Monday, August 28, 2006

Man is Evil—Lessons From Katrina Part 3

Homosexuals throw a street party while thousands suffer.
Corrupt politicians ignored the levy problems for decades.
Now they promise to help those whom they destroyed.
Looting occurred almost instantly.
Rescuers were being attacked and harassed.

There are one million and one examples of the wickedness of man. The refuges are angry, bitter and irate. As they lash out at the local, state and federal governments, they rage not against man but against God. God is in control. And the government is not God. No matter how prepared they could have been God’s will would have been accomplished.

Seeing the awesome might of Almighty God brush the Gulf Coast away as a sun eradicates a moth, they acknowledge Him not but flee to man for refuge. Such an event is to show God’s wrath and man’s sinfulness. It has done both. But the church also has a job to proclaim these truths. Instead, as the American churches are wont, they send monetary help without Gospel help. They shy from uttering dark pronouncements lest they appear “negative”. They shirk their prophetic responsibility being uncomfortable with the prophets of old:"The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).

According to the buoyant proclamations of the likes of Sean Hannity (a Roman Catholic), these devastations were to bring the “best out of the American people.” But if one examines a little closer with the eyeglasses of the Bible, one rather finds the manifestations of evil: men and women shaking their fists at God while helping their fellows rebuild their engines of destruction against the Kingdom of God.

If the churches in America would be true to their calling, then as servants of God they must, “in humility [correct] those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:24ff.).

They will not feel sorrow over their rebellion if they believe there is nothing wrong.
They will not cling to Christ if they believe themselves good.
There are one million and one reasons why men should repent. The obvious and easiest reason is the first one: man is evil.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Government Is God?--Lessons From Katrina, Pt.2

Sometimes how people react to problems shows who or what their God is. When trouble comes, where do people go for help? Help not only for psychological and spiritual issues but also physical help.

So, where did thousands turn when Katrina hit? Did they take their saving and fly out of the city? Did they hitch a ride with friends and family? Did they stock up on food and water to sustain themselves for days?

The answer is obvious: when trouble came, many people turned to the government for help. They turned to governmental monies as their savior.

But the help did not come in time. That is why they are angry and frustrated: their god did not come through for them.

From another angle one can find out who or what god is followed by the amount of responsibility given. In God’s Word, He has separated the authorities of life into three main spheres: family, church and state. Whenever one institution usurps or expands its authority, it is claiming autonomy instead of submission to God. It’s just like Adam who desired to follow his own ways instead of God’s Law.

It is interesting to note that an ABC news report with Dan Harris (reporting, 9-6-05) stated that the city had a plan, but implemented it too late (it specified offering free transportation out of the area, but people were sent to the Dome instead); at the state level the governor is supposed to specifically ask for help from the Feds—but she did not. And of course, FEMA had its problems. The mayor blames, the State and Feds; the governor blames the Feds and the Feds will gladly take more responsibility from these institutions! The president did take responsibility; the mayor and the governor have not. And of course many people took little to no responsibility about their welfare.

(As of this date, more fraud in FEMA has been discovered as well: "through February 2006, FEMA made about $1 billion in improper and potentially fraudulent payments." Well, every god has his tithe...)

Now, billions will be poured into an area where insurance companies do not cover floods and hurricanes (why would they—they’d go broke!) and people will become more dependent upon the government.

In America, for many people the Government is god. So, the next time a large-scale devastation occurs, the Feds will sure to be there, comforting their flock.And taking more responsibility.

The churches must be faithful & warn people about this danger. Let's pray that many will learn, repent and turn to Christ. The Lord He is God and not the government.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Blame It On God—Lessons From Katrina, Pt. 1

In the one year anniverary of Katrina, the great gurus and thinkers of America rattle off many and sundry lessons learned from that terrible time. Movies and documentaries (I use the word loosly) are being shown as well. blaming the government, the infrastructure or that long-standing incipient evil in the hearts of everyone else but the accuser: racism. I suppose, knowing Americans, that some church somewhere is also preaching on this topic. I republisih this three part-series in the hope that others will find the real reason for this disaster.

Thousands are presumed dead in the Gulf Coast area.
Hundreds of thousands are stranded in New Orleans.
Millions, if not billions, of damage wrought in one storm.

And people are asking, “Where is God?”
Anger bubbles from deep within the souls of thousands of angry people: “What kind of God allows this!” They are blaming God for the disaster.

And they should. He did it. He controls all things in creation.

But why?

Some talk show hosts try to calm people down by reversing the question: “Why has God blessed America all these years?” Or they wish not to speculate at all, glibly replying, “We need to help one another and bring the best out of the American people.”

However, Christians know that all things work for their good and for God’s glory (Rom. 8:32; Rom. 11:36). Furthermore, we know that since there are no longer prophets today, we must be careful in our evaluations.

