Flashback Friday: After Darkness, Light (With An Updated Introduction)

Post Tenebras Lux

Four years ago, Reformed Christians celebrated the 500th anniversary of the event held to be the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther, then an Augustinian monk, simply posted his Ninety Five Theses asking for a scholarly debate on the Roman Catholic practice of selling Indulgences. At the time, he had absolutely no intention of breaking from the Roman Catholic Church; he only wanted to encourage an examination of its teachings in light of Scripture. Sadly, Rome hadn’t the slightest interest in having “a drunken German monk” question Papal authority, and eventually Luther was excommunicated as a heretic.

At around that time, God awakened John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli and John Knox (among others) to the necessity of getting back to God’s Word. Through their faithful unwillingness to compromise with the errors of Roman Catholicism, these men laid the foundation for the Reformation. Their willingness to suffer and risk their lives so that you and I could read the Bible and worship the Lord according to its teachings should be celebrated! Therefore, on October 31, 2017, I commemorated the 500th anniversary of the official start of the Reformation by writing the following blog post.

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The Big Anniversary Was Four Years Ago, So Let’s Forget It For A While

Few people these days know much history, mostly because they assume it has nothing to do with them. It’s boring and dusty, full of dates to memorize and bloody battlefields where too many young men surrender their lives. And we’ve all suffered through history classes in school with teachers who drone on in monotone voices that make our eyelids heavy. Once we walk across a graduation stage and firmly grip that diploma, we assure ourselves that we’ll never have to think about history again!

Between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017, I blogged every Tuesday about various aspects of the Reformation in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Whittenburg, Germany. Sadly, those articles attracted very few readers, probably because people prefer reading about current controversies. Critiques of Beth Moore always get more clicks than essays about Luther, Calvin or Tyndale, And I admit to understanding that boring history teachers in everyone’s past have taught us that watching paint dry is more interesting than 16th Century religious squabbles. But I believe the blog posts about the Reformation were important four years ago, and I believe blog posts about the Reformation are just as important now.

This October 31, we need to remember the Reformation, even though it’s not the major anniversary that it was four years ago. As evangelicals, we still must be mindful of our spiritual heritage. Furthermore, we owe honor to the men and women of the 16th Century who suffered immense persecution to restore Biblical worship to the church. Neglecting church history sets us up to repeat the errors of past generations.

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We Promised To Remember

The 9/11 Memorial at Boston’s Public Garden

I’d had quite an emotional weekend in early September, 2001. On Saturday, September 8, I came home from a friend’s birthday party to find my mom, my sister and my then 11-year-old niece all hurting from sudden losses (my mom’s friend died unexpectedly and close friends of my sister forbade their daughters to have contact with my niece). In their grief, they found reasons to treat each other with anger. I kept a low profile, finding sanctuary Sunday and Monday chatting online with John about our upcoming wedding.

By Monday evening, tensions in the household had begun to ease, leading me to think I could resume enjoying my last few months in California. But I woke up Tuesday morning to the unusual sound of my sister sobbing wildly in the living room. I sighed, wondering what could have triggered another argument between her and Mom.

As muted sounds from the television wafted into my bedroom, Mom ran in yelling, “Two planes just hit the Twin Towers in New York! We’re at war!”

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Weaned Children Aren’t Know It Alls

Let’s be honest: we look at all the insanity in the world, as well as the various trials in our personal lives, and try to figure out what the Lord is doing. As a matter of fact, Christians feel a sense of responsibility to understand His purposes in everything that happens. I suppose we think having a firm grip on perplexing circumstances will help us weather them.

A few days ago I read a psalm that gave me a perspective on facing difficulties that I’d never considered before.

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever. ~~Psalm 131 (NASB)

In the past, I’d isolated the verses from each other, so none of them really made much sense to me. Occasionally verse 1 reminded me to maintain a semblance of humility, and verse 2 encouraged me to trust the Lord, but I failed to see how those verses fit together. And I completely ignored verse 3.

When I read Psalm 131 a few days ago, however, I disciplined myself to think about their context. Suddenly the psalm took on a clarity that surprised me. In this psalm, David teaches that Israel can hope in the Lord by resting in Him instead of trying to figure out what He’s doing through the various situations in the world.

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How Did We Get From John Adams To Joe Biden?

Despite the opinions of some politically conservative Christians, not all the founding fathers were Christians. My favorite founding father, John Adams, became a Unitarian at some point in his adult life (perhaps influenced by his wife Abigail). In fact, most of the founding fathers were influenced more by the Enlightenment than by the Bible.

