Turning Our Nation Around

Children die because of their father’s decisions.

Do you believe that? Lately that phrase keeps popping into my head, pushing out every other thought, until all I can do is stop whatever it is I’m doing and pray for my nation, for myself, for my wife, for my son and my daughter, and for the children that I hope they will have one day. If this seems strange to you, let me at least try to make a simple case for why I’ve been thinking about this.

I hope you won’t think I’m being melodramatic when I say that I believe America has been headed in the wrong direction for some time now. I hope you still won’t think it when I say that if a nation heads in the wrong direction for long enough, it means that at some point, there will come a day when good men will die as a consequence. If you aren’t shaking your head in disagreement yet, then humor me one moment longer. If both of those statements are true, then among the people who will die, will be my children.

Children die because of their father’s decisions.

Do you believe that? And if so, what are you doing?

The Order of Heavenly Memorials

Go look at Exodus 12 if you have not read it in a while. The first 28 verses detail the instructions concerning the practice of the Passover meal.

The scope of the instructions is broad enough to reach to all generations:

“So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance” (v.

14).

“So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance” (v.

17).

“And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households” (vv. 26-27a).

Notice how God has chosen to act towards His people. Be astonished, even. The Passing Over, the event that Passover commemorates, does not occur until after these instructions (vv. 29-32). What kind of God is this? He establishes a memorial before He has yet done the thing memorialized.

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In the same way, also, Christ, on the night He was to be betrayed, took the bread and the cup, and established a new memorial that signified His death before He died. Christ memorializes the End of all sacrifices before He became the end. The Lord’s Supper: The New Passover.

We worship a God who establishes memorials before He brings all things to pass. Have faith, then.

Soulwinning, Methodology, and Going in unto Hagar

Abraham had a problem. God had made a promise to him, and to the best of Abraham’s understanding, God had not delivered. Plus, the way things looked, God was not planning on delivering any time soon. And it was starting to bother Abraham. It was also worrying his wife. It worried her enough that she finally approached Abraham and said to him:

Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.

Sarai makes it clear to Abraham that she knows it is God who has kept her from having children. She recognizes that God is the one who opens and closes the womb, but at the same time, she also doesn’t believe it or at least is not satisfied with it, because she tells Abraham to go into Hagar and see if God will bless that union and give him the promised heir by her (as if God does not control the womb of Hagar as well).

What happens next? We all know the story. Hagar brings forth Ishmael, and fourteen years later, Sarah née Sarai, brings forth Isaac, a son of her own. A few years later, Ishmael is sent away, and he grows up away from his father and his step-mother and brother. The next time we see Ishmael in Scripture, he is meeting Isaac to bury their father Abrhaham. Go a few verses further and we are reading Ishmael’s obituary as it were.

And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.
(Genesis 25:13-17)

We know a little more about Isaac. We know that he married Rebekah and that he had two sons, Jacob and Esau. We know that he became wealthy. We know his story in greater detail without having to look it up. But, here is my question:

If we accept the premise that the spiritual counterpart to bringing forth children is seeing souls born into the family of God, then what is the spiritual counterpart to going in unto Hagar?

I believe that as Christians (both individually and collectively as the Church), we often find ourselves in situations that bring us to say, the LORD has restrained us from bearing. The LORD has not given us souls. We know and testify that salvation is of God, that it is by the working of His spirit and by His hand alone that sinners come to repentance, but at the same time we do not believe it, because we go in unto Hagar. We go in to the world and we say, perhaps by these methods that we once thought were wrong, we might raise up souls unto God. What it terrifying is this. More often than not, by these methods, we see fruit.

What we have forgotten is this, Ishmael had twelve sons, each of them a prince with castles and land, and Issac had only two, one of them a shepherd living in semi-exile. If someone looked at the fruit of Abraham’s life, at his child with Hagar and his child with Sarah, which one would they conclude was more “successful”. Would they conclude that going into Hagar was such a bad thing after all? Could they even conclude that it was a good thing? Based on Ishmael’s life, would the modern church have told Abraham: Go down into Egypt and purchase from the slave blocks one hundred Hagars and get them all with child and raise up an army of Ishmaels? Sometimes, I wonder.