But this is not all: Christ informs us of at least one reason why bad things happen:“Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:4, 5).

When such disaster strikes—contrary to some misguided caller to the Medved show—its not because New Orleans was more wicked than San Francisco; one reason for disasters is to bring a wake up call to mankind: the world is full of sin and sinners; we no longer live in paradise.

Americans like to think that God is far away and irrelevant in life. Any prosperity gained is credited to ourselves; any advancements in life is honored to lady luck. Yet when things go bad and calamity knocks on our door—suddenly, it’s God’s fault.

In reality, as Jesus points out, everyone sins—all rebel and hate God, seeking their own desires and following their own lusts (Roms. 1:24ff.). The tower did not fall on some because they were more sinful—it fell because they were sinful. Period.

This is a wake up call. Americans better repent or they will perish.
And they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

God's Smuggler & A Cranky Calvinist


My wife recieved an unexpected surprise last weekend. Cheap books. She likes to peruse the dime-priced, used books at the local library--a favorite pastime of those with Scots-Irish frugality rushing through their veins.

It turns out that one of the books was a biography of a bible smuggler during the Cold War of the 1950s. At first I did not recognize the book. So my wife bought it.

And she read it, explaining to me the interesting history of this man named "Brother Andrew". He was raised Dutch; survived WW II; and abandoned his upbringing.

Then the book got interesting: after a bitter experience in the Dutch army resulting in a foot-injury, he began to seek God. He was healed, decided to seek the ministry outside the Reformed tradition he was reared in and ignored the advise of a sweet Dutch girl concerned with his new mystical direction in life.

And then the novel went down hill from there--as far as my wife was concerned it went absolutely weird. Charismatic weird, that is.

For you see my wife was raised Reformed most of her childhood. I, on the other hand, was reared Charismatic--speaking-in-tongues, slain-in-the-Spirit, lay-the-'ol-fleece-before-God, die-in-the-wool, Charismatic.

Old memories rushed into my soul, recalling the confusion and struggles of my childhood religion. Accordingly, I suggested to my wife: "Dear, if you can read this book, then you will sufficiently be inculcated into that gestalt known as 'Charismatic'--you'll better understand them" (or some such gentle endorsement).


Well, as the days progressed, my wife grew increasingly aggitated, exclaiming, "incredible"; "no way!"; "did that really happen?!". All the while, as she grew more incredulous with every reading of the progressively disturbing Charistmaic antics of yesteryear--random, and
irrational acts: traveling without money; participating in foreign worship without knowing the language; laying the illegal bible right on the front seat at check-points; trying to sell a perfectly good house while having four children and no job--I gave her that knowing smile: "Been there; done that!"

She muttered and grew cranky with the book. Never having met, let alone heard, someone with such improbable events, she did not know how to digest the book. Calming down (and against sound advise), she, with morbid fascination slipped into the twilight zone: interacting with a bizarro world where every good, common, providential sense was defenestrated, she plowed through the rest of the novel. She discovered little of Christ and more sensationalism.
Naturally, those inclined toward reading these books and thinking in those terms will find this posting rather rude, if not insulting. Surely I must be one of those hard-nose, cranky, heartless Calvinsits!

Indeed I am. A Calvinist that is. I do take exception to being verbally attacked so, but I'll get over it. I do love my brethren outside the Reformed faith. That is why I try to woo them to a better path.

With the vast majority of Charismatics (sometimes called Pentecostals) denying God's providential control of all things, they naturally gravitate toward the miraculous. The mundane just won't do; God is not in the details of life. Besides, to think in a common-sense way was almost to succumb to the "flesh".

If God does not predestinate the means as well as the ends, then He must be found in other ways. He must "miraculously" intervene in our lives. Faith was against understanding. Using the ordinary means of life was, at times, almost anathama. At least in the books I read and the circles I travelled.

Having no supernatural, monergistic regeneration in my doctrine of salvation while a Charismatic, I, living in the shadow of classical Protestantism, desired the supernatural in my life. Separating God's work of grace into two-stages, I was not taught to integrate my life with the bland, the bromidic, and the banal.

Preaching was not enough; the ordinary means of grace--from the Sacraments and public worship to Bible studies and fellowship--were submerged in a confused world of hyper-supernaturalism, almost a Christanized Paganism wherein I strived to find God's will in my life and debated whether or not houses or Christians could be demon possessed or if the OT prohibition on owls had some continuing demonic referent (Lev. 11:13).

I was not taught to think. Charismatics virtually have no systematic theology book to claim. If God's revelation is still ongoing outside the finished Word, then anything written could change in a moment of spiritual frenzy.