Christians who profess to care about truth dare not twist history to suit their own purposes. John Adams himself said “Facts are stubborn things.” We might be tempted to lament the loss of a Christian nation, but facts challenge us to consider that the United States may never have actually been a Christian nation. Let us be careful to tell the truth even when it damages the narrative that we wish to promote.

Having said that America cannot be properly considered a Christian nation, we must also note that John Adams said that our Constitution was written for a religious and moral people. Furthermore, all the founding fathers — including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson — lived under the assumption that religion meant some form of cultural Christianity. In that respect, we can say that America was indeed founded on Biblical principles.

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Thank You, But I’d Rather Not

Once again, John is typing this post at my dictation. I’m getting better, and even sat at the computer for 15 minutes last night. However, I am still looking for a morning PCA who can help me build up my back muscles. Consequently, I am not able to include Scripture verses or links to citations at this time. Thank you for your patience and prayer as I recover from my back injury.

By now, many of you know about Jory Micah’s tweet declaring that she follows her heart over and above following Scripture. Although her honesty is a bit shocking, the idea of following one’s heart is hardly novel. I guess people in all generations have trusted their own feelings and intuitions over and above trusting God’s Word.

That’s a shame.

Proverbs 3:5-6 warns us against leaning on our own understanding instead of trusting the Lord with all our heart. The prophet Jeremiah said that the human heart is deceitful and sick. Jesus said that all manner of evil comes from the human heart. How terrifying to think that a supposed Christian leader like Jory Micah would choose to trust her own emotions and insights as having greater authority than the Bible!

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Discernment In A Time Of Persecution

John is graciously typing this blog post as I dictate to him from bed. Because I cannot type this entry myself, I will not include Scripture quotes or links to verses — doing so would be difficult to teach John. Please don’t interpret this absence of Scripture as an abandonment of God’s Word.

Regardless of your eschatology, you must admit that evil is escalating. The political situation in the United States indicates that Bible believing Christians will face varying degrees of persecution in the next few months. Regular readers of this blog know that I have been warning about this probability for the last five and a half years, yet I’m not sure any of us (including me) have really let the truth sink in.

It’s not a truth we want to face.

As Elizabeth Prata shows us in her recent post about James Coates, Canadian Christians have begun to experience real persecution. In our prayers for this pastor and his family, American Christians must keep in mind that our pastors may soon experience the same suffering that James Coates and his family are going through.

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That’s The Kind Of Boldness We Need

John is graciously typing this blog post as I dictate to him from bed. Because I cannot type this entry myself, I will not include Scripture quotes or links to verses — doing so would be difficult to teach John. Please don’t interpret this absence of Scripture as an abandonment of God’s Word.

He was only at Terra Linda High during my Junior Year (if I recall correctly). During that year, the Lord saved him, and he was part of the Christian group that I was in. None of us noticed him very much since he was quiet and unassuming — unlike the rest of us. Due to his withered arm and slight limp, he didn’t impress us as being particularly strong or assertive.

We did notice him that day that we went to witness to the tough kids at school. As he presented the Gospel, one of the kids threatened to burn him with a cigarette stub. To our surprise, he puffed up his chest, took a step toward the kid and quietly said, “God ahead. I’ll take it for Jesus.”

Of course the kid with the cigarette backed down, but my girlfriends and I stared at each other in amazement. Where did he get that boldness? Did he know the kid wouldn’t really burn him? Was he really willing to suffer physical harm for the sake of the Gospel? My girlfriends and I could only gasp at his courage and wonder if we would have the same boldness.

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What God’s Word Says Depends On What God’s Word Says

I once heard someone ask a pastor what to do when Bible reading seems dry. The pastor answered (quite seriously, I’m sorry to say), “Just keep reading until something jumps out at you.” He went on to explain that a verse that catches our attention is what the Holy Spirit has for us that particular day.

Never mind the context. Never mind the intent of the human author, or the way his original readers would have understood the verse. Above all, never mind that God spoke that verse very specifically, with a meaning that doesn’t change in order to accommodate our individual circumstances. All too often, professing Christians read the Bible with the expectation that they can arrive at a personal, subjective interpretation.

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It’s Not Too Late For Christians

John and I regularly listen to The Dividing Line webcast with Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries. Yes, people, I know James White is a controversial figure, and sometimes he aligns himself with teachers he really shouldn’t (most notably, Michael Brown). At the same time, White holds tightly to Reformed Theology, and has an excellent understanding of history in general. We value his insight and carefully consider his perspective — even when we don’t share his conclusions.

White has made various predictions about our country’s trajectory that cause many to accuse him of wearing a tin foil hat. He firmly believes that the Biden administration will plunge the United States into a dystopian society. And he thinks the damage will be irreversible.

I hope he’s wrong. I believe he’s right.

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