Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Enmity with God

“Any system of morality that is predicated in any way upon a threat of violence is a morally bankrupt system. It may not cross the mind of many of you believers that if there actually is a Heaven and a Hell – there’s not ... and there’s no soul either – but if there were a Heaven and a Hell, some of us might proudly choose to go to Hell in order to avoid having to pretend to worship this bloodthirsty, immoral dictator of the God of the Bible. We might proudly resist ‘the Hitler’ and say, ‘Send me to the gas chamber. Fine!’ At least we will go with dignity and pride.”

- Dan Barker, atheist author and spokesman, [unintentionally] doing a great job of articulating a Reformed understanding of the radical depravity of the unregenerate human heart. The statement was from a public Q&A forum after the debate ‘Should God and Government be Separate?’ w/ Douglas Wilson.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

King for a Day

Q: If you could recommend any 2 changes to reform the US gov’t, what would they be?

A: Every[one] probably has a cabinet-level agency that he thinks should be abolished first. I dream such dreams, too. But as I grow older, I become less utopian. So, I [recommend] 2 minor technical revisions of the tax code:

1. Repeal withholding on all federal income taxes.
2. Move the date that federal taxes are due to the first Monday of November. [Federal elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.]

These are just a couple of minor technical revisions, right? Nothing too revolutionary here! I find it difficult to believe that a critic could go on national television and say, "This strikes at the very heart of the American experiment in liberty!" …Would voters rise up in wrath against a President who proposed these reforms? …

The withholding tax system is popular with the federal government for 4 reasons:
1. The government deliberately over-withholds. This forces taxpayers to file their forms to get their refunds.
2. It creates a "free money from the government" emotional response when the refund check arrives.
3. The government gets to use this money, interest-free, during the taxable year.
4. It makes income taxes and Social Security taxes less painful and therefore more acceptable.

If all federal income taxes were due on the same day, this day would become the most feared and hated day of the year, assuming that it isn't already. I ask: Why not have this day fall on the day before federal elections?

Personal income tax forms must be mailed by April 15. Think about this date. Before they vote in November, taxpayers have almost seven months to forget about tax misery day the previous April, and their next form-filing day will not come for almost six months. Out of sight, out of mind.
I say, let every citizen recall his previous day's tax filing and check-writing experience when he steps into the polling booth to cast his vote. Let democracy speak!

- Gary North

Monday, September 28, 2009

All Puffed Up

To grow in knowledge and not in meekness is not to grow; a thing may well swell and not grow.

-Thomas Watson on the Application of Redemption

Growing in grace is not [to be confused with a] strong interest in one or two doctrines - when someone gets hooked by a doctrine. Young men are famous for getting excited about Calvinism or the millennium or something else. But their interest in theology - their burning interest in election or the rapture - doesn't translate into better lives. In fact, it often makes them worse. It makes them look down on others; it makes them monopolize conversations or bully people who know less than they do; and hate pastors who may be mistaken at one point, but are still faithful shepherds of God's people. It's good to care about doctrine, but these things by themselves are no proof that you're growing in grace.

- Pastor Michael Phillips

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Present Your Bodies: Rejecting Gnositicism

Over the years we have emphasized the importance of ritual. Rituals are significant in the Bible and they ought to be significant to us. We've also emphasized the importance of worshipping God with our bodies and not just with our minds. We have sought to resist the temptation that many reformed Christians deal with, which is the idea that God gave us bodies as carrying cases to get our brains to church. Here is a brief reminder of doctrinal reasons for some of the very physical things we do in our worship of God:

We sing throughout the service, which should be strenuous; we kneel in confession; we eat bread and drink wine; and we raise our hands in the gloria Patri.

We worship God physically in this way for 3 reasons:

1st: We believe that Scripture requires this kind of thing of us. We are not in charge of inventing a worship service that we think God might like. He wrote a book. He tells us. Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

2nd: We worship God this way in order to lean against the perrennial temptation of gnosticism - the idea that some divine spark inside us is all that's necessary and that the material body is irrelevent. We want to be reminded every week that God has a claim on your lungs, your knees, your hands, and your mouth and throat.

3rd: We believe that worship is a conversation - a dialogue between God and His people. It is therefore important that you not be passive. You have a role to play that goes far beyond that of simply sitting and listening. We gather to hear the Word of God, but we also gather so that God can hear from us - observing us as we approach Him.