I claim no heartlessness, but a love of Christ. It is true, that to have all the truth in the world but not to be animated by love is to have heartless doctrine. It is also true that to have all the love in the world but to be sustained in error is to have a lying heart.

We must remember that the saints of old followed the most ordinary precautions, trusting that they would be sufficient because God sustains all things by the power of His Word, while recognizing that God was not limited to such means. Joshua spied out the land (as "Brother Andrew" recognized); Nehemiah set up security while rebuilding the wall (Neh. 4:18); Christ preached when he could have used miracles. The entire Bible is rational discourse and understandable stories.

This is true faith: using that which God commands and promises. He commands common-sense use of our renewed mind (Rom. 12:2); He promises to sustain that very mind for His glory:

"Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain." (Ps. 127:1)

You see, my dear friend, you need shelter, but it won't be built out of thin air. You need God's will, but you must seek it only in His Bible.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mathis Manor 3: Peer Pressure

Yes, through friends and family, I've been pressured to upload more pix. Even though not much more has happened.

But that's ok! Enjoy:

Kitchen from living room perspective.

Here is the living room itself with the never-to-be-used gas fireplace (unless it becomes cheaper!).

Well, eventually someone had to see the bathroom. It was that or another picture of the kitchen.

The time is short and the Lord is great!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Let's Vacation in Iraq While Indiana is Safe

I'm always looking for the silver lining. I don't want to be considered some drab and dour-faced Calvinists and hard-nosed pre-WWII Conservative without a funny-bone in his body. Thus, I am happy to present the following:

Here is some good news from Iraq: The Other Iraq

Here is some good news from American Homeland Security: Why Indiana is Terror Free

See? I feel better already!

(Brought to you by the reliable news network, The Daily Show).

Friday, August 04, 2006

Books Critiquing Federal Vision

I recently perused several book related to Federal Vision and Norman Shepherd. Specifically, I glanced through two (with my hard-fought speed-reading abilities from high school) and read carefully through two others. I would like to summarize them so as to get the right books for the right audiences. (For the record, I have read articles and heard lectures by FV proponents as well.)

There is much out there (especially on the net) and many pastors, let alone laymen, have little time to read all of it. I hope this is helpful (with unwitting help from Dr. Coppes who read the first two books and verbally summarized them to me):

1. The Justification Controversy, O. P. Robertson.
The very same author that brought us the popular "The Christ of the Covenants." If you want to read a book on the history of the controversy surrounding Norman Shepherd, than look no further than from a man who was right in the "thick of it." If you can make it through the historical detail and chronology (most of the book), you will find the summary of Shepherd's thinking most enlightening. This is only for those really wishing to find the history behind FV (who invited Shepherd to their Auburn conference).

2. Danger in the Camp, John Otis. This hard hitting book leaves no punches pulled. Using "no holds barred" approach to FV, Otis lays out in this thick tome a host of relevant full-length quotes (we're talking 1 full-page at times) from both FV proponants and confessional standards and authors of yesteryear. This is the type of book that will set the teeth of FVers and those sympathetic on edge.

3. Auburn Avenue Theology, Brian Schwertely. Originally Brian wrote several
articles about FV. This book is apparently a collection of those, but one would not know this given its seamless nature. Although not as strong in his language as Otis, Schwertely deals directly with the key problems of FV. The book gives good, strong and extensive critiques of FV on covenant and justification as well as good, strong and extensive defenses of the orthodox views. His extensive treatment of the theological and exegetical necessity of the active obedience of Christ is worth the price by itself. This book is recommended for all laymen and pastors. He is to the point without being exasperating or strident in his analysis and critiques.

4. The Federal Vision & Covenant Theology, Guy Waters.
This is a companion volume to Waters' previous work, Justification and the New Perspectives in Paul. This is the book recommended by all the scholars. It is written for scholars (although he tries to write for laymen) and it is for scholars. That is, he is not as "straight up" (i.e the difference between saying "that's wrong" and "that is incompatible with our belief system") as say Otis nor as direct as Schwertely, but he makes up for that in his steady momentum throughout the book. It has the largest bibliography, especially garnering resources off the net, showing some incredible quotes not found in the other books (Dr. Coppes has not seen them there either). This book supplements Schwertely by supplying more nuanced analysis and useful quotes and observations. It is recommended for those really wanting to "cover all the bases."

In short order, Lord willing, I will collect the more useful information out of Waters' book (especially since I can link them from the net) for everyone out there. And hopefully a useful introduction to the FV will be forthcoming. The issue is surprising complex for many a laymen. As an educated layman queried professor Strange at our conference: "how can they have losable baptismal regeneration and believe in eternal election at the same time?" He, being well trained by his pastors over the years, could not conceive of such a hodgepodge theology. Indeed, many in the pew could not have either. But, then, these views did not arise from the bottom-up, but rolled down hill from the pulpits.