What I am saying is this: the ultimate fruit of Ishmael was not determined in his or in Abraham’s lifetime. In many ways it has still not been completely determined and will only be known in full, in eternity. But It is no different with our methods of winning souls today. It is not immediate results that tell us whether we are doing the work of God or not. There was no lack of people to dance around the golden calf that Aaron made, yet Noah preached 100 years and only reached his household.

What do you think? Does this hold up to the light of God’s Word? Have we gone in unto Hagar? If so, how do we make things right?

New Book on the Way: The Expository Genius of John Calvin

Yesterday, after hearing about it at Challies.com, I ordered The Expository Genius of John Calvin a book by Steven Lawson in his A Long Line of Godly Men series. Calvin is one of those people who have been much maligned in recent years, to the point that where I live in NC, the term Calvinism is practically synonymous with the heresy of Hyper-Calvinism. I find that sad, and am quite interested in learning more about the man that Karl Barth described as follows:

Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from Himalaya, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately. What I receive is only a thin little stream and what I can then give out again is only a yet thinner extract of this little stream. I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin (Letter to Eduard Thurneysen, June 8, 1922).

I’ll write up a review once the book is in and I’ve had a chance to read and (hopefully) digest it.

The Dangers of Professional Clergy and Institutionalism

Over at the GeoffRe(y)port, there is an interesting post on the unintended consequences of professional clergy. As I understand it, the problem is not so much with the elder(s) being supported by the church, as it is with what happens when it becomes accepted that all elders are to be fully supported by the church, and that if you aren’t fully supported, something must be wrong. In the early church, when tithing and giving was at its peak, a pastor being completely supported was the exception rather than the rule. Anyway, go read the article and join the discussion there.

One thing that I’ll add here that didn’t make it into my original comment is that a professional fully supported clergy also results in a situation similar to that of institutional academia, in that you can frequently end up with people who have no experience in the real world. Early church elder’s had to be competent men; they were not fully supported by the church, they had families and therefore were required to have productive incomes and they also had to have time to tend to the church and to study the Word. Today, in certain circles, the ministry can be a lucrative and cushy career path.

Faith and Works

Over at A Servant’s Thoughts, Frank Ritchie has a solid post about modern evangelism’s limp wristed approach to salvation. Do yourself a favor and go give it a read. Then come back here and let me know whether or not you’ve ever heard a sermon that was officially sanctioned by the Just-Say-A-Prayer Fairy from someone that you had always thought of as a fairly conservative Christian.

The First Type of Evangelism

Our church’s verse for the year is “He that winneth souls is wise”, and while I have no problem with Scripture or focusing on winning souls, I’m a little underwhelmed with the modern concept of “soul winning”. And no, I’m not talking about my frustration with the concept of door-to-door evangelism, though before all is said and done, it might sound like it. You see, my understanding of the foundation of soul winning is found in the Shema Yisrael.
Continue reading “The First Type of Evangelism”

Books for Boys and Girls

Diary of an Early American Boy
Any boy (or girl) interested in post-colonial American life will love this book. Based on accounts from a diary kept for the year 1805, the book follows the diary’s author, Noah Blake and records the significant events of that year. The author of the book, Eric Sloane, took great pains to embellish these events both with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and detailed, well-researched descriptions. Themes in the book include: blacksmithing, engineering, bridge building, coopering, early American harvest festivals, carpentry, farming, early-American architecture, religion, and courtship.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
Staying in the vein of early American life, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, tells the story of Nathaniel Bowditch, a young man born a few years before the Revolutionary War, who would have a significant impact upon the world. The book follows Nathaniel as he is trained in his father’s cooperage, indentured as a bookkeeping apprentice to a ship chandler, and finally serves as a crew member and later the master of his own ship. Themes covered in this book are: Christian childhood, manhood, mathematics, sailing, navigation, scholarship, courtship, marriage, Christian love, life purpose, and death.

There are more books that I’d like to add to this list, but in the meantime, you can also use this handy form to search my book library. It’s set to search books based on tags, so searching for “boys” will give you books for boys, and “girls”, will give you books for, well, if you can’t see the pattern that’s forming, I sincerely doubt that pages of exposition will make a difference. Here’s the form, give it a try. As always, comments and questions are encouraged.