-Douglas Wilson, intro to the sermon: Judge Me, Oh God; Psalm 43

Friday, September 25, 2009

Little Liberties

"It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones.... Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately.... It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will."

-Alexis De Tocqueville

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Holiness with a Backbone [and the beard to prove it] ...

For your own soul's sake dare to make up your mind what you believe, and dare to have positive distinct views of truth and error. Never, never be afraid to hold decided doctrinal opinions and let no fear of man, and no morbid dread of being thought party-spirited, narrow, or controversial, make you rest contented with a bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity.

-J C Ryle, Holiness

Monday, September 21, 2009

"The Glory of the Psalms"

Here's a great quote from Greg Wilbur's latest blog :

Of how many heroic characters have these old temple songs been the inspiration! Jewish saints and patriots chanted them in the synagogue and on the battlefield; apostles and evangelists sung them among perils of the wilderness, as they traversed the rugged paths of Syria and Galatia, and Macedonia; martyrs in Rome softly hummed them when the lions near at hand were crouching for their prey; in German forests, in Highland Glen, Lutherans and Covenanters breathed their lives out through their cadences; in every land penitent souls have found in them words to tell the story of their sorrow, and victorious souls the voices of their triumph; mothers watching their babes by night have cheered the vigil by singing them, mourners walking in lonely ways have been lighted by the great hopes that shine through them; and pilgrims going down into the valley of the shadow of death have found in their firm assurances a strong staff to lean upon.

—H.T. Hanna

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Book List [what I've been reading these days] ...


Liturgical Undertow

One of the early church fathers said: Lex Orandi Lex Credendi: 'the law of prayer is the law of belief'. The liturgy will shape you in potent ways. A 5-year-old kid will not remember what I preached on 4 Sundays ago, but he will remember that we raise our hands in the Gloria Patri and we sing this psalm when the offering is brought forward. The kids know the liturgy. And what this kind of liturgy does, is that it enables little kids to fully participate. It's something they can learn and master because we do it every week. It includes all the people of God.

-Doug Wilson, Q&A Session of the 2003 Conference for Cultural Change

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Socialized Healthcare: A Biblical Perspective

When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
Consider carefully what
is before you;
And put a knife to your throat
If you
are a man given to appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies,
For they
are deceptive food.
- Proverbs 23.1-3


In our century, families have 'sat down with the ruler,' the State. They have enjoyed the State's many delicacies: 'free' education, 'free' retirement benefits, 'free' medical care, and 'free' everything else. Families have been gluttons at the State's table. They have stuffed themselves with deceitful meat. Now they are suffering indigestion.

- Gary North, Inherit the Earth, pg 139

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Worship in Wobegon

Q: What about preachers and humor? Some of us are prone to begin our sermons with a joke or light story, is that a good way to start a sermon?

A: I’m very intolerant of jokes from the pulpit, if that’s what we’re talking about. I would say: be sparing. And you do have to keep in mind that that first minute or 30 seconds is crucial to keeping your audience, and you don’t want to put a joke there. That seems to promise something that there not gonna’ get. You’re not going to be doing a standup routine for them, and simply to put one there to get people’s attention is to get it on the wrong premise. People hear all sorts of jokes in the course of a week; people are submerged in entertainment and satirists and late-night television and they’ve heard jokes. That’s not what they come to church for.

Q: My father was taught in seminary never to use the first person. The current trend is for preachers to splay themselves all over their congregations. What do you want to hear from your preacher - personal, poetic, or prophetic?

A: Well, I guess I don’t want my preacher to have given too much thought to the question of what I want to hear. I’m not there as a consumer. I’m not shopping around. I want there to be some authority behind what he or she is preaching.

- Garrison Keillor in an interview at the 2008 Festival of Homiletics sponsored by mainstream Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Committing Matrimony

Reuters reports the results of a recent economic survey on wedding prices. Before you continue reading, you might want to sit down.

-$28,082: the average cost of a U.S. wedding in 2009

-$6,348: the average price of an engagement ring

-$1075: the average cost of the wedding dress

-18% - of weddings were paid for totally by the bride's parents

-8% of wedding were paid for totally by the bride and groom

-58% of brides paid for wedding costs using credit card debt

Is it any wonder that half of our marriages end in divorce? Financially speaking, they were over before they began.