earthly  ministry. He dies tomorrow. John 17 is a prayer divided into three basic parts: for Himself, Romans 10:17 (ESV)

17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. John 17:20–23 (ESV)

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

I.                    First off, note the value Jesus places on the unity of believers. Vss 21 & 23 both stress that Jesus’ prayer, His last recorded prayer in John, is for Christians to be one. Today, let’s call this “the forgotten prayer of Jesus.”  It is forgotten, because believers everywhere behave as though Jesus never uttered the words. This is what Jesus wants for His church—do we think that He has somehow changed His mind on the matter? Do we think that all of Scripture is somehow not pointing us in this direction? Unity is what Jesus wanted for His disciples. Of all the things He might have prayed for, He prayed for the unity of His followers.

a.      Verse 20: “those who will believe in me through their word.” This should settle once and for all the source of faith—Romans 10:17 (ESV)

                                                              i.      17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

b.      At the base of this prayer, is the fact that the followers of Jesus will come to follow Him through their words—the Scriptures.

II.                  Second, note that Jesus prays for “that they may all be one”. Think, for a moment, how important unity is to the Lord if this is His final request for us before He is arrested.

a.      There is a very deep quality of this unity: the same kind of unity that the Father and the Son shares, that is, a perfect, faultless, unity. This unity is not only with one another, but it is also with the Father and Son, that is, in a true sense, we are united with God.

b.      Consider the process, or progress of unity:

that they may all be one,

just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you,

that they also may be in us,

                                                              i.      Our oneness, or unity, is a condition of unity with God. Now we know that as Christians we have fellowship with God. But what this means is that the quality of our fellowship with God is dependent upon our fellowship with one another. This idea is echoed in 1 John 4:20: If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

                                                            ii.      This means, that we cannot be Christians alone. We must be Christians in fellowship; he prays for our unity,  that they also may be in us.”

                                                          iii.      We are only Christians in the church, in fellowship with other Christians.

c.       The purpose of our unity, and our fellowship with God, is so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” If our Christian experience follows the prayer of Christ, we are one, and if that oneness is of the same kind as of the Father and the Son, we may be “in God.” This being true, makes it possible for the world to believe. But it is not a belief “in general,” but a specific belief—belief that the Father sent the Son. This is an important idea in John’s Gospel—that the Father sent the son: John 5:37–40 (ESV)

37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

That Jesus is sent by God is denied by the world. When Christians are one, and are therefore “in” the Father and Son, this leads the world to believe that Jesus is the one sent by God. Is it not possible, that while so many claim to believe in God, or a god of some sort, that they do not believe that the One sent by God the Father is Jesus, because the oneness of the believers is absent? The failure of Christians to live in unity belies the unity that is present between the Father and the Son, and certainly denies that Christians are “in” God. To be a Christian is not to believe in God. It is to believe that the Father sent the Son. Jesus’ contemporaries did not believe He was sent of God; during the crucifixion, they “knew” that God had cursed Him!

d.      Verses 22 & 23 tell us (John 17:22–23) 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

                                                              i.      God glorified Jesus. Jesus has given that glory to us. We have it! What is that glory? What is its purpose? Again, it is that we might be one. We are equipped to be one. The glory given us is explained in verse 23: “I in them and you in me” that is, Christ is in us, as the Father is in Christ.

                                                            ii.      So, we are in Christ, and Christ is in us.

                                                          iii.      Again, the purpose, that they may be perfectly one.

1.      Note the quality of unity: “perfectly one.”

                                                           iv.      And he repeats the purpose of our unity: John 17:23  so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

III.                To recap: John 17:20–23 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

a.      We believe through the Word of God.

b.      Jesus prays twice for our unity

                                                              i.      Our unity is to be as the Father and Son.

                                                            ii.      Our unity means that we cannot live as separate Christians.

c.       The purpose of our unity:

                                                              i.      “that the world may believe

                                                            ii.      “that the world may know

IV.               Finally, note that the beneficiary of our unity, besides ourselves, is the world. But the world is that which represents everything that is against Jesus’ mission.  John 1:9–11 states, 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

a.      You will remember that in John, the world stands for everything set against the mission of Jesus. Our unity is a slap in the face of Satan’s world, and opens the door for the salvation of the world. Satan is the king of chaos and disorder; this God-given unity is God’s action in Christ.

V.                 To conclude—how do we express unity? How does this show in this church, and in the church abroad? Keep in mind, that it was the desire of our churches to unite upon the things we can know for certain—the Bible. This doesn’t mean that everything is easy to understand, or simplistic, but the decision to unite upon Scripture can be made.

a.      Many churches choose to unite organisationally, but forget Scripture. We believe through the Word of God. We must unite upon it.

b.      We must express unity by living the Christian life. Have you ever noticed that oneness is not one of the fruits of the Spirit? Look at these: Galatians 5:22–23 (ESV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control . . . “oneness” or “unity” is not one of these, because it is foundational to these!

c.       We must seek Jesus’ work in our lives, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to effect this unity, this oneness. We must let the fruit of the Spirit grow in our lives. We must learn humility, and in humility to count others better than ourselves.

d.      We must see unity as a question of what is essential, not opinions. This is how we began as a church movement (and all denominations are church movements), and why we exist